22 September 2004


My Magic Summer at Fenway continued last night when my cousin Rob called me at 5PM to offer me a pair of tickets he couldn't use to the Sox-Orioles game. Of course I immediately told him I'd take the tickets, but that's not the whole story. You see, these were the John Hancock season tickets in the .406 Club.

The .406 Club is the luxury box area high above home plate and enclosed in glass. The view looks something like this (minus the toolbox in the foreground). These are the most expensive seats in the most expensive ballpark in the majors. You can only buy them for an entire season and if you divide the annual price into 81 home games, my Dad and I sat in seats which cost the good people at John Hancock $444 each. This made it slightly easier to stomach (literally and figuratively) forking over $6.11 for a Fenway Frank and an astonishing $8 for a bottle of Sam Adams. On the plus side, they did serve free popcorn (to make you thirsty enough to buy another beer). When I picked up the tickets at 6PM I glanced at the attached .406 Club info card and discovered that there's a dress code which requires gentlemen to wear slacks and a collared shirt. Thankfully I had foregone jeans that morning in favor of something classier, so I was all set. I did have to call my Dad back though and make sure he didn't change out of his work clothes before coming over to the game (and it's a good thing 'cause they were pretty strict about the dress code).

It was a bit weird to watch the game from inside the soundproofed area, with the PA announcer piped in along with the NESN broadcast. I have to admit it was nice to be able to glance up at the TV for a replay of any interesting action. As one might expect the place was full of businessmen trying to impress each other and rich old farts (including the guy next to me who was asleep by the 4th inning). Not quite the same as watching the enraged drunks get into a fistfight with Jeff Nelson in the bleachers.

Besides all the hooplah of the seats we scored, the game was absolutely insane. Schilling threw 8 innings of 3 hit ball and registered a season high 14 strikeouts. Plus, certified Red Sox killer Rodrigo Lopez (not to be confused with Javy Lopez or Luis "I'm hitting .195" Lopez, who also play for the O's) was confounding the Bostonians, as usual. So we go to the bottom of the 8th with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out as the Orioles decide to intentionally walk David Ortiz to load the bases. The Orioles go with BJ Surhoff, one of the toughest lefties in the AL and Tito counters with Kevin Millar to pinch hit for Trot Nixon (who's a lefty). Millar fights and fights in the at bat, including two of his patented scorching line drives pulled just foul of 3rd. Finally he lofts a fly ball to right with enough oomph on it to score the Johnny Damon with the game's first run from 3rd. Fenway goes nuts and we head into the top of the 9th with a 1-0 lead.

Keith Foulke comes on for the save and has the Orioles down to their final strike with a man on 2nd when he throws a change-up that the aforementioned Javy Lopez sent over everything in left field and into the westbound lane of I-90 to make it 2-1, Baltimore. Fenway went from rocking to dead silent in approximately 3.2 seconds. Around this time I glanced at the out-of-town scoreboard and mumbled to Dad, "Yankees won."

"Yup," he said.

Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth. Runners on 2nd and 3rd after a Youkilis walk (he saw 4 straight balls that were so far outside he couldn't have hit them with an oar) and a scorching Mueller double off the wall. Tito inexplicably hits Dave McCarty for Pokey Reese when Pokey easily could've put down the squeeze bunt for super-fast Dave Roberts (running for Youk) to score from 3rd. Of course McCarty pops out on 3 pitches and the game is in the hands of Johnny Damon who is approximately 0 for 229 against Surhoff (still in the game). Damon strikes out looking and the game is in the hands of the man who is two strikeouts away from breaking the Red Sox franchise season record of strikeouts (fairly remarkable since he's only played in 85% of this season's games): Mark Bellhorn.

Now I've given Bellhorn a hard time all season (mostly because he seems to make striking out his personal hobby) and he's twice been up in a key situation with the game on the line and I have twice sworn to give him lifetime amnesty from my mockery if he could come through. Both previous times he (what else?) struck out. With my heart in my throat I said to Dad, "I smell a strikeout."

Dad, who had watched the Sox blow games for the past 55 years kind of smiled and said, "I smell a two-run, game winning hit."

I guess that's what it means to be a Sox fan, and this time, Bellhorn crushed the 4th pitch into the triangle in center field and even the stuffed-shirts in the .406 club were on their feet. Sox get a "W" and Bellhorn gets carte blanche for the rest of this season.

20 September 2004

Bernie Mac 3K

I saw Mr. 3000 tonight as a way to kick back a bit after the WI retreat (which isn't all fun & games you know). Plus I need to do something to distract myself from two straight Yankee shellackings of the Red Sox...what better than a movie about baseball?

Anyway, the film was so-so, definitely not worth seeing in the theatre. I'm going to try to pull a Brody here, though and tease out the nice bits and highlight how the film could be made a lot more solid. The premise is that a brash baseball player (Bernie Mac) collects his 3000th career hit and retires on the spot to milk his fame and coast into Cooperstown. 9 years later, as he's about to be voted into the Hall, a record keeping error is discovered which means that 3 of his hits don't count. So he returns to a last place team midseason to try to collect 3 hits and rejoin the elite 3000 club.

The plotlines running through the film are Mr. 3K trying to puruse a former flame from his ballplaying days and his character change from looking out only for his own self-interest to trying to help nudge a bunch of young guys on a losing team toward playing better. The latter bit doesn't go overboard and have him lead them to a World Series or anything — they just try to move up from fifth to third place in their division — it creates meaningful conflict without seeming farfetched.

