Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh, The Stories They'll Have

Both of my sons are playing on traveling basketball teams this winter, and even though their seasons are barely underway, I've visited a lot of gyms in western Massachusetts over the last couple of weeks.  This week my younger son is playing in a CYO tournament hosted by Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Springfield.  The gym is certainly one of the, shall we say, coziest gyms I've ever been in.  Spectators are restricted to folding chairs that line one wall of the gym, and anyone with a shoe size greater than about 5 will have to watch their toes.  Of course, people can always sit on the stage during the game.  The teams' benches are old church pews, and James Naismith would have been right at home.  But while the gym is small, the competition has been spirited. 

I never played much basketball when I was younger; it just wasn't my game.  And I certainly never played organized basketball.  I learned to appreciate the game more when in college, when I went to a basketball school, and I've grown to appreciate it even more now that my kids are playing.  When I walked into that gym last night, I felt for a moment that maybe I'd missed out on something by not playing basketball when I was their age.  But I think that regret may have been fueled in part by the mistaken belief that these places didn't exist anymore, that basketball had been cleaned up and homogenized and corporate-tized into something antiseptic and generic.  I was able to overcome my own regret with the thought of the stories my kids will tell their kids in 30 years about the crazy places they played basketball when they were kids. 

Yes, I guess I'm appreciating basketball stories as much as I'm appreciating basketball these days. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hall of Fame

My son had the opportunity to play basketball on the court at the Hall of Fame in Springfield on Sunday.  His Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton CYO team from Northampton beat a spirited Agawam squad.  It was funny watching the players on the bench who spent more time looking up at the big screens and the pictures of all of the inductees.  Just before that game, they played a game in East Longmeadow in a tiny gym with linoleum floors that doubles as a cafeteria.   You've got to be versatile to succeed in Division 1 grade 3 and 4 CYO basketball. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shout Out

I knew that the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club liked the last blog entry I did about their 2010 race series, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they'd posted it as an essay on their site.  Always nice to see what I write published in various places (yes, they did have permission.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I Spent My Spring and Summer

When they run, kids don’t worry about personal records or electrolytes or their mile pace and they don’t wear $100 running shoes or satellite-synched wristwatches that would make Dick Tracy jealous.  They just run.  I used to be like that, before injuries, a driver’s license, adolescence, and a lot of beer and late nights made running less attractive.  So I stopped running, for about 20 years.  Five years ago, fearing that I would not be able to keep up with my active children, I set out to see if I could recapture some of what it felt like to run as a kid.  One day, in the middle of a bike ride, I stopped by the Smith College track and ran a lap.  I barely finished.  Fast forward to this past week:  I completed the Monson Memorial Half Marathon, the last race of the Sugar Loaf Mountain Athletic Club’s 2010 race series. I ran 10 out of the 12 races in the series. 
But I don’t want to write about my own running achievements, because let’s face it, to anyone who doesn’t run, and to a great many people who do run, listening to someone else’s running stories can be a bore.   I’d rather talk about my dreams.  I regularly dream about running now, something I don’t recall ever happening before. In my dreams, I run without effort.  I don’t need a watch or fancy computer to tell me what I can feel instinctively: that thanks to effective training and a flawless technique, I am running as fast as I possibly can.  This is where I can see the payoff for consistently getting out of bed in the morning at while the rest of my house is asleep—and probably the rest of the neighborhood, as well.  I feel the wind in my face, but that’s pretty much all I feel.  I don’t feel too hot or too cold, I don’t feel worried about traffic or whether I’m late for work, and I don’t feel any impact from my feet hitting the ground.  I’m gliding, and it’s perfect. 
And then, as they say, I woke up. 
I haven’t come close to replicating that feeling during my waking hours, but it’s not for lack of trying.  My last entry in this blog highlighted a race I ran in April, the Ron Hebert Road Race, where every finisher gets a pair of socks.  That race marked the first race in a new racing series put on by the Sugar Loaf Mountain Athletic Club, or SMAC.  Before this race series, I’d never participated in such a thing before, and while I had a vague notion that these things existed, I had no real idea of how they worked.  But one thing jumped out at me as I read through the rules: participants who finished six of the 12 races in the series would get a prize.  That was my motivation.  I have run enough races to confirm that fact that I am too slow to win any of the “traditional” running prizes; you know, the ones you get for running faster than most, if not all, of the other people in the race. But I was pretty sure I could run six races in 8 months. 
I paid my series entry fee—a reasonable $10—and began to look forward to the email updates that the series organizer, John Reino, would regularly send out after each race.  I ran my sixth race in the series in September to qualify for a prize, and then I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the standings that my name was much closer to the top of the list than the bottom.  I also realized that I had a chance at making 10 races in the series, so I signed up for the Monson Half. 
For running these races, I got socks, t-shirts, technical shirts, pint glasses, and even potatoes.  I got a couple of black toenails and some nasty chafing issues.  More importantly, I got to experience the hospitality of the race volunteers (I still can’t get over the pastries at the Lake Wyola Run) and the excitement of race day on both a big (2000+ runners at the Bridge of Flowers Classic) and small scale (a couple of races drew only 100 or so runners.)  I also got to experience a feeling of accomplishment and I got to share it with my family, who met me at the finish line on Sunday.  My younger son even held a sign up as I passed: My Dad=My Hero. 
It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling to know that the series is over.  There’s a race I’m thinking about running on Sunday, but part of me says it’s not worth it because I won’t get any points for doing it.  Another part of me says, haven’t you run enough already this year?  But still another part of me says that maybe, just maybe there’s another PR out there for me. 
Thank you, Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, for putting on this race series and for allowing me to experience joy in running again.  I was a middle-of-the-pack runner who didn’t stick around much after the race was over, but I enjoyed every minute of it. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Good Day for a Run

