Monday, February 27, 2006

European Oils

A hearty congratulations to the Swedish hockey team for their impressive victory over previously unbeaten Finland in the Olympic gold medal game yesterday. Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg and the rest of the Swedes battled against a tough Finnish squad, holding on for a 3-2 win. Sundin and Forsberg set up the game-winning slapper from Nicklas Lidstrom 10 seconds into the third period. The team went back to Sweden to party before everyone headed back to North America to rejoin their NHL teams. Here's hoping Sundin and countryman Mikael Tellqvist can bring some of that golden luster to the Leafs, who sorely could use some good mojo as they fight for a playoff spot. NHL games resume tomorrow night with about five weeks until the playoffs begin; the trading deadline is next week.

Ay chihuahua:
  • The surviving members of '90s hard rock icons Alice in Chains are reuniting for a summer tour, according to Singer Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose in 2002, but had been struggling with his demons for many years before that; the band hadn't played a show since 1996. Jerry Cantrell, the musical driving force behind AIC, has released a couple of pretty good solo albums in the intervening years since the band ground to a halt. They're playing as part of a tribute concert for Heart next week with Will Duvall of Comes with the Fall as their singer, after which they plan to settle on a singer for the tour. I saw them back in '92 at the old Channel club in Boston; Staley was in a wheelchair because of a broken leg, but he belted out a great performance and was even hanging from the exposed pipes of the place at one point. Cantrell's an excellent guitarist, so I'll be interested to see where they go from here. One encouraging sign is AIC apparently turned down CBS's overtures to become the next guinea pig band on the oh-so-lame Rock Star reality show.
  • One of my favorite podcasts of the past few months has been the Ricky Gervais show, which featured the creator of The Office bantering about this, that, and the other thing with writing partner Stephen Merchant and producer/idiot savant Karl Pilkington. Funny, funny shiznitt. Well, they did 12 episodes produced by the Guardian newspaper and now are trying something different: a paid podcast through Audible that costs $1.95 per episode or four for $6.95. This bears watching simply because nobody's had the cojones to start charging for a podcast yet. Gervais certainly has the star power, especially in Europe, to try something like this; if he does well, no doubt others will follow. I'm not planning to pony up the dough just yet, but I'll follow this with interest.
  • I'm as critical of the Leafs as any fan at times, but the Toronto Sun went too far by publishing a list of the 50 worst Leafs of all time. The list, attributed to "Sun staff," doesn't even provide any rationale for their choices; it's just a list of names. I'm sure it was all done in fun, and a lot of those guys were pretty bad, but just running a list comes off as mean-spirited and lazy. I wouldn't want to be the Sun beat reporter who has to cross paths next with big Wade Belak, who made the list.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rise Up With Fists!

Hey there, ho there. Just got back a little while ago from a 15-mile run. I normally do my long runs on Sundays, but we're expecting some snow and extreme cold, so I figured I'd do it a day early to make sure I got it in. Felt pretty good until the last mile, when my Achilles started getting a little sore. I definitely need to stretch more; I've been pretty remiss in that department because I've been doing longer midweek runs in the morning before work and barely have time to run, shower and head right to work. But I need to stretch to prevent injuries from getting worse.

Sweep the leg, Johnny:

  • Watched the Olympic hockey semifinals last night. Sweden dominated the Czechs, 7-3, to advance to the gold medal game Sunday against undefeated Finland, who easily rubbed out Russia, 4-0. Should be a great game: the two countries have a bitter rivalry and it'll be a good test of Sweden's superior talent vs. Finland's suffocating team defense. Even the bronze medal game this afternoon should be a good grudge match between the Czechs and the Russians, who both want to make up for their lackluster performances yesterday. I want Sweden to win the gold, but it's hard to not pick Finland because of their flawless play so far in the tourney.
  • They may be old and fat, but the Sex Pistols are still punk. They are among the acts to be inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame next month, but they don't plan on attending and left a barely intelligible note slagging the hall on their InterWeb home page thingy. Good on 'em. Of course, the story is made even funnier when an official from the Hall of Fame called the Pistols "outrageous punksters." Punksters? The whole "hall of fame" thing seems pretty lame and arbitrary; there are so many deserving acts who didn't sell a lot of records or are simply out of the mainstream that are neglected by these self-appointed purveyors of taste. The only good thing that has come out of it is some cool performances over the years at the induction ceremonies, although those 30-person jams have got to go. Black Sabbath is also going into the hall, so it'll be interesting to see if Ozzy shows up, since he's repeatedly criticized the hall for ignoring Sabbath over the years. I'm sure Sharon will pump him full of sedatives and force him out there to smile for the cameras.
  • These paratroopers face courtmartials for changing the Army motto from "Be All You Can Be" to "Do All You Can Do." Hey, after seeing some of the stuff going on in Abu Ghraib, does this really come as a surprise?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Somewhere to Nowhere

Helloooo, Cleveland! I'm a tad bummed because I just watched (on TiVo) the Canadian men's hockey team get bumped from the Olympics by the Russians, 2-0. It wasn't a total shocker because the Canucks had been sleepwalking through the entire tourney, never really getting things going. The team was stacked with NHL stars, many of whom played on the 2002 gold-medal winning squad, but watching them get outskated by teams like Finland and Russia, I wonder if they would have been better served if they left some veterans behind and brought young stars like Eric Staal, Sidney Crosby, and Dion Phaneuf. No doubt there is plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth going on in my homeland right now. The U.S. also got the heave-ho in today's single-elimination game against undefeated Finland, a 4-3 defeat that I was unable to see. I did see highlights and three of the Finnish goals seemed to be a tad soft, with Rick DiPietro getting a piece of each one before it dribbled in. The Americans also had difficulties scoring throughout the Olympics. Now it's done to the final four on Friday: the Czech Republic vs. Sweden and Finland vs. Russia. I'm rooting for Mats Sundin and the Swedes...

Speaking of hockey, caught a great game in person last Friday night as UNH came back to beat BU, 7-4. I went with my buddy Rick, who has season tickets, and as we were in line for beer, I spotted a fellow UNHer and good pal, Bob and our UMaine-lovin' friend Justin. As we yapped for a bit, BU raced out to a quick 3-0 lead and it looked like it would be a long night. Fortunately, the Wildcats woke up and made things interesting. Of course, the two teams played up in Durham, NH, the next night and BU won 3-2.

Not a Cheney joke in sight:
  • Wanted to give a so-called shout out to my good friend OJ, who after doing yeoman's work on Junkmedia's World of Sound blog has moved his indie rock reporting back to his own Clicky Clicky Internet home page. As if doing that and holding down a full-time job isn't enough, he also contributes to the excellent Two and 1/2 Pounds of Bacon (mmm...pounds) MP3 bloggity blog blog. And he still breaks out the orange pants every once in a while.
  • Congrats to my lovely wife Deb, who has successfully raised the $2,500 she pledged to the fine folks at Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange in return for a Boston Marathon number. She's not done fund-raising, though, as she set a goal of $3,000. So please donate some coin to a good cause if you haven't already.
  • My marathon training is picking up as well. I ran 44 miles last week and I'm on my way to another 42 this week. Add to that the 90 minutes of 4-on-4 hockey with no subs I played last night and I'm pretty sore.
  • We should congratulate any woman who has just had a child, but if said woman is 62 and has 11 kids, 20 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, all I can say is WTF?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I've Hardly Been

We're in another of our bizarre weather swings again. We've gone from a blizzard Sunday to temps in the 50s, and a cold front is supposed to sweep in on Saturday and chill things off. It's both wiggity and wack.

I'm going to see the UNH hockey team play BU tomorrow night, so that should be fun. UNH has been pretty inconsistent this year, so I'm just hoping they make it competitive.

