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July 31, 2006 - This Isn't Real, Right?
   Sad Reality: Today was the annual media day for the Deutsche Bank Championship, and I was nowhere in the vicinity.

   Though really, TPC of Boston is not typically the best place to play your first 18-hole round of the year on July 31.

   What I Read on FARK Today: New Zealand bars set to unveil a yellow/red card system to deal with drunks. My governor just might be an idiot.

   And you do not, under any circumstances, screw with Rhode Island.

They removed a historic chandelier and put down a false floor in the Statehouse rotunda. They replaced lamps with Greco-Roman statues and constructed a false front to the Senate Chamber.

But when crews filming the Disney move "Underdog" replaced with state flag flying over Rhode Island's Statehouse with one from a fictional city, that was the last straw for Gov. Don Carcieri.

. . .

"Underdog," which features Jim Belushi, has been filming in Providence for months and shot at the Statehouse from July 10 to last Friday.

   Anything that forwards the career of Jim Belushi should have been a tipoff, guys.

   Insignificant Note: Just so you know ...

Recorder
-- That's my digital recorder, front and center.

There were a lot of recorders in front of Theo Epstein,
but there was little for the GM to say. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

   And in so much as there wasn't a whole lot to say when no deals were made -- which I predicted, sort of -- there was something worthy of cracking out the old audio transfer wire.


Starring Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, and Theo Epstein, Your Dreams

   It's only 25 seconds, and swear free!

No Move Was Sox Best Move
-- It's not quite that simple, but in the end, I suppose that's where we get to.


Eight Too Much In Wells' Return
-- Good to see the old man is sticking to his guns thanks to some of my peers.

   • Honestly.

David Ortiz

David Ortiz points to the crowd after his 3-run walk-off home run to beat the Cleveland Indians, 9-8, in the ninth inning Monday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

   I give up.

Miguel Tejada in August-September 2002, David Ortiz in October 2004, Ortiz again right about now ... it's why we love this game.
-- Matt Bruce, via e-mail

   For the moment, I'd say that sums it up pretty damn well.


July 30, 2006 - Viva Deadline
   Power of the People: The Narragansett Indians are trying to get a casino built in Rhode Island, and as such, a political group has been built: Rhode Islanders For Jobs and Tax Relief, financed by Harrah's, who's chasing a no-bid contract.

   Those against building a casino, on the argument that Harrah's wants too good a deal and who may be a front for Foxwoods/Mohegan, are going by S.O.S.: Save Our State.

   I've hardly studied enough on the relative sides of the issue to know who's right and who I agree with. That said, I'm damn sure who has the better name.

   Who's against Jobs and Tax Relief? That's like naming your kids show "Puppies and Lollipops: The Panda Bear Generation." It doesn't have to make sense.

   After all, people are dumb.


   • Can't beat the real thing, baby.

Chorizo!

From Section 204, dozens of Hispanic fans chanted: "Cho-ri-zo! Cho-ri-zo!" A few snapped photos on cell phones. Francisco Verduzco, wearing a straw sombrero and a green Mexican League baseball jersey to mark the team-sponsored Hispanic night, said he finally felt like a real Wisconsin resident.

"It was time they had the chorizo, no? It's hard to explain, but I feel proud of it," said Verduzco, 42, a factory worker from Oostburg, Wis.

   I really, really, really hope that Mr. Verduzco did not actually say the inclusion of a sausage with some ties to his heritage in a promotional event during a baseball game is what finally makes him feel like a resident of the state where he lives.

   That's even worse than the "Tonight, Bobby Abreu became a true Yankee" we'll all be graced with about two weeks from now when he wins a game with a home run. Not to mention the number of times we hear Yankee fans laud him as the second coming of Christ, when he realistically couldn't hoist Alex Rodriguez's jock when it come to baseball talent.

   It's been several years since I actually defended Alex Rodriguez ... I remember lobbying him as MVP for his 2002 season in Texas -- .300/57 HR/142 RBI. Now, I'm left to wonder exactly when Phillies GM Pat Gillick died, allowing New York to make a steal reminiscent of the days when they were using Kansas City as an extra farm club to feeding their pennant machine.

   Honestly, I have nothing against the Yankees anymore ... they're a baseball team, like the one I cover. It's Yankee fans that I wish would die in a bleacher collapse. Never has a sense of entitlement come so strong.

   And for the record, Chorizo lost the race to whichever one wears the chef's hat. Much to the chagrin of the guy who took that video.


July 29, 2006 - Let There Be Bratwurst
   Programming Note: So yeah, the Links page is gone too.

   Sly's complaints about the presence of the Weather Pixie hit home, given the novelty had worn off about three days after I put it on the site. You don't care about the weather where I live. I barely care about the weather where I live, given I cower inside all day until I had to go somewhere in the afternoon.

   So, having already started to lop off some of the site's fluff, it was a logical jump to do one of the things a new site would have done -- pare the links down and stick them where they fit. The picture is from work, though sadly, it's not the part of work where I keep the Marty McSorley bobblehead.

The War Cabinet
-- This picture is nowhere near accurate today.

   I do, however, still have that cutout of the boy petting his gigantic dead fish.

   Rock Star: Supernova: I've been mulling about this for a few days, given I've somehow seen two episodes.

   There are few things in the world more enjoyable than sitting with your parents and hearing them rail against your generation, using this show as a medium. Rock and roll, you see, used to have a melody.

   Admittedly, this was an accurate comment six out of the seven times they made it. Once, however, they made it during Blind Melon's "No Rain," which is about as melodic as you're going to get.

   But really, do facts need to apply when you're dealing with a show hosted by Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro? The same Dave Navarro, by the way, who my mother thinks is an asshole for, honest to God, "dumping that Carmen Electra, that gorgeous girl."

   This is a link to Carmen Electra pictures. I'm not posting any. I couldn't even let the whole official site load without thinking better of it.

   The day I thought my mother would be standing up for Carmen Electra's honor ... is this country getting more progressive or what?

Big Star Big Papi Had Stuff To Do
-- I literally can't tell you what that headline has to do with 90 percent of the story. But considering I was near the end of the column when I realized I might have been over the top about the whole thing, I'll just shut up now.


Francona Says Sox Are Sound At Deadline
-- Inside Baseball, in which I debate whether it would have made sense for me to, out of the blue, go talk to Alfredo Griffin.

   • How exactly is it I never realized this? And how is it that no one that I know has ever done this?

Hall of Fame Corridor
-- Four halls, beginning in my backyard.

   I have little doubt I read this story about the trip in 2002, but it clearly didn't resonate with me. The four major Halls of Fame for the four historic U.S. pro sports are, well, over there. Not far over there ... I could be at the first stop on the trip in two hours.

   About the Caple story, though ... if he's going to get all emotional about the Boxing Hall of Fame, the least he could have done is gone to the Volleyball Hall of Fame. Yes, Holyoke isn't where anyone wants to die, but he doesn't know that! It's well inside his 25-mile boundary to boot ... it's probably not three miles from the road.

   Course, I've also heard it's not that good, and I've never even seen the building. And their Web site has no pictures. I'm cautiously panning the whole thing.


   Now, me promising things is always a touchy enterprise, so let's call this a proposal. At some point this year or next, when they're either not playing baseball or the Sox are on the road (better idea), I'm taking a week to do this. Maybe two weeks, since that's cheaper than renting a car and flying back at the other end. The Big Four: Basketball, Baseball, Hockey and Football. Maybe we do Volleyball just because it's close and Soccer because it's so cute they built one. But that's it.

   If you want in, you tell me. Not necessarily now, but when I start making promises about the write-up about it.


July 28, 2006 - All Ball
   Overheard At The Ballpark: Someone sitting in the vicinity of the Red Sox dugout tonight had some sort of beef with Los Anaheim's Tim Salmon, for whom he had a cavalcade of catcalls. If I heard them, I'm guessing Salmon did too.

"Tim Salmon is a big fan of crossing his legs at dinner!!!"
"Tim Salmon loves 'Sleepless in Seattle'!!!"
"Tim Salmon eats Haagen Dazs and cuts his toenails!!"
"Tim Salmon is a big fan of Tinkerbell!"
"Tim Salmon drives a minivan!!! Tim Salmon is a soccer mom!!!"

   The last one was instantaneously followed by a laser-beam single into left.

   I never could figure out what cutting one's toenails has to do with being a pansy, though it did remind me I had cut mine just the other day.

MainHead!
-- It's a Web-exclusive game story, not weighed down by an actual headline.


Wells Gets Chance To Rewrite Ending
-- The notebook, which seemed like the best thing to put in the paper when the game started at 10 past nine.

   Two other things about the actual game: the pre-game rain was literally the hardest rain I've ever seen, to the point where I couldn't see whether there were still people cowering under the scoreboard trying to stay dry.

   Also, the loss was my fault, as before the game I'd noted Boston had won the last seven games I'd attended. These sorts of things matter, you know.


   • And now, two other two other things from the game, wherein I quote myself via an e-mail I titled, "Today's Discovery You Might Have Already Known.":

   Ken Rosenthal, FOX's uber baseball writer and answer to Buster Olney/Peter Gammons, is at most 5-8. He borders on the comically short, to the point that from the back, I thought he was just an exceptionally dressed clubhouse boy.

   Also, I just (for the first time) saw the actual couple in question when a marriage proposal was aired on the scoreboard. I'm by no means a mind reader, but I'm guessing when Cori whatever-her-last-name was dreamed about the day she'd be proposed to all those years ago, she did not imagine herself wearing a Craig Hansen T-shirt.

   For the record, I met a nice producer from a Providence news talk station in the press box tonight. In the time we spoke, he told me about his impending proposal to his girlfriend. Given the rare opportunity, I asked a little about the process of the ring purchase, since I'm clueless.

   When he told me the part about the owner of the jewelry store where he went giving him "a $6,000 discount off the top" just because said owner liked the show he produced, I debated whether it would be feasible to start selling ad space within my columns. It isn't.

   At least not any more than jumping out the window of the press box was.


July 27, 2006 - With The Children
   The Nice Thing About Visiting/Being Home: It's like going to the pet shop, only without the smell.

They're everywhere!
-- Baxter in front, Peanut on ottoman, Ginger and Pokey in window.

   I also noticed, on the bag of cat food sitting on the counter, the product's benefits included "It's fun!" You see, the food has many shapes, and that makes eating more fun for cats the same way humans enjoy eating Alpha Bits and seeing what swear words they can spell on their spoon.

   As much as I'd like to believe cats enjoy what they consume this way, the way the cartoon cats on the bag do, their bodies regularly process the hair and feces they lick off themselves. I'm not optimistic.

