Saturday, December 31, 2005

Introducing R. Jackson Harris (The #1 event of 2005)

Without a doubt, the number one event of the past year was the news that Michelle and are expecting our first child in May. After a week or so of figuring that we were pregnant but not wanting to get our hopes up too high we finally tested mid-September and confirmed what we had suspected. Two weeks ago, we went back to the doctor for the 18-week ultrasound tests and confirmed that it will be a boy.

Ronald Jackson Harris, due May 24, is named after his grandfather and great-grandfather, solidifying a tradition of "Ronald J. Harrises" in our family: my grandfather is Ronald Junior Harris and my father is Ronald Jay (a tradition, Michelle readily points out, does not include me). He will be called Jackson, both to reduce the confusion in our family (I have a number of cousins named Ronald) and because Michelle and I both like the name Jackson.

I am alternately excited and overwhelmed. While there are days when I can't imagine how difficult it will be, and can't quite get my mind around the huge responsibility that goes with raising a child, there are many more moments of anticipation and excitement. Michelle has nannied professionally, so she has a better handle on what this will be like than I do. But, since our neice Kayla (pictured) was born 19 months ago, I've found that watching a child grow up is a whole lot more interesting and fulfilling than I would have imagined.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Cruising through Katrina (The #2 event of 2005)

Three weeks before we found out we were expecting Jackson, Michelle and I found ourselves in staring into the eye of the storm. Little did we know that the storm that caused us a little inconvenience and a lot of adventure would create such devastation just a few days later.

There is a reason that Atlantic and Caribbean cruises are a lot cheaper in August than they are most any other time of year: the threat of hurricanes. We knew that when we booked the 3-day cruise to Bermuda, but we figured the chances of a hurricane hitting the Florida coast that very weekend weren't particularly high. And I wasn't even sure I would enjoy a cruise. It didn't matter how big the boat seemed to be, I expected that I would feel like I was, well, stuck on a boat. So I certainly wasn't going to pay twice as much to go in February. So we gambled on August.

Our cruise was scheduled to sail on Friday, August 26 and it became clear by Tuesday night that there was a good possibility that Tropical Storm Katrina was going to mess with our plans. We were planning on flying to Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday so that we would be in town in time for our departure.

We'd been told that cruise lines run their ships on time and don't cancel excursions until the latest possible moment, so with the storm winding up we had two options: Wait until the storm passed and hope the ship didn't leave without us (it was becoming clear that we wouldn't be flying Thursday) or get to Florida ahead of the storm, so that if the storm passed Thursday, we'd be in town for a Friday departure. We decided to try to leave Wednesday and after a mad scramble to change our flight, pack and get to the airport, we made it on what ended up being one of the last flights into town before the storm.

Thursday morning, we awoke to a couple of startling reservations. First, we must have landed in the worst Ramada Inn in the US. Seriously, it smelled, the AC barely worked, the TV didn't work, and security had to let you in and out of the lobby after hours. Second, the ship wasn't going to be coming back to port as scheduled-- the storm had slowed and was now scheduled to hit in the evening, instead of the early part of the day--and we weren't going to be able to embark until Saturday afternoon.

Well, we weren't staying in that sty for two more days (they didn't even have wireless internet in the rooms, the indignity!). So we scrambled to find a better hotel with available rooms, get back to the airport before it closed to rent a car, and did what any sane couple would do--drove straight for the beach to watch the storm roll in.

Watching a hurricane roll in was pretty cool. Besides TV reporters (including the Telemundo correspondent pictured above), there were quite a few surfers and tourists running around. In one little community that was otherwise boarded up, one beachside bar remained open and was full of vacationers and locals who decided that was the place to watch the storm come in. We stayed at the beach for a while, until I realized that wearing shorts at the beach when the wind was blowing at 60 MPH was not the most comfortable option. I was finding sand embedded in my legs for weeks.

We got back to our hotel just in time for the power to go out, so Michelle and I spent the night in the dark, reading by flashlight. We were smart enough to go to a local Wal Mart (and you think it's busy at the stores here when we get!) and get water and a flashlight, but not smart enough to get food. So around 8:30pm, at the height of the storm, we set out for the Moonlight Diner--only restaurant around that stayed open throughout the storm. Dodging treetops as they rolled like tumbleweeds down the road was a little hairy--not to mention the call from my mother that came while we were at the restaurant telling us not to go out because there were reports of two deaths in the city--but we survived to tell about it.

After another day running around Ft. Lauderdale looking for something to do (there was little power the day after the storm) we finally got to the ship for our cruise Saturday afternoon. The cruise was fantastic. It really was as relaxing and entertaining as everyone said it would be. I had a lot more fun than I expected. Too bad it was cut a day short because of the hurricane. On Sunday, we spent the day at a small island called the Blue Lagoon snorkeling, swimming, and laying in a hammock. We also spent a couple of hours in the spa getting massages, lost a few bucks in the casino (I had been ahead, just not by enough to quit), and generally had a great time (the photo above is from dinner on the ship Sunday night). Easily one of the most adventurous and relaxing vacations I've ever had.

It was sobering, however, to sit in the airport on Monday waiting for our flight and watch the first reports of the devastation in the gulf from the same storm that we had--dare I say--enjoyed just three days earlier.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Niagara (The #3 event of 2005)

The #3 event on my Top 5 countdown of 2005 was the vacation Michelle and I took to Niagara Falls and Toronto the last week of May. The trip was somewhat of a surprise for me, as Michelle had mapped it out and planned the itinerary without telling me about it ahead of time.

We spent two days at the falls, three days in Toronto (including two forgettable Red Sox/Blue Jays games), and another day in Lansing, Michigan at my aunt's 65th birthday party.

It was Michelle's first trip to Niagara Falls and essentially my first trip too, as I had been when I was five years old but remember little about it. While the falls are beautiful from the shores, we took the walking tour down to the hurricane deck beneath the American Falls. It might be the only time that I have literally had my breath taken away, as the rush of wind and water was enough to leave me gasping for air. Like the feeling of shock you get in your lungs when you jump into a cold pool of water, except without being submerged.

In Toronto we were also very much tourists, taking in the basic sights like the CN Tower and Casa Loma. Michelle had also planned for us to see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays while we were in Canada (she picked the week for that reason) and while that seemed like a good idea at the time, the Red Sox decided that it was also a good time for their vacation, losing 6-1 and 8-1 the two nights we were at the Rogers Centre.

I posted a number of pictures from that trip back in June.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Crusaders qualify for the playoffs...again (The #4 event of 2005)

Since joining the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1991, the SLA girls basketball team had struggled through 12 seasons without a winning record (and just one .500 campaign--a 9-9 record in 1993-94) before qualifying for the District playoffs for the first time with a 12-9 record in 2004.

In 2004-05, the Crusaders made it two straight playoff appearances, finishing tied for eighth in the district with a 13-8 mark. It was only the second time an SLA basketball team had qualified in consecutive years, the other being three straight appearances for the boys' team from 1995-98.

We started slowly and had a difficult time assimilating seven new players into our system, limping to a 1-5 mark after the first six games. But once the players became more comfortable with each other, the wins kept coming, as we finished the season winning 12 of the last 14, before bowing to a high-powered Hopedale squad in the first round of the playoffs.

I was as proud of the 2005 team as I was of the team the year before that had broken the losing streak. When I returned to coach the team in 2002, I told the girls that I hoped to create program that could play at a high level and that could sustain that level of success. When we won our 10th game in 2004, it was one of the proudest moments I've had as a coach. It meant everything to me that the team and the school had achieved a level of respect in the athletic community that it never had. Simply put, no one could call SLA losers anymore. Qualifying for the playoffs for a second consecutive year was just as fulfilling, as it meant that we could sustain success, and had build a program that could compete on a regular basis.

