Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Government Bureaucrats 2, Private Sector 0

A lot has happened on the Verizon front since we last placed a call to Verizon lawyer Lynne Anne Sousa, Esq., J.D., B.A., C.Y.A.

After I got off the phone with Sousa, I took a little walk. First I climbed over my back fence to get a better look at the pole. This involves scaling a stone wall and tottering on a rickety chain-link fence, which is why I hadn't done this before. Turns out that the "comically long and spindly pipe thing" was not a pipe at all -- it was an optical illusion. It was actually the cables coming from the pole and leading out to another pole on Orchard Hill Rd., which runs behind our house on Tower Street.

Our backyard neighbor, whose house sits on a ledge about 20 feet above the foundation of our place, had propped up the cables with a 2x4 so that they wouldn't drag on the ground. I had never met our backyard neighbor, so thought this would be a good opportunity to do so.

I rang the doorbell and an older woman answered.

I explained who I was and she called for her husband. A guy resembling a slimmed-down Tip O'Neill showed up. "Come on and have a seat," he said, motioning to his front stoop. He said his name was Frank C.

We sat down and had a great talk. Found out that a tree on his property fell on the cables back on August 14 -- that's what pulled the pole away from our house, which in turn ripped the cables and two clapboards off. He said he called Verizon immediately, and "the woman there couldn't have cared less. She said that they'd send someone out. I said, 'OK, whatever.' I've still got phone service at this point, after all."

"Right," I said. "We do too. Cable is fine as well. Apparently that makes it tougher to get quick action."

"Guess so. Anyway, last Friday, some old-timer showed up and said that someone had called the mayor."

"That was me," I said.

"Well, it worked, because this guy was all apologetic: 'I had no idea' et cetera. And then, later that day, a guy named Lucas came out with a crew and got rid of the branch that was hanging on the cables." I remembered the chain saws I heard last Friday. Score one for the Mayor's 24-Hour Help Line!

Government Bureaucrats 1, Private Sector 0.

"So did they say anything about righting the pole or repairing my house?"

"Nope," Frank said.

We got off onto other topics. Frank gave me the history of the street, how all the houses were built in the early 1930s and the older homeowners like him were dying off or moving away now. He said he was a union construction worker.

"You know, this trouble we're having with Verizon has a lot to do with outsourcing and deregulation," I said.

"Yep," Frank said. "The old New England Telephone would have been out here in a flash. I remember Boston Edison -- they would actually come out to replace a blown fuse." Wow, I thought. Maybe not the best example to use when reminiscing about the good old days of union jobs. But on the other hand, why shouldn't we expect that kind of service? Anyway...

"Right, and the utilities were tightly regulated," I said. "They made a steady profit but couldn't raise rates willy-nilly and they had far better service. This so-called 'construction crew' that Verizon has been promising me for two weeks is outsourced, most likely non-union."

"Scalliwags!" Frank said.

"Yeah! But these outsourced crews get paid probably next to nothing. Professionalism has to suffer."

"Yep, those utilities are terrible nowadays," Frank said. "They string their cables everywhere -- and they're all too low! They let their poles lean -- they just wait until they fall down to fix them." Frank was right. Earlier this year, in Newton, a suburb of Boston, a truck hit a low-slung NStar cable and pulled down six (6) utility poles, knocking out power to the whole neighborhood for days (Hat tip to Helen for pointing out a Boston Globe op-ed on this problem of hazardous low-hanging wires everywhere).

Just as we were really getting going on cursing out the utilities, it started to rain, so I clambered back over the fence and went back inside.

Waiting for me was a message from Marilyn Ryan from the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy. She got my email complaint and said that she called Verizon. I called her up, described the situation in more detail, and we had a good talk. We agreed that I would call her again on Tuesday to check in again.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning, about 10:30. A Comcast technician shows up in response to my call on Sunday. I figured that if I got Comcast on the case, that might put some pressure on Verizon to right the pole, since that would be a prerequisite to re-attaching the cables. The Comcast guy and I walk back around to the backyard, and (cue heavenly chorus) there are four guys in Verizon hardhats who are righting the pole!

The foreman-looking guy sees us and says, "Are you the guys who are here to fix the drops?" Apparently "drops" is the term for the cable connection to the house. The Comcast guy nods and before I could answer the foreman says, "Yeah, they need to be re-attached. The lady here in this house has complained."

It's all I can do to keep keep from laughing as I raise my coffee mug and say, "I'm the lady."

"Oh...You're the lady," the foreman said. The youngest guy on the Verizon crew, shoveling behind the foreman, thinks this is pretty funny.

I wait a moment, squint meaningfully at the hanging clapboards, and then walk over to the crew. "You guys want some coffee?" I asked.

"Oh, no, no, no, we're fine, thanks anyway," they all said.

"Okay," I say, before strolling back around to the front of the house.

Apparently, the call from the Mass. Department of Telecommunications and Energy did the trick. I can't say that's what it was for certain, but the call was made on Monday afternoon, and the Verizon crew showed up on Tuesday morning. It's the conclusion I'll draw.

So: Government Bureaucrats 2, Private Sector 0. The Private Sector should be glad I don't dock them a point for the Verizon foreman's "Some lady" comment but it turned out to be funny so I'll let it go.

An hour or so later, I hear the dulcet tones of workmen hammering on my house! Could it be -- they're repairing my clapboards? I dare not look lest it turn out to be a giant woodpecker...

But the suspense is killing me. I go to the back yard and, YES! The anchors are re-attached! The clapboards are expertly repaired! Galvanized nails even!

I race inside to check the dial tone. A bit of static...hmm. But, no problem. I call the Verizon repair robot and tell her about all about it. She's got a sympathetic robotic ear, and says someone will come look at it on Thursday, sometime between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. Luckily, I'm getting my hair done on Friday, and my canasta club is on Wednesday, so Thursday will work out fine.

I hope this closes the book on this particular episode. Famous last words...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Movie Review: Four Brothers

Very good movie. Funny, violent, touching, not too melodramatic. What more could one ask for? I feel strongly that there is a western out there that this movie might be based on, what with the local kingpin character and the honorable/outlaw brothers bent on revenge. Does anyone know what that western might be?

This movie generated one of the more racially-integrated movie audiences you'll see at the movies, at least at the showing we attended, Saturday night in downtown Boston. Given the cast and the plot, with combination good-bad, straight good, and straight bad white and Black characters in every combination, that's not surprising. I would like to see more movies like this, even if the premise is a bit far-fetched. (How many quartets of four foster-child brothers, two Black and two white, all adopted by a white hippie woman, can there be in the U.S. anyway?) Also, I think the Latina character was over-the-top stereotype.

The only silly part was near the end, when Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) shows up in the middle of a frozen lake on foot, to attend a meeting where everyone else has come by car. Presumably, this is Lake St. Clair near Detroit, which is huge. The "meet" was at least four miles from shore. Did Bobby camp out on the lake the night before? Was he dropped by a silent, unseen helicopter? Or did he ride his bicycle out on the ice and then hide it under a pile of snow?

Highly recommended, but quite violent. Stay away if you don't like realistic gun violence.

UPDATE: A reviewer at imdb.com compared this movie to the John Wayne film "The Sons of Katie Elder." Haven't seen that one. Have you?