   Sadly, I Have Nothing To Contribute: In the pantheon of things you can enjoy not being a member of my poverty-rich confession, a message board topic entitled "The Best Quotes You Couldn't Use" is pretty high on the list.

This one just happened this week.

Local legion coach is a buddy of mine from way back. He's got two catchers, one who's pretty on-again, off-again about showing up.

They have six games scheduled for last week in the ridiculous heat, and I wanted to put a note in about the one kid catching all six games.

So I ask the coach where Johnny Joint has been all week.

"He and a couple other kids took a camping trip out west somewhere to smoke dope and fuck some freshman girls," he said.

"Uhh, coach, how would you like me to word that in the paper?" I said.

"Church camp," he said.

   And if that doesn't do it for you, there's a little something for everyone. Kind of like the Milwaukee Brewers sausage race.

Chorizo!
-- There's some SouthCoasters disappointed they're deeming it Mexican.

The Milwaukee Brewers' newest racing sausage Chorizo, center, crosses the finish line during a practice race Thursday at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Chorizo is the first addition to the sausages that race every home game in the top of the seventh inning of a baseball game (since the team moved in 2000). (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

   Perhaps my favorite part of the story? If this story is accurate -- and honestly, the existence of said story is awesome enough -- Major League Baseball rules prohibit the addition of a new sausage full-time until the start of the 2007 season.

"I had been out looking for a fifth starter, and realized that was very difficult," (Brewers GM Doug) Melvin said. "As important as a fifth starter is to a franchise, a fifth sausage is important, too."

Chorizo will join the Bratwurst, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage and Hot Dog for a race on "Cerveceros Day" -- that's "Brewers" in Spanish for you gringos -- following the sixth inning of Saturday's Brewers-Reds game at Miller Park. Chorizo will then be "optioned out to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning," according to Melvin, though there is also the issue of Major League Baseball's approval process for new mascots. The Sausage Race will officially become a five-weenie affair beginning on Opening Day of 2007.

   Bud Selig and friends, working for you.


   • Tonight in the office, I was called over to the boss's desk. He was on the phone with his family, and he had something he wanted me to hear.

   Putting the phone on speaker, he asked his young daughter Caroline, "Can you say it again? Say it again."

   At which point, I and all in the vicinity hear her shout, "Jonnnnnnn COUTURE!"

   Apparently, depending on who is on the phone, Josh's daughter has taken to wanting to talk to us. This is an outreach of that, though a few hours later, I was told Caroline has changed what she uses as my first name.

   I am now Elmo Couture.

   Given her age, I take it as a compliment.


July 26, 2006 - And, A Downturn
   Embracing The Inner Western Mass.: This afternoon, while about to get on the highway, I noted that the General Lee was pulling out of a local side street. Obviously, it probably wasn't one of the General Lees, but a pretty exact replica as replicas go.

   I simply drove by. The person in front of me, however, offered a hearty raised fist out the window of their car. Sadly, the General Lee didn't honk some comically awful honk in response.

   Now, let there be no confusion ... I love the western half of the state. I dare say I've reached the point in my life where I could return there and live very much at peace with my decision.

   But seriously ... there aren't a lot of people cruising around Whale City in cars paying more than passing homage to an f'ing 30-year-old TV show.

   Enjoyable Moments in Television: Sitting, watching SportsCenter this morning, and seeing a promo for "The Cyclysm: The Men Who Would Be King."

   Coming July 1 to July 23!

   Lucky for them, Floyd Landis was actually in the promo.


   • This evening, I was cut off by a man who, approximately 50 feet before an exit, decided he had time to jump two lanes and take that exit. About 15 minutes later, a possum ran in front of my car ... I had a safe amount of time to dodge said possum, but combined with the earlier screeching of tires, things were a little edgy.

   It all helped me remember that when I got back from San Francisco, I'd decided I was going to look into getting a bicycle.

   The end.


July 25, 2006 - Tattoos Are Weird
   So Good, I've Forgotten It For Two Weeks: Amazing I could disrespect a home for "I'd Do Porn With Bellhorn" T-shirts for two weeks, but I did. And I'm very sorry.

Standard Red Sox shirts were too big and frumpy for Ryder and her friend Kate Taylor. And so the duo, both recent college graduates, struck out on their own, creating a brand of Sox clothing geared toward the female fan base, with a dash of sex added in.

"We're just both fairly petite and we both really like the Red Sox shirts," Ryder said. "We were kind of looking for something that will fit us."

The pair came up with SoxTease, a line of T-shirts for women emblazoned with racy slogans like "This fanny's for Manny" and "I'd get it on with Papelbon."

There's no real science to the slogans, Ryder said. In fact, Ryder and Taylor, both 22, developed the business concept while coming up with catch phrases to chant during actual games.

   Thank God there's a Web site. My mother's birthday is coming, and I know she'd love a "I'd Go Wicked Fah With Millah" shirt as least as much as I would love giving it to her.

   Simpsons Moments That Time Forgot:

Nuts and Gum!
-- "I'm a white male aged 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are!"

Zebra Eats Lion
-- Everyone loves The Elderly Animal Channel.

   Bringing Rage: I work with three rather staunch Yankee fans. They all disagree with this.

Pitching Not Only Need At Deadline
-- I always like an idea flows so well, I have to go back to the beginning and lop off fluff. Because, well, it's fluff.

   • You know, every so often I'm just really happy that when everyone was choosing their favorite sports, I chose baseball.

   I'm not even sure I can really explain it. I just feel really good about it, the same way I feel about stats like "After the All-Star break, Johan Santana is 33-3."

   Yeah, I don't know where that came from either. Kind of like everything John Kruk has eversaid and tried to pass off as analysis.


July 24, 2006 - Free Money. Sticky, Sticky Money.
   So, The Comments: I'm not exactly sure what was wrong with them, but the code for each day's 'page' was somehow screwed up about a week ago. Given each day I make a new entry by copying the old one, the problem just kept duplicating itself.

   Well, I figured it out. And, rereading the comments from this month in an attempt to find the problem, I'm probably happier they're back than anybody.

   We Needed Clarification: Spied on the cover of People Magazine in the check-out line today, a single-line tease to what was inside:

Oprah Winfrey: I'm Not Gay

   Apparently, this started nine years ago as most gay rumors do -- Oprah touched hands with an out homosexual, leading some to assume she's contracted "the virus." The latest rumor apparently centers around Gayle King, who was a newsanchor on the CBS affiliate out of Hartford when I was growing up.

   For whatever reason, I got very excited when I found out they were friends way back when, a relationship that spawned an awful talk show I'm going to assume I don't want to find a link to. In my mind, a Hartford news anchor being friends with Oprah somehow validated my half of Massachusetts.

   I was a weird kid, but I suspect you didn't need me to spell that out.

   Stop Them Before They Create Again: Also in the checkout line, I was regaled by the clerk (who could not have been less emotional if she was dead) as to the store's "Extreme Value of the Week:"

Mint Chocolate Chip Pop Tarts
-- Why yes, I did find this picture on an eBay auction.

   Having not eaten Pop Tarts not distributed via the vending machine downstairs in years, I'm a little distressed to see what's happened in my absence. I balied out right around the time they were making S'mores. Now, this abomination, Chocolat Chip Cookie Dough, Hot Fudge Sundae, Frosted Grape, French Toast, Chocamallow, Caramel Chocolate ...

   Are they not aware Pillsbury Toaster Strudel are better in every regard? Not that I eat those either, but if I was, I'd at least be smart about it. You don't eat chocolate in the morning!

   Don't they know that's why those people on the 'Cookie Crisp' box are so ugly?


   • So this afternoon, upon arriving home, I returned $25.95 worth of bottles and cans retrieved out of the family garage. And I'm not done yet.

Mmm ... backwashy.
-- Mmm ... backwashy.

   To the credit of my family, they seemed to get into me taking six garbage bags full of cans and bottles in the garage, tearing them all open, pouring them in a pile in the yard and sorting them -- alcohol and non-alcohol, plastic and alumnimum -- so I could make the return process either. To the credit of the Western Mass. townspeople, in my three trips from the car to the self-service redemption center at the supermarket, no one felt the need to ask me if I was homeless.

   The sad thing is not that I don't know how long it took my father to accumulate several hundred empty Budweiser cans, but that I'm afraid he knows and will tell me.

   Capping it off, I also cashed a scratch ticket I'd bought Sunday night at the bar. $5 spent, $5 won. It's always nice to spend that much time at the grocery store service counter.


July 23, 2006 - Baseball Talk With Strangers
   People Asking To Be Robbed: Not living in a community with a boardwalk or impressive beachfront (arguably), it's unlikely I'll ever come across someone wearing a Personal Cooling System.

   Somehow, The Sharper Image hasn't yet expanded to Whale City. Each day, we can only wonder it would be like to own lifesize statues of comic super heroes, personal hovercrafts and five-disc CD changers for the shower. But I digress.

Personal Cooling System
-- Available in two stylish colors.

   At $30, this isn't bad as unnecessary Sharper Image products go ... the balance trainer is up there, but radar golf balls are tough to beat. Still, as nice as the idea of an air conditioner in your neck, wet towel called. It wants a call back.

   Also, at $5,000, pinballs machines just today became far less interesting.

   Great Moments in Fattening America: TiVo recorded an episode of Paula's Home Cooking with Southerner Paula Deen centered around barbecue today. After a show featuring baked beans dcovered in crumbled bacon, frying biscuit dough to make doughnuts and a large piece of marinated pork, Paula revealed one of her "Tips" to shake up corn on the cob.

1) Cover corn in mayonnaise.
2) Dust mayo-covered corn with parmesan cheese.
3) Dust mayo-cheese corn with chile powder.
4) Sprinkle whole thing with salt.
5) Wrap ear in foil, cook for 20 minutes on grill.
6) Unwrap, spritz with spray butter and eat.

   Now, I've often been accused of being boring when it comes to food, skipping decorative fats in my half-assed attempts to be healthy without trying.

   At what point, though, do we just kind of go, "Well, why even include the corn? Why not do this to a piece of summer sausage? Or, better yet, a corn dog?"

   Course, I'm not the first to note this. And this one has pictures.


   • Tonight, I caused a man to turn away from the jukebox he'd been walking toward, just so he could walk to the table where I sat and ask me why I was wearing a Detroit Tigers jersey.

   I told him it was because I'd gotten it for $20. He was not impressed, especially upon hearing I'd bought it from one of the other people I was sitting at the table at. He pointed at his Red Sox hat, at which point I resisted making something up akin to, "Oh, I cover them for work, and they're all jerks." My surprise earlier in the night that I'd never seen a fight at this bar was not an invitation for one to fall in my lap.

