Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Ain't No Picnic

Well, we're just about into September, which is a month I quite enjoy. The weather is still rather beautiful around here. Unlike last weekend, I was able to get a good long run in yesterday. Headed out a little after 6:30 and ran 20 miles in cloudy, drizzly weather. Just as I wrapped it up, the sun started coming out. It was nice to get that out of the way, especially before things started warming up.

No big plans for the long weekend. Things will get crazy the next few weeks as the girls go back to school, albeit in new schools: Hannah will be going to first grade in a new elementary school (because the old one closed) on Wednesday and Lily will start her final year of preschool in Beverly (previously she went in Malden). The girls are looking forward to their new adventures, but I'm sure they're a little nervous, too.

Assorted talking points:

  • It was a crazy week for politics. The Democrats made a big splash at their convention, but then on Friday, McCain announced a running mate choice seemingly out of left field: Alaska governor Sarah Palin. I actually had heard of her, having read some posts on Gawker about her relative hotness as a governor. So his potential VP has less than two years' in office as a governor, and before that, her sole political experience was as a mayor of a small Alaskan town. WTF? I guess there goes his arguments about Obama not having enough experience. Hey, you've got to give her credit for accomplishing what she has, but does that qualify her to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? At 72, McCain would be the oldest man to be elected president, and he isn't exactly in the best of health. It seems like a calculated move to attract women voters, especially those disaffected Hillary supporters who are still pissed off about Obama getting the nomination. Of course, she's a pretty hard core conservative evangelical, which is playing well to that demographic. Who cares if she has no experience, she's anti-abortion and pro-gun. Should be an interesting campaign, especially if there's a VP debate between Palin and Joe Biden; he actually could come off looking like a jerk if he totally embarrasses her. As for Palin, nobody can say she doesn't know her sports, as evidenced by this 1988 clip from her days as a big-haired sportscaster.
  • Looks like New Orleans is about to get slammed again, this time by Hurricane Gustav. Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered residents to evacuate. Here's hoping the storm misses the city. Those folks have been through enough.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Completely Conspicuous Episode 61: Been Caught Stealing

Hola. Another long weekend is here. Very nice. I celebrated by recording another ep of CompCon. You can download it directly here (right click and "save as").

Show notes...

- More bad news for online music fans
- Baseball finally gets instant replay
- Pinhead of the Week

- Juliana Hatfield (featuring Richard Butler) - This Lonely Love
- Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains - American Names
- Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines
- Boston Spaceships - Go for the Exit

- New England Podcasting.

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

The Okkervil River song is on the new album The Stand Ins on Jagjaguwar Records, where you can find out more and download the track.

The Boston Spaceships song is on the album Brown Submarine on Rockathon Records; find out more and download the track here.

The Juliana Hatfield song is on the album How to Walk Away on Ye Olde Records. The song from Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains is on the EP American Names on Saddle Creek Records. Both songs were provided by IODA Promonet:

How to Walk AwayJuliana Hatfield, Richard Butler
"This Lonely Love (feat. Richard Butler)" (mp3)
from "How to Walk Away"
(Ye Olde Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

American Names Digital EPSebastien Grainger & The Mountains
"American Names" (mp3)
from "American Names Digital EP"
(Outside Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at mTraks
More On This Album

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 fine music blog. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Walk It Off

Back to work tomorrow. Hey, it couldn't last forever. The last few days were pretty busy. After taking the girls up to see my mom Thursday, we went with Deb after dinner to an ice cream stand in Danvers that also has a driving range so I could hit a bucket of balls while the girls enjoyed some dessert. Friday, Deb was off to her workshop again and I took the girls over to a friend's house for a BBQ lunch/play date. The kids had a blast running around and me and the moms hung out all afternoon.

