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Happy Postseason!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 21:07 EDT Leave a comment

[Cross-posted from the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum]

It’s nice to be back, folks, and under very good circumstances.

I admit to the return of my pre-2004 mindset throughout most of this season, in that I never thought our boys would actually win the division. After the last two seasons, I would have been happy with a winning record.

But they exceeded my expectations and now embark on what we all hope will be another worst-to-first postseason performance. Having limped through the last week of the season (a lone win in the final six games) that cost them home field advantage in the first round, they nonetheless start wish a clean slate. Here, are the matchups (click the image for a .pdf version you can download and print):

2016-postseason-bracket

The Red Sox vs. Indians best-of-5 series begins on Thursday evening at 8:00 EDT. Cleveland will host games 1 and 2 Thursday and Friday, Boston will host games 3 and 4 (if necessary) Sunday and Monday, and they’ll all go back to Cleveland on Wednesday if a game 5 is required. The winner of that series will play the winner of the series between the Rangers and either the Blue Jays or Orioles, who are playing for the wild card slot tonight.

From my perspective, I say we should root for the Orioles as the preferable team to face should they beat Texas and we beat Cleveland. We beat Baltimore in the season series 11-8, whereas Toronto edged us out 10-9. Toronto is also on a bit of a high, having surged past the O’s at season’s end to secure home field for the wild card game. Baltimore, on the other hand, were swept by the Sox in the second last week of the season, so hopefully we might be in their heads a bit.

Another advantage the Sox have over the Orioles is in starting pitching against each other. Looking at John Farrell’s postseason rotation of Porcello, Price, Buchholz, and Rodriguez has fared much better overall against Baltimore than against Toronto. Likewise, our batters have done better against Baltimore.

I should point out that as I write this, the O’s have just taken a 2-1 lead against the Jays in the fourth inning. So pull for those O’s to keep it going and win this thing.

See you on Thursday.

Drought

Sunday, July 31, 2016, 22:36 EDT Leave a comment

According to the United States Drought Monitor—a joint program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln— I live in an area that is currently under moderate to severe drought conditions. The portions of my lawn that lack drought-resistant grass are brown and crunchy, and the rest of it hasn’t grown much in the last month. While most of the other plantings are hanging in there, the moneywort in one of my garden beds is almost dead, which is a surprise because it’s supposed to be drought-tolerant. The plants that really thrive in these conditions are the weeds.

This afternoon, I attended a party about 50 miles to the north, in Dunstable, Massachusetts, a town just across the state line from New Hampshire. On the way to my friend’s house, I drove past the town common, which looks about how you’d expect given the lack of precipitation over the last several months:

Dunstable Common

To add insult to injury, Mother Nature has taken to teasing us. Every time the forecast calls for rain and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief because we really, really need it, the promised precipitation never comes. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have watched a large area of rain on the weather radar heading our way, only to dissipate as it approaches.

That’s all I came here to say. Thank you for letting me vent. Carry on.

One Year

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:23 EDT Leave a comment

The 2013 Boston Marathon took place a year ago today. Of course, that annual big event would be overshadowed by the explosion of two bombs at the finish line at 2:50pm, just a few hours after the winners had crossed.

Three people were killed at that moment, dozens more seriously injured. The medical personnel who volunteered at the finish line to handle cases of dehydration, heat stroke, and muscle strains became, in an instant, medics in a war zone. It was later reported that the medical tent personnel triaged 58 people—several of whom had limbs blown off—in less than a half hour.

One of the registered nurses in the medical tent that day, a friend of mine who is also an officer in a U.S. Army Reserve medical brigade, recently spent three weeks in annual training exercises simulating mass casualty situations, which for their purposes were defined as five or more casualties. She said that after Boston, five casualties was a piece of cake.