   I now wish I'd said something along the lines of, "Well, they have the best record in baseball. Why wouldn't I cheer for them?" No, check that.

   I now wish I'd been wearing my Tampa Bay Devil Rays jersey.

   Mainly to see what I would have come up with for a response, since "I'm just being ironic" strikes me as something I'd have appreciated far more than he would have.


July 22, 2006 - A Clockwork Orange
   Reminscing About Synergies: ESPN's special on "Biggest Chokes" is itself a year or two old, but upon seeing what Fox was touting behind the batters during the 2004 ALCS:

My Big Fat Obnoxious Promos
-- Oh, the memories.

   It kind of makes me glad it was just a green screen and I didn't have to look at it.

   Though it's always good to read Web posts like the one linked to and see how much people think they're owed.

Despite Curt's Comments, Rotation Has Big Rift
-- Inside Baseball this week might have worked better if I'd printed all the stats I calculated, but we were so rushed ... never mind the stats were a couple days old anyway.

   No one hits home runs all the time.


   • So this week, I paid a parking ticket I received during the very series referenced above: the 2004 ALCS.

   During that series, the cops were out in a lot more force than they are during the regular season, therefore leading to lot fewer "free parking" days. At that time, the parking ticket system wasn't automated -- whereas now tickets are input into the computer Pay-by-Web system as soon as they're given, then, you had to wait a couple days since it was all done by hand.

   I got plenty of tickets during the playoffs, though still spending less on parking than I would have to pay for a lot. This led to me being paranoid about getting things paid off, worrying about whether tickets had blown off my car on days where I didn't get one.

   At the time, it seemed superfluous.

   Turns out, it was dead on.

   At the end of October, I went so far as to call the city and check on my car's parking record, just to ensure it was clean. They said it was.

   And yet when I was paying tickets I got during the last homestand, out of nowhere a rathe significant change -- spice with late fees, of course -- popped up from Oct. 17, 2004. My initial instinct, unlike most, wasn't to doubt it was real.

   It was to attempt to figure out how the City of Boston is stupider than me.

   Now, my car has a veterans license plate, which leads to some confusion about how it's input or legally written. The actual tag number is supposed to be preceded by VT, which is something 99 percent of the city's meter maids have never had a problem with.

   Except the one dunce who ticketed me in 2004, and who apparently is still employed by the city, since they managed to do is again all these months later.

   I just paid the ticket, as I have no doubt I got and I have no desire to fight with the city over $13. So what's the reason for the story?

   Had I called the city and had them try to get to the bottom of what happened, it would have taken at least twice as long as it took me to figure it out on my own.

   Plus time on hold.

   Plus time spelling out my license tag.

   I love government.


July 21, 2006 - Gum Base
   We Were So Close!: Oh, Beryl, you miserable dame.

Tropical Storm Beryl's Path
-- I hope this doesn't give the impression I watched it go by.
I watched Longwang closer than this.

   I'm not talking about the storm coming close. Disaster maven Jim Cantore was in Chatham! I was just in Chatham last month! We could have eaten burritos at the same place! As she's there with her family, Julie could have seen him!

   Course, I hope she didn't. Because if she did, I couldn't blame her if she went all groupie on him.

   Though I'm guessing she would have had to get in line. Given who was prowling the streets on my night there, I'm guessing there were plenty not opposed (or strangers) to starfudging.

   No Wonder Everyone Hates Us: As was pointed out to me, the S-T has hit ESPN.com. It just isn't how I'd hoped.

BOSTON -- A Red Sox fan angry that Johnny Damon defected to the New York Yankees has fought off an attempt by his high-powered agent to stop her from selling baby bibs with a very grown-up insult.

Tucked among the "I Love My Mommy" bibs and "Pregnant Princess" maternity clothes, Ann Sylvia also offers bibs and onesies adorned with the ballpark epithet "Damon Sucks." Last month, eBay pulled the listings after the Scott Boras Corp. complained that they violated Damon's right of publicity, a legal claim that allows celebrities to control the products they endorse.

Sylvia hadn't sold any of the Damon items at the time, but the complaint threatened to blemish her eBay rating and jeopardize her PowerSeller status.

"I'm just a stay-at-home mom. I just want to raise my children, sell my stuff," said Sylvia, who works part-time at The Standard-Times of New Bedford, which first reported on her struggle. "It's all a little nerve-racking, a little scary."

   While I'll admit I'm impressed by her defense -- she could have been attacking lots of guys named Damon, after all -- and sympathetic to her concerns about her PowerSeller status given we're paid by the same people, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was waiting for this:

"What Damon did is just the ultimate betrayal in baseball," she said in a telephone interview from her home in New Bedford. "I don't see how it could not be considered that."

A mother of two whose online store, "Owen and Emma," is named after her children, Sylvia has operated an online store since 2001 so she can spend more time at home with her kids. She makes more than $1,000 a month from eBay sales.

Though she hadn't sold any "Damon Sucks" merchandise before the controversy, she's sold two items since.

   Red Sox fans. Never disappoint.


   • So OK, I did a little carpet shredding around here.

   -- We've got Google Search. At least until someone of importance alerts me my design tweaks violate the Terms of Service I agreed to with the Internet's growing Man, you can search whatever you'd like from the bar on the left. It even works!

   Go ahead. Revisit my grand pasta pot review!

   -- Buh-bye, Guestbook. Quite possibly the only thing that has survived on the site since the very first incarnation way back when, it's long been superceded and will remain so until my comment provider explodes in a fireball.

   I mean, the first comment says I'm the coolest guy someone knows. The world's come a long way since 1999 ... I bet the kids don't even call my hometown "Fagawam" anymore.

   Where will I post my survey results?! The "Bio" page never really became anything, and much as I'd like to believe it's true, I don't weigh 160 pounds anymore. But really, I can't imagine you'd care what my purity score was or how addicted I was to Instant Messenger in college.

   Julie, by the way, may not ever actually sign off of it. She puts up away messages while she sleeps! I was never even that bad, though that was largely because I was never smart enough to turn to sound off.

   A lot of the other space-filler stuff is also gone, reducing the whole page to a size that should fit on your entire computer screen if it didn't before. If it still doesn't, I think you need to question whether you really still need that 5.25-inch floppy disk drive. They've made Jeopardy! games that you can play right on your TV, now!

   So why did this all happen now? Hard to say. But in an entirely unrelated story, I grabbed a piece of Bazooka bubble gum out of the tray they had in the Red Sox dugout on Thursday, and the fortune I got on the contained comic was "One day, everyone will know your name."

   Creepy. Especially if I got the piece that fate intended for Wily Mo Pena.


July 20, 2006 - Beryl?
   French Bread Pizza Revisited: There's really very little reason for me to become enraged by the things that "enrage" me -- I use the word loosely, since writing seems to magnify the actual emotion an empty husk like myself emotes. Perhaps one of my better rants, in retrospect, was the one levied at Bill Simmons over Stouffer's French Bread Pizza.

Putting together a basketball team is like cooking a Stouffer's french bread pizza -- you have to preheat the oven, wait 15 minutes, slide the pizzas inside, wait another 35 minutes, check to make sure you didn't burn them, let them cook another five minutes, pull them out, then let them cool down for another 10 minutes so you don't burn your mouth ... and then, and ONLY then, do you eat the pizzas. That's how the good general managers build their teams. But these new-wave owners and general managers want to eat the pizza right away, so they slip them in the microwave, zap the hell out them, scarf down in three bites and end up burning their mouths, and the pizza doesn't even taste good as it's going down.

Are you absolutely, positively and completely fucking kidding me? Who in the universe has ever, and I mean EVER cooked a Stouffer's French Bread Pizza this way? As someone who grew up on these things when visiting my grandmother's house in Chicopee, I can tell you I never once burned my mouth, never once was saddened by inferior taste, and NEVER ONCE spent 65 MINUTES PREPARING ONE.
-- Original rant dated Nov. 3, 2005, the same day I shattered my blinds.

   Well, eight months later, I actually bought some Stouffer's French Bread Pizza. Julie ate one before this all flooded back to me, so I wasn't able to try Captain Douchebag's cooking method. But I did partially modify the method on the box.

Preheat toaster oven to 325 degrees. (I went five minutes.)
Cook pizza for 25 minutes. (I checked it at 20.)
Let cool for five minutes. (Did that on my own.)
Total prep time: 35 minutes.

   After having not had said product for at least a decade -- which in my world is a whole lot of pizzas ago -- it didn't hold up to my memories. But it was certainly good ... if anything, it probably could have stood to cook five minutes less, which would have put it at an even half hour.

   Less than half of 65 minutes, you wank.

   I still can't even believe that, so much so I'm giving myself a pass on bringing it up over and over.

   Bumper Sticker of the Night:

HESCMNBK
We've Got His Word On It

   My initial instinct was that it was a gibberish fake political sticker, then that it had something to do with Cthulhu -- shocking I know, but I had no actual idea what the hell that is.

   Whole other direction in the end. It's for moments like this I need a camera phone.


   • So on the radio today, I hear a commercial for a show by Badfish, dubbed "The Ultimate Tribute to Sublime."

   Now, I'll leave alone the idea that the way you've decided to live your life is by playing someone else's music ... there are people who make their money by acting all over the place, and really, I'm sure they do alright.

   But if there was ever a show I don't think you could pay me to go to, this would be it. I haaaaaaaaaate Sublime. I'm sometimes relieved Bradley Nowell died before the band actually became big, since the talk is that had he lived, it would have spawned dozens upon dozens of shittier bands in Sublime's mold. Bands so bad, I wouldn't simply change the radio station when most of their songs came on, but turn it off and start dreaming of flipping over my car.

   Not exactly, but hyperbole is a tremendous way to segue.

Sox Have To Keep Up Scrappy Play
-- Sure do. Elaborate, isn't it?


Wakefield Could Miss Month
-- No one has analyzed the upcoming month for Doug Mirabelli this deeply. I'm sure of that.

   Oh yeah, by the way. If I'm washed out to see in the next couple days, it's been a blast.


July 19, 2006 - Where in Ireland is Glasgow?
   Revelations: While I actually discovered this last week, it remains no less mystifying to me. Seth Mnookin, who wrote the new Sox book "Feeding The Monster," used to be a heroin addict.

Every night when I got off work, I'd bike home, climb into bed, turn on all the lights, and watch NYPD Blue reruns and smoke. Usually I'd wake up the next morning with the TV still on and an ashtray balanced on my chest. After years during which my emotional life had been circumscribed by the space between getting and needing a fix, I was still debilitatingly raw. I'd cry during Toyota commercials because the notion that a father wanted to buy a car that would keep his daughter safe on trips to soccer practice seemed overwhelmingly poignant. I didn't wash my sheets because I was only dimly aware that sheets needed to be washed. Many days, it seemed like getting dressed in my monkey suit and getting to work was too much too handle.

   Sadly, this reminded me that I haven't washed my sheets in a period where I probably should have at least once.

   The Wave Crests: Say what you will, and I try to, about Bill Simmons, but it's nice to see an entire British soccer column that's not written by someone from England who talks over my head. Plus, he chose as his team Tottenham Hotspur, for whom I have absolutely no opinion one way or the other.

   His process of choosing a team reminded me that I really don't have an EPL team I consider myself a fan of. While I was heavy into Manchester United in the late '90s -- I've talked about their 1999 Champions League final with Bayern Munich far too many times -- it's hard to cheer for a team that spends too much money and that everybody hates. This feeling has largely made Manchester City the only team I've shown solid interest in recently. It's like I'm trying to right myself karmically.

   That said, I remain loyal to Cardiff City, 10 years and counting. They're in the First Division now, and considering I think they went up from the Third early in my observation, maybe I'll have an EPL team before too long after all.


   • I'm not going to say anything more about Mark Redman, other than that I hope he stubbed his toe at some point yesterday.

   There is, of course, soccer to discuss.

And ties!
-- Of course it ended in a tie. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been funny.

   Glasgow Celtic continued their U.S. tour in Foxboro last night, drawing out far more Irish flags than you'd think would show up for a Scottish team's games. Jon Rea at one point tried to explain it's a Catholic connection, and how that intensifies the crosstown rivalry they have with Glasgow Rangers, but I'm guessing most of the people at this tilt either just like green or were beaten into compliance by their parents.

   My own Celtic jersy ownership came about in a way you'd expect, given it's me. When I stayed in Edinburgh for three weeks in 1998, my host family were rather huge Rangers fans. I, still being me in 1998, thus bought a Celtic jersey. At that point, I believe, they'd also been bringing up the rear in the rivalry, with Rangers having won nine consecutive Scottish championships.

   This in no way verifies that, but does confirm that Celtic have won four of the last six.


   I'd be lynig if I said the entire game was a bit of a disappointment, if only because having 16,000 people in a football stadium that seats more than 60,000 is odd. The crowd was generally quiet, which is what led to us watching the second half from the rabid Revolution fan section, and warranted me changing out of my Celtic jersey for the second time that evening -- the first time had come while we were driving in some two and a half hours before game time, and all the Celtic fans in attendance looked ready to beat a poseur like me into submission solely for my efforts at assimilation.

   The shot of the guy in the kilt on the concourse didn't come out right. It would have gone here. And for whatever reason, I didn't actually take a picture of Nick's friend Bruce, who as promised painted his face red, white and blue.

   Someone later asked him if he were a fan of France. The "Proud To Be An American" T-shirt was obscured enough at the time for it to be a valid question.

Wrapped in patriotism.
-- Also, he'd forgotten his patriotism overcoat.


   The second half was much better than the first even before the goals -- the Revs' literal last-second equalizer was a not-all-that-poor man's version of Maxi Rodriguez's goal of the World Cup. Only when sitting/standing near the hardcore Revs' fans do you get the sense that soccer can be exciting live. Unfortunately, there's only about 200 of them as opposed to 20,000 (or, hell, 2,000). But it doesn't make it any less fun to chant with arms up as the goalie prepares for a goal kick, seranading him with a "You suck!" as the ball leaves the line.

   Especially when we met up with Nick's cousin at the game, his cousin being that guy who starts screaming obscenities that confuse you at first, then strike you as hilarious, then become slurred to the point of unintelligibility. It works, in a complet package.

   The one thing about soccer that never changes, though, is the camaraderie. Because we got to the game very, very early, we got to park near the stadium, right by where the buses end up. As such, we saw a couple Celtic fan coaches roll in, with the people streaming out singing and drinking and funneling and all of that. As time passed, they sort of swallowed up a little kid in a Brazil jersey who'd been kicking a ball around with his Dad since before we got there. The kid, who was probably in the 6-8 range, stood in the middle as the ball popped around him, with the group intermittently setting him up for a header.

   He'd head it to somebody, they'd all go "YEEEEAAAAA!!" and it would begin again.

   In the course of things, the little kid got bumped pretty hard by somebody. Incidental stuff, but it shook him up. So, the drunks did what any drunks in that situation would do.

   They swarmed around the kid to make sure he was OK, and someone held up a red credit card, "sending off" the offender while they set up for a penalty kick.

   Put the ball on the spot, the kid kicks it, he scores, we all cheer and they carry him off on their shoulders and he celebrates with his arms in the air.

   I've rarely been so disappointed that my camera was on the other side of the car, though I'm sure the picture wouldn't have carried completely the feel-good moment.

   Soccer's awesome like that.

Step it up!
-- Even without step dancing at halftime.


July 18, 2006 - Be A Shame If He Was Blown Out
   The Thompsons: What follows will explain why I've forgotten everything else I was going to mention today, but I did not forget that I owe some people some 'Simpsons' Moments That Time Forgot.

   Is that what I was calling it? If not, consider it a name change and me branding it with the Stat That Time Forgot.

Bacon's got a new best friend ... FUDGE!
-- Last week's forgotten ode to bacon's new best friend ... FUDGE!

Good old Gil.
-- Oh, boy! Gil's gonna collect big from insurance! I'll be eatin' food tonight!

Mmm, liver!
-- Special bonus, because "Iron helps us play!"

   As always, all copyrights and trademarks belong to someone who isn't me.

Rookie Pitcher Starts To Piece It Together
-- This got a glowing endorsement from my boss, so you know it has to be good. And it is.


Health Would Be Big Acquisition
-- The notebook, written under my new personally mandated length policy. If resumes don't need to be longer than one page ...

   • Sometimes, it amazes me how things work out.

   When I got to Fenway tonight, I had a plan to do a feature on Kansas City's Mark Redman. Given he's pitching the final game of the series on Wednesday, has won six in a row and will probably be the most remembered All-Star from 2006, it didn't seem that out of the ordinary. As the time drew closer, I actually had gotten rather excited about the idea.

   So I did what writers do in these situations. I dug around in some old stories, looked at stats, jotted down some questions, got a good idea what he looked like so I could find him. After one attempt to find him failed, I went off and did something else, then came back in time to catch him at his locker.

   To say he was uncooperative would be ... pretty accurate.

   You take a look at his game log ... he's clearly pitching better. Didn't want to talk about it, other than to say his team is scoring more. Ominous sign, but it's not like I can just walk away then. In hindsight, I probably should have since he clearly wasn't particularly chatty.

   It got worse. More or less stymied, I caught a glimpse of his All-Star sandals and more or less finished myself off. Can't say I blame him for that, or any of it really. He's had a lot on his mind.

   Go figure the worst interview I even have is with a player on the team with one traveling reporter. Bodes well for him if a contender looks to pick him up.


   So as the game began, I was generally bummed out. Knowing nobody else around here had written the Redman story, I was excited to tell it, and tie it in to a wider question about what it's like to be a Kansas City Royal in 2006. When it blew up in my face, I was left to just rehash what I'd done wrong -- I'm continuously working on my mediocre-to-poor interviewing skills -- and wonder what exactly I would write about.

   The headline says it all: Lester allows just one hit.

   I'm one of those people whose heart sinks the slightest bit at every game he's at once the first hit is given up. I, like most people, have never seen a no-hitter. I've resigned myself to knowing I'll probably never see a no-hitter, settling for things like the 2004 World Series instead.

   As I kept putting slashes in the hit column at the bottom of my scorecard, it never really struck me that I was watching a one-hitter. I mean, I knew I was, and that entering the bottom of the fifth the game had had three hits.

   Even now, I don't sit here lamenting the second-inning single that prevented "history." As it is, Lester and Jonathan Papelbon are the first pair of rookies on any team to combine for a one-hitter since May, 1979.

   I love that stat. Can't mention it enough.

   When I got home, I went to semi-great lengths to research the time of all the games I've seen, even the ones I can remember as a fan. It confirmed what I assumed to be true: At 2:23, last night was the quickest Red Sox game I've ever witnessed, along with being the first one-hitter I've ever seen.

   On the list are the 104 games I've seen as a member of the media, plus 18 more I can confirm I went to between 1990 and 2003. While it's not complete, anything that brings me back to the June 28, 2003 listing of "The Five Worst Red Sox Games I Have Ever Witnessed Live" is worth the trip.

   I have wanted to try and create a list of every MLB game I've been to for years. If Jon Lester does nothing else in his Major League career, he'll be OK by me forever.


   But perhaps the best part of all of it? Because Mark Redman blew me off, it saved my night.

   Least now I'll never follow through on that desire to buy a Royals jersey.


July 17, 2006 - And I Wouldn't Have Pinch Hit
   The Sign of Quality: I'm reasonably sure this isn't it:

The Wayans Bros.
-- It's at moments like this where I sadly
remember how good 'In Living Color' once was.

   In a related story, on the drive home from Boston tonight I finally heard "Stars Are Blind," the long-awaited musical debut of Paris Hilton -- that link is to the music video, so feel free to push your luck.

   Knowing only what Mark had to say about it, I can't help but feel like it's a fitting tribute to everything Paris is. The song isn't so much good or bad as it is merely existing, and in so much as it's equal to a flatulence floating in the ether, you're left wondering exactly why you're hearing it on a radio station where time is ostensibly important.

   In other words, "Why is she famous again?" has a new neighbor: "Why is this song different than every other generic pop song?" And that's a good thing, since there's no answers. Now, the questions can just have each other.

   Analyzing The Hits: If the people who call sports radio at night (or at any point during the day, really) weren't annoyingly stupid -- as in, "Yeah, those facts you've just outlined explain why I'm wrong, but come on! I'm right!" -- I never would have had to flip around the radio and found not only "Stars Are Blind," but a quotable-lyric nation's replacement to Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie."

   The Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons."

Take a chance to recognize that this could be yours
I can see, just like most guys that your game don't please
Baby, can't you see?
How these clothes are fitting on me
And the heat coming from this beat
I'm about to blow
I don't think you know

I'm telling you loosen up my buttons baby (Uh huh)
But you keep fronting (Uh)
Saying what you going to do to me (Uh huh)
But I ain't seen nothing (Uh)

   Apparently, this is a common problem on the "club" scene. Male paramours, in love with the English language, simply regaling females with tales of their sexual program. Their roadmap, if you will, leaving women aroused by the prospects, but strangely unfulfilled by it.

