Wednesday, August 31, 2005

St. James Infirmary Blues

Wow. Even though Hurricane Katrina was downgraded to a Category 4 storm just before it hit and even though it wasn't as direct a hit as originally expected, the destruction is still beyond comprehension. New Orleans is still underwater and the city's mayor says hundreds and possibly thousands could be dead as rescue efforts continue. Hundreds are believed dead in Mississippi as well. Meanwhile, they're relocating thousands of people who were evacuated from the Superdome to the Astrodome in Houston. There's looting in the streets and thousands of people still waiting to be rescued, without food, clean water or anything else. Insurers have estimated the damage at $25 billion so far. The city could be shut down for months. Unbelievable.

NBC and MTV have planned benefit concerts to raise money for the victims of the hurricane; NBC's event will air Friday and feature Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., while MTV's September 10 concert will star Green Day and Alicia Keys, among others. You can donate now to the Red Cross relief fund through Amazon.com.

This is normally a busy time for New Orleans. In addition to the whole tourism business that it relies on, it's also a popular convention destination. I've been there twice for conferences and was originally supposed to go in three weeks for another, but those plans changed.

Some have compared the hurricane to the Asian tsunami that struck last December, although that disaster caught the region by total surprise and the death toll was in the hundreds of thousands. Here's an interesting story about how the tsunami's waves eventually travelled around the world.

Gas prices were already ridiculous, but now with a bunch of the U.S. oil refineries out of commission because of the hurricane, prices are going through the roof. Last weekend, a gas station near us that traditionally has the lowest prices around was at $2.56 per gallon for regular; today, it was up over $3. Some experts say prices could hit $4 a gallon soon. It wasn't too long ago that you could find gas for 99 cents per gallon. I'm glad I don't have a long commute.

Hey, at least we know Dubya's on the scene and taking care of things. Well, he flew over the scene, anyway. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took an opportunity to bash Bush for failing to adequately prepare people in the New Orleans area for the hurricane. Aw, he's still mad about the Pat Robertson assassin comment.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Mathematical Mind

Hey there, ho there. Another quick one as yet another summer weekend disappears into the ether.

  • So I've got a new beverage I'm hooked on. No, it's not the delicious Sam Adams Octoberfest, which we found available this week (more depressing signs that summer is nearly over). Nope, it's Dr. Pepper. I can't get enough of this stuff. Never really dug it before, but for some reason, I had a few in recent weeks and I totally love it. Deb picked me up a 12-pack and it may be gone in a few days. I'm not even much of a soda guy anymore, either. My beverage of choice every morning is still Nantucket Nectars' Half and Half (half iced tea, half lemonade). But something about Dr. Pepper is working for me right now. My brother-in-law Matt swears by Diet Dr. Pepper, but I don't like diet drinks in general.
  • My training for the NYC Marathon is going well (knock on digital wood). I'm up to 14 miles on my long runs and just picked up a new pair of Brooks' Adrenalines (this must be my "Suck up to products I like in the hopes that they'll somehow read this and send me free stuff" post) from the good folks at New England Running Company in Beverly. I'm up into the two hour-plus range for long runs, which means I'm entering the really grueling part of training. The race is November 6, which isn't that far away when you think about it.
  • The Big Easy is about to get slammed by Hurricane Katrina, which is currently a category 5 storm (in other words, a bad mammajamma) packing 175 mph winds. Of course, what doesn't help New Orleans is the fact that it's below sea level, so much of its citizenry has evacuated. Wonder how long it'll take people to start partying again after the storm passes through; I'm serious, those people know how to party. What surprises me about this whole news story is that I haven't seen any "Katrina and the Waves" headlines; doesn't anybody know their rock history anymore? Surely you remember "Walking on Sunshine"--it was only one of the most overplayed songs of the mid-80s that ended up in endless commercials and on movie soundtracks and trailers.

All right, go on with your bad selves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

First to Finish, Last to Start

What up? Sorry it's been so long since my last blogsplosion. Things have been so busy at work the last few weeks, I've been bringing work home with me every damn night. I think I need another vacation already.

Anyway, we made our last trip to Joisey for a while to visit Matt, Tricia and the boys and go to the Mets-Nationals game Sunday. We only lasted until the fourth inning before we had to hit the road to head home, but in fairness, the first half-inning alone took about 45 minutes as the Nats teed off on Mets starter Kris Benson, scoring six runs. Plus it was 90 and we were broiling in the bleachers. But the girls enjoyed eating ice cream in the stands, so it wasn't a total loss.