People have moved on with their altered lives. The families and friends of the three dead, along with the loved ones of the M.I.T. police officer killed three days later by the alleged terrorists (or, as I call them, dirtbags), have made it through the first year. Survivors have recovered, some continuing to learn how to use the prosthetic legs that replaced the real ones they lost. Marathon organizers have planned this year’s event taking into account the need for increased security. Boston and state police, with federal law enforcement, have developed new public safety strategies based on lessons learned. Some of the runners who were prevented from finishing last year’s race have taken advantage of the Boston Athletic Association’s offer to run this year without having to re-qualify. Likewise, some of the volunteers who dealt directly with the carnage have decided to go back to the medical tent.

Today at the finish line, which has already been painted on Boylston Street in preparation for next Monday, wreathes have been placed in memory of the victims. A commemorative service will begin in a few minutes at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium. As I watch some of the coverage on television, I am more than a little weepy, which surprises me because 1) I was 40 miles away at my office when the bombing happened, 2) I didn’t know any of the victims (although several of my friends were very nearby); and 3) I never cried back when it happened, going instead from shock at the attack to indignation by the time the suspects were identified and hunted down. Probably thousands of other people feel the same way I do and, like me, don’t really understand why.

Maybe it’s because, as I’ve said before, this may not be personal to me as an individual, but it’s personal to me as a New Englander. This corner of the country is very stoic, its inhabitants proud of our history as the cradle of the American Revolution. Boston seems like a big city, but in many ways it feels like a small town. And the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world, is our special party in which we are kind enough to let others join. Crashing it for the sole purpose of killing and maiming people is bad form, and we take it personally. In the immortal words of David Ortiz, “This is OUR fucking city!” The implication being, How dare you come into our home and attack us and our guests! How dare you take our wonderful event and ruin it with blood and body parts! A year ago, it made me angry. I’m still angry, but I’m also sad, and it has taken a year for that to happen.

Some things can’t be understood or explained, so I won’t try. I’ll just let it happen. And maybe, on Monday, I’ll head into Boston and watch a marathon.

Return from Down Under

Sunday, February 10, 2013, 22:52 EDT Leave a comment

No, I haven’t been in Australia, just stuck under an undetermined (and undeterminable) amount of snow.

The Blizzard of ’13, annoyingly dubbed “Nemo” by the hypemasters at The Weather Channel, is history. But the memories—and the snow piles—linger. I couldn’t tell you how much snow fell in my yard. Depending on where on my property you put the yardstick, snow depth by the time the storm ended measured anywhere from a dusting to four feet. That’s because after it fell, it blew around. A lot.

According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard is defined as a storm which produces, for a period of three hours or longer, sustained wind or frequent gusts of at least 35 miles per hour AND considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility frequently to less than ¼ mile. Those conditions were upon most of New England from Friday afternoon into Saturday. In my location, the cold temperatures produced fluffy snow that blew around rather than sticking to the ground. Winds during the storm blew from the north and, later, the northeast. Add to that the orientation of my house on a hill that slopes downward from south to north, plus the topography of my front yard—most of which was leveled out, thus created a steep slope facing north—and you had Bernoulli’s principle in action. The high winds accelerated further as they hit the hill, picking up the accumulating snow and dumping onto the other side of the yard.

Northwest corner of my yard after the blizzardFront yard after the blizzard

If you’re thinking, “Uh-oh, Den Mother, the other side of the yard is where the driveway is,” then you win.

I had quite a chore ahead of me, beginning with getting out of my house. I have four doors to the outside, and each one had about 18-24 inches of snow in front of it. I’d had the good sense to keep the snow shovel inside the door just to the left of the garage, so I started by pushing the storm door out as far as I could and then wedging my body between it and the door frame until I could reach out with the shovel and, very awkwardly, start shoveling the show out of the way. Once I got my whole body outside, I spent 20 minutes shoveling the snow away from the garage door (which opens out and up, a bad design now that I think of it) so I could open the garage and bring out the snow blower.

