Sunday, May 25, 2008

knocked up

That's the name of the movie I just watched all of except what little beginning part I missed. (That's one of the perks of staying in a hotel I guess, getting special HBO channels that show movies uninterrupted by commercials or pitches for other movies.) I'd heard of it when it was in theatres a year or so ago. Given what I'd thought of other Apatow films to date, I assumed it would be some sort of crass, baseless flick that would be full of that crude, shallow, "Family Guy" style of humor that I usually find boring at best and repulsive at worst. But I watched a little of it and it seemed okay, so I left it on.

Though I didn't really expect to, I actually watched the whole thing through and liked it. Sure, it has some of the weird humor, but not as much as I expected. I'd say it has a real, actual plot to it, too, which took me very much by surprise. Of course it's got all the regular stuff you'd expect from an R-rated movie these days, but I can handle that in moderate amounts as long as it's funny or violent enough. And I thought a lot of stuff in the movie was pretty funny.

I could kinda relate to the plot line too -- not through having experienced it, obviously, but in general. From my point of view, the story is, more or less, about a laid-back slacker who's living life as normal and has an unexpected life-altering event that changes things against his wishes. Given the same situation, I'd certainly have the same fears and despair, and possibly the same joy, as the main dude. The guy has to grow up a lot faster than he'd like, adjust his priorities, learn a bunch of new roles, and generally turn his life upside down in the ways having a first child must require. I thought there were actually a few "teaching moments" in there, too, in which the characters actually deal with real issues and discuss true stuff.

So, I guess if you're like me you never know what movies you'll end up liking and even learning from. But you know what the best part is? It was all a movie and not my own life. When I turned off the boob tube, that was the end of it.

You hear that? That's because it's the sound of silence, folks. God help me if I ever don't have space in my life for that!

random o.j. mayo facts

Here's an eye-popping factoid on O.J. Mayo, one of this year's top NBA draft prospects and a big name in high school and college hoops for the past few years:
Mayo scored 29 on his ACT and made the honor roll at USC.
And another:
There were no off-court incidents that people could point to...
Holy crap. Kid got brains. Even if one gives him no benefit of the doubt and assumes his score is artificially high because a bunch of "handlers" made sure he took a bunch of prep courses first ---which I find hard to believe because he obviously doesn't need any of that -- he still did quite well on the ACT, better than a large majority of test-takers I'm sure. And I'd guess he's off the charts for elite basketball players. Someone like that doesn't need other people taking his tests for him at USC.

On top of that, he's got no rap sheet to speak of and has been spoken of as a responsible, upstanding kinda guy by folks who have known him. Since when has a basketball player with zero thug cred been so highly touted? Seems like someone forgot to tell him he was supposed to act like so many other players of his caliber.

Mayo would seem like the sort of well-spoken, respectful, unselfish team player the league needs badly right now. He has the potential to do wonders for the image of the league if (when?) he becomes a superstar -- which is why the NBA front office must be freaking out right now. If this is what it looks like, it's highly possible a model citizen could slip through the cracks and break into their league. Stern and his cohorts had better play this one carefully.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Haven't posted here for several days so I figured I ought to post a mini-update of sorts. At this point it looks like I will be living in Holbrook, about six miles and 12-15 minutes from work. I'm not as close in to the city as I'd like to be, but being close enough to catch the subway ("T") right outside my front door would come with a steep cost in commute to work, especially given the traffic patterns here. They're unpredictable, so methinks my best bet is to sort out the traffic to and from the nearest T stop on weekends instead of to and from work every weekday.

The house should be a good arrangement with plenty of privacy. And it's very cheap, meaning I have a few hundred more bucks per month in my pocket. My landlord isn't around too often and generally spends her time on the upstairs half anyway, and so she figured she might as well rent the downstairs rooms and bath to someone who needs a place. So it's effectively two separate apartments with a shared entrance and common area. The place is very nice and well-kept, which isn't necessarily a good thing -- or at least not an easy thing -- for folks who aren't used to having to care much about their own living standards. Oh well, it'll bring back some habits from old that went by the wayside in my later college years.

That whole process has so far proven to be a real work of God I think. Over the past week and a half, I've stalled for time and passed up several opportunities to get settled in at various places, and had recently been getting quite concerned that I'd overplayed the odds a little and might end up having to go with my original plan of renting a much more expensive apartment due to my own indecision. And then this place comes along and appears to be a better deal than anything else I'd seen anyway, so as long as all goes through okay (don't see any reason it shouldn't; I plan to move in on Monday probably) then it will all have worked to my advantage anyway. Even if I decide later that I'd rather be closer to the city or whatever, it's an informal plan so I can just give a bit of move-out notice and start looking again. And as anyone who knows me can attest to, I'm all about freedom from pesky commitments. So I can't complain.

On a less positive note, this will, unfortunately, mark the second Saturday I've lived in this here hotel and had beautiful weather to work with, and yet still managed to not go into Boston. So I still haven't been downtown yet -- at least not in almost 20 years. I had hoped to go today but ended up dealing with too much other stuff (i.e., moving arrangements and standard chores) and took a nap for a bit too. Call it old age or whatever, but anymore it seems that if I only get 4-5 hours of sleep in a night then I just can't go about the usual the next day without wearing down later in the day. This getting old stuff sucks.

