Showing posts from 2010

"Bah, Humbug"

There are, of course, many versions of "A Christmas Carol", but to me there are only two Scrooges: Alastair Sim and George C. Scott. I always make a point to see the version starring one or the other at this most wonderful time of year, and the other night I watched the older one.

Alastair Sim is the definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge. From the bitter Scrooge, to the frightened Scrooge, to the reborn Scrooge, he wins. Scott was great too, but this year Sim did it for me. Patrick Stewart? Please. Albert Finney?! That's the musical version, right? I don't think so.

Beyond the lead character, I think the Scott-starring version has a better Bob Cratchet and Fred. As for which has the better Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim, I'll call a draw. The Scott version pulls away, though, for its better ghosts, and I don't mean the better special effects afforded by 33 years of advances in this department. And, there is no better ghost ever than Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas …

Why Big Blue, Why?

Why did you change your evil ways? For the first three quarters, this game seemed well in hand, thanks to some wicked good, merciless play on both sides of the ball. Then, a mistake here and a mistake there changed things to one of the most painful losses I remember from this team, and there have been plenty of those.

Now, before I continue, let me note that the last time I devoted a post to the play of Big Blue was after their first few games, where I saw what everyone else did—a weak team that some were writing off (I didn’t). Then they played the month of October brilliantly, really looking like the team to beat in the NFC for a stretch, in fact. I didn’t blog about them then because, well, life, or simply writer’s block, got in the way. Yeah, there were struggles against the Cowboys and Eagles, but they rebounded again, and set up the big matchup in the Meadowlands this past Sunday.

When all is said and done, they’re a 9-5 team, and they really seem like one: Playoff worthy, but n…

A half empty glass of ginger ale

After a long stretch out of work, I was quite relieved to land a nice job with a really good organization. I'm telecommuting, but they've put me up in a perfectly nice hotel a few times here in Virginia, as I get some on-site training, build familiarity with the team, and all that.

One of the perks about the hotel is the extreme cordiality of its staff. I've run into four people at the front desk (it's a small lobby), and am treated with remarkable courtesy every time I pass. A second perk is its proximity to a great brewery: it's directly across the street. Now, I love the Hudson Valley, but I can't walk across the street to get a draught beer, let alone one that is cask-conditioned. In fact, this place often have several cask IPAs on tap (perhaps my favorite style of beer).

Anyway, when I was here a month ago, I went into the brewery two or three times. The staff are friendly and easy going, and the patrons at the bar all seemed fine. In fact, it was here wh…

First game at New Meadowlands Arena

So here I am at the New Meadowlands Arena.

Ok, first of all...hmmm, actually for my first Giants game in their new stadium, I don't know what "first of all" I want to raise. The weather, the trains, the stadium, or the condition of Big Blue.

I left my house at about 8:30. At 28 degrees, there was a perfect autumn chill in the air. I have simply seen too many games wearing short sleeves these past few years. Be it domed stadiums, more southerly ones, more unseasonably warm games (I mean over 70 in Lambeau?!--I was almost tempted to not count that as a real Packer home game...), I'm finally at a game wearing long sleeves, and know I may have a jacket on by half time. Perfect football weather!

Then there was that trip here. Having sat on the exit ramp of the NJ turnpike for over an hour the last time I went to the old Giants Stadium, I'm simply not in a hurry to drive here. But, luckily, I was not in a hurry to get here today. Even with everything perfectly synche…

That BBC top-100 book thing

It strikes me that if I can post my blog entries on Facebook, I should be able to do the reverse. So, what follows is one of those Notes going around, tweaked just a bit for posting here...

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES.

• Bold those books you've read in their entirety.

• Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt.

Tag others. Tag me as well so I can see your responses! (Or not, after all reading is not a competition! I'm betting that we're all well over 6 books, and I am curious to see the common ground).

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - L…

I put a quarter in, really!

November 15, 2010

Dear Sir or Madame:

While on a week-long business trip, I made plans to meet a friend of mine in Bethesda on Tuesday November 9. I arrived at just about 6:00pm, and found parking on Norfolk Avenue. I noticed the spot I pulled into had a non-operating meter. I then saw that the spot to the left of that had a note affixed to its meter stating that it was broken and that two quarters had been inserted. Since the spot to the right of me was vacant, I pulled back. I didn’t notice anything wrong and inserted two quarters. No time registered. Not sure what to do, I looked around, saw nobody to ask, and so wrote a similar note and inserted it into the coin slot. I walked the very short distance to the restaurant on Del Ray and told the host what I had done. He explained that the town is known for issuing summonses and suggested that I move the car to be safe. So I walked back to the car, and pulled into the metered garage on Del Ray.

In the garage, I encountered three more cons…

Not all the hockey arenas too?!

So, here I am in the Verizon Center, kind of high up, but still with a clear view of all that is occurring on the ice (1-1, early in the second). I really like the sport, but it is a distant third to baseball and football for me. With those two sports, there is no question about it, my mission is to see every team play at home, and I'm getting close in baseball and am more than halfway there with football. But hockey?

No, I can't do hockey too. Can I? This game makes six arenas (counting that of the defunct Hartford Whalers, who like many CT and surrounding state residents relocated to warmer areas down south), but I really have no touch-them-all desire here. Then again, I guess I'd like to see home games for the Original 6. And maybe the Canadian teams too. Oh yeah, and maybe even that first expansion wave. Well, I don't know. I guess I'll just get to them when the chance arises.

Either way, it's time to get back to enjoying this one, now 2-1 Caps. Go home team…

Top 10 ways I get rid of leaves

1) I let mother nature blow them away. Coincidentally, this made the neighbor's list of the top 10 most hated ways other get rid of leaves...

2) I crush small handfuls in my hands. You know which leaves I mean: the ones when you open the door and a bunch of them are packed into the corner of the door frame, just waiting to get in the house. If they're dry, and a broom isn't handy, I just grab them, rub them together in my hand, and toss them to the side. That's right; I let them know who's boss.

3) I sweep them out of the garage, the basement hallway, the kitchen, and any other place into which they've made their way.

4) I rake, and I rake, and I rake.

Ok, enough of the enviro-friendly leaf disposal stuff. I have a lot of trees, and sometimes I just need to bring out the big boy toys...

5) I use my leaf blower (gas; not electric) to move them into a small wooded area on the side of my lot. Overuse of this tool, though, was also noted on the neighbor's most hat…

With one swing of a pick axe

Well, a few people have been asking me where the foliage pictures are, so I thought I would share some fall shots from the yard, taken before the leaves really started covering it. First, though, here is proof of the old adage that you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

I finished restaining the deck a few weeks ago. I'm glad that's done as it looks considerably better than it did a month ago. But, I won't be happy until I have a new one. Or at least do something about the rails. Why it was built with four rails on one side and three on the others has been bothering me for some time. Further, those four rails are all 2X6s while the other sides were made from 1X6s, suggesting that the last side was probably made from leftover wood. Still, if I take the picture emphasizing the nicely turned maple a bit better, the imperfections on the deck don't quite stand out so much...

Here's one of my burning bushes. Travel prevented me from seeing them in their dee…


So, the drive to Fredericksburg and back wouldn't have been bad, but the shorter drive to Manassas on Saturday was desirable because of what I planned on Sunday: a day trip to Charlotte, NC.

Yep, I was ticking another football stadium off the list.

And, Bank of America is a fine place to watch a game. You can't tell from my picture, but just to the right of the frame, some of the city's nice skyline comes into view. One thing you might notice from the picture, however, is the number of empty seats, which may be expected when an 0-5 team hosts a 1-5 one. And there were plays in the game that reflected their records, including a pathetic pass right into the gut of a defensive tackle, although that led to a remarkable TD return, not to mention that there was a 55-yard field goal, and, most important, a nice 10-point fourth-quarter comeback for the home team.

Plenty of fans for the 49ers were present, but there was no anomosity shown by the friendly, easy-going Panthers fans.…


After visiting Antietam last weekend, I decided to visit another battlefield this past Saturday. Which one, though, was the question. Even at breakfast, I was torn between Fredericksburg and Manassas. I've been to both, more than once in fact, but not to either in 10 years. The last time I was at Fredericksburg, it rained most of the 4 or 5 hours we had alloted for this stop (one of about seven battlefields my Dad and I saw on that trip), and we knew there were things we missed.

Manassas, though, was the shorter trip this weekend, and one of my favorites based upon earlier visits. The impressive statue of Stonewall Jackson that welcomes visitors sets the mood for the day: You sense right away the history that took place here.

I also like that it is so easy to cover much of the battlefield with some nice hikes right from the visitor center. Before doing that, though, a 40-minute movie about the battles is a must see, as is a remarkable lighted map that shows the movements of the two…

Burnside's Bridge

For all the travel I have done, for all of the magnificent places I have seen, few move me as does this scene. I've been here at least a half dozen times, and in different seasons, and there is a always a serenity felt here.

The scene was much different, though, on September 17, 1862. This bridge was one of several key fighting spots at the Battle of Antietam, the single most bloody day in American history. On one hand it is easy to see the strategy employed, but then again it is so hard to grasp the magnitude of the number of deaths that took place on the bridge and by those crossing the creek during the afternoon fight on this date.

I hope this battlefield is forever as well preserved as it is now, and that the events of that day are always well honored.

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Acknowldeging those NFL cheerleaders

If you’re anything of a loyal reader of this blog, you know I am a fan of the New York Giants. The New York Giants do not have cheerleaders, and that is fine with me. Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys do have cheerleaders, and that has led me to something of a negative disposition toward those pompom-waving ladies who try to dance, prance, and whatever their fans into loudly cheering for the home team.

As I have traveled to different NFL stadiums, however, I have certainly taken note of some cheerleading squads, which I will guess more teams have than don’t. I have found it amusing to see them bundled up like high-kicking Michelin Men in northeast and mid-Atlantic stadiums; then again, I have seen them doing their thing in more temperate stadiums... Since a recent post focused on the different stadiums, I thought one about my “favorite” cheerleading squads may be in order.

At a Chargers game in 2000, I had a seat with something of a bird’s eye view of the cheerleaders. The Chargers played…

Trying to see Blue through rose-colored glasses

With September football done, I thought this a good time for my own assessment of the Giants, to see if I can justify hope or should hop on a green bandwagon.

Well, the good news may be that their two losses have come out of the conference. That said, those losses were ugly, and revealed key weaknesses. I don’t have to stretch the imagination too much, however, to dig up some positives from these sound beatings.

To start, when manhandled by the Colts last week, my biggest gripe was what seemed to be Blue’s being completely outcoached—for example, not being prepared with a run defense or able to adapt to Indy’s no-huddle offense. They suited up scores of pass rushers and played plenty of defensive backs, and the few run stuffers were clearly pushed to exhaustion and the DBs were just pushed around. This past week, the Giants seemed more prepared in that aspect of the game plan.

And, since I mentioned the defensive line already, I’ll continue with them. I have no problem at all with the p…

Stadium mania!

Ouch…Thinking about that beating the Giants received this past Sunday still hurts. Before the bloodbath, I had posted about my first two football road trips, and now I’ve decided to continue with my first visits to other stadiums. If the team I am visiting is not playing the Giants, I usually simply root for the home team, but I’m more interested in seeing a good game.

On a cold and snowy December day in 1993, my Jets season-ticket-holding brother-in-law, one of his good friends, and I made the drive to DC for a Jets–Redskins game at RFK stadium. In the worst game I ever saw in person, the Jets won by a field goal, which happened to be the only scoring in the game. On an earlier FG attempt, the Jets’ holder was hit in the head with the snapped ball—no doubt the funniest play I’ve ever witnessed. Yeah, the day was long, the weather and game equally dismal, but we look back on the day fondly.

Four years later, one of my very good friends—a diehard Seahawks fan—persuaded a band of us to ma…

It was 20 years ago this season…

The Giants were steamrolling, and 8-0 at this point in the season that culminated with their second Super Bowl victory. They were playing the Colts in Indianapolis on Monday Night Football, and I had tickets. A check of the schedule had revealed that the Browns were home that Sunday, playing the team that the Giants would eventually face for the title. And just like that, I went on my first football road trip.

Starting with Cleveland, I sat with my feet on the dugout of the old Municipal Stadium, which might have been nice for a baseball game, but it hampered my view in the football configuration. The Bills absolutely trounced the Browns, winning 42-0. Punts were blocked by the fistful, as the home team played a dismal game all the way around.

After making the drive to Indy the next day (that's my Beretta in front of the Hoosier Dome), I watched warm-ups, and then moved to my seat, which was in a section made up of Giants fans and adjacent to that of the players’ families. This mad…

Paper birch

Look, the trunks are white!

This was the first tree I planted, back in 2007. Kind of non-descript as a sapling, I was assured that at 4 or 5 years of age the brownish trunks would whiten. Now, I wouldn't want my teeth this shade of white, but I really like the way it stands out now. When the leaves fall off within the month, this tree --visible from the kitchen window--will offer some interest to a somewhat drab area of the yard.

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And so it begins...

I should be outside prepping for some painting I have to do, but there is rain in the forecast the next for the next few days. So, I am watching NFL pregame shows instead.

What will this season be like for the Giants?

Will the wide receivers put enough of a scare into defenses that they take a step back and open things up for the running game? That could be the key to the success of the offense. When Plaxico Burress shot the Giants in the foot by shooting himself in the leg two seasons ago, opposing linebackers and safeties took a giant step forward, packing the box and hurting their running game. I expect it to be the case more so this year than last that some of the young receivers help loosen things up for the Giants punishing ground game. Yes, there is the big question of the health and even the age of the offensive linemen, but these are five strong and proud men, and I think they can still push around most run defenses. The fullback play was weaker last year than the year before, …

Testing a mobile app using my viburnum

Here is a picture of my viburnum mariesii, which has grown some since I posted in May about my battle wrestling her into the ground. The dry weather hasn't helped, but she's doing fine...

I figured it would be as good a subject as any for a test post of the "ShowMe! Photo Blogger" app I just downloaded...

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Football season is here!

Without question the first game of the NFL season gets my juices flowing much more than does opening day of the MLB season. Friends of mine seem to look forward to baseball more—from pitchers and catchers reporting to opening day—I think because it means an end to winter and the arrival of spring. Fair enough. I covered as much back in April.

However, I look forward to football big time. I’m a Giants fan, and they open their new stadium this Sunday, but tonight I will be enthusiastically watching the Vikings-Saints game. It doesn’t matter if it Sunday or who is playing: I’ll watch any two teams play any day of the week.

Now, baseball season is far from over. No, I am not turning my back on the season. I am a Yankee fan after all, and therefore am hoping for (and half expecting) nearly two more months of baseball. My visits to new ballparks, though, are done. I made it to three more this year (Tampa, Florida, and Pittsburgh). I now have been to 31 MLB ballparks, and have seen all but six…

They make moose in other places?

What, another post about New Hampshire moose? Nope, this is a quick one about other places where I’ve seen these critters.

I watched this pair of bull moose relaxing in a field for about 90 minutes one afternoon while in Yellowstone National Park in 1996. I waited for the light to improve, I waited for them to pose a little better, but it stayed sunny and warm, and they just weren't particularly active…

I observed this bull and cow pair meandering in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, in May of 1997. The bull was growing a new set of antlers and ambled near me …

And I recall being in the dining car on the Alaska Railroad in 2003, watching this guy bolting from us. They do move rather quickly when in stride…

No doubt, future travel will present me with opportunities to see more moose. Nonetheless, I still fondly recall those trips to northern New Hampshire, where the main objective to see one was met.

Mad mama moose...and her kids

In past years, it is around this time that I would be pondering a long weekend camping trip to northern New Hampshire, with moose watching of course the prime objective.

With the spotting success of a fully antlered bull discussed in one of my last posts, this post is about the far more frequently observed cow moose. Gangly, odd-looking beasts, I certainly wouldn’t make 400-miles trips to photograph them. Still, they have produced some interesting encounters, including one that gave me quite a scare...

The reader should note that I respect animals and their space, the respect enabled in part because I have always had (even before the advent of digital zooms) sufficient telephoto equipment to lessen the space between me and my subject. Unfortunately, too many others crowd wildlife. I have seen it done to bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and, on one trip to Pittsburg, NH, I saw it done to a moose. Further, like many animals, mother moose are very protective of their young. So, when I …

Tipping and ripping the cap

A belated tip of the cap to this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. I know the NFL and NBA Halls had their 2010 inductions more recently, and an eventual nodding of the helmets to the former may follow. It’s just that a recent conversation prompted this post.

In this era of free agency, the need for players to don one team’s cap over another when their plaque is created seems to be something of a relic, especially when a player has left an indelible mark on multiple teams. Even if the bulk of his career or prime numbers rest mainly with one team, should that team be solely associated with that player when he gave another some great years? Conversely, if, say, a contract or personal quarrel leaves bad blood between a player and the team where his HOF numbers were earned, should that player have the right to select some team where he had less impact?

Admittedly, most inductees do lean to one team or another in terms of career dominance, and Wikipedia, under the "Players with m…

Moose, part deuce

Seeing moose on my first trip to northern New Hampshire didn’t make me think “ok, been there, done that”. No, I wanted to go back. The whole trip was my speed—the camping, the hiking, the fresh air, the scenery in general, the practicing of outdoor photography skills, and, of course those magnificent animals. Aside from the moose, the other things mentioned were doable nearby.

What triggered my fascination with moose, though, escapes me. After seeing so much wildlife on trips through the Rockies, I suppose the bull moose did become something of a checklist item. A common misconception pegged me a “Northern Exposure” fan, but my only Hollywood association with moose is that great scene from “Shoot to Kill”, when Sidney Poitier’s city-dwelling character opens his cabin door and finds one at the entrance. Outdoor and wildlife photography magazines and books certainly featured captivating pictures of these beasts, and I think were prime motivators in that I was eager to replicate some of …

Passing from Maine to Canada

I still have a few adventures with moose to tell, but I want to follow up on my previous post about the dreaded Canadian border crossing. A fear I developed of Customs was erased by a perfectly easy time when returning to the US from a trip to Norway. I figured what had happened to me when crossing from Quebec into Maine was a fluke.

So, in 1997, I took a driving trip through the Canadian Maritimes. My itinerary started with me driving up to Portland, Maine, spending the afternoon there, and then catching a ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, later than evening. I’ll note quickly that I had driven through Portland a few times, but this was my first time wandering the downtown area. Like other smaller cities along the coast, I found Portland thoroughly likable. Anyway, after a nice afternoon I drove to the docks to catch the late night ferry.

Among the first to arrive in the boarding area, my car was at the front of one of several long rows of cars. In front of the cars was the waiting are…

Moose watching too close to the border

I recently posted about my 1993 moose spotting trip in very northern New Hampshire. On a subsequent trip in the mid 1990s, I picked up the book Maine Moose Watcher’s Guide to get some ideas for additional, err, moose watching locales. From Moose Alley outside of Pittsburg, NH, it seemed like the easiest way to get to some of the cited areas was by driving a short distance into Canada, heading a short distance east, and crossing south into Maine. I decided to give it a try.

I had no trouble exiting the country. Crossing back into the country at a small northwestern Maine junction is where things got interesting.

It was a nice day, so I was driving with my moon roof open. As I slowed up to their gate, a Customs agent approached me on the passenger side of the car. I started to roll down the window, but he leaned over and looked down at me through the roof. He simply offered some civility and followed it up with this question: “Are you carrying more than $10,000 in money or possessions?…