Now let me tell you about my snow blower. It’s a beast. Much bigger and more powerful than my little driveway ordinarily warrants, it was handed down to me by my real estate agent when she downsized to a condo, and far be it from me to refuse free outdoor power tools. In the few times there has been enough snow to actually use it, I’ve felt a big ridiculous. If I were a man, I’m sure someone would have accused me of compensating for small genitalia. So you can imagine my shock when I discovered on Saturday that it wasn’t quite big enough.

Digging out (click to view larger)At right is what the driveway looked like after I had taken two painstakingly slow passes down the length of it and realized that not only was the snow deeper than the snow blower blades, but in some places it was deeper than the top of the chute. I put this picture up on Twitter with the comment, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger snow blower.” (The Den Son, right on cue, replied with, “THIS IS NOT A BOAT ACCIDENT!” He makes me so proud.) It was clear at that point that I needed Plan B.

A quick aside to mention that this storm came just a couple of days after the 35th anniversary of the New England blizzard of 1978, a calamity of epic proportions with consequences far worse than this weekend’s storm for a number of reasons, one of which was that there was already a significant amount of snow on the ground from another winter storm a couple of weeks prior. Try to clear three feet of snow from a driveway that is flanked by banks five feet high. My father was in despair over how to clear our 120 foot driveway when a private snow plow operator drove by and offered his services. He started at the street, pushed the snow off the driveway to the left, then backed up and pushed more snow off the driveway to the right, lather, rinse, repeat until he got to the end and had created a corridor just wide enough for a car. So that became my Plan B, except with a snow blower instead of a plow, and blowing the snow only to one side because my neighbor’s driveway was on the other side.

I won’t go into the details of exactly how I handled the situation where the snow blower ended up tunneling under the snow such that when I backed it up, a ledge of snow fell down onto the area that had just been cleared. I also won’t explain the effect of the wind, which was still blowing, from the north of course, thus sending much of the snow back onto me and the driveway. Let’s just say that every square foot of my driveway had to be cleared at least two, sometimes three or four, times, bit by bit, until at last I ended up with this, which I captioned on Twitter as, “Vengeance is mine, saith the snow blower.”

Driveway, cleared.  Finally.

It took 2½ hours.

Before I quit for the day, I decided it would be a good idea to clear the some of the other entrances into my house, in case there’s a fire and I need an alternate means of escape. So I shoveled off the top of my front stoop (below, left) and cleared an arc outside the back door onto the patio (below, right). You can now get out of the house via those doors, but after that you’re on your own. Visitors might consider bringing a pair of emergency snow shoes, just in case.

Front stoop, cleared - the steps, not so muchBack door to the patio

I’d have loved to clear the walkway from the driveway to my front steps, but at the moment there is five feet of snow on it. I predict it will be accessible again sometime in late April.

When finally I was finished, I was cold and wet, my face windburned, ice encrusting the hair that stuck out from under my hat. It wasn’t until I was back inside, shedding my wet clothes onto the kitchen floor in preparation for a warm shower, that I realized I had a hematoma the size of a small potato on my upper thigh from where the snow blower had reared back into me, apparently at a time when my sensory nerves had ceased functioning. Which is probably just as well.

Today, my arms and back ache. It was strenuous work, clearing all that snow, even though the beast did most of the heavy lifting. But that’s winter.

May it soon be over.

Please Help Find This Missing Student

Friday, October 12, 2012, 14:02 EDT Leave a comment

Lizzi MarriottThis blog gets visitors from all over the world. Today, I’m asking you to please pray for the safe return of a young woman named Lizzi Marriott who has been missing since Tuesday evening. Lizzi is from Westborough, Massachusetts, and is a student at the University of New Hampshire. She and her family are also long-time friends with the Den Son. Her parents are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.

We all hear news stories about cases like this and our hearts go out to the people involved, but I can tell you that it about 1,000 times worse when it hits closer to home. And I’m only indirectly involved. I can’t imagine what Lizzi’s parents are going through. I don’t want to imagine. That’s why I’m keeping my mind not on how these cases often turn out, but rather on prayer that this one will be different. I hope you will join me, even if you don’t know Lizzi, the Marriotts, the Den Son, or me.