While we have struggled to make up for the losses of our two all-time leading scorers (Jill Linthwaite and A'Lisa Lashley) and a player (Amber Jones) who would have easily broken their records had she returned for her Junior and Senior years, the program has continued forward. In the spring, SLA joined six other Christian and Charter schools to form the Worcester County Athletic Conference. After 14 seasons as an independent, SLA finally has a conference affiliation. Being a member of a conference of schools of similar size and philosophy will give our students an opportunity to compete against other players of equal skill, make scheduling opponents and administering the program easier and more efficient, and help keep the program competitive in the future.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hiking the Mid-State Trail (The #5 event of 2005)

Michelle and I set a goal during the winter to attempt to hike the Mid-State Trail. The trail is a 92-mile walking trail from the New Hampshire state line at Ashby to the Rhode Island state line at Douglas. We did not complete the trail, but did make it to the Barre Falls Dam, just short of half way.

The trail was difficult in spots, easy in others, and beautiful most all of the way. The photo at the right is looking south along the trail from Mt. Watatic to Mt. Wachusett, a hiking distance of about 25 miles. You'll notice that there is still snow on the slopes of Mt. Wachusett; we began hiking in early April and some wooded sections of trail still were snow covered until nearly the end of May.

We had determined that we were going to continue to hike nearly every weekend through the summer, cutting the trail into six- or seven-mile segments. We did well until our resolve was broken among a parachuting spiders and swarms of mosquitoes welcomed us one mid-June afternoon. No amount of Off! was enough to rid us of bugs by the hundreds. While we escaped without many bites, we found that subsequent weekends were overbooked, or too hot, or the Red Sox were on, or something just came up and we weren't available to keep hiking.

Photos and logs of many of our hikes were posted in the spring and are available in the archives.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Tahanto 39 SLA 22, from the Item

This loss to Tahanto puts us at 0-4. Bill Marsh of the Clinton Item has the details. I snipped the first half of the article, which deals with the boys' team loss:

Stags sweep SLA
By Bill Marsh

With its win over SLA, and its 40-17 loss to Whitinsville-Christian on Wednesday night, the Tahanto girls own an overall record of 2-2. SLA is 1-2.

Stags junior forward Abbe Erle led her team with nine points. Junior Nikki Scott scored eight points for Tahanto, and junior guard Chelsea Blackmer netted seven.

The high scorer for SLA was junior Rebecca Barcelo, who scored nine points.

The Stags got off to a fast start behind the scoring of Erle, Scott, Blackmer, and eighth-grader Brandi Richmond. Tahanto led 25-8 at the half.

In the second half, both coaches substituted freely.

SLA sophomore Anny Cunha and Blackmer both had 3-pointers in the game.

"We just played our up-tempo game (against SLA)," Tahanto coach Kim Dufresne said. "We ran the floor. "I thought Nikki Scott had a big game, and Abby Erle had a big first half," she said.

"We lost three of our starters from last year," SLA coach Lance Harris said. "Two graduated, and one moved. Most of the girls are inexperienced players, but we look to improve as the season progresses."
I think I'll program a macro that plays that quote back when anyone shakes my hand until the end of February.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Maynard 52 SLA 22, from the Item

The Crusaders' season is under way and we're off to a tough start. I'm going to try to post articles about the team in local papers, etc. as they appear. This one is from The Clinton Item, Friday, December 16.

SLA loses Tip-off consolation game
By Craig Holt

MAYNARD - The gritty South Lancaster Academy girls' basketball team went down with its collective heads held high during Wednesday's clash against hot-shooting Maynard High in the 2005 Basketball Tip-off Classic consolation match at the Tigers' gymnasium.

The upstart Crusaders, graduation-depleted and youth-laden, never led and had trouble getting the ball over half court early on en route to a 31-point halftime deficit. Despite this, South Lancaster battled hard in the second half, found itself a bit offensively, and hung tough. SLA eventually lost 57-22.

The win was the first of the year for the Tigers, who are now 1-1. The Crusaders, who suited up just eight players, slipped to 0-2.

With several key players gone from last year's club, and little depth on the bench, South Lancaster faced an uphill battle from the start. In short, the time-honored "getting-to-know-each-other" scenario, with new individual responsibilities tossed in for good measure.

"We lost our two leading scorers from last year, and we also lost our point guard," South Lancaster coach Lance Harris said. "So, players are getting opportunities they haven't had before. As they get more comfortable out there, they'll improve.

"Physically and mentally we have some abilities, but people are being asked to do some things that they've never done before," he said.

The outcome negated a standout defensive effort by South Lancaster center Rebecca Barcelo. Though she went scoreless, Barcelo blocked 12 shots, including four in the game's first 3:55. She also altered many other shots, most notably on in-the-paint put-backs and drives.

Ironically, Barcelo's first-half defensive dominance came when her team was struggling offensively.

"Rebecca Barcelo is the one player who returned from last year, and she had a real good game defensively," Harris said. "She started most of our games last year at center, and she was a pretty good defensive player last year, too.

"Her play in this game was definitely a plus for us," he said. South Lancaster was led by Jaenia Fernandez' 10 points. Fernandez, a guard, drained eight of her points in the second half, including a long 3-pointer. Two of Fernandez' second-half hoops came on back-to-back possessions.

Amber Manning scored seven points, while Megan Jones had five. Only three players scored for the Crusaders.

Ashley Poh paced a balanced Maynard attack with 13 points. Kara Morgan and Jaclyn Pileeki funneled home eight points apiece.

The Tigers took control quickly, grabbing an 8-0 lead with 13:53 to go in the first half. Poh led the way with a perimeter pop and a runner in traffic.

Fernandez answered with a layup before the hosts again got hot, taking advantage of several South Lancaster turnovers forced by Maynard's man-to-man press to put together a 12-0 run. Pileeki capped the splurge with a short jumper, giving the Tigers a 20-2 advantage with 10 minutes to go in the half.

Maynard went on to maintain a 36-5 lead at the intermission.

South Lancaster scored just two field goals in 16 minutes. Jones contributed a layup and a free throw. The Tigers continued to click in the second session, substituting freely and scoring from all angles.

However, Manning put in six points down the stretch to cut into the Maynard advantage.

"It's going to take some time for us to get where we want," Harris said. "Over the long haul, we'll improve, though we'll struggle at times. It's still early.

"We were a bit nervous in this game," he said. "If a player is put in a position where she has to contribute in ways that she never has before, she's going to get nervous and have some butterflies."

South Lancaster lost 35-22 to Tahanto in its opening-round game. Barcelo led the Crusaders with a game-high 10 points. Manning and Jessica Malcolm scored four points apiece.

The writer was both charitable and quoted me accurately, although the reference to Rebecca should read "the one starter who returned..." not "the one player..."

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Cam Neely is not walking through that door

My latest, at BSMW Power Play, on the Bruins trading Joe Thornton:

In the first few hours after Joe Thornton was traded to the San Jose Sharks for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau, many media reports were comparing the trade to the deal in 1975 that sent Phil Esposito to the Rangers for Brad Park and Jean Ratelle. While that is an obvious comparison because of the positions involved (a star forward for a front-line defenseman and a 20-goal scorer), my first thought was to the Barry Pederson trade of 1986.

At this stage in his career, Thornton bears some similarities to Pederson at the time he was dealt. Both were first-round draft picks; Pederson was 25 years old at the time he was traded, Thornton is 26; and statistically, they were remarkably similar. Between his 20th birthday and the day he was traded, Pederson recorded 403 points, Thornton 406.

Chart 1.JPG

A couple of things stand out in the comparison. First, while the points are nearly even the comparison doesn’t take into account the difference in playing styles between the NHL of the early 80’s—where players routinely recorded 100 points, and the clutch-and grab era in which Thornton played all but 23 of those games. The other item that stands out is Joe’s 529 penalty minutes, a fairly health sum for a player who has been called soft by some of his critics.

Those same critics point to Thornton’s lack of a strong performance in his playoff opportunities as a symptom of his softness. While I don’t subscribe to this point of view, the comparison to Pederson’s playoff performance is stark:

Chart 2.JPG

So if the players are similar, how do the trades compare? Trading Pederson to the Canucks for Cam Neely and a draft pick (which became Glen Wesley) turned out to be one of the most one-sided trades in NHL history. Neely became a hall-of-famer, and although Wesley is best remembered in Boston for missing the net in game 1 of the 1990 Cup finals, he has been a #1 or #2 defenseman for most of his 18 seasons.

Pederson had two 70-point seasons immediately following the trade, but then tailed off drastically as he fought injuries following the 1987-88 season. Although he did not retire until 1992 (as a Maine Mariner!), Pederson never appeared in another playoff game after being traded from the Bruins.

The Pederson trade was a high risk deal, in the sense that they received a player without much of a track record in the NHL, and a draft pick. While the Bruins were rolling the dice in 1986 that Neely would become an all-star and they’d be able to turn a high draft pick into another solid player, the 2005 Bruins are trading for known quantities. All three players the Bruins received for Thornton are in at least their sixth season, and all are older than Thornton.

Another difference is that in 1986, Harry Sinden made the trade because he believed that Neely could come to the Bruins and make a difference. In the November 30 issue of The Boston Globe, then scout Bart Bradley said as much: ''O'Reilly had called it quits, and we needed that physical presence, a fighter. We were figuring Cam for maybe 25-30 goals a year, and we wanted that toughness in the lineup to replace Terry. We got the toughness, and a whole lot more goals than we figured."

Compare that to Mike O’Connell, who said last night that “We felt we needed to shake up the team…” Are the Bruins making this trade because they see some talent in Sturm and Stuart that San Jose couldn’t maximize? No, they’re going for some mythical “shake-up.”

Had the Bruins traded for three 21-year olds with huge “upside” this deal might be more palatable to Kevin Paul Dupont’s “teen angels, fan boys, and stat geeks.” But they didn’t. They traded one of the best players in the NHL for two solid players and a mucker, not for their potential, but “to shake up the team.” Rarely does trading a star player in a panic make things better. I’d be surprised if this trade is the exception.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

The Case for Hannu Toivenen

My latest entry at BSMW Power Play, arguing for more PT for rookie Bruins' goaltender Hannu Toivenen:

There is a saying in the NHL that goes something like this: “Your best penalty killer is your goaltender.” While that seems obvious in the sense that the goaltender is the one who keeps the puck out of the net, I wonder how often Mike Sullivan or any other NHL coach decides which goaltender should play based on the ability to kill penalties. It may happen more than they let on—most coaches are loathe to share information on injuries, strategies, and the like—but whether or not it has been a factor in the past, it should be a consideration for Sullivan in the future.

The statistics strongly suggest that when Andrew Raycroft is back from injury and ready to spilt time with Hannu Toivonen, Toivonen should start against teams with strong power play units and those who draw a lot of penalties.

Through the first 15 games, Toivonen has been one of the best penalty-killing goaltenders in the Eastern Conference, recording a .900 save percentage while the Bruins are killing a power play. That mark is good for third in the conference among goaltenders that have faced at least 35 shots against. Conversely, Raycroft’s save percentage of .804 is the third worst in the East

Power Play Save Percentage Top 5

Toivonen 1.JPG

Power Play Save Percentage Bottom 5

Toivonen 2.JPG

Toivonen is also one of only four goaltenders in the conference who saves a higher percentage of power play shots than he does even strength attempts. I’m not sure that is significant, but it is interesting. If Derek Jeter were an NHL goalie, fans would point to this statistic as proof that he “comes through in the clutch.”

Goaltenders with Higher Power Play Save % than Even Strength

Chart 3.JPG

The gap of .096 between Toivenen’s penalty killing performance and Raycroft’s is the largest across the NHL among the eight teams with two goaltenders facing at least 35 shots. If the criteria are changed to include the who have two goaltenders that have faced 25 shots or more, the Bruins rank third among 16 teams, behind Atlanta (.149) and Washington (.127).

Margin between Goaltenders

Chart 4.JPG

One factor that might put the brakes on this entire analysis is that since Raycroft is out with an injury, the Bruins goaltenders have been playing at different times in the season, as opposed to a straight platoon. That begs the question: Is Toivonen outperforming Raycroft in shorthanded situations, or has the penalty killing in front of the goalies improved as the season has progressed, and Toivonen merely the beneficiary of that improvement?

With Toivonen in net, the Bruins have killed off 38 of 44 shorthanded situations (.863) compared to a penalty killing percentage of just .811 (43 of 53) when Raycroft is between the pipes. Interestingly, Toivonen has faced nine more shots than Raycroft in nine fewer power plays.

One could argue that Toivonen faces more shots because his penalty killers are worse in front of him. But I’m inclined to think that he faces more shots because he allows fewer goals, as a power play goal ends the man advantage - and ends the opportunity for more power play shots on goal. Either point argues in favor of Toivonen, as he either faces more shots because or poor efforts in front of him, or because he extends opponents' power plays by keeping the puck out of the net.

Hannu has also been playing behind a penalty killing unit that has been without October’s best forward (Patrick Leahy) and recently the team's best defenseman (Brian Leetch), yet has held opponents to 1-for-19 over the last three games. Raycroft also played behind an undermanned unit for a time as Nick Boynton (holdout) and Shawn McEachern (injury, frequently the one committing the penalty) also missed time while he was the primary netminder.

Even so, the statistics indicate that Toivonen is a significant factor in the Bruins efforts to kill penalties, and he should be matched up against strong power play units as Sullivan fills out his line up card.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Too Many Turnovers, or, why Hal Gill must go

My latest at BSMW Power Play, breaking down the Bruins' turnover troubles, and exposing Hal Gill as a traffic cone:

After nearly a month of the season, I find myself frustrated at what I perceive to be the Bruins greatest weaknesses: their inability to take care of the puck and defend in their own end, and back-breaking turnovers. Looking at the stats compiled by the NHL and available on, I found that the Bruins take better care of the puck than I expected, and that the trouble on defense can be attributed in large part to the poor play of two veteran blueliners.

Because of the emphasis on divisional play this season, I have limited my comparisons to the five teams in the Northeast Division, except in one case outlined below. All statistics are through games of Thursday, October 27.

The Bruins don’t turn the puck over nearly as much as it seems.
While the Bruins have given the puck away at inopportune times, they have the best giveaway per game average in the division, giving the puck away less than six times per game (71 giveaways in 12 games) and taking it away nearly as often as they cough it up (67 takeaways). Among forwards, Sergei Samsonov is a team-worst –5 (9 giveaways, including a brutal turnover in Toronto Monday, setting up the game-tying shorthanded goal).

Chart 1.bmp

But three forwards have not turned the puck over once this season, with PJ Axelsson (+6), Glen Murray (+3) and Patrick Leahy (+2) yet to be charged with a giveaway. Tom Fitzgerald has also taken considerably more than he’s given, registering a +4 over the first 12 games. The team has combines for a total turnover ratio of –4.

Top 5 Forwards (NE Division through Thursday)

Bottom 5 forwards (NE Division through Thursday, including ties)
Bottom Forwards.JPG

Hal Gill is as poor with the puck as he appears. Nick Boynton is not much better.
Among the 35 defensemen who have suited up in the Northeast Division this season, Gill is tied for second most giveaways, having turned the puck over 11 times. Only Montreal’s Sheldon Souray has more giveaways among defensemen. In fact, only 12 of the league’s 227 defensemen have more turnovers than Gill (Calgary’s Rhett Warrener has an NHL-worst 19 giveaways).

Compounding things further, Gill has only been credited with 2 takeaways in the first 12 games. His –9 turnover ratio is worst among all defensemen in the Northeast, and seventh worst across the entire NHL (Warrener also leads in that category at –13). Nick Boynton has hardly been better, his –6 turnover ratio is tied for fourth-worst in the division. The Bruins defensive corps as a whole is –15, all of which is attributable to Gill and Boynton. Kevin Dallman is a team-best +2.

Bottom 5 Defensemen (NE Division through Thursday, including ties)
Bottom Defensemen.JPG

Top 5 Defensemen (NE Division through Thursday)
Top Defensemen.JPG

Friday, October 7, 2005

Bruins Preview

I have volunteered to reprise my role as a Sportswriter and am contributing to the BSMW Power Play blog at Boston Sports Media Watch. Here is my first dispatch, a preview of the Bruins' defensemen.

Returning Defensemen
Looking ahead to the 2005-06 season, the Bruins’ corps of defensemen appears to be the biggest hurdle standing in the way of a Stanley Cup run. Young veterans are the lifeblood of most successful NHL teams. The Bruins only have two and neither of them will start the season in Boston, as Nick Boynton waits for the right contract offer and Jonathan Girard is in Providence working his way back from a career-threatening injury. The team will start the season with three rookies and four thirtysomethings behind the blue line, hoping that the youth bring enough athleticism and the vets carry enough experience to propel the Bruins past the first round for the first time since 1998-99.

Hal Gill
Love him or hate him, most Bruins fans would agree that among the returning defensemen, the anchor of the defense is the 31-year-old Gill. His family in Concord and close friends from Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton would argue that the mammoth defenseman keeps the Bruins safely in harbor. But many other Bruins fans realize it’s his cement-filled skates that drag the bottom of the sea, keeping the team from operating at full efficiency, and swamping their efforts at inopportune times.

At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, Gill is one of the largest players in the NHL. As a young player, he gained a reputation as a future star on defense largely because of his success against then Penguins star Jaromir Jagr, who at one time called him “the hardest defenseman to get by.” Jagr may still be unable to get by Gill, but any such futility would have more to do with Jagr’s steep decline than with any improvement in Gill’s game.

Gill’s greatest strengths are his ability to rub forwards out in the corners and to use his size to clear opponents out from the front of the net. In the new NHL, where obstruction and physical play away from the puck will be scrutinized, those tactics will be penalized as interference. The emphasis in the new rules on open-ice skating and speed could expose Gill’s slow feet. Without the ability to be physical away from the puck, Gill could find himself being more traffic cone than traffic enforcer.

Gill has very limited offensive skills. He will be good for one ricochet-off-a-couple-opponents goal and a handful of assists. He has never been a presence on the power play and doesn’t figure to start now. Gill is on the books for $1.6 million in 2005-06 and will be a free agent at the end of year. He was the subject of trade rumors early in training camp, and could still be moved to free up space to resign holdout Nick Boynton if the team needs to match a high offer from another team, or could go to a contender late in the season if the Bruins fall out of the race.

Jiri Slegr
In contrast to the big defensive-minded Gill is the sneaky offense of the veteran Slegr, who returns for his first full season in Boston. Slegr came to Boston just past the midpoint of the 2003-04 season, and made a significant contribution, recording 19 points in just 36 games.

Slegr is a strong skater, has an above-average shot from the point, and could thrive offensively under the new rules if he stays healthy. Listed at six-feet and 200 pounds, Slegr is a tad undersized compared to many NHL defensemen, but the new emphasis on speed and playmaking ability should enhance his value to the Bruins. While his reputation has been built on offense, his defensive statistics are solid, with a career plus/minus of +34 and five seasons above a +10.

But health and consistency have been problems for the 34-year old Czech. Slegr has appeared in more than 65 games only three times in his 10 NHL seasons, and has bounced around since joining the Vancouver Canucks in 1992-93. He has played for the Oilers, Penguins, Thrashers, Red Wings, Canucks again and the Bruins. During that time, he also spent the ‘96-97 and ’02-03 seasons in Europe.

If Slegr is healthy, he should provide the Bruins an offensive spark from the blue line. In 2004, he played on the second power-play pairing, and may see some time there again this season if the Bruins go with two defensemen (they have been using Brian Leetch and a forward as point men with the man advantage through much of the preseason).

Slegr is coming off a strong lockout season in the Czech league (29 points, +7, and an uncharacteristic 135 penalty minutes in 46 games), and is a relative bargain at $950,000. He is on a one-year contract and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Ian Moran
Another short-money veteran in the final year of his contract is Moran, who returns to Boston after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in December, 2003 that limited him to just 35 games. The six-foot, 200-pound Moran isn’t known for his offensive skills, skating ability, or physical strength. In fact, he is unremarkable in most phases of the game. But like a pitcher who eats up innings and can spot start or pitch in long relief, Moran is most valuable for his versatility.

The 33-year old Boston College product has been playing more right wing than defense through the preseason and appears to be settling into a role on the fourth line, although he would be available as a seventh defenseman. With three rookies likely opening the season in the defensive rotation and the uncertainties that follow, the flexibility Moran brings to the lineup may be more a necessity than a luxury.

Regardless of his role on any given night, Moran will not be lighting the lamp frequently. In his nine NHL seasons, he has recorded double digits in points just twice, with a career high 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) with Pittsburgh in 1999-2000. He is paid like a utility man, counting just $456,000 against the cap.

Nick Boynton
Of course, the elephant in the room (or maybe more appropriately, not in the room) is fourth-year defenseman Nick Boynton. Boynton is the big, young, veteran defenseman that any Stanley Cup contender needs and he’s sitting at home in Ontario somewhere, waiting to come to terms on a contract.

An October 1 story in the Boston Globe reported that the Bruins and Boynton were still $150,000 apart on a contract. Boynton is asking for the $1.9 million he’d have received if the Bruins had picked up the option on his contract. The Bruins have reportedly offered $1.75 million. Is this a case of Jeremy Jacobs and the Bruins brass trying to prove a point? Hard to say, but would it surprise anyone to see Boynton eventually sign sometime in November for $1,899,995? Or for $2 million plus if another team signs him to an offer sheet forcing the Bruins to match?

Assuming he gets into camp and can get into game shape quickly, the 27-year-old Boynton has the potential to be a game-changing player. projects his career potential as “a number one defenseman,” and his statistical curve suggests he is on his way. Entering his fourth full season, Boynton has increased his point total every year, registering 30 points last season, and is +45 over those 239 games. Boynton has also been durable, missing just seven games over his three full NHL seasons.

At 6-2, 220, Boynton is a force in his own end, yet he is agile enough to carry the puck and headman the break. He is an above-average stick-handler and is a threat to score from the point. He has been valuable both on the power-play and in the top defensive pairing killing penalties.

Jonathan Girard
The other young veteran defenseman returning to the organization is Girard, who will begin the season in Providence. The 25-year-old had become a valuable contributor on the blue line before a life-threatening automobile accident sidelined him after the 2002-03 season.

Girard broke into the Bruins lineup at the age of 18, and played parts of four seasons with the Bruins before sticking with the club for all of 2002-03. Before his accident, he was considered a strong skater and showed occasional flashes of offensive brilliance. He was the final player sent to Providence, and could be called back in case of an injury, or if any of the three rookies falter.

According to a September 30 report in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Girard must decide before he appears in 30 games in Providence or Boston whether or not to continue his career or retire. The report claimed that if Girard appears in 30 or more games, he will forfeit an estimated $3 million insurance settlement stemming from his crash two summers ago. Whether or not he is recalled in the first two months of the season could be a factor in his decision. If he spends the season with Boston, he stands to make $956,000 this season. If he spends the season in Providence, the Boston Globe has reported that he will make in the neighborhood of $75,000. Girard would set the AHL’s all-time records in every category before he’d accumulate $3 million at that salary. If Girard cannot crack the Bruins’ lineup by December, he may be facing a difficult decision.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Nothing says Christian like assassination

From USA Today:

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's The 700 Club.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with...."

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Robertson, 75, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

No habla beisbol

A little league umpire in Lakeville MA (District 7) banned a team from Methuen for speaking Spanish on the field. It's now a national story...

From the San Diego Union Tribune:
Chris Mosher, the 20-year-old manager of the Little League team in Methuen, Mass., walked out of the dugout and approached the umpire Tuesday night in the semifinals of the state tournament. Mosher wanted to know why the ump had called time and summoned the local tournament director from behind the backstop.

It was the top of the third inning. Methuen West was winning 3-1. Mosher's assistant coach had just instructed their pitcher from the Dominican Republic, in Spanish, to execute a pickoff play at second base.

Mosher began to ask what the holdup was.

"He told me, 'English only,' " Mosher said. "He said it very loudly. I said, 'If you can show me a rule, I'd be happy to follow it. But you're not going to find one.' . . . He told me if anyone speaks one more word in Spanish, they'll be ejected.

"It was sickening."

Little League officials were scrambling yesterday to implement damage control, issuing a statement admitting the unidentified umpire "made an incorrect decision" and barring him from future games this season but also saying it was too late to reconsider the game's outcome.