Lawyered Up, Verizon Style

Penetrating the Verizon Wall of No Accountability is like trying to invade Helm's Deep. It's well-nigh impossible. Let's see if I can sneak in through the sewer pipe like Saruman's Orc Army almost did...

Over the weekend, we had some progress on the utility pole front. Someone came and propped it up with a comically long and spindly pipe thing that may or may not hold up to Tropical Depression Katrina once it arrives in a few days.

But the clapboards and cable connections are still hanging in midair. It is now Day 16 for the Hanging Clapboards of Tower Street. ("When will the Carter administration finally act to free them from their captivity? I'm Ted Koppel, and this... is Nightline!")

This morning I called Verizon customer service again, talked to "Jim," Verizon Employee Number 716. Lovely chap. Told me again to "Call the legal department." So I called the main Verizon switchboard and the receptionist gave me an 800 number to call to make a claim. I called and spoke with a robot. Then I emailed them.

I waited three hours for a response. Nothing. Decided to send a demand letter, registered mail. But for that, my mom (who worked for lawyers for many years) said that I would need the name of someone specific to send the letter to. Just sending it to the "Legal Department" wouldn't work.

So I called the Verizon offices here in Boston and asked to be connected with the Legal Department. This is my memory of the conversation:

"Hello, Verizon Communications."

"I'd like to be connected with the Legal Department, please."

"Who are you calling sir?"

"Well, I don't know yet. I need the name of someone to send a demand letter to."

"A demand for compensation?"

"Yes, for property damage."

"You need to call our 800 number for property damage claims."

"Already did that. I also want to send a demand letter to a human being in the legal department."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't transfer you to the legal department without a name."

"Come on, just let me talk to the-"

She hangs up on me, transferring me to Verizon's bottom-level voice mail system. A voice asked if I would like to sign up for Verizon Online DSL. I hung up.

To the web! and the online Martindale-Hubbell legal directory! I type in "Verizon," "Boston," and "Suffolk County" into the lawyer search form.

Voila! A name pops up. A single, solitary name: Lynne Anne Sousa. I see she is exactly as old as me, born 1968, and that she went to American University for her BA and got her J.D. here in Boston at Suffolk U.

Back to the Verizon switchboard. "Can I please speak with Lynne Anne Sousa in the legal department?"

The receptionist gave me a number in the 972 area code. Strange. Maybe a cell phone?

I call the number and Ms. Sousa answers.

"My name is Chris Hartman and I'm having trouble getting compensation for some property damage caused by Verizon and--"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Sousa said. "I'm in Houston. You're in...looks like Boston, based on your area code."

"Yes. Could you give me the name of someone in Boston that I could send my demand letter to?"

"Well, I work in labor and employment, not claims, so I don't know...Hey, how did you get my number anyway?"

"I looked up the Verizon legal department at martindale.com and your name came up as working there in the Boston office. So I called the switchboard here in Boston and they gave me your number."

"They wha-- Who gave you my number? The Verizon switchboard in Boston?"

"Yes." I imagine the receptionist here in Boston will very soon get an angry call from Ms. Sousa. I asked, "So did you used to work there in Boston?"

"Yes, a while ago."

"Well, surely you have an old colleague there who you can tell me to call--"

"No, I'm not going to put them through what I'm going through here--"

Did she actually say that? "What I'M going through here?" Wow.

I regained my composure and exclaimed, "What YOU'RE going through? What about what I'm going through?"

"OK, OK, just a minute. I will call someone and have them get back in touch with you."

Glad for this bit of conciliation, the first bit in my two weeks of dealing with Verizon, I say, "Great, thanks so much for doing that. When should I expect to hear from someone?"

"Well," Sousa replies, "I will put myself on the line and say that if you don't hear from someone in 24 hours you can call me back." Profiles in courage there, wouldn't you say? Putting herself on the damn line!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

If This is Pottery Barn, I'd Hate to See Pier 1

Can we call a halt to the "Pottery Barn Rule" phrase? It didn't apply back when Colin Powell reportedly said it in 2002, and it doesn't apply now.

Today Tim Russert had a quartet of retired generals on Meet the Press to discuss Iraq. The options advocated by the generals ranged all the way from A to B, from "Stay the Course" to "Stay the Course, But With a Bigger Boat."

One of the guys urged that the U.S. stay the course, and he mentioned the "Pottery Barn Rule:" You break it, you bought it.

Can I just point out that once you start talking about launching Tomahawk cruise missiles off of a destroyer in the Persian Gulf, we're really beyond the scope of a shopper dropping a fragile porcelain candle holder on the floor in a home furnishings store. So right off the bat the "Pottery Barn Rule" is pretty unhelpful, is it not?

Even if we allow the "Pottery Barn Rule" People some poetic license, what is the military equivalent of a customer breaking something in a home furnishing store? Well, in Iraq, it certainly couldn't entail much more than the first shock-and-awe bombing of March 2003. Seems like in that case, the next step under the Pottery Barn Rule would have been to say, "Oops, sorry about that," and then to send the Iraqis a check for $45.6 million or whatever it took to repair the damage, with a little extra for maybe some hummus or a nice cup of coffee.

Obviously, we've done a bit more in Iraq than the military equivalent of breaking a candle holder. Imagine that you are a manager of a Pottery Barn store. The biggest dude in town thinks that to protect everyone he needs to come in to your store and throw everything on the floor, tip over shelves, pour the dirt out of the planters, and then punch everyone in the gut for good measure.

Then, once he starts trying to "clean up," it turns out that this big dude is more of a Jerry Lewis type. He starts slipping and sliding all over the place, dropping the stuff that didn't break the first time, saying things like "Whoa, Dean! Friction burning!" and "Whoa Dean! Hot water, burning hand!" and even a "Ladeee!" or two. Generally making the mess worse, in other words.

If you're the store owner, do you really want this guy to keep on trying to "clean up?" No. You'd probably say, "Hey, friend, thanks for your 'help,' but you're really doing more harm than good here right now so why don't you pay me for the damage and then GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

At this point, if we really want to observe the "Pottery Barn Rule," we should ask how much Iraq needs to repair the damage we caused, leave the money on the counter, and leave. Because that's what would really happen in a Pottery Barn.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Day 12 for the Hanging Clapboards of Tower Street

When last we left our intrepid clapboards, they were still hanging in there, right where they've been since August 14, nearly two weeks ago. What was initially a minor bit of damage has, with time and pressure, like limestone that turns into marble, metamorphosed into My Lonely Struggle Against the Forces of Ivan Seidenberg.

After my blog post yesterday I made another call to Verizon. This customer service rep, like all the others, had no information. He could not even tell me the name of the outside contractor that Verizon had "retained" to fix the pole, the cables, and my house. I asked him what could I do about the property damage that the Verizon utility pole had caused. "Contact the Verizon legal department," he said. (The buck spirals perfectly as it sails downfield. Unfortunately, no one is there to catch it...)