Anyone in the vicinity of UNH can also help in another way, by viewing and/or distributing the flyer that can be found at this link. You can also click on the image below for a little more information.

Lizzi Marriott missing

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Friday, April 20, 2012, 14:56 EDT Leave a comment

(Cross-posted at the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum)

Fenway Park facade

Fenway Park's Yawkey Way facade as captured with my phone October 18, 2010

It isn’t every day that you get to celebrate a 100th birthday. As rare as it is with people, it’s even rarer with ballparks. Unprecedented, in fact. Today we wish a happy 100th birthday to Fenway Park.

Today could have been a day of twin celebrations in Major League Baseball. On this date in 1912, when the first game was played at Fenway (after two days of rain-outs) Detroit’s Navin Field, later renamed Tiger Stadium, also hosted its first game. But after the 1999 season, Tiger Stadium was torn down while still a spry 87.

B logo earring

Wearing my pride

So now, Fenway stands alone. It’s big deal in a country where shiny new stadiums are increasingly popular, where historic buildings of all types often don’t survive unless local ordinances mandate preservation. In Boston, the preservation was mandated by the fans, who rose up against the former owners’ determination to tear it down and start fresh, and affirmed by new owners who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars not refurbishing and enhancing it.

Even as I wear my “B” logo earrings as a personal tribute, other commendations to the old ball yard abound on the web:

  • Yahoo! Sports ranks history’s 10 most historic stadiums (of any sport) and even though the Roman Colosseum came in first, Fenway was right behind it.

    Two World Wars, The Great Depression, nothing stopped baseball and the park was always bustling with loyal fans. No other stadium compares to Fenway Park and no other baseball stadium stands today that was built before it.

  • Fenway’s jealous younger sibling weighs in.

    My name is Wrigley Field. And I’ll try not to be resentful and jealous this week.

    You realize what Friday is, right? Yeah, the 100th birthday for that insufferable cousin of mine in the northeast, Fenway Park.

    They’ll be going all gaga the next few days over the little twerp. He thinks he’s so cute, there with his Green Monster. I hope he has a power outage.

  • CBS News gets the perspective of comedian, Worcester native, and lifelong Sox fan Denis Leary.

    Leary said, “That’s the thing about Fenway Park. Even in these seats or those seats, you feel like you can reach out and choke the opposing players with your bare hands at any given moment. And sometimes you feel like choking a Red Sox player.”

  • Over at ESPN.com, Jim Caple pays tribute.

    I hope Fenway Park lasts to celebrate a second full century in baseball. Although I shudder to think what ticket and beer prices could be there in 2112.

    [ . . . ]

    “What a cathedral. It’s like going to church,” said Tim Wakefield, who pitched 17 seasons at Fenway before retiring this spring. “The stadium is the star here. Fenway is the star.”

  • The New England Sports Network, the cable TV station that is partially owned by the Sox and carries all their games that aren’t nationally televised, marks the 100th birthday with 100 interesting ballpark facts.

    10. The Green Monster was originally blue and featured many white advertisements.

    [ . . . ]

    17. The [grandstand] seats at Fenway are made out of Oak wood.

    [ . . . ]

    59. Fenway Park is 20 feet above sea level.

    [ . . . ]

    81. Earl Wilson no-hit the Angels on June 26, 1962, becoming the first african-american pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the American League.

    [ . . . ]

    95. [Boston Mayor] John. F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of John F. Kennedy, started the tradition of tossing out the first pitch.

  • A Christian Science Monitor correspondence and Orioles fan now living in Massachusetts expresses her appreciation of the role the old ball yard will play in her young daughter’s life.

    [A]s parents, we have come to accept that when our daughter grows into her team — when she starts memorizing on base percentages and ERAs, when she insists on showing up early for batting practice and the chance to get a player’s signature, when she becomes aghast that we (or her grandparents) have tossed out old dusty boxes of baseball cards that were cluttering up a basement — we will root along side her.

    So happy birthday, Fenway Park. We’ll learn to love you. Or at least accept that you’ll give our daughter happiness.

There are many more accolades and others will come. The Red Sox held a free open house for the public yesterday and will mark the actual anniversary this afternoon with special ceremonies and a game against the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees), the same team that played at the grand opening. Both teams will wear vintage uniforms. It isn’t quite the same as logo earrings, but it will do.

Another Politician Does the Perp Walk

Monday, April 2, 2012, 15:15 EDT Leave a comment

With corruption, everyone paysIt’s the same old same old here in Massachusetts, but with a little twist. Instead of yet another state legislator facing criminal charges, it’s a former State Treasurer.

Former state treasurer Timothy Cahill was indicted Monday on public corruption charges related to advertisements promoting the state lottery that ran during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2010, according to a person familiar with the charges.

Cahill faces criminal charges of procurement fraud and conspiracy to commit violations of state ethics laws, according to the individual, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the indictments returned by a Suffolk County grand jury had not yet been announced.

Also indicted were Scott Campbell, a former Cahill aide, and Al Grazioso, the former chief of staff of the state Lottery Commission.

As a believer in the presumption of innocence who doesn’t know all the facts, I am not rushing to judgment. But in light of past events in which Massachusetts politicians went to prison, no one can be blamed for thinking, “Not again!”

Fun with Watercraft

Sunday, March 18, 2012, 23:57 EDT Leave a comment
Emsco brochure picture

Emsco Group brochure picture of Tiger Shark kayak

Thirteen months after moving to a town with a really nice lake, I finally bought a kayak. It is a recreational flatwater model I had actually looked at previously but was holding off on buying because it was more than I wanted to spend on something that wasn’t a necessity. But I found it this weekend on sale for $200, paddle included, at Ocean State Job Lot. Since I hadn’t seen it anywhere else for less than $325 (sans paddle), I jumped.

Emsco Tiger Shark kayakMine is all yellow, but otherwise it’s the same item as the one shown in these pictures. Today was a perfect day for being outdoors, sunny with a high temperature around 70°F, so naturally I had to take it on its maiden voyage. I am proud to report that despite being a neophyte, I did just fine and stayed dry. Better still, it was a blast. My technique needs some work—I keep reading that you’re supposed to paddle more with the torso than with the arms—but hey, I live a mile away from the municipal boat ramp and spring hasn’t even started yet. I’ll have many an opportunity to practice.

This afternoon, I joined four girlfriends from town in paddling about 3/4 mile across South Pond to Point Breeze, where we enjoyed food and drinks on the deck. But I suspect that most of my kayaking activity will be solo. It seems like an almost meditative form of exercise, as I’ve heard some people describe running. And now that I have the equipment, using it is free.

Fun with Numbers: What’s the REAL Best City for Sports?

Friday, February 3, 2012, 23:42 EDT Leave a comment

Boston vs. New YorkAfter yesterday’s pre-Super Bowl post, I had intended to wait until after Sunday’s game to write again about sports. But I had to renege in order to contest this ridiculous montage from AOL.

Somebody (the perpetrator, er, author won’t ‘fess up) decided to rank the top ten best sports cities in the United States, based at least in part on the following criteria:

In order to decide which cities have the luckiest fans, we started with those that have at least two professional teams in or near the city. We then ranked each city based on the number of teams it has and the total number of sports the teams represented. We also factored in the popularity of the teams — based on attendance and change in attendance — the win-loss records of the teams in each city, and the number of championships each team won.

