Sunday, April 26, 2009

Slap Dash for No Cash

Another long weekend is over, just like that. We've been enjoying some sweltering 80 to 85-degree temps the last few days, although it dropped down into the 60s rather suddenly this afternoon. Supposed to be back into the 70s tomorrow. The girls are already whining about how hot it is, but I'll take it.

I took Friday off to spend with the girls. Went out for my first run since the marathon and felt pretty good doing 5 miles, although my legs were really sore afterward. I spent the rest of the day running errands before Hannah's 7th birthday party, which was a "chef party" with her and nine friends. They put toppings on pizzas, decorated mini-cakes, and did crafts. A bit messy, but they had a lot of fun. Hannah's actual birthday is next Wednesday.

On Saturday, I managed to score a ticket to the Sox-Yankees game, so I drove into the city to meet my buddies Gary and Brad and their friend Tim. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and 85. We had tickets for the right field roof, a standing-room only area that Deb and I went to a few years ago. It ended up being a great spot because the breeze off the harbor made it really comfortable. The game itself was insane, a 16-11 marathon victory for the Red Sox. Good times. Got home at 10 and ended up watching the Ducks-Sharks game until 1 a.m.; Sharks won in OT to force the series to a game 6.

Today I ran the Ring Around the Neck 5-miler in Marblehead. It was another hot day and being on the water didn't cool the race down any. I ran it in 40:18 (40:09 by my watch), which wasn't bad considering the heat, hills and the fact it had been six days since the marathon.

I've been pretty good about eating smaller portions since I started paying attention to that on Thursday. Although we went to a goodbye party this afternoon and I ate a lot of junk. But on the whole, I've lost about five pounds so far.

Sweating bullets:
  • It has been interesting the last few days to watch the furor over a possible swine flu epidemic sweeping the continent. It started in Mexico and now some cases have reportedly been found in Texas and New York. The tricky thing is keeping people from panicking, because the symptoms are pretty similar to the regular flu. The CDC announced a public health emergency to warn the public about it, but I wonder what, if anything, we can do about it.
  • Showbiz legend Bea Arthur is dead at 86. But not to worry: Bea Arthur's Revenge lives on. And holy crap, this 1988 Canuckian PSA with Mario Lemeiux and Tony Fernandez is just plain awesome.
  • I've been digging the new Art Brut album, Art Brut vs. Satan. Good, punchy Britrock produced by Frank Black. The singer, Eddie Argos, rants and raves much like a UK version of Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. Makes sense that those bands toured together.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 77: Master of Reality

Here's part 2 of my wide-ranging conversation with Ric Dube about reality TV, new music and the state of radio. Click here to listen to the episode in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:
- The types of reality TV
- Dube pitches "Blue Balls"
- Deconstructing "American Idol"
- Old vs. new music
- The power of podcasts
- The future of radio
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- Sonic Youth - Sacred Trickster
- Deer Tick - Easy

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes and Podcast Pickle podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!
The Sonic Youth song is on the forthcoming album The Eternal on Matador Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

The Deer Tick song is on the forthcoming album Born on Flag Day on Partisan Records. You can download the song 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 fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. 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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What a Rush

So here I sit, still sore from the marathon. My legs are pretty tight, as you can imagine. But I feel pretty good, all things considered. As I recuperate and prepare for Sunday's Ring Around the Neck 5-miler in Marblehead, I've also begun to plan my exploits for the fall marathon season. I've already committed to do the Reach the Beach relay in September, but I'm also pretty sure I'm going to run the Maine Marathon on October 4. I ran it back in 2002; it was my second marathon and my first sub-4:00 time (3:59:50, to be exact). It's an out-and-back course with some rolling hills but nothing too painful. I enjoyed the experience, but my desire to run it again has more to do with scheduling than anything else. Because I also want to run the Mountain Madness 50K trail race in Ringwood, NJ, which also happens to be where Matt and Tricia reside. The race is on October 17, the same date Deb will be out in San Fran to run the Nike Women's Half-Marathon. Matt's going to do the 50K (31 miles); it takes place in Ringwood State Park, which is literally behind his house and where I have done many a long run. It won't be easy, but Maine could almost serve as a training run for the longer race. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking right now.

Looking back at my Boston performance, I was bummed at first for not breaking 3:50, but when I consider the headwind, I think I did pretty well. Also, I ran less than 3 minutes slower than my time in Chicago in 2006, when I had a flat course, no headwind and no cramps or other problems to deal with. Not too shabby.

That said, I haven't been pleased with my level of fitness the last few marathons. I'm running at 160 pounds, which isn't heavy by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to drop 10 pounds over the next three months or so. That way, I can be at 150 when I start training for my fall events. The reasoning is you can drop a minute per pound you lose off your race time; I want to get my marathon time into the 3:30s. I'm not going to radically change my exercise plan because I think I work out about as much as I possibly can. And I'm not going on a special diet. But I do plan to reduce the portion sizes and cut the crap out of my diet (desserts, soda, candy). I want to try and lose a pound a week until I'm down around 150, which I think is where I need to be. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So Hard Done By


Quick post: Finished Boston in 3:56:57. Not quite as fast as I'd hoped, but I'll take a sub-4:00 Boston Marathon. I beat my previous Boston best by 13 minutes. More details tomorrow when my column is posted in the Salem News [UPDATE: Check it out here]. But suffice it to say, I had a good day for the most part and I'm ready to run some shorter distances for a while.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Before Departure

Well, I plan on hitting the sack soon because I've got to rise early tomorrow to leave for Hopkington and the start of the Boston Marathon. I'm feeling pretty good. The sore throat I was whining about on Thursday disappeared the next day. I took it easy this weekend, only going out for an easy 2 miles this morning. I went in to the race expo yesterday to pick up my number and assorted stuff; it was pretty packed. Earlier this evening, we met up with some friends in the North End to have a nice carbo-packed meal. Good stuff. At any rate, if you want to follow my progress tomorrow, just go to the Boston Marathon site and use the athlete tracker feature. There should be updates on my times every 5k (3.1 miles). The weather looks like it will be good for running, so wish me luck.

I'll be writing a first-person column for the Salem News on my race experience for Tuesday's paper, so I'll be sure to post the link here.

I also wanted to congratulate my good friends Jay and Amy on the birth of their daughter Chloe, who arrived three weeks early a few days ago. Everyone's doing well and my daughters are looking forward to introducing her to the wonderful world of princesses at some point in the near future.

Completely Conspicuous Episode 76: So Bad It's Good

Here's part 1 of my conversation with Ric Dube about our mutual appreciation of bad movies. Part 2 will be uploaded later in the week. You can hear the show in streaming audio here or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:
- Appreciating Kevin Smith
- Good bad movies vs. crap
- The genius of Mystery Science Theater 3000
- Dube pitches documentary ideas
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- Jarvis Cocker - Angela
- King Khan and the Shrines - Land of the Freak

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

The Jarvis Cocker song is on the forthcoming album Further Complications on Rough Trade Records. Find out more and download the song here.

The King Khan and the Shrines song is on the album What Is? on Vice Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. 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.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hey Everyone

Less than four days to the marathon...and I have the beginnings of a sore throat. Dammit. This happened just before Philly and it turned into a chest cold that slowed me down. I'm hoping that this time around, it doesn't turn into more than an annoyance. I'm going to try and combat it with lots of fluids and rest...something new and different. I've been watching the weather forecasts closely and right now, everybody's predicting temps in the low 50s and a chance of rain, although the consensus seems to be that the rain will start in the afternoon. Sounds awesome to me. I went for a quick, hilly 4.5-miler with my buddy Rick on Tuesday and a slower 3.5-miler today. I feel pretty good, although my lower back was a little sore today. That's nothing new. It usually takes a few miles to loosen up and I'm fine. I'm excited to go in to the race expo on Saturday and pick up my number and then relax on Sunday. I'm going to write a column on my race experience Monday night for Tuesday's paper, much like I did in 2002 when I ran my first Boston. Only this time I'll actually get paid.

I've been making the most of the Center Ice package to watch the first few days of the NHL playoffs. Just saw the Bruins beat Montreal in game 1, 4-2. The Habs played them pretty tough, but Boston stepped it up in the third and got a big win. I've been watching bits and pieces of the other games on Versus and the hockey package. I love this time of year.

The Jays are continuing their great start, with a 7-3 record going into tonight. The offense has been unexpectedly on fire and some of the young starters like Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond have done well in addition to the great Roy Halladay. The Sox and Yanks are off to slow starts, but I'm sure they'll pick things up. I hope they don't, but they probably will. Wow, Kevin Millar just hit a grand slam to put the Jays up 9-1 over the Twins. Keeeee-rraazzzy.

Things are going well with the podcast. I've gotten some good feedback on my recent "conversation casts" with Jay Breitling and Eric Convey. Tomorrow night, I'm going to post the first part of the Ric Dube conversation that we recorded last Saturday; it's pretty long, but a lot of fun. Then I'll do the second part next Tuesday, I think.

Pass the pepper:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 75: Future Shock

Back with part 2 of my conversation with Eric Convey, managing editor of the Boston Business Journal, about the death of newspapers and what, if anything, can be done about it. In this episode, we talk about using new media in newsgathering and the future of journalism and share some old tales from our reporting days. Click here to listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:
- New media in newsgathering
- The future of journalism
- Tales of old reporters
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy (live)
- The Pink Mountaintops - Vampire
- The Vaselines - Son of a Gun

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

The Hold Steady song is on the new live album A Positive Rage on Vagrant Records. Click here to download the song.

The Pink Mountaintops song is on the new album Outside Love on Jagjaguwar Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

The Vaselines song is on the new collection Enter the Vaselines on Sub Pop Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. 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, April 11, 2009

Now the Struggle Has a Name

It's grim out there, folks. Another grey, gloomy day, with bone-chilling temps, wind and rain. But I'm in a good mood. I got my last long run in before the marathon, a good 10-miler to Beverly Farms and back. I'm feeling strong and not too sore. Nine days to go before Boston...

My running column this week focused on race-day tips for Marathon Monday. I'll be up early and boarding a bus for Hopkinton chartered by my running club, the North Shore Striders. It's equipped with a bathroom, which will mean we won't have to stand in the endless PortaPotty lines in the Athlete's Village. That's one major stress inducer that's eliminated right from the start.

After several false starts due to scheduling, my buddy Eric finally made it over here Thursday night and we recorded a two-part conversation for the podcast about the decline of the newspaper industry. It was a very informative discussion and makes for good listening if you're at all interested in that subject. We talked a lot about the Boston Globe's current woes and what may lie ahead, and we also looked back at our days as young reporters at the Peabody Times. Part 2 will be posted early next week.

The podcasting fun continues tonight as I head over to Dr. Doobs' house in Shrewsbury to talk about pop culture in its various forms. Doobs is nothing if not opinionated about movies, TV and music (and everything, really), which should make for some entertaining talk. He also recently launched a movie review blog that looks at a wide variety of films from the obscure to the mainstream. Good stuff. I expect this to turn into at least two episodes of CompCon that I'll post in the weeks to come.

Deb and I went to the Sox-Rays game Wednesday night and had a good time despite temps reaching the mid-30s. We were way in the back of the right field grandstand and dressed appropriately, but it was still damn chilly. I was even rooting for the Sox because starter Jon Lester is on my fantasy team, but he got lit up by the Rays and the Sox lost 7-2. But the Jays have gotten off to a good start, taking three of four from the Tigers and winning last night against Cleveland. I don't expect that to last, but it's nice to see anyway.

Swingin' on the flippity flop:
  • Man, these Somali pirate dudes keep upping the ante. Four of them still have the captain of a U.S. cargo ship as a hostage on a 28-foot covered lifeboat. The guy actually tried to escape and was in the water and tried to swim away, but he was recaptured. Hopefully he'll be rescued, but man, what a crazy situation.
  • Even though my team, the Leafs, are out of the postseason for the fourth straight year, I'm still excited about the NHL playoffs, which start on Tuesday. There don't appear to be any locks to win the Cup, so things should be pretty competitive. Here's hoping the Bruins can make a good run. And reports are saying that Fenway Park will host the 2010 Winter Classic between the Bruins and another team, which would be awesome.
  • Here's a strange, but cool story: Kal Penn, best known for playing Kumar in the "Harold and Kumar" movies, this week was killed off on "House" so he could take a job in the Obama administration. Despite the fact that he's responsible for the fact that I have to hear an endless string of lame jokes about my last name, I don't hold it against him because he seems like a good guy and has been in some good movies. He was pretty active in stumping for Obama during the campaign and apparently will be serving as some sort of minority liaison. Good luck to him.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 74: Disappearing Act

Here's part 1 of my conversation with Eric Convey of the Boston Business Journal about the decline of the newspaper industry. We discuss the reasons behind the dire straits that newspapers find themselves in, particularly the Boston Globe. Click here to listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as"). Part 2 will be posted early next week.

The show notes...

Topics:
- Tough times for the newspaper industry
- Boston Globe on the brink
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:
- Bob Mould - I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Any More
- Okkervil River - Pop Lie
- Red Red Meat - Gauze

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

The Bob Mould song is on the new album Life and Times on Anti Records, where you can find a link to Anti's Free Digital Sampler and download the Mould track.

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

The Red Red Meat song is on the reissue of the 1995 album Bunny Gets Paid on Sub Pop Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. 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, April 05, 2009

Running the World

'Twas a restful weekend. I managed to get close to 8 hours of sleep each night, which is rare for me. Yesterday, I got out and ran a decent 15-miler. I'm feeling pretty good with two weeks to go until race day. Now the biggest suspense is what the weather is going to be like on Marathon Monday. As we know from past years, it really could be anything from cold to rainy to warm to brutally hot. You just don't know. All you can do is hope for the best (which would be cloudy and temps in the mid-40s).

Speaking of hoping for the best, we've got tickets for the Sox-Rays game on Wednesday night, which right now will be the second game of the season. But since tomorrow's home opener could be rained out, I wonder our game could be the home opener after all. Depends on when they decide to play the postponed game. Right now, it looks like it's going to be pretty chilly Wednesday night, which is expected for April. We'll bundle up.

As for my team, the Jays, I don't have high hopes for this season. Last year's AL-best pitching staff has been decimated by free agency and injuries, and the offense is no great shakes since GM JP Ricciardi did absolutely nothing in the offseason to bring in help for the squad. Hopefully the team's best hitters, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, can stay healthy and put together big years, and young phenom Travis Snyder can live up to his potential. After Roy Halladay, there are a lot of question marks on the pitching staff.

My planned podcast chat with my buddy Eric didn't materialize today because he was called in to work to cover the very story we were going to discuss: The death of newspapers, or specifically, the threat that the NY Times will fold the Boston Globe. The Globe today ran a strange page 1 story about how it would be missed, while rival paper the Herald got a lot of inside scoop from staffers about their anger toward ownership. Seems like the owners expect the unions to concede a bunch of stuff, but who knows? The paper's losing a ton of money, so it could just go digital. Which would be a shame, really. I'm hoping to having Mr. Convey come over tomorrow instead.

We took the kids to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary this afternoon for a hike with some friends of ours. It was the first time I'd been there in the near-20 years I've lived in this area and it was really nice. We had birds eating birdseed out of our hands, which was cool.

Fight fire with fire:
  • Congrats to Metallica, Jeff Beck and Run DMC for their inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend. I stumbled across the coverage of it last night on Fuse and TiVoed the ceremony, but unfortunately it ran over and the recording ended before James Hetfield or Lars Ulrich made their acceptance speeches or the band could perform a few songs with old bassist Jason Newsted alongside current bass dude Robert Trujillo. So far, Fuse isn't replaying it, which is annoying, but I'm sure clips will show up on YouTube. All that said, I still think the honors are kind of arbitrary, since there are so many worthy artists that aren't in, like the Stooges.
  • Ah, Kim Jong Il is up to his old tricks again. That guy thinks he's King Missile or something.
  • Okay, now I'm convinced that the economy is coming back: Fast & Furious, the fourth in the endlessly stupid series of drag racing movies, raked in $72 million at the box office this weekend. Really? People must have some tax refund cash burning in a hole in their pockets or something.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Stick to Your Guns

Ooh man, I'm dragging. At least the week's almost over. I played hockey last night for the first time in three weeks and did okay, popping in a goal and an assist and most importantly, not injuring myself three weeks before the Boston Marathon. I won't skate again for another month. Next week, Deb and I are going to the Sox-Rays game at Fenway and then I'm taking the week off before the marathon and the week off after the marathon. Despite my tiredness, I got out and ran a strong 5.3 hilly miles through Marblehead at lunch today. I'm doing a 15-miler Saturday morning.

On the podcast front, I've scheduled my next two guests in the next 10 days. On Sunday, my buddy and fellow reporter at the Peabody Times Eric will come over here to talk about the sad state of newspapers. Should be interesting, since he's actually still working at a paper, the Boston Business Journal, and worked at the Herald for 11 years or so before that. And I haven't seen the dude in probably two years, so it'll be good just to hang out. Then next weekend, I'm visiting Dr. Doobs for a wide-ranging discussion on bad movies, good music and everything in between. I'm thinking I'll get at least two episodes each out of those conversations.

Sprinkle the flour...
  • Hey, happy 5th birthday to Gmail. I signed up for it on May 28, 2004, and have been digging it ever since. I still have a Yahoo e-mail account, but I've found Gmail easier and cooler to use.
  • Well, Michael Vick is about to get out of jail in July and it looks like he's going to work at a construction company. But that won't last long. Some NFL team will sign him fairly quickly.
  • Wow, some serious doings over at WHDH Channel 7, Boston's NBC affiliate, which is refusing to run Jay Leno's 10 p.m. talk show this fall. The station manager says he'd rather air a local news broadcast at 10 and Leno at 11 because he thinks news will draw better ratings than Leno's new gig, but NBC won't allow it, so he's planning to run 90 minutes of news before Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" at 11:35. For its part, NBC is threatening to pull the affiliation from WHDH and transfer it to another property. This one bears watching. Somewhere, Conan is laughing.