All these pieces are OK, and there are some funny bits, but they don't really manage to stitch everything together very well. The progress of Bernie's character isn't coherent at all. He jumps from being a big jerk to a role model for no clear reason. Then he starts acting selfish again, also for no clear reason. I felt like the stages of his development needed to be clearer in the writers' minds and then crafted more carefully. The love-interest was similarly poorly implemented. She never felt like a real person and she never put up enough resistance to make that story seem interesting. I just wanted to see each person make decisions that felt like they made sense in the context of everything else.

I think the stoy idea is cute, there were some neat-o baseball shots and angles that made it fun to watch and they have a few nice bits such as the minor character of the team's manager. In that sense they manage to take the very particular lifestyle of pro ball players and create an engrossing world in which to set their film. Then they did a bit of a hack job putting the story into that world.

14 September 2004

Annus Vicesimus Quartus

I really like September. Since I'm not in college any more it doesn't have the same air of excitement and novelty, but that just means I have a greater chance to enjoy the month. The crisp weather is always a refresher after the mugginess of summer; it's one of the nicest times of the year in New England. The middle of the month also brings my birthday, of which this Thursday is my 24th.

Since the WI retreat is all this weekend I've been fitting my birthday plans in this past weekend and this week. On Sunday we had a small family dinner with my parents, my siblings and our significant others. It was low-key, but nice. We had hors d'oeuvres in the yard since it was among the last of the warm days left in the year and then had dinner inside.

It's been a very baseball oriented birthday so far. My Dad gave me a $50 bet on the Sox to win the World Series (which pays a ridiculously bad 3-to-1, but insane Sox fans drive always drive down the odds, since every year is The Year) and Laurie gave me an autographed copy of RemDawg's new book, "Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game Within the Game". Pretty awesome. Jamie and Val told me my gift should've arrived via email. I went upstairs to check and couldn't find anything so I asked them what it was. Turns out they had sent me an iTunes Music Store gift certificate which I had, in fact, already received and promptly trashed as spam. Luckily I was able to dig it out and cash it in. I promptly used the first $0.99 to purchase a copy of Usher's "Yeah!" Everyone was subsequently annoyed.

Continuing the fun is THURSDAY NIGHT RAGE, this Thursday the 16th at Boston Billiards Club in the Fenway/Kenmore area. We'll be watching the Sox game (starts at 7) and drinking $1 drafts. All are encouraged to come. Many will enter, few will win.

13 September 2004

Roof Raising Part Deux


Although I sadly missed the culmination of the aforementioned roof raising, here's a photo of the finished product. And to answer the Good Doc's inquiry. He just wanted more headroom! Anyway, now he's got quite a bit by the looks of it, although he needs to find some way to plug up all the now-bigger window holes and reconnect the front end of the bus to the roof.

12 September 2004

Roof Raising


I spent 6 hours in a construction-crane parking lot yesterday. The occasion was Ehren's bus-roof raising. While we never did get the roof off, it was still a lot of fun. Evidently they're finishing the job today (unfortunately I couldn't attend day 2). If you check out the big version of the photo you can see approximately the state of affairs at the end of the day. We had erected the wooden superstructure to be used to lift the roof off, including the installation of the pipes over which the ropes hung and winches on the side. The free standing towers were a bit wobbly, so we bolted them to the bus frame itself and then attached guy-wires tied off to nearby Big Things to stabilize the whole assembly. I conveniently feature prominently in the photo, lugging a 2X4 off to be chopped into smaller pieces. And yes, the sunset really was that gorgeous.

I really regret having forgot my camera because there were some great opportunities for photography. Especially awesome would've been shots of Ehren doing nighttime cutting of the bus frame. There would've been lots of great shots of him illuminated by cascades of sparks both in the bus and shooting out through the hole he was cutting in the roof. There were a ton of cameras floating around though, so I suspect more photos will surface on the web before long.

10 September 2004

To a Tee

I'm becoming a Golden Tee addict. Who knew slamming your hand against a trackball whilst listening to Pat Summerall's inane commentary could be so much fun? Anyway, the Broad mailserver is alive again. Finally. Freakin' IT mumble mumble.

Network Soilage

Due to some (still unannounced) hardware failure everyone at Broad has been without access to email (as well as a few other Mission Critical Interfaces like the Oracle server) for a full day now. Urgent contact can be done via my gmail account (same username as always). I hate BOFH's, but I hate inept sysadmins more. I mean, what possible excuse is there for not returning email service within 24 hours of an outage in an institution with 400 employees? Bogus.

03 September 2004

9 in a row

It's almost bed time after the Red Sox put the final touches in their 9th straight victory (15 of their last 16, 19 of 22). After what Eck called "3 hours and a thousand pitches," slow moving Bartolo Colon is straddled with the loss as the Sox put 4.5 games between them and the Angels in the wild card race and kept the AL East gap at 3.5 games.

In other news I finally got the wireless network setup here at home which will be a big boon. Maybe this weekend I'll actually have some time to settle down here in Milton, since I've been living out of a few bags and boxes over the last week. The commute is even more fabulous than I remembered—today was my first day where the red line crept along from Ashmont to Kendall, taking 90 minutes. Yee-haw.

Work is busy as I'm trying to crank out the last few bits of code to finish the next Haploview release. After that will be testing, documentation (haha) and then back to several projects (Pinnacle diabetes presentation on Sept. 7, WI retreat on Sept. 17) which I sort of put aside lately in order to focus on coding. Jules and I have been doing some exciting Xtreme Programming lately which has been surprisingly fun and effective. Who knew?

01 September 2004

Today is the first day in a week where I don't have any impending moving hanging over my head. Yup, that's right folks the A-Side Lounge is dead. Long live, the A-Side. We even forgot to have our the-band-is-breaking-up party. At this point, I'm just glad that all our stuff has been dispersed. For one thing I might actually be able to get some work done today instead of thinking about walking up and down that cramped staircase.