Friday, January 30, 2009

All of My Days and All of My Days Off

Another week is down and we're in New Jersey. We hit the road around 5:20 and ran into some typical stop-and-go traffic until we got halfway down the Mass Pike. Got here just before 10. Matt and Tricia are celebrating their birthdays (which are five days apart) with a birthday bash tomorrow night. Before that happens, I'm heading out to run 20 miles in the a.m. and then possibly skate with my nephews on the lake here later. Should be nice and sore on Sunday.

I was all set to record a new podcast last night, but by the time I was ready, it was 10:45 and I was pretty fried. So I decided to watch the rest of the Leafs-Avs game (nice 7-4 win for Toronto) and will record the episode Sunday after we get back.

So I've begun blogging at work, but it's actually work-related. Along with two co-workers, I'm writing posts for a blog about patient safety. It's pretty fun and pretty interesting (and occasionally pretty scary). Check it out when you get a chance.

My latest running column is about shoes and the feet that need them.

On the ride down, I was having fun accessing the wireless InternetoWebs with my new phone. We got a free trial of Web access from Verizon and I have to say, it's pretty damn cool. It's interesting how certain sites have optimized their look for mobile devices (the New York Times looked especially good) and others haven't ( was a jumbled mess). Deb keeps reminding me that the fun ends when the month is over, but I don't know...I might be hooked.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keep It Warm

Winter struck again today, causing Deb, Hannah and Lily to have their first snow days of the school year. The snow started early, turning to sleet by afternoon and now just rain. I went to work, but they closed the office at 3:30 so the parking lot could be plowed.

Deb used the free time to check out new cell phones. We bought our last ones in 2005 and while they still worked, they were pretty banged up and archaic by today's standards. Deb ended up getting a Verizon EnV, which opens up to reveal a full keyboard for texting. We got a deal where I got a more traditional Motorola phone for free; I could have whined and got the same phone as Deb, but honestly, I don't text that often and couldn't be bothered. I just need a phone that works as a voice communication device; it has a camera, which is fine, but I don't use my phone to take pictures or listen to music or watch videos.

Can't believe I'm already into week 4 of my marathon training. I'm feeling pretty good so far, but I've done a lot of treadmill running, which is a bummer. I ran outside for my 17-miler on Saturday and it wasn't bad; I was really careful to watch my footing so I didn't wipe out. I've got 20 coming up this weekend while we're in NJ.

I came across an interesting situation yesterday at work. There are four soda machines in our building and they are continually ripping people off, either eating dollar bills, out of soda, or giving you a Diet Coke when you want a Coke. I've probably had close to $30 in dollar bills eaten by those damn machines over the years. Yesterday afternoon I noticed that the machine near my office was unlocked; the door was closed to keep the sodas cold, but you could open it. For a split second, I considered the moral implications...and then I reached in and grabbed a couple of Cokes. And I told a few other people. The machines are run by the son of our building's landlord and between the mismanagement of the machines and the rest of the building (which leaks, is moldy, and has countless other problems), I figured we're due. When I came in this morning, the machine was open, but I didn't partake. Later in the morning, I was feeling sleepy and went out to get a Coke, but the machine had finally been locked. It was good while it lasted. Just as well that it's locked now...I'm trying to stay off that stuff, anyway.

Chips and dip:
  • No doubt you saw and laughed at the ads for the Snuggie, that wearable blanket thing that was hyped every 10 minutes over the holidays. Well, apparently the ads the tune of $40 million in sales. Maybe people figure they can save money on heating costs by wearing those silly things. Whatever the case, the dude selling the Snuggie is laughing all the way to the bank...while wearing a Snuggie.
  • The Super Bowl is this weekend and my interest is about as low as it's ever been. I'll root for Arizona just because they're the underdogs and I don't like the Steelers, but really, I'll be rooting for my Super Bowl squares to hit. Hey, the last time I won anything was when Tampa Bay beat the Raiders, another game I didn't give a rat's arse about.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hopeless Case of a Kid in Denial

What is up? We're in the midst of a little heat wave--I think it got up to 30 degrees today. Tomorrow might hit 35! Back to the coldiosity on Saturday night, though. I'm looking forward to getting back on the roads tomorrow and Saturday. Just need to watch out for black ice. The last thing I need is to wipe out.