 I ran in the 42nd Annual Ron Hebert Road Race, an 8-mile race through Florence and Williamsburg.  I almost chickened out and didn't do it, because I was intimidated by the hills, like the one heading into Williamsburg on Route 9 by the driving range, and the hill on North Farms Road.  But I didn't.  And while I wasn't first, I did finish in the top 50.  That's right, you're talking to the 49th finisher.  Of course, the official results may not show that, because the part of the number that gets torn off after you cross the finish line, which had my name on it, was pinned on my sweaty shirt, so the pertinent information was washed away.  I was too tired to stick around to see what kind of a back up system they had in place. 

It was a beautiful day for a run, and the breeze helped immensely.  And I must say, I really liked how I was greeted at the finish line: the race director shook my hand, congratulated me, and gave me a pair of gym socks. 

Here's a picture of my sweaty shirt, my number, and my prized socks.

Here's a picture of me actually running.  Check out those buff, white legs.  I asked the photographer to wait until I was in front of the blossoms. I think it was the right choice. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Driving to a Standstill

I grew up in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country.  And I grew up in a pretty crowded area of New Jersey, where many times it seemed like cars outnumbered people, and where traffic jams weren't called traffic jams, they were just called the daily commute.  So I know traffic.  And I can tell you that yesterday's mob of cars throughout Northampton and Easthampton--and other towns--was some pretty impressive traffic. 

It turns out that the state's decision to close a lane of traffic on I-91 south to pour some concrete on the Friday of a holiday weekend wasn't the best one.  I will give credit where credit was due and say there was plenty of notice about it--I heard announcements on the radio and there was a front-page article about it in the Daily Hampshire Gazette--but that doesn't really provide much solace when you're stuck in traffic. 

Let's face it: being stuck in traffic sucks, and I've found the rarity of such an occurrence has been a major benefit of  living in the valley.  But because I'm not used to it, when it does happen, it makes it seem that much worse.  And I didn't have it that bad: while the traffic was slow from Easthampton to Northampton, I was heading north when most of the trouble was headed the opposite way.  There are a lot of people much more upset about it than I was, and that always makes me feel better. 

Here's my nominee for the least surprising quote in the Gazette's story about the traffic (emphasis added): "The root cause of the traffic, according to Maureen Glenn of the State Police in Northampton, was the closure of a southbound lane so workers could pour concrete near the East Street Bridge in Easthampton. Glenn said the site had been cleared by 5:30 p.m., far later than the Massachusetts Department of Transportation intended to have the lane closed."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Real Madness of March

 I'm the guy in the red shirt. 

After yesterday's Holyoke St. Patrick's Day Road Race, I was talking to a guy who's run the race every year for the last 25 years. He said that without a doubt, yesterday's race was the warmest he could remember.

Warm temperatures + hilly course + 5000 people = bad results in the race for me.
I trained for six weeks because I wanted to do better than I did last year. I was ready. And then I got to the starting area and found a sea of people, many of whom were talking about how "perfect" the weather was for a race. Let's just say that I differed with them on that point, especially when I could feel the heat coming off the pavement as I waited for the race to start. But I should have known that this race wasn't the best place to try and set a personal best when I saw the rather zoftig woman with carefully applied makeup talking on her cell phone right before the race was going to start, in the front row where the elite runners line up. 
I had to pass people with dogs in the race, people who were walking the whole race in the middle of the road, and people with strollers. 

Yes, I'm bitter about this.  I need to remember for next year that this is a party race, a place for people to have fun.  It's a race where the spectators line the course and do a great job of cheering everyone on, and more than a few of them will give you a beer, if you want one. 

When I made that last turn and headed toward the finish line, all I saw in front of me was a sea of people--spectators lining the streets and runners running with me.  I finished in 2009th place, and that was an above-average performance.  It was a great day in Holyoke, and I'm sure that I'll be back again next year.  Just look for the guy in the red shirt with the expression of bitterness on his face. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Big Dance

Today marks the tip-off of the 2010 NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness or the Big Dance. 
Two days ago, my alma mater—two days after not being invited to the Big Dance—fired its basketball coach. 
Now, the situation with the coach is not as clear as I may have presented it.  That is, he was not necessarily fired because the team didn’t have a successful season. In fact, if recent news reports are correct, he was fired because he was a jerk who pissed off everyone he worked with and who recruited players of questionable character, including one who was arrested for armed robbery and kidnapping. 
I’m glad to see the guy go. 
But as I worked on my brackets this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other awful coaches are out there, and how many socially maladjusted and academically unprepared players are out there.  And I couldn’t help but wonder about whether any limits can be placed on the greed that lies at the heart of this enterprise, as shown in the multi-billion dollar payments for television rights, the additional millions in licensing, and the money earned in everything from area advertising to concession sales.  And how all of that is born on the backs of the players, who may get scholarships but who don’t see a dime beyond that. 
Now this isn’t intended as a screed against Big Time College Athletics and its inherent evil.  You can find those anywhere. No, this is more of a rumination on a personal realization that I’ve had this week: I don’t seem to be doing as good a job this year of being able to turn a blind eye to some of the wrongheadedness that schools engage in when they seek success in athletics.  I graduated from Seton Hall in 1989, the year the basketball team made its spirited run to the NCAA Championship game, only to lose in overtime.  After graduating, I spent ten more years at the school, first as a graduate student and then as a faculty member who had athletes in his class.  As an alumnus, I like it when my school’s team does well.  As an educator, it bothers me to think about the hypocrisy involved in promoting student athletes who are participating in a three-week, nationwide tournament at a time when classes are in session. 
To put it mildly, it seems unfair to expect college kids to learn under such adverse conditions. 
So, in the end I find myself wondering if, when, and how anything might change.  This year my two sons filled out their brackets for the first time.  Will they be doing the same with their children in 40 years, wondering how things got so out-of-control? 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random Thoughts on Turning the Corner

Daylight Saving Time began on Sunday morning and spring officially begins on Saturday.  After a lousy few days filled with cold temperatures, high winds, and rain, it's now sunny and almost sixty degrees outside. I'll risk angering the gods of winter and say it: Winter's over.  Pack away your shovels and winter coats, because it's going to be clear sailing from here on out. 

Not only is Saturday the first day of Spring (I can't help capitalizing it), but it's also the day of the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day Road Race, a 10k race through the streets of Holyoke that this year will mark its 35th year.  The forecast calls for sun and a temperature in the mid sixties.  That might be a tad too warm for runners around here who haven't had time to get used to such warmth.  (I'm saying that because it gives me another excuse to put into my excuse arsenal in anticipation of having to figure out why I didn't do as well as I wanted to in the race. This will be my third time running it.  The last two times, the course got the best of me.  I have high hopes for this year.  We'll see.)

The weather is breaking at the right time for St. Patrick's Day and its parades and general carousing, as well as for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which doesn't really need nice weather but we'll take it.

I've never really been a big fan of March, but this year I'll take it. A little bit of sunshine is all I needed.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

Watching the Watchers

In Woody Allen’s 1971 movie Bananas, the lead character finds himself in the middle of a revolution in Central America on the side of the rebels. After the government is overthrown, the head of the rebel group addresses the cheering crowd and outlines some of his agenda items now that he’s in charge. Among his new rules: underwear must be changed every half hour and be worn on the outside so that it’s easier to check, and every child under the age of 16 is now 16 years old.

You can see the clip here:

This scene ran through my head as I watched the video clip posted on from the most recent meeting of Northampton’s Veterans Affairs and Social Services Sub-Committee. In the clip, councilors Tacy, Plassman, and LaBarge discuss items they’d like to put on their agenda, primarily raising the fine for possession of marijuana, putting drug-sniffing dogs in the schools, and restricting access to the Meadows. None of those topics falls under the purview of this particular committee, but none of the councilors seemed to worry at all about that. Then, in a somewhat surreal video moment, the voice of an unseen person can be heard asking that the prohibition of escort ads in the Valley Advocate be added to the list. Was this person an elected official? No, he was a member of the public who just happened to be there videotaping the meeting.
I suppose I should be grateful that the person behind the video camera didn’t suggest something worse, like…wait: he suggested throwing out the First Amendment. There’s not really much worse than that.
Let me just say that I’m glad that people are videotaping this stuff and putting it online, frankly because I’m too lazy to go to all of these meetings. And I think that’s what most people want out of their city government: to keep things as convenient as possible. That means that City Councilors shouldn’t go and mess with things that aren’t their job to mess with, because that just upsets the general order of things. We don’t need to make our schools more like prisons, we don’t need to usurp the role of parents or assume that 75% of voters who voted for Question 2 in 2008 were wrong or duped. And we certainly don’t need to strong-arm private businesses by promoting censorship.

I'm pretty confident that these proposals won't go anywhere, but I'm going to be keeping an eye out just to make sure.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Son of A...

 We were so close.  Last week I watched closely as the snow slowly disappeared completely, and I reveled in the 40 degree temperatures.  I heard the songs of new birds in the morning, and the sun was coming up earlier and earlier. 

I didn't dare say anything out loud, for fear of jinxing it.  But spring was on its way.

We were so close.

And then I woke up this morning to a driveway full of almost impenetrable snow.  I dutifully shoveled what I could before work.  And then after work, I came home and shoveled the slop that the plows had flung onto my sidewalk. 

It sucked. 

And then I looked at the weather for the next few days.  Yikes. 

Lots of snow there. 

But there is a bright side.  We don't live in New York, which is expecting a foot of snow tomorrow.  And this isn't my bike.


And March begins on Monday.  Maybe my back will be better by then.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beware the Hawk

I went to the UMass-St. Joe's basketball game yesterday at the Mullins Center. It was an afternoon game, there aren't many home games left this season, and I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for tickets, so I thought it would be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The game itself was a rather lackluster affair. The Minutemen seized the lead in the opening minutes and never trailed; they ended up winning by eight.

While the action on the floor didn't keep my attention, I will admit to being mesmerized by St. Joe's mascot, someone dressed as a hawk. It wasn't the costume so much as what the person in the costume was doing the whole game: flapping his wings. Even during timeouts. Even during the national anthem, he had one hand over his heart and he kept flapping with his left wing. Hand. Wing. Whatever.

Apparently, this is the mascot's trademark move. According to this website, the hawk flaps his wings about 3,500 times per game. That's got to be exhausting. So, there I was, watching the game, and then I'd say to myself, is he still flapping? And then I'd look at the end of the St. Joe's bench, and there he'd be, flapping away. And with the lifeless eyes in the oversized head, after a while, honestly it began to get a little bit creepy.

If you've never experienced the hawk before, you can check it out in this video, where the hawk stalks a St. Joe's alum.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Damn You, Weather!

Before yesterday's non-storm, I found myself engaged in some workplace banter with an employee about the weather.  She told me that she is still amazed that someone was able to take something as mundane as the weather and build an entire television channel around it.  I replied that I, too, thought it was a great idea, and that it showed just how interested people are in the weather.  Not only that, but the weather is a perfect topic for conversation, because the weather affects everyone and in talking about it, it's very unlikely that you'll get into the same type of heated conversation that you could easily slip into if you talk about politics, religion, or your favorite baseball team. 

And then the schools were canceled yesterday in anticipation of a snowstorm that never materialized. This apparently angered a lot of people.  Okay, maybe not a lot of people, but a number of people, anyway, who post on Masslive yesterday were angry.  The targets of their wrath were the weather forecasters and their close kin, those people who promote global warming.  Here's a typical comment:

"These are the same people that scream "Global warming." Weathermen are calling for a big storm - 3 to 5 inches here (Amherst). So far it's a DUD so that means these weathermen are too. All schools are closed at great costs. When I was a kid - I waded through a foot of snow to get to the school bus stop to go to school. Now - look at us! We act like the Southeners who see their first snow! We're evolving backwards." George 7

I've just never really known people to get so angry over the weather. Let me rephrase that: I've never really known people to get angry at other people about the weather.  There have been plenty of times when I've been angry about the weather, but I haven't focused my anger on any one person (like Al Gore--read the comments), or any one profession.  But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it's finally time to stop talking about the weather and do something about it. 

That's what these people did.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I've Let My Guard Down

As I sit here at work and look out the window at the first flakes falling in what may become (depending on which forecast you choose to believe) a furious winter storm, I have to face the realization that I am utterly unprepared for this storm, physically and psychologically. 

I left the house this morning later than I wanted to because I couldn't find a pair of gloves.  At one point, I had three lefts and no rights.  It wasn't snowing at that point, but I'd heard the forecasts and spent the morning feeling the panic as the local radio DJ read the list of closures every five minutes or so.  I didn't have to listen to the radio to find out if the Northampton schools were closed, because I was fortunate enough to get a personal phone call at 5:55 a.m. from the schools superintendent telling me that the Northampton Schools were, in fact, closed for the day.  I looked outside as I listened to the message and saw no snow falling.

I realize that school officials are often in a no-win situation when it comes to closing schools because of snow, but I found it particularly galling this morning to get woken up to hear about a snow day when there wasn't any snow falling. 

And then, as the rest of my family slept, I ate my oatmeal and thought about the day of work I had in store. that's when my oldest son came into the kitchen and told me how he'd woken up in a panic because he had so much he had to get done at school today, but then he realized that it was a snow day.  Boy, was he relieved. 

I know that it never occurred to him that I wasn't really in a position, sitting there in my shirt and tie getting ready to head out the door, to adequately appreciate his relief. 

Once I was outside, I had the wherewithal to make sure that I had some sort of tool in the car to remove the snow that is supposed to come later today.  Well, I had the wherewithal to look for something.  All I could find was a small ice scraper.  All those brushes I trip over in July were nowhere to be found. 

And then on my drive to work I realized I'd forgotten to take my cell phone with me.  Not the end of the world, of course, but I did have images of being stranded in a snow bank on my way home with no way to contact anyone.  Plus, I use my cell phone to take pictures for my blog, which is why I can't share pictures of a parking lot free of snow or a pathetic ice scraper. 

Clearly, I've got spring on my brain.  If this were a typical New England winter, I'd have gloves and a brush already in the car.  I'd have sand in there, too, and everything else I could need to get through a winter storm.  But I've been lulled into complacency, and now it's all going to come back to bite me. 

I blame that fat rat Punxatawney Phil. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Goodbye, Giants Stadium

The demolition of Giants Stadium has begun.  Thanks to my friend John, I spent many, many Sunday afternoons watching the Giants play, almost from the moment the stadium opened.  I also saw Bruce Springsteen do one of the first concerts at the stadium.  I also saw the Grateful Dead, and miscellaneous other events.  At the NFC Chamption Game in 2001, I even spent some time in the NFL commissioner's luxury box. 

One thing I appreciated about the stadium was that it didn't have any corporate name attached to it.