   Thank goodness the Pussycat Dolls have put out five singles off their debut album. Five singles that ring out loud and clear, and explain to men like me, "Hey! Please do us! Aren't you aware we would find intercourse a mutually agreeable transaction?"

   I'm sorry. Sometimes I get carried away because, honestly, I just can't stand "fronting."


   • I do, however, love working toilet paper.

   Anyway, in a shocking turn of events, tonight's Red Sox game was bereft of moments where fans around me did something that made Julie look at me, sure I was imagining strolling around the scene with a firearm. Part of it was the fact it was too hot to walk with even an imaginary gun, but part of it was just general understanding.

   Odd as it was to see people mugging for the camera and hoisting beers in the background of the Red Sox Pregame Report, Jerry Remy is a soon-to-be Red Sox Hall of Famer who operates an eponymous weiner kiosk.

Right Field Light Tower
-- While busy not catching a batting practice ball ... again.

During The Anthem
-- Arguably the biggest crowd K.C. has seen all year.

Will Ferrell
-- He came out as Luis Tiant. After Meat Loaf. I'm serious.

Roof Scene
-- This was someone else's water. Later, it was gone.

View From The Seat
-- Why is the game unfolding before me backwards?

The Green Monster
-- Like an inanimate carbon rod, a large green wall.

Flanderses
-- Julie's family, who enabled me to eat $20 worth of fry and Cool Dog.

   Now, there were a few moments that made me long to be at my laptop, oddly set up with no one sitting at it 500 feet away from where I was. For example, looking a row down and seeing the man in the "W.W.J.D.D." T-shirt -- I stopped reading after "1. Stab all of Boston in the back." Looking up a row and seeing the woman with the teased-out orange hair, looking entirely unchanged since she won Prom Queen in 1987.

   And then there was the child behind me with the sign, encouraging RemDawg to put him on TV because his friend had come from London. With every hit during the team's rally, he screamed a Lil Jon-like "Yeeeeeeaaahhhh!" When Boston finally scored, he didn't scream "Ohhhhh-KAAAAYYY!," but it made me wish he did.

   C'est la vie. The fact that the people in the right field Pavilion unfurled a large sign reading "Dougie's Going Deep Tonight" after his full-count, game-winning home run made it all OK.

   Thank you, Red Sox Nation. I look forward to looking down upon you again on Tuesday evening.

   Tonight was also really the first time I've noted the way PA man (and fellow Agawam High alum) Carl Beane drags out Jonathan Papelbon's name during his introduction. Between that and watching him do his two fist bumps -- one with someone in the pen, the other with the cop on detail at the gate -- I was fired up and they were playing the Royals.

   What a golden age.


July 16, 2006 - The Bad Kind of Redman
   Great: I can't wait for this to be debated needlessly in the coming days. You know a story is boring when I'd rather head how Barbaro is doing.

   Stupid horse.

Strong Finish Saves Mnookin's 'Monster'
-- The Sunday column on Monday, with an ode to Sam Horn.
Clearly, I enjoy The Stat That Time Forgot too much.

   • So Monday, I attend my first Red Sox game as a fan since August 31, 2003 -- ostensibly Roger Clemens' final start at Fenway Park, and a late summer battle between the top two teams in the American League East. The game featured at least three first-ballot, sure-thirg Hall of Famers, not counting guys like David Ortiz (who could get there someday) and Manny Ramirez (who had the day off).

   Monday, they're playing the Kansas City Royals, who are 29.5 games out of first place and starting a guy I've never heard of against Tim Wakefield, whose back may or may not ultimately shorten his outing.

   Oh, and it's probably going to be about 85 degrees and muggy at first pitch.

   Though on the plus side, I'm sitting on the right field roof, where no one will notice that I'm physically unably to clap or cheer at Red Sox games anymore. It's creepy, but it's just not in me anymore.

   And if you don't think Tuesday's write-up is going to be full of me making fun of stupid, drunk fans, then you clearly don't know me well enough.

   Also, here's the 2010 World Cup logo:

World Cup 2010
-- I have nothing to add.
This just needed some art.


July 15, 2006 - Sharing Really Is Caring
   The Sunday Column: This week, we'll call it the Monday column since I didn't get my copy of "Feeding The Monster" until late Friday night. Even if I did manage to get through half of it, it certainly wasn't enough to write a genuine review.

   I find it funny that not three days ago, I recounted the story of the UPS worker recognizing me from the paper. Because the buzzer at my apartment is cranky, I didn't see them try to deliver said book earlier in the day. Call up the Web site and setting things up so I could pick up the package Friday night -- the alternative being Monday, which would have meant no column idea -- I make my way to the center, staffed by ... Armando, the aforementioned UPS worker.

   I walk in, he looks at me and says, "Shouldn't you be a Fenway?" We then proceed to have a surreal, actual conversation -- he someone who recognizes me from my headshot in the newspaper, me someone who remembers that he recognizes me from my headshot in the newspaper. Turns out he actually went to college to get into broadcast journalism at a small school in Franklin, but obviously dumped that for another path.

   Apparently, a former Bruins play-by-play guy went and spoke to his class at college, offering this piece of advice to everyone in the room who was interested in journalism: Get out. Get out now, and don't bother.

   Bless them both.

Stopper Shows Up In Time Of Need
-- Much easier to write than I had thought it would be, since I'm now paranoid that being interesting during the average regular-season game is impossible. An overflowing fountain of optimism, I am.


Boomer Eyes Return
-- The notebook, with late attempts to edit it quashed in the interests of deadline and sanity.

   As an aside, I've started updating my list of past stories on this site, which currently sits something like 50 behind and starts with a column built around a premise I've since changed my mind about. Good precedent.

   Wah! I'm Stupid!: Until this story fully develops, I'm going to hold off on a screed regarding Internet gambling -- apparently, there's little chance this bill will make it through the Senate.

   But I'm not allowing this to pass:

Joseph Cowley, a 34-year-old real estate broker in Boston, couldn't be happier to hear the news, because he admits it's too easy to log online and get sucked in. Tuesday nights after his kids are in bed, Cowley might log on to an online poker site, for example, for a couple of hours and win or lose between $20 and $40, he said.

The last time was two weeks ago. "Glad it's done," he said. "Let's hope it works. They make it too easy to be frivolous with your money."

   Joe, hi. Jon here. Friends call me Cooch. You, however, can not. Why? Because I'm pretty sure I don't like you.

   Oh my God! It's their fault I have a gambling problem! They make it too easy to be frivolous! Please, someone help me! I can't stop myself from doing stupid things! Won't the government help protect me from myself?!

   These are the kinds of people who try to sue McDonald's because they can't stop eating Chicken McNuggets. These are the neighbors who call the town because two feet of branch from one of your trees is growing into the distant corner of your yard. These are the people you work with who have a problem with something you're doing, but won't actually tell you about it because they "don't want to be a bother."

   Asshole. Period. A-S-S-H-O-L-E. And I don't even play that much online poker ... I can't begin to fathom what the career salts are saying.


   • The other day, Julie expressed concern to me that I wouldn't mention her birthday, which was Wednesday, on here. While I had forgotten to mention much about it, I'd honestly not planned on writing a whole lot about it because nothing major had really happened -- outside of the gift stuff, we stayed home and she fell asleep.

   Julie, however, expressed concern because, as she put it, she "likes to be the center of attention."

   As someone with his own Web site, and who saves all the video clips of his television apperances for reasons beyond letting people in non-Comcast areas see them, I can certainly appreciate that.

   So in that vein, I'd just like to let everybody know that Julie went out for a birthday celebration on Friday night. While I was working at the Sox game, she and many, many of our mutual friends went to our favorite hangout -- the site-free Hangar Grill and Bar in Amherst -- to party. Julie, as the birthday girl, proceeded to drink four margaritas, a number which she later believed was one too many.

   Julie spent today vomiting up everything she tried to eat until 6 p.m.

Self Portrait
-- If the puke had been able to see, it would have seen
something similar to this, but without the cute smile.


   Just thought you'd all like to know.

   I love you too, dear.


July 14, 2006 - Fun Moments In Fame
   Generally Unwise Decisions: One of the main highways in the Whale City metroplex has been under construction for months, and will continue to be under construction for many more months. Exactly what's happening seems to be little more than maintenance, but the fact that the construction seems to jump between lanes and between sections will-nilly makes the whole thing more of a hassle than it should be.

   Today, a portion of the road previous untouched had been bottlenecked to one lane, but done so without really adequate signage. This caused a lot of brake lights, my own included, and the spectre of cars nearly having to come to a stop to prevent flaming death.

   Among the other drivers unhappy about this was a younger woman in a silver Jaguar. Driving behind me, she thought it wise to throw on a blinker and pull around me as I began to slow at the merge, then became enraged when a well-worn pickup truck did the same thing to her just after the merge.

   Expressing that anger, she flipped off said truck, honked, then tailgated the guy past the point where I could see them.

   Apparently, they are not teaching this most valuable lesson at Jaguar dealerships: Don't flip off and tailgate shitty cars unless you want your Jaguar to, some day, look more like a well-worn pickup truck.

   Me As Ad Executive: Clearly, my twin also works in communications. He's writing commercials for Xenadrine.

   While I'm more partial to the "Drawn Together" inspired Fatty Fatty Fat Fat, calling a prospective consumer Fatty Fatty McFat Pants is close enough to make me smile.


   • Perhaps it's simply an offshoot of every young person's feeling that they are invincible, but hearing about the fear everyone has about driving through the Big Dig tunnels in Boston -- which, shockingly, are worse off than first thought -- makes me laugh. Not actually laugh, but the sort of soft chuckle you kind of mutter to yourself when a bully falls off the jungle gym or when a bratty toddler throws his juice cup on his exasperated parent.

   It's nice that I can look at things like this in this manner, since I'm pretty sure if my child threw their juice cup on me, I would either simply take it and drink the juice or kill them.

   Maybe not kill them so much as put the juice cup away, since I can see myself having encouraged the juice cup throwing weeks prior because I thought it was funny. But at least I'm visualizing for the future.


   I do not see myself hopefully looking up at the ceiling tiles next time I go through the Big Dig, because I've never done that before even when aware the things leak. My usual thought process as I'm driving through the tunnels, including being relatively sure I've driven in the very spot where the panel fell, is how cool they look and how cool riding in them is.

   I'm one of those people who's of the mindset that if I'm going to be afraid that a 12-ton concete tile is going to fall on me, I should also be afraid that my apartment building is going to collapse, my car is going to explode, a plane will crash on my head and a bullet will fly through my window and hit me in the face.

