Sunday, December 31, 2006

Something to Look Forward To

Egads, we actually got a little snow yesterday. Granted, it was only about an inch or so, but at least it looks like winter around here today. Who'd have thought our first snowfall of the winter would come on December 30? It was kind of fitting that we watched An Inconvenient Truth. The climate changes we've been undergoing are truly scary, and there's no denying them, although there are plenty of folks who do just that.

As for me, I'm doing my part for the environment by taking alternative means of transportation to work while I don't have a car. We decided the bike option was probably not the safest because of the traffic and darkness on the way home, so instead I'm actually going to run to work two or three times a week and get rides the other days. It's an eight-mile run, which isn't bad, and if I leave the house by 6:30, I can get to Marblehead by 7:45 and have time to shower and change at the gym next to my office. Then I can either get a ride home or have Deb pick me up. We looked into getting a new car now, but it just doesn't make sense for us. So I'll use my feet for now. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.

We're forgoing our normal New Year's ritual of lobsters and a movie rental to go to the house of our friends Tammy and Steve and their kids for the evening. We'll stay there and come back in the a.m. when all the drunks are passed out, hopefully in their own homes.

And now, because absolutely nobody asked, here's my top 10 albums of 2006:

1. The Hold Steady--Boys and Girls in America
2. Sloan--Never Hear the End of It
3. Mission of Burma--The Obliterati
4. TV on the Radio--Return to Cookie Mountain
5. The Twilight Singers--Powder Burns/A Stitch in Time EP
6. Sonic Youth--Rather Ripped
7. Drive-by Truckers--A Blessing and a Curse
8. Mastodon--Blood Mountain
9. Yo La Tengo--I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
10. The Tragically Hip--World Container

Honorable mention: The Raconteurs--Broken Boy Soldiers; The Minus 5--(The Gun Album); Pearl Jam--self-titled; Iron Maiden--A Matter of Life and Death; Destroyer--Destroyer's Rubies; Eagles of Death Metal--Death By Sexy; Shearwater--Palo Santo; The Lemonheads--self-titled; Tapes 'n Tapes--The Loon; Sebadoh III reissue; Pavement--Wowee Zowee reissue.

Seeya next year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Completely Conspicuous Episode 17: All Apologies

Just in time for New Year's Eve, I got the last podcast of 2006 done under the wire. If you're not subscribed to the show, you can download it directly here (right click and save as).

Here be the show notes:

Topics:
- Resolving to make New Year's resolutions
- 2006: Year of the mea culpa
- A tribute to James Brown
- The value of all-star games
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- Tom Vek - I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes
- James Brown - Gutbucket

Completely Conspicuous is now available through the iTunes, Podcast Pickle, and Yahoo podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!
Find out more about Tom Vek here. Find out more about James Brown here. Find out more about the Podsafe Music Network here.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his Internet home page. And the incidental music used in the show was "Clibopb (Fosco Groove)" by Me and Boris the Bull. Find out more about Me and Boris the Bull here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hot Pants, Pts. 1 & 2

So the great the Pimpmobile experiment is now officially over. Since I had a couple of days off after Christmas, I took my 1992 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight in for a general overhaul/damage assessment. I've had the car for more than two years now and things have been gradually falling apart and wearing down, so I figured it would cost several hundred bucks to fix everything. Then I got the call from the mechanic that the brakes were completely shot, it needed four new tires, various lines and hoses were rotted and leaking, the right rear shock was blown. The cost to repair all this? $2,300! The cost to just have it pass inspection was about $1,800. Yikes. It didn't take long for us to decide not to do all this. It just wasn't worth it. We just paid off our '01 Maxima last month and wanted to have about six months without payments so we could save up a downpayment on a new vehicle. I was hoping the Ninety-Eight would last me until next summer, but the mechanic recommended I not drive it anymore. So we're retiring it; hey, we got our money's worth, considering we got it for free. Of course, that still leaves me with the dilemma of how to get to work for the next few months. We can't afford to get a new vehicle (which we're thinking will be a minivan), so I may be bumming rides from co-workers for a while. I thought about getting a bike and riding the 16 miles to work and back; the only problem is it's pretty dark on the return commute, so I would need some sort of lights on the bike so people don't hit me. Might be a little risky on some of the more crowded parts of the commute. So needless to say, we're still trying to figure out what we're going to do.