In other news:
  • So, have you heard any good Cheney jokes lately? The White House press corps has been having a blast with this story, but jeez, can you blame them? The poor schmuck that Cheney shot ended up having a heart attack after some of the bird shot was lodged in his heart, but the local police have cleared the veep of any criminal wrongdoing. Wonder if Dubya is secretly glad the heat's off him for once.
  • I've been enjoying the first two days of Olympic hockey. The ice surface is larger than standard NHL rinks, and the boards are higher, making the players look smaller. Normally Todd Bertuzzi is a hulking brute, but I didn't recognize him at first because of the boards. Canada took on host Italy yesterday and early in the second period, the game was tied at 1 before the Canucks woke up and blew the Italians away. A big reason for Italy's early success was the play of goalie Jason Muzzatti, who was Calgary's first-round pick back in '88 and bounced around the NHL for much of the '90s before heading to Europe. He also holds the distinction of being drafted fourth overall in my fantasy hockey league several years back by a poor misguided soul; the fact that he was a backup for Hartford at the time didn't deter the guy who drafted him. Muzzatti ended up being pelted with 50 shots in a 7-2 loss. The US squad, meanwhile, battled to a 3-3 tie with a pesky Latvian team led by former NHL netminder Arturs "Like Wall" Irbe. A great skating team, the Americans seemed to have the game well in hand before they let down in the second and coughed up a couple of goals. No such problem today against weak Kazakhstan, whom they easily beat 4-1, while Canada beat down Germany. I've been TiVoing the hockey coverage during the day and watching at night, so I've had to avoid media (sports sites and radio) so I don't hear the scores before I watch the games. It's not easy to do in these days of on-demand information.
  • Looks like Wayne Gretzky won't have to testify in the alleged gambling ring case that saw charges brought against his assistant coach Rick Tocchet. His wife will likely not have to appear in court, either. The media feeding frenzy surrounding Gretzky will hopefully die down. It's been hard to watch, especially all the rampant speculation about the guy.
  • I've made up for missing my long run Sunday by logging some serious mileage this week. Eight Monday and Tuesday and 10 this morning; I have to do 14 on Sunday in Joisey. Suppose I should limit my beer intake Saturday night. Maybe.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stormy in the North, Karma in the South

So we had us a little thing we like to call a blizzard over the weekend. When all was said and done yesterday, 17 inches of fluffy white stuff had fallen in our fine city. Not quite as bad as the 27 that NYC got, but certainly a helluva lot more than we'd seen all winter. The worst part of it for me was not being able to get my long run in yesterday; guess I should have done it on Saturday instead. I figured I'd be able to at least do it on a treadmill at the Beverly Y, but they never even bothered opening. Guess I can't blame them. As for me, I prefer my blizzards from Dairy Queen.

Chex party mix:
  • The Olympics have begun. Because everything is happening six hours ahead in Italy, it's not hard to find out the key medal winners well before NBC airs its heavily edited prime time coverage. It's going to be a challenge when the men's hockey tournament starts to avoid seeing the scores online before I get a chance to watch the games that I've TiVoed. That and the ice dancing. I loves me some ice dancing.
  • Even though the wiretaps that caught Wayne Gretzky talking about the Rick Tocchet gambling ring appear to back up Wayne's story that he didn't know anything about the operation, he's still under heavy media scrutiny. A press conference about Team Canada held before he left for Italy was primarily full of questions about the gambling fiasco. Methinks this will follow the Great One around for quite some time. Meanwhile, the Canadian women's hockey team is under fire for running up the score against two lesser opponents: a 16-0 shellacking of host Italy and a 12-0 win over Russia the following night. It's a difficult issue because there are so few good women's hockey teams in the world right now. And I'm not sure what good it does anyone for Canada to just stop trying after the outcome becomes obvious. Doesn't that turn the game into a joke as well?
  • The biggest lesson learned this weekend: Never walk into the woods with Dick Cheney.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Running on Empty

Here I am kicking it in high gear in the home stretch of the Great Stew Chase 15K in Lynn last Sunday. I ended up passing the guy next to me and finishing in 1:14. Gotta love being able to run in shorts in February. Of course, we're supposed to get a foot of snow starting tomorrow night, so looks like I'll be running on the treadmill this Sunday.