Anyway, time for dinner again. That means I need to go out and spend money. I've eaten in a total of four (I think) nights since I moved up, so the local restaurants are certainly happy I've moved to town. Hopefully I'll reel myself back in a little after I actually get settled in a bit. This of course renders the extra money I'm paying for the suite over a normal hotel room a waste. Moreover, I could have gotten a regular room and eaten out for every meal, and still saved money. Alas, it's a shame my extremely limited foresight rarely allows me to figure out this sort of thing before I start spending money. Oh well.

In the queue:
Visiting Boston and walking the Freedom Trail
Biking on Cape Cod National Seashore
Mariners at Red Sox, weekend of June 7th, if I can absorb the stratospheric cost of a Fenway ticket

Sunday, May 18, 2008


The Cubs have the second-best record in the majors at 26-17 (behind the D-Backs, a recent victim of a Cubs sweep) and are the mightiest team in baseball per SI's power rankings. They're atop the NL Central, two games ahead of the (hack, cough) Cards. If I'm a fan of any of the other 29 MLB teams, the Cubs are the last team I want to see on the schedule. Just thought I'd point that out...not that anyone should be the least bit surprised, of course.

If I find out I'm going to Wisconsin next then I need to hurry up and get in line for Wrigley World Series tix. It's coming...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

throwdown on belicheat

Gregg Easterbrook, whose columns are always exhaustive but very informative and well-written, has done it again. His latest column is a tour de force on why Coach Belicheat of the Patriots needs to be slammed with a harsh penalty for his blatant ongoing violation of league rules for 8+ years. The money and draft-pick penalties levied thus far against the Pats are a joke on several fronts. The fines are pocket change at that level, the lost draft pick misdirects consequences at fans and players who didn't have control over the cheating, and neither penalty is all that significant to the unethical franchise anyway. As Easterbrook and Matt Walsh have both alluded to, exchanging some meager penalties for eight years of unrivaled success is a great deal for any NFL franchise.

Particularly noteworthy, I think, is the claim by a former Pats QB that "the sign-stealing operation allowed Patriots coaches to know an opponent's defense 75 percent of the time." WHAT!?!? Who thinks that's not significant to the outcome of a game!? Yeah, knowing exactly what defense your opponent is in most of the time your offense is on the field is gonna help. A lot. Also, Easterbrook points out that all four Pats Stupid Bowls this decade were decided by three points and that such a small spread can easily hinge on the outcome of a few plays here and there. Knowing the opponent's defense could clearly help enough on a handful of snaps to tilt such a close game to one's favor.

Obviously I think Easterbrook is on to something. Don't go after the fans for something they had no control over, don't go after the players for simply playing their hardest and executing their coaches' play calls, but definitely go after Belicheat for his cheating and also his poor handling of the whole situation. He's the main reason this whole Spygate thing got started, his denials and secrecy are the reason it blew up, and his continued refusal to take responsibility for his own inept behavior is the reason it still has legs and refuses to fade into the rear view. He has had plenty of chances to show some maturity and accept his due by resigning or voluntarily stepping aside for some length of time but has squandered them all thus far, so now is Goodell's time to step in and resolve a situation that has shown no progress in resolving itself.

As I see it, Belicheat is basically the NFL's version of Barry Bonds at this point: having been caught cheating and with mounds of evidence against him, instead of owning up to his actions he comically continues to act like a six-year-old and blame everyone else for misinterpreting what he did or not believing his every word as if he were a saint. Forgetting for the moment whether or not either is guilty of cheating, they have both answered charges and handled their respective situations so poorly that one can only conclude they are plenty egotistical and cold-hearted enough to have willingly committed the crimes in the first place. Belicheat has already become a permanent scar on the face of sportsmanship, and this circus will only continue until some real punishment is meted out.

Having said that, I can't imagine rooting for the Pats while the cheater stalks back and forth on the sidelines. I know the fans are innocent in this one, so it's hard to blame Pats fans for continuing to support their team despite its coaches' scandalous behavior. But I equivocate rooting for a Belicheat-coached team with rooting for the Giants during Barry's tenure. Sure, the whole team isn't at fault, but seriously, how can one continue to derive joy from seeing a team with such a scoundrel at the helm win? Is this a measure of ambivalence toward moral bankruptcy in the league? I'm inclined to think it is. The line must be drawn somewhere, and in this case it ought to be drawn far behind Belicheat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

new toy

I haven't done any better at finding my way in this here Boston area than I have anywhere else I've ever moved to. After getting lost the first three times I got in the car and went further than the hotel parking lot, I decided I needed some help in that department. So I bought a new gadget. Call it a fuel conservation device. And my friends at Circuit City gave me a deal on it, so the savings in gas should pay for it eventually, not to mention the frustration it will hopefully save me.