More from the Boston Globe:

Little League officials would not name the umpire or the district administrator who upheld the English-only call after Mosher protested from the dugout, demanding to see the prohibition in the rulebook.

The umpire and district administrator could not find anything, Mosher said, but the administrator told him he had to uphold the call in order to back the umpire. The umpire said that anyone caught speaking Spanish would be thrown out of the game. At that point Mosher relented, not wanting to hurt his team's chances.

While the umpire should be sanctioned for an incorrect call, the District Administrator should also have been sanctioned, since it's his job to make sure that the rules are followed, or to escalate to the regional office if he doesn't know. I umpire at the local, regional and sectional level and I count on the District Administrators to help me get it right if there is a protest, not "back the umpire." And I'll bet the umpire wishes the DA had called headquarters to get a correct ruling, considering all that has happened since.

Back to the Tribune, which has the only mention of what really should have happened, based on the rules...

The Little League statement did not identify the district administrator but said, "The incident could have been avoided" had "proper procedures been followed," which was for him to call a regional director for a ruling.

The proper procedure, according to rules posted on the organization's Web site: The tournament director should have contacted the regional director in Connecticut and asked for a ruling.

One point that the Tribune gets wrong, however, is the implication that race might have been a factor because the game was in Lakeville. Methuen has a significant Hispanic population, on the other hand:

Tuesday's game was run by Little League's district administrator in Lakeville, a rural town about 70 miles south. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Lakeville is 97.3 percent white and had 104 Hispanics among its 9,821 residents.

While that statement is factual, just because the game was in Lakeville doesn't mean the umpires were from there. When District 4 champion Rutland hosted a sectional game last week, none of the umpires were Rutland umpires during the regular season. Two of the umpires work in Worcester, and I do my games in Lancaster, Berlin, and Bolton. It's likely that the umpires came from across District 7, a district that includes Brockton and other cities with significant Hispanic populations.

The story hit the AP wire and has made it across the country. Other bloggers' reactions can be noted here.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Fallen Hero

Jeff, one of my best friends and basketball teammates at SLA was a huge fan of one-time Celtic Brad Lohaus. Not because he was much good, but because Jeff could relate to him. Both were tall, plodding limited centers who scratched and clawed for playing time, but really weren't very good.

(Full disclosure: if Jeff was Brad Lohaus, I was essentially a cross between John Bagley and Terry Durod. In other words, a fat guard who did not play when the final score was in doubt.)

Anyway, it's sad when your friends' heroes end up not being so heroic, as this article in the Des Moines Register relates:

Clive police early Thursday morning arrested former University of Iowa basketball player Brad Lohaus and charged him with simple domestic assault for allegedly injuring the mother of his child.

Police were called to the Courtyard hotel, 1520 N.W. 114th St., in Clive at 1:31 a.m. after McKinsey Gonder, 23, of Badger, asked the front desk to call 911.

In an interview with the Register, Gonder said Lohaus, 40, has physically abused her before, but this is the first time police were involved.

"I hope it'll make him realize that he can't do that," she said of the charges.
and to top it off...
According to Johnson County court records, Lohaus was to stand trial Aug. 22 for charges of second-degree theft. He is accused of posting items for sale on eBay for which he received $1,970, then not shipping the items to the buyers or sending refunds.
I hope Jeff didn't try to buy any of his moemorabilia.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Secession is an option

All those pinko commie liberal athiests getting you down? Join the Christian Exodus to Greenville, South Carolina:

The Exodus has begun.

It began quietly, in a house with white vinyl siding and a trampoline out back, in a subdivision between Greer and Simpsonville.

That's where Frank Janoski, his wife Tammy, and their four children have come. They left Bethlehem, Pa., to be a part of the Christian Exodus.

South Carolina may not be flowing with milk and honey, but it looks like the promised land to the leaders of this group, which hopes to relocate thousands of conservative Christian families like the Janoskis from across America to the Palmetto State.

Their aim: to tip the political scales, which they see as already weighted heavily to the right, further in that direction.

Secession "is a valid option," said Janoski, a "state coordinator" for the organization -- but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

"If it's going to be ugly and bloody, nobody wants that," he said.

The group is recruiting more pioneers for this journey of faith through its Web site and plans to hold a national conference in Greenville in October, which will include information booths of local real estate agents, employers and private schools -- all the nuts and bolts needed for relocation.

Hate to get the wrong idea about these guys...
The Rev. Tony Romo, pastor of South Point Baptist Church in Pelzer, said his church will hold a "leadership meeting" for Christian Exodus on Oct. 16.

"Some people think it's some kind of whacked-out religious invasion. It's not that at all," he said.

Not at all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Niagara Falls and Toronto

Last Week, Michelle and I vacationed in Canada. We spent two days at Niagara Falls and three days in Toronto (wasting two of those evenings watching the Red Sox embarrass themselves). Here are a couple of pictures...

American Falls.

Michelle and I at the American Falls.

Fort Niagara. The flags that fly over the fort are period flags of the nations that occupied the fort. The American flag is from 1816, the British flag is from the late-1700s, and the white flag is the flag of 18th century France. (Insert your own French surrender joke here.)

The CN tower from our seats at Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome).

Two smiling Red Sox fans at Rogers Centre, 30 minutes before Wade Miller allowed six runs in the bottom of the first.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Mt. Wachusett to North Rutland

Of the sections of the Midstate Trail that we have hiked so far, this was one of the least fulfilling, since over half of the trail ran over residential streets, but there was one highlight.

The first 2 1/2 miles or so of the trail (from Westminster Road at the base of Mt. Wachusett to rte. 62) ran almost entirely across the Mass. Audubon Society's Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail was pretty well marked, and the sanctuary includes a number of different styles of terrain, including some areas of dense pine forest, some more open hardwood forests, and a couple of meadows.

While the forested areas are nice to hike through, especially when it is warm, I wish there were more meadows like this one along the trail. I also wish there was less on-road hiking, as nearly all of the rest of the over 6-mile hike was along residential roads. The only exception was a half-mile or so hike along a nearly impassable service road through a state reservation on the Princeton/Rutland town line.

Total Hike: 6.4 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 35.9 miles.
Total summer to date: 43.0 miles.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What constitutes a fireable offense?

I've been waiting to see if this story would hit the blogoshpere, and what reaction to it would be:
Pregnancy cost teacher her job

[South Bend] Tribune Staff Writer

BERRIEN SPRINGS -- At a meeting last week with school officials, Christine John was congratulated on her March marriage, John says.

Then, said the first-year kindergarten teacher at the Village Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School, she was asked why she was four months along in her pregnancy when she had been married just two months before.

John said the meeting ended when she was told her services were no longer necessary.

In a statement prepared by the Niles-based Edwin Bertram agency, she said she wasn't allowed to retrieve her belongings or return to the school during regular school hours.

"I was very surprised. Shocked,'' she said Tuesday. "I had no clue what the meeting was about.''

Now, the 24-year-old John is considering legal action. School officials said John wasn't fired but was placed on administrative leave.

Michael Nickless, communication director for the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, released the following statement:

"The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates nearly 50 Christian schools in the state of Michigan. In these schools, we follow the teachings of Jesus as understood by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"Each of our teachers is issued a 'Ministry of Teaching' license. In our school system, our teachers are expected to be a positive spiritual example for our congregations and youth.

"When she (John) chose behavior contrary to those values, she was placed on administrative leave. Even though policy allows for immediate dismissal, out of compassion, her present contract continues to be honored and she will receive full pay and benefits until the contract expires.''

John said her contract with the school system runs through June 8. She questioned why she was singled out.

"Working there, I've seen a lot of things that were done that were against our policy and those people haven't been fired,'' she said.

A 2003 graduate of Seventh-day Adventist Andrews University in Berrien Springs, John, 24, said she hadn't encountered any disciplinary problems with her job until last week.

The Stevensville resident said she and her husband, whom she didn't identify, had been dating two-and-a-half years.

After she became pregnant, she said she talked to school Principal John Chen about taking a maternity leave.