I was a bit sad to see the video of a crane digging into the concrete walkways.  But I'm glad that I had the chance to see the last Giants game at the stadium earlier this year.  It was a warm day for December, and my kids got the chance to see the stadium.  My oldest son is 10, just about the age I was when I first began going to games.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shopping Locally

I saw this sign--or pair of signs--at the new Walgreen's on King Street.  This can't be good for the environment, causing all of those delivery trucks to sit there idling while the driver has to decipher what to do.

On a completely unrelated note, I went to the new Racing Mart the other day to buy a gallon of milk.  I was enticed by their advertised low price of $2.19 a gallon.  I should have know that something fishy was going on: I gave the clerk $2.25, she punched in the appropriate numbers into the register and then looked up at me.  "Do you want your penny?" She said as she made a face as if it wasn't a penny she was going to give me but a turd. 

"Sure," I said.  "Why not."

That's how they get you: lure you in with a $2.19 deal and then try to keep the penny.  Be warned. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Will Scott Brown Fix This Problem?

UPDATE: There's an article in today's Gazette about efforts begun in Northampton to stop this behavior. There's also a Facebook page devoted to it called: Stop the Republican from Delivering Supplements. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with a bug up his ass about this.
I don't subscribe to the Republican, and because I don't subscribe, I've been targeted by an evil entity who comes under the cover of darkness and litters my yard with "Extra" editions of the paper wrapped in lavender plastic bags.  I haven't been able to discern a particular pattern about exactly when and where they'll strike; I just know that on some mornings I'll put out of my driveway to head to work and the street will be lined with  lavender bags. 

I don't know how the Republican can get away with this wide-scale littering.  I think Scott Brown should look into this immediately after he's seated--or maybe he can do it now, since he's not actually working right now.

I took the above picture a week ago and it's taken me a week to call the Republican and ask them to please stop littering on my lawn.  It's not that I haven't tried, but the customer service people are available only between 6 and 10 a.m.  I finally got someone on the phone this morning and after answering their irrelevant questions, such as what my phone number is so that they could look me up in their system--and I'm not in their system because I'm not a subscriber, but then again, maybe I'm in their system because I'm a non-subscriber...

Anyway, the operator asked me what she could help me with.  I replied that I would like her to stop littering on my lawn with her newspapers.  I heard her tapping away and then she said, "you're all set."

We'll see.  I'm not convinced.   

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

(Special) Election Day

I was the 44th person to vote in my precinct at a little after 8:00 this morning. I don't know what that number represents in terms of turnout. I do know that I was a little surprised by how quiet it was at Smith Voke, my polling place. After all of the commercials and the robo calls, I expected the sign holders' area to be full. But one of the designated areas didn't have any people in it, and the other one had only one or two. Of course, it was early, and it was also snowing, a fact that led one poll workers to tell me she was worried that the snow might keep people away.

After I voted, I drove to work thinking about politics. It occurs to me that we've unwittingly developed this system where we demand perfection in our candidates, when we know perfectly well that no one can be perfect. And when the candidate--any candidate--does something that's falls short of perfection, everyone quickly pounces on the misstep as evidence of the candidate's unworthiness for whatever position they're running for. I know there's partisanship involved here, where our political views will inform how we interpret events, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. Just think about how many books, documentaries, websites, commercials, radio shows, whatever have been dedicated to telling the "real" story about such-and-such politician. What all these shows have in common, it seems to me, is that they demonstrate that the person in question is just that, a person, and not a perfect being.

I think this is why the myth that George Washington had wooden teeth has persisted for so long, because we instinctively long for evidence to support our belief that no one can be as perfect as their reputation says they are.

At any rate, we often find ourselves having to choose between two ideal-looking candidates based only on the carefully chosen and scripted information that their campaigns have let out. And since there aren't any degrees of perfection, i.e. "this is perfect, but that one is more perfect," we tend to choose the candidate who has not shown any blemishes while reviling the candidate we've not chosen because they've shown themselves to be less-than-perfect.