I was hobbling a little bit today after doing speedwork yesterday and then playing hockey last night. At least we had some subs so it wasn't as brutal as last week.

I just got off the phone with my mom, who just arrived in India. She's there until late March. Temps are in the 70s there. I'm jealous.

Hope and change and whatnot:
  • President Obama got off to a quick start by signing an order to close Guantanamo Bay within a year. Which is cool, but I wonder where all those prisoners are going to end up.
  • The Oscar nominations are out. Looks like "The Dark Knight" got jobbed, but the Academy was loving "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which scored 13 nominations. As always, I haven't seen most of the nominated films because they're not all out on DVD yet. I'd say by next June, I should have a good handle on who should win.
  • Ah, the Leafs. After an energetic, overachieving start to the season, they're playing the way I thought they would: Inconsistent and mostly crappy. Lately, they've found ways to lose games they had well in hand. In the last week, they've blown a four-goal lead against Carolina only to eke out a win, and turned 3-1 leads against Atlanta and Boston into losses. They're asking the fans in Toronto for more support, but come on. It's rough rooting for a rebuilding team. I just hope they'll be somewhere close to good in a couple of years, the way the Bruins are at the top of the league now after a stretch of awfulness. And don't even get me started on the Blue Jays. Ugh.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Great Expectations

Ah, these are heady, historic times. Barack Obama is sworn in as president tomorrow and all weekend, it's been all inauguration, all the time on the cable news networks. Which is cool, but I'm approaching this with a tempered attitude. I am certainly glad Dubya is history, but I also don't think Obama going to come in, snap his fingers and make everything magically better. He's picked a tough time to be president, inheriting a massive pile of crap from his predecessor. I think he knows that and seems to be pretty level-headed about preparing for it. I just hope people don't expect everything to suddenly change at 12:01 p.m. on January 20. Our economy's still on life support. The Middle East is still very unstable. There are many crises to deal with. Here's hoping Obama makes the right moves to get us back on the right path.

So I wimped out on Saturday and ran my 15-miler inside on a treadmill. I just couldn't get myself to run outside; it was about 8 degrees out. I broke up the run into 5-mile segments and it wasn't too bad. But next weekend's 17-miler is definitely going to be on the road. Of course, we've gotten so much snow in the past few days, there's even less room for runners out there. It's going to be a tough couple of months of training.

Here's the latest running column, which came out last Thursday.

I played hockey last week for the first time in a month and of course, there were no subs. Which meant I was out there for 90 straight minutes. I was really dragging ass at times, but managed to get a second or third wind at the end of the night and popped in a couple of late goals. I was seriously hurting the next day or two, just really sore. This week shouldn't be so rough.

Yesterday, other than shoveling snow, I did not go anywhere. Instead, I took on some projects that I've been delaying for quite a while. The recent cold snap finally got me to weatherproof our windows, which let in a lot of drafty air. And I finally went through all my t-shirts to organize and cull the herd, if you will. I wear t-shirts every damn day. I've got shirts from my college days, old concert shirts, and tons of race shirts. I had to get cold and junk a lot of old shirts that were just getting nasty, as well as a bunch that I just never wear. I ended up filling a big trash bag, which I'll drop off at a Goodwill box. I still have a boatload of shirts, but at least I know where everything is now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zero Chance

Just checking in while global colding kicks our collective butts...not to cast aspersions on Al Gore's theories, but damn if the whole country isn't undergoing some seriously arctic weather. It's been pretty frigid around here for a while and it's about to get worse: the low temp Friday and Saturday is supposed to be zero. Zero! High temps aren't supposed to be much more than the mid-teens. Doesn't make that 15-miler I'm supposed to do Saturday sound promising.

Sad news from Hollywood today with the death of Ricardo Montalban at the age of 88. Best known as Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island, he'll always be remembered by nerds everywhere as Khan in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." But he also gave the world this awesome Chrysler Cordoba commercial. which was parodied for years afterward. Rest in peace, Ricardo.