"I never tried to hide the situation,'' she said.

At her meeting with Chen and two other administrators from the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, John said she was told premarital sex is an act strictly forbidden by the school system and the Seventh-day Adventist religion.

Whether she has legal recourse or not, she said she'll look next for a job "with people who accept me.''

It'll most likely be with a public school system, she added, rather than a private one.

And finally, someone has picked it up. The unabashedly liberal found it and posted it without much comment. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the post that generated the most reader comments over the course of the weekend. Most of the comments fell into two categories: readers who took this as an example of Fundamentalist religion further encroaching on privacy rights, and readers who said that this was not a good example of that trend, since the teacher was at a private religious school and therefore was aware that certain activities (like pre-marital pregnancy) were precluded.

In my opinion, Mrs. John knew that she was going to be in trouble, which is why she told the principal ahead of time. I certainly hope she wasn't asked by the school board "why she was four months along in her pregnancy when she had been married just two months before." If so, that's an awful way to approach things. But in the end, the church and the school have the right (others might say the responsibility) to avoid situations such as this one.

A question that arose from the discussion at Pandagon: One poster wondered if the situation would have been different if the teacher were a man. I would hope it would not be different, but I'm not sure. The Adventist church is paternalistic enough that the teacher might have been handled differently (read: not fired) if it were a man.

Another blog that has picked up the story:

Friday, May 13, 2005

A cross-country trip? What a cool idea...

A couple of NBC News Producers are starting a cross-country trip tomorrow and will be posting commentary, photos, and video from their trip at their Independent America blog. Their mission:

We're on the lookout for "Mom & Pop" -- producing our own road movie across the United States. More than ever it seems like it's Independent America vs. Corporate Chain store America. We're hunting for those pressure points along with our black lab Miles. We've vowed to make our 52-day trip without setting one tire on an interstate highway--without setting one foot inside a corporate chain restaurant, motel or store.

As someone who has traveled across country and back--twice--I'm very interested in what they will find. I've attempted the trip using some of the same premises that they are and have a few thoughts:

  1. This is a really cool idea.
  2. Avoiding chain restaurants and stores should not be too difficult. However, the one thing about a chain (especially a restaurant) is that you know what you're getting, for better or worse. When I took the second of my two cross-country trips (a solo trek in 1998) I had in mind the same thing, but found that I was taking my health into my own hands at some of the places I ate. Interestingly, when I did the trip with my Grandmother, aunt, brother, and two cousins in 1986, the best food we ate on the trip was almost always at small restaurants (The Purple Cow in Beattyville, Ky. especially stands out). I don't know if I just had better luck the first time, or if competitive pressures have made mom-and-pops worse over the years, but I suspect the answer is the former. The other part of this that they might find difficult is if they get to a small town late (say after 8:00), it's entirely possible that the chain restaurant or store is the only thing open. Still, as I look back on my solo trip, I wish I'd done more of this.
  3. Avoiding chain motels will also be easy, but I'll be impressed if they can keep that up over the 7+ weeks they're on the road. We stayed almost exclusively in these types of hotels on our trip in 1986, and I can tell you that they were always worse than the two Super-8s we stayed at on the same trip (and that's saying something). On my 1998 trip, I expected that I would camp most nights, but the brutal heat that summer (107 degrees in Boise, Idaho!) forced me indoors.
  4. I wish them the best in avoiding Interstates completely. I doubt they can do it. When we traveled in 1986, we did about as well as possible in this regard, sometimes going miles out of our way just to avoid a four-lane highway, but there are places where you just don't have any choice without resorting to some nearly impossible (or impassable) roads. Looking at their map, I'd say there are a couple of areas in the Southwest where they'll have to bite the bullet. But I hope they can make it. I essentially attempted the same thing when I took the 1998 trip, but had to get on the highway when it became clear that I was running out of money.
I've added their link to the list on my homepage, and will be following them.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Crusaders' schedule

Here is the 2005-2006 SLA Girls Basketball schedule. Home games are in bold caps. Conference games (the new Worcester County Athletic Conference) are denoted by a WCAC.

Mon.Dec. 12TBAat Tip-off Classic
Wed.Dec. 14TBAat Tip-off Classic
Sat.Dec. 178:00AYER
Tues.Dec. 207:00at Tahanto
Thu.Dec. 227:00at Monty Tech
Wed.Jan. 47:00at St. Mary’s WCAC
Sat.Jan. 78:00TAHANTO
Mon.Jan. 97:00at University Park WCAC
Sat.Jan. 218:00ST. MARY’S WCAC
Wed.Jan. 257:00MONTY TECH
Sat.Jan. 288:00PARKERWCAC
Mon.Feb. 67:00at Bethany Christian WCAC
Thu.Feb. 97:30at Ayer
Sat.Feb. 118:00at Abby Kelley WCAC
Mon.Feb. 137:00at Parker WCAC

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Could be worse

Michelle and I have discussed vacationing in Europe sometime, and I'm a big fan of these driving tours, where the tour company sets your itinerary and reserves the car hotels for you, but it's up to you to drive from place to place, giving you the freedom to see whatever you want along the way.

The cost has been prohibitive, and knowing that gas in Europe costs up to $6.50 per gallon doesn't help.

Can a dog take care of a baby?

Friday, May 6, 2005

Baptists and Cheerleaders

Since I complained a couple of weeks ago that the Republicans were attempting to outlaw weather each weekend has been a washout (including the upcoming Mother's Day weekend). So perhaps linking to this TV news story about a Baptist church that excommunicated members for being Democrats will result in a deluge of Democrats.

On occasion, I defend religious conservatives because I attended religious schools, went to church every Saturday, and have friends who are religious, conservative, or both. I appreciate that most religious conservatives are sincere in their beliefs and are basically good people. I have found that where I come into contact with these folks, I generally like them. But I just don't understand the philosophy of the James Dobson/Pat Robertson Fundamentalist Faction which says that people who do not hold the same beliefs are enemies of the church and should be shut out of society.

The only thing worse than church leaders kicking people out of church because they are Democrats, or suggesting that prominent Jewish Democrats are Communists and Muslims and Hindus should be prohibited from serving as judges, are politicians like Bill Frist who cater to them.

Unfortunately, there are some loony Democrats out there as well, including the one who led the fight in the Texas legislature to keep cheerleaders from "shaking their behinds, breaking it down..."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sunday Hike -- Mt. Wachusett

Last Sunday, Michelle and I continued our journey along the Midstate Trail by hiking over Mt. Wachusett. We weren't sure that we were going to get a hike in last weekend, as it rained all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, but the sun came out sometime after noon, so we thought we'd give it a go.

It turned out to be a great afternoon, clear and around 60 degrees, but the trail was very wet (2+ inches of rain will do that). Wet enough that where the trail was steep, or near a brook, the water would run down the trail, causing us to have to hop from rock to rock as we climbed. On flatter terrain, there was frequently standing water that we were forced to go off trail to avoid.

About half way up, we encountered a garter snake with an attitude. I've seen garter snakes before--caught them when I was a kid--but I've never seen one coil up and threaten to strike. Michelle poked her walking stick at it and it attacked the end of it.

When we reached the summit, Michelle and I were the only people there for a few minutes. It is the first time I've ever been to the top when I've had it all to myself. It was quite peaceful, although the wind was quite cold, and there was a thick haze that prevented much of a view.

Total Hike: 3.6 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 29.5 miles.
Total summer to date: 36.6 miles.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

...always take the weather with you

Apparently the Republicans want to do away with the weather. From the Palm Beach Post:

The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.

Supporters say the bill wouldn't hamper the weather service or the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards — in fact, it exempts forecasts meant to protect "life and property."

But critics say the bill's wording is so vague they can't tell exactly what it would ban.

"I believe I've paid for that data once. ... I don't want to have to pay for it again," said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.

He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

"The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away," Bradner said. "What would be permitted under this bill is not clear — it doesn't say. Even including hurricanes."

Can you imagine a world where instead of guessing how far off Chikage Windler's forecast is when you wake up in the morning, you have to hope that she actually gets it right?

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Me Generation

I came across The Generator Blog today, which essentially is a listing of web-based software that lets you fill in the blanks and generate, well, pretty much anything. For instance, the sign above was generated at Kurumi's Sign Maker. Or, you might wish to have your name posted on the side of an air conditioning van.

Or you might wonder what you'd look like if you were a South Park character.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


The Ice Cream Truck just came by for the first time tonight. Just 179 more evenings of "The Music Box Dancer" until fall....God help us all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sunday Hike -- The Old Mill to Mt. Wachusett

Another nice day Sunday, and a difficult hike. Or rather a more difficult hike than we expected because there was a typo in our trail guide. We are using the Massachusetts Midstate Trail Guide Book to help us navigate the trail. It has been particularly useful in assisting us as we decide where to start and finish each day. We're trying to go 6-7 miles per leg, and use the guidebook to find parking areas, etc.

Since neither Michelle or I wear a watch when we hike, and don't really have a good handle on how fast or slow we are hiking, we also rely on the guide to help us understand where certain landmarks are on the trail in relation to where we are going, how far we have traveled, how far we have to go, etc.

The guide missed a mile in Westminster. It suggests the distance between Crow Hill and Redemption Rock is 0.4 miles, when it is actually 1.4 miles. So we ended up hiking 7.5 miles instead of the 6.5 we were expecting, which wouldn't have been too tough a task except that 1) it was our second day in a row, 2) the terrain was more difficult, including a hike up and down Crow Hill, which is at a higher elevation than any point since Mt. Wataic, 3) It was the warmest day of the spring so far (about 76 degrees).

Other than that, I actually enjoyed the hike (Michelle was less enthralled with it). It had some nice, changeable terrain, ran along a brook for a ways, and was mostly secluded, with only a couple of short portions on town roads. We finally encountered some hikers on and around Crow Hill, and in the Redemption Rock area. We also had a nice view from the top of Crow Hill of Mt. Wachusett and the Leominster State Forest, including Crocker Pond (shown below).

Total hike: 7.6 miles.
Total Midstate Trail to date: 25.9 miles.
Total summer to date: 32.9 miles.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Westminster State Forest to The Old Mill

Yet another perfect day Saturday, so Michelle and I headed back out to Westminster to continue the Midstate Trail. Saturday's leg was just over 6 1/2 miles long, and was the easiest of the three legs so far. We started at a parking lot just west of the Westminster State Forest and hiked in about 1/4 mile to where we left the trail last Sunday. Almost immediately we came upon Muddy Pond, which ended up being the highlight of the day.

The pond is far enough away from any roads or homes that it is completely quiet, save for birds in the area. Along the shore of the pond is a shelter and a firepit, available for hikers who want to stay the night (presumably those who are hiking the entire 95 or so miles straight through, but I suppose anyone could wander out there for an evening).

The trail continued aroud the north and east shores of the pond, through some conservation land, and eventially out to Bragg Hill Road. From there we followed paved roads for nearly a mile, then headed up into some woods that were close enough to roads and homes that at times it felt like we were hiking through someone's back yard. While the scenery was significantly less spectacular than the first two hikes (unless you are interested in viewing a variety of backyards, decks, and patios), the proximity to roads and buildable land meant that most of trail was significantly easier to traverse (flatter, drier) than the first 12 miles.

Although we haven't seen any significant wildlife yet along the trail (and didn't expect to see any on this leg, since most of the area we were hiking in was populated), we did again see a pair of wild turkeys and a pheasant. We did not encounter any other hikers on the trail.

Total Hike: 6.8 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 18.3 miles.
Total summer to date: 25.3 miles.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Everybody has somebody

Boy, are there some eccentric folk out there. From a New York Times wedding anouncement:

Dr. Debbara Jean Dingman and Daniel John DeNoon were married last evening at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. The Rev. Grover E. Criswell, a Disciples of Christ minister, performed the nondenominational ceremony....

Dr. Dingman and Mr. DeNoon met at an Atlanta jazz club in 1978, where she was a hostess and he a bartender. Dr. Dingman, in the spirit of feminism at that time, called herself Debbie "Dingperson," without cracking a smile, she said....

"Everything had to be totally discussed and negotiated," Mr. DeNoon recalled. "What I considered courteous - pulling out her chair, opening a door - she would take as an insult."

Dr. Dingman added: "We had an ability to argue about everything. He would order wine, and I'd be upset that he did it without consulting me. And then we'd argue about the migrant workers who picked the grapes. There was a real push-pull to our relationship."

I'm nearly speechless, but if you want to read someone's snark on this and other wedding announcements from the NYT, check out Veiled Conceit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wish I knew this three years ago...

Rene Rancourt is available to sing at wedding receptions. Where was this information before our wedding?

Chicago, Lincoln

From an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune:

The opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield this month can become the launch for an initiative to change the name of Illinois to that of the State of Abraham Lincoln.

I'm serious.

Few in the world know what or where Illinois is. Some have heard of Chicago. Yet the world knows Abraham Lincoln--the Great Emancipator; the rock who kept our Union of diverse peoples from fragmenting; the homespun, virtuous, self-educated man of the heartland; a hero, indeed, to all in the world who yearn to be free.

In contrast, our citizens have never really resonated to "Illinois," the name of a feckless confederation of tribes of so-called superior men, who in fact fled time and again--and indeed out of our state--before smaller bands of raiding Iroquois.

Chicago, Lincoln?
University of Lincoln Fighing Abrahams?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ashburnham+Tornado = UFOOOOOOs!!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!

So while I was posting the report of our hike Sunday, I googled the words "Asburnham tornado" in an attempt to find out if a tornado or some other reported event could have casued those trees to come down. While I didn't find anything like that, I did come across a couple of references to a woman who claims she was abducted by UFO's in Ashburnham in 1967.

For instance, if you click this link and hit Ctrl-F, then type "Ashburnham" in the dialog box, you will get to read a version of the account. Apparently this is a particularly famous UFO story, but since I don't run in those circles (or crop circles for that matter) this is the first I've heard of it.

I don't know which I think is crazier, that UFOs have been scooping people off the streets of Ashburnham, or that the site to which I've linked hypothesizes that people who have abduction fantasies are actually reliving their prenatal or birth experiences...

Sunday Hike -- Midstate Trail: Camp Winnekeag to Westminster State Forest

After 6 1/2 miles on Saturday, Michelle and I decided to take advantage of a second day of perfect weather (upper 60s, no clouds, no wind) and continued down the Midstate Trail from Camp Winnekeag.

From the parking lot at the camp, the first quarter mile or so follows town roads. Once we left the pavement for the woods, the next mile was a gradual incline up to the summit of Mt. Hunger. The path was dry and well marked, so we were able to hike fairly quickly. The hike to the top of the mountain was deceiving, since there were two or three false peaks and we haven't yet figured out how to judge our distance by our speed.

About three quarters of the way to the summit, we passed two couples with small children who had stopped at a small pond to listen to the peepers. They would be the only people (but not the only peepers) we would meet on the six-plus miles of hiking today. Just short of the summit is a lookout to the north, with a good view of Stodge Meadow Pond and Mt. Watatic (photo below).

In defiance of the mountain, we ate.

The trail continued along a ridgeline and through a sparsely forested area, including one grove where nearly all of the trees had been sheared off about 8-10 feet off the ground. It looked like there might have been a tornado or a microburst in that area at some time. The trail was dry and a bit slick in spots, due to the beech leaves that covered the path.

The trail dropped stteply crossed a road and through a pasture, and the terrain became much more difficult to navigate because of standing water in many spots. It became particularly challenging as we atempted to cross Brown Brook. While the crossing is probably easy in the late summer when the water is down, you can see by the picture below that it is difficult to pick out a crossing point this time of year.

We hiked nearly a mile along an old cart path to Phillips Brook and route 12, where we stopped for a rest. The path continued up a fairly steep hill (which was not evident on the map, we were expecting a fairly flat hike for the last two miles) and through some fairly dense forest. Along these two miles, we saw the most wildlife we have seen yet along the trail, with a red squirrel, a downy woodpecker, four wild turkeys, and a bird that we think was a pheasant.