Friends had recommended this one over some others, and it has a longer battery life than others I looked at (very important since I intend to use it when walking and biking). Setup was very easy; it found satellites quickly and I was programming it like a pro within minutes. I'm also impressed with the battery life, and it recharges very fast in the car so an AC adapter isn't necessary. The touchscreen is easy to use and it's very easy to see and work with in the car as well.

But the routing...that takes some getting used to. The first time I used it, it told me to take back roads when there's an interstate right next to my hotel. When I got suspicious and took the interstate instead, it freaked out and talked my ear off ("recalculating...recalculating...recalculating...") until I muted it. So if you get off track then it won't let you forget. But I took its route on the return trip, and it showed me a cool shortcut through a forest preserve that saved some time. So it was right but annoying. It needs to be quiet if it can't figure out a new route in short order (such as when there are no interstate exits immediately ahead). It did recalculate quickly and accurately when I was on city streets though.

It should really help with getting to know the area too. Being able to glance at it in the car and see street names and route turns coming before they pass by is invaluable, especially since my night vision sucks. Also, given the funky intersections around here that come in all kinds of confusing varieties, something that explains exactly how to navigate through them and end up on the desired street several seconds later is quite nice to have. It's handy indoors too; I've been playing with its "Points of Interest" list to find out what restaurants, groceries, etc. are nearby.

As a bonus, when I registered online with Garmin, I found out I was somehow eligible for a FREE upgrade to their 2009 maps. Retail on that map upgrade is $70! Anyone who knows me knows I'm all about free stuff, so such a steal is just that much sweeter. And the new maps will have more roads, points of interest, and the like. They're taking forever to download (as in, several hours on the hotel's barely-high-speed connection), being more than 2 GB, but they should be well worth it.

Overall I'm happy with the new gismo. (I'm especially pleased it has a mute function.) A little pricey, yes, but incredibly handy -- and highly recommended for anyone who ever goes to unfamiliar areas. It gives me options without me having to first study a route, print directions, and hope there are no nuances along the way to throw me off. More importantly, it gives me courage to venture out and go places without being too concerned with getting lost or deciphering the printed directions in hand. I'm looking forward to using it more. Between Mapquesting routes beforehand and using the GPS in the car, I should be invincible to the pain and suffering of getting lost, right?

Speaking of expenses, what the heck is going on here? New car accessories...moving/travel laptop...perhaps new software and printer to go with it...and now a new GPS toy? I'm spending money like I'm the federal government or something -- with the exception being that I'm actually spending my own money, of course. Time to hurry up and get working to replenish my bank account, especially before that next credit card bill hits. Chase is gonna love me after that one.


Been driving the new (for me) Forester for a while now...seems like a good car. It runs well so far and certainly drives well. It's gotten better gas mileage on trips than I expected, for being as loaded down as it has been. It's generally convenient and easy to drive/use, and hopefully it'll stay that way for a long time. I see a lot of Subarus on the road these days, new and old, and especially up here. I figure close to half the worldwide sales of Foresters and Outbacks must come from the greater Boston area.

The best part so far has been the ability of that thing to haul large amounts of stuff. For both moving trips I've been able to pack it with more than I expected in less time than I expected. I even managed to bring my prized wicker chair with me to Taxachusetts, meaning I will actually have something besides an old camping chair and a bunch of boxes to sit on. I also brought all the "optional" stuff that was at the bottom of the list -- cushions, vacuum, etc. Heck, I could have even packed my old computer had I wanted to.

It does have some quirks, though, that I will need to "fix" at some point. For one, the obnoxious seat belt alarm beeps at me every so often if I don't fasten the seat belt, even if the car isn't moving. Uh, hello, the risk of flying through the windshield is rather small at 0 mph, no? And if I'm so audacious as to put it in gear without a seat belt on then the alarm goes nuts and doesn't shut up until the belt is fastened. Be assured I'll be looking at a car manual soon to figure out how to disable that useless and maddening feature.

Also, the car alarm goes off if I use the key instead of the remote to unlock the key. Of course, this makes one wonder why there is even a keyhole in the door. I guess if worse comes to worse, I can drive it home with the horn blaring. Or maybe the extra time a thief would need to disable the horn before driving off with the car would be enough for me to get there. Who knows...bizarre.

The dealer let me down a lot I think, but I can live with that as long as the car itself holds up. The windshield washer fluid container was empty when I bought it, which proves that the Moore folks didn't even do a basic fluids check. The brakes have already started to squeak a little -- not an immediate problem but not something I'd expect to hear so soon after driving the car off the lot either. I've already had to replace a headlight bulb, which certainly shouldn't be necessary at 50k miles and was never a problem on my old car with 120k miles. (Granted, this would be hard for a dealer to catch and replace prior to failure, but it makes me wonder what else might be wrong that could be about to go out.) Given all that, I have no reason to assume the dealer did anything at all to the car prior to selling it, despite owning it for more than a month according to the title paperwork. Yeah, that's a little disappointing. If any of y'all ever consider buying from Moore Cadillac in Richmond, beware.

So...overall, pretty good so far, but I'll reserve judgment for several more months and hope nothing major comes up between now and then.