   Essentially, if fate has decided that some architetural calamity is going to be how this non-stop party ends, the least I can do is play along and let them have their fun. Because really, what could be better than reporters lauding my life as though I were some sort of beloved figure who was nice to everyone and was living a dream. I just threatened the life of my unborn child, who I taught the very thing I killed over!

   Plus, my family would be rich and I'd probably get some meaningless square named after me. I'd get a little plaque and a styrofoam wreath, and nearby residents would used "Jon Couture Square" when giving directions. Except none of the map Web sites would call that intersection "Jon Couture Square" and people would get lost.

   Also, remember this should anything awful happen to me when I return to Fenway on Saturday -- a day when my family was supposed to make the annual trip to a Sox game, but I waited too long to ask about buying tickets and got frozen out. It may assuage the grief.

   And make sure, when they're cleaning out my things, that they grab the chicken I've got thawing in the refridgerator. It shouldn't be hard to find ... it's the only thing in there that isn't a sauce bottle in the door or a sponge at the bottom collection the drips from the freezer.


July 13, 2006 - The Shoehorn
   Please Help Me: Now, I'm a baseball writer. I should understand why some things happen within the game. Not everything, because I'm new to this stuff, but most of it.

   I can not fathom how this trade. Cincinnati sends two-ninths of their starting lineup, and more than an incidental two-ninths, to Washington for a couple mediocre-to-good relief pitchers.

"We paid a steep price," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "I'm sure this will be a controversial trade. I know a lot of people will be leaving nasty messages on my voicemail, and I'll have some who think it's great."

   It's at moments like this that I'm almost afraid to write, because I have this constant feeling I must be missing something awfully important.

   Joyeux Anniversaire, Gustave!: That's what we used to sing in high school French class. I don't remember who Gustave was, or if he was anybody ... we thought it was hilarious. That and "Mange merde et morte," which I'm sure is congujated similar to how a 6-year-old would do it.

   Anyway, as Thursday was this guy's birthday, Wednesday was Julie's birthday. As you might imagine, the number of times I was asked if my birthday shopping for her was going to include a trip to a jewelry store was higher than I would have liked. Not so much because the question bothered or surprised me, but because my mother was the one asking the question roughly 97 percent of the times it was asked.

   I'm pretty sure my mother is concerned I'm going to get married and not tell her, since it came within about 48 hours of the long-planned trip to San Francisco before she was aware I was going on vacation. That's not a concern in reality, but the fact that the few things I do tell her she usually forgets within 20 minutes is. That'll make for a fun cell phone call on the fly some day ... at least as much fun as it was when she and Julie began to draw on my face with cake frosting.

   Yeah, there's a picture. No, it's not here. Shame, really.

   I gave Julie a wine decanter and some fancy wine glasses, because like most people, she enjoys drinking and looking at pretty things. Apparently, decanters are really designed to hold red wine, because it needs to breathe more than white does. This bothers me a little, since she far prefers whites to reds, but I take solace in knowing she's aware there was absolutely no chance I would know to even consider that red and white wines are anything more than different colors.

   Well, that and they're a better drinking choice than turpentine, stagnant water in an air conditioner or Zima Light. I don't think that's what they called it, and it wasn't the Zima Gold they talk about here. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been as awful as a brand that failed to outsell Zima, or being seen outside holding a bottle with this logo on it.

ZIMA XXX flavored malt beverages are a great choice for consumers who seek variety and excitement. Light and refreshing, ZIMA XXX was reformulated in 2003 and introduced in 2004.

ZIMA XXX is the only flavored malt beverage available in attention-grabbing colors - an enormous differentiator from its competitors.† And, ZIMA XXX has consistently rated higher than the competition in internal consumer testing.

-- The irony being that Zima, for what it is, isn't that awful.
But that's only with the knowledge that what it is is awful.

   Text Heavy: There haven't been many pictures on here in the last few days. It's partly because of all the traveling, but also because there's nothing absurd that's caught my eye. Plus, I don't want to force the issue.

Donald Trump, starting young.
-- See? That's not anything. It's just there to sop up the blood from your eyes is all. Well, and to ponder what they could possibly be talking about.

Donald Trump speaks with young fans during a practice round of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship on Thursday in Stateline, Nev. (AP Photo/Dino Vournas)

   My hope is something related to the hotness of his daughter, but that's probably asking too much. After all, it's not like the kids have somewhere else to be afterward.

Sheep ride!

Nathan Watson, 5, of Benton, Pa. gets thrown from his sheep while competing in the mutton-busting event during the Benton Rodeo in Benton, Pa., The Benton Championship Rodeo at the 22nd Annual Frontier Days Celebration runs through Sunday. (AP Photo/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, Jimmy May)

   See, Roethlisberger? These kids aren't wearing helmets now either!

   Role models.


   • As promised, G-list TV fame and absence of fortune with my increasingly growing neck.

You disgust me.
-- I can see what you're doing out there, and you sicken me.

Sports Pulse with John Carchedi - July 10, 2006
Baseball Roundtable with Maureen Mullen and Mike Petraglia

22:25 Running Time -- 43.4 MB -- Right-Click To Download

   Please don't count the number of times I put out a disjointed, incomplete thought. I already did in my head, and it's high enough.

   Anyway, I'm not trying to be a jerk and all, but stuff like this is why they usually just euthanize horses. Which is what they would have done here, and not made the animal suffer, if his owners weren't angling for stud fees.

   It's so hard to find a delicate balance when you're trying to convince people you don't actually hope the horse dies, but really, would be totally at peace if it did. It being A HORSE and all.

   I know the owners aren't solely in it for the money, that they do love the animal and everything. But I've sure loved the litany of pets I've seen die in the past 25 years, though in the first couple of those 25, I'm sure my parents danced around the death issue by buying me something with blinking lights and/or jingling keys.

   Maybe that's why I got that Fisher Price airplane, which could be any of a million places right now. And considering the fascination created because I found my classy wooden yo-yo yesterday, I'm actually kind of wondering what really did happen to that thing.

   It's nice that in the time I'd forgotten I owned a yo-yo, I subconsciously learned how to do the sleeper.


July 12, 2006 - Please Don't Steal My Mail
   Today's Nickname of Curious Origin: Apparently, Ware, Mass. is known as "The Town That Can't Be Licked". This is according to a bumper on the local NBC affiliate, which showed the town's Welcome sign adorned with that phrase.

   Now, in my world, Ware is known for two things. First, there was a large children's clothing outlet in a warehouse there that I inevitably ended up in at the end of the every summer for school clothes. I would presume it no longer exists, if only because I am old now and it was old then.

   Also, this:

Whenever one of us mentioned it, my husband and I invariably went into a version of that old Abbott & Costello routine. "I'm going to Ware!" "Where?" "Yes, Ware!" "I don't know, where?" But in truth, neither of us had ever been to Ware. That changed one weekday morning, however, when our house was being exterminated for carpenter ants and we were asked to vacate the premises for five hours.
-- The bad joke part. Not the carpenter ant destination part.

   That site explains the nickname as stemming from those very mill warehouses, bought by the townspeople themselves when their former owners went to the south -- today called Mexico.

   I can only hope the nickname was first (or once) mentioned on an olde-tyme newsreel, because I'd love to hear that guy with the carnival barker voice say it.

   And saying it in my own barker voice just isn't quite the same.

   Today's Discovery of Surprising Legality: So Julie, who works for the aforementioned TV station, received an invitation in the mail to become a "Nielsen family." Whether or not she can do it is open to debate, but either answer won't stop her from keeping their free gift to her.

   Five crisp one-dollar bills, simply mailed like I've always been told you can't do.

   Well apparently, that's a scare tactic for post offices. Post offices who might prefer you think that so that when they steal it out of that birthday card to your grandson, they can feel like they're doing something that's tucked seven footnotes down in the Patriot Act.

   Now, I have never had anything stolen out of the mail that I know of. But I know stories. Unsubstantiated stories.

   And that's good enough for me.


   • Hey, what can I say? Remember the time that UPS guy became the second-ever member of the public to recognize me solely from my writing in the paper? No one at the Post Office has ever recognized me.

   What can Brown do for you? Self esteem, here I come!

Halfway Home, Sox Look To October
-- The apparently annual "Looking To The Second Half" piece. I remember last year not wanting to write this, writing it and then being really glad I did. The give and take of the newspaper business.


July 11, 2006 - Not Pink, Diet Fire Truck
   Read This: More baseball later, but I want to know if others feel this is as dead on as I do.

   The Tunnel Collapse: Good times in Massachusetts, and of course that means everyone has to analyze the political implications of someone's death.

Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said Romney and the Republican Party were best poised to seize a political advantage in the controversy.

"I think politically, it plays well for Romney because it makes him look like he knew that there was a lack of quality leadership, and it seems this recent tragedy appears to affirm his judgment," Berry said.

Reilly, as he conducts a criminal investigation, will get a more "limited benefit," Berry said.

"I don't think Reilly has used the attorney general's office as effectively as he could to catapult his candidacy forward," Berry said. "This is a belated attempt to make better use of his office to advance himself."

   Amazingly, I watched the Romney press conference this afternoon ... goes against really everything I stand for, but he's so beautiful I just get lost in his eyes sometimes.

   It's a nice reminder that not only is this state full of Massholes, but that they're not even organized properly.

   Promising: Bravo's making a show about the New York Daily News -- Tabloid Wars, starting July 24.

   Why am I convinced that what's presented will barely even border on what my job is like?

   How My Mind Works: Because I thought June Allyson was actually June Lockhart, and thus on the "Lassie" TV show, I discovered that they'd somehow made a Lassie movie last year and nobody noticed.

I haven't seen the Liz Taylor version but I'm guessing that this one is a bit grittier. There are some nasty scenes of cruelty to dogs, although you never actually see one getting hit (they wouldn't be allowed to, would they!) so don't take a child if they're exceptionally sensitive.
-- Good business plan for a children's movie.

   • Going into the All-Star break, I had two predictions I didn't actually announce to anyone because I didn't feel real strongly about them, but I definitely felt them for some reason.

   1) Either Ryan Howard or David Wright would win the Home Run Derby. Young guys, and perhaps more hungry to make that kind of splash. I even leaned toward Howard because he's a monster compared to Wright's lesser power game.

   2) The National League would win the All-Star Game. This had zero reason ... simply being contrarian, because the league would just be fed up with being labeled so inferior.

   The fact that they came within one strike of winning twice, never mind one out, and still lost means this All-Star Game will at least be memorable until October.