Now, in this particular campaign, Scott Brown has been the perfect candidate. He's got the looks, the military pedigree, the debating skills, and the experience. And that's all well and good. And the fact of the matter is that I wouldn't vote for him on a bet, because I don't agree with his views. So you might be on to something if you say that my assessment of Martha Coakley's campaign as "human" as opposed to "disastrous" or "less-than-perfect" is informed by my politics and not by logic. But I think I'm on to something with this less-than-perfect thing.

And for the record, my drive to work isn't that long. It just seemed long today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes, You Love Me Now, But Will You Call After Tuesday?

Like everyone else in Massachusetts, I've been bombarded with ads in the newspaper and on television for the candidates in tomorrow's special election to fill the vacate senate seat in Massachusetts. And I've also received calls from Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Deval Patrick, and some other Coakley supporters. Just this morning, my cell phone rang and I saw t was a call from Washington, D.C. I answered it and found myself in the middle of a poll.

I've heard some people complain about all the calls they're getting, but I say, shame on them for not having Caller ID, and even if you don't, you don't have to pick up the phone just because it rings.

Obviously, there's a lot of attention on this race because it's the only one going on. Plus, depending on what you believe, this election will bring transparency to Washington (whatever that means) or carry on the legacy of Ted Kennedy (for however long that's supposed to last). Either way, Massachusetts has become ground zero for Tea Party people, liberals, conservatives, you name it.

The only benefit I've seen in this push to get out the vote is that my kids think that famous and important people call me all the time. And when they ask why, for instance, the president called, I tell them that he heard that they hadn't cleaned their rooms.

And on Wednesday, everything will be quiet again. No longer will my phone ring constantly. No longer will I have to avoid eye contact with sign holders hanging out at intersections while I'm driving. Until the next election, that is.

I know they're just using me, but I have to say that I kind of like all the attention.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bike Path Blues

I read with great consternation (great word, btw) about the man who was reportedly attacked on the Northampton Bike Path. I spend a lot of time on the bike path, and I'm definitely uncomfortable with the idea some individuals may be viewing the people who use the path as easy prey. But I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that people out there may use this as an opportunity to bash bike paths in general.

What I'm hopeful about is that the police will find who did this, and that the community of people who use the bike path regularly will be on the lookout as well. I'm also hopeful that tomorrow's warmer temperatures will melt the ice on the bike bath enough so that I can use it again. I'm not so afraid of people who might want to rob me, but I am afraid of ice patches.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beware of Unsolicited Training Advice at the Gym

It's January, which means that I'll be spending much of my free time at the Y. This isn't really anything new, as in an it's-the-new-year-and-time-to-keep-that-"exercise more"-resolution kind of thing, because I've already established an exercise routine for myself. However, with the onset of cold temperatures and ice-covered sidewalks, I've had to move my routine almost entirely indoors, which for me means the Y. In addition, the YMCA Basketball League, or YBL, has officially started its season. And with two sons playing this year, that means even more time spent at the Y.

But I'm not really complaining. At least not yet. I've told myself that we're basically looking at eight weeks here; in eight weeks, the days will be longer and the temperatures warmer. Not beach-warm, but certainly exercise-outdoor-more-often-than-not warm.

Besides, there are many benefits to working out at the Y. It's warm there, the staff is friendly, and it's likely that you'll run into someone you know. Plus, there's always a good chance that you can pick up some great workout tips, like the one I got yesterday.

I was on the treadmill watching the football game when a friend of mine came over and we started chatting. My friend was lamenting the fact that he was finding it difficult to get back into an exercise routine after spending a few week away from the gym.

"I just have to get to that point where the endorphins kick in," my friend said. "You know, find that addiction point again."

That's when the older gentelman on the treadmill next to me chimed in. "You know," he said. "If you're looking for an addiction, the advice I'd give you is to look into airplane model glue." And then he inhaled deeply through his nose with his eyes closed before exhaling with a satisfied "Ahhh." "And it' cheap," he added.

Who needs a personal trainer when you can get that kind of insight for free?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I noticed last night that my next-door neighbors didn't have their porch light on. Like everyone else around here, they'd been keeping their porch light on all night in an effort to keep potential arsonists from targeting their house. I didn't realize just how many porch lights were on around town until last night when people once again felt comfortable enough to go to sleep without the lights on. And I found the darkness refreshing.