Friday, December 24, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts: Countdown To Christmas Edition

From the Christmas can be dangerous department; This year I only whacked my head once getting the tree and ornaments out of the attic. As I was climbing down with the last load I was thinking that I had gotten out of it a little too easily this year, and sure enough, my load suddenly shifted and a large storage container of breakable ornaments started a slow slide off the top of the pile. Supporting the other container with my knee as I wobbled precariously on one leg on the drop down stairs, I snatched the escaping container before it dropped, and consequently smashed the back of my hand on the metal hinges. Although the knuckles bruised and the back of my hand has swollen up considerably, I still considered it a small victory. I usually end up sporting a bloody gash on my head at Christmas, so a gnarly hand is nothin, I can just keep it in my pocket. Plus, I didn’t smash all the ornaments. Win, win!


Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses are my new holiday favorites. Little crispy chunks of candy canes in them. Mmmm.


The best bang for your buck gift this year is LCD Televisions in the 32 to 46” range. You can find top of the line sets like Samsung, Sharp and Sony on sale from $300 to $800. The Samsung LN46C630 has been on sale for as low as $750, that’s just slightly more than half of what I paid for my 32” 2 years ago. Not bad. I know it’s late to still be shopping for big gifts, but if Santa were to leave you a few gift cards or some of the long green, you might want to think about it. Do your homework first though, cuz if you find a good price online, most places will match it. Also, keep in mind that some places (like Paul’s TV) will deliver and set the TV up, same day, for free. See, there are some good things about a bad economy!


Speaking of bang for your buck, if you’re looking for something less expensive that will still put a smile on your geek’s face, check out both the Roku Box and Apple TV. For under $100, you can stream movies, photos and music from the internet to your TV. The Roku comes in 3 flavors, HD ($59), XD ($79) and XDS ($99). I recommend the XDS, it delivers a 1080p picture, has better WiFi and a wider variety of outputs. You’ll need the additional optical audio output if you listen to your music or home theater soundtrack through a separate stereo system. There’s also the Apple TV device, which is very comparable and similarly priced at $99. It only outputs a 720p picture, but it also has an optical audio out. More importantly, if you’re already an iTunes centric household, this is the device you want. When you turn it on, it will automatically seek out and connect to any iTunes library on your network. How cool is that? It’s chilly, Willy.


And while we’re on the subject of gifts, unexpected ones are always the best. I was tense and uptight yesterday on my way to the mall. Work kept calling, even though I’m out on PTO, the traffic sucked, and I was way behind the curve in the Christmas shopping department. All my troubles melted away though when the CD I was listening to ended and I switched over to the radio. Who would have thought that a straight arrow, no nonsense kind of guy like Rex Ryan would be posting foot fetish videos on the interwebs. For the rest of the afternoon I chuckled every time I thought of him saying “Those are nice feet, Ma’am, would you mind if I smell them?” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a “whatever floats your boat” kind of guy, but when you’re in the public eye as much as Rex is, you have to be a real dope to post videos of yourself and your wife on an internet fetish site. Oh wait, that’s a redundant statement, isn’t it? Well, as they say, if the shoe fits, smell wear it…


Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses are no longer my favorites. I’m really likin’ these cherry filled ones.


My favorite holiday albums are “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Two very different sounds, but both are great in their own right. Phil’s “wall of sound” production is a masterpiece, featuring Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector and The Ronnettes and a cast of literally thousands, infusing some old favorites with his pulsing trademark sound. Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a must have for your collection and shouldn’t be dismissed as a silly cartoon soundtrack. The man was a true genius, 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.


How about those Patriots? Man, what a surprising turnaround. When they traded Moss I said we’d probably look back on this trade as the moment this year’s team jelled, and it looks like I was right. I love being right. Why did it make such a difference? Because Tom was always trying to force it in to him. Now he has to look to his other receivers, and he’s got quite the bunch. Branch is back in a big way, and Welker is as dependable as always. Add in the rookie tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski, plus the slippery little Woodhead, and you have a stable full of sure handed overachievers. How do you defend against that? Blitzing is pretty much the sure bet, but with Mankins back, and these big tight ends, it’s not so easy. And if they do get beat, Brady has a bunch of options for the quick out. I love this team.


Update; these caramel filled kisses are pretty good too!


Speaking of sports, another great and unexpected holiday gift came from the Sox, in the form of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Good acquisitions for the team, and for the Sox’ bottom line; TV ratings and shirt sales had been trending downward, they needed fresh meat.


On a somber note, I haven’t seen our resident bunny in a while, but I have seen a very large fox. The other night I was out doing the trash and he trotted right by me, not more than 10 feet away. He wasn’t the least bit afraid, which leads me to believe he was hungry and on the hunt. My wife wants me to start bringing my cell phone out with me at night. I can see it now, me trying to dial with one hand with a fox clamped on the other. Yeah, right. I have a better idea. I bring out my short trenching shovel. If old Freddy Fox gets within arms reach, I’m gonna El Kabong him into next Christmas. KABONG!


Never mind the caramel filled kisses, these white and dark chocolate swirled ones are… Oh Sh*t! I think I just ate all of the candy for the stockings! My wife is gonna beat me with a stick, or my trenching tool!

I guess I’m not done Christmas shopping after all. Anything open on Christmas Eve?


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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Turn Out The Lights…

The Party’s Over.

The only thing that could have made tonight’s game better was if Chucky had sung it one last time, for old Dandy Don.

Pats 45, Jets 3

That is all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts: Special Frost On The Pumpkin Edition

So, I’ve been amongst the missing lately. Can’t be helped. I’ve been so busy that some things, like this blog, and my yard, have had to go on the back burner for a while. We’re about ¾’s done with our Man Town makeover, and we’re already halfway into a total gut of our den. Add to that a couple of humungous projects at work both coming due at the same time, and I’m left with nothin’. Most nights I just crash and burn wherever I stop. (Note to self: falling asleep on a kitchen stool is not a good thing, on so many levels…)

It’s a good tired though, because it comes from getting things done and moving forward. The only bad part; things are happening that I want to comment on, and I can’t. Consequently, my mind is filling up with random thoughts that I need to purge, so without further ado, I will now proceed to purge:

I’m convinced that we have some of the strangest and most determined squirrels in existence living in our back yard. Trying to keep them from wiping out our bird feeders is like a never ending chess game. No matter what we come up with, they find a way around it. Lately they’ve come up with a new trick, now they’re eating our pumpkins. They gnaw big holes in them and feast on the seeds, and they don’t just work on one until it’s gone, they hit all three at once. My wife sprinkled them with pepper this year, didn’t deter them. They just waited until a good rain washed it off, and then started in. The greedy little beggars are really starting to bother me. I’m thinking I might be able to make a pretty nice pair of slippers out of them. Would it be a tripping hazard if I left the tails on? That would look pretty cool.

Man, what a season the Pats are having. Nail biting excitement, major drama and a 6 and 1 record, does it get any better than this? I don’t think so.

Speaking of the Pats and major drama; Randy Moss is one far out dude. The guy just can't help himself. I think it stems from the sense of entitlement some of these guys have. They're catered to from High School on, and it gives some of them a really skewed sense of reality. Randy doesn't seem to understand, or care about, the consequences of his actions. He gets his money no matter what he says, or does. If I ever bad mouthed my employer in a news conference, I'd be looking for a new job, and stressing big time. Not old Randy, he just moves on. He’s landed with the Titans this time, good luck to them.

While we’re on the subject of entitlement, I think it’s time for all of us to take a good look in the mirror. Go ahead, take a look, I’ll wait… Ok, you know what you just saw? You saw both the reason for the current economic downturn, and the solution to it. It’s not the banks and big business that have done this to us; we’ve done it to ourselves. Sure, they’ve been a big part of it. The banks were making sketchy loans, and Wall Street was selling shares of nothing, but we bought into it, and we have to change the way we think and act to get ourselves out of it. Its not gonna be a quick fix, either. It’s going to be a long and painful process. We have to refocus on what’s really important in our lives, and cut out all the excesses. No one held a gun to the heads of the people that are walking away from their debts and forced them to buy houses that they couldn’t afford, or to put all their money into a market heavily invested in said bad loans. Our culture of entitlement is to blame. If you can’t make the payments, don’t buy it. If you’re border line on your mortgage, then don’t fill your house with chrome appliances, granite countertops and huge flat panel TV’s. If you’re building a nest egg, put it in the bank; don’t give it away on Wall Street. We all have to start living within our means and being smart if we’re ever gonna get out of this mess.

Along these same lines, I was very disappointed with the recent elections. Part of it was the tone. We’ve reached a point where smear tactics are the norm, and I’ve had enough. I don’t want to watch their nasty ads, and I don’t want them besieging me with their robo-calls. Think any of these pols understand how fruitless this behavior is? Everyone I know has been screening their calls for weeks, and the mute buttons all across America have been working overtime. What a waste. If they took the money they spend on this foolishness and donated it to a good cause, they'd have my attention immediately. The other part of my displeasure is the partisanship. It doesn’t matter whether you vote the Republicans or the Democrats in, if they don’t work together, nothing will change, and they won’t work together as long as we the voters continue with the current lynch mob mentality. They’re petrified to cooperate with “the other side”, in fear of angering their base and getting the boot. I understand people being angry and wanting to clean house, but it doesn’t help. As I said before, there is no quick fix to our current dilemma, and people need to face that fact, as awful as it is. We need to change the game, not the players. We need to insist that our elected leaders work with their opposition, instead of thwarting them at every turn, and we need to do the same. You may not like who ends up getting elected, but you need to support them, regardless. I hear all this talk about change from both sides, but I don’t see any evidence of it. All I see is gridlock and pettiness. Only teamwork gets it done people, try to remember that.

On a lighter note, the Celtics are looking good so far this season, and it’s been a delight to have The Big Shamrock in town. Posing as a statue, leaving autographed sneakers somewhere and tweeting clues to the location to his fans, priceless. He’s been a force to recon with on the court, also. You’ve gotta love this guy, and this team.

Apple has been bitten by a bug once again. This time there’s a glitch in iPhone iOS4.1 and your calendar won’t recognize the switch to Daylight Savings Time. They promise to fix the problem with the release of iOS4.2, and I’m sure they will, but this is just another example of releasing a product before it’s been fully tested. Their breakneck pace on that front is driven by, you guessed it, us. If companies don’t keep up, they get left behind, ‘cause everybody needs and wants that “next big thing” yesterday, even though they know there’s going to be issues. Now I love gadgets as much as the next guy, but I’ve learned the hard way not to be an early adopter. Along with that instant gratification comes issues and regret, always, and I’ve already got a boatload of both, thanks.

On the frost on the (half eaten) pumpkin front, it’s starting to get a bit chilly here in New England, and as I said earlier, we’re in the middle of some remodeling work. Plastic sheeting has become our best friend during this project, it is not, however, a very good insulator. brrrrrrrr. Things are moving pretty quickly though, and I think we’ve finally found a keeper with this contractor. I can do a lot of things, but carpentry is not one of them, so it’s good to have someone who knows what they’re doing, works quickly and is pleasant to deal with. They’re doing a phenomenal job, and really helping us to stay within our budget, which is important. This is a mandatory energy saving thing, not just a beautification project, as last winter we had to nail a quilt over one section of the den wall to stop the draft. It was brutal. The bonus here is that these guys are kind of fun having around, all things considered. You have to be comfortable with a contractor who’s in your house all day, every day, and we are. We’ve had some real beauts in the past…

Argh! While I was writing this, the Pats laid an egg of epic proportions. Make that 6 and 2…

That is all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Moss Effect

What a week. First we had the thrill of watching the Pats clean the Dolphin’s clock on Monday Night Football, after sitting through a very scary first half, that is. I was pumped the next day, thinking there was hope for this season after all.., and then Wednesday morning I woke up to the news that Randy Moss had been traded to the Vikings. I thought maybe I was still asleep and dreaming, or hadn’t heard correctly, and then, click, out went the power. Talk about a bad start to the day…

I needed more info, and I needed to check the breaker panel, so I made my way down stairs, grabbed a flashlight, and checked the panel. Nothing was tripped, so I got out my portable radio and went back up to the kitchen. As I shuffled around lighting candles, I found that our automatic coffee maker had finished its cycle before the power went off, thank God for small miracles. How lucky am I to have the coffee made and the alarm go off just before the power goes out? Maybe I had misheard the sports report, I was pretty groggy.

So I poured myself a cup and sat there by candlelight, sipping coffee and staring at the radio, waiting for the sports report. I didn’t have to wait long, because it was the lead story. As you’re well aware, it was true, and I was more than a little perplexed. What is it with these guys; just when things look brightest, BAM, they do something totally incomprehensible. Moss for a third round pick? Really? Oh man.

I sat there for a while until the power came back on. The beeps and boops as every device in the house cycled back on woke me from my reverie, and I got on with the start of the day, but I chewed on that news all morning. At first I was worried about losing the team’s only deep threat, and the pressure that would place on the short game, but once I got past my initial aggravation, I started to see things a little differently.

Although it’s been amazing having one of the best receivers in the game, it’s been obvious this season that the man was unhappy. His unhappiness seemed to peak right after Brady got his contract extension, and seeing that he was looking for the same thing, it was somewhat understandable. His timing left something to be desired, though. Airing his grievances after the season opening win took a little of the shine off of the day. The buzz during the following week was as much about Randy as it was about the win. While this performance alone isn’t enough to justify dumping a player as valuable as Moss, I was sure that there was more lurking just below the surface. Bill’s no rookie, so for him to make a drastic move like this, there had to be.

Sure enough, as the week wore on, all sorts of stories surfaced. Felger related a story about Brady calling Moss out last season for cutting his routes short, and then having to call him and apologize to get him to stop sulking. A friend of ours who’s a season ticket holder told us a story about Randy’s performance at a Kraft fund raiser, standing in the corner with those DJ cans of his on instead of paying attention to the speaker. That must have made Bob Kraft a happy man. The latest has Brady and Moss needing to be separated after a locker room spat recently. Although these incidents are all small things, they all add up to one big thing, trouble.

Bill Simmons summed it all up best in his column this week. I love his “Crazy Hot Chic” analogy; it’s so on the money, and a must read.

Simmons broke the story on Tuesday night via twitter, by the way. Gotta love that. There must have been a “real” journalist or two that was pissed about that. Take heed, boys and girls, it’s a brave new world, and news waits for no one.

Anyways, like it or not, it was probably time for Randy to take his show on the road. Belichick has gone to great lengths this season to right the ship, even going so far as to have all the past Super Bowl memorabilia removed in an effort to change the atmosphere, and we all know what happened with Thomas at the end of last season. There’s no room for griping and whining in a Belichick locker room. No sir, won’t do.

What does that mean for the team? Well, I have a feeling that we’ll look back on this week as the week the 2010 team solidified. Are they a better team? In some ways, yes, because discord is a powerful thing. Will Moss go on to have a productive season for the Vikings? Of course, because he’s playing for a contract. We’ll get to see soon enough, as the Vikes play the Jets tonight on MNF. This should be good on a lot of levels. My buddy Mark thinks that the Jet’s superfan that wears the fire helmet will be sporting some kind of appendage on top in honor of Brett Farve’s recent alleged adventures this week, and I think he’s probably right. Must see TV.

All of this drama aside, the real question, the one that everyone seems to have forgotten is; have the Patriots really gotten their mojo back? For the answer to that, we have to wait until next Sunday, but as my old Magic 8 Ball is fond of saying; "The outlook is good."

That is all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Special Elimination Edition

The dream is over.., at least until next year.

There were a few bright moments for the Sox this year, but for the most part this season was a hot mess. The injury bug bit them early, and often, and the pitching was uneven at best. It was frustrating, but all things considered it could have been worse. Despite the patchwork lineup, they finished the season with 89 wins, and they definitely went out in style, taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees and relegating them to wild card status.

The Pawtucket Posse of Nava, Kalish, Patterson, McDonald, Anderson, Navarro and Reddick did an admirable job plugging holes in the lineup, and I’m pleased that we have that much talent in the pipeline.

Tito did a great job managing the final game. Well timed substitutions gave the players a chance to take a bow, some perhaps for their last time in Boston, and feel the love from the fans. It’s not easy to play for the win and still be able to pull off something like that. The man has a lot of class.

Speaking of taking a bow and having a lot of class, honoring Lowell on Saturday night showed that the front office can be a classy bunch also.

While I’m on the topic of the front office, not everything they do is good. Take ticket prices for instance. I have a friend who has season tickets right behind the Sox dugout, and I used to be on the list to buy a few games a year to help defray their cost. This season I asked to be taken off the list, unless they were going to go to waste, that is. It killed me to do it, but part of the deal is that you have to take all 4 tickets, and the parking pass, and it was getting a little too pricey for me. Field Box tickets were $130 apiece this year, and the parking pass is another $50. That’s $570 before I even leave my house. Add to that a little food and drink, and you’re spending the equivalent of a car payment and a trip to the grocery store. I just can’t justify those costs anymore, and I’m not sure who can. From a season ticket perspective, that’s a huge chunk of money. Here are some facts and figures from an article on Bloomberg about how the Sox keep the sellout streak going with bulk sales to resellers like Ace and Stub Hub: “List prices of tickets at Fenway this season average $52.32, second-highest behind the Chicago Cubs, according to Team Marketing Report. But tickets trade at an average of $89 on the online secondary market, the highest in baseball, according to SeatGeek.com, a forecasting website. Ace is asking $1,435 for its best seats, which carry a $250 face value, to an Oct. 2 game against the New York Yankees.” Not a bad deal for the Sox, seeing as they and MLB get a percentage of the reseller’s profit back, and they’re not the ones stuck with the tickets if they don’t sell. Plus, the fact that they’re sold out creates a buzz that allows the resellers to get top dollar. Very clever.., unless you’re a fan.

If Tek doesn’t come back, I’m gonna miss him, and I think the team will, too. Although he’s no longer an everyday player, he’s still a presence in the clubhouse and a fountain of knowledge for the younger guys.

How about Jed Lowrie, was he on fire down the stretch or what? I hope he can carry the momentum into next season.

Papelbon, on the other hand, needs another pitch or two, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Well, as we like to say around here; there’s always next year, and spring training is right around the corner…

That is all

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September Grass

This past summer my lawn got toasted. It was bleached white and it crackled under your feet when you walked on it. It killed me to look at it because I spend so much time and effort on the yard, but I had faith that it would return, and it has. A little rain combined with the cool days and cooler nights of September have returned it to its glory. There are still a few ugly spots in the front and out by the pool, spots where the sun is especially intense and the soil is still cracked and dry, but the back yard is perfect. It gets shaded by the house until midday, and it’s a thick, lush swath of emerald green.

Last night before supper I edged it, and this morning I mowed, cutting a nice pattern of stripes into the lawn. When I was done, I sat down on the patio and just drank in its beauty. Nature is an amazing and prolific multimedia artist. The colors, the smells, the sensory input of the gentle breeze carrying just a hint of the rain to come, all combined to create a living, breathing, 3D panorama that was both intensely beautiful and supremely serene. Great artists have captured its beauty, but nothing compares to the real thing. No man’s palette contains enough colors to match what’s in nature’s paint box.

I was hypnotized by the beauty of the moment, and it stirred a myriad of images in my mind. Images of the sunny but cool days of fall, the turning of the leaves and their vibrant colors, the trips to orchards and fairs, and the long lazy afternoons hanging at the local fields watching the grandson play football, thoughts made all the sweeter by the knowledge of the coming winter. I had to pull myself away as I had things to do, but the buzz of the moment stayed with me for quite a while, and that was a good thing.

Be sure to take some time out to soak up some of the sights and sounds of the fall season. Ogle its beauty, peep at its leaves, carve its pumpkins, whatever floats your boat, just be sure to do it.

What The Faulk…

happened to my Patriots?

Last Sunday started off well, with the Patriots performing as expected in the first half, kicking butt and taking names. I felt so confident that I started catching up on chores during halftime. I settled back down to watch about 10 minutes into the 3rd quarter and it was like I was watching a different game. I was in Bizarro World. Sanchez was looking more Brady-like than Brady, and the momentum had swung to the Jets.

To top it off, my all time favorite Patriot’s running back, Kevin Faulk (actually, it’s a coin toss between he and Mosi), was down and out with what looked like a serious injury, and was in fact a season ending torn ACL , but that last strip sack of Brady was the dagger in my heart. No last minute heroics, just the Jets squatting on the ball to run out the clock.

As I sat there fuming, one thought kept muscling its way to the forefront of my mind;

“This is just like last season. They hang in there against the cream puffs, but cough it up late against the tougher teams.”

What’s up with that? Are they poorly conditioned and unable to sustain the intensity for a full game? Is the team so predictable that the opposition can adjust at the half and just shut them down, and if so, why don’t the Pats have a plan to deal with that? Is Bill trying to do too much? The whole; no offensive or defensive coordinator thing doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. That’s a lot of ground to cover for one man.

Maybe it’s Brady. Does he feel like he has to shoulder the load, and consequently puts too much pressure on himself? Some of his decisions towards the end of the game were definitely questionable, like jamming the ball in to Moss when there were other receivers open. Was he trying to feed Moss in an effort to help him prove that he could beat the Jet’s coverage? I hope not, but whatever the reason, it just wasn’t working. I’m still surprised he didn’t see Jason Taylor bearing down on him. I know it developed quickly, but he’s usually more aware of what’s happening on his periphery, always ready to duck, or slide forward for one more quick look. Not this time. He was blindsided by Taylor, BLAM, and didn’t even have a chance to secure the ball.

Most likely, their problems are a combination of all of the above, served up with a large side of poor blocking and a heaping helping of suspect defense. Whatever the reason, they need to pull it together this week. They have to beat the Bills. They’re not gonna get too many bunnies like this, plus it’s a divisional game, so they can’t afford to squander the opportunity.

Their biggest problem going forward, aside from choking, that is, is the loss of Faulk. The man has been a first down machine, and someone has to step up and fill that role. With Taylor doing the bulk of the running, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis should be able to fill the void on third down, but God help them if anyone else gets dinged. Dumping Maroney for a draft pick to be named later doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore, I guess.

So, they need to come out firing on all cylinders today, and they need to keep the pedal to the metal until time runs out. 60 minutes of hard fought football. Not 30, not 45, 60, that’s all I ask, and if they provide it, they should be able to steam roll over the Bills. A Patriots romp, followed by a sweep of the Yankees and seeing the Jets get pounded by the Dolphins would be the ultimate Sunday for me, but I’ll settle for just a win from the Pats.

Come on guys, time to step up.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Football... I'm So Glad That It's Back

I was a glutten at the trough this past weekend, gorging myself on football. It wasn't easy, either.

We're in the process of tearing up the house (again), and I had to run cable to a new location late Saturday night, creating a temporary Mantown in my wife's beloved, and deliberately low tech, living room. The good news is, once she sat down on the couch in front of the Samsung, she was glad I did it. After all, she's a football fan too, and in the tighter quarters of the living room the TV looks even more impressive. Sometimes it pays to be sneaky...

So, we were all set for the feature attraction on Sunday, the Pats vs. the Bengals, and we weren't disappointed. Brady looked sharp, and Wes is back and in fine shape, how great is that? I was really pumped that he scored the first TD of the season, very fitting.

Another standout on the offensive side of the ball was Brandon Tate, talk about turning on the afterburners, and the new tight ends contributed much more than I expected, both from a blocking and catching perspective.

I was also reasonably pleased with the running game. Straight Ahead Fred and company performed well. It's more about just being able to run when you need to, than it is about breaking the big ones. On that count, I don't think we're going to miss Maroney very much, but this is an older group, and it's a very long season...

The defense started off ferocious. Guyton and McCourty contributed in a big way, and everyone was hitting like they meant it. The question is; can they sustain that energy and build on it? Cincy started gaining some traction in the second half, but you can chock some of that up to them being a good team who started off poorly. Only time will tell. Let's just hope a lot of that energy and momentum carries over into this week.

Speaking of this week, how bout them Jets?

They really stunk it up on Monday night. When the pressure is on, Sanchez is not "The Sanchise". Dumping the consistent Jones for LT, who can make big plays, but isn't consistent (Hmm, kind of like Maroney...), puts just enough weight on the boy wonder to tip the scales in a bad way. Did you see him sail those passes? Yikes!

Plus the whole "Hard Knocks" thing was a huge mistake for them. It may be compelling TV, but you can't mold a football team on a reality show. You can forge a few clowns, but they've already got their fill of Bozo's. Whoever OK'd that deal needs his head examined. Most memorable quote from the show, given by Rex after he excoriates them for not being serious;

"OK, let's go get some snacks."

All that being said, the Pats have to play hard and stay sharp tomorrow, because the Jets can be a tough team to play if they're on the mark. Their defense always matches up well with the Pats, think Revis, and the Jets will bet the farm and blitz right from the get go.

I don't want to see any of those QB sammiches like they layed on Flacco on Monday night to start the game off (or at all!). Gotta have Hernandez and Gronkowski in there to block on the first series. Gotta be the more physical team. Simple as that. If they control the line from both sides, they should crush them.

A good, quick, drubbing, that would be sweet. Then Rex can concentrate on getting some snacks.


That is all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

berryjooks: Just Snoozeling By The Pool.

The link below is to a post I did a few years ago on the subject of the Labor Day Weekend. There's not much I could add about this wonderful but bittersweet holiday, so in the time honored tradition of summer network television, I give you a repeat:


berryjooks: Just Snoozeling By The Pool.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Apple Revamps iPods... again


The buttons are back on the shuffle, and gone from the nano, replaced by a touch screen that allows it to be half the size of the last gen. Its kind of become a baby touch, and speaking of the touch, its gotten thinner and they've added both front and rear facing cameras.

They've taken the best features from their current star performer, the touch, and integrated them into the nano, and shifted some of the nano's features, the camera and the FM tuner, to the touch. Very nice.

The nano appears to be morphing into the shuffle of the future, as the smaller size and the built in clip make it a lot more functional for on the go activities. My wife loves her little pink 2nd gen shuffle for her walkabouts, but I could never get used to a device without a screen, I just don't like flying blind. My nano is my portable of choice, and if there was one thing I'd change about it, it would be to add a secure way to fasten it to my clothes.

The improvements to the touch, while great, are way overdue. The cameras and the tuner should have been added to the 3rd gen touch. The 3rd gen was basically a fix. When they released OS3, they turned on the hidden Bluetooth functionality of the 2nd gen touch, and quickly realized that it wasn't quite up to the task of supporting Bluetooth and running the new OS. It became a flakey battery hog, hence the new processor in the 3rd gen, but why did they stop there? A Wi-Fi device as slick and powerful as the touch cried out for a camera, skype anyone?, and not integrating a tuner was one of those mysterious Apple tics that you just can't understand. My theory is that at some early design review Steve Jobs said "Radio is dead.", and from that point on, talk of incorporating a tuner became a taboo subject.

So, with these latest changes, the touch and the nano are finally dressed properly for the occasion, so to speak, and the shuffle has reverted back to it's most popular form. All of the devices have become more functional in their particular niche, and that's a good thing. I give Apple a solid B for this new crop, I just wish they'd slow down a little.

Check out the video below for a "first look" at all the new iPods, plus a preview of iTunes 10 and the current top apps:




Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reloading An App, Revisited

Here’s an update on the post I did a couple of weeks ago about troubleshooting an app on my iPod touch. To Apple’s credit, someone from the iTunes Store Customer Support Team finally responded to me and was very helpful. Their first suggestion was to do exactly what I had planned on doing after I read their knowledge base, delete and reload the app.

I followed Apple’s directions, and even went a few steps further. I backed up iTunes, and then sync'd my nano and touch. Fresh copies all around! Speaking of copies, I made sure I had a copy of the old iTunes 8.0.20 installer, which I did, just in case. Next I backed up my PC to an external drive, and then I upgraded to the latest version of iTunes (9.2.1.5).

Surprisingly, all went well. When iTunes 9 was finished installing, I rebooted the PC and then tried resyncing my ipods. Everything worked fine.

Next, I deleted the app in question from both my Touch and iTunes. Then I went to the app store and repurchased it. iTunes recognized that I had already purchased the app and allowed me to download it for free, nice, and then a dialog box popped up that said:

"You must authorize this computer to download this application. There are also other applications on your Computer that are not authorized and will be removed if you don't choose to authorize now."

Not nice. So of course, I reauthorized the computer that I've been using to handle my account without interruption for at least 3 years. Very strange, but what's worse is the next message:

"You now have 5 of 5 possible computers authorized to use this account."

Why iTunes decided that the system I've been using for so long is suddenly not on the list is a total mystery. It's been authorized for 5 years, and it's been at least 3 years since I've replaced any components in it. Is it possible that iTunes 9 does a more thorough consistency check then iTunes 8, and just noticed the work I did 3 years ago? Regardless, at some point in the near future I’m going to need to deauthorize all the computers on my account and start fresh, but that’s for another time.

Anyways, the app appeared to download correctly, so I resynced my touch and tried to start the new copy of the app, and got the same error as before; a brief black screen followed by getting dumped back at the desktop.

bummer : (

I tried rebooting the PC and the iPod and then resyncing again, just in case, but the app still didn't work.

So, there I sat, broken hearted. Paid 5 bucks for an app that farted.

My bet at this point is that this latest version of Raging Thunder 2 just doesn't run on OS 2.2 as advertised. Polarbit still hasn't responded, but when I reported back to the iTunes support team that it failed again, they quickly offered to credit my account, which I quickly, and gratefully, accepted.

I can’t say enough good things about the iTunes Store’s customer service, and I’m glad I finally have all the computers upgraded to iTunes 9, even though to do it safely is a bit of a chore…The Sharing feature is the nards.

My only fear in all of this, is that my beautiful, shiny, fast as lightening 2nd gen touch is rapidly being painted into that inevitable high tech corner, obsolescence, at least in the available app department. I’m sure it won’t be long before all new apps are iOS4 specific, and I’ve seen the results of upgrading the OS on a 2nd gen touch. Poor battery life and general flakiness.

Hopefully, the good people of Apple will have come up with a tweak or two by the time that becomes necessary. In the meantime, I’m going to continue enjoying its current functionality, and that’s spinning tunes and eating downtime. I’ve become obsessed with trying to beat my wife at Five Dice. We play whenever we’re waiting in line, and it makes the wait go by in a flash. Passing the device back and forth is part of the fun, it makes it a much more interactive experience. Problem is, she always beats me. I think the tally stands at about 20 to 2 right now, advantage; wife. The fact that she’s constantly taking my first roll, and sometimes follows this by logging the score in a totally inappropriate box, isn’t helping my cause any.

Hey, you don’t think she’s doing it on purpose, do you? Maybe I should call her on it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

It’s the Dog Days of August, my favorite time of the year. When else can you lounge by the pool all day, cook dinner on the grill, then sit back in the AC comfort of Man Town and flip back and forth between Sunday Night Baseball and Sunday Night Football? Red Sox/Yankees, no less.

The only thing that could make this day more complete would be if the Pats were on, but that’s coming soon enough. Their first preseason game is this Thursday night @ 7:30 on WBZ-TV 4, against the Super Bowl Champion, Colt Beatin' Saints.

God I love this country!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

iPod Tip Of The Day: How To Troubleshoot An App

I’ve always been happy with my music purchases from iTunes, and up til now, with my App purchases also. About a month ago I purchased and downloaded Raging Thunder 2, a racing game for my Touch. I had searched long and hard for games that would work on a 2nd gen touch running 2.2, as a large percentage of the games and Apps available in iTunes these days are designed for devices running OS 3 or later. I’ve been tempted to upgrade, but I’m of the mind that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

My fear is that both the 2nd gen Touch and the Apps I currently have were all developed for OS 2. There's been a lot of hardware upgrades to the Touch since the 2nd gen, and both OS 3 and 4 were developed essentially for a different device. Why should I take the risk of having a buggy, flakey iPod when it already performs like a champ? Nah, I've been burnt to many times by their upgrades. When OS 3 first came out there were all sorts of posts about Wi-Fi strength and battery life going down on 2nd gens that had been upgraded. Seemed the processor just wasn’t up to all the new tasks, which is probably why they replaced it in the 3rd gen devices.

OS 2.2 has been a solid version, and I’ve been quite happy with my Touch just the way it is. Sure, I’d like to unlock the Bluetooth capabilities, and also be able to play games head to head without having to pass the iPod back and forth, but these are small things I can live without, so for now I just look for Apps that are rated to run on 2.2, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. I saw on the product description for Raging Thunder 2 that it ran on devices running 2.2 or later, so I paid the 5 dollars and downloaded it.

It appeared to load correctly, but once installed, it wouldn't start. Just a brief black screen, and then I’m dumped back at the desktop. Since purchasing it, I’ve sent 2 messages to the manufacturer, reported the problem to Apple by clicking the report a problem link in my receipt, plus every time I try to open the App, the Touch wants to know if I'd like a bug report sent to Apple. The message says that someone from Apple will look it over and get right back to me. No sir, not true. It's now been a month and I haven't had a single response from either Polarbit or Apple. Guess I'm out 5 bucks, but it's not the monetary loss that bugs me the most, it's the lack of response. The App store and the manufacturer should at least acknowledge my complaints. My emails have been very polite and chock full of details, plus they have the bug reports, so I’m sure they know exactly what the issue is. Instead, I have to scour their knowledge base, and then try a long list of “maybe this will fix it” solutions. Oh joy.

There’s a 90% chance that my problem is either a bad download or a bad install, and Apple does let you download things again that you’ve already paid for. You just need to delete the App from your iPod, and also from iTunes, then you go to the App store and select it for purchase again. iTunes will prompt you that you already own it, and ask you if you’d like a replacement copy for free. Click here for the full procedure for troubleshooting/reloading an App.

The instructions also say that you should upgrade to the latest version of iTunes and the latest OS before you try to download it again. As I said before, I’m not interested in OS 4, but I am going to upgrade iTunes from 8.02.20 to 9.2.1. We have version 9 on both my laptop and my wife’s iMac, so I know its stable, plus 9 has a nice sharing feature. Once all of our machines are running 9 we’ll be able to move purchases between all authorized computers, which will save a lot of hassle.

Of course, before you upgrade, you should always sync your iPods and do an iTunes backup, just in case…

Man, this is turning into a huge project! It would be soooo much better if either Apple or Polarbit would confirm what I need to do, but it’s a self service world these days, so I better get started. I’ll let you know how I make out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Special Summer Vacation Edition

I’ve been on vacation and maintaining radio silence, so it’s that time again, time to purge all those temporary files that have been building up in my head. There’s a lot, and I need my brain back, so let’s roll;

There’s nothing as relaxing for me as the beach in the late afternoon. The crowds are gone, the sun has mellowed; it’s the best time to be there. Sometimes I just sit in my sand chair and stare at the ocean, sometimes I walk the beach at waters edge, always listening to the rhythmic sounds of the surf and contemplating the vastness of it. It’s so powerful, so unrelenting, it always reminds me that I play only an infinitesimally small part in the workings of the universe, and that always makes my problems seem infinitesimally small, also, and that’s a good thing, as Martha would say.

Speaking of Martha Stewart, I was never a big fan of hers before the whole insider trading thing, but my views on her have changed. She did her time without so much as a squeak, and rather than staying aloof and alone in jail, she actually became a part of daily prison life and made some very unlikely friends. Now I’m not advocating a life of crime, but I do admire people who take their punishment without whining and blubbering, and who don’t write a book about it when they get out. You shouldn’t be rewarded for the errors you make in life (Are you listening, Miss Lohan? I doubt it). While I was on vacation I found one more reason to like her. I saw her on late night TV and she was talking about a “You Tube via On Demand TV” event she had recently attended, and she mentioned that her favorite You Tube video is the same as mine; Sneezing Panda. I just can’t get enough of that video, it cracks me up, and it looks like I’m in good company.

Will the Sox get anybody back from the DL in time to make a difference? It’s not looking good.

And speaking of the DL, Jacoby Ellsbury is no Wes Welker.

Two weeks is the perfect amount of time for a vacation. The first week you start to wind down, by that middle Saturday you’ve hit TRM (Totally Relaxed Mode), and when the end finally approaches, you’re usually more than ready to get back home to your creature comforts, and your creatures.

Speaking of both vacations and creatures, our cats are wicked smart, and they know when we’re getting ready for vacation. It always plays out the same; the minute a suitcase comes out, their little dance starts. First they get a little standoffish, ignoring us unless we’re trying to pack, then they’re either on or in the suit cases. Maybe they’re thinking that preventing us from packing will prevent us from leaving. It all culminates when we’re closing up to leave, and one or both of them bites or scratches me when I go to give them a goodbye pat. Always the same. There’s also a minor variation of “the dance” when we get home. When we first come in, they’re all over us, but then there’s a lull in the action. It’s almost like they’ve just remembered that we deserted them and they’ve decided to give us the cold shoulder. It doesn’t last too long though; they’re usually back underfoot pretty quickly. By the time we hit the rack, they’re usually both in the bedroom with us, purring and snoozeling in their favorite spots. I really missed that while we were away.

From the “Be careful what you wish for” department; as I said before, I was way ready to get home and get back to business by the end of my vacation. That lasted for all of a day. I had conveniently forgotten that I was going to have people who had been waiting the whole two weeks to talk to me, both at home and at work, and they all pounced on me on that first Monday back. Contractors, Drs., Lawyers, customers, bosses, friends and family, everybody wanted a piece of me. Sheesh, it was a nightmare. I don’t think I left work before 7pm any night last week, and I’m pretty sure I only had time for lunch twice. Plus, when I did finally get home there were lots of chores that had backed up, and little time or energy left to do them. It’s interesting to me that people don’t understand, or don’t care to understand, that when you get back from an extended absence you can’t dedicate large blocks of time to them. It’s not that you don’t want to; it’s just that there are too many things that need attention, at least for the first couple of days. Instead, everyone clamors to be first, and consequently things go to hell in a hand basket. No matter how hard you work, you end up pissing people off, and that’s very frustrating. I call it the “Vacation Residual Factor”, and it’s as certain as death and taxes.

Brady will not be a holdout. It’s just not his style. If a deal doesn’t get done, he’ll fulfill his obligation and he won’t grouse publically. I’m also sure that privately he’ll make it known to Bill and Bob, and I don’t mean the roast beef guys, that he’ll be entertaining all offers next year, and that there will be no home town discounts. Can you blame him? Life is uncertain in the NFL, and although Tom will probably go on to something equally as lucrative when he retires, he’d be a fool not to look for that last big payday. Will the Patriots ante up to keep him going forward? Hard to say. If it were just up to Bill, I’m sure the team would roll the dice and let him move on, but it’s not just up to Bill. Mr. Kraft doesn’t appear to meddle in team affairs that often, but he is a shrewd business man. He knows that in these tough economic times, marquis players can still fill seats, even if a team is not performing all that well, and that’s what it all comes down to; filling seats.

I have an idea for a new reality TV show; The Real Housewives of Revere Vacation at the Vineyard. It’ll be great. I got the idea when a group of 8 to 10 women moved into our condo complex on our last weekend there. It was hard to get a count, because I didn’t really have enough time to distinguish amongst them. They were all between 30 and 40, and they were always coifed to the max. Big hair, makeup, jewelry, high heeled sandals and bathing suits. You just knew they weren’t headed to the beach. Uh-uh, no sand in the butt crack or salt in the hair for these ladies. It was a really scorching week, as it has been everywhere, so I couldn’t help wondering how they were going to keep that look without staying indoors. I’m betting they spent most of their time in the clubs on Circuit Ave. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the island is more of a beach and water sports kind of place during the day, and has a definite low key bohemian flavor at night. When I’m there, getting dressed up for dinner means switching from T shirt, bathing suit and sandals to semi clean shorts, a polo and sneakers. Sometimes I even rinse the salt and sand off too, but not often. So here are my plot thoughts; the cameras follow the ladies around as they try to move about the island without their “look” melting, or as they go to a gallery opening and mingle with the local barefoot artists. They could even go fishing for blues, the possibilities are endless. Forget Jersey Shores, this show will have ten Snookies, and not a Guido or a dance club in sight. You know they’re gonna mix it up with someone before the vacation is over. I love it!

I’d like to see the Shaq Daddy end his career in Celtic green. I’ve always loved watching the big man play, even when he was a Laker, and I think he’s still got enough left in the tank to be fierce off the bench. He’d give them the size and muscle they need, and it would be a treat to see.

Speaking of having something left in the tank, I’m loving my Toyota Highlander. My previous vehicle was a Dodge Durango, and although it had all kinds of payload space, it was a real gas guzzler. Because of the high price of gas on the island, I always stop and top off in Falmouth before getting on the ferry. The Durango usually took 7 to 10 bucks to top off after the ride to the Cape. In contrast, it only took 72 cents to top off the Highlander. Nice. Being able to watch a DVD while I wait for the ferry isn’t half bad either.

Because we’ve been going with a beach vacation theme here, I’ll leave you with this last thought. It’s a neat little excerpt from the book "How to Live At the Beach," by Sandy Gingras:

“At the beach, life is different. A day moves not from hour to hour but leaps from mood to moment. We go with the currents, plan around the tides, follow the sun. We measure happiness by nothing we can hold... nothing we can catch. Everywhere…Life is jumping and elusive and momentously momentary. We want to [stretch] the days, distill the memories, make them last. At the same time, we know that the beauty is in the evanescence. Every wave comes in, then retreats. Every day promises, then turns its back and slips away. Every joy has a little tease in it, a give and a take, and leaves a wake of longing."

That is all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Turning Wireless Routers Into WAPs


There’s a couple of ways to boost the Wi-Fi signal strength in a large home or business, the cheapest and easiest of which is to use a Range Expander, which is basically a signal repeater. I’ve experimented with them and found them to be functional, but lacking. You can read about it here: Linksys Wireless G Range Expanders.

The best way to boost your signal is to add a Wireless Access Point (WAP) or two in strategic locations and hardwire them back to your main router with CAT5e cable.

An Access Point is basically a wireless router without routing capabilities. There are many on the market, and for some reason they usually cost quite a bit more than wireless routers. A good example is the Linksys WAP610N, a nice device, but it’s twice the price of the WRT120N wireless router, with only half the functionality (1 wired LAN port vs. 4, no WAN port and no DHCP). You’re better served getting the WRT120N and dumbing it down a little. You’ll save money, you’ll have a spare Wi-Fi router “just in case”, and it’s really easy to do.

Here’s how:

Power up the router standalone, do not connect it to your network.

Plug your laptop into a LAN port on the router. Don’t plug in to the WAN (Internet) port. You won’t be using this port at all in this exercise.

Log in to the router by putting its address into the address bar of your web browser. Linksys routers have a default address of 192.168.1.1, as do most routers. Check your manual to be sure, though.

When prompted, leave the username field blank and enter admin for a password.

Now we’re going to change some settings, including the default address of the router. Save the address change for last though, as you’ll lose your admin session once you change it. No big deal, you can connect again, it just slows up the process.

Note: After each change, do a “Save Settings”.

Change the defualt password from admin to lock down the device. Be sure to write it down someplace safe!

Disable DHCP, you’re gonna let your main router hand out addresses.

Disable NAT (Network Address Translation). Once again, your main router is going to handle this.

Set the SSID and encryption key to match the main router's settings.

Change its broadcast channel to something other than what the main router is using. It’s a good practice to set it 5 channels off of the next nearest WAP or wireless router, ie: main is set for channel 1, next one is set for channel 6, next one is channel 11, etc.

Change its address. First, look to see what range your main router is handing out. A good bet is setting it to 192.168.1.2, as most manufactures set the routers to begin at .40 just for this reason, but be sure to check. An address conflict will hose you all up. Once again, be sure to write down the new address someplace safe. I keep Word documents with all the settings for each network I tweak.

One last save and that’s it, your wireless router is now a WAP.

The last step is to plug it in to your network. Use LAN port 1 on the new WAP, and any open LAN port on the main router. Refer to the diagram above.

You can add as many WAPs as you need for maximum coverage, and you will now be able to roam seamlessly between Access Points. Remember, each one needs to have its own unique address!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Turn Your Laptop into a Hotspot

Happy National Wi-Fi Week!

Actually, it’s not really a national thing yet, but here at berryjooks headquarters we like to kick off the summer vacation season by celebrating those little invisible radio waves that bring us all of that Internet goodness we crave when we’re unplugged and roaming.

We’re going to share a couple of tips with you this week, and we’re going to start with something simple, wirelessly sharing a single Internet connection between multiple computers.

There are two types of Wi-Fi connections; infrastructure and ad-hoc. An infrastructure connection is when you connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi enabled router or a WAP (Wireless Access Point). An ad-hoc connection is a peer to peer (laptop to laptop) wireless connection that runs solely over the laptop’s Wi-Fi radios, no external hardware is involved. This can be a great tool for file sharing amongst a group when there’s no network available, or if there is a wired Internet connection available, you can take it a step further and enable Internet sharing on one of the laptops and use it as a WAP or Hotspot.

I had a friend ask how to set this up at their vacation cottage the other day, and rather than try to give them a tutorial, I did a quick Google search and found the excellent video below on CNET. It walks you through set up on Windows XP, Vista and Mac OSX, and it even discusses how some PC’s are set to shut down their radios when a wired connection is present and how to get around this.

Note: This video was made before the release of Windows 7, but the Vista instructions will work for 7 also.



Pretty neat, huh?

That's it for now. Later this week I’m going to show you how you can dumb down wireless routers and use them as WAPs to increase your wireless coverage in a large home or office, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Endless Summer Day

Yesterday was one of those perfect New England summer days; bright sunshine in a cloudless sky, 90º and dry, with just a bit of a cool breeze blowing in off the ocean to provide a little natural AC. Our plan for the day had been to knock out the yard work early and then attend a graduation party in the afternoon, and that would have been enough, but as often happens on beautiful summer days, a few unexpected opportunities arose, and we made the most of them.

By noon we had the lawn looking like emerald corduroy and the pool sparkling like a sapphire in the sun. As we were wrapping up, one of our sons arrived with his significant other, which was a pleasant surprise. You have to take your moments as they come when you have grown offspring, so although we needed to get cleaned up and gone, we decided to join them in the pool for a little while.

We soaked off the sweat of our labors in the pool, and then out came the lemonade, and then the Bocce set… This was turning into an impromptu party and I was tempted to blow off the rest of the day and stay right there by the pool, but we didn’t. We left the kids to have some peace by the pool, did a fast shower and change, and were on the road by 2:30.

The graduation party was great; family, friends, food and tunes. The hosts live about a block from the ocean and that salt air smell just added to the vibe of the day. While we were there we made the acquaintance of a fine Scottish couple, himself in kilt, that were a pleasure to talk to, and who, as the party went on, turned out to have a serendipitous connection to us. In the course of conversation it came to light that the gentleman had worked for the same airline that my Dad had, and knew him. This being Fathers Day weekend and all, it was a bit of a goosebumpy moment. We had just been swapping stories about the Grampster with our son back by the pool, and then we meet a total stranger that knew him. A kilted total stranger, at that. A cool and yet slightly surreal encounter. Lang may yer lum reek, Jonas.

At this point the day was already memorable on quite a few levels, but we weren’t done yet. We had parked within eyeshot of the ocean, and as we walked to the truck we made the decision to catch sunset at the beach. We opened all the hatches, cranked up the tunes, and took a long, slow, sunset cruise down Shore Drive.

The beach, the water, the people out for a Saturday night stroll, us singing along with Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” as we slow cruised, priceless. I could feel my internal clock running backwards, and the rest of the ride home went by in the blissful blink of an eye.

We had just gotten home and we were starting to unwind when the peace of the long day was broken by the window rattling sound of big time fireworks. We had completely forgotten that there was going to be a fireworks display in the park down the street from our house. As the pets all bolted for cover, we bolted out to the front yard and watched as an impressive fireworks display played out just above the trees. A fitting end to a magnificent day.

Sitting here now and looking back over the day, I still find it hard to believe that we squeezed in all that we did, but that’s what summer is all about. Long days spent living in the moment, and rolling with what life gives you.

I leave you with this quote from Annie Dillard;

“Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.”

Here’s hoping yours is well spent. Happy Fathers Day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brutal, Just Brutal.

That’s what Tuesday night’s game was, brutal to watch. I kept watching though, hoping they’d wake up and get some kind of a rhythm going, just so they’d feel better about themselves, and maybe carry that feeling over into game 7. Nope, didn’t happen.

I’m gonna go into tonight thinking that Game 6 was a combination of jet lag and being a little full of themselves from the previous two wins. Combine that with LA having their backs up against the wall and you’ve got all the makings of a blowout. Tonight will be the real test, both teams in a do or die situation.

I’m banking on a close, exciting game, and a Celtics victory.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boston Takes Game 5!

Despite a lights out performance by Bryant, the Lakers just couldn’t match the Celtics intensity. Everybody was poppin’ for the Celtics tonight, and now the Lakers are one game away from elimination. Like I said, one man can’t win a game, or a championship.

Phenomenal effort by the Celtics, especially Pierce and Rondo. Paul was overdue for a night like this, and you’ve gotta love Rondo’s hustle!

Final: Celtics 92 – Lakers 86
Full game coverage on Celtics.com

Could We Ask For Anything More From These NBA Finals?

Well, winning the title would be nice, but for now, I’m pretty happy with how things are going. It’s been punch, counter punch through the first 4 games, and the series is all even at two apiece as we count down to game 5

We’ve seen the marquis players go from cold to hot and hot to cold. We’ve seen great bench play, flaring tempers and comic relief. I still chuckle to myself every time I think about Robinson and Davis’ press conference after game 4. Shrek and Donkey indeed.

It’s exactly what I’d hoped it would be; a contest, and an exciting one at that.

The media has been asking everyone that has a pulse who they think will win the series, and those that pick the Lakers always have a slight variation of the same answer, and it goes like this; “The Celtics are a good team, but the Lakers have Kobe, the best player in the game today.” While I agree that he is arguably the best all around player, miles above most in ability, I say; “So what?”

Great teams win championships, not great players. A single great player, or even a team full of great players, doesn’t make a championship team. You need look no further than the ’07-’08 “almost perfect” Patriots to understand this. A collection of great players that never gelled as a team, beaten in the end by someone that wanted it more and played like it.

These Celtics want it more. The role players are elevating their game when the starters aren’t able to, and that’s what it takes to win. Everyone contributing, everyone wanting it. Even Shrek and Donkey.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celtics Even Series

Ray Allen raining threes and Rondo reigning the floor, now that’s what I like to see!

What a game. Best line of the night, midway through the second quarter; “I guess people were making too much out of a single win…”. Yeah, you were, you chowdahead.

It wasn’t just Breen, Jackson and Van Gundy singing the Lakers praises early though, Scott and company made the pre game intolerable with their premature coronation ceremony. Do these people understand that they’re broadcasting in both markets? I think not. They’re all gonna have to work overtime revamping their shtick before Tuesday. Empty suits.

So now it’s back to Boston for 3 games in what has become a best of 5 series. This is going to be a back and forth heavyweight slugfest right to the end, but I think the Celtics will prevail. In the end, the Lakers downfall will be their attitude. Like tonight’s broadcast team, the Lakers were convinced that they had the Celtic’s number, and they weren’t prepared for the team that showed up tonight. When things don’t follow script for these guys, they start breaking down. Watch and see.

Final: Celtics 103 Lakers 94. Complete game coverage on Celtics.com

Monday, May 31, 2010

MP3 Jukebox CD’s


It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and it’s time for road trips, pool parties and backyard barbeque's. Are you prepared? Are you ready to rock the house, or the car?

I am, and I’m gonna show you a no fuss way that you can be, too, using just a single CD.

It’s an easy thing to dock your iPod and fire up a playlist, so you’re probably saying; Meh.., who needs CD’s? Well, here’s the rub; sometimes you just don’t want the added hassle of connecting and protecting your iPod. You’re in a rush to be on the road and you don’t want to have to deal with the connecting, fiddling, disconnecting and stashing of your MP3 player. Or maybe you’re bringing music to a friend’s backyard bash. You know someone will end up messing with your iPod as the night goes on, plus you may be way ready to leave long before the party is over, and there’s no bigger buzz kill than turning off the tunes mid-song at a party so that you don’t have to leave your iPod behind, plus there’s no way to slide out unobtrusively in this scenario, and we’ve all needed to do that once in a while…

The answer is to create an MP3 Jukebox CD. You can fit approximately 160 songs in MP3 format on a 700MB CD-R disc and have 10+ hours of uninterrupted music. Most of today’s auto and home CD players are now capable of at least MP3 and WMA playback, and some of the higher end models support additional formats. All you need to do to create one is to copy your MP3 files to a blank CD-R in data format. Most burning software will actually have an MP3 Jukebox option. Sonic, Nero, iTunes, all have it built right in. With iTunes, you’ve probably got your favorite playlists already created, so it’s a piece o’ cake. The burning process only takes about 15 minutes to boot. At any given time, I’ve usually got a couple ready to go, and they’re custom tailored for all situations. The ever evolving “Party Mix”, the more sedate “Don’t Harsh My Mellow Mix”, you get the idea. The possibilities are endless.

One thing to remember when using iTunes to make your CD is that none of your iTunes purchased music is downloaded in MP3 format. The MP3 Jukebox function will still work, it will just skip over any M4p/M4a/AAC files in your playlist. You can either let it, or you can convert the file formats to MP3. If you’re gonna convert, ALWAYS make a copy of the original first, because what you strip out in the conversion process can’t be put back. When I rip music from CD’s into iTunes, I always select the MP3 format just for this reason, and when I purchase songs from the iTunes store, I always create a standard audio CD backup of them, and that’s what I use to create the MP3 copies. I usually close iTunes and rip the songs back in as MP3’s to a different folder using Media Player, that way my iTunes library isn’t bloated with repeats.

The other thing to note is that different players read and organize the folders on data CD’s in different ways. When I burn a playlist to CD in iTunes, my Bose Wave presents and plays them back in alphabetical order ie: AC DC, Allman Brothers, etc. When I pop the same CD into one of our car players, they play back in the original playlist order, which is what I prefer as sometimes I put a lot of effort into the mood and pace of a playlist. Not a huge problem though. If the device starts playing back alphabetically and that’s not what you’re in the mood for, you just hit the mode button on your player and select shuffle disc.

So, it’s an easy and painless way to have your music for the ride, the party, and as an added bonus, you can leave the CD behind as a little thank you gift for your host’s hospitality when you do finally bug out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost: After The End

I was totally impressed by “The End”. I sat riveted throughout the episode, and when it was over, I went outside and sat by the pool in the dark for a while, listening to it gurgle and splash, and mulled it all over.

I had spent the better part of the weekend getting the pool opened, and I was bone tired. I was also emotionally drained from the finale, with it’s unbelievably heart wrenching twists and turns, and as I sat there listening to the pump working overtime, filtering out all the algae and crud that had built up over the winter and returning pure clean water into the pool, I couldn’t help thinking that it was the perfect way to sum up Lost, and the perfect way to wrap up the evening.

The finale, and the final season on the whole, was just what we needed in these uncertain times, a reminder about what’s really important in life. Redemption, brotherhood, love, and above all else, doing the right thing no matter what the cost. Whether you loved or hated the finale, you have to give it that.

Personally, I loved it. Sure, it left us with questions, but what good story doesn’t? I still wonder what became of Randall Flag in “The Stand”, what became of the whole world, for that matter. Did it get rebuilt, and if so, was it a better place for all that happened? I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. Was Flag the Devil? Was Mother Abigail a minion of God? So many questions. What I do know is that it’s one of my favorite stories by far, because like Lost, it was well written and had a message.

In the coming days, I plan to share my thoughts about the plot, the characters, and the many solved and unsolved mysteries of the island, as well as posting some of the key screen caps over on the Lost pages at www.berryjooks.com. For now, you should read Jeff “Doc” Jensen’s Lost Finale Recaps, Part 1 and Part 2. He does a much better job than I ever could.

Namasté.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The End


Can you believe Lost is almost over? By the time you hit the rack tonight, you'll know everything. Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Actually, probably just some things.

Two and a half hours isn't nearly enough time to answer all of the questions I've got, but I'm sure they're going to answer the most important ones, and I'm also sure they're going to leave us with a few things to think on. This show has a propensity for answering questions with more questions, and I'm sure it will be no different tonight.

The only other thing I'm sure of about tonight's finale is that Ben is going to play a huge part in the episode, and in The Monster's demise, should the story play out that way. I've seen enough of Ben's machinations to know when he's playing someone, and he's playing Flocke, I'm just surprised that Flocke doesn't realize it yet.

Has The Monster lost a step? Flocke was looking pretty tired and raggedy in the last episode, especially when he was sitting on the porch in New Otherton with Ben. The sun on his face emphasized huge crows feet, and Ben's question about why he didn't just fly to where he was going was interesting. I didn't believe Flocke's answer for a second. I think Ben is on to something.

We've heard similar questions recently from people in his camp; "Why doesn't he just fly over to the Hydra?" and "Why doesn't he just fly off the island?". I think that like Jacob, his time is almost up, and his powers and judgement are faltering, and that just might give our heroes a fighting chance to defeat him.

Whatever Ben does, I'm sure he's going to pay for it with his life.

I've also got a feeling that Jack's reign as island protector is going to be short lived. Other than that, I think anything goes in this episode. In a nutshell, I'm prepared to be surprised tonight, and I'm looking forward to it.

Be sure to check out Doc Jensen's 3 Burning Questions You Need Answered on EW. He did a poll of his readers and the results are pretty interesting. He's also promised another post today before the finale, as well as his usual after episode "Instant Reaction".

See you on the other side.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lost – The Final Hours


After 6 seasons of Lost, we’re down to the last 3 hours and 32 minutes, all to be consumed in two sittings book ending a week jam packed with Lost programming.

If you’re a fan like me, you’ve probably been cooking up a stew of emotions this weekend. Equal parts excitement, anticipation and trepidation, all coming to a slow roiling boil, spiced with just a hint of both sadness and relief.

It’s the same feeling I get when I’m nearing the end of a good book. You want to know what happens, that closed book pulls at you to open it up and finish it off, but at the same time you’re wishing there was more, and perhaps worrying that the ending will leave you flat. In the end though, you always pick it up and finish it, and the ending usually has little to do with whether or not it’s a great story. The real measure is; did it move you, and did it leave an indelible mark on your psyche and color the way you think?

Lost has had its highs and lows, but through it all it’s remained constant to one thing, the characters and their struggle between good and evil. It’s always been about doing the right thing. The mythology of the island, as interesting as it is, has merely been a plot vehicle; a series of situations that constantly put the characters into moral dilemmas. The real story has been about how they deal with these situations, and how the results change them, and the world around them.

Their actions, whether good or bad, have changed us the viewers, also. The show has gotten us thinking and entering into dialogue with each other. Although a lot of the discussions have been about the island and its many mysteries, I’ve noticed that they always end up coming around to the right and wrong of things, and that’s the indelible mark it’s going to leave on us; that what we do influences not only things we see, but can influence the bigger picture, creating ripples that change people and events we’re not even aware of.

All right, enough of the deep thoughts. Here’s the rundown for the week ahead, with the new material marked in red:

Tuesday May 18th – What They Died For 9pm to 10:02pm
Saturday May 22nd – Repeat of the Pilot 8pm to 10pm
Sunday May 23rd – Lost Retrospective 7pm to 9pm
Sunday May 23rd – The End 9pm to 11:30pm
After a break for the local news there will be a special Jimmy Kimmel Live Lost Wrap Up from 12:05am to 1:05am


In preparation for finale week, you should read Doc Jensen’s latest column, and also this interview with the producers. Both are very enlightening. Doc has seen What They Died For, and has some great thoughts, as always. The interview with Carlton and Damon on the other hand, may cause you a little discomfort. They expound on what they’ve been saying for a while; all the mysteries won’t be solved. They’re going to concentrate on what they feel is important, and that’s the struggles and fates of our main characters, and let the episodes speak for themselves. No follow up Q & A’s, no explaining their intentions. It is what it is.

I don’t think we could ask for anything more.


Be sure to check out berryjooks.com, for reviews, views, screen caps and links following each episode.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts, Part IX


You know the drill by now; every time my head gets filled to overflowing with random thoughts, you get one of these, so let’s get right to it:

Speaking of drills, how about this mess in the Gulf? It turns my stomach to think of the devastation that’s in store. Now, I’m a realist, and I know that we can’t get along without oil, and that you can’t get oil without drilling, but we need to do it correctly despite the cost. There should have been an acoustic switch installed as a fail safe on the Deepwater Horizon, and the fact that the US doesn’t require them on all offshore rigs is ridiculous. We need to get regulations in place right now. We also need to start supplementing our oil usage with alternative energy sources yesterday. I don’t want to hear the argument that projects like Cape Wind will spoil the views in Nantucket Sound; this spill isn’t doing too much for Gulf property values, now is it? Or, that it won’t make a dent in our energy needs. Hey, it won’t power the entire state, but powering ¾ of the Cape is nothing to sneeze at. Just think, every barrel saved is another barrel for your SUV. It’s all about conserving our resources any way we can now, while we work at developing real alternatives.

The Red Sox really, really, suck this year. They looked great on paper coming into the season, and their come from behind win against the Yankees in the home opener had me all jeeped up, but they’ve been on a downhill slide ever since. On the bright side, they’re pounding the Angels this week, so maybe they’re waking up, and last year I thought the Yankees were toast when they were battling with similar suckage, but look how that turned out. Hey, ya gotta have hope…

The Celts and the B’s, on the other hand, are both doing very well. Both have made it to the second round, and the games have been hard fought and exciting (Tuuuu-kka!). Who would have guessed? We’re really pretty lucky to have such a wealth of pro sports around here, and who knows, maybe by the time these guys finally wind down their respective seasons, the Sox will have gotten back in the groove. Maybe.

I finally got to play with the iPad the other day, and while it’s definitely slicker than snot on a doorknob, its just not the right device for me. I’ve already got a Touch and a laptop, what the heck am I gonna do with an iPad? The way it’s tricked out right now, its only purpose is as a cool but expensive coffee table gadget.

I’m still working on my Peeps stash, and the ones that are left are aged to perfection.

My buddy Steve sent me a picture from his phone the other day of an album he was buying (see above). It was a vinyl copy of the 1968 Muddy Waters album “Electric Mud”, and it got me to thinking. Although I love the instant gratification that is iTunes, I really miss browsing through all the albums and CD’s in a real brick and mortar record store. The little thrill you get when you find a gem like Electric Mud amidst all the clutter, the heft of the album in your hands as you turn it over to check out the play list on the back, you actually felt like you were buying something substantial. I couldn’t wait to get home and unwrap it, pop it on the turntable, and then sit back and read the liner notes as my 301’s engulfed me in audio bliss. With iTunes, I usually end up having my first listen on my computer, which is a less than satisfying experience. April 17th was National Record Store Day, and there were a lot of vinyl releases to coincide. Matter of fact, there’s a 7” Beatles remastered vinyl coming out on May 18th , featuring Paperback Writer and Rain. Check out this website for more info on vinyl releases and to find a record store near you. My personal favorite is Aboveground Records in Edgartown, I could (and have) spend hours in there.

I was totally impressed by the speed, skill and determination of the MWRA workers that fixed the Aqueduct failure this week, and by the way the whole thing was handled in general. Good job people!

I really like the way the Patriots drafted this year; big and beefy. Last season when it came down to physicality they were getting their butts handed to them, and that just won’t cut it in the hard fought AFC East. I think the big tight end Gronkowski is going to make an instant impact. I can see him becoming a short yardage binky for Brady. If Welker comes back and Hernandez works out, that would give them a lot of options. My only regret is that they didn’t pick up a running back. Hopefully they’ll bring in a veteran or two before camp. LaDainian would have been interesting, but that boat’s already sailed. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

One last thought before I go and I think I’ll have cleared out enough free space for now;

I love getting out in the yard in the spring. Raking, planting, fertilizing, planning my little projects for the season, improves my disposition. I tend to get a little grumpy and cranky towards the end of the winter and spring yard work helps pull me out of my funk. Looking out over the yard at the end of a hard day’s labor, thinking about those long, lazy summer days that are coming; priceless.

That is all.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Great Aqueduct Blowout of 2010...

has been a real pain.

I don’t know if it’s made the national news, but a HUGE aqueduct that supplies water to about 2 million people in the greater Boston area had a major blowout and had to be shut down. Water is still flowing, but it’s coming directly from various local reservoirs (read ponds), rather than from the MWRA processing plants.

It’s amazing to me that our taps never went dry, quite a feat actually, but the water we’re getting now is untreated and may or may not be contaminated by goose droppings, beaver poop and the like, which means an “Emergency Boil Order” is in effect. Any tap water used for preparing food, washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc. needs to be boiled first. Without boiling, the tap water is only good for bathing, flushing and fire prevention. Bathing, by the way, does not include washing your hands. Health officials are recommending that we use boiled water to wash our hands, or that we use a hand sanitizer if boiled water isn’t available. Of course to top things off we’re having a bit of a heat wave right now. Nothing like boiling up a bunch of water on a muggy 90º day. Nice.

The situation has been toughest on the local merchants though. Some restaurants have stayed open using disposable tableware, bottled beverages and boiling the water they use to wash the food, but a lot have just shut down. There’s also been a run on bottled water. The stores can’t keep it on the shelf, and fist fights have ensued.

We’re lucky on that front. There’s a spring water bottling plant right down the street from us, and they have coin operated taps accessible 24-7 that pump out a gallon for a quarter. We’ve got a bubblah in the kitchen, and once every 2 weeks or so I load up the truck with empty 5 gallon bottles and stock up. It just so happens that I did a water run last Sunday, so we’re golden. We were already using the water for cooking and drinking; now we also have a pitcher and bowl in each bathroom for brushing and hand/face washing. It’s kinda like camping, although the novelty is starting to wear thin and it looks like we may have to “camp” like this for a couple more days.

On the plus side, we’ve gone to all paper and plastic so there’s very little to clean up after meals, and the town next to us gets its water from a different source, so all the restaurants are open and busy, especially the Dunkin’s. Plus we’ve had a temporary respite from the endless chore of laundry. All in all, it could be a lot worse. The aqueduct was repaired in record time, and now we just have to wait another 24 to 48 hours for tests to come back clean.

When we do get the OK to begin usage again, our home lines will all need to be flushed. Proper procedures are outlined here on the Mass DEP site. Your water heater will need to be completely flushed, which may take a while depending on its size, so be sure to follow the procedures the DEP outlines. You don’t want to be getting sick after the fact, that just wouldn’t do.

Friday, April 30, 2010

HP SimpleSave 1TB External Hard Drive

The HP SimpleSave 1TB external hard drive is a great buy for $99. It’s sharp, roomy, quiet and self contained, as its automatic backup software runs right off of the drive. The only thing it installs on your computer is a virtual CD drive that autoruns on boot, starting the auto backup procedure, which I must admit is pretty slick. The HP window launches, and gives you a 30 second countdown before it starts its backup, which is plenty of time to either cancel it if you’re not ready, or change the options.

It comes preconfigured to back up most file types and locations, and allows you to add more. The only fault here is that it won’t take wildcards when you’re adding new extensions, but believe me, there’s not many you’ll need to add. You also have the option to have it back up other external drives, or not. Once you start the backup, the program assesses your files and presents you with a really comprehensive rundown of exactly what it’s going to copy, and from where. If you're happy you can kick it off, if not, you can add or subtract things.

The first time you use it, it does a full backup which took about 2 hours on my Media Center (170GB of video, pictures and music), not too bad. It creates a backup folder and uses the computer’s name for the label, so you can backup multiple systems and still find things easily. When it’s done, it presents you with a report telling you exactly what it copied or skipped due to errors.

After the first use, it will backup only files that have been modified or added, and it will start the procedure itself any time the system has been idle for more than fifteen minutes, making backups a breeze. Some reviewers have stated that they didn’t like the autorun software, and I was a little skeptical myself at first. After all, I’d hate to have a drive that big that was just a one trick pony, but it’s not. You don’t have to use the autorun software to reload files, although it does make things pretty easy. You can drill right down into the backup folders and grab any file you like. I also created a separate folder on it to transfer selected content from all of my portable drives, and I’ve barely made a dent in it’s free space.


All in all, you can’t go wrong with this baby for under a hundred bucks. It also comes in both a 1.5TB and 2TB size for $129 and $159, respectively, so you can start your own disk farm!

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