Items that are both wiggity and wack:
  • This exciting new beverage comes from the creative genius that is Steven Seagal. Fringe jacket and beer gut not included. Sorry, dude, when I think of Lightning Bolt, I think of these guys. And this album.
  • Some crazy crap going on between the metal gods of Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne's wife/manager Sharon Osbourne. Maiden was one of the headliners, along with Black Sabbath, on the Ozzfest tour this summer. Turns out Sharon had a beef with Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson over comments Dickinson allegedly made about Ozzy and during Maiden's last show of the tour in San Bernadino Saturday night, a mob of planted Ozzy supporters egged Maiden during their set; the band also had its PA "mysteriously" cut out several times while it was playing. Needless to say, Maiden fans are pissed at Sharon, who came out after the band left the stage and badmouthed them, which led to her getting showered in beer and other objects by the angry fans. You know it's taking on a life of its own when it's the lead gossip item on MSNBC.com. At any rate, it's not a shocker, considering Sharon's past verbal wars with other artists including Billy Corgan, when she quit as the Smashing Pumpkins' manager after three months. I'm sure Ozzy has no idea of what was going on, the poor guy.
  • Congrats to this guy, who just signed a contract with the LA Kings. Good luck to the team's broadcasters if he ever makes the big show, though. It could also lead to some interesting chants from the fans. The FCC will have the Kings on speed dial just in case.
  • Ah, Pat Robertson. After all these years, he continues to entertain.
  • It was nice to hear over the weekend that the NHL signed a deal with Comcast's Outdoor Life Network to broadcast games for the next two seasons. ESPN had the right to match it, but chose not to, and I'm glad. Although I don't have Comcast cable anymore, so I might miss out on some of the ancillary parts of the deal like video on demand, I can still get OLN on DirecTV.
  • Here's a messed-up story that definitely raises more questions than it answers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sidemouse Advice

Word up. Just a quick post tonight as we enjoy a respite from the humidity. Went for a nice cool run this morning; it was 60 degrees, a far cry from a few days ago when I played softball for four hours in the 95-degree afternoon sun.

Anyhoo, here's what's what:

  • I wanted to throw some mad props the way of my buddy OJ, who's now writing a daily music blog for Junkmedia. Check it out if you dig the indie rock; even if you don't, check it out because OJ is one funny dood. Rock on, rocker.
  • I know I'll sound like an old man saying this, but I just don't understand the kids these days. What with the purple hair and the rocket skateboards and the Funky Winkerbean and the pass-out games. Seriously, WTF?
  • Something else I'll never understand is these losers who buy mail-order brides. I guess I understand why they do it--because they're lonely and it seems like an easy way to get a wife--but what I don't get is how any of these clowns believe it will actually work out. I'm sure some of these "marriages" actually last, but you've gotta think a lot of these women from Eastern Europe or Asia just want to get to America to escape whatever they've got going on back home. Once they get here and see who their husband is, they're ready for a divorce. Here's just one such marriage that didn't end so well. Waaaay back when I interned for the Peabody Times, I interviewed a guy who had just married a mail-order bride from Asia; it was a real shock that this weasel couldn't score himself an American significant other. It was all I could do to keep from laughing in the guy's face. Sure enough, a year later we followed up the story and the woman had already dumped the poor schmuck.
  • Well, alert the media. Sean Combs has changed his name again. Now he's just to be known as Diddy. Call me old school, but I prefer the Johnny Cougar/John Cougar/John Cougar Mellencamp/John Mellencamp progression myself. I'm just sayin', is all.
  • Here's another reason I'm rooting for Comcast's (geez, never thought I'd ever say that) fledgling sports network to succeed: ESPN Hollywood. Are hard-core sports fans really going to watch an Entertainment Tonight-esque show about athletes? Not this fan.
  • Okay, it's been way too long since I posted an MP3, so I thought I'd share a couple of tracks from a cool EP I picked up about 10 years ago featuring two of my favorite artists, Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub. Black, of course, is getting plenty of attention these days for reuniting the legendary Pixies, but he's also compiled an admirable body of solo work over the years. Teenage Fanclub is a great Scottish power pop act that's woefully overlooked here in the States, but they've been cranking out great music for 15 years. Black and Teenage Fanclub teamed up for an impromptu John Peel session back in the spring of '94, where they performed the Otis Blackwell chestnut Handyman (popularized by James Taylor in the '70s) and The Man Who Was Too Loud, a version of which showed up a few years later on the Frank Black & the Catholics album. Both artists have new albums out this year, which you should check out: Black's Honeycomb and Teenage Fanclub's Man-Made.
  • As much as I love my iPod, I find this pretty funny.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Sounds of Science

Some random shizz while I sit here trying to stop sweating after a run:

  • I guess last year's Van Hagar reunion didn't last too long. Sammy tells Billboard that he and Eddie VH had a big falling out after the last show. The guy's a clown, but you gotta hand it to Hagar: the dude sounds like he knows how to have a good time. And it seems as though guys like that (DLR, obviously, falls in that category) rub guitar boy the wrong way. In other VH news, looks like their breach of contract lawsuit against the Baltimore Orioles over a cancelled show is going to a jury trial. The way the Orioles have been playing lately, the club might want to settle.
  • Caught the always funny Ricky Gervais on Letterman the other night. Coming off the pure genius that was The Office, he's got a new show, Extras, that recently premiered in England and will begin airing on BBC America on September 25. He also wrote an episode of The Simpsons that will air in the fall. Dave also revealed that Ricky was once a member of a flouncy early '80s synth-pop duo called Seona Dancing (pronounced "Shawna Dancing") and played a clip. The photos are especially hilarious, as Gervais is super skinny and heavily made up; quite the contrast to the chunky version we know and love. And you've got to check out the two singles and two B-sides they recorded, which sound pretty comparable to the New Romantic stuff released by bands like Spandau Ballet and Ultravox; there's a MySpace page devoted to the band where you can hear their four songs. Apparently, they became huge in the Philippines a few years after they split up, according to the AllMusicGuide entry. Great stuff.
  • Google Earth has been kicking around for a while, but I was only able to download it this morning. It's essentially a combination of satellite images, maps, and Google's search capabilities that just really cool. I looked up the satellite image of the house I lived in as a kid on Radom Street in Pickering, Ontario. Very cool. You can get directions using it, and I'm sure do all sorts of crazy crap. Check it out.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends

The rebuilding of the Toronto Maple Leafs continued today with the long-awaited signing of once-dominant force Eric Lindros. Despite his history of eight concussions and recent major shoulder surgery, I think the signing wasn't a bad one. Sure, the guy's one nasty hit away from retirement and he's seen better days, but he's still only 32, taking a hometown discount, and he doesn't have the pressure of having to carry the Leafs on his shoulders. He'll be the team's third-line center and if another team sends its goons after him, Toronto's got plenty of muscle of its own to throw around (Tie Domi and Wade Belak, anyone?).

The Lindros signing comes a few days after the Leafs signed defenseman Alexander Khavanov away from the Blues and re-signed Belak and d-man Aki Berg. Before that, they landed another oft-injured star, Jason Allison, brought Domi back in the fold, and acquired former Carolina sniper Jeff O'Neill in a draft-day trade. GM John Ferguson Jr. frustrated Leaf fans everywhere by failing to buy out any contracts to clear up room under the cap, meaning the Leafs couldn't compete with other teams for players like Scott Niedermayer and Peter Forsberg. In addition, the club has refused to sign players to four- or five-year deals like a lot of other teams have.

So how does the lineup look?

Line 1: Mats Sundin-Jeff O'Neill-Darcy Tucker
Line 2: Jason Allison-Tie Domi-Alexei Ponikarovsky
Line 3: Eric Lindros-Matt Stajan-Chad Kilger
Line 4: Nik Antropov-Wade Belak-Alexander Steen (rookie)

Other forwards: Clarke Wilm, Nathan Perrott

Defensive pairing 1: Brian McCabe-Ken Klee
Defensive pairing 2: Thomas Kaberle-Alexander Khavanov
Defensive pairing 3: Aki Berg-Karel Pilar

Other defensemen: Carlo Coloaicovo (rookie), Staffan Kronwall (rookie)

Goalies: Ed Belfour, Mikael Tellqvist

While the team now has one of the biggest groups of centermen in the league (Allison is the shortest of the four at 6'3"), its forward depth remains a bit sketchy. After all, the team has also lost Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk to the Panthers, and it doesn't plan to bring Alex Mogilny and Owen Nolan back; all four players are talented but in their late 30s and brittle. There has been talk that Ferguson is trying to sign UFA Anson Carter, which would be a good move. Rumors also persist that Ed Belfour will be dealt; at 40 with a bad back and making $4.56 million, I'm not sure who would want him, but there you have it. That would clear up some cap space to sign a guy like Roman Hamrlik, who would definitely bolster the defense, and pick up a decent goalie like Curtis Joseph on the cheap. Khavanov makes up for the loss of Brian Leetch to free agency with a skilled defenseman who doesn't score nearly as much but is a little younger.

Other teams in the East have made decent moves: Philly and Boston have definitely improved (especially with the B's re-signing Joe Thornton for another three years), but the Leafs should have a half-decent team, barring any serious injuries and the failure of Allison, Lindros and O'Neill to return to their former high-scoring ways. There's a lot of "if's" involved, and I have no expectations that the Leafs will challenge for the Cup, at least not as the team is currently constituted. However, the new NHL is one where parity (or as I like to call it, mediocrity) means there is no dominant team and everyone has a shot at getting to the playoffs, so the Leafs should be competitive at the least. But come October, who knows what the team will look like? I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Underneath Days



So far, the post-lockout NHL has been something the league traditionally has not been: well-run. The rule changes, the draft lottery, Sidney Crosby's coming out party, the redistribution of free agents, all of it has been pretty damn compelling. Of course, there was bound to be a bump in the road, and that came Monday in the form of the league reinstating Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi, who had been suspended indefinitely after his brutal sucker punch of Avs forward Steve Moore way back in March of '04. Bertuzzi missed 13 regular season games plus the entire playoffs and probably would have been suspended for all of '04-'05, if the season had been played. Commish Gary Bettman argued in his ruling that Big Bert has suffered enough punishment, but I think it would have been appropriate for Bertuzzi to miss the first 20 games of the upcoming season. Moore appears to be close to possibly coming back, but that doesn't change the fact he was in rough shape for more than a year as a result of the cowardly attack. It appears the league is overlooking those factors in order to bring one of its top power forwards back to the ice, and that's definitely a mistake.

The possibility of Comcast getting NHL hockey as part of its would-be challenge to ESPN reportedly came a little closer to reality with the news that the cable operator made a two-year, $100 million offer to the NHL to carry games on its Outdoor Life Network (which I imagine will get a new name). ESPN, which previously chose not to renew its NHL coverage, has the right to match it. I hope Comcast gets the deal, as well as some NFL games, just so it can provide a valid competitor for ESPN, which has gotten fat and cocky much like MTV, that bastion of suckiosity. If I want to watch poker, I'll rent "Rounders."

In an announcement that surprised absolutely nobody, Wayne Gretzky said Monday he will be the new coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. The move had been rumored for months, and it of course begs the question of why the Great One would want to risk tarnishing his image as the greatest hockey player ever by becoming a coach. He has never coached before, and the history books are filled with former players who have tried to coach and failed miserably (yeah, everyone's looking at you, Magic). Well, Gretzky had no experience at being a general manager, either, and he led the Canadian team to gold in the Olympics and World Cup. So why shouldn't he try to coach if that's what he wants to do? The Coyotes have some talented players but will likely be hovering around .500, but right now, it appears a lot of teams are in that boat thanks to the parity of the new NHL. Certainly, having Gretzky as coach will put fans in the seats and has brought some more excitement to the upcoming season, so I say good luck to him.

The Leafs finally signed Jason Allison over the weekend to an incentive-laden contract that makes sense to me. They're still talking to Eric Lindros, and I'm hoping the rumors of them acquiring Anson Carter come to fruition as well. Supposedly, they want to deal Ed Belfour and then sign a cheaper goalie (Curtis Joseph?), which will only cement their status as a mediocre club next season. Looks like they plan to ride out a rough '05-'06 and then take a run at a bunch of big names next offseason.

I"m still waiting for an announcement on how much the Center Ice pay-per-view package will cost for next season. Hopefully, they'll have the good sense to offer a substantial discount to win the fans back.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bad, Wicked World

Quick post tonight, just checking in after a weekend away. We went to Joisey again, for my nephew Danny's 4th birthday bash. Thirty kids were at this shindig, and yet it all went off without a hitch thanks to his mom's amazing talent for party planning. It's one thing to plan a party for adults, but to keep a horde of rambunctious kids (mostly under the age of 5) happy and occupied is no easy feat. Tricia has no peers in this area of expertise.

Since the end of last week, I've been battling what I believe is my first sinus infection. Not fun. Nothing but headaches and congestion. I might have to break down and see the doctor for some drugs or something.

This and that:

  • Deb and I had a good time at the Sox-Royals game Thursday, which the Sox won 11-9 in a pitcher's duel. Our seats were awesome (right field box, near the foul pole and about 30 rows from the field), the weather was nice, and the game was exciting, if a bit sloppy. The Sox scored eight runs in the fourth on two hits, five walks, and an error. I felt bad for the poor lone soul in a George Brett jersey, hanging on to the good ol' days when the Royals were one of the dominant franchises in the league. Now they just suck-diddly-uck.
  • Sad to hear of the death of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings of lung cancer. I don't usually go out of my way to praise newsreaders, but Jennings had more depth than some of the others in my view. He will be missed.
  • Guess John Bolton will fit right in at the United Nations. What in the name of Boutros Boutros-Ghali is going on there?
  • A new study says men don't listen to women well because they can't hear female voices as well as male voices. That still doesn't excuse this bozo, who I suspect won't be getting any for a long, long time.

Okay, like I said, a quick one. Back with more tomorrow.



Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Heroes and Villains

The NHL's free agent frenzy got off to a slow start Monday, but things have certainly picked up the last few days: Peter Forsberg, Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje to Philly; Chris Pronger and Mike Peca to Edmonton (via trades); Pavol Demitra to LA; Miro Satan to the Islanders; Adam Foote to Columbus; Jarome Iginla and Markus Naslund re-signing with their teams; Glen Murray and Brian Leetch to Boston. And on and on. Check out Sportsnet.ca's FA tracker to catch up.

Meanwhile, the Leafs sit silently, hoping to get oft-injured, past-their-prime guys like Jason Allison and Eric Lindros to take hometown discounts like Jeff O'Neill did. It's becoming increasingly apparent by the second that the Leafs are going to be lousy this year. They blew it by not buying out anyone last week when they had the chance to clear some room under the salary cap. If there's a plan there, I'm not sure I see it. Perhaps they're hoping to slog through this season and wait for next year, when some prime talent will become unrestricted FAs (Joe Thornton, for one). Don't get me wrong, I'm psyched hockey is back. It just sucks that my team doesn't appear to even be trying to put a contender on the ice.

The NHL has yet to finalize a cable deal for the 2005-2006 season, but it looks like there will be some interesting possibilities. Comcast is reportedly looking to transform its Outdoor Life Network (known as the home of the Tour de France) into a sports network to rival ESPN, and NHL hockey would fit in quite nicely (as would NFL football). After ESPN declined to renew its NHL contract, other bidders have stepped up and now ESPN may be interested again. Definitely bears watching (no pun intended).

What else:

  • So the Red Sox held on to Manny Ramirez in probably the smartest non-move of the baseball trade deadline. And of course, he came in and drove in the game-winning run on Sunday to drive the fans wild. Deb and I are going to the Sox-Royals game tomorrow afternoon, so that will be fun.
  • Rafael Palmeiro was a lock for the Hall of Fame until news broke this week that he tested positive for steroids. And Palmeiro, who at a Congressional hearing in March adamantly denied using 'roids, now faces possible perjury charges for lying to Congress. He issued a statement yesterday saying he accidentally injected the steroids, but it was reported today that the substance in question is stanozolol, which must be injected and is the same 'roid that sprinter Ben Johnson was using during the 1988 Olympics. Either he's amazingly arrogant or amazingly stupid. Wow.
  • Had a blast Sunday afternoon at a gathering of my fellow Webnerdz. My man Cable Elk hosted the proceedings at his place in Allston Rock City, where we enjoyed excellent BBQ and beer while the kids ran amok in the yard. Always fun to see Lee, Briggy, Dr. Doobs and OJ and their respective spouses.
  • Holee crap, Six Feet Under killed off Nate Fisher. There are three episodes left in this, the show's final season, so no doubt Nate will return as a ghost as many characters do on the series. But damn, didn't see that coming.
  • A scary scene in Toronto yesterday when an Air France plane burst into flames after landing, but miraculously, all 300-plus on board got out alive. An illustration of why you should always pay attention to the evacuation instructions they give at the beginning of every flight.
  • Looks like Chappelle's Show ain't coming back, which is a damn shame.