Once we reached Westminster State Forest, we hiked out the Blue Trail about 1/4 mile to our other vehicle.

Total Hike: 6.4 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 11.6 miles.
Total summer to date: 18.5 miles.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Midstate Trail: N.H. to Camp Winnekeag

Michelle and I have decided to hike the entire 94-mile length of the Midstate Trail which runs from the New Hampshire state line to the Rhode Island state line. Our plan is to hike it in six or seven mile stretches each weekend over the course of the spring and summer. We hoped to start last weekend, but because of the heavy rains the week before, we decided to put it off a week and hiked near Quabbin Reservoir instead (see entry dated April 5).

Unfortunately, there isn't a parking area at the N.H. state line trail head, so we needed to hike in over a mile to reach the northern terminus of the trail. We parked at the parking area on rte. 119 and hiked the State Line Trail up to that point. The State Line Trail traverses a line that bypasses Mt. Watatic and runs more or less directly to the, um...state line (shocking!).

The photo below is of Michelle and I at the trail head, which is marked by a granite monument in the stonewall. I believe the stone pillar marked "A&A Mass 1894" marks the boundaries between New Hampshire to the north, Ashburnham to the southwest, and Ashby to the southeast.

From the state line, we hiked south along a fairly well worn trail which carries both the Midstate Trail and the Wapack Trail (which runs from the parking area we used north for 27 miles over a number of peaks to Greenfield, N.H.). The trail was pretty wet in a number of spots and there was still some snow in areas that were protected from the sun. There was melting ice hidden underneath the surface of the trail in some spots, which occasionally caused the trail to crater five or six inches under our feet. The trail heads over Nutting Hill to the top of Mt. Watatic, and is quite gradual as it approaches from the north.

Nutting Hill offers unobstructed views to the east and southeast as far as Boston, while Mt. Watatic offers a nearly 360 degree overlook, with Boston visible to the southeast and Mt. Wachusett visible to the south. Only the view toward Mt. Monadnock to the northwest is obstructed by trees. The photo below looks to the south and includes Stodge Meadow Pond and Mt. Wachusett.

Surprisingly, we met few people at the summit of Mt. Watatic. Watatic is usually one of the more crowded peaks in Massachusetts. We only saw a dozen or so people at the top and along the trail to the summit. The hike down the west side was much more steep that our loop to the top of the mountain, although switchbacks have been cut to make the trek easier.

After stopping at the car for lunch, we continued south another 2.5 miles to Camp Winnekeag where we had parked our other vehicle. The hike to Winnekeag was over easier terrain, although we did cross the peaks of both Fisher Hill and Blueberry Hill along the path. The trail was significantly drier, and there was much less snow and ice aong the way. This stretch was also much more secluded than the first, as we only passed two other hikers along the route.

Total hike: 6.6 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 5.4 miles.
Total summer to date: 11.9 miles.

Friday, April 8, 2005

A columnist ahead of his time

In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom wrote a column about Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, two former players at Michigan State University who went out of their way to go to Indianapolis to support their alma mater at MSU's Final Four game on Saturday night. In part, he wrote:

They sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater. They were teammates in the magical 2000 season, when the Spartans won it all. Both now play in the NBA, Richardson for Golden State, Cleaves for Seattle.

And both made it a point to fly in from wherever they were in their professional schedule just to sit together Saturday. Richardson, who earns millions, flew by private plane. Cleaves, who's on his fourth team in five years, bought a ticket and flew commercial.
Problem is, neither player was actually in St. Louis for the game. In fact, they were both in Oakland for the game between Golden State and Seattle Sunday afternoon.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems with the column and these paragraphs in particular. They weren't in the stands, weren't in their MSU clothing, didn't take any planes, and most likely weren't sitting together (although they may have been, since Saturday was on off day for both players and they were playing each other the next night).

Albom's deadline for his Sunday column was Friday night, so he wrote the column a full 24 hours before the game was to take place, and added items he expected to be true based on coversations he'd had with the two players earlier in the week, but couldn't verify until after the deadline.

Now Mitch--who is one of the most highly honored and awarded columnists in the country--has apologized (although he tries to take his editors down with him), the publisher has ordered an investigation, and the story is becoming a big deal in journalism circles.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

News links

A couple of news links I like:

Sploid is a news site done in the style of a London tabloid.

Todays Front Pages at has images of hundreds of front pages from around the country and the globe, updated each morning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005


Apparently, Republican Texas senator John Cornyn thinks judges who are victims of violence had it coming:

"It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. [Sometimes], the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people.

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence..."

On another note, if this isn't the craziest thing you've read in a while (via Romanesko)...

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Sunday Hike -- Dana

For the first hike of the spring, Michelle and I decided to head out to the Quabbin Reservoir and hike out to the former town of Dana, which was razed in 1938 to make way for the reservoir. The town, however, is not under water, and it is about a two mile hike in from the closest gate at the reservation. The picture above is what the center of town looks like today, 67 years after the townspeople were forces out of their homes. This site includes more information on Dana.

While none of the buildings remain, there are still foundations and cellar holes along the road into town, and around the town common. While most of them were built with field stones, one near the town common included a terrace that was lined with these smaller stones.

From the center of town, we continued another 3/4 mile southwest in hopes of finding an old plane wreck that is out in the woods south of the road. I found it once when I was walking out here about 15 years ago on a tip from David Knott, but wasn't able to locate it today. We ended up stopping at an inlet where we saw a half dozen or so wood ducks and a pair of blue herons. Earlier, we had been joined by a couple of hawks that circled us quite close to the ground while we were in town.

The trail head is located at gate 40 on rte 32A, about 6 miles north of Hardwick Center. Total Distance Hiked: 5.3 miles.

Friday, April 1, 2005

She Forced a Nation to Debate Death

At least that's what the Beaver Count Times newspaper of Pennsylvania would have you to believe. Oh, and the "she" we're talking about is Terry Schiavo. Not Mother Teresa or Sandra Day O'Connor, or Margaet Thatcher, or Eleanor Roosevelt or Joan of Arc. Terry Schiavo. Looking at this front page from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, you would think that a great American figure had passed.

Terry Schiavo didn't force anyone to do anything, and she certainly didn't have anything to do with the media creation that has been "The Terry Schiavo Case" (insert flashy graphics and dark music here). This story has been wholly a creation of a media that is starved for emotional stories and a political process that knows how to get the media all fired up about nothing. The parents of Terry Schiavo were doing everything they could to prolong their daughter's life and that's their prerogative (though not their right). I feel for them. But this is not a story and never was. Just one time, I'd like the media to say "you know, we have more pressing issues to cover than one family's drama," and take on a real issue.

But real issues don't sell newspapers, don't bring ratings, and don't get the folks to stay with the newscast once Dr. Phil signs off, which is why reporters will continue to go to Florida and put Jesse Jackson and Randall Terry on TV even though they don't care one ounce about Terry Schiavo.

If you look closely at those front pages, you'll also notice that the pope is near death. If Terry Schiavo's death is worth this much coverage, how much ink should the pope's passing get to put that event in proper context? Is there a front page large enough to deal with that?

Of course, we could all be in South Carolina, where the big news was that the University of South Carolina won the NIT. Congratulations. You're #65. At least you weren't forced to debate death.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The World Series Champion 49ers

The Red Sox will be wearing these for the home opener. I like the patch, but what's with the awful gold trim? Did Steve Young design these?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Say No to Drumlins

Five years ago, Kilbourn Hill—a perfectly good hill—became Dexter Drumlin. The Trustees of Reservations decided that after decades (centuries, perhaps) of just being a hill, the place where Lancastrians go to sled, walk, jog, watch the sun rise and set, and just generally be was now a drumlin.

Did it graduate? Earn a higher rank? Achieve a new social status? Has the word “hill” become offensive to some group? Who changes the name of a local landmark after all this time? Honestly, who names a hill a drumlin?

Other than the title, this blog has nothing to do with drumlins. It may have to do with hiking, or politics, or high school basketball, or whatever I’m thinking about at a given moment, but it probably won’t have a thing to do with drumlins. If you got here by googling the word “drumlin,” you’re welcome to stay—but sorry, no drumlins.


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