Those guidelines established, and understanding that “professional teams” means “professional major league teams,” here’s the list in descending order:

10. Washington, D.C. (4 teams, 4 sports, 0 titles in the last 10 years)
9. Minneapolis-St. Paul (4 teams, 4 sports, 0 titles)
8. Denver (4 teams, 4 sports, 0 titles)
7. Detroit (4 teams, 4 sports, 3 titles)
6. Dallas (4 teams, 4 sports, 1 title)
5. Philadelphia (4 teams, 4 sports, 1 title)
4. Los Angeles (6 teams, 3 sports, 5 titles)
3. Chicago (5 teams, 4 sports, 2 titles)
2. Boston (4 teams, 4 sports, 6 titles)
1. New York (9 teams, 4 sports, 3 titles)

If you’re scratching your head over the order of the top two, you aren’t the only one. Both areas are home to all four major team sports. But as the photo caption for Boston notes, “No city has won more championships than Boston in the last decade. Each of the four major teams in the region has won the top title for its league in the past seven years.” So how is it that Boston, with fewer than half the teams of the New York metropolitan area but twice the championships in the last 10 years, comes in second to its bigger and smellier neighbor to the southwest? Using any mathematical method known to man or woman, six is more than three. Even if the Giants beat the Patriots on Sunday, that will lop the first Pats Super Bowl off the tally sheet and add one championship to New York’s total, leaving Boston with the lead at five titles to New York’s four. Either way, advantage: Boston.

Perhaps New York beats Boston because of the sheer number of teams that manage to draw enough fans to keep them going. New York certainly leads the way there, with multiple teams in every sport. But how much of a feat is that, given that it’s the most populous city and the most populous metropolitan area in North America? According to 2010 census data compiled on this Wikipedia page, the population of New York City dwarfs that of Boston by a factor of 13 to 1, and the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is four times bigger than the Boston MSA. Considering that the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics have been selling out for years, the New York market should be able to support at least 12 teams to be comparable to what Boston supports. Looking at the teams per capita, Boston has the edge.

(For the rest of the comparisons, I looked at the last decade of full seasons, plus the current NHL and NBA seasons through last night. Keep in mind that means ten NFL seasons, ten MLB seasons, 10½ seasons, but only 9½ seasons because of the 2004-05 NHL lockout.)

How about average attendance? Using data from ESPN.com (and disclosing my inability to find NFL figures for 2002 through 2006 or NHL attendance percentages from 2001-02 through 2005-06), average season attendance for New York area teams was higher at 1,291,515 compared to 1,248,175 for the Boston area. But that’s with football and baseball facilities in New York that have thousands more seats than those that are home to Boston’s teams. Considering attendance as a percentage of capacity of the facilities, Boston beats New York 96.9% to 87%. Re-read what I wrote in the last paragraph and repeat after me: Boston has the edge.

Perhaps New York comes out ahead in terms of regular season win-loss records. New York has the Yankees, one of the winningest teams in the country (in any sport) over the last decade; the Devils, with only one losing season in that time span; the Giants, with only two losing seasons; and the Rangers and Jets, each of which has more winning seasons than losing ones. On the other hand, they also have the hapless Islanders and Knicks, plus the mediocre Mets. All of Boston’s teams have won more seasons than they’ve lost, with the Pats and Sox doing it every year. So how does it come out overall? New York teams have a combined winning percentage of .493, Boston teams .603. Once again, Boston wins handily.

Ironically, though, it seems that New York’s perennial bottom-dwellers have catapulted that city to #1 on this list. “[T]here is a team in New York for any kind of sports fan. For those perpetually rooting for the underdog, the Islanders in hockey, the Mets in baseball, and the Nets in basketball have struggled for years.” And there you have it—by providing so many opportunities for fans to watch losers, New York “wins.” Sheesh.

Maybe I’ve identified another area where Boston beats out New York. We can do math.

Outside My Window, with a 2-Day Delay

Friday, February 3, 2012, 12:22 EDT Leave a comment

I was at work in my downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, office on Wednesday afternoon, toiling away at my desk and minding my own business, when one of my co-workers loudly announced the presence of a big, bright rainbow in the eastern sky. Sometimes there just isn’t time to look out the window and I wouldn’t have noticed it on my own. I ran down a flight of stairs and out the back door to get a picture of it, but from the lower level only a small part at the top of the bow was visible. By the time I got back up to my office, clouds were rolling in and wiping away the bow. Click on the images to view larger.

Rainbow from outsidePartial rainbow from inside