I grew up in the '70s, when the hockey brawl was commonplace. They just don't happen anymore. Which is why this minor league hockey brawl is so ridiculous and amazing. Hopefully nothing like this happens at my skate tonight.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 69: Don't Call It a Comeback

Now that I've finally got my computer working properly again, it was time to record the first podcast of 2009. Visit the CompCon page to hear it in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

- The art of the comeback
- Infomercials
- Pinhead of the Week

- TV On the Radio - Dancing Choose (Prefuse 73 remix)
- Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Bomb. Repeat. Bomb. (1954)
- Delta Spirit - Trashcan
- Ten Kens - Bearfight

- New England Podcasting.

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

The TV On the Radio song is on the deluxe version of their album Dear Science on Interscope Records. The Ted Leo and the Pharmacists song is on their album Living With the Living on Touch and Go Records. Both songs are courtesy of RCRDLBL, where you can find out more and download the tracks.

The Delta Spirit song is on the album Ode to Sunshine on Rounder Records. The Ten Kens song is on their self-titled album on Fat Cat UK Records. Both songs are courtesy were provided by IODA Promonet:

Ode to SunshineDelta Spirit
"Trashcan" (mp3)
from "Ode to Sunshine"
(Rounder Records)

More On This Album

Ten KensTen Kens
"Bearfight" (mp3)
from "Ten Kens"
(Fat Cat Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at eMusic Delivery
Buy at Rhapsody
Buy at Napster
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Puretracks
Buy at GroupieTunes
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 Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sad Transmission

Wow, sorry for the weeklong blogout. I was busy early in the week and then ran into some InterWeb issues the last few days that left me without home computer access. See, we got my mother-in-law a laptop for Christmas (but ordered it while down in NJ a few weekends ago) and it showed up this week. The plan was to pick up a router and network our desktop and her laptop (and eventually, the laptop we get). So on Thursday, I picked up a Belkin router from Best Buy and follow the "quick setup" instructions, but can't get the thing to work. So I called Verizon tech support (we have Verizon DSL) and the dude walks me through getting the modem set up to configure with the router. But then he says I need to call Belkin support for the rest of the way. So I do, but it didn't work. Eventually, we determine that the router is defective and he tells me to exchange it for another. Unfortunately along the way, our regular Internet access no longer worked, so we have no Internet. Friday night, I go back to Best Buy, but I pick up a Linksys that was the same price and appeared to have the same features. I go to set it up, but call Verizon to help me get our Internet access working again. The woman who helped me tried a lot of stuff, but nothing worked and ultimately she concluded that our modem was suddenly defective and I needed another one. By this point, it was late and the billing department was closed; but this was good, because I didn't think she was right. Today, I called back and the dude I talked to was able to deduce that the USB cable that connected the modem and computer was faulty, so we tried an ethernet cable and sure enough, it worked. I had to get another cable to hook up the router and modem and was all set. I still haven't quite figured out how to add the laptop to the network, but I was pretty fried by that point and decided to get back at it tomorrow.

That stuff aside, it was a busy and strange day today. With several inches of snow expected overnight tonight, I decided to get my 13 miles (first week of Boston Marathon training) in this morning. So I was out by 7 a.m. Holy crap, was it cold! It was 11 degrees when I left, with a wind chill in the single digits. I was pretty well bundled up, except for my face. By the end of the two hours, my face was completely numb; guess I need to get one of those balaclava things to cover my mouth in extreme cold. But I felt good on the run and was glad to get it in.

I got home and had to haul ass to head to the funeral of a friend of ours from church, a 23-year-old woman who also ran the church nursery and got to know our girls pretty well. She also babysat for them on a few occasions. It was quite a shock; she died in her sleep last weekend. The funeral was so sad. A lot of her friends gave testimonials and it was pretty intense, heartwrenching stuff.

I had to leave right after the service to head home and take the girls to Hannah's soccer game, so it was quite the mad scramble to change out of my suit, get Hannah ready, and get back in the van. Then it was back home to work on getting the computer working. Needless to say, I'm fried.

I'll check in again tomorrow, I promise.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

More News From Nowhere

Hola, and a belated Happy New Year. It's pretty amazing to me that we're in the last year of this decade already. The Aughts, the '00s, or whatever the hell you want to call them, have certainly seen some major shifts for the world and for me personally. The threat of terrorism has always been around, with hijackings and bombings occurring every so often, but since a certain day in 2001, it really hit home and changed the tenor of our worldview. And eventually it led to the biggest war since Viet Nam. As for me, since 2000 I've gotten married, bought a house, had know, all that "growing up" stuff I'd heard so much about. We've got another year before we really take a look back at this decade, but it's wild that we're even this far into it.

So now for the resolutions...last year, I had resolved to run two marathons (check) and get my marathon PR down into the 3:30s. Didn't quite make it. I had a 3:43 in New Jersey in May and was hoping for a sub-3:40 in Philly in November, but only got a 3:52. This year, I'll have the same goal, although since I'm doing Boston in April, I don't expect to run as fast I would a flatter marathon course. But I'll do a speedier course in the fall. As always, I resolved to play the guitar more, but I probably played it as much as I ever do: in fits and starts. So I'll get on that again. And I looked to do more non-work writing and I actually achieved that one, especially with the running column that I launched in October for the local paper. It's all about time management. I'm also still doing my podcast twice a month and trying to blog a couple of times a week. I think that's realistic while leaving time for the most important thing of all: being a dad and a husband.

Speaking of the running column, here's the latest one, which was published yesterday.

We had a pretty quiet New Year's Eve. Deb had planned to take the girls to some of the Beverly First Night activities in town and I was going to meet them after I got out of work, but an afternoon snowstorm put a damper on that stuff. The activities were still held, but Deb decided to stay off the roads. I got out of work around 2:30, came home and shoveled, and then we just hunkered down for the night. We ended up getting about eight inches, but they were fluffy and easy to shovel and clear. The winds picked up at night, forcing the cancellation of the Boston New Year's fireworks, and temps dropped into the single digits.

On New Year's Day, I bundled up with two pairs of pants and three upper layers to run the Frosty Four in Salem. It was brutally cold, about 10 degrees with 30 mph winds at times. More than 300 like-minded (i.e., crazy) runners were out there with me. The first and third miles were the toughest; the footing was tough because of the snow, but the winds that blew off Salem Harbor on mile 3 were absolutely horrendous, whipping up sand off the beach and nearly knocking us over as we ran up a big hill. Compared to that, the last mile was downright comfortable. I decided not to push too hard and ran 8:30 miles. They had a great post-race spread, with three-bean chili and Chik-Fil-A sandwiches. Good stuff.

I got home and it took several hours for me to get warm again. In between, I watched the second NHL Winter Classic, held at Wrigley Field between the Blackhawks and Red Wings. They did a great job and the weather cooperated. It was an exciting game for two periods, before Detroit took over. Interesting fact (for me, anyway): Former UNH netminder Ty Conklin has played in all three outdoor games the NHL has held, including the Heritage Classic in Edmonton a few years back. He was Edmonton's goalie then, won for Pittsburgh last year, and won for the Wings this year. If he plays in it again next year (location and teams TBD), it'll truly be an amazing feat.

Usually, New Year's Eve is movie (rental) night for us, but it didn't work out that way. But last night, we watched "The Dark Knight," and holy crap, Batman, is that a great movie. I wish I could have seen it on a big screen because it was truly an impressive looking movie, with lots of great 'splosions. But there was much more than that, of course. Heath Ledger was incredible as the Joker, taking the character as from Jack Nicholson's version as you can imagine. Great acting all around, really: Christian Bale as the title character, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhall, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. As you can tell, I don't see movies when they first come out very often. I've been catching up in recent weeks, seeing "Tropic Thunder," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and "Iron Man." Plus last night, I watched the first half of "Reservoir Dogs," which never gets old. I also TiVoed "The Pope of Greenwich Village" the other night starring a young Mickey Rourke; I haven't seen it before and I'm looking forward to seeing "The Wrestler," so this should be a good 'un.