Sunday, December 27, 2009

Patriots Win AFC East!

The Patriots were in rare form today as they handed the Jaguars a 35-7 defeat and clinched their 7th AFC East Division Championship in the last 9 seasons.

Both the offense and defense came to play, and the team as a whole seems to finally be performing up to its potential. While some will cite a weak schedule as the main reason for their current success, I think that it’s only a small factor. There are no gimmes in the NFL, and had the Patriots continued their lackluster ways in these last two games, we could still be battling with the Jets for a playoff spot. Don’t forget that this is the same Jaguars team that gave Indy a run for their money just last week.

There’s been a steady uptick in the play on both sides of the ball, and that’s how you want it this time of year. You want to roll into the playoffs with a full head of steam. The keys to playoff victory are execution and desire, regular season records are meaningless.

I’m hoping that Brady and the rest of the starters are in for at least the first half next week against the Texans. Actually, I’d like to see them in until the game is well in hand. I’m of the opinion that nothing good comes from sitting out your star players this late in the season. You can’t tell me that sitting Peyton and allowing the Jets, the Frickin Jets… to break Indy’s streak was a good thing for the team. Old Peyton looked mighty unhappy on the sidelines, and that unhappiness might be a little seed that blossoms into frustration and doubt as the stress of the playoffs looms.

So, good job men. Congratulations on the victory, and thanks for the new hat for my collection. Just don’t be losing focus or letting your foot off the gas anytime soon, there’s still a lot of football ahead.

That is all.

Moss Fan Interaction

Full Game Report

Division Championship Gear

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Tail

It was late on a bitterly cold December night. One of those windy 12 degree New England evenings, the kind we come to know and love by midwinter, but aren’t really ready for when they arrive early. My wife and I had braved the cold to try and wrap up our Christmas shopping. We were both cold and tired on the ride home, but happy none the less, as it seemed we had finished off our pre Christmas checklist and could now coast into the holidays.

I pulled into our driveway, shut the car off, and as I looked down at the ignition to remove the key, I heard and felt a thump, accompanied by both a surprised yelp from my wife, and a plaintive yowl from outside the car. I immediately looked up and saw a pair of great big luminous yellow eyes staring back at me.

We both just sat there for a minute, stunned. There was an animal standing on the hood of the car and staring in the windshield at us. What the heck was it, and why was it so bold? It looked like a raccoon at first, but as our eyes adjusted, we realized it was a good sized cat. A good sized cat that appeared to have just fallen out of the sky…

It cried again and put its paw up on the windshield. It obviously wanted our attention.

I carefully got out of the car, and moved up to the hood. Our new friend responded by coming right over to me and trying to get inside my coat. I usually don’t snuggle on a first date, but this cat was insistent. My wife came around to join me, and the cat moved back and forth between us, prodding us with its head and meowing loudly.

The cat was impressive looking. It was a longhaired brown tabby with a large ruff, similar to our Maine Coon, but under that beautiful coat I could feel that it had no meat on its bones, and the poor thing felt cold. It didn’t take us long to figure out what was needed. My wife stayed with the cat while I went in and got a little kibble and a bowl of water, which the cat dove into with gusto. When it was finished eating, it sat by our door and watched us as we lugged in our packages and started closing up for the night.

Now it was decision time. The cat was obviously sick and emaciated, and it was hella-cold out. The right thing to do was to bring it in, but you have to be careful with sickly strays when you have other pets. We decided to set up a bed and a box in the basement, and call around to all the local Vets and Animal Control in the morning. Hey, maybe we could make someone’s Christmas by reuniting them with their lost pet.

I went back outside and the cat was still there, sitting right by the front door. It came up and rubbed against me, then followed me around to the back of the house. When I opened the back door that leads into our basement, the cat followed me right in with no hesitation. At first it preferred my lap and the inside of my coat to its new bed, so I sat with it tucked against me as my wife filled the box and the bowls. Gradually it ventured to the food and litter box, then curled up on the warm blankets and conked out.

The next morning we took some digital pictures and emailed them to all the Vets offices in a 20 mile radius. We also printed up flyers which we put on every bulletin board and light pole we could find. My wife was tireless in the effort. For the cat’s sake, as well as in the interest of our own pet’s health; we brought it in to our Vet for a complete workup. They were great. Even though they were busy and the holidays were rapidly approaching, they squeezed us in and checked her out. Yes, it was a girl, and after they shaved off some of her matted undercoat, they found that she had been spayed. Blood tests showed that she had been living off of her fat reserves and had a pretty bad urinary tract infection. The Vet felt that between the infection and the malnutrition, she had probably been on her last legs when she gave herself up to us. A full course of antibiotics and lots of TLC were prescribed.

On the plus side, she had tested negative for feLV and FIV, and didn’t appear to have any fleas or ticks, so we’d be able to integrate her into the household a little more without fear. She also appeared to be about a year old, and in otherwise good condition. A well cared for housecat that had fallen on tough times.

Checking out, I was stumped when they asked for a name to go on the cat’s file. When I said “Hopefully, we won’t be keeping her for long”, they just laughed. They know us all to well. My wife suggested that we call her Noelle, seeing as it was Christmas and all, and I quickly agreed. We took her home and set her back up in her basement nest, but this time we left the door open so that she could come up if she liked. The next few days she stayed put in the basement, mostly sleeping. She would get up for her food, and readily allowed me to pill her twice a day, but that was it. This was one sick and exhausted cat.

Our big old Maine Coon, Ted, came down to investigate once or twice during those first few days, but he kept his distance, and he didn’t appear all too happy about this new development. He kept going to the basement stairs and looking back at us, as if to say “Don’t you guys realize that there’s a stranger down there?” No sir, he didn’t like it one bit.

As she started to feel better, Noelle began to investigate her new surroundings. Her first move was to the laundry room, where we’d find her either sleeping on top of the dryer, or nestled in a basket of clothes. When one of our other cats would come down, she’d hop up into the rafters above the washer and dryer. I think her little adventure in the wild had heightened her survival instincts, and she wasn’t taking any chances. It was priceless to watch, they’d tip toe around, checking her bed out, even going into the laundry room, and all the while she was watching them silently from her lofty perch. Ted reminded me of John Belushi in the scene from Animal House, where he’s sneaking across the campus at night. All exaggerated moves that wouldn’t fool a blind man.

Right after Christmas, she started venturing upstairs, and that’s when the real fun began. We like to refer to those times as the “Stair Wars” period. One of the established “guests” always seemed to be stationed by the stairs, like little cat sentries. Not a problem for Miss Noelle, she’s one tough chick who knows how to get what she wants. Her ultimate weapon is a rising howl that seems to strike fear in the hearts of the others. She’d creep slowly up until she was face to face with one of them, and then just stare them down for a while. The minute they’d flinch, she’d let out that blood curdling howl and bolt right for them. They would always panic and turn tail, not even Teddy the Lion Hearted could withstand her fury.

It didn’t take her long to stake out her territory, and of all places it was under the Christmas tree. She loves sleeping on the tree skirt, especially when the tree lights are on, and she has no end of fun climbing up into the lower branches and reaching through to bat at the ornaments. Very fitting behavior for a Christmas cat, I’d say.

Meanwhile, my wife and I would freeze every time the phone rang that holiday season. We’d passed the point of no return, so to speak. As well intentioned as we were, we were really starting to get attached to Noelle. The thought of giving her up was a real downer.

It turned out that we were worrying for no reason. As we approach another Christmas, Noelle, the cat that magically dropped out of the sky and into our lives, is still with us. No one ever claimed her, much to our relief, and we actually have a theory about where she may have come from. About two or three weeks before we found her, there was an estate sale around the corner from us. Someone had passed and the relatives were in from out of town to settle things up. At one point there were people lined up down the street for a chance to get in, everyone loves a bargain. We think she may have been part of the household and gotten out during all the hubbub, only to be forgotten. We’ll never know for sure, we’re just glad she found us.

Of course, Noelle has taken up residence under the tree again this Christmas. She loves to lay there amongst all the presents and stare at the lights. I think it’s a comforting thing for her, the symbol of a new warm and loving home. There’s still a little tension between her and Ted, but things have mellowed a bit. We lost our two oldest cats this year. Zoë was 16, and little Phoebe was 15. Phoebe left us just a few weeks ago, and the dynamic in the house has changed dramatically since then. Little Peep was Ted’s running mate. She was the Yin to his Yang, and they were certainly an odd couple; Ted, the big 18 lb Coon, and Phoebe, the little 5 lb Peep. He’s been kind of lost without her, and it’s awful hard for him to guard against “Noelle encroachment” all by himself. I think he’s just resigned himself to being pestered. Get used to it Ted, women can be very bossy.

So, that’s my little Christmas tail, and now it’s time for me to wrap this up and get wrapping. I leave you with this; if fate puts you in a position to help someone out this holiday season, whether it’s a fellow human or a stray animal, take a chance. You won’t regret it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Special Decking The Halls Edition

The last couple of weeks I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my free time either decking the halls, or aimlessly wandering through malls. Neither activity ranks very highly on the old berry funometer, but it has given me a lot of time to think (uh-oh…), and now it’s time to share those thoughts with you, if only to exorcise them from my brain. So, without further ado, I bring you a Special Decking The Halls Edition of Not Such Deep Thoughts:

Come on Randy, you better watch out. Santa knows that you’ve been dogging it, and pouting, and if things keep going like they’ve been going, I see a lump of coal in your future. On the other hand, were you to start hustling and playing through to the whistle, you just might be spending this holiday season with visions of a shiny new ring dancing in your head. From here on in, try thinking of each catch as a layaway payment towards the big bling.

Every time I go up in the attic, I smash my head on something. Get the tree, smash my head. Look for ornaments, smash my head. Bloody gashes on my dome are not a good look for me.

The Sox have given us an early present with the acquisition of Lackey and Cameron. Adrian Gonzalez would be the capper Theo, but please don’t go giving up Ellsbury to make it happen. Dump Buchholz if you want, but not Ellsbury.

Why on God’s green earth are the plugs on the pre-strung lights that are attached to our tree labeled C8, C12, C26 and G2, and why are the labels on 3 of the 4 marked with different colored dots? There are only 2 outlets on the main cord, and neither one is labeled or colored. I really wish I could find those directions…

I usually like Target’s holiday commercials. In previous years they’ve always been fast paced, colorful and set to infectious music. This year’s campaign is just depressing. I know they’re trying to pound home the “good deals in a bad economy” theme, but they just feel uncomfortable. I can’t help thinking that the families are going to erupt into a knock down drag out domestic dispute at any moment. “You bought a flat panel TV? I thought we discussed overspending” and “You spent too much, I’m really not that into you” are not the stuff of holiday memories, they're just creepy and depressing. Is it how Christmas plays out in a lot of families? Yes, but who wants to be reminded of that.

And speaking of bad holiday commercials, how about that strange one for the Kindle? You know the one; it has a woman who morphs from a mustachioed magician to Daniel Boone firing a musket, and its set to a sickly sweet song called “Fly me away”. The woman in the commercial is actually an Amazon contest winner who wrote the jingle herself, and as impressive as that is, it just doesn’t seem to fit the product to me. I get the whole “Kindle can bring you a gazillion different books and fly your mind away to wherever you want to go” thing, very artsy-fartsy, but the first few times I saw it I honestly thought it was going to be an ad for Southwest or Jet Blue. Besides, the Kindle is a sexy device; you need to show it off. You see it for about 2 seconds at the beginning of the commercial, then nothing but unrelated fluff for the rest of the spot. The money would have been better spent on a close up of the device as it changed screens between countless newspapers, magazines and books. Simple and to the point.

The best Christmas album ever made is Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. It’s a must have for your collection. Don’t just dismiss it as a silly cartoon soundtrack, the man was a genius. The album is comprised of full versions of those all too familiar snippets from the cartoon, and his piano work floats and soars through each track against a backdrop of incredible jazz bass and percussion. The recording quality is fantastic, to boot. When I listen to it, it feels as if each note reaches in and gently massages the stress centers of my brain.

Malls suck during the holidays. They’re hot and crowded, the parking lots are like a demolition derby, and the food courts are like a middle school mixer.

I’m off now until the start of the New Year, and there’s nothing like it. It allows me to slow the pace down and actually enjoy the holidays. I’d been slogging my way towards this break like a Foreign Legionnaire slowly making his way towards an oasis, sand sucking at my feet with every step, a prayer on my lips that it was not a mirage I was seeing on the horizon. This past year has not been a memorable one on a lot of fronts, and now that I’ve finally made it to the finish, it feels like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. As a great man, and one of my role models growing up, once said; “Nothin to do but eat and sleep… and live off the fat of the land. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.”

If you’re listening Santa, all I want for Christmas this year is some quality family time and rest. Lots and lots of rest.

That is all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Say it ain’t so, Pat….

Our beloved mascot Pat Patriot was arrested in a prostitution sting this Friday in Rhode Island.

He was initially charged with one count of solicitation. A second charge of hindering a police investigation was added when he couldn’t remove his gloves for finger printing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Tale Of Two Teams

Looks like I spoke too soon last week when I said that the Pats had a virtual lock on the AFC East. I expected this to be a rocky season, but come on. Brady’s getting hammered, the tight ends are missing in action, and as inexperienced as the secondary is, they can’t take all the blame on defense. Coverage becomes really difficult when the opposing QB has all day in the pocket.

It’s been a tale of two teams all season. There’s the first half (quarter?) Pats, that come out firing on all cylinders, and then there’s the second half Pats, who sputter and stall, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory all too often. Why are they breaking down so consistently? Maybe the goings on this week in Foxboro gives us a clue.

Four players were sent home for arriving late for practice on Wednesday. Although it was a nasty morning, Bill wasn’t taking any excuses and he sent them packing. That the coach would send Moss and Thomas home at a time when he needs them most says a lot. It says that he needs their attention more than they need practice. They have the ability; they just don’t have the drive.

I’m in awe of Moss and his abilities most of the time, but the trailing off on routes stuff just ticks me off, and maybe it ticks Bill off a little also. I know Adalius should be a force to reckon with, but this year he’s not. Belichick has already sat him out with no apparent injuries, and his sound bites are those of an unhappy man.

Now I’m not saying these guys are the main problem with this team, but I am saying they are symptomatic of the bigger picture. You can have all the talent in the world on your team, but it won’t matter a bit unless you are a team, and the ’09 Patriots are not.

Are they unhappy with the coaching? Maybe. This team needs an offensive coordinator desperately. They’re just too predictable, and they fail to make the adjustments needed as the game progresses. There’s also been some pretty strange play calling and a clear lack of communication amongst the coaching staff and the team, evidenced by the delay of game penalties, unnecessary time outs, punt team coming on even though Belichick is waving the offense to stay out there… I smell confusion in the ranks.

Are they lost without a clear leader amongst them? Maybe. A lot of the on field leadership left with Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour and Harrison, and no one seems to be stepping up to fill those shoes.

They clearly needed a slap to wake them up, hell, they need an epiphany. Is it too late? No, but it will be soon. A team can gain a lot of momentum sweeping out, even against inferior teams. It’s a confidence builder and it gets a team rolling downhill into the playoffs.

Would they go far we’re they to make it? Yes, but only if they get that team thing going. The most memorable image for me of Super Bowl 36 will always be the way they came out onto the field en masse, and then stood huddled together on the sideline, hopping and chanting. You just knew they we’re there to kick some ass, and they did.

Come on guys, how about a little of that ass kicking attitude this Sunday? I know you’ve got it in you.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Verizon FiOS Set Top Box Issues

Firmware download hoses up HDMI port

Verizon pushed down a firmware upgrade for their set top boxes on December 1st, and for the last week anytime you hit the guide function you were forced to see a message touting the new interactive services that the upgrade was enabling. You then needed to hit the OK key to proceed to the program guide, which was a pain, but a relatively small pain compared to the real problems that the upgrade caused for me.

Since the upgrade, my Motorola HD QIP 7000 set top box power cycles constantly when I try to shut it off. It wouldn’t be so bad if the box wasn’t in the bedroom, but it is.

The first night I noticed it, I had fallen asleep with the TV's sleep timer on, only to be awakened by a “Click”. At first I thought it was the TV turning off at the predetermined time, but it kept happening. Click, pause, Click, pause, Click, pause, over and over and over. It was very annoying.

I finally got up, flipped on the lights, and watched as the box first turned on, Click, then cycled through a couple of error code screens (8888 followed by ----), briefly showed the channel display, then… Click, shut itself off, only to repeat the process in an endless cycle. I had to unplug the darn thing so that I could finally get some sleep.

Next day I called Verizon and as soon as I mentioned the 8888/---- error codes, they knew what the problem was. Seems the new firmware update they’re so proud of breaks the HDMI port. When the QIP 7000 is connected via HDMI cable to a TV, and the TV is switched off, the box takes leave of its senses. Everything is fine as long as the TV is on, but once you shut it off, the box starts cycling. Sure enough, when I unplugged the HDMI cable from the TV, the box fell silent.

The good news is, they know what the problem is.

The bad news is, they don’t have a fix for it yet.

Until they do, you need to switch over to a set of component cables. You can also use coax or composite cables, but only component and HDMI give you a Hi Def signal on these boxes. The tech support person apologized for the inconvenience and promised to overnight me a set of composite cables. He also said that once the problem was fixed and I switched back to HDMI, I could hang on to the component cables, compliments of Verizon. Wowzers, such a deal…

Before I hung up, I asked how they were going to notify me when the problem was fixed. I got put on hold for a minute, and when the tech returned he informed me that I wouldn’t, I should just check and see if the HDMI cable works every once in a while. Nice.

I should mention that I haven’t had any problems with my HD DVR QIP 7216 downstairs; it works fine, HDMI connection and all. This problem seems to be strictly limited to the HD QIP 7000 model, although there’s also a possibility that the problem is with specific types of TV’s. I’ve got the 7000 connected to a 1 year old Vizio and the 7216 connected to a 3 year old Samsung. HDMI connectors and cables are required to be backwards compatible between versions, and the tech never asked me what type of TV I had, so it’s probably not an issue, but you never know. If I get ambitious maybe I’ll try swapping the boxes, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

As soon as the new set of component cables arrived I hooked them up, and the problem is now solved. No more power cycling, and I actually think the picture is a little bit better than it was with the HDMI cable.

How is that possible? Well, it’s hard to explain, but the quality of the picture is determined in large part by how the components (TV and cable box) process the signal being received. There’s a great write up here on the eacoustics forum that explains it better than I can. The quality of the cables also factors in, and the component cables I received today appear to be of much better quality than the HDMI cable they originally gave me.

By the way, while I was waiting impatiently for the arrival of my new component cables, I was unplugging the HDMI cable before I turned things off. It’s a better temporary solution than unplugging the set top box. If you leave the box powered down you’ll not only miss the guide updates, you’ll also miss the fix, when and if they ever send it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Theo Gets Scutaro, Kraft Getting Chickens

The Sox continued their time honored holiday tradition of buying a new short stop every season with the acquisition of Marco Scutaro. When reached for comment, Theo said his long term goal is to set a Major League record for most players on the payroll that play for other teams and most players at a single position during a given GM’s tenure.

I think he’s already got both of them in the bag. Way to go, Theo!

In other Boston sports news, Robert Kraft has applied for a permit to raise chickens. In a statement to the press, Mr. Kraft said:

"Funding for the Stadium Footbridge has been removed from the stimulus package, and we see this as an innovative way to fund the project. For years my friends have been telling me about the wonderful times they have at this little chicken ranch in Nevada, so I figured why not open one up here. I’m sure the money saved on the flights will be spent on eggs and such. We’ve even been toying with the idea of painting little Pats helmets on the eggs. Very unique. Our slogan will be “Brown Eggs Are Local Eggs, And Local Eggs Are Pats.” I made that up."

And so did I. All kidding aside, although the Sox do seem to be a bit obsessed about finding the “right” shortstop, Scutaro may turn out to be a good acquisition. He’s definitely an offensive upgrade at short, and he really flashed some leather last year, but I liked having Gonzo back. He was a proven commodity from a defensive standpoint, and contrary to peoples fears, he turned out to be no slouch at the plate, either. All in all, I’d rather see them concentrating their efforts on resigning Bay.

As for Mr. Kraft and his chickens, whatever that man wants to do is all right with me. He’s a great guy and he’s done so much for both the franchise and New England in general, that I couldn’t find it in my heart to begrudge him over a few chickens. If he wanted to start an Alpaca farm, I’d be first in line for a big fuzzy hat and matching sweater. They’d be awesome for those late December games…

And speaking of games, don’t be jumping ship on our Pats just yet. I think we all tend to forget that this was a Brady-less team last year, and there’s going to be some fits and starts as they all readjust. Are they a consistent “top tier team”? Of course not, did you really expect them to be? Can they pull it together and close out the season on a high note? Yes, and that would be more than I expected of them. Hey, I’ve watched some pretty bad football over the years, and I’ll tell you this; a team that’s 7-4 with 5 games to go, and a virtual lock on the AFC East, is worth watching.

That is all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Black Friday!

One of the best things about the Thanksgiving holiday for me is Black Friday, but not for the reasons you’d think.

I love it because it’s one of the few days each year when we have the day off and nothing pressing on our agendas. The day is usually ours to squander as we see fit, and that is a very rare commodity these days.

Our ideal Black Friday involves sleeping in, followed by lounging in our PJ’s, consuming mass quantities of coffee, and pondering the eternal question; “Is it too early to start on those leftover desserts?” The answer, my friends, is that it’s never too early.

What I don’t like about Black Friday is fighting the crowds at the malls and the big box stores in search of bargains. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. Although there are some great bargains out there, the really good ones (like $179 laptops) are always in short supply, and you need to be in line on Thanksgiving Day just to be a contender when the store opens on Friday. No thanks.

It’s not worth it to me to miss out on Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family and the annual after Thanksgiving slouch fest, just to get a good deal on some material item. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can afford to pass up any bargains, it’s just that we’ve found out that: A) The downtime is more important to us, and B) A lot of the deals are available online.

Last year we were in need of some Apple products for the holidays, so I thought I'd check out their Black Friday sale and maybe save a little coin. Apple loves to shroud their events in secrecy, and this one was no different. They sent out an email a few days before the holiday that said to check out their website on Friday morning for great deals, so when we awoke, fashionably late, we got on line and found that there was indeed a substantial savings on quite a few items.

Being as it was already late, I called our local Apple retail store to see if the lines were out the door. I found out that they weren’t, but I also found out that the Apple store won't give you a corporate discount along with the Black Friday sale price. That was a bit of a bummer, but the sale prices were still good enough to make us want to saddle up and head down there. That’s when the very helpful sales associate suggested that we log in to the Apple site through our discount program and see if we could get our discount and the sale price that way.

Guess what? We could!

I should have tried to purchase it online right from the get go, but I had some preconceived notion that the best deals could only be had in person. Boy, was I wrong. We ended up getting some great deals, plus the shipping was free. Major items coming directly from Apple (like Macs and iPods) arrive very quickly, usually in just 2-3 days, even if they need to be engraved. By the way, my iPod has “Stayed home on Black Friday and still got this cheaper than you!” on the back.

So, it seems that in this weakened economy Cyber Monday has now become Cyber Weekend for most online merchants, and that’s good with me. Don’t spread it around too much though, I still like to see those shots on the news of the people in line outside of the malls, wrapped up in parkas and trash bags, waiting for the hunt to begin. Now that’s entertainment.

Ooh, gotta go. The news is coming on again!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pats Whomp Jets 31-14!

Rex and Sanchise cry all the way home. Film at 11.

Full game recap here on BDC.

Problems Creating Clips In Google Reader

Clips are little “boxes of info” you can create in Google Reader that neatly display your most recent news feeds on your website, blog or Facebook page. You select the feed folder you want to display the content of, click “create clip”, and then customize it to your liking. When you’re satisfied with the look and content, you simply copy the HTML code Reader has created for you and embed it on your web page. The result is a neat little box containing the “x” most recent posts from any given feed. You can see the results over in my right hand border (Tech News, Patriots News, etc.).

Recently I started having problems creating clips. I’d click on create a clip, and nothing would happen except for an “errors on page” message at the bottom of my Explorer window. What’s supposed to happen is that Reader pops a small window that allows you to configure your clip. This was extremely frustrating for me, as I had a clip that had stopped updating. It either contained some bad code, or the source of the feed had stopped sending updates, and I wanted to replace it. There’s not much entertainment value for my readers when the same 5 headlines have been in my Celtics News clip for close to a month.

I did some searching through the Google Reader help files and came up empty, although I did find that people were having a similar issue with the “email a link” function, which is part of the same tool set as “create a clip”. The answer there was to create an exception for Google in your pop up blocker settings, and after reading it, the light went on inside my head.

I remembered that there had been quite a few security fixes pushed down for Explorer recently, and I also remembered that links in my received Gmail documents had started requiring me to “temporarily allow pop ups” too work. Hmmm, a pattern perhaps?


I went into pop up blocker settings, added Google to my allowed sites, and Viola… create a clip was working again!

The screen shot above shows my blocker settings now. To access the settings window, go to “Tools”, “Pop up blocker”, “Pop up blocker settings”, then add the address

As you can see in the screen shot (click to enlarge) this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this. You can also add wildcards as I did with Verizon. Some of their pages use www22 instead of plain old www, tricky devils, so I entered *

So, my Celtics news clip is working again, I’m happy, and maybe I’ve just made you happy too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gigaware In-line Control With HD Radio For iPhone

As soon as I pull the trigger on the Griffin Navigate I talked about in the previous post, I find this: the Gigaware In-line Control with HD radio for iPhone. It allows remote control of your iPhone or Touch, and when used in conjunction with the Gigaware HD Radio app it doubles as an HD tuner.

Sounds great in theory, but I’m cool with the Navigate for now. The Gigaware costs a whopping $79.99 and it doesn’t have an LCD screen like the lower priced Navigate. The app only works on devices running iPhone OS 3 to boot, and I still haven’t made that jump on my Touch. That also means that it wouldn’t work with my 3rd gen Nano, and that’s the device I like to carry around when I’m traveling light. Plus the few user reviews available list poor HD reception and noise distortion as major issues.

So, as nice as it would be to have HD Radio on my iPod, this isn’t the device for me, at least not yet. I’ll wait ‘til the reviews and the price get better.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

To Add An FM Tuner, Or Not To Add An FM Tuner…

That is the question.

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to wait, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and add one now?

The device I speaketh of is my iPod Touch, and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that I suffer is that when I’m out and about, like today, and the Pats (insert your favorite team here) are on, I need to carry my little micro AM/FM radio with me. Apple didn’t see fit to bestow upon my Touch an FM tuner, so I have little choice in the matter. They added one to the latest generation Nano and iPhone, but sadly, not to the Touch.

Luckily, there’s an FM tuner that works with the Touch, iPhone and 3rd gen and up Nanos, The Griffin Navigate. It’s a slick little inline remote with an OLED screen, and it doubles as an FM tuner. It can also be used with Griffin’s free iFM Radio Browser app that will look up all the available stations in your area and auto program them into your Touch or iPhone. Pretty cool!

Ay, but here’s the rub; 9to5Mac and other sources are reporting that there’s a dormant chip in the 3rd gen Touch, that when activated will allow both Wireless N and FM receive and transmit. Hmmm, sounds a little like their Bluetooth chip that an upgrade, for a price, to OS 3 gave greater functionality to. It’s been hypothesized that Apple may unveil this little on board extra as soon as this January.

So, is it worth shelling out 50 bucks for FM tuner functionality today, when the device may be unnecessary in a couple of months?

For me, yes. I have a 2nd gen Touch and a 3rd gen Nano. The Navigate works with both devices and neither has the dormant onboard capability, but if you own a new 3rd gen Touch, nuh-uh. Wait awhile, and you may save yourself some money. 50 bucks will buy you a pretty decent dinner, or a couple of my T-shirts!

By the way, the Patriots bested those knaves from Miami today, and I would have missed our plucky knight's great moment of victory, were it not for the lowly FM broadcast.

What say you now, Master Porter?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Windows 7

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re probably aware that Microsoft has released a new version of their operating system, Windows 7. According to early reports it’s a vast improvement over their Vista experiment, and it’s generating quite the buzz. Before you run out and buy a copy though, you should read this very comprehensive article on CNNTech, after you've read this one, of course.

The long and short of it is, it’s a cakewalk to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, but a bit more difficult to upgrade from XP.

With XP you'll need to back up all of your files, wipe the system, and then reload with 7. Microsoft has an Easy-Transfer Tool to help you, but before you make the move you need to download and run Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor. It will check out your system and peripherals to see if they’re compatible with the new operating system. Be sure to have ALL of your peripherals plugged in and powered up before you scan your system (flash drives and memory cards included), as the software will query the devices and advise you of their compatibility. This is very important, as it’s good to know if you’ll still be able to use your printers, etc., before you drop any coin on 7.

My take is this; if you’ve got a new system that came with Vista, then it’s worth upgrading. If you’ve just bought a new system with a legacy copy of XP on it, it’s probably worth upgrading, providing the system and peripherals pass the upgrade tool’s sniff test. If you’re running XP on an older system, don’t even think about it. Wait until your next system swap out and get a machine that has it preloaded.

Remember, there are no magic bullets in life, or computing. A new operating system will not fix what’s wrong with your computer if it’s old, tired and slow. From the perspective of changing technologies, the average lifespan of a desktop is 3 to 5 years. I’m not saying you need to throw your PC away every 3 to 5 years, but I would not recommend tricking out a system of that vintage with the latest and greatest OS. Wipe it, add some memory and load a fresh copy of whatever OS came with it, and you’ll have a very serviceable PC that will last you until you have some sort of catastrophic hardware failure.

Getting back to Windows 7, there’s also the question of what version to buy. I found a very good article on the differences between the versions here on the digital inspiration site. As with both XP and Vista before it, you’ll probably want to go with the Windows 7 Professional edition if you use your PC for anything more than email and browsing. Professional also has an XP mode, that will allow you to run a virtual copy of XP for apps you have that won’t run on 7. The good thing is, with 7 you’re able to upgrade any version, for a small fee, if you find out later you need more functionality.

And speaking of fees, if you’re buying a copy of 7 for a computer you already have, you’re eligible for the upgrade pricing as long as you already own a genuine version of Windows 2000, XP or Vista. You’ll save a c-note over the full version price, and that ain’t bad.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A longing for one more day

When we lose someone we love it seems that time stands still. What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch.

We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Guess We Won’t Be Kissing Rex Ryan’s Rings Anytime Soon


The Pats broke a combined 12 NFL and team records yesterday as they pounded the Titans 59-0. Brady looked great, as did the whole team, and it looks like Bill is back in the groove on the game planning front. A flea flicker during a snowstorm? Beautiful.

Full game coverage here on BDC.

The only thing better than watching the Pats beat up on the Titans yesterday, was watching the Jets lose their 3rd straight. Sanchez is looking like the rookie he is, and Rex Ryan is just looking… overweight.

Welcome back to earth, balloon man. You should never lose sight of the fact that they called your predecessor Man-genius, right up until they ran him out of town.

That is all.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bruschi In The Oct. Issue Of Boston Common

There’s a very good Tedy Bruschi interview in this month’s Boston Common Magazine that was done just before he announced his retirement. Interesting reading, and according to my wife, a great photo shoot to boot.

Well done, as always, Ms. O’Leary.

The Sunday Of My Discontent

Last Sunday started off great. It was a beautiful crisp fall morning, and after a lazy breakfast, a few errands, and some finishing touches on the yard work that I had started on Saturday, I was in my chair with a sammich just in time for the first pitch of game 3 of the Sox/Angels series. Things looked encouraging as the game progressed, and I had high hopes that the Sox would force a game 4. The boys were home and taking care of business, the Pats weren’t starting til 4pm., and I was in for one of those delicious October Sundays of baseball, football and food. Ah, heaven. Or so I thought...

We had to be on the road by 3:30-ish to attend a Pat’s game/fantasy basketball draft party, and as the time approached I was feeling pretty good about leaving. Pap was in, and there were 2 outs in the ninth. What could go wrong?

Well, you know what happened next. By the time I had shut off the tube and transitioned to my vehicle, things were bad and getting worse. The Sox season ended while I was truckin’ along the highway. Thank God little Tommy Cruise had the Zakim shut down for filming, or I might have been tempted to take a fast, hard right after that last out.

Anyways, we get to the party, and although everyone is a little down to start with, the Pats are on and things are looking pretty good out in Denver. Spirits lightened as the food and drink flowed, and we all started jabbering about our upcoming draft. Once again, you know what happened next.

All pretense of an early start (and finish) to our draft went out the window as the game tightened in the second half. We were glued to the set(s), and the crowd roared and groaned with every play. As the Broncos drove down for their winning field goal in overtime, I started to feel a little sick. Were we going to see another home town team let a sure win slip away?


So, my perfect Sunday imploded, at least from a hometown team point of view. I still had the beautiful morning, nothing could take that away, and our fantasy draft couldn't have gone any better, but in between, now that’s another story. I was bitterly disappointed.

After all these years of fandom, all the ups and downs, I’ve become a little thick skinned, and I’m able to shrug off the bad times pretty quickly, but I still can’t divorce myself from it completely. I wish I could, but there’s some primal force deep down inside of me that will not be denied. When it’s happening, it makes me crazy. When it’s over, I go into ostrich mode. Monday I busied myself with the business of winterizing, and stayed totally incommunicado until supper time. No sports talk radio, no ESPN, no phone calls. Just me, my iPod and the storm windows. Occupational therapy, if you will.

As the week went on, I started to feel better about things and slowly pulled my head from the sand. Seeing the Jets lose Monday night helped a great deal, as did tweaking my kick butt fantasy basketball lineup. Dwayne Wade, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd and Nene, sweet! Anyways, as I march into the new weekend I have a much better attitude, and the following thoughts in my head:

The Sox were cooked, and I’m glad they got knocked out early. The Angels were the better team this year, they earned it, and had the series gone on and ended poorly late on a weeknight, I would have been even more upset. West Coast playoff games are the pits.

Can the Sox pull it together for next year? We’ll find out soon enough. The equipment truck leaves for Fort Myers in less than 4 months, so things will start poppin’ the minute the playoffs are over. Not much time between seasons when you factor in the hubbub of the holidays.

Speaking of Fort Myers, I gotta start getting the place ready. The front office will be down early and maybe I can pick up a long term rental. Now there’s a thought!

I’m confident that the Pats will take the AFC East. Above all, they need to be consistent. Flashes of greatness in a sea of mediocrity won’t cut it in this conference. Remember last year when 11-5 wasn’t good enough?

They really need to be on the mark this week against the Titans. It’s easy to say the right things but mentally dismiss a losing team, and losing teams can be dangerous. You don’t have to look any further than Miami beating the Jets in a shootout last week for the proof.

I’m also looking forward to the start of the NBA season, both to see the Celts back in action, and to kick butt in my fantasy league!

So go Pats, go Celts, go Jammers… and sleep tight, Sox.

That is all.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not Such Deep Thoughts, Part V

Once again, I’ve been too swamped to post much of anything lately, and all kinds of random thoughts are beginning to back up in my head. Time to purge all the temporary files and get this system cleaned up.

I really dig the new 5th gen Nano. The larger screen, video camera, FM tuner, microphone and pedometer are all cool additions, plus its battery life has been improved. Great job, Apple. Think you could find it in your heart of hearts to add a built in microphone to the Touch? And maybe an FM tuner while your at it? Oh yeah, and figure out why OS 3 turns it into a battery hog? Please?

Oops, my bad. I just realized that Apple can’t add a microphone to the touch. What with Wi-Fi on board, and apps like skype available, adding a microphone to the Touch would make it an iPhone without the need for an expensive multiyear contract with a mediocre carrier, and that just wouldn’t fit their plan. Sorry Apple, what was I thinking? I’d still like you to fix the Touch/OS 3 problems, though.

It’s way too soon to be hitting the Patriots panic button yet. Way too soon. Brady will find his rhythm, and the offense will get in sync. A year is a long time to be out of the game. Plus, the defense is only giving up 16-17 points a game, and that’s way better then I expected from them this early in the season, especially with Mayo out on top of everything else. Being 1 and 1 isn’t such a bad start, all things considered. I’ll give them a couple more outings before I let my hand creep any closer to the button.

Speaking of the Patriots, I never told you who the ex Patriot with the cool jazz club was. It’s Antwan Harris, and he owns an establishment called Zydeco Downton in Raleigh, North Carolina. I never got a chance to visit, as my work kept me tied up right until game time on Monday night, but there’s a great Patriots fan club that meets there on game days, the New England Patriots Fans of NC, and the food and music sound pretty good too! There’s also another group I found called CAP (The Capital Area Patriots), that meets at the Backyard Bistro in Raleigh for the games. The Bistro also hosts the Tom O’Brien radio broadcasts, and Red Sox Nation events. Amazing what you can find. I just love the interwebs!

Thanks for the invites guys, and I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it. Really sorry. I ended up hitting the “Sports Bar” next to my hotel, and that was a less than satisfying experience. When I walked in, all 4 people stopped talking and looked up at me with a “who the heck is this” look on their faces. Great TV’s, but no sound, ‘cause the regs were jiving to the jukebox as they chain smoked and ruminated on how there couldn’t be no lez-be-yuns in their wedding party. No suh. Wont right. We’s pretty religious. All I could think of was banjo music, so I just kept my mouth shut and beat a hasty retreat, after I scarfed a quick burger and fries. A mans gotta eat.

Speaking of eating, grits suck. Especially when you think you’re about to dive into a big bowl of oatmeal.

I’m really liking the new WBCN HD stations, especially Free Form BCN (HD3 100.7-3). It’s a reincarnation of BCN in its heyday, and you’re liable to hear anything. If you don’t have HD radio, you can listen online, or stream them on your smaaht phone.

I’m also warming up to the new sports station, 98.5 The Sports Hub. The only problem is, I really want to hear sports talk in the morning after a big game, and although I’ve got nothing against Toucher and Rich, it ain’t sports talk. Come on guys, cut back on the drunken sports fan interviews and give me the real thing. I know you can do it. I still can’t listen to those other chuckleheads in the morning, even though they seem to have dialed it back a notch since you’ve come along, and I need my fix.

There’s not many things that depress me as much as closing down our pool for the season. It feels like I just opened the darned thing, but the nights have gotten way to cold for a pool without a heater, and the leaves are beginning their annual leap to freedom, which means it’s a constant battle to keep it clean. So long old bud, parting is such sweet sorrow. Memories of floating on a raft in the dappled sunlight, as Castiglione serenades me with the game call, will have to hold me til next May.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pats Pull Out A Squeaker!

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. After playing a very choppy game, the Pats rallied to score twice in the last few minutes of the game, pulling out a 25-24 win over the Bills.

The improbable wins are back!

Check out Mike Reiss’s blog over on the new ESPN Boston site for a great breakdown of the game.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Patriots Football?

The long wait is almost over. The Pats open their season against the Bills on Monday Night Football tomorrow, and I’m just wishing the time away.

It’s been a year since we saw Tom Brady go down in that first game, a brutal year.

First, we worried about how badly Brady was injured, and then we worried about whether Cassel could cut it after a less than impressive preseason. Although he did well, it was another crushing blow to see them left out of the playoffs while teams with far inferior records played on.

Added to all this was the off season anxiety brought on by all the “will he be ready for next season” talk in the media. I’ll tell you what; I’m more than ready to get this show on the road.

Brady has looked pretty good in the preseason, but it just isn’t the same as seeing him on the field for a full 4 quarters, in a game that actually means something, and I won’t feel comfortable until they get this first game under their belts. I’m confident that this year’s team is better than the 2007, 18 and 1 team, as long as everyone is, and stays, healthy.

Normally I’d be watching a game like this at home in my lucky chair, surrounded by family, friends and pets, with steaks on the grill and every TV in the house tuned to ESPN, but the Football Gods have conspired against me and I’m on the road. I was really bummed about it at first, but then I had a brain storm!

I Googled Patriot Fan Clubs and found that there’s not one, but two where I am, one of which is at a sports bar owned by a former Patriot, and the other is run by a very nice person originally from Malden. If all goes well, i.e. my Monday at work doesn’t run too late and I hit the wall, I’m going to try and visit both, with camera in tow, and start a new feature: “Places to watch the Pats while traveling”.

So send me some good energy vibes, as it’s already been a long and arduous trip. My flight was overbooked, and then they had to swap planes due to mechanical difficulties. Once we finally got aboard, one of the passengers realized that she had left her purse and baby bag in the departure area, so we waited for someone to run them out to the tarmac. A happy ending ensued for the young mother, but then we taxied forever, as Logan was down to just one runway for both arrivals and departures (A very scary thought!).

I’m finally here and unpacked though, and ravenously hungry, so I’m off to forage for food. Hopefully I’ll have some pics later in the week of a famous member of Patriot Nation. Think blocked field goal, lateral and touchdown. A "Well Done" to the first reader that gets it.

Hey, what do you want for nothing? A rrrrrubber biscuit?

Go Pats!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Go West, Young Man.

Although the Seymour trade caught me by surprise, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. I’m not going to bore you with the old “In Bill We Trust” spiel, but I am gonna talk about Bill.

The contrast between his press conferences, regarding both Bruschi’s retirement and Seymour’s trade, says everything you need to know about this deal. Earlier in the week, the man was almost moved to tears talking about Ted. He even called him the perfect player. When he spoke yesterday about the Seymour deal, he was back to form, thanking Richard for his service to the team and wishing him well, in his old familiar monotone.

Here’s the thing; Bill values hard work, constant effort, and loyalty much more than talent. Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, those are the kind of guys he wants to fill his roster with. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it came out that he has a stash of their DNA, and one of his henchmen has been working feverishly to clone them.

He cut Seymour loose because he didn’t feel he was giving it his all, and he needed to free up cap space for players that are. Simple as that. Will the team miss him? Yes, but think how much harder a guy like Vince Wilfork will work if some of that freed up money comes his way.

It’s no fluke that we have so many players that were marginal, or on the downside of their careers, before coming here to the Belichick Finishing School. Hard work and determination is what it takes to be a Belichick era Patriot, and that’s the way it should be, both in football and in life.

Wouldn’t we all be better served to follow his lead?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Busy Day In Patriot Nation

The Pats waived Kevin O’Connell, and Tedy Bruschi announced his retirement.

I kinda saw the O’Connell thing coming, but I was totally stunned by the Bruschi news. I figured he'd play out this year as a role player and mentor, and retire at the end of the season.

What a horrible note to end the weekend on.

To affect the quality of the day...

"It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day – that is the highest of arts."

Henry David Thoreau

The crowds that lined the streets and overpasses to pay their respect as Senator Kennedy's hearse passed by, the mind boggling lines of people who waited patiently to give their condolences to his family as he lay in state, all seemed to have a story to tell of how the Senator had helped either themselves, or someone dear to them.

Ted Kennedy affected the quality of the day for many people, and the quality of their lives as well. He changed lives, and he changed the way many look at life.

By Thoreau's standard, he was truly an artist of the highest order.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Kennedy Passes At 77

Although we knew it was coming, it doesn’t lessen the sadness. He was a great man who touched many, and his passing creates a hole that will be hard to fill, on so many levels.

The Globe has some great articles and retrospectives on his life and legacy that you can access here, and I’ve put a link at the end of this post to my own reflections on the man and how he touched my life that I had posted back when I had first heard of his illness.

It’s been a tough time for his family, with both he and his sister Eunice passing so closely, and while this is a newsworthy and historical moment, I hope everyone gives them the respect and privacy they deserve. Please join me in sending out your prayers for both the Senator and his family.

From Tuesday, May 20, 2008: Our Thoughts and Prayers

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Goodbye Cable, Hello FiOS TV

Verizon rolled out FiOS in our neighborhood a couple of years ago, and we were one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. Our old copper phone lines had gotten almost unusable. Loud static and pops, disappearing dial tone, cross talk from the neighbor’s line, it was ugly, and so was our DSL connection. Verizon had tried to repair our service several times to no avail, and finally admitted that the copper infrastructure in the neighborhood was beyond repair. They offered to cut us over to fiber at no charge, and I readily accepted.

At the time, they still hadn’t rolled out FiOS TV, but I was super happy anyway. I finally had a crystal clear phone line and a constant 5/2 Mbps internet connection to boot.

When they began offering FiOS TV service about a year later, I hesitated, because I would need a box for every connection in my house. PiP on the main set, a Media Center PC, spare bedrooms, yikes… that’s a lot of additional boxes.

There was no way around it, as FiOS is an all digital signal and you need a box to get anything on an analog set. Even on a TV with a built in ATSC/QAM digital tuner you get very little, just the local channels, and in my experimentations the signal seemed to confuse the tuner at times.

So I stuck to cable. Expensive, bad cable, at that. The signal was so weak that I had to install a bidirectional amp, and the cost kept going up. Plus I was paying two different companies. So when cable started putting little love notes in my bill telling me that they were going all digital soon and I would need a box for all of my TV’s, I decided the time was right to jump ship.

Verizon offered me their Triple Play deal if I added the TV service. They’d give me a new and improved wireless router, up my internet speed to 25/15 Mbps (download/upload), “Multi- Room” DVR service, free HBO and Skinamax for 3 months, and knock $30 a month off of my bill for the first 6 months. That’s a pretty hard deal to pass up.

The best part though, is that the overall cost of the three services, voice, internet and TV, is $20 less per month (before the $30 promotional discount!) then I was paying before in total through the two different carriers, plus there’s one less check to write each month, so my wife is lovin’ me (at least for now), and the quality is head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s without a doubt the best picture I’ve ever seen since I began my pay TV odyssey so many years ago. All the TV’s are crystal clear with no preamplification, save from the set top boxes, so I got to retire my little bidirectional digital amplifier. The guide feature is much better, and there’s also all kinds of widgets you can pop on the screen that show you local weather, traffic, news, there’s even a Twitter and Facebook widget so you can post while you watch (be careful with this one, Verizon says that the name of the show you’re watching appears in the post…). You can even program the DVR remotely via the internet.

How does that work, you might ask? Well, Verizon ties a cable run into your router, and all your boxes draw an address from it. Networked STB’s, too cool! They claim that you’ll be able to stream video from your computer to your TV’s very soon also. Sounds a lot like Windows Media Center to me, only without the need to add Microsoft’s “extenders”, or an Xbox. I’m curious to know if they plan on using Media Center as the tool for this, or if they’re working on a third party solution.

So, I have near perfect landline quality, a blazing fast 25 Mbps internet connection, smaaht boxes, an awesome picture, new channels, and I’m saving money to boot. Man, I’m livin’ the geekazoid dream...

If you can get FiOS TV in your area, you should make the switch, you won’t regret it.

And if you can’t,


ahem. sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

That is all.

I Don't Like Being Negative...

so I won't even mention the Sox or the Patriots right now.

Addendum, 08/22/09 7:30 PM

Sox 14, Yankees 1. I'm feeling much better now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Plethora Of Sports Thoughts

Sox Trades, the return of Tom Brady and Jerry Remy to the Boston sports stage, the unveiling of a new FM sports station, whoa…, heady times for New England sports fans. Where to begin?

Let’s start with my favorites, the New England Patriots. I thought the first team looked fantastic, and I was really pleased that they played so long (almost 2 full quarters!). In other years, they haven’t been seen much at all in preseason, but I think it’s really important for them to play as a unit, under live fire conditions, to get back in the groove. Last year they all had to adapt to a different, Brady-less type of offense, and it’s important for them to “recalibrate” with Tom. It’s also important for Tom to take a few hits, stretch that arm out, and get back into the flow and rhythm of the game.

They made some very good off season acquisitions on both sides of the ball, and although it’s too soon to know who will stay and who will go, it’s a good bet that this may be a better team than the ’07 /’08 Pats. Let’s hope the outcome is a little different this time.

One last thing before we move on. How about that Edelman, explosive, or what? I’ve heard him referred to as “Welker Light” already, although I think he’ll prove himself anything but light before camp is over.

Before we get to the Sox, I have to mention how great it was to see Jerry Remy up in the booth again. An amazing guy, and an inspiration to us all. Get well, but get back!

OK, the Sox. Ah, the Sox… wait, where’s my Zantac?

I’m very pleased with the pickup of both Victor Martinez and Alex Gonzalez. Martinez gives you backup at 1st, 3rd and the plate, which is huge, and as we saw last night, he’s no slouch with the bat. Gonzo, shoulda never left. He’s far from a power hitter, but man, can he flash leather.

The team seems to be coming back to life… who knows? The whole Papi thing has been a huge distraction, and probably contributed more than we know to the outcome of this last horrendous road trip. Truthfully, I could care less. Not that I condone juicing in any way, shape or form, but in 2003 it was a different situation. I’d be more interested to see who wasn’t on the list that year. I know for a fact that most of the “health supplements” available at that time were completely unregulated and contained more crap than an outhouse. It’s no excuse; it’s just the way it was.

Anyways, the trades, the bench clearing brawl, and the return of the King (Remy), may be enough to jolt them out of their funk. I hope so…

Hey, I’m a Sox fan, and by definition, that either makes you a pragmatist or a crank. I’ve been following them since the early 60’s, and I’ve learned to take the pragmatic approach to things. I take what they give me each season, and line up for more the next.

Last but not least, there’s the debut of 98.5, The Sports Hub. I must admit, I was a little ticked off that they lead off their opening day with 7 hours of bygone games, even though they were Super Bowls, but things smoothed out as the day went on. How can you miss when you have the whole BCN/Patriots team coming over to your station as a complete and cohesive unit, and your premier is on the same day as the first preseason game?

I’m starting to enjoy the programming. I was a little leery of the projected lineups, but they seem to be working out pretty well so far. I’ve always been a Zo fan, and was pleasantly surprised to hear Jerry Trupiano this morning. The real joy so far though is the sound quality. I was flipping back and forth between EEI and BZ yesterday to contrast the two stations, and the thing that struck me the most was how bad the broadcast quality is on EEI. Static and fades, tinny sound, I don’t know how I ever put up with it.

WEEI’s single biggest mistake, aside from their morning programming, was not jumping to an FM station in the Boston area. They could have at least started pumping out an HD channel on one of their Entercom FM stations (and they will, and soon, mark my words). I just don’t get it.

I guess they were so interested in expanding their signal throughout New England, that they took their eye off the ball here at home.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Dawg was in the house tonight, and he brought back the Mojo.

Jerry Remy made an all too short visit to the booth tonight, and it just felt so right to see him back where he belongs. There’s been a wobble in the Earth’s rotation since he left Red Sox Nation.

The frosting on the cake was that the Sox went on to club Detroit 8-2.

Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HD Radio

I mentioned in my last post that WBCN will live on in cyberspace and will also be broadcast on 98.5 HD2, and it got me thinking about how great HD radio is.

It offers CD quality sound, no static or interference, a wide variety of programming (in most cases 2 or 3 times the stations you’re receiving now), a data stream (song, artist, traffic, stock info), iPod tagging, and best of all… it’s free.

Most radio stations are now multicasting digital signals along with their standard analog broadcast, giving you 2 or 3 completely different broadcasts simultaneously. Take 98.5 for example. There’s the standard analog broadcast, WBZ-FM, then there’s a digital version of the same that you would pick up on 98.5-1 on your HD radio. But wait, there’s more! There’s also a 98.5-2, which is going to be the new home of WBCN in HD, and if you act now, they’ll even throw in 98.5-3, an HD version of WBZ-AM. Same holds true with WZLX. 100.7-1 is ZLX in HD, and 100.7-2 is Radio Mojo, Boston’s only all blues station. Mojo is my new favorite station, and it makes me wish that all of my radios had HD tuners.

How do they do it, you ask? Well, here’s a pretty good explanation from the people at Ibiquity, who came up with the idea of digital multicasting.

Did I say that it’s free? Doesn’t matter, it bears repeating. It’s F.R.E.E. free! All you need is an HD tuner, and pretty much all of the big players are beginning to incorporate them into their products. Here’s my review of my personal fave of the moment, the Sony XDR-S10HDiP HD Radio With Dock, and I see that Microsoft has built an HD tuner into their latest Zune. Portable HD radio… now that could be a game changer for me. Do you hear that Apple..?

Nope, probably not, but I can dream.

Here’s a listing of what’s available in the Boston area right now, and WBCN has a great listing of what’s to come later this week, after the big shuffle.

So, if you haven’t tried it yet, you should. Great quality audio with no subscription, no wires, no WiFi, no 3G, no strings attached.

It’s the future of radio.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Sports Hub

I love August; it’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’s still at least a good month of summer left, baseball season is just beginning to heat up, and football is warming up. Sitting by the pool, flipping between the Sox and the Pats, steaks sizzling on the grill, now that’s my idea of heaven.

And this year we have a little added bonus.

98.5 The Sports Hub debuts as the new player in the field of Boston sports media this coming Thursday, August 13th, which coincidently is the date of the Patriots first preseason game. The station will feature a sports talk format, and will be the new home of both the Patriots and the Bruins. Don’t worry, Gino and Gil will still be the voice of the Patriots, although the rest of their lineup is still a work in progress.

Regardless of who or what they fill the airwaves with in between games, it will still be great to have an alternative to the same old same old of local sports radio, and a strong signaled FM alternative, no less. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to listen to the Sox games on FM for the last couple of seasons on North Shore 104.9, and the difference is incredible.

Hopefully, audio quality won’t be the only improvement we see. Although WEEI has been a pioneer in sports radio, I haven’t been able to listen to them for quite a while.

My stray from WEEI started off slowly, with me flipping to either WBZ news or an FM music station whenever the talk got so hot that I could envision the spittle flying from my radio’s speakers. Each time it would take longer and longer before I would switch back, until finally I stopped switching back. It’s been about 4 months now since I’ve listened to WEEI. I just can’t take all the ranting and raving, yelling and screaming, punctuated only by long interminable commercial blocks, and way too short and underdeveloped sports flashes. It offends my modest sensibilities, and quite frankly, it gives me a headache. I find the sports news better on WBZ-AM anyways. Hopefully WBZ-FM will stay true to form. It would be great to hear Gil doing the news segments, and I’d love to see them pick up Troy Brown for a little football talk. Oh, the possibilities…

So, as I said before, it will be great to have an alternative in sports radio. WEEI likes to say they’ve trounced all their competition to date, I say BS. You have to be able to get a station in order to listen to it, and none of the alternatives to date have been even close to listenable in my area, so there hasn’t really been anyone to give them a decent run for their money.

That changes this week, and with the bar currently set so low, and football season about to get underway, I think The Sports Hub will find a place in this town.

Remember, the Pat’s first preseason game is this coming Thursday, August 13th @ 7pm on both WBZ-TV 4 and 98.5 WBZ-FM. Don’t be looking for it on WBCN, because you won’t find it. Speaking of which, BCN will still be available streaming on the web and on WBZ-FM HD2 (98.5-2), for those with an HD radio.

That is all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Down On Muddy’s Farm

Ahh, there’s nothing like catching up with old friends at a backyard blues jam on a warm summer night.

My old friend Mike had another one of his classic summer bashes this weekend, and it was really great to see him and a pretty large cross section of the people I grew up with, as well.

Mike, or Muddy, as we affectionately call him, is a special guy. One of those guys that stays in touch with everyone. I guess you could say he’s the linchpin of our old social circle. Matter of fact, if it wasn’t for Mike, I think I’d lose touch with everyone. I get so tied up with family, work and chores these days that I just can’t seem to find the time to hook up with any of my old friends, and I’ve lost track of at least half of them. I kind of stopped going to my high school reunions, mainly because the narrow channel of “just people in my graduating class” doesn’t represent how we really interacted. My crowd was into music, the blues specifically, and the old crew was spread across a few classes. Mike takes the time to find all of us, and drag our scraggly butts out of the house, and he can usually persuade our local blues band to make an appearance for a set or two.

So, it was great to see everybody and catch up. There were so many friendly faces to get reacquainted with that the time just flew by, and The Bluehemians were spectacular, as always. I just can’t get enough of their funky stuff! Thanks guys, I know it takes a lot of effort and schedule rearranging.

Good food, good music, good conversation. Good times. Thanks Mike!

The Summer Of A Thousand Beaches

All the rain we’ve had this spring and summer (if you can even call them that) has gotten me thinking about a summer a few years back that was really special to me. Whenever I think back on it, or reminisce about it with my wife, I refer to it as (cue the deep voiced announcer…) “The Summer Of A Thousand Beaches”.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t really a thousand beaches that we visited that summer, and for that matter, maybe it wasn’t technically limited to the traditional June, July and August summer months, but there were a lot of them, and it was always summer where we were that year.

The year was 2001, and it was one of those serendipitous years where everyone was happy and healthy, and family, work and vacations all blended together perfectly to put us into a 7 month summer cycle. The cycle started in late February with our annual visit with my Dad in Fort Myers (baseball and beaches!). After a brief stop at home for clean skivvies, we were off to the left coast. Back to base camp again, and then off to Miami and points south. Home once again, just in time to kick off our New England summer.

Here are the beaches we hit, in chronological order, no less:

Gulf Coast

Sanibel/Captiva Island
Fort Myers Beach
Lovers Key


Venice Beach
Santa Monica
Will Rodgers Beach
Point Dume
Zuma Beach


South Beach
Key Biscayne
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
Long Beach, Rockport
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester
Katama/South Beach, Edgartown
Joseph Silvia State Beach, Oak Bluffs
Tisbury Town Beach
Menemsha Public Beach
Lobsterville Beach
Nahant Beach
Lynn Beach
Salem Willows

The above are just the beaches we actually walked, sat and swam at, there were many more that summer that we either had dinner overlooking, or just gazed at from the parking areas or highways.

You’re probably thinking “This guy must have been a baked potato after the first couple of weeks”. Nope. We’re not out early; lay on the beach kind of people. Working, visiting or sightseeing came first, with the beaches as a late afternoon treat, and sunscreen and hats were essential to all our journeys.

We really enjoy ending our day surrounded by the beauty and majesty of the ocean. Nothing can make you so conscious of what a very small piece of the world’s puzzle you are as the roaring ocean, and it really helps to drain away all the tensions of our days.

Come on ’09, give it up. I’m losing precious time…

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Where's All Da Food?

O yah, da stoopid hoomans haz sent back some foter grafs. theyse down at da bottom of da page in a slide show.

hurry back hoomans, and bringz food!

da katz

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Redux

Yeah, the water is cold but I've been in
Baby, lose the laundry and jump on in
I mean all God's children got skin
And it's summer again

James Taylor "Summer's Here"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ask And Thou Shalt Receive: iPhone 3.1 Released In Beta

I guess Apple listens to us, cause they've just released iPhone 3.1 in beta to developers.

It promises a few more goodies, and hopefully a few fixes. Apple is mum on the subject so far, but info is trickling out from the developer community. Stay posted...

iPhone OS3: Gotta Have It, Gonna wait.

Apple’s long awaited iPhone OS3 is out, and although I really want to download and install it right now, I’ve decided to hold off for a while.

The reason? In a word; vacation.

Yup, I’m a chicken. I’ve already got my digital bags packed, so to speak, and I’m not taking any chances this late in the game. My 2nd gen Touch has podcasts, videos, games, and most importantly, a boat load of music on it, plus all of my contacts and personal email accounts. This will be my first “downtime only” trip in a long while, and there’s no way I’m brickin’ that thing just before I leave.

There are always initial problems with any new iTunes or iPod upgrade, and here’s why: There’s no way on Earth for Apple to test on every possible configuration out there, because there’s just too many of them.

Different computer platforms with different operating systems at different version levels, running different apps (also with different version levels), coupled with different iPod models running different apps (also at different version levels!), makes almost every iPod user unique, and creating a one size fits all product for them is a mind boggling task.

The trick is to hold off until Apple has time to address all the little glitches that surface after a major release. It would be a double upgrade for me. First, I’d have to upgrade to iTunes 8.2.23, then iPhone OS3.

In Apple’s iPod Touch discussions thread there are 163 pages of user comments regarding problems with WiFi signal strength and speed after upgrading.

In the iTunes discussions thread there are 83 pages of comments regarding iTunes not recognizing both iPhone and Touch devices after upgrade.

So, while downloading movies via WiFi, or playing the iPod through the car’s stereo via Bluetooth would be very welcome additions on a road trip, I’m going to pass for now. Last minute problems would really harsh my vacation mellow, and that just wouldn’t do.

That is all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Indelible Memories

Wow, first Ed McMahon on Tuesday, then Farrah and Michael today. I’m stunned.

All three were icons of my generation, and the news of their passing saddened me more than I could have imagined. Memories of watching the Jackson 5 on the old Sonny and Cher show with my parents, struggling to stay up late to watch Ed and Johnny on the Tonight show, and being enraptured by Farrah as she battled crime with a flip of her bouncy golden locks all came flooding back, reminding me of my youth, and giving me a whiff of my own mortality.

It’s amazing how fleeting and unpredictable life can be.

All 3 will be fondly remembered, and sadly missed, and we all should take this as an opportunity to let the people in our lives know how much we care about them, because you just can’t ever do that enough.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Rabbit Ears Report - Revisited

Looks like there have been signal strength problems with WHDH, as well as with other stations nationwide. I sent them a link to my previous post "The Rabbit Ears Report", and they sent back a great explanation of what was going on. Here it is in part:

“WHDH is experiencing signal difficulties following the transition that took place on June 12.

The signal difficulties we are experiencing are a result of post-transition power allocation assigned by the FCC that is not sufficient to maintain the signal strength that we had prior to the transition. We are petitioning the FCC to adjust the technical parameters so that we will be able to improve reception. In the meantime, we will continue to simulcast on Channel 42 (our pre-transition digital channel) so that viewers will be able to receive our signal. We appreciate your patience as we resolve this matter.


Bravo for stepping up and acknowledging problems to your viewers, channel 7, and true to their word, a rescan last night brought back both 7-1 and 7-2.

As a long time technology guy, I know that in any large scale transition there will be unexpected problems. Dealing quickly with those problems and making a “spectacular recovery” is the real measure of success in such a large project.

So, last night’s rescan brought a total reversal of fortune for both 7 and 5, changing my color coded reception chart (black/good, blue/decent, red/difficult) like this:

5-1 WCVB-DT Boston, MA ABC
7-1 WHDH-HD Boston, MA NBC
7-2 WHDH-SD Boston, MA This TV

The rescan also added 9-1, 27-1 and 27-2 to the mix.

There’s a good article about the broadcast power issues on today, the highlight of which is the “double rescanning” info from the FCC at the very bottom, which recommends that with all the hopping around that the stations are doing right now, you should basically wipe your box by disconnecting the antenna and rescanning, then power cycling it, then hook it back up and do a second rescan.

This is excellent advice that I think I would take a step further by recommending a weekly double rescan until all this shakes out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Rabbit Ears Report

Well, they finally pulled the plug on analog broadcasts, and I’ve been ensconced in my little ramshackle pool house ever since, testing and tweaking. Initial reports are good, and I’m now sure of 3 things:

1. I should have cut over sooner.

2. The old rabbit ears with the bow tie UHF add-on work better then the RCA amplified HDTV antenna that I had picked up a while ago.

3. My wife thinks I’m certifiably insane, and has suggested that perhaps I should live out there.

While I’m tempted to take her up on the offer, I’m gonna have to pass for now. No heat, no fridge, no NESN.., no berry.

Ok, time to get down to business. On the antenna front, I truly got much better results with the “stock” rabbit ears that came with the TV. As a matter of fact, the powered RCA imparted a small amount of noise, evident in a slight but annoying screen shimmy that increased as I turned up its gain. Perhaps with a longer cable this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m limited for space in the old pool house (think walk in closet). I actually considered trying it up on the roof, but then I realized a.) I’d really have a hard time adjusting it, and b.) If I didn’t fall off the roof, I’d probably fall through it, so I gave up and went back to the bunny ears.

Below is my new station list, color coded to indicate the amount of effort involved in getting a clear picture with an indoor antenna. Black indicates little or no manipulation was required. Blue indicates some fiddling and diddling required. Red indicates that you really have to work the antenna to get a glimpse of anything, and what you get isn’t exactly watch-able. Note: this result was after numerous repositions and rescans, you won’t get them all registered on the first pass.

2-1 WGBH-SD Boston, MA PBS
2-2 WGBH-HD Boston, MA PBS
4-1 WBZ-TV Boston, MA CBS
5-1 WCVB-DT Boston, MA ABC
7-1 WHDH-HD Boston, MA NBC
7-2 WHDH-SD Boston, MA This TV

25-1 WFXT-DT Boston, MA FOX
38-1 WSBK-DT Boston, MA Independent
44-1 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS
44-2 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS World
44-3 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS Create
44-4 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS Kids
56-1 WLVI-DT Boston, MA CW
66-1 WUTF-DT Marlborough, MA TeleFutura
68-1 WBPX-DT Boston, MA ION
68-2 WBPX-DT Boston, MA qubo
68-3 WBPX-DT Boston, MA IONLife
68-4 WBPX-DT Boston, MA Worship

One oddity I noticed is that when I first tested digital reception last weekend I got 7-1 and 7-2 as clear as a bell, and didn’t get 5-1 at all. This weekend, after the cutover, just the opposite is true. Hmmmm… interesting. Perhaps WHDH hasn’t gone full power yet, or maybe they were already at full power, and other stations are drowning them out now. Oh well, I can live without them for now, but I’m curious to hear what others have found, so be sure to chime in with your own results. I’m sure I’m not the only nut job out there.

At least I hope I’m not…