Always one to follow directions, after another repair-free day I did just that:

Demand Letter
Date: August 26, 2005
To: Verizon
Legal Department
185 Franklin St.
Boston, MA 02110

I am requesting compensation for the following problem:
I am a Verizon customer, telephone number 617-xxx-xxxx. I am acting as President of the 66 Tower Condominium Association. There are two other families in this three-family dwelling.
On or about Sunday, August 14, a utility pole behind my dwelling at 66 Tower St. in Jamaica Plain, MA tipped away from the house approximately 5 to 10 degrees. This tipping pulled Verizon and Comcast cables away from the structure at 66 Tower St., taking the cable anchors with them along with 2 clapboards.
Since then I have been in repeated contact with your customer service representatives in order to get the pole righted, the cables re-attached to my dwelling, and the clapboards repaired. To date, none of these actions has been accomplished. In general, the Verizon customer service representatives repeatedly claim that a work order has been issued to an outside contractor, but they have no way to contact that contractor, nor can they identify the contractor.
I can document repeated telephone calls since August 19 in my effort to resolve this problem. I estimate that I have spent 4 hours so far in an attempt to get the damage to my property, caused by your utility pole, repaired.
This is also a potential liability issue, for if the pole were to fall over completely, it would destroy a wooden stockade fence owned by an abutter to the property at 66 Tower St.
Please send me a check or money order in the amount of $800.00, made payable to “66 Tower Street Condominium Association,” to cover potential repair costs to the clapboard siding and cable connections, and an additional check or money order in the amount of $200.00, made payable to “Christopher K. Hartman,” to compensate me for the time I have spent on the phone in an attempt to resolve this matter, on or before September 1, 2005.
If I don't receive payment by this date, I will take this case to court immediately, unless you notify me that you are willing to try to resolve this dispute through mediation. In that case, I am willing to meet with a neutral third party agreed to by both of us in a good faith attempt to resolve the dispute without court action.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
Christopher K Hartman
President, 66 Tower Condominium Association
I'll probably hand-deliver this on Monday morning. Or maybe I'll drop by tomorrow to see if anyone's there.

(Also last evening, I called the Mayor's 24-hour help line, but the guy answering the phone there said he couldn't do much more than I have been doing, i.e. call Verizon. He suggested that I lodge a complaint with the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy, which I did via their website form.)

UPDATE: I've decided to wait until Monday morning to telephone the legal department at Verizon before delivering the demand letter. But it was still worthwhile for me to write it...I can use it as a phone script.

Friday Random Ten - Sweet Finnish Truncated Song Pool Edition

This week's FRT comes to you Straight Outta JP Center, from the Sweet Finnish bakery (owned by people from Finland, not poor spellers), and the song pool is roughly half as large as normal, owing to the fact that I'm using Helen's laptop and Helen is uh, more selective in filling out her itunes library than I am.

So: The first 10 songs to come up on shuffle mode are:

01 - Luxury Liner - Emmylou Harris Hot beat Emmylou!

02 - Do You Want to Know a Secret - The Beatles Cool-as-a-colada Latin-y beat from Ringo.

03 - Black Wind Blowing - Billy Bragg Lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

04 - Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI - IX) - Pink Floyd Don't you just love the transition from Part VII to Part VIII? Almost as good as the transition from Part III to Part IV.

05 - Job of Journeywork - The Chieftains Music to burn peat by.

06 - My Sharona - The Knack Ask me to show you the 1988 video of me performing this song on my Mom's Yamaha keyboard. Classy lyrics.

07 - We Want a Rock - They Might Be Giants "Everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around." I know I do. An accordion-soaked fave from John and John.

08 - Keep on the Sunny Side - The Whites From the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack.

09 - Big Rock Candy Mountains - Harry McClintock Another "O Brother" song. "There's a lake of stew, and whiskey too, you can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe!" I'm there!

10 - Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! - ABBA One of the London Symphony Orchestra's finest moments.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Verizon: We Never START Working for You

Three words: Out. Sourcing. Bites.

It bites for customers like me who have been trying to get a property-damaging Verizon telephone pole repaired for 11 days now.

And it also bites, apparently, for Verizon shareholders. Here is the one-year chart for VZ:

Here's my story:

Monday, August 15: Arrive home from weekend in Colorado, turn on The Daily Show at 11 pm, it is in "digital static" mode, where the screen dissolves into little squares of pixels that call to mind a Seurat painting. I call in to Comcast, our cable TV company, to report the problem. They can come look at it on Thursday morning. Two and a half days from now: OK, no problem, we don't watch much TV these days, it's summer, etc.

Tuesday, August 16: I turn on the TV midday, and the problem has cleared up! I call Comcast to cancel the work order. Later, I wander back to the back yard and notice that the wires coming from a pole behind our house have pulled away from our house, taking their anchors and a couple of clapboards with them. That's probably what caused the problem. I figure that a falling branch was the culprit, and start to get out my ladder so that I could repair it. Then I think: wait a second. I can't be dealing with wires! I don't think we get electric service via the pole but who knows? So I call the electric company, NStar, to come take a look. NStar comes right out and confirms that the wires are not electric -- they're telephone and cable TV. Then, while the NStar guy is still here, I notice a technician repairing a cable connection to the house next door, which is coming from the same pole as the wires to our house. This technician is from Verizon and he says that the pole is actually tipped away from the house -- that's what caused the wires to pull away from the house. OH. He's right! It's leaning away at about a 10 degree angle. So now I definitely don't want to attempt the repair myself, because (a) the pole needs to be fixed anyway, and (b) whoever owns the pole should do the repair to the clapboards. The Verizon technician says that it is an NStar pole, even though there is no longer any electric service carried on it, and he tells the NStar guy about it. Great, I say. NStar will come right out and fix this pole and fix my house.

The Leaning Pole of Pisa

Damage to our house: Clapboards still hanging in midair. It is Day 11 for the Hanging Clapboards of 66 Tower Street.

Friday, August 19: Three days have passed, and nothing has happened. The pole is still leaning, my clapboards are hanging in midair, still attached to the anchors. So I call up NStar and talk to Eric: what's the deal? He informs me that this is not an NStar pole. Me: Well, whose pole is it? Eric: Verizon's. Me: O.K., well I'm going to call Verizon and they can confirm with you, Eric, that this is a Verizon pole. Eric: Sounds good. So now I'm on the phone with Verizon. I tell the lady the whole story again. She gets it all down and says that it will be referred by "dispatch" to a construction contractor. Fine. I'm going to be out of town all weekend so I give her my downstairs neighbor's telephone number.

Monday, August 22: I return from Western Mass and nothing has changed out back. Pole still leaning, clapboards still hanging.

Wednesday, August 23: Still no action out back. I call up Verizon and get angry. "Your pole has damaged my house and I want it repaired immediately." OK, let me put that work order right back in sir. Five hours pass, still nothing. I hear thunder. If it rains, that pole, which is on a slope, could go and take out a fence and rip down who knows what else off of our house. So I call Verizon back. "You need to come take care of this right now. It's thundering and if it rains etc." Arlene says, "Well, there's no way anyone can come before tomorrow." I say, "Wouldn't it be easier to fix it before it falls down rather than after? And anyway my house is damaged and you are responsible for fixing it!" "Yes, okay," Arlene says. "She calls back later to say that she's spoken to the "foreman" and he will call me first thing tomorrow morning and come by to take a look at it. OK, fine. It's not going to rain tonight anyway it looks like. Tomorrow morning will be fine.

Thursday, August 24: 5:00 pm. No call from the "foreman" all day. No sign that he's been here. I call Verizon, talk to Paula this time. "Did 'the foreman' come to my house today?" "Let me see...no, I guess not. Let me talk to dispatch." (two minutes on hold) "Well, I have his number, but he's not answering. Can we call you back?"