Sad Statue

It's been a strange week. Not so much personally, but I've been watching this whole Rick Tocchet betting ring thing unfold and it seems to get uglier with each day. Tocchet, a former NHL player and current assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, is accused of financing a large-scale gambling operation that allegedly has ties to the mob. That's bad enough, but published reports say Wayne Gretzky (who coaches the Coyotes) is involved tangentially because his wife has placed sizable bets with the operation. Gretzky denied any knowledge of the ring earlier this week, but a newspaper report says authorities have wiretaps that recorded Gretzky talking to Tocchet about how to keep Janet out of the whole mess. The speculation, of course, has gone haywire; even here in Boston, where the NHL is really an afterthought in a lot of ways, the talk radio nitwits have been going on and on about whether Janet was placing bets for Gretzky, whether Gretzky will be removed from the Hall of Fame, etc. Gretzky, who is arguably the greatest hockey player to have ever played the game and is practically a god in Canada, likely isn't going anywhere. There appears to be no evidence of him placing bets, and the authorities are really going after the folks who operated the ring, not the bettors. But it's still sad to see Gretzky's squeaky-clean image get sullied like this. Not exactly what the NHL was hoping for just as the league is getting ready to take a two-week break for the Olympics, where Gretzky will be running the Canadian hockey team.

In another strange story that emerged yesterday, Montreal goalie Jose Theodore--who's in the midst of a truly awful season--found out yesterday that he tested positive for a banned substance. Steroids? Nope. It was Propecia, the hair replacement drug, which the Canadiens' team doctor said Theodore has been using for eight or nine years. Theodore, who is no Matt Hasselbeck, has always had long hair. Guess that stuff works. Something tells me opposing fans will be working up some new chants to harass Jose with in the near future.

Whoop de do:

  • Very cool thing happened this week for Deb's Boston Marathon fund-raising. Steve Runner of the Phedippidations running podcast heard about Deb's effort and recorded a PSA encouraging people to donate; he played it on his most recent podcast and posted it on his site. Many thanks to Steve. Check out his podcast if you have even a passing interest in running.
  • A co-worker hipped me last week to the Pandora music recommendation service, which as it turns I was very familiar with in its previous reincarnation, Savage Beast. Back in the early '00s when I was at Webnoize, we covered several companies that developed these kinds of services. I was surprised to hear these guys were still around, but Pandora is a cool service. You create "radio stations" by picking an artist or song you like; Pandora then picks what it considers to be similar music for you, usually by new artists. Worth checking out, and it's free, which is even better.

Okay, time to go to work.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Heard It on the X

Ever get a song stuck in your head? We usually associate this phenomenon with a new song that is so damn good it just won't leave you. Well, what about when a song that you absolutely despise keeps lingering in the dark recesses of your mind, like the acrid smell of burned popcorn? This happens to me on occasion, but the last few weeks it has been a real problem: I can't get Steve Winwood's 1986 hit "Higher Love" out of my head, and it's driving me crazy. It's not that I hate Winwood; I dug the stuff he did in Traffic and Blind Faith, as well as his early solo stuff like the album Arc of a Diver. But he really hit it big with "Higher Love," which was a much more commercial, dance-friendly song featuring Chaka Khan on backing vocals; aided by a video that played constantly on MTV, the song went to number 1 on the singles chart. I didn't mind it much at first, but after the 3,000th time I heard it, I had heard enough. The song is 20 years old, so it was essentially a distant memory until a couple of weeks ago, when I had to stop at CVS to pick up a prescription and it was playing there. After I left the store, I found that the song would keep repeating in my head. No biggie, I used one of my old tricks to banish unwanted songs. I just started thinking of something I liked with a simple riff; lately, it's been Deep Purple's "Woman From Tokyo." (I even had Triumph's "Lay It On the Line" in my head after seeing a video of the admittedly cheesy song on VH1 Classic, and I was okay with that.) But the Winwood song kept returning. Then a few days later, we were shopping at Shaw's when the store's sound system started playing "Higher Life." And since then, I haven't been able to shake it. It's usually a problem when I'm not listening to music; the whole 90 minutes I played hockey the other night, it was going through my head. Not exactly motivational. I'd much rather have Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" on repeat mode. Damn you, Steve Winwood, and your stupid catchy song.

Kibbles and bits:
  • I'm just hanging out with a cranky Lily while Deb and Hannah are headed out to the hills of the Boston Marathon route, where a bunch of Deb's fellow M.A.R.E. team members are training today. They're going to bring Gatorade to give to the runners as they do an 18-mile run that culminates with Heartbreak Hill. Deb's not running because we're both doing a 15K (9.3 miles) race tomorrow morning in Lynn. It'll be my first race as a member of the North Shore Striders, a running club based here in Beverly. I just joined a few weeks ago. I had always known folks on the Striders, but had resisted joining because I felt I wasn't a serious enough runner. But recently, I realized that was just foolish. They do regular runs on Sundays, sponsor local races, and other cool stuff.
  • After a couple of weeks off, I'm taking Hannah skating again this weekend. I found a rink in Peabody that has milk crates that Hannah can push around as she skates, which is much more preferable to me holding her up the whole time. It was good to see my recent post mentioning Hannah's first skate inspired Briggy to take Owen out for his first time on the ice. Someday we'll have a whole team of skaters.
  • I grew up as a teenage metalhead, but I never got into the death metal bands that started springing up in the wake of Metallica's success. A primary reason, as the Wall Street Journal, of all publications, noted this week was the phenomenon of "Cookie Monster" vocals in death metal. It's just so stoopid. The best thing about the article was the writer talked to Frank Oz, the originator of Cookie Monster's voice (link courtesy of ILM).
  • Just to reiterate regarding Super Bowl Sunday: Go Seahawks! After listening to Joey Porter shoot his mouth off all week, I want Seattle to win even more than before.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Steady As She Goes

Just a few notes as I wait for the inevitable big winter storm to arrive. There's nothing in the weather forecasts calling for one; it just seems like we're due for a walloping, given the lack of snow so far. Mind you, I'm not complaining:

Mike 'n Ikes:
  • ESPN’s planning a reality show that follows Barry Bonds as he chases Hank Aaron’s home run record. Basically, they’re paying him for exclusive access as he chases the record; a similar show is planned around Bobby Knight as he holds Texas Tech tryouts and practices. It’s just another example of how ESPN is blurring the line between news and entertainment. ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez will continue to cover Bonds while all this butt-kissing is going on. You can see where this is headed: Next up will be shows about Terrell Owens, Ron Artest, and Rafael Palmeiro as he attempts to make a comeback with the Nippon Ham Fighters. Yeesh.
  • In the aftermath of Super Bowl media day, this cool story emerged. Grant Bowman, a Wall Street trader who had all but given up on his football career, got a call from the Steelers last week asking him to play on their practice team. He won't get in the big game, but he would get a Super Bowl ring if the Steelers win.
  • Senators goalie Ray Emery is a big fan of boxing, as evidenced by his willingness to throw down and his masks, which feature famous pugilists such as Marvin Hagler, Jack Johnson, and Mike Tyson. The last mask got Emery in a bit of hot water this week and GM John Muckler told him not to wear it anymore after reminding Emery that Tyson is a convicted rapist and general nutjob. After his recent string of poor performances, including a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the Bruins, maybe Emery should worry about more stopping pucks.
  • The NHL's ratings are still in the dumper, but apparently some believe that curling may emerge with more popularity after the upcoming Olympics. I grew up in Canada and I just don't understand the fascination up there with curling. Maybe it reminds me too much of doing chores.
  • Somehow I don't expect this photo to be used as part of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
  • You know how I loves me the techmology (well, if you didn't, now you do). Some awesome computer nerd type came up with a Google Maps hack and invented a great tool for running nerds such as myself. It's called the Gmaps Pedometer and it lets you map out a running route using Google Maps and then measures the distance for you, with mile markers and such. An invaluable resource for folks like me who have several routes and have to drive them afterwards to see how far they ran. Props to my wife Deb, who brought this to my attention.