   Not later, since I don't really remember anything off the top of my head that happened in the Game for a decade. The back-to-back homers from Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs to start the 1989 game, then Pedro at Fenway. Only thing in the middle, maybe, is Randy Johnson buzzing people in Baltimore.

   And by the by, take this baseball quiz. I'd tell you what I scored, but if ESPN won't spill the numbers for Joe Morgan and John Kruk, I'm not going to embarrass myself either.


July 10, 2006 - Talking May Not Equal Something
   The World Cup, Honest To God, Is Over: Reading ex-boss's World Cup screed, and chuckling at the idea that he'll actually build a soccer page on his site, reminded that I hadn't written anything about the conclusion of the tournament.

   And I'm glad, since Michael Davies' final blog entry says a lot of what I wanted to say.

It was all a bit World Cuppy. World Cup Finals usually are. Occasionally close to promising, never quite fulfilling, left me a bit empty. You look forward to a World Cup Final like sex with your hot, new girlfriend. But when it's over you realize the sex was kind of odd, she was never really that hot, it went on way too long and wasn't really a satisfying way to end your one-month relationship. And someone's leaving all upset.
-- Agreed.

   I didn't see a second of Italy-France until the moments before the shootout, when I had to go scrambling onto the Internet to find pictures of Zinedine Zidane headbutting another man in the chest. Honestly, of all the ways to strike another person, has that one ever occurred to anyone else? Has the headbutt to the chest been growing in popularity for years and I missed it?

   Anyway, apparently the conventional wisdom is that Materazzi called Zidane a "dirty terrorist," based on Zidane's Algerian heritage. If that's true, as is Materazzi's clearly-English-is-not-my-first-language quote:

"It is absolutely not true. I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means."

   I hope the win is enough to keep the nation occupied when they find their top sporting league has been a bullshit sham for years. Say what you will about baseball -- and I do -- but at least there's never been a question as to whether they're WWE-ing the games.

   Anyway, long digression over, it may have been the least climactic shootout in soccer history, as there was roughly a two percent chance Italy could lose. With Barthez dying on the goal line as the month wore on, capped by his attempting to hand Portugal their semifinal, I had almost as good a shot to stop one of those penalties across the ocean sitting in a cubicle.

   Regardless, it makes me happy to see that with each passing tournament, larger chunks of Americans are realizing what I realized eight years ago -- high-level soccer is awesome. It was 1994 where it truly first caught my attention, but the U.S. going out in the second round really soured a lot of the later play for me. It wasn't until 1998, when the U.S. was never a factor, when the knockout stages really caught my attention and made me realize what I was seeing.

   After the Sports Pulse appearance tonight, which I'll get to shortly, I stuck my head in the green room to check the ongoing Home Run Derby. On the couch were the guests for the next segment -- Revolution goaltender Matt Reis, and another guy who looked enough like a soccer player that I didn't introduce myself to Reis out of fear of snubbing the other guy. For all I know, he oculd have been his agent.

   Just the other day, I bought tickets for the Revs game with Glasgow Celtic on the 19th -- I decided I'll be wearing my Celtic jersey, both because it increases the chance someone will give me free alcohol and because happy Scots are far better to do with. I really don't buy tickets to a lot of sporting events now for obvious reasons.

   Soccer, however, needs all the help it can get. And honestly, it feels like it's finally starting to get it.

Shooting Star
-- My Jonathan Papelbon feature for the All-Star break. It, like most interview I do, fell victim to that transcribing truth -- the answers to the questions seemed a lot better before I actually typed out what they were.

   Plus now, he might not pitch. Though that does make it seem more fair, given there a good chance the National League could lose this game by 10 runs if everything falls right.

   And knowing Vegas doesn't offer odds on such things, can you fathom what the numbers would have been on a Kenny Rogers vs. Brad Penny All-Star faceoff if you'd gotten your money in during the spring? I call myself a Dodger fan, and I gave Penny about a half-second's worth of thought.


   • If I was to rank all my TV appearances in order of happiness after they were over ... you wouldn't care, probably think I'm a complete jackoff and I'd scare off the chances of there being any other ones for several years.

   You'll have time enough to dissect what you saw later this week, but I didn't think things went particularly well. It certainly wasn't as awful as those appearances where I was on a satellite feed to Philadelphia, even if I doubt I'll ever again be verbally threatened by a pencil-necked goofball, but it just felt a little too much like "Ask a question, answer a question" between the four of us.

   Regardless, it was still a blast. Above and beyond the fact I'm happy they keep having me back, the people who put together "Sports Pulse" are fun and talented and all that stuff everybody says about people, but in this case it's actually accurate.

   In so much as I didn't feel as prepared for things as I would have liked to be -- finishing the Papelbon story took a little longer than I'd hoped -- I can say with some certainty that I was the only person within miles of the studio who knew lefties were hitting Mark Redman at a .176 clip.

   And isn't that what life's all about?

   Two more things. Investigation of that link shows lefties are hitting Kansas City's whipping-boy All-Star at a .172 clip. However, four points in an acceptable margin of error when you consider the number of people who probably saw that believed I was making it up.

   Also, the recurring Simpsons feature has already flamed out. Today's picture, which was of Homer's declaration that "Bacon has a new best friend ... fudge!" is sitting on the wrong end of the state with the recording of the TV appearance.

   As such, here's a picture of a seagull at Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Gull
-- Don't make the jailbird joke. You're better than that.

   If this is that good, imagine how awesome the rest of them must be!


July 9, 2006 - Scrubbing Boobles
   The Sox: There was just something about making a 19-inning scoreline that wasn't as much fun as making the Women's Open scorecard. Maybe the fact that I had about 15 minutes to do it.

   Fortunately, the Sox have brought enough fun in other ways. Watching Saturday's FOX broadcast like normal people do, I finally got to experience the fun that has become a Joe Buck and Tim McCarver-called game. I'd been told the team had either made a conscious decision to change their demeanor or Buck had solely decided he just was tired of caring, but his constant savaging of McCarver almost brings tears to my eyes. It's like listening to myself in the shower.

   Saturday, the Mets had Joe Maine on the mound for a game against the Marlins, which led McCarver to comment after a break that it was the first time a Major League pitcher had come around with the last name of a state.

   Buck's response?

Folks, that right there is the FOX difference.
You're just not going to get that from ESPN.

   I'm finally witnessing what it would look like if someone made me a millionaire and allowed me to call baseball games on national television. Absolutely no remorse. On the one hand, I hope McCarver's in on the joke, because it makes things more likely to last.

   A small part of me, though, hopes he is threatening Buck with violence during commercial breaks.

   And really, what better segue than to remind you I'll be part of a baseball roundtable Monday night on Sports Pulse, 10 p.m. on The Comcast Network. If you don't get Comcast or enjoy watching things that aren't me, rest assured you'll be able to make fun of my shirt via this very Web site later this week. It'll be a couple days because the TiVo will be on the other end of the state, but it's not like this is my track record for completing vacation writeups we're talking about.

   Dad Chain Letter of the Day: Admittedly the day in question isn't actually current, but when father sends a collection of "Gotta Love These Rednecks" photos, I'd be remiss if I didn't marvel that on half of them, someone felt the need to Photoshop Alabame Crimson Tide logos.

Redneck Grill
-- This, you see, is a 'Redneck Grill.'
Never mind that it actually is probably how a homeless person eats.


Redneck Pet Carrier
-- And this 'Redneck Pet Carrier,' ignoring that it's probably from Any College USA, looks like it contains one of our family cats.

   I love my family. And not simply because they have a nice house.


   • So, today was a special day on SouthCoast. For me, it was because one of my friends/coworkers had a barbecue at his family cottage, which is here:

Fairhaven, USA

   Please note the water, which is real ocean water and everything. Also note that the further south you go, the higher the property values and general desirability. Also, my little white dot is accurately placed.

   Suffice to say, when Sean says he's having a party, you make it a point to go to the party for reasons above and beyond Sean's ample kindness and general good personitude. But I digress, especially since I had four Corona Lights at the party and discovered my pathological hatred of the product family has been entirely misplaced.

   For the rest of the region, however, today was a historic day. It was, to put it mildly, a day many had waited for and likely had circled on their calendars.

   It was on Sunday, July 9, when Foxy Lady Southcoast would hold their first-ever Topless Car Wash.

   Now, those of you from the region understand that the Foxy Lady is a chain of strip clubs made famous by Mo Vaughn, who used to be a pudgy, lovable baseball player before his playing career ended and he became an affable fat man. It's a well-known brand, and upon learning I lived perhaps a 35-second drive from the Whale City outpost brought a smile to my face for approximately a split second four years ago. We've peacefully co-existed, me observing the sign and wondering who actually goes there while hearing stories of co-workers dropping half their paychecks inside its stone walls.

   Yeah, I won't list their names. They know who they are.

   So upon seeing the sign a couple weeks ago advertising a "Topless Car Wash," I gave it a slight bit of attention. My initial reaction was shock: certainly not offended shock, but more shock at how it was possible. Would they erect a tent behind the building?

   Normally, I would ask more questions to build the narrative, but I just realized I wrote "erect a tent" and genuinely wasn't trying to play on that. So, I'm leaving it there and moving on.

   In the days that followed, I learned the secret of the fundraiser through the ads they ran in the sports section. The asterisk next to the title of the event meant a note down the bottom: "Tops of cars will not be washed." I thought it was incredibly witty, especially for a place that makes money off the male desire to have their ballcaps rubbed in a woman's crotch and be told how much they like said act. I've since learned they just stole it from most everyone else, but I'm glad it's only being ruined after the fact.

   Well, my travels back from the barbecue took me past the Foxy. On the side of the road, just like local cheerleaders and youth groups do on weekends across the country, were strippers encouraging passers-by to stop and pay $10 for a car wash.

   I didn't get a real good look at them in the sense I pulled the car over, but they got what I suppose could be considered a leer. At first, it was because the way they were holding their posterboard made it seem like they really were topless. But then, it was to see whether my preconceived notions about people who consider Whale City the stripping big leagues were correct.

   Three seconds of research told me they were, so I was on my way into the office. And that would have made a good story, perhaps with a scan of the add added for flavor.

   But then, I find out one of my coworkers, also heading into the office from the party, misread the sign and got his car washed by the strippers.

   Understand if you were to list everyone I've ever met, this man would be in the bottom 10 most likely to ever enter a strip club. That makes the story better, as does the fact he pulled in, blisfully unaware of what it was, because he misread the girls' posters and thought they were washing cars for $1, not $10.

   Not only does he tell us all this at the paper, he shows us the "free gifts" that came with purchase, among them a V.I.P. pass which gets you ... I don't even want to begin considering it. Fortunately, he's a nice man, meaning one of the meanest things he says about the car washers is that you wouldn't know that was their profession of choice if you saw them out in public.