That evening, I ran the Derby Street Mile in Salem. I parked at my buddy Rick's condo complex about a mile from the start and we jogged over. The race went from the Salem Harbor power plant to the new waterfront hotel, with quarter-mile splits marked off. We started up front because we didn't want to get stuck behind any kids. All told, there were 347 runners. I wasn't really sure how I wanted to approach this race because I usually run much longer distances. I haven't run a timed mile since high school; the best time I can recall running was 6:15, back in 10th grade in Washington State. Of course, I was a scrawny little 125-pound puke in those days. Now I'm a good 30-35 pounds heavier. I was hoping for something around 6:30. I probably started too fast, but I knew that after a slight initial hill, there was a downhill and I could ease up a bit. I really started to feel strain even in my shoulders about halfway through. Rick passed me about then and I didn't try to keep up because he's waaaaaaay faster than me. I tried to keep up a good pace and stuck with the folks around me. As we closed in toward the finish I saw that I would finish under 6 minutes and just chugged in at 5:58. I was pretty spent at the end, but it would have been worse if I had really pushed it before the finish line. I exceeded my expectations, so I was happy. I ended up finishing 46th overall; Rick sped in at 5:37, good for 29th overall.

On Saturday, I had my company golf tournament at Sagamore Springs in Lynnfield. I stacked my foursome with some good players: Stevie Z and my old buddies Mike and Chris, the latter of whom is especially outstanding. We were seeded as the top team and didn't disappoint. Thanks to some massive drives from Chris and some nice shots from everyone else (including me on occasion), we finished with a 62, 8 under par. It was a best ball tournament, which took the pressure off me and even Steve to an extent. It was a great day out and we had fun with the whole thing. Chris also won the longest drive competition. Steve and I went out for a few beers afterward with everyone; Chris and Mike both had to take off right afterward. When I got home, Deb informed me that we were invited to a friend's house for a cookout, so we went over around 7 and stayed until about 10. After putting the kids to bed, both of us fell asleep in front of the tube.

All the eating and drinking and lateness didn't bode well for my long run this morning. I needed to do 17 miles, but wasn't able to get out the door until just before 10 a.m. So much of the run was done with the midday sun beaming down on me, plus I was tired and listless and my legs felt like lead. Just didn't have any energy. It was a Bataan death march-like experience at times, but I got through it. Chilled out watching the Jays-Sox game (Sox won 6-5 in extra innings) and then we went to yet another cookout.

Bulleted list of items:

  • So, Obama's VP pick is Joe Biden, huh? Seems to me he gives Obama a running mate with plenty of foreign policy and Senate experience to answer all those charges of inexperience. He also is a feisty attack dog that Obama can sic on McCain without having to get his own mitts too dirty. Of course, McCain counters by running ads that play to all those pissed-off Hillary supporters, saying that Obama betrayed her by not picking her as VP. Honestly, I don't get what those folks are so up in arms about. They really come off sounding like sore losers, but they could be pretty pivotal if they actually support McCain instead. Should be an interesting convention this week.
  • The Olympics are over. I was bummed I missed the men's marathon yesterday, but I saw a lot of cool stuff. Bring on the NFL season!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Long Time Ahead of Us

Ah, the week's winding down. Deb's off at a workshop in Marlborough or somewhere, so I've got the girls today and tomorrow. We're going up to visit my mom up in NH in a little while, so that should be fun.

It has been a pretty mellow week. We went to the beach Monday. I cranked through one book and am on to another. Tuesday, I went to the registry and got my new license picture taken. My last one was taken in '98; I don't too different now, except for a little less hair. But you're not allowed to have a license photo more than nine years old, so in I went. I had to wait about 40 minutes, which actually wasn't too bad considering how many people were there. I can remember some pretty horrendous registry lines when I first moved down here. Compared to those experiences, this was a breeze.

Yesterday, we took the girls to the Y's outdoor pool for a few hours and then I ran in the Lynn Woods relay with the Striders. It's a 10-mile relay; each team has four runners who do 2.5 miles each. I led off for my team in the Men's Masters (40+) and ran the leg in 18:06, 11 seconds faster than last year. It's a hilly, rocky run through the woods; I was pretty beat at the turn, but the last half was downhill, so that helped. I was almost late to the start because of traffic; got there with five minutes to spare. Our team finished last in our division; guess there's a lot of speedy guys in their 40s out there. On Friday, I'm running in the Derby Street 1-mile race in Salem; I haven't run a timed mile since high school, so it should be fun.

Okay, gotta get ready to head up to NH.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When Your Number Isn't Up

Hey, I'm on vacation. Again. Niiiiiiice. We're not going anywhere this week and I've got to do some work from home, but it's still a week that I won't be in the office. We had a quick visit from Matt, Tricia and the kids; they got in Friday night and left this morning. Yesterday, I got up early and got a 15-miler in. We then got everyone together and went to Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. It was beautiful and sunny while we were there; the beach there is the size of a postage stamp, mostly covered in rocks. But the kids had fun climbing the big rocks there. After we got home, it got dark and the thunder started rumbling, but the big storm never materialized. We spent the evening playing cards and watching the Olympics, especially Michael Phelps and the relay team winning the gold and the women's marathon.

This morning, I led a team of co-workers into battle at the Easter Seals softball tournament. The team we were supposed to play never showed, so we played the team that had played before us. We lent them our pitcher and they had a little kid playing for them, but they still beat us, 8-3. We just couldn't get the bats going. Oh, well. We stuck around and had bloody Marys (Maries?) afterward courtesy of our teammate Steve. I came home and watched the Jays just demolish the Sox, 15-4, to sweep the two-game series (Friday's game was rained out). Then I just sort of intermittently napped and read my book the rest of the afternoon. Weird, wild stuff.

Roll the dice:
  • There are certain phenomena that interest me, even though the evidence is often sketchy to say the least. Certainly UFOs fall into that category, but another one that pops up on the news radar every so often is the search for the ever-elusive Bigfoot. This week, a couple of dudes held a press conference to announce they had found the body of a Sasquatch-like creature. But ultimately, it looked like another hoax. If you want to read more about Bigfoot research, check out this site. They take the topic pretty seriously and don't fall for stunts like the one this week.
  • Belated congrats to my buddy Phil, who last month became a father for the first time with the birth of his son Aidan. He tells me that he's enjoying papahood and that Aidan and mom Harmony are doing well. I fully expect the lad to be a bruising winger for the Beverly High hockey team circa 2022-26.
  • I've mentioned the great NBC-Fox streaming video site Hulu here before, but here's another plug. They've got all sorts of random stuff up for free viewing, from Eddie Murphy's "Raw" concert film to current shows to old classics like "WKRP in Cincinnati." Here's the classic turkey-dropping episode:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Completely Conspicuous Episode 60: Eat to the Beat

Back with another episode of the podcast. You can download it directly here (right click and "save as") if you don't subscribe already.

The show notes...

- The shoddy U.S. food safety system
- An encounter with a creature of the night
- Pinhead of the Week

- Centro-Matic - Quality Strange
- The Stills - Snakecharming the Masses
- Jay Reatard - See/Saw
- The Drive-By Truckers - Puttin' People on the Moon

- New England Podcasting.

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

The Drive-By Truckers song is on the album The Dirty South on New West Records; find out more and download the track at the band's web site.

The Jay Reatard song is on the compilation Matador Singles '08 on Matador Records, where you can find out more and download the track.

The Centro-Matic song is on the album Dual Hawks on Misra Records. The song from The Stills is on the album Oceans Will Rise on Arts and Crafts Records. Both songs were provided by IODA Promonet:

Dual HawksCentro-matic
"Quality Strange" (mp3)
from "Dual Hawks"

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Buy at Napster
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at GroupieTunes
Buy at mTraks
More On This Album

Oceans Will RiseThe Stills
"Snakecharming The Masses" (mp3)
from "Oceans Will Rise"
(Arts & Crafts)

More On This Album

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling by visiting his fine music blog. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Counting the Scars

Happy hump day. It's absolutely beautiful out right now--sunny, dry, about 80. Hopefully next week will be like this when I'm on vacation. Yeah, I know I already took a vacation a few weeks ago, but next week is Deb's last before school starts up again, so I figured I'd spend it with her and the girls.

We've been officially bat-free for 10 days. Just sayin'.

Deb's definitely got Olympic mania. She's been watching it nonstop. I've been poking my head in from time to time to see what's going on. Man, that Michael Phelps has been insanely good. Five golds as of this writing, with three more chances to win. He's already the winningnest Olympic athlete in history. Meanwhile, tough times for Canada, which has yet to bag a medal.

I'm into the second week of my training for the Philly Marathon, which takes place just before Thanksgiving. I did a 13-miler on Sunday and will run 15 this Saturday. Just got some new shoes, which should make things that much easier. Gotta love the cushioning in new shoes.

Blowing the blues away:
  • There's a fair amount of controversy brewing this week over the film Tropic Thunder, which has seen protests from activist groups upset over the film's use of the word "retarded." The movie is a satire of Hollywood, but the folks urging a boycott don't seem to get the joke. The ones being made fun of are Hollywood stars who play mentally disabled characters in bids to win Oscars, not the mentally disabled themselves. But just like any joke, when you have to explain it in minute detail, it's not as funny anymore. If we're supposed to stop making jokes or satire because of the fear of offending people, we might as well stop making jokes or satire altogether.
  • Sad to hear of the deaths of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes in the last few days. Both of them were leaders in their respective fields. The theme from "Shaft" was positively kick-ass. And Bernie Mac was a funny dude (clip is NSFW).
  • As a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it has been fun to see OG host Joel Hodgson and crew come back with a new movie riffing venture, Cinematic Titanic. Basically, they follow the old MST3K formula of taking a crappy movie and making wisecracks over it. I've seen the first movie they did, The Oozing Skull, and it was hilarious. Meanwhile, second MST3K host Mike Nelson and a couple of the other dudes have their own movie riffing effort, Rifftrax. Haven't seen any of their work, but they've been riffing on movies of more recent vintage. Check 'em out.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Room to Rock

Ah, Fried-day. No bat sightings since last Sunday, so things are back to normal around here. We're getting ready for a gathering of the old Webnoize crew for a BBQ tomorrow, so that should be fun. Hopefully, the thunderstorms will spare us for at least one day.

I finally got on the ball and uploaded a shiteload of photos to my long-dormant Flickr page, which hadn't been updated since January. I've got vacation photos, birthday party pics from the spring, and even some shots from last night's Beverly Homecoming 5K. It was looking pretty ominous before the kids' races started, as the skies grew darker and the rain began. Lily and Hannah had fun running their races and did well. The 5K was my first speedwork in about a month; I ran a 21:50 by my watch, 21:53 by the official timer's clock. Not bad, a little over a 7 minute pace, but about 20 seconds off my PR. The rain stopped by the time the race started and held off for the entire time I was running. Molly and Jon also ran and did well; Jon ended up finishing 14th overall.

The Beijing Olympics kick off tonight with the 2008-hour-long opening ceremonies. I have to admit, I watched a little of it and it was pretty impressive. I was waiting for the rhythmic dancing tribute to the Tianamen Square tanks, but never saw it. NBC's going into Olympic overdrive. I'm looking forward to the track and field, soccer and swimming events.

Aiight, I'll check in later.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bat Out of Hell 2

Let's pick up where we left off, shall we? Saturday night, Deb and the girls slept in the guest room and I slept in the living room with the lights on, watchful for any wayward bats. Not a peep. Went upstairs in the morning, found nothing there, either. Went for a lackluster 12-mile run, went to the park for a kids' concert that was cut short by rain, and just hung out the rest of the day. In the evening, Deb went to see "Mamma Mia" with some friends while I put the girls to bed and sat down to watch "In Bruges."

Around 8:30, a bat suddenly appears in the living room and starts circling rapidly. I nearly jumped out of my shorts. Guess I wasn't hallucinating Friday night when I saw the bat in the living room. I scramble down the hall to grab a broom and make sure the girls stay in the guest room with the door closed. I stationed myself at the door to the living room (again, no actual door there to be closed) and wave the broom every time the bat comes near to keep it cornered in the living room. After a few minutes of this, I call my mother-in-law downstairs to see if she has any ideas. She comes up and at first was going to call the police to see if an animal control officer can come over, but then decides to call our neighbor Bruce, who's pretty handy. He comes over with a net. In the meantime, the bat's getting tired and starts landing on a window screen, obviously hoping to get out. I didn't want to venture near enough to open the screen for fear of getting bitten, so I keep my distance.

Then the bat starts circling again. Right as Bruce walks in, I smack the bat and knock him to the floor. Bruce tells me to pin it down and he goes over to put the net over the bat and the end of the broom; meanwhile, the little critter is making this high-pitched cry. Bruce takes the captured bat outside and we set it free. I went back in, soaked in sweat, and start closing the windows, because that's the only way I figured the bat got in. I had sealed off the upstairs already. Deb got home a little while later and got a little freaked out after I told her the story. We slept in the guest room again.

This morning, I was back to work. I called a pest control company out of Peabody (Northeast Animal Control) that I found in Yellow Book and the guy eventually came by the house around 4:30. After talking to us and looking around the house, he had a couple of theories: When we had the gutters repaired and new boards installed to replace the rotting ones, a bat or bats may have been trapped inside. The only thing is I would think those things would have been fried up there with all the heat lately. At any rate, we didn't want him to rip out that new wood to look. The other theory is that a bat may have snuck in when we opened a door recently and has just been hiding out the last few days. I'm hoping that we just had the one bat and that we were able to get rid of it.

The bat guy checked out the eaves in our bedroom and didn't find any evidence that bats had been roosting in them. I sealed off a couple of possible entry points with duct tape for now and we just have to wait and see what happens tonight. We put the girls back in their room and I'm going to sleep upstairs with a broom nearby to see if we have any visitors; meanwhile, Deb wants to sleep downstairs. She's still a little freaked out by it all. Can't say as I blame her. So far, all is quiet as of 8:30 p.m. Hopefully, there will be nothing of import to report tomorrow.

UPDATE: It's Tuesday morning and I'm glad to report that the night was uneventful. Let's hope it stays that way.

Hop aboard the crazy train:

  • Man, this anthrax investigation just gets weirder and weirder. I feel bad for that other Army scientist whose name was dragged through the mud back in '02. Meanwhile, the scientist who killed himself still hasn't been definitively tied to the mailings. But the details that have come out about him get progressively more bizarre.
  • I'd say the bus trip from hell would certainly include a guy stabbing to death and beheading the guy sitting next to him. But then he went on to eat pieces of the victim's flesh, according to a police recording. WTF? The suspect was described as a hardworking former church employee who never showed any signs of anger or emotional problems. So what, he just went nuts? Yikes.
  • Almost as crazy as that story is paying $14 million for photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's newborns. Seriously, they're infants. Give them a little time before they start to look like their parents.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Back to the Life

We're baaaaaaack. Originally, we had planned to leave the Shore yesterday and hang out at Matt's place in northern Jersey before finishing the trip this morning, but Hannah came down with a nasty sounding cough so we just decided to come straight home yesterday. We made decent time until we got to Connecticut, which was slow in the usual spots and then really crawled once we got on Route 128 from the Mass Pike. We straggled in just after 6 p.m.

It was a mellow evening, catching up on TiVoed programs and the Web and then reading until 1 a.m. Then at 1:30, I heard a strange noise in our bedroom. I looked toward the corner where we have a nightlight plugged in, somewhat in a daze from being awakened from sleep and without my glasses. Then I saw it: A bat! Our bedroom is a converted attic and as such has some sloped ceilings, and the little bastard was bouncing around the room, no doubt trying to figure out where the hell he was. Meanwhile, Deb and I were fairly freaked out. We quickly decided to grab the kids and sleep downstairs. We don't have doors on our bedrooms upstairs (don't ask; long story), but we have one at the bottom of the stairs, so I closed it to keep the critter up there.

Deb and the girls camped out in the guest/play room and I took the couch in the living room. I was pretty amped up and it took a while to conk out, but finally I did, only to be awakened by another noise. Sure enough, it was a bat flying around the living room. At least, I could have sworn it was. I had my glasses on this time, but it was dark and I honestly could have dreamed the whole thing. But at the time, I was convinced we had another bat in the living room and I took off for the guest room to join the rest of the family. This time, it took me a lot longer to fall asleep; I was on the floor next to Lily while Deb and Hannah were on a futon. By this point, it had to be after 2 a.m. and eventually I fell asleep, but I kept waking up from time to time. At 5:30, Lily needed to go to the bathroom, so I went with her and checked out the living room while she did her thing. Nothing. It was starting to get light out, so maybe the bat skedaddled to its hiding place. Or maybe there was no bat in the living room. I have no doubts there was one in the bedroom. Of course, when we finally all got up about three hours later, I searched the house armed with a broom and a paper bag but found no signs of the bat down- or upstairs. We suspect it got into our room through the eaves that we use for storage in our room; the door has a slight crack in the top that would suffice for a bat to fit through. A year or two ago, Deb was certain she saw a bat fly by her head after she had gone to bed; I was downstairs and came up but could find no sign of it, so naturally I was skeptical. A thorough search the following morning found no sign of it then, either. Now I'm thinking she probably saw a bat. Now we'll probably have to find someone to come in and get rid of the thing and block its access to our attic.

So anyhoo, there's also the matter of our vacation. We left last Friday, July 25 and got to my bro-in-law Matt's place in the early afternoon. We went down to the lake nearby to take the kids swimming and have some dinner. We then hit the road around 9 to head for the shore, arriving a little after 11. The fun started Saturday. Some highlights:

  • We enjoyed the pool and hot tub at the resort (Seaview Villas in Galloway, NJ) throughout our stay.
  • We hit Brigantine Beach (near Atlantic City) twice. The water was noticeably colder this year than in past visits; not sure why. I tried boogie boarding for the first time, as did the girls, and it was a lot of fun. We don't get those kind of waves around here, but I'll definitely do it again sometime.
  • The weather was hot and humid, but not overly so. I got out for an 11-miler and two 5-mile runs while I was there, in addition to weight workouts in the gym.
  • After my recent pining for Pete's Wicked Ale, the liquor store we went to actually stocked it, so I picked up a 12 pack and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it was heavier than I remember it.
  • Matt and I played 18 holes with his in-laws Wednesday at one of the two golf courses at the resort. I started off okay and finished horribly; my driving ability totally deserted me after the first few holes. Fortunately, my short game was pretty good so it wasn't a total loss. I need to get to the driving range and figure out what's wrong.
  • We went to the boardwalk in Ocean City to take the kids on amusement rides and then get ice cream. Another thing I noticed this time around, both on the beach and on the boardwalk, is the seagulls have gotten a lot more brazen. They'll hover over your head and snatch food right out of your hands while you eat.
  • I got a ton of reading done. I've been slowly picking my way through Sacred Games, the 924-page magnum opus by Vikram Chandra about Mumbai gangsters. I started it months ago but have made little progress, about 130 pages, as I try to read in the few minutes before I fall asleep. I read mainly old MOJO magazines on the first few days of vacation, but I started getting into the book and in the last three or four days have read about 430 pages. I hope to finish it by early next week.
  • We followed with great interest the Manny Ramirez saga all week, as he did everything in his power to get traded out of Boston by the deadline and in the end was successful. The Sox sent him to the Dodgers in a three-team deal that brought Jason Bay to Boston. There's no doubt he's a great player, but he's also a distraction that while hilarious, must have driven his teammates nuts. We'll see how he does in LaLa land.