Make it funky:
  • Just hanging out while the girls play with their cousins. We had a good Christmas. My mom came down Christmas eve, we had dinner, went to church. The girls dug their eight zillion presents--various princess accessories and toys. I got some cool clothes, running gear, CDs and a book, and an iTunes gift card. I've had a couple of days off from work, although I did have to do some work from home.
  • Sad to hear of the passing of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, on Christmas Day. He was 73. As messed up as he was in the last umpteen years, JB was a true innovator back in the day and left behind some ridiculously good music.
  • Former President Gerald Ford died yesterday. He was most notable for not being elected to either the president or the vice presidency; in both cases, he was appointed to replace other people. Most notably, he stepped in as president after Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal. Of course, my favorite Gerry Ford moment had to be his "appearance" on the Simpsons.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merchandise

Hope you have all your holiday shopping done by now. I don't. I have to pick up a few things this afternoon. Fortunately, I know what I need to get, so that should help. Still, I'm not looking forward to the insanity of it all. Normally, I'm done by now, but this year, I've just been too busy. Even this weekend, I have to do some work.

No white Christmas for us on the North Shore of Boston. It's 50 degrees and raining right now. Unlike Denver, which got slammed by a couple of feet of snow this week, we're supposed to get sun.

Ho ho huh?:
  • The Seinfeld-created holiday of Festivus is taking on a life of its own, as people actually are choosing to celebrate Frank Costanza's holiday instead of Christmas. I've heard of people throwing Festivus parties, but I've never attended one. If you want to get your celebration going, a Milwaukee company is selling aluminum Festivus poles.
  • One woman, two wombs, three babies. Yowsa!
  • Stephen Colbert has had a hell of a year, with many highlights (including meeting me), but he went out with a bang Wednesday night. He staged a guest star-filled guitar duel with Chris Funk of the Decemberists; check out the highlights here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Completely Conspicuous Episode 16: The Heartwarming Holiday Show

Fresh out of the podcast oven, with no audio drops or coughing fits. Booyah! Download the show directly here (right click and save as).

Show notes:

Topics:

  • Handicapping the '08 Presidential race
  • Pop culture phenomena
  • Embracing year-end lists
  • Exercise addiction (thanks to Phedippidations Episode 70 for the idea)
  • Pinhead of the Week

Music:

  • Tom Waits - How's It Gonna End?
  • Twisted Sister - O Come All Ye Faithful

Completely Conspicuous is now available through the iTunes, Podcast Pickle, and Yahoo podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!

Find out more about Tom Waits here. Find out more about Twisted Sister here. Find out more about the Podsafe Music Network here.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling here. And the incidental music used in the show was "Clibopb (Fosco Groove)" by Me and Boris the Bull. Find out more about Me and Boris the Bull here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nausea Shreds Yr Head

Here we are on December 17 and the high today in the Boston area is supposed to reach close to 60. I played football yesterday in shorts. We're a week from Christmas and the grass is still green. What's wrong with this picture?

Don't get me wrong, I like to be able to go running in shorts as long as possible, but it's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the weather is far from wintry. In years past, we'd be shivering in our boots and dreaming of 60-degree days. We've had a couple of chilly days and a slight dusting of snow, but the worst winter weather I've seen was when I was stuck in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago.

As a result, the holiday is really sneaking up on me this year. It's not that I'm not aware of it. How could I miss it, with the girls watching Christmas specials and our tree in full effect and all that? But I've been so busy at work that it has been easy to forget that we're only a week away. I need to get some shopping done, but I've got too much work stuff to do today. Looks like I'll be finishing up during the week sometime. Typical.

Pass the nog:
  • The Leafs shellacked the Rangers last night, 9-2, in about as unlikely a result as you'll see this year. It was 5-1 after the first and 8-1 after the second. Just a total mismatch. A lot of folks expected the opposite to happen. It was Toronto's third win in a row after losing seven straight. Maybe they've turned the ship around.
  • I was pleased that the Jays were able to sign supastar Vernon Wells to a long-term deal (seven years, $126 million). He was going to be a free agent after next year and would have commanded much more. For a while, it seemed a certainty they would have traded Wells instead of losing him to free agency, but this helps them keep up with the Sox and Yankees. They still need to get some more pitching, but they'll be tough next year.
  • Some guy in Wisconsin ran over a seven-legged deer the other day. Wonder what's polluting their water out there?
  • Time magazine named its Person of the Year and guess what? It's you. No offense, but what a cop out. Apparently, we all use computers and the Interweb and whatnot. Wow. Do we all get a trophy?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Annihilation of the Spirit

We're deep into the Christmas frenzy. The girls are really getting into it this year. They've really taken to the original animated version of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" (I saw the Jim Carrey movie once and it struck me as kinda creepy, and not in a good, Grinchy way). We've watched it a bunch of times on TV and they like hearing good ol' Boris Karloff narrating it on CD, and they especially love the classic song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," delivered by the immortal Thurl Ravenscroft. Also known as the original voice of Tony the Tiger in Frosted Flakes commercials, Ravenscroft's name was left off the credits for the Grinch special, leading many (including me) to originally believe Karloff did the song. It's a blast to hear Lily and Hannah sing the song, although like everything else they enjoy, they want to hear it over and over again.

The girls are disappointed we don't have a lot of snow, but I'm not. We got a dusting on Friday morning, along with some seriously frigid temps, but like everything else around here, it didn't last long. The forecast for this week calls for temps in the 40s and 50s. Maybe we'll get some snow by Christmas.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice:
  • Holy crap, just when I think the Leafs can't get any worse, they go and get worse. Saturday night's loss to Detroit was their seventh straight. Just brutal. They're getting outhustled, outworked and just plain outplayed. They take stupid penalties at inopportune times, they don't capitalize o their own chances, and they consistently leave opponents open for good scoring chances. It's getting tough to watch.
  • A so-called shout out to the UNH men's hockey team, which is unbeaten in 12 games and was ranked number 2 in the nation as of last week. The women's team is kicking butt, too, at 14-2-3 and ranked third in the nation.
  • Only in America: If you're in Arizona, make sure you check out the Heart Attack Grill, where they offer the Quadruple Bypass Burger, an 8,000-calorie monstrosity. I've been known to throw back some mass quantities of food before, but that's just nasty.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Completely Conspicuous Episode 15: Couldn't Stand the Weather

After a couple of slack-off weeks, the podcast is back. If you're not subscribed, download it here (right click and save as). There's a weird thing happening around the seventh minute or so where the audio drops out for about a minute. I don't know why, because I didn't do or change anything, but it's there. I thought about re-recording it, but it was late and I was tired. I've got some ideas for next time, so hopefully it's just a freak incident.

Show notes

Topics:

  • Whither the weather?
  • Talk show talk
  • Holiday music overdrive
  • Baseball's spending spree
  • Pinhead of the Week

Music:

  • The Black Angels - Bloodhounds on My Trail
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Title and Registration

Completely Conspicuous is now available through the iTunes, Podcast Pickle, and Yahoo podcast directories.


Find out more about The Black Angels here. Find out more about Death Cab for Cutie here. Find out more about the Podshow Music Network here.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling here. And the incidental music used in the show was "Clibopb (Fosco Groove)" by Me and Boris the Bull. Find out more about Me and Boris the Bull here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Killer Parties

It's good to be back home. I had quite the adventure, although much of it didn't go as planned. So here goes the tale...

Thursday
The plan was to go into work for a few hours, get picked up by our limo company and taken to the airport at 11, fly at 12:15 via Dallas to arrive in New Orleans by 6 p.m. Central. Things were really busy at work and I got a call from our travel agent saying my flight had been cancelled, but American Airlines rebooked me through St. Louis and I would get to Nawlins around the same time. Turns out Dallas was experiencing some winter weather. So I got on the new flight and delved into my John Irving book, Until I Find You, an 820-page opus that I'd been working on for a few months. I was a little more than halfway through it when I left. Little did I know I'd need to bring another book.

When we got to St. Louis, I noticed there was a little snow on the ground, but it hardly looked like anything to be concerned about. The flight attendant gave us our connecting information and it looked like I had to head right for the next gate because my flight to Nawlins was boarding at that time. As we landed, I noticed that there were crews plowing a lot of snow on the runway; apparently, there was more snow than I realized. I went to my gate and found that my connecting flight had been cancelled. Then I looked at the big board and saw that ALL flights were cancelled. Oh, crap.

Turns out the snow had been turning to sleet and was already icing up the planes, and it was going to continue through the night. I went to the gate and and the guy rebooked my flight for 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, arriving at 9:15 in New Orleans. My conference was starting around 9, but at least I'd be there. So then I had to figure out what I was doing for the night. It became quickly apparent that thousands of others were in the same boat and I heard someone say all the area hotels and motels were already booked. I decided to just tough it out and stay in the airport, partly because I didn't want to pay for a hotel or deal with the hassle of getting to one. I called Deb to let her know I was stranded.

I decided to go get my bag so I'd have my toiletries and stuff, but when I got to the baggage claim, I found they had taken all the bags off the carousels. I saw a few people from my flight with their bags, so I kept walking around looking through all the various pieces of luggage for my suitcase. I couldn't find mine and then talked to an airport worker who suggested I look in a different area, and sure enough, there it was. Because I'd retrieved my bag already, I would have had to go through security to get back to the gate area, so I looked for a restaurant in the area I was in to get some food and find out what was going on with the storm.

There weren't a lot of choices, basically a Burger King and a BBQ place, so I chose the latter and sat at the bar. The place was lousy with stranded travelers. The couple next to me had a phone book out and was calling area hotels with no luck. I ordered some ribs and a beer and watched the local news channel going nuts with their "first storm of the winter" coverage; there was even a segment where a reporter was explaining the proper way to scrape ice off your windshield. While I was there, I called my brother, who lives a few hours away in Peoria; I didn't want him to pick me up or anything, I just figured I'd kill some time and hadn't talked to him in a while. Turns out he had just flown into Chicago and was driving a rental car through the snow.

After I ate and hung out for a while, I went to go find myself a spot to spend the night. People were hunkering down on the floor in the American terminal; I opted for some seats across from an ATM. Unfortunately, there were arm rests between the seats that didn't move, so I couldn't stretch out on the chairs. But the floor looked cold, so I figured I'd just sleep in a chair. It was 7 p.m. Central. I started reading my book, using my suitcase as a footrest. The airport police came through at one point, handing out emergency blankets and pillows. It wasn't too cold in there, except for the occasional draft that blew through when someone came in or out. I put my fleece on and used the blanket.

Around 11:30, I decided to try and get some sleep, setting my watch alarm for 6 a.m. As you can imagine, the chair wasn't very comfortable. I kept waking up every half hour or so to readjust myself in the chair and make sure no one had taken anything. I ended up clicking my backpack strap around the chair arm so if someone tried to take it, I would have woken up. But everyone was pretty cool, except for the Indian jackass a few seats down from me who insisted on talking on his cellphone at 1 a.m. and whose phone kept ringing every so often. There was a steady stream of people walking around--cops occasionally zipping by on Segways, soldiers who were among the stranded, airport workers chuckling at the guys who zonked out on the floor.

Friday
I woke up at 4:30 and saw a long line for the security checkpoint and then heard a woman talking to some guy who said he heard on the radio that all flights were cancelled until noon because of the ice that fell all night. I decided to go check my bag and find out what was happening with my flight. After almost an hour in line, I got my boarding pass and was told my flight was still leaving at 7:30.

I got to my gate and watched as the flight kept getting pushed back to 8, 9, 10, 10:30. We could see them deicing other planes and it looked like there was plenty of ice. Finally they cancelled the flight and I rebooked for a 4:10 flight that would get me to New Orleans at 6 p.m. A few flights were getting out, but plenty were still being cancelled. At one point, an airline staffer said 10,000 people were stuck in the airport. At 3:30, I went to my new gate and was heartened by the fact that the plane had just arrived and didn't need deicing. Sure enough, we boarded and got the hell out of there on time.

In New Orleans, it was about 50 degrees, which felt like summer compared to St. Louis. I got my stuff and took a shuttle to my hotel. Since I'd been wearing the same clothes for two days straight, I took a shower and went to get something to eat. I decided to walk down to the French Quarter to see what it looked like these days. It was pretty much how I remembered it, although not quite as crowded as it was eight years ago when I was last there. Plenty of folks young and old walking around with drinks in hand as the smell of puke wafted through the air. Definitely not a place to bring the kids. I wandered up and down Bourbon Street before settling on a little restaurant to get a beef brisket sandwich and some jambalaya. It was 9 p.m. by the time I ate, so I just finished up and went back to the hotel to get some sleep in an actual bed.

Saturday
I had planned to get up at 6 and run on the treadmill at the hotel gym because I hadn't been able to work out since I played hockey Wednesday night, but I was so tired I opted for a little more sleep. I went to the conference and spent the day working. There was a reception where I snagged a couple of free beers and talked to some people before I headed out at 8 to the House of Blues, where I planned to eat dinner before catching the Hold Steady show. I knew it was going to be a late night and I had to get up at 5:30 to catch my shuttle to the airport, but I didn't care. While I was waiting for my food, I spotted the band eating across the restaurant, but I didn't feel like going over there and playing the fanboy.

I was pretty stuffed after dinner and headed over to the Parish, a smaller bar at the HOB that reminded me of the Middle East downstairs but even less capacity. I was surprised that such a buzz band was playing such a small venue, but also psyched to see them there. A cool local band called the Zydepunks played a great, accordion-fueled opening set, followed by The Big Sleep, who had opened the Middle East show I saw in October. I talked to the merch guy for the Hold Steady about the drunken Cambridge show and he agreed it was a crazy show, what with the free flowing shots and all. He complained that some bloggers had slagged that show (and him for being onstage with the band and opener Sean Na Na) and also said Boston sucked in general. Then he noted that he was tired and grumpy. Whatevah. Later on, I saw THS keyboard master Franz Nicolay and talked to him about the Cambridge show, which his whole family attended. He said his dad had a blast, but his mom wasn't too thrilled by the whole drunken spectacle thing.

The band came out at 12:15 and ripped through a tight, 85-minute set. The boozing was limited to a case of Bud that singer Craig Finn worked his way through, occasionally opening a can and spraying the foam on those of us in front like so much holy water. I'd guess there were maybe 125 people in the place, but it was an enthusiastic crowd. Highlights included "Positive Jam," "The Swish" and "Party Pit." During the closing number, "Killer Parties," the band likes to bring a bunch of fans up on stage with them. I was right up front and at first didn't want to go up, but then I figured what the hey. I thought the stage might collapse from everyone dancing and jumping on it, because we were bouncing up there, but it held. Shook hands with drummer Bobby Drake and guitarist Tad Kubler and then I headed back to the hotel. I had stopped drinking hours earlier because I didn't want to be hungover on three hours sleep in the a.m., so I had to crack up at seeing all the middle-aged couples staggering around.

Sunday
I got up at 5:25, got my stuff together and got to the airport. We flew to St. Louis, where some passengers got off and others got on. I had some time to kill, so I went into the airport to get something to eat. I ended up running into an older couple I had hung out with on Friday morning. They were still waiting to catch their flight to LA on their way to Hawaii, TWO DAYS LATER. Damn. At least they were able to extend their vacation.

So I got home about a half hour early. It's good to be back. And guess what? It's snowing out. Sweeeeet.