   There was a point during the party when conversation almost led to say I couldn't really envision a situation at this point in my life where I would leave the paper and all the people that work there.

   Who would have known a topless car wash would actually help drive it home?


July 8, 2006 - America Just Gives Up
   Fast Food Analysis: So tonight, not long after eating my eighth meal of the day, I had an actual Fourthmeal: The Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme.

   I had been previously warned that though the idea of taking a Mexican pizza, covering it in nacho cheese sauce and inserting it in a flour tortilla sounded good, the execution was poor. There were bites full of only nacho cheese, then only sour cream, they just disgust. I did not have that problem, instead discovering that when the Fourthmeal was over, it didn't actually feel like I had consumed anything.

The original Crunchwrap Supreme is constructed on a foundation of TB's signature re-hydrated ground beef meat filling. Last night, however, I traveled to TB in search of the new Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap.

From the outside, you wouldn't know the difference between the original and the Spicy Chicken. Actually - you can't tell much of a difference from the inside either. The overall taste is quite similar - probably because of the other fillings which tend to mask either meat flavoring (Remember - we're talking nacho cheese, sour cream, and loads of hot sauce here). Luckily, the original taste is great - so similarity between the two only adds to the street cred of the Spicy Chicken.

-- I don't know who Will is,
but I think I might fear for his soul.

   In short, never eat at Taco Bell if you can eat at Del Taco. And if you can eat at Del Taco, don't eat there. Eat at Hardee's, which I miss a lot.

   ... But Without The Doping: If you have Google Earth, here's a reason to care about the Tour de France.

   And yes, I did need one. It's not like it's the Ryder Cup, which I saw the leaderboard for this afternoon and suddenly realized how long it's been since I really cared much about professional golf.

All-Star Game Has More Problems ...
-- Inside Baseball, written without the benefit of air conditioning because my parents apparently chose not to go that route today.

   I can guarantee that's an introduction I'll never use again.


   • Sadly, my initial understanding of the BK Stacker -- for which I just saw the midget-laden commercial for the first time -- was incorrect. You cannot simply go into a Burger King and order as many patties and slices of cheese on the thing as you want.

   They limit you to four. I would have to suspect this is a move made by lawyers, who calculated that consuming that much mediocre ground beef wouldn't cause anyone to die until they were actually off the property.

As you'll notice, there's not a shred of produce on any of these sandwiches. In its news release about the Stackers, Burger King says it hopes to satisfy "the serious meat lovers by leaving off the produce and letting them decide exactly how much meat and cheese they can handle."

The BK Stacker is "really easy to eat on the go, because the cheese and sauce hold it all together," says spokeswoman Adrienne Hayes. "It's not slipping and sliding around with tomatoes and lettuce."

   I had previously credited Taco Bell, with their dollar menu full of potato-laden burritos, for being the first fast-food restaurant to just completely say, "Hey, you know what? We want you as fat as possible, fatty."

   Looks like we have a new champion, as the Quad Stacker has as much fat in it as TWO BIG MACS.

   Where's Morgan Spurlock when we need him?

   Edit: Apparently, jail. But not really, which is nice.


July 7, 2006 - Sour Cream As Caulk
   The Absolute Last World Cup Picks I Will Make Before Age 30: Portugal will finish fourth. And Italy will finish first.

   And man, did I just depress the hell out of myself.


   • So earlier this week, there was apparently a big to-do about a Canadian citizen peeing on the nation's Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

   Which, naturally, got me thinking ... Canada needs a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Canada, honest to crackers, has an army?

Canada now has its own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canada. In May 2000, the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in the First World War were repatriated from France and, with great ceremony, were buried in a special tomb in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

This project began several years ago at the instigation of The Royal Canadian Legion, who developed the idea as a Millennium project, and it was taken up by the Canadian Government under the lead of Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to honour the more than 116,000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace and freedom. Furthermore, the Unknown Soldier represents all Canadians, whether they be navy, army, air force or merchant marine, who died or may die for their country in all conflicts -- past, present, and future.

-- So sayeth these government officials.

   For some reason, the fact that it took until 2000 for Canada to actually have an unknown soldier to entomb is hilarious. For another reason, it makes me think of the riddle, "A plane crashes exactly on the border of the United States and Canada. Where do they bury the survivors?"

   That riddle really doesn't work so well in print. But that isn't stopping me from writing the other one: "If a rooster was sitting on the exact peak of a roof, which way would the eggs it lays roll?"

   Having three days off in a row is something I'm not real used to.


July 6, 2006 - Avoid The Bean Burrito
   Clarifying For Him: No link, because this Associated Press story is short enough to get to the meat quick.

   After all, we took the route right through the rib cage.

NEW YORK -- A man wielding a cordless power saw in each hand rampaged through a Manhattan subway station early Thursday, using one of the buzzing blades to carve into the chest of a postal worker who later said it felt like "he was trying to cut through me."

Police arrested Tareyton Williams, 33, of the Bronx, on attempted murder and other charges about two hours later after they said he punched someone in another random attack on the street.

The victim, Michael Steinberg, 64, was hospitalized in stable condition. Speaking by telephone to reporters who gathered outside the hospital, he said the attack was unprovoked.

The assailant "never spoke," Steinberg said. "I think he was out of his mind."

   Perhaps the reporter wasn't paying attention in that part of the interview ... he probably didn't say it "felt like" Blade Man was trying to cut through him. He probably said he was trying to cut through him.

   And I can only hope "I think he was out of his mind" was delivered with a tremendous amount of either sarcasm or morphine.

   Events That Could End Poorly: France winning could make Boston's World Cup viewing party into a nice way to see how far you can throw a flaming piece of lumber.

When asked if he would be cheering for Italy or France when the two countries face off in Sundayís World Cup final, Bostonís first Italian-American mayor gave a politically-savvy answer.

"I will make that choice at game time," a grinning Mayor Thomas M. Menino said as representatives from the French and Italian consulates looked on.

   Yeah. Don't want to piss off the 15 French people who are considered Boston residents during their turnarounds at Logan's international terminal.

   And I won't even discuss the comedy of Revolution ticket giveaways. Though I suppose saving the money could leave more cash left for beer and/or bonfire materials.


   • I'll be buying this book, and really, you probably should too.


July 5, 2006 - Maybe I'll Get Sued
   No Joy in Mudville: Oh, Portugal.

"We could wait like the Red Sox, 86 years ..."
-- From our story, complete with face paint.

   I'll admit, it bothered me a little to hear the announcers talk about what a dirty team Portugal was, but not as much as it bothered me to see them diving all over the place and bitching at the refs. The non-call in the box during the first half was correct, and they had enough golden opportunities in the second half that I'm sure Figo will see them inside his eyelids every night for years.

   So the final is two teams I've been saying for weeks should not have advanced even half as far as they have, and the third-place game is what I had picked as my final on Monday afternoon. It's certainly not new blood, but it is still refreshing -- Michael Davies had the best quirky stat of the whole tournament, revealing it's the first WC final since 1978 without either Germany or Brazil, and only the second one in the modern era ... whatever that means.

   My gut reaction is that I don't have one. I guess Italy will win, if only because France didn't particularly impress me and Barthez (their goalkeeper) is f'ing awful. He and I have made the same number of big saves this month, and I'm across the ocean filling up on pizza and Quizno's.

   The Death of Ken Lay: The actual intricacies of the story, as I'm sure will shock you, escape me. But my first though when I heard this, I could only think of the people who didn't give a flip that they were celebrating another man's sudden death.

   It was nothing like the feeling when I walked over to the fax machine and saw someone had sent us an ABC News wire story entitled Somali Islamists Kill 2 At World Cup Broadcast, with HOW THE ENEMY RULES ... scrawled across the top.

   Then, all I could think was, "Wait. They're important enough to be classified as an enemy?"


   • I've been staring at this 10 minutes, trying to find something else.

   This just became the something else.

   The Simpsons thing will at least start out as a Tuesday special. Perhaps more, perhaps less. I've broken promises far less impressive than that.


July 4, 2006 - What Fireworks?
   Because It Fits The Theme: It's time for a little fun with banner ads. And I've resisted the urge to speak of the MySpace ones for True that basically just scream, "Hey! Been a while since you did it, eh?!"

Wimbledon Nosh
-- Wimbledon, of course, being known for their chili dogs.

   This, of course, dovetails nicely with what would seem something I'd have wrapped my day around -- the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.

Kobayashi's stomach.
-- Mmmm. Soon, as I learned, he'll smell like them.

Takeru Kobayashi holds the coveted Mustard Belt while showing off his stomach after winning the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition on Tuesday in Coney Island, New York. Kobayashi won his sixth straight title by beating his own record and eating 53 and 3/4 hot dogs. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

   But I didn't even watch it. I've never actually watched it, even having been aware of it since before Kobayashi was anybody. I was too busy, along with hearing the police scanner spill thousands of fireworks-related fires, concocting this site's next great flash in the pan.

   Forgotten Moment in Simpsons History: TiVo, and the success of my "Failure" poster in May, have led to me snapping a whole lot of 'Simpsons' screenshots. The plan originally was to make more posters, but seeing the do-it-yourself churner spring up on the Internet kind of throttled the motivation.

   So, I'm going to try this. Even in episodes I've seen multiple times, I'm finding hilarious moments that have been lost to time ... and more hilarious moments. Such is life when you're show is more than 300 episoded into its run.

   You may know them already, but now, more people will too.

The Nobel Prize ... in kickboxing!
-- By nurturing Lisa's gift with a saxophone,
she can one day win "The Nobel Prize ... in KICKBOXING!"

   And, well, a personal favorite.

Milkshake Festival!
-- "Lisa! Take a picture of me with all the milkshakes!"

   A family favorite, to say the least.


   • I could not help but feel a parallel between Germany's loss to Italy in the World Cup semifinal and New England's loss to Los Angeles in the 2002 MLS Cup. Both crowds, heavily skewed for the host team, just dying for them to score a goal so they could go crazy. A goal that just never came.

   And with 65,000 people in the World Cup stadium, it's incredible to think the one I attended had just scarcely fewer people. Clearly the league's pinnacle.

   To keep going on that, however, would be to ignore that I tonight managed to make $100+/hour for doing something I haven't in legitimately months.

Final table leader?!
-- Sadly, things did not stay this absurd and/or exciting, though they did for longer than I thought possible. Much longer.

   I hadn't played any poker online since May partially because I've been busy, and partially because I was sick of it. That plus a couple failure-rich trips to Foxwoods has a way of making the whole enterprