Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Job

We spent so much time and energy complaining about the rainy, cool weather this spring and early summer that I refuse to bitch about the sweltering heat we're getting this week. It's summer, dammit. This is what it's supposed to feel like. And it'll be gone before we know it.

The race in Newburyport Tuesday went well and I described it in great detail in my running column in today's Salem News, so I won't dwell on it here. Other than to say it was very muggy and I didn't feel great, but still managed to finish in my second-best time for that race (1:22:42). My right Achilles was pretty sore last night, so I iced it and didn't run today. Feels better tonight, but I need to get more proactive with the stretching and whatnot. Also, I think I should finally get new orthotics.

I skipped hockey tonight because I'm going to be out tomorrow night with OJ seeing Destroyer play at the Paradise. Should be a good, if extremely sweaty, time. That place heats up easily. Then on Saturday, we're heading to Briggy's for the annual Webnoize BBQ. It'll be good to see everybody, especially young Chloe Breitling, who we haven't met yet.

I melt with you:
  • Okay, so I haven't really mentioned a lot of the crazy stuff dominating the news lately. On the whole Skip Gates arrest and subsequent "beer summit" at the White House tonight, let me just say that I was disappointed that Obama chose a Bud Light. Damn, man. Why not just drink a glass of water? I drink the occasional BL after hockey, but I don't really have a choice on those occasions. I picked up some of the new Harpoon UFO White tonight and have to say, it is damn good. Can we move on to something important now?
  • Lots of hue and cry around here today about David Ortiz being one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. The test results are supposed to be confidential, but names keep leaking out. How anyone can be surprised by this is beyond me. I'm operating on the assumption that everyone is using something, and frankly, I don't care. I still love baseball and that's not going to change. Doesn't mean I have to accept everything baseball players do. A lot of players cheat on their wives with groupies, but again, who gives a rat's ass? There are more important things to get worked up about, people.
  • The baseball trade deadline is tomorrow and Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay. There were a lot of talks with the Phillies but ultimately, they ended up getting last year's AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from Cleveland. There's still a chance Halladay could be dealt, but many think he'll stay with the team for another year. Which would be fine by me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You Never Know


The first day back to work after a vacation is always difficult, but today wasn't so bad. I wasn't too far behind. And in three weeks, I'll be on vacation again...

Toronto was fun. We didn't go nuts trying to do too many touristy things, partly because of the weather and partly because we didn't feel like it. It felt good to get a decent night's sleep on most of the nights there. We ended up not going to Pickering as I had planned on Friday because I stayed up so late Thursday night yapping with Dev, both for the podcast and then for another 75 minutes afterward. Didn't get to bed until 2:30. By the time I had dragged my butt out of bed and shook the cobwebs out of my skull, it was too late to make the hour trek there and back. It was also cool earlier Thursday evening to see my old buddy Stephen for the first time in 30 years and meet his wife and cute-as-a-button daughter. We both acknowledged that it was kind of risky to get our families together since we had no idea what the other was like, but I think we each got a good vibe off of FB that the other guy wasn't psycho. And the wives and kids got along famously, too. Hopefully, we'll see them again before too long.

Friday night, we went out to a surprise 40th anniversary dinner for my uncle and aunt. Chowed on some delicious Indian food and got to hang out with my cousins and their spouses for one last evening. We were up early Saturday and hit the road before 8. Luckily, all the forecasts calling for thunderstorms were off the mark, because we had beautiful weather the entire way home. We stopped at Niagara Falls for an hour or so to let the girls check it out and then got back on the road. There were no major traffic delays and we made it home by 6:30. The girls were great on both road trips, which is good because we've got an even longer drive in a few weeks when we head down to Hilton Head.

Speaking of the road trip, I put together a road-themed mix especially for the trip that got me in the right frame of mind:

Spoon - I Turn My Camera On (a favorite of the girls)
The Black Keys - Have Love Will Travel
Gary Numan - Cars
Sloan - D is for Driver
The Modern Lovers - Roadrunner
Judas Priest - Heading Out to the Highway
Deep Purple - Highway Star
Arctic Monkeys - Riot Van
Fu Manchu - Boogie Van
Mission of Burma - Careening with Conviction
Queens of the Stone Age - River in the Road
Foo Fighters - Long Road to Ruin
The Feelies - The High Road
Drive-By Truckers - Road Cases
Frank Black and the Catholics - Pan American Highway
Mr. Airplane Man - Lonesome Road
The Tragically Hip - Highway Girl
Joe Strummer - Highway One Zero Street
Spoon - Car Radio
Robert Pollard - Supernatural Car Lover
Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running

Yeah, it was pretty literal, but it also rocked. Like the vacation.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Completely Conspicuous 88: The Great White North

Back from vacation with a new episode of the podcast featuring a discussion with my cousin Dev Sarathy about the differences between the U.S. and Canada. Click here to listen to it in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Dev: Americans are friendlier

- U.S. cultural assimilation vs. Canada's melting pot

- More Muslim influence seen in Canada

- Religion leads to conflict

- Sports: Hockey's still #1 in Canada

- Toronto is extremely multicultural

- U.S. businessowners are more aggressive

- Political correctness runs amok in Canada

- Debating the merits of Jim Rice

- Whose beer is better?

- Dev's "eh?" moment

- Dev explains Hinduism

- Pinhead of the Week

Music:

- Metric - Help I'm Alive

- Yo La Tengo - Here to Fall

- Japandroids - Young Hearts Spark Fire

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Metric song is on the band's album Fantasies on Metric Music International; find out more and download the song here. The Yo La Tengo song is on the album Popular Songs on Matador Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

The Japandroids song is on the album Post-Nothing on Polyvinyl Records. The song is courtesy of RCRDLBL, where you can 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. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photographic work here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rainy Day People

Hey all. Still up here in Canadia. Unfortunately, the wet weather continues, although it seems to have temporarily taken a break at the moment. We just got back from the mall and are now just chillin' at my uncle's place for a few hours before we head into Toronto to meet up with an old childhood pal for dinner. Then back here to hang and possibly record some podcastification with my cousin Dev. Tomorrow, we plan to take a ride out to my old stomping grounds in Pickering, which has grown exponentially since I lived there last. I've been out a few times since I moved, but the last time was 1990, I believe.

The week has been fun. Tuesday, I joined my uncle and Dev at the Jays-Indians game, which Toronto ended up blowing in the ninth and losing 2-1. I couldn't believe how small the crowd was; the official attendance was 18,000, but actual was barely half that. Yesterday, we went to Ontario Place, a local amusement park in the city. The weather was pretty decent. The girls had fun on the kiddie rides. I hadn't been there in probably 27 years. Late last night, we were visited by my dad's uncle Venkatesh, who's in town staying with his daughter. Hadn't seen him since 1980 in India. Sensing a theme here?

We'll hit the road Saturday morning. Depending on the weather, we may stop at Niagara Falls so the girls can see it in all its glory. It has been a good, relaxing week. We've all gotten a lot of sleep, which is nice for a change.

Perhaps the economy is turning around. The Dow Jones hit 9000 today, and the Canadian government has proclaimed the recession is over. Let's hope they didn't jinx it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Take Off

How's it goin', eh? Hanging out here at my uncle's house in Mississauga, a fairly huge (pop. of 700,000+) suburb of Toronto. We drove all day yesterday, getting here in about 10 hours exactly. About 45 minutes of that was sitting in traffic at the border crossing. All in all, pretty uneventful. The girls were good, except for constantly asking where we were, and traffic moved quickly.

We had some Indian food last night and were up late jibba-jabbing with my cousins. Got up at 7 and went for an 8-mile run; felt pretty good for the most part. We drove in to the Jays-Sox game around 11 and had some lunch before heading into the ballpark. Our seats were redonkulously great: Third row on the first base line, down near the right fielder. The dome was open in the Rogers Centre and Roy Halladay was a monster. He threw a complete game masterpiece as the Jays won 3-1 and took the series 2-1. The trade rumors persist and some think this may have been his last home game. Man, I hope not, but if so, he went out with a bang.

The girls had a lot of fun and even deigned to pick up a pair of Blue Jays hats. We'll see if they wear them when we get home.

We hung out down by the Harborfront for another few hours to let the traffic ease up a bit. Plans are to go to the game Tuesday night against Cleveland. We don't have much planned for tomorrow yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Cases

We strike at dawn. By strike, of course, I mean leave for Toronto. The girls are asleep, as is the neighbors' dog, who by some happenstance we're taking care of tonight (my mother-in-law has her the rest of the weekend). Everything's packed except my stuff, but that'll take about five minutes before I go to bed. I've spent the last few hours burning CDs for the trip, running into the living room for updates on the baseball game (Sox won 4-1, dammit), and gathering various and sundry items for the trip.

We were planning to bring the girls' scooters with us so they can use them while we're there, but then Deb noticed that one was missing. Both scooters were on our porch this morning; I saw them when I was taking out the trash. So some asshole decided to walk up on our front porch in broad daylight today and steal Hannah's scooter. Classy. Deb went to Toys R Us and bought a new one tonight. Funny, I never liked the fact that they left them out on the porch because frankly, I don't trust anybody. But it had been a month or two and they were fine. Until today.

Don't remember if I mentioned it here, but we decided to leave a day early because Deb's mom decided she didn't want to go to the Billy Joel-Elton John concert in Foxboro that she had bought them tickets for. Deb sold them to a friend and we moved up our plans so we could get there tomorrow night and go to the Jays-Sox game on Sunday, which features Roy Halladay vs. Jon Lester. Might be my last chance to see Halladay in a Jays uniform. Might not. Whatever, should be great.

I'm not sure what kind of computer access I'll have up there, if any. We're staying with my uncle and I have no idea if he even has a computer. So this could be my last post for several days. If I can sneak a post or two in, I will. At the very least, I'll be posting to Facebook and Twitter from my phone, even though, for some stupid reason, I can't actually log in to Twitter from my phone. It's not just me, a lot of people can't. But I can from Deb's, so I might do so just to check it out from time to time. It's very addictive.

My Achilles' problems seem to have dissipated. I had three good runs this week, including a tough one in the midday heat today. Bought some new shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9) and they felt good. It's always nice to have that new shoe feeling. Oh, and my running column in the News this week was about the so-called runner's high.

On the podcast front, I'm hoping to rope my cousin Dev into recording a show with me while I'm up there. He's a funny dude, so I figured we could talk about the differences between Canada and the U.S. And he's also a chiropractor, so we could do a show about the healthcare system in the Great White North. So hopefully I'll have some content ready to go when we get back next weekend.

It's not the heat, it's the--wait, it's the heat:

Elvis is Everywhere


Some more CompCon album art, courtesy of the brilliant Bobby Durling. Too damn funny.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Completely Conspicuous 87: King of the Road

I'm on my own for this episode of the podcast, as I introduce a new segment: Driving with Kumar. I recorded the segment while driving to and from work. Click here to listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- DWP: Driving While Podcasting

- My iced tea habit

- Going to Toronto for vacation

- Catching up with an old buddy

- Happy anniversary

- Driving through Salem

- Planning a road trip

- Nine quick years

- Driving home

- Thoughts on the demise of WBCN

- Growing up on radio

- Pinhead of the Week

Music:

- Mission of Burma - 1-2-3-Partyy!

- Spiral Stairs - Maltese Terrier

- Brendan Benson - Feel Like Taking You Home

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Mission of Burma song is on the band's forthcoming album The Sound The Speed The Light. The Spiral Stairs song is on the forthcoming album The Real Feel. Both albums are on Matador Records, where you can download both songs.

The Brendan Benson song is on the album My Old, Familiar Friend on ATO Records. Download the song at Stereogum.

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 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. Thanks to Justin Labarge for the album art; find out more about his mad web skillz at Bold Everything Interactive.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Number Nine

So it was nine years ago today that I stood at the front of a church in Wenham, Mass., wearing a tuxedo in 80+ degree temps and feeling a single, solitary drop of sweat rolling down my back. Wisely, I ignored the sweat and forged on. Although I said "I do" a bit early, the ceremony went off perfectly and we headed over to the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem for a reception that I must say kicked much arse. Hard to believe that nine years has flown by since then, much of which involved two little girls who brighten our days and occasionally drive us crazy. Life is good.

I was surprised to learn this morning via Twitter that WBCN, the big rock station in Boston for about 40+ years, would soon be no more. A CBS property, BCN was one of the first album-oriented rock stations in the country back in the day. When I was in high school and college, I listened to it pretty regularly, along with WAAF and WFNX. But in the mid-90s, it started changing formats, from classic rock to alternative to half talk to the Patriots flagship. Finally, the bigwigs decided to move mom-rock station Mix 98.5 to BCN's 104.1 frequency and turn 98.5 into a sports talk station that will challenge the power WEEI-AM. I haven't listened to mainstream radio much in the last several years, opting instead to listen to podcasts and music on my iPod. So this won't have a huge effect on my life, but it's interesting nonetheless.

With our vacation coming up next weekend and no special guests lined up for the podcast this week, I decided to try something different and used my Zoom H2 recorder to record some audio on the drive to and from work today. I got the idea from listening to a "Driving With Butler" episode of the Rock and Roll Geek Show, one of my favorite podcasts. He does it every once in a while and it's usually pretty interesting. I just jibba-jabbed about a bunch of stuff including our upcoming trip, the WBCN move and the drive itself. One of my original ideas for the podcast back in '05-'06 was to record in the car, but I ended up going in another direction. I still plan to do shows with guests, but this is a nice way to mix things up and keep doing regular shows.

By the end of last week, I was getting worried about my Achilles tendon in my right foot because it was bothering me. I took a few days off and started doing more stretching and so far this week, it's feeling better. I'd like to pick up some new shoes because my current ones are pretty worn, though. I need to ramp up my mileage a little bit because I have the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming 10-miler in two weeks. Hopefully it won't be 90 degrees, but the way things are going this year, it'll probably be nice and comfortable. Maybe.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Completely Conspicuous 86: Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

In the latest episode of the podcast, I'm joined again by special guest Phil Stacey for a free-wheeling discussion of life after 40. Click here to listen to it in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

Ze show notes...


Topics:

- Ain't no big thang

- Are we becoming our parents?

- Our dads seemed so much older at 40

- Time flies

- 40 is the new 30?

- It's easier for men

- Brutal singles scene

- The Viagra army

- Talking rock

- Living in the past

- Pinhead of the Week

Music:

- The Almighty Defenders - Bow Down and Die

- Jay Reatard - Wounded

- The Condo F*cks - Whatcha Gonna Do About It

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Almighty Defenders song is on the band's forthcoming self-titled album on Vice Records, where you can find out more and download the song.

The Jay Reatard song is on the album Watch Me Fall. The Condo F*cks song is on the album F*ckbook. Both albums are on Matador Records, where you can download the songs.

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 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.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Got Nuffin

As we get ready to make our first trip to Toronto in six years, my mind is squarely focused on my beloved Jays and Leafs. On the one hand, the Jays have been struggling for the last several weeks and now there are rumblings that they're considering trading staff ace/savior of the franchise/best pitcher in baseball Roy Halladay. What? Some of my Red Sox-lovin' friends are already imagining the Sox starting five with Halladay in it. Not so fast, says Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. I hope he's right. Halladay's a free agent after next season, so certainly there's concern in the organization whether they'll be able to afford to keep him, but that doesn't mean he needs to be dealt now. The plan all along supposedly has been to build the team for a run next season; it ain't happening without Roy.

As for the Leafs, things are actually looking up for the lovable losers. GM Brian Burke has been busy in the offseason, beefing up the club with the additions of d-men Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, and Garnet Exelby and forward Colton Orr. And he landed Swedish free agent (but NHL-untested) goalie Jonas "Monster" Gustavsson this week to back up Vesa Toskala. The Leafs still need plenty of offensive help, and Burke will likely deal Tomas Kaberle and one or two others to that end. They're already going to be much tougher to play next season, which is a step in the right direction.

Our T.O. trip starts on the 19th. I'm hoping to catch a couple of Jays games while we're in town, hopefully one of which will feature Halladay. We're still sorting out the particulars, but it should be fun.

I'm a pretty healthy guy, but I have been struggling of late with eye infections, specifically in my right eyelid. It went on for a few months earlier in the year and appeared to be under control, but now it's back, along with a little pink-eye action. It's farkin' annoying. I can't wear contacts, so I have to wear my old glasses playing hockey and running. I feel like one of the Hanson Brothers, with a Terminator-esque red right eye. Right now, the course of action is lots of hot compresses and antibiotic drops. I'm hoping this crap clears up before we go on vacation, but with my luck, it probably won't.

Infinite Summer update: I've been pretty diligent in reading at least a few pages a day. I'm up to p. 130 as of this typing. There's a lot to absorb. I'm trying to read it during regular waking hours, as opposed to just before I go to bed, because there's a lot of nodding off/re-reading the same sentence over and over again at that point. Deb kindly ordered me the paperback from Barnes & Noble so I don't have to lug the monstrous hardcover edition I took out of the library everywhere I go. Good woman, that one.

Say hey:
  • So it was hard to escape the whole Michael Jackson tribute concert thing yesterday. While I was at the ophthalmologist's office, I caught a bunch of it on TV. My take on the whole thing is, he certainly earned a tribute concert as one of the biggest performers of our generation, but do we really need round-the-clock coverage of every last detail? The memorial ended up costing LA $1.4 million; I'm sure there's plenty of cash lying around in bankrupt California right now. I'm ready to hear about what the hell is going on in the real world.
  • I've spent a few hours this week checking out eMusic's new offerings from the Sony (Columbia/Epic/RCA, et al) major label conglomerate. I've been a longtime subscriber to eMusic for its wide selection of indie labels, DRM-free MP3s and relatively inexpensive pricing. It was once $10/month for unlimited downloads, which was awesome but really made no sense from a business standpoint. A few years ago, eMusic went to tiered monthly pricing; I've been doing the $14.99/65 download plan. Well, starting next month that price will get you only a little more than half the current number, down to 37 downloads a month. It's still cheaper than Amazon or iTunes, so I'll stick around for the time being. But in addition to losing its indie cred, eMusic has made other changes that are pissing off its longtime subscribers. I understand that the company feels it needed to make this move to survive, but it's too bad that it's squandering a lot of the goodwill it had earned over the years.
  • Got to admit I was surprised to see that Sacha Baron Cohen wasn't in character as Bruno for his appearance on Letterman last night. Especially since he came out in full Bruno regalia for his Conan spot a few weeks ago. No doubt Letterman wasn't in the mood to play along, whereas Conan had to deal with Bruno's crotch in his face. Whatever the case, I don't think I'd ever seen an interview with Cohen as himself and he was quite charming and funny and dare I say, normal. Maybe Cohen was playing to Dave's older, perhaps not quite as gay-tolerant audience.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Arms Against Atrophy

Another long weekend comes to its inevitable end...and it was a good one. We finally seemed to shake the cycle of crappy rain-soaked days and had a couple of real beauts. On Friday, I got up and joined a friend from work and his buddy for 9 holes of golf at Wenham Country Club. It was only my second golf outing of the year and I started out strong. It was cloudy when we got there but the sun quickly warmed things up. I hit the ball well the first few holes and struggled a bit the last few, but finished with a 49, which ain't bad for me. Came home and went for a run and then hung out for a while. Later in the day we went a few streets over to a cookout with some friends and I ate and drank way too much. It drizzled for a bit but then seemed to pass. Saturday was much nicer. I got out for a 7-mile run to sweat out the toxins of the previous day and then lollygagged around for a few hours, even getting a short nap in. We grilled up some tips and had dinner before heading over to Marblehead to watch the Fourth fireworks with some friends. We actually parked a ways from the harbor and made our way with the kids to some cliffs overlooking the causeway to watch the display; as it turned out, the fireworks were a little further away than we expected, but it was still pretty nice. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the post-fireworks traffic hell that is Salem and it took twice as long to get home.

Today, I got up and met a couple of high school buddies at The Meadow in Peabody, a relatively new course that I hadn't played yet. It's tucked away near downtown Peabody, but it's so huge and expansive, you'd think you were in the boonies somewhere. It was a tough course and there were some high winds that didn't help; I struggled on the front nine and shot a 62. I played a little better on the back with a 58. I had some great shots, some decent ones and a lot of crappy ones. I like to think I got my money's worth. At any rate, it was good to reconnect with those guys. And other than the wind, it was a great day.

Speaking of blasts from the past, we're heading up to Toronto in a couple of weeks for a vacation. We're going to catch a Jays game or two; of course, the way they're playing, they could be 10 games out by that point.

Drip by drip:
  • If Sarah Palin's got any kind of presidential goal for 2012, she's got a funny way of showing it. Bailing out on your gubernatorial term in the middle of it doesn't exactly send a strong message of leadership, don'tcha know.
  • Hey kids, it's Barack Robama!
  • In a week full of bizarre stories, this one stands out: Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was found murdered in a Nashville apartment with four bullets to the head, while a 20-year-old woman he was believed to be dating was found dead nearby with a single gunshot to the head and a gun nearby. Police have yet to come out and say it was a murder-suicide, but it sure looks that way.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Completely Conspicuous 85: Papa Don't Preach

In this episode of the podcast, I'm joined by Phil Stacey as we discuss fatherhood. Click here to listen in streaming audio or download the show directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Getting a late start on fatherhood
- A world of difference from a decade ago
- From obnoxious partier to concerned parent
- Shielding your kids from the bad stuff on TV
- Reasoning with kids is sometimes impossible
- Learning from our dads' mistakes
- The role of the father has evolved over the years
- Marriage is a partnership
- Lack of sleep
- Parenting is on-the-job training
- No regrets
- Pinhead of the Week

Music:

- The Dead Weather - Treat Me Like Your Mother
- Obits - Two-Headed Coin
- Alice in Chains - A Looking In View

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Dead Weather song is on the new album Horehound on Third Man Records. Find out more and download the song here.

The Obits song is on the album I Blame You on Sub Pop Records, where you can download the song.

The Alice in Chains song is on the forthcoming album Black Gives Way to Blue on Virgin Records. Find out more and download the song here.

Jay Breitling produced the opening and closing themes of the show. 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.