And that's where we stand as of right now, 5:50 pm. Look for future installments on this enjoyable saga.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Did He Do with the Drunken Salesmen?

Last Friday's Dan Shaughnessy column recalling last year's now-overshadowed American League Division Series between the Red Sox and Angels mentioned Angels second-baseman Chone Figgins:

The Franconamen and the Sons of Scioscia are leading their respective divisions and wouldn't the Angels love to play Boston again and maybe put up more of a fight this time?'

"In the back of your head, you know you want to get back there," said leadoff hitter Chone Figgins, who had a particularly dreadful playoffs against the Red Sox.
Reading this passage took me back instantly to May 0f 2002, when Helen and I were in Tennessee for a week of traveling before the wedding of two friends in Chattanooga.

The setting is the half-empty Greer Stadium in Nashville, home of the Nashville Sounds (pictured). (We try to catch minor league games whenever we're on vacation and had also seen the Memphis Redbirds on this trip.) We had box seats directly behind home plate, purchased earlier that same day.

In the late innings, the guitar-shaped scoreboard foretells a lopsided victory for the visiting Salt Lake City Stingers, the triple-A farm team for the Anaheim Angels. Chone Figgins, playing at that time for the Stingers, steps into the batter's box in the 8th or 9th inning. He had played all night, and by then we had heard the announcer say his first name several times. It rhymes with Shawn. Nevertheless, a group of drunken salesmen near us begin taunting him, mispronouncing his first name with a hard "ch" sound like the one that begins the word "charge:"

"C'mon Chonn!"

"Ha ha ha ha!"

"Hit it Chonny!"

"Woo hoo!"

Truly annoying. Embarassing. I'm certain that Figgins heard all of it. We were only 15 yards away.

Figgins took a pitch or two and then POW! roped a three-run homer to left that left the yard in approximately 0.5 nanoseconds. I think the crack of the bat actually came mid-taunt. The look on those salesmen's faces was priceless.

Mr. Figgins will forever be a hero of mine for that act of wordlessly shutting up the stupid expense account crowd at Greer that night. His dreadful ALDS last year against the Red Sox is just gravy.


I had absolutely NO IDEA that Saturday night, August 20, was also the 6-month anniversary of Hunter Thompson's death and therefore the date specified by him for his funeral, which involved launching his ashes into the Colorado sky inside an exploding rocket.

And yet, documented on videotape, we have footage of me and fellow Stump Sprouts* visitors Ben and Leland toasting the memory of Hunter with a short glass of his drink of choice, Wild Turkey Kentucky bourbon, on that very evening. (Cue "Twilight Zone" theme.)

Detracting from the delight of this spooky coincidence is the fact that apparently, that stiff John Kerry was also in Colorado for the funeral/cannon shot, no doubt awkwardly raising his little glass of bourbon while intoning "Who among us does not delight in the whimsical adventures of Hunter Thompson?" (Excuse me a moment while I tear out what is left of my hair.)

Here's a story about the sendoff from Northern Ireland (it's better than the AP story) that mentions his fondness for Wild Turkey.

*Stump Sprouts is the lodge in the Berkshires where Helen and I spent the weekend with 19 old and new friends.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Random Ten - Night Owl Edition

Itunes -> Party Shuffle -> First 10 -> Behold the havoc that randomization can wreak:

01 - Honky Tonk Man - Dwight Yoakam
02 - I'll Shoot the Moon - Tom Waits
03 - Don't Stop - Fleetwood Mac
04 - "Eye on Springfield" Theme from "The Simpsons" - Harry Shearer as Kent Bronkman et. al.
05 - O Death - Ralph Stanley
06 - Debaser - Pixies
07 - Monkberry Moon Delight - Paul McCartney
08 - The World Has Turned and Left Me Here - Weezer
09 - Black Ants in Sound-Dust - Stereolab
10 - Hold Me Tight and Don't Let Go - Tuck and Patti

Concert Review: Huey Lewis and the News

Fleet Boston Pavillion, Boston, Mass., August 18, 2005.

A top-notch show, tight, energetic, engaged, joyous. Just what you would expect from Huey Lewis and the News, one of only two acts profiled in the VH1 "Behind the Music" series that had no dirty laundry to air (the other is Weird Al Yankovic).

This show was Helen's idea but I'm very glad I went. I was not a Huey Lewis fan in the 1980s. At that time, I was into Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and then I transitioned directly into Talking Heads and R.E.M. The straight-ahead rock-n-roll of Huey Lewis and Bruce Springsteen didn't interest me. It wasn't until college, where I met some people (one of them was Helen) who got me to listen to the R&B and soul standards from the 1950s and 1960s and understand their influence on music, that I could appreciate bands like Huey Lewis and the News.

The show was professional to a T. Huey hasn't lost anything in his singing voice, the rhythm section was tight, the horns sonorous. The lead guitarist (a dead ringer for Gaius on the new Battlestar Galactica TV series) soloed expertly but not self-indulgently.

Huey did just about every chart hit from the 1980s save "If This is It." Especially good were "Heart of Rock-n-Roll" and "Workin' for a Livin.'" Huey and four of the guys also sang a memorable a capella rendition of the Impressions' summery hit "It's All Right."

An excellent show by generous performers who clearly are having fun and who get their energy from the audience. See them if you can.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Leadville 100 Bicycle Race

At last: the chronicle of our trip out west August 12-15 to crew my brother in his 11th Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race in Leadville, Colorado.

Helen and I flew to Denver on Friday, August 12. My mom picked us up at the airport and we spent the afternoon with her cousin and old friend Marie, who has lived in Denver since the 1940s. Then Helen and I set off for Leadville in my mom's Nissan Sentra; we arrived at about 7:00 pm. That night I couldn't sleep so I walked down Harrison Ave. and into the Scarlet Bar, a seemingly rough-and-tumble place that was actually quite friendly.

As I walked in, a 300-pound mountain of a guy growled at me, "How old are you?" Surely I didn't look underage. Then I thought I caught a twinkle in his eye so I answered in my best prospector voice, "I'm as old as the hills." He squinted, grinned almost imperceptibly, and then waved me in.

I ordered a drink and then played, and lost, a game of 8-ball with a Latino dude who was miles better than me. The game was pretty close only because I sank three balls on three straight slop shots -- shots where I missed my intended target but one of my other balls dropped anyway. I sank another ball on a scratch. You don't get to shoot again after a slop shot or scratch, but without them I probably would have left all my balls on the table. This guy dispatched me with cool efficiency.

After the pool game I raised my mug of PBR to a skinny chap with a big bushy cowboy mustache and he came over. "Wild Bill's my name," he said. "What's yours?" "Mild Chris," I replied. "Oh, O.K., well, I won't hold that against you," he said with a smile.

We had a lovely chat. Wild Bill is a former barback and bouncer (surely the world's smallest bouncer ever) who now makes a living leading a concrete finishing crew that works all over the Colorado high country. We got to talking about his family. He has eight sisters. His lone brother was killed in a solo motorcycle accident a week after returning home from Desert Storm in 1991. "When I see him again in Heaven, I'm going to kick his ass," he said.

The next morning, Saturday August 13, we got up at 5:30 am to see Greg and his friends Kevin and Jeremy off from the starting line at 6:30 am. Then Helen and I went for our traditional post-start breakfast at the Columbine Cafe on Harrison Ave.

I drove Helen ahead to the 40 mile checkpoint at Twin Lakes, dropped her off there along with various provisions, and then headed back toward Leadville and the 24-mile checkpoint at Pipeline. Greg came through the checkpoint in good shape at about 8:30 am, and then I had to really hustle in order to get back to the 40-mile checkpoint at Twin Lakes in time for Greg to roll through. It's only 10 miles by car but due to limited parking at Twin Lakes, it takes forever to walk from the car to the race course, especially loaded down with tools, supplies, and two spare wheels. (This is why we have to drop Helen off at this second checkpoint beforehand.) As it happened, Greg came through the checkpoint at about 9:40 am, just as I was walking up to our spot by the side of the road. I served as buffet manager, holding up a green duffel bag filled with various hi-energy foods for Greg to choose from to fuel his assault on Columbine Mine, a 10-mile climb through aspen and pine forest to a point near the summit of a 13,000 foot mountain, well above the treeline.

After he pedaled off, Helen and I had a couple of hours to wait before he would return via the same route. We bought bratwurst lunches from a local day care that was selling food at the checkpoint as a fund-raiser and then we lounged in the sun, enjoying the cool air. At 11:30 Helen fired up a Coleman Canister stove and began boiling water in a skillet for Greg's nutrition innovation for 2005: hot ramen noodles. Ten minutes later they were done and we put them in little ziploc baggies for easy transfer. (Later we learned that Greg was unaware that one can purchase the little styrofoam ramen cups...would have been much easier...just pour in boiling water...but no problem, making ramen in a skillet over an open flame by the side of a road in a moderate-fire-danger area had its own charms.)

Greg rumbled back down the mountain and through the checkpoint (having now covered 60 miles from the start point) at about noon. He sucked up the ramen, switched out his water bottles, got his Camelback filled, and zoomed off again for the return trip through Pipeline at the 76-mile point. Helen and I lugged the supplies down the hill to our car and drove over to Pipeline; got there with about 15 minutes to spare. Greg came through at 1:10 pm, feeling good.

After Greg cranked off toward the final 24 miles with one more challenge ahead -- the grueling, steep, Powerline Climb -- Helen and I headed back to Leadville to wait for him at the finish line. We again had a couple of hours before we'd see him, so Helen went to get some ice cream while I returned to the Matchless Treasures thrift shop (this is where last year I found my black "CAT Scale" Dickies work shirt, much admired among the smart set in Boston) to see what I could find. I had picked out an electric green polyester soccer shirt, a blue polyester short-sleeve Kramer-type shirt, and a Land's End flannel shirt when Helen entered with my cousins Raelene and Amy along. They had made the trip up from Denver where Raelene works for the Colorado DOT while studying for her engineering degree and where Amy is a high-school student.

We all trooped over to the finish line at about 3:00 pm. Greg came back up the 6th street hill at 4:14, finishing the 100-mile race in 9:44, his best showing since 2000.

I had bought a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of cheap champagne so that we could have a post-race Lance Armstrong moment with Greg, but I was unable to find two leggy blondes to stand on the dais with him. So we just handed him the flowers and showed him the bottle of champagne. When Greg's friend Kevin followed forty minutes later, we simply re-gifted the flowers to him, and once more to Jeremy when he came through soon after that. The flowers finally ended up with Jeremy's wife, which was appropriate because she crewed her husband all day with a one-year old in tow.

For dinner that evening we had delicious pizza and Tecate beer at the Tennessee Pass Cafe on Harrison Ave. The meal was free because the restaurant is part-owned by Greg's ex-wife Rebecca and she graciously invited us to a post-race celebration at her establishment. In my opinion, this is the best restaurant in Leadville; don't miss it if you are ever there.

After dinner we all repaired to the Columbine Hotel and watched "Ray" on HBO until about midnight.

Next morning, Sunday August 14, we assembled at the Leadville City Gymnasium for the awards ceremony. To a rousing round of applause, Greg received a chafing-dish-sized belt buckle to commemorate 10 years / 1,000 miles of Leadville 100 races. (Helen and I have crewed for all ten of those races. His first race, in 1995, didn't count toward the 1,000 mile belt buckle because he finished in over 12 hours, but cousins Raelene and Amy were right there at the finish line in 1995 along with Raelene's baby son Joey (now a 10-year old), Amy's dad, my uncle Al, and Aunt Lorraine, all from Denver.)

After the ceremony six of us (the five-person Greg contingent plus Greg's friend Kevin) piled into Raelene's Ford Explorer and drove part-way up the race route to Columbine Mine. It was amazing to see the route that these cyclists have to conquer -- 10 miles of unrelenting climbing followed by a white-knuckle tumble back down the same way.

Near the mine shaft we got out for a hike toward the 13,000 foot summit. After a while, we split into three groups of two and went our separate ways, always in sight of one another. Raelene and Kevin visited a demi-summit and Helen and Amy chilled out in the meadow. Meanwhile, Greg and I summited the sucker, trekking upward through one of my favorite biomes: Alpine Meadow (which is right up there with Pinon-Juniper Forest and Salt Marsh). Helen, watching from below, said that our silhouetted figures climbing up the ridge called to mind the scene at the end of "The Seventh Seal."

After I climbed up on the highest rock at the summit and executed what was certainly my highest pee ever while not in an aircraft, we re-assembled at about 12,000 feet and I pulled out the bottle of champagne from yesterday for a proper toast of our intrepid cyclists.

We returned to Leadville for dinner of greasy food and milkshakes at Wild Bill's (no relation to my new friend at the bar) and then our hardy band split up: Greg back home to Del Norte, Kevin back home to Gunnison, Raelene and Amy back to their homes in Aurora and Denver. Helen and I motored to an Embassy Suites hotel near where my mom was staying with her cousin Marie.

All in all, this day, Sunday, August 14, 2005 -- with its crystal-clear but cool mountain weather, stunning alpine scenery, and hilarious set of companions -- has entered my Top 10 Days of All Time list at number 3 or 4, with a bullet. (I just thought of creating this list so I don't know exactly where this day falls yet. But it's definitely 3 or 4.) I can easily see why, once my brother did his first Leadville 100 in 1995, that he quickly moved from Tulsa to settle in Colorado.

Next morning, Monday, August 15, Helen and I went over to Marie's apartment to visit a while before picking up Mom. The three of us went for coffee at the Tattered Cover bookstore in the revitalized LoDo section of Denver. Mom remembered this part of town as a seedy skid row when she lived in Denver as an 18-year-old insurance-company secretary fresh out of Menlo, Kansas High School in the late 1950s. Thankfully, the 1950s mode of urban renewal did not get a chance to knock down all the beautiful old warehouses in this district, which has become energetic, interesting, and safe without being overly trendy or cutesy. Kudos to the Denver authorities and developers who made LoDo happen.

At 1:15 we left for the airport and our 3:45 pm flight back to Boston. My mom came into the airport for a smoothie at TCBY and then drove down to Colorado Springs to surprise her brother Denny for an overnight visit. We got back to Boston right on time at 9:30 pm. What an awesome weekend.

View and order prints of photos from the race at BallofDirt.com. While viewing photos, to order a print, click on the "Add to Basket" button next to the photo you want.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Friday Random Ten - Tuesday Edition

I was in Leadville, Colorado on Friday, so no fully-fledged FRT for you! This will have to do.

01 - No Other One - Weezer
02 - No Reply (alternate take) - The Beatles
03 - I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow - John Hartford
04 - Memory of a Free Festival Part 2 - David Bowie
05 - Bustin' Surfboards - The Tornados
06 - Lake of Fire - Nirvana
07 - Empty Spaces - Pink Floyd
08 - The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys - Traffic
09 - Buzz Buzz Buzz - Huey Lewis and the News
10 - So You Want to Be a Rock N Roll Star - The Byrds

Jah Energy 10, Loan Sharks 9

Jah Energy
2 6 0 0 2 0 0 10 16 4
Loan Sharks
2 3 2 0 0 0 2 9 17 3

The Loan Sharks fought on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in France, and in the cities, and they never surrendered, but they did fall just short of extending the semi-final series to a third and deciding game, falling to Jah Energy 10-9 at Franklin Park on Thursday evening.

The game was close throughout, 2-2 after the first inning, 8-7 after three, and 10-7 heading into the bottom of the seventh. After number-9 batter Kim "Juan" Epstein led off the inning with her second hit of the evening (and her fourth (out of four) on-base appearance), the Sharks pushed two runs across the plate but left the tying run on second base and the winning run on first.

Jah Energy now moves on to face either James's Gate or the New England Home for Little Wanderers in the Jamaica Plain World Series. The Loan Sharks will gather at manager Catfish Hartman's pied-a-terre in Jamaica Plain on a Saturday in October or November for a post-season banquet / hot-stove / rehashing session. Watch this space for date and time. And: Thanks to all you Sharks for a fun season and a courageous playoff run.

Bianchi lf 3 3 3 0
Divinski rf/3b 4 3 3 0
M Whalen cf 4 0 1 0
Murray 1b 4 0 2 0
Spack p 3 0 0 0
Henzy ss 5 0 2 0
J Maffei 3b 1 0 0 0
Shelton c 1 0 0 0
Epstein 2b 4 3 2 1
Hawkins lf 2 0 1 0
Cowan 3b 1 0 0 0
Holladay cf 1 0 0 0
Schnapp 1b 1 0 0 0
Fein p 2 0 2 0
Kriesberg p 2 0 0 0
Jasmine c 1 0 0 0
Johnson rf 1 0 1 0
M Maffei
c 1 0 0 0
38 9 17 1

Beth 2 1 0 0
Brian 4 3 3 0
Ronnie 4 3 2 0
Seth 4 1 2 0
Jeremy 3 0 1 0
Carol 3 0 2 0
Scraggly Beard Guy
3 0 2 0
Reuben 2 1 2 0
Brendan 2 0 0 0
Liz 3
0 1 0
Zach 2 1 1 0
Number 8
2 0 0 0
Jimmy Jam
1 0 0 0
Pat 1 0 0 0
TOTALS 37 10 16 0

4 10 1 0 0
3 6 2 0 1

4 10
5 0 3
Jimmy Jam

Umpires - John Dearn, Ed Baszkiewicz. T - 1:41. A - 12.

LOB - Loan Sharks 13, Woodpeckers 6. 2B - Bianchi, Ronnie, Zach, Brian. 3B - Divinski. HR - none. GIDP - M Maffei. Runners left in scoring position - Loan Sharks 6, Jah Energy 3. Runners DP - Jah Energy 1.


Beth grounded to short. Brian reached first on 3b error. Ronnie reached second on cf error, Brian to third. Seth singled, scoring Brian and Ronnie. Jeremy flied out to right. Carol singled, Seth to second. Scraggly Beard Guy singled, but Seth was thrown out at the plate. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS, TWO LEFT.
LOAN SHARKS - Bianchi doubled. Divinski singled, scoring Bianchi. Whalen grounded to third but Divinski reached second on 3b throwing error. Murray singled, scoring Divinski, Whalen to second. Spack singled, Murray at second, Whalen to third. Henzy lined out to third. J Maffei lined out to the pitcher. Shelton grounded to pitcher. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS, THREE LEFT.

- Reuben singled. Brendan flied out to left. Liz struck out swinging. Zach doubled, scoring Reuben. Beth reached first on p error, Zach to third. Brian singled, scoring Zach, Beth to second. Ronnie singled, Beth to third, Brian to second. Seth singled, scoring Beth, Brian, and Ronnie. Jeremy doubled, scoring Seth, and then Jeremy was thrown out at third attempting to advance. SIX RUNS, SIX HITS, NONE LEFT.
- Epstein walked. Bianchi singled, Epstein to second. Divinski tripled, scoring Epstein and Bianchi. M Whalen sacrificed to center, scoring Divinski. Murray singled. Spack grounded to short, forcing Murray at second. Henzy grounded to short, forcing Spack at second. THREE RUNS, THREE HITS, ONE LEFT.

LOAN SHARKS- Kriesberg popped to third. Jasmine grounded to pitcher. Epstein singled and reached second on lf throwing error. Bianchi singled, Epstein to third. Divinski singled, scoring Epstein; on cf throwing error, Bianchi scored and Divinski took second. M Whalen flied out to right. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS, ONE LEFT.

JAH ENERGY - Brian singled. Ronnie doubled, scoring Brian. Seth grounded to pitcher, scoring Ronnie. Jeremy popped to first. Carol singled. Scraggly Beard Guy singled, Carol to third. Jimmy Jam grounded to short. TWO RUNS, FOUR HITS, TWO LEFT.

LOAN SHARKS - Epstein singled. Bianchi singled, Epstein to second. Divinski grounded to short, forcing Bianchi at second, Epstein to third. M Whalen singled, scoring Epstein, Divinski to second. Murray sacrificed to right, Divinski to third. Fein singled, scoring Divinski, M Whalen to second. Henzy flied out to left. TWO RUNS, FOUR HITS, TWO LEFT.

Friday, August 12, 2005

This Just In: American Hegemony Doomed

American hegemony is doomed, one way or the other:

1) We keep on keepin' on until we get into a nuclear war with China or India and blow the whole world up.

2) China or India pass us by technologically and leave America in the dustbin of history. I'm pretty sure they aren't teaching "intelligent design" to the billions of school kids in India and China. They're teaching them a little thing I like to call...science.

Attention, Children of America: Get ready to spend your life assembling motherboards for $2.50 an hour for Great Wall Semiconductor, because that's how it's going to be.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ignoring Reality

I'd like to highlight a comment made by "turandot" earlier today on Pandagon regarding the Cindy Sheehan situation in Crawford:

"The questions, and they are perhaps central, are: why won't Bush talk to her, when all it entails is just stepping outside his Ranch, and talking to the woman for 10 minutes?..."

That's definitely the heart of it. As Maureen Dowd wrote today in the NYT, "It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea."

But this is part and parcel of the problem in Iraq: Ignore reality and hope it goes away.

Leave aside, for the moment, the ethics of the invasion (disastrous though they may be) or the theories about the real reasons for the invasion (controlling the world supply of oil). This is also a competence issue. Surely the sincere supporters of the President's foreign policy can recognize that?

Guys, really, it's okay to be wrong once in a while. We all are. Admit the mistake. Ask for help. Change the policy as warranted. It's in all the top management books.

For the Love of God, Can Someone Put a Stop to This?

Just in time for their new tour this year: Charlie Watts looks like an embalmed JRR Tolkien, Mick is okay actually, Ron Wood strongly resembles my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Schneider, and Keith Richards is about to dry up and blow away.

So I guess that the answer to my question is, "No, they don't have enough money yet."

Redemption at the Church of Baseball

On Monday night, the softball team I manage, the Loan Sharks, lost a heartbreaker in extra innings, casting me into the softball version of the Lake of Fire.

On Tuesday night, I found redemption, for the moment at least, at Fenway Park.

First, after standing in line at Gate C for an hour and a half, I was able to buy a seat on the Green Monster from the box office. It was for a wheelchair space -- so, no chair to sit in, just a square patch of concrete. But there was a railing I could sit on. And this was the Green Monster -- one of the toughest tickets inside the toughest ticket in town.

So right off the bat I'm doing well. Then the Sox jump out to a big lead with five runs in the fifth.

Now it's the seventh inning. The Sox are still up 7-2. Matt Clement has twirled another beaut, and one of the two runs was due to a fielding error behind him.

So they bring in Mike Remlinger, a lefty just acquired from the Cubs. I had emailed a couple of friends in Chicago to ask about him. One said, "Mediocre." The other said, "We were glad to get rid of him." Super.

Against each of the first three batters, Remlinger jumps out to an 0-2 count and then proceeds to lose every single one of them. A double, a walk, and a single. The guy faced 6 or 7 batters and failed to record an out. (UPDATE: Actually he only faced four batters. It just seemed like 6 or 7.) Before the inning was done the Rangers had tied the game. Forty-five minutes later we were into extra innings.

So now I thought I was going to be relocated from the softball version of the Lake of Fire to the softball version of the Sheet of Ice where I'm Embedded up to My Neck so that The Beast Can Gnaw on My Head. Two big leads squandered in two days, leading to extra innings? Aaaaah! Make it stop!

Actually it was pretty exciting. We were hanging on every pitch up there on the Monsta in the late innings. David Ortiz missed a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth by about six feet. Curt Schilling gave up a long double to center in the top of the tenth and got out of it.

And then came redemption. Edgar Renteria, he of the two errors (one legitimate and one due to an awful umpire's call), came to bat in the bottom of the 10th with runners on first and second and one out. He worked the count to 3-2 and then pulled a pitch down the left field line for a single, scoring Bill Mueller from second and winning the game.

More photos at Ball of Dirt. Don't miss the one of the drunk guy in the Red Sox jersey sleeping it off on Landsdowne Street.

I Want One, And I Don't Even Have a Driveway

A Chevy 454 V8 engine mounted onto a walk-behind snow-blower. As the website says, "This unit blows the snow back to where it came from!"

I Think I Get it Now

I have enjoyed reading the varied discussions around the internets on the new Dove ads -- the ones with supposedly real-sized women standing in their underwear to sell some thigh cream or other.

One of them, not sure which one, mentioned that if you see a man who is posed in an advertisement in the same way that women often are, it looks pretty silly.

I'm kind of new to this subject, but I gather that this is because women are frequently posed in ads as sex objects, and backing up the ad is patriarchy, i.e. the fact that most people believe that this is the way women ought to look. Meanwhile, men are rarely if ever posed in ads as sex objects, and even if they are, (almost) no one thinks that this is really the way men ought to look.

And I got that concept in a sort of vague sense, recalling the Jay Leno joke (from long ago) about looking at a Playgirl magazine photo spread and understanding what Playboy might look like to women: "Here's Bob, working on his car...nude! Watch out for that hot exhaust manifold, Bob!"

But it wasn't until I saw this street ad from Nautica that I really got it:

Mid-way through the donning of his pants, the man pauses for a moment, distracted by something...

When my male friend and I saw this ad on the street near Fenway Park the other day, we mocked it immediately, speaking in a fake English accent as if we were the guy in the ad: "Oh dear! My pants have fallen to my knees! Whatever am I to do?" etc. But then we went on our merry way, certain that no one, least of all ourselves, would expect us to ever look like that guy. I believe this is what is known as male privilege.

So...how about a photo caption contest? What is the guy in this ad thinking right now?

Here's my entry:

"Here I am on the beach, pulling up my pants, hope no one sees me. Wait a second now -- did I forget to turn off the stove?"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Jah Energy 14, Loan Sharks 13

Loan Sharks 6 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1319
Jah Energy
0 1 0 1 9 0 2 114 22 1
You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
- Eleanor Roosevelt
A tough loss greeted the Loan Sharks on Monday night as they entered the 2005 Jamaica Plain League semifinals against Jah Energy. Tough because the game started so well, with the Sharks jumping out to a 13-2 lead after four innings. Tough because that lead all-too-quickly evaporated, with Jah coming back with nine runs in the fifth to turn a blowout into a close game again. Tough because in the last four innings the Sharks left seven runners on base and failed to score.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
- Maya Angelou
But there were plenty of bright spots for the Sharks, particularly on defense. The Sharks committed zero errors in the field and turned in some dandy defensive plays. Once again, Don Bianchi snared everything within a five-mile radius of left field. Pitcher Alan Fein teamed with second baseman Randy Divinski to turn a 1-4-3 double play to end the second. Divinski then made an over-the-shoulder catch with two on and two out to kill a Jah rally in the third. Again at second base, Eric Johnson made a tough play to force a runner in the sixth -- that play helped keep Jah from building on their 9-run fifth and preserved the lead for the Sharks, at least momentarily.
In victory be not proud; in defeat be not depressed.
- Chinese proverb
Another key defensive stop came in the bottom of the seventh inning, after Jah had tied the game at 13 with a single and a home run to lead off the inning. With heavy hitters still due, Jah had three outs to bang out just one run to win the game, but they could manage only a single and we went into extra innings.
What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first step to something better.
- Wendell Phillips
In the top of the eighth, Marshall Hawkins came to bat with two on and two out. He hit the ball through the right side, where it was misplayed in the outfield, sending both Shark runners to the plate. But on appeal, the umpires ruled that one of the Shark baserunners had failed to touch third base, resulting in the third out and the disallowal of both Shark runs. In the bottom of the eighth, a Jah single up the middle with two on and two out sent the runner from second to home and the Sharks home to defeat.
Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.
- Wilma Rudolph, athlete currently on the 23-cent stamp
The Sharks take comfort in the fact that they are familiar with do-or-die situations in the playoffs. The Sharks came back from a 0-1 deficit to defeat Jah in a best-of-three series in 2001. And just this year the Sharks came out of sixth place to survive two back-to-back sudden death games and advance to the semifinals.
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
- Winston Churchill
On Thursday, August 11, the series resumes, this time with the Sharks the home team for the first time in the postseason. Game Three will be next Tuesday, August 16, also at Shattuck.
We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist.
- Queen Victoria

Bianchi lf 3 3 2 1
K Whalen
cf/1b 4 3 3 0
M Whalen
dh 5 3 3 0
Murray 1b 3 1 1 0
Henzy ss 3 1 1 1
Fein p 4 1 1 0
Lapham rf 2 0 1 1
Divinski 2b 1 0 1 2
Epstein sf/3b 4 0 1 0
Shelton c 2 0 0 0
Marie 3b/c 4 0 2 0
Spack 1b 1
0 0 0
Kriesberg cf 1 0 1 0
Hawkins lf 2 0 1 0
M Maffei
43 13 19 5

Pat 5 0 1 0
Brian 4 2 2 0
Ronnie 4 2 4 0
Seth 4 2 2 0
Jeremy 4 1 1 0
Kenny 4 1 4 0
Carol 4 1 1 0
Jim 3 2 2 1
Beth 4 1 3 0
Liz 4 1 1 0
Zach 4 1 1 0
TOTALS 44 14 22 1

Fein (L, 2-1) 8.0
22 14 1 0 7.64

1.2 9
5 0 42.00
Jim (W, 1-0) 6.1

Umpires - John Dearn, Ed Baszkiewicz. T - 1:32. A - 9.

LOB - Loan Sharks 13, Jah Energy 6. 2B - K Whalen. 3B - M Whalen, Seth, Kenny. HR - M Whalen, Ronnie (2), Brian. GIDP - Epstein, Carol. Runners left in scoring position - Loan Sharks 7, Jah Energy 1. DP - Loan Sharks 1, Jah Energy 1.


LOAN SHARKS - Bianchi walked. K Whalen doubled, Bianchi to third. M Whalen homered, socring Bianchi and K Whalen. Murray singled. Henzy singled, Murray to second. Fein singled, scoring Murray, Henzy to second. Lapham singled, scoring Henzy, Fein to second. Divinski walked, Fein to third, Lapham to second. Epstein grounded to short, scoring Fein and forcing Lapham at third. Shelton popped to third. Marie flied out to short field. SIX RUNS, SIX HITS, TWO LEFT.

LOAN SHARKS- Bianchi singled. K Whalen singled, Bianchi to third. M Whalen singled, scoring Bianchi, K Whalen to third. Murray sacrificed to right, scoring K Whalen. Henzy walked, M Whalen to second. Fein sacrificed to center, M Whalen to third. Lapham walked, Henzy to second. Divinski walked, scoring M Whalen, Henzy to third, Lapham to second. Epstein singled, scoring Henzy, Lapham to third, Divinski to second. Shelton grounded to short. FOUR RUNS, FOUR HITS, THREE LEFT.
JAH ENERGY - Seth tripled. Jeremy grounded to second, scoring Seth. Kenny singled. Carol grounded into double play, pitcher to second to first. ONE RUN, TWO HITS, NONE LEFT.

LOAN SHARKS- Marie singled. Bianchi grounded to third, forcing Marie at second. K Whalen singled, Bianchi to third. M Whalen tripled, scoring Bianchi and K Whalen. Murray sacrificed to center, scoring M Whalen. Henzy flied out to center. THREE RUNS, THREE HITS, NONE LEFT.

JAH ENERGY - Pat popped to short. Brian flied out to left. Ronnie homered. Seth singled. Jeremy popped to second. ONE RUN, TWO HITS, ONE LEFT.

JAH ENERGY - Kenny singled. Carol singled, Kenny to second. Jim singled, Kenny to third, Carol to second. Beth singled, scoring Kenny, Carol to third, Jim to second. Liz singled, scoring Carol, Jim to third, Beth to second. Zach singled, scoring Jim, Beth to third, Liz to second. Pat sacrificed to center, scoring Beth. Brian homered, scoring Liz and Jack. Ronnie singled. Seth grounded to pitcher, forcing Ronnie at second. Jeremy singled, Seth to second. Kenny tripled, scoring Jeremy and Seth. Carol grounded to pitcher. NINE RUNS, TEN HITS, ONE LEFT.

JAH ENERGY - Brian singled. Ronnie homered, scoring Brian. Seth flied out to center. Jeremy flied out to left. Kenny singled. Carol grounded to short, forcing Kenny at second. TWO RUNS, THREE HITS, ONE LEFT.

JAH ENERGY - Jim singled. Beth singled, Jim to second. Liz popped to short. Zach popped to the pitcher. Pat singled, scoring Jim as the winning run. ONE RUN, THREE HITS.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Marketing for Dummies

At the supermarket checkout aisle last evening I noticed a new product: a "Gardening for Dummies" book in a flimsy little $3.95 supermarket-checkout-aisle edition. I think there were some other titles too -- Cooking for Dummies or something.

I'll criticize capitalism until the cows come home, but sometimes you gotta hand it to the Manufacturers of Desire. I know a great brand extension when I see one.

On the other end of the scale, we have the Frito-Lay Corporation of America. According to their new labeling, their Tostitos tortilla chips are "Now Even Tastier!" One wonders: What were the slogans that they rejected? "Now Even Cornier!" "Now Slightly Less Dusty!" ""Now with Even More Air Inflated into the Bag!"

And what's the ROI on the research and development of a slogan like "Now Even Tastier!"? After-tax, of course. Got to love that R&D tax credit.

And does anyone remember Taco flavored Doritos from the 1970s? My favorite, now rarely found anywhere. Once again, capitalism fails me.

There and Back Again

We picked up our rented silver Chevy Malibu at the Westland Ave. Avis at 8:00 am on Saturday, made a quick stop at Herrell's on Brighton Ave. for coffee, and then got on the road for Greenwich and a Lord of the Rings Movie Marathon (Extended Edition) at the home of our old college friend Alex and his wife Kris.

Arrived Alex's folks' house at lunchtime with preparations underway for an engagement party for Alex's younger sister. We caravaned over to the train station to pick up Alex's younger brother and his girlfriend and to pick up sandwiches, and then it was over to chez Alex et Kris, where we were joined by more relatives.

We completed Fellowship of the Ring (extended 4-hour DVD edition) at about 5:30 and then broke for the tea interval. Actually, the interval was for the engagement party back at Alex's folks' house. With Alex's sister and her intended properly feted, we returned to el casa de Alex y Kris for The Two Towers and Return of the King. Started Two Towers (extended 4-hour DVD edition) at about 10:30, which meant that Return of the King (extended 4-hour DVD edition) didn't begin until after 3:00 am. By this time, I was done, and went to bed, but Helen stayed up until 6:30 am to see just about all of Return of the King.

The extended editions of the movies really add a lot to the telling of the story. Some of the characters' motivations aren't always so clear in the shorter theatrical releases. For example: Boromir from "Fellowship," who we talked about the most. At the engagement party, Alex's cousin-in-law Mike pointed out that "Fellowship" was really all about Boromir, and this really becomes clear in the extended edition. Then Alex sidled over and reminded us of Boromir's speech at the Council of Elrond about how it was the Men of Gondor who were spilling their blood to defend Middle Earth, and in return all Boromir gets are eye-rolls from Gandalf and suspicion from the Elves. So then at this point, I said--

Wait. Before I come off like this big LOTR expert, I should acknowledge that of the two of us, Helen is really the LOTR fan -- she knows the books backwards and forwards and can really run circles around me when it comes to analysis of the movies. But she wasn't standing near us during this particular conversation, so I was on my own. So I just said that the Elves can really be arrogant bastards at times.

Anyway, back to Boromir: the longer Council of Elrond scene also makes the end of "Fellowship" so much more poignant, when Boromir lays mortally wounded, fearing that his greed for the Ring did get the better of him. Aragorn reassures him that he fought bravely and preserved his honor, and then Boromir calls Aragorn his "captain" and "king" before he breathes his last and then it gets a little smoky in here and I've got something in my eye.

Left for Boston the next day at about 1:30 pm, ran into a huge traffic jam on The Hat at the Charlton rest stop, and got back home at 5:00.
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