Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wild Wild Life

One great thing about staying down here in New Jersey at my brother-in-law Matt's house is the wildlife. Located right next to a state park, the place is teeming with cool animals. I've seen deer and rabbits fairly regularly, but one animal I haven't seen yet is a bear. Matt and Trish have had bears show up in their yard, but the closest I've gotten to one is to see is a bear's footprint in front of their house a few years back. Until today.

I was out for a long run, hoping to do 13 miles. However, my stomach was bothering me a bit, so I turned around at the 5-mile mark and headed back, content to do 10. I had gotten out of the Shepherd Lake area and was making my way through Ringwood State Park when I noticed a park ranger in a car flagging me down. I went over and he said a bear and its cubs were just up ahead. He said to hop in his car and he would drive me past the spot just in case the momma bear felt threatened and tried to come after me. We drove about 15 feet and he slowed down and I could see the bear, which at first I thought was a cub. Turns out the momma wasn't very big, but it had a few tiny cubs with it, probably 30 or 40 feet from the road. We drove past and he let me out, and sure enough a family on bikes rode right past the spot, with no problems. A park police officer showed up right afterward and fired off his gun to try and scare the bears off. I continued on my way home to complete my run.

I'm guessing I ran right by the bears about a half hour earlier, but luckily the mother bear didn't come after me. I've always tried to be alert in the park, but now I'll be even more watchful. You don't want to mess with Mother Nature. Or a mother bear.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mexicola

It feels kind of strange to be back in the middle of the workweek after a few weeks of being elsewhere. And sure enough, we're jumping in the car tomorrow evening to head down to NJ for the weekend.

I'm actually going to be working from Matt and Tricia's house Friday because I'm on deadline and I've been out of the office for most of the last two weeks. We're going to be looking after the boys while Matt and Trish fly down to his high school reunion in Florida. While we're there, I'm planning to meet up with Brian Salvatore, who hosts both the excellent FrankBlack.net Podcast and The Enthusiasts' Radio Hour. I actually recorded a large segment for the second episode of TERH, but it got wiped out by a power outage; I make a cameo in episode 2a, however. Turns out he lives near Matt and Trish and actually knows them. Small freakin' world. We're planning to record stuff for both his and my show on Friday.

The Mexico trip was a lot of fun (check out ep 136 of CompCon for a full recounting). Other than minor sunburns, we managed to escape unscathed. Although when we went down there, my left eye was already a little red and it just got progressively worse as the week wore on. Finally got to the doctor on Monday and got some antibiotic ointment for it; unfortunately, I've been saddled with a eye redder than the Terminator's. Hopefully it'll be cleared up in a day or two. Meanwhile, poor Lily woke up yesterday listless with a 103 degree fever and a blotchy red rash all over her body; Deb took her to the doctor and he was unsure what to make of it. They took blood and so far have ruled out anything exotic like Dengue Fever; in the meantime, her fever is gone and she's feeling a lot better. We hope to know more tomorrow, but it's encouraging that she's improved. Deb was considering scrapping the NJ trip if Lily had something serious, but it looks like we'll be okay to go.

Running update: I managed to run 5 times while we were in Mexico, but kept them all to 4 or 5 miles because of the heat and unfamiliar terrain. I cranked out a 7-miler on Sunday and then last night ran the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming 10-miler, which I finished in 1:22. I might have been a minute or two faster if my damn car key didn't fall out of my shorts pocket about four minutes into the race. Fortunately, I had decided not to bring my iPod or I wouldn't have heard it fall. I turned around and dodged oncoming runners and actually found the key; I tried putting it in an inner pocket before just holding it in my hand the rest of the way. Still, I finished strong and feel good today. My long runs are starting to creep up; I need to do 13 this weekend and 15 the next.

Well, time to go catch up on some of the TiVoed shows we've got on the telly.

Mexicola:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 136: Holidays in the Sun

I'm flying solo on the podcast this week as I recap my vacation to Mexico. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- At Puerto Vallarta airport, had to fight through timeshare sharks

- Taxi ride to the resort was insane

- Anything goes with Mexican motorists

- Reminded me of chaotic traffic in India

- Took a while to get used to pesos (12 pesos = $1)

- Disconnected from the Web for most of the week

- Visited Internet cafe to check email occasionally

- Strange TV package at resort

- Spent most of the week at the pool or beach

- Didn't venture off resort much

- Careful not to drink anything but bottled water

- Got sunburned last few days

- Mostly families at resort, but there were occasional drunk frat boys or horny couples

- Drank Mexican beer (Pacifico, Corona, Dos Equis, Tecate)

- Boarding for return flight was bizarre experience

- Sbarro's at PV airport charges $7 per slice

- They really push the duty free goods

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Pearl Jam - Amongst the Waves (live)

The Hush Now - The Other Ones

Marnie Stern - For Ash

PO PO - Bummer Summer

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

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic gear. Use promo code AFCOMP15 to get 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 to get 20% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay.com, and AFCOMPFL to get 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The Pearl Jam song is a live track recorded last Halloween in Philadelphia. Find out more and download the song for free from the band's website.

The Hush Now song is on the self-released EP Shiver Me Starships. You can download the song for free at Clicky Clicky.

The Marnie Stern song is on her forthcoming self-titled album on Kill Rock Stars. You can download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The PO PO song is on the EP Bummer Summer/Teen Dreamz on Mad Decent Records. You can download the song for free at RCRDLBL.

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 photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Home Sweet Home

And we're back from Mexico after a week, a little more sunburned than a week ago but otherwise in good shape. It was a fun trip and more details will be forthcoming. But in the meantime, Vince and the boys will provide this video tribute:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time to Get Away

Months of planning and plotting have led up to this point: In a few scant hours, we will fly off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week of fun and frolic. To be honest, about 99% of the planning and plotting was done by Deb. I've been busy at work trying to get projects done and then a business trip in before taking off for a week. I haven't had a whole lot of time to dwell on the whole vacation thing. But here we are.

We actually have to be out the door at 3:30 a.m. to catch our 5:25 flight (ouch!). But it should get us there by early afternoon P.V. time, so that's okay. We're staying at a big resort with plenty to do for the girls and the grownups. We get back late next Saturday. We won't have WiFi in our room, so I'm not sure how often if at all I'll be able to get on a computer. Guess it'll really be a vacation...

Eat 'em and smile:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 135: Taking Care of Business

Flying solo on the podcast this week as I discuss the art of the business trip while on a business trip to Tampa. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Live from Tampa Bay

- Haven't traveled for work since December 2006

- My first day on job was at a conference in Pittsburgh

- Have been on many trips over the years

- Memorable trips to New Orleans, San Francisco

- Last trip to Nawlins, was stuck in St. Louis airport for a night because of ice storm

- Not much happening in Tampa on a Sunday

- Day 2: Set up booth in convention center

- Company across from us brought in "booth babes"

- Plenty of booth babes at the old Webnoize conference

- No fear of flying

- George Clooney's "Up in the Air" is good look at business traveling

- Had a screaming baby across aisle on trip to Tampa

- More sympathetic to folks with kids now

- Flight back from Orlando in '99 was full of kids

- On same flight, saw old lady get scalded by hot water

- Lawyer called me few years later to ask what I saw

- Can't get meals on flights anymore, just snacks

- Security measures are annoying

- Day 3: Went for early run

- Working conference booth is different role for me

- Trips are a good distraction from day-to-day work

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Superchunk - Digging for Something

Versus - Gone to Earth

LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls (Holy Ghost Adult Swim remix)

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

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Superchunk song is on the album Majesty Shredding on Merge Records. The Versus song is on the album On the Ones and Threes on Merge Records, where you can download both songs for free.

The LCD Soundsystem song was remixed for the Adult Swim Singles Program. The original version is on the album This is Happening on DFA Records. You can download the remix for free 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 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 photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Ten Years Gone

Life goes by quick. I'm reminded of that all the damn time. So when I woke up yesterday in Tampa on the last day of a four-day business trip, it suddenly hit me that it was also my 10th wedding anniversary. Amazing!

Granted, plenty has happened since then. We bought a house, had two children, I switched jobs and ran 12 marathons, Deb went to Costa Rica and did two triathlons. Sometimes you get so caught up in the day-to-day stuff, you don't realize that life is whizzing by. Later this year, I'll be attending my 25th high school reunion. Holy crap!

Fortunately, I don't feel old, even if the gray hair tends to give me away. And we're still having fun. Speaking of which, we're off to Mexico in a few days, which should be a blast. We need to do a good job documenting this stuff, because before you know it, another decade has passed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 134: Six Pack

Special guest Jay Breitling joins me on the podcast for the conclusion of our discussion about beer, recorded during and after a Red Sox game. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Drinking Guinness at Fenway Park

- Kumar: Go-to beer in the mid-'90s was Pete's Wicked Ale

- Breitling started getting into Yuengling

- Adrian Beltre hits HR for Red Sox

- Variety packs are good ways to try different kinds of beer

- Breitling prefers seasonal beers, especially fall seasonals

- Kumar: Big fan of porter

- Breitling: Helped out at Cisco Brewers in Nantucket

- Breitling isn't huge fan of winter beers

- Bitter beer face

- IPAs are bitter, but we like 'em

- Kumar: Don't drink much homebrew

- Breitling's pal Rob Mathews makes good homebrew

- Ice beer was big in the early '90s

- Kumar: Tried ice beer for a while, but it was too strong

- Still see drunks buying 40s of Natty Light Ice

- Beer consumption is limited to two or three at a time now

- Pros and cons of beer fridges

- Walking back from the game

- What to tell our kids about drinking

- Just hope they make sensible decisions

- It's tough being a responsible adult

- Breitling's max bench: 265

- Drunk episodes are few and far between these days

- Never understood why people got wasted before concerts

- Breitling's bar altercation

- Kids don't respect hangovers

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Drive-By Truckers - Girls Who Smoke

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Roll Up Your Sleeves

Silversun Pickups - It's Nice to Know You Work Alone

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

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Drive-By Truckers song is a B-side off the album The Big To-Do on ATO Records, where you can download the song for free.

The We Were Promised Jetpacks song was recorded for the Daytrotter Sessions, where you can download the song for free.

The Silversun Pickups song is on the album Swoon on Dangerbird Records. Download the song for free as part of the Dangerbird Amazon Sampler.

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 photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mixology: Puttin' the Smack Down in '99

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Puttin' the Smack Down in '99 (3/2/99)

As far as last years of millenia go, 1999 was a pretty cool year. Sure, later in the year there was all that Y2K bullcrap that got everybody all worked up over nothing, but for me, it was a pivotal year. In March, I was still working at Opus Communications in Marblehead and enjoying it, but within a few months I'd start looking for a new job and by October, I was working at Webnoize. I was living with my buddies Mike and Roger in March, but I'd be engaged within a few months and Deb and I would have our own place across town in October.

I was just getting into running regularly. I had run my first 5k the previous fall and was doing a lot of 3-mile runs in addition to weightlifting and playing hockey. In June, I ran my first 10k with Deb, but I didn't work my way up to a half-marathon until the spring of 2001.

I went to a lot of Bruins games with my buddy Phil that spring, as well as the Beanpot. I also went to Myrtle Beach for a week of golf with my good pal Chris; he still organizes that trip every year, but I haven't gone since 2001.

For a feverish few weeks early in the year, I got my rock n' roll on with my longest stint in a band in my life. My buddy Bob and I had schemed about forming a band for a few years, but it didn't come together until he decided he wanted to have a band play a party at his house in February '99. So for a few weeks, Bob (bass and sax), me (vocals) and our friends Ric (guitar) and Marc (drums) feverishly worked up a set to play at the party as Bea Arthur's Revenge, a name that Bob and I had come up with probably a year earlier. We learned a bunch of songs and ended up playing five at the party; some of the set was caught on video and Ric later turned it into a CD and DVD set. It was about as much fun as I've ever had. We jammed a few times after that, but BAR kinda fizzled. The following year, Ric and I played a set at Bob's Halloween party as Cirrhosis, a pair of obnoxious British brothers based on the Gallaghers of Oasis. We played three or four Kinks covers and engaged in contentious banter with the audience; it was a blast. We opened up for Kumquat, a band that featured Bob and some other friends of ours. Unfortunately, that was the last "band" I've ever played in. Soon after, Deb and I had kids and it got tougher to find the time to regularly schlep the 45 minutes or so to jam with those guys. One of these days, though, I will find time to make a solo album. Mark my words...

This tape is a mostly alt-rock with some funk mixed in. I was still rocking a Sony Walkman at that time, so I listened to the cassette both in the car and at the gym. By this time the following year, I'd be listening to music on my first MP3 player, a Diamond Rio. That bad boy held a whopping 64 MB of music, or about eight songs, but at the time, it was pretty damn revolutionary. The iPod wouldn't come along until the fall of 2001, and I wouldn't get one until 2004.

Side A:
Lotus - R.E.M.
Baker Street - Foo Fighters
Flame - Sebadoh
The Big Lie - Gigolo Aunts
On the Horizon - Sloan
Carmalina - The Pursuit of Happiness
The Bends - Radiohead
Membership - The Tragically Hip
Pilate - Pearl Jam
Somethin' Hot - Afghan Whigs
My Song - Jerry Cantrell
The Ocean - WOW
I Need Peace - Frank Black and the Catholics

Side B:
Chocolate Salty Balls - Chef (South Park)
Live - Lenny Kravitz
Up for the Down Stroke - Parliament Funkadelic
Freddie's Dead - Curtis Mayfield
Delirious - Prince
Don't Believe the Hype - Public Enemy
Lovin' Machine - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Twiggy Twiggy - Pizzicato Five
Tomboy - Bettie Serveert
The Devil Went Down to Newport (Totally Rocking) - Mono Puff
Bloodclot - Rancid
Unheard Music - Elastica and Stephen Malkmus
I'm Not LIke Everybody Else - Boss Hog
Run Kid Run - Rocket From the Crypt




The Bends:


Twiggy Twiggy:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 133: Have a Drink on Me

Special guest Jay Breitling joins me on the podcast as we talk about one of our favorite subjects, beer, while we walk to a Red Sox game. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Walking the mean streets of Cambridge, Mass.

- Breitling remembers swiping beers to blow 'em up

- Schmidt's was a prominent beer in Philly

- The hipsters love the Pabst Blue Ribbon, ironically

- Breitling brothers collected beer cans

- Breitling started drinking at high school parties

- Kumar: Never drank much until college

- Kumar: House in Canada had a great bar in basement

- Kumar: In college, drank plenty of Busch, Milwaukee's Best and other affordable beverages

- Breitling: Family trip to Germany led to consumption of much beer

- Kumar: Had planned to throw party at parents' house while in high school but thought better of it

- Breitling: In college, drank anything and everything

- Kumar: Can't drink tequila, Southern Comfort anymore

- Breitling: Never touch the hard stuff anymore in the house, but beer is gone quick

- Breitling didn't get picky about beer until after college

- Kumar: After college, starting drinking Rolling Rock at rock clubs

- In Washington state, Olympia beer benefited from good marketing like Rolling Rock

- Kumar: Tried a Sam Adams in '89 and didn't like it

- At the ballpark: To be continued

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

The Kills - Pale Blue Eyes

Of Montreal - Coquet, Coquette

The Black Keys - Ohio

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

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Find gear from top brands such as Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. Use promo code AFCOMP15 for 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 for 20% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL for 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The Kills song was recorded as part of the Levi's Pioneer Sessions, where you can download the song for free.

The Of Montreal song is on the band's forthcoming album False Priest on Polyvinyl Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Black Keys song is a B-side on the album Brothers on Nonesuch Records. Download the song for free at the band's website.

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 photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Light Up the Sky

Happy birthday, America!

I'm not the most jingoistic guy on the block. I think that comes from being born elsewhere and realizing that life in other countries isn't the godforsaken hellscape that it's often painted out to be by would-be "patriots." In my book, there are good and bad things about living in every country.

But there's also a reason I became a U.S. citizen 21 years ago. It's a great place to live and you're free to voice your opinion if you disagree with how things are done. Of course, just because you voice your opinion doesn't mean things will necessarily change, but at least you're not thrown in a gulag for offering a dissenting take.

I'll take America with its freedom AND its flaws over just about anywhere. But that's because I'm used to living here. I certainly enjoyed Canada and never would have left if my dad hadn't moved us. But now that I've been here for so long, I don't want to move back. This is my home, a place where I can raise my kids, earn an honest living, live in peace and grill food and drink beer in my backyard whenever I want. There's something to be said for that.

Enjoy your freedom...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mixology: Dig Them Groovy Soundz

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Dig Them Groovy Soundz (4/23/94)

If you've followed this series, you may remember me writing about how '93 was a lousy year for me. Well, things turned around pretty much 180 degrees in '94. When this tape was made, I had just moved back to Beverly with cool roommates, switched back to a job with normal hours and just plain started having fun again. Life should not be a miserable experience for a 26-year-old. It shouldn't be miserable for anyone of any age, but when you're young and not tied down, you should not be moping around like I did most of the previous year. I ended up adopting one of the songs on this tape, "No Excuses" by Alice in Chains, as my personal mantra because I was sick of the pissy attitude I had been carrying around.

One guy who took the moping to an extreme was Kurt Cobain, who ended up blowing his brains out earlier in April '94 at the age of 27. It was a pretty stunning moment for the so-called Generation X, but not surprising. The guy was obviously depressed and had been struggling with a heroin addiction for some time. It was inevitable, really. My brother and I saw Nirvana on their last tour in Springfield, Mass. It was the only time I ever saw them, even though they came through Boston a zillion times during their club days; I even went to a WFNX Landsdowne Street event they played at, but was in a different club that night. After his death, I was bummed but I didn't burn incense or despair for mankind. It was sad, but he wasn't the first to commit suicide and certainly wasn't the last.

It was a great time for concertgoing, personally. My little brother and I caught a ton of shows that spring, including the Afghan Whigs, Redd Kross, the Rollins Band, Cracker and the Meat Puppets, Pearl Jam, Thurston Moore and Pavement. The period of '93-'94 was probably the most time we spent together as adults. He ended up moving down to Austin in August, so we've been a time zone apart for the last 16 years. But we saw a lot of good rock shows back in the day.

In addition to working at the newspaper, I was also working on the weekends at the Beverly Y as a Nautilus instructor. It was a pretty easy gig, except when I was hung over. But it paid for my gym membership and eventually led to me meeting my future wife a few years later, so I'd say the job was well worth it.

Side A:
Debonair - The Afghan Whigs
Let Me Drown - Soundgarden
Liar - Rollins Band
Verse Chorus Verse (aka Sappy) - Nirvana
Lolita - Paw
Rats - Pearl Jam
I am One - Smashing Pumpkins
Backwater - Meat Puppets
No Excuses - Alice in Chains
After School Special - Redd Kross
Hit the Plane Down - Pavement
Money - Backbeat Band

Side B:
Fell on Black Days - Soundgarden
Be Sweet - Afghan Whigs
Burn and Shine - Posies
Cut Your Hair - Pavement
My Science Fiction Twin - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Borracho - Mark Lanegan
Never to be Found - Meat Puppets
Human Behavior - King's X
In 'n Out of Grace - Mudhoney
Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun - Anthrax
Animal - Pearl Jam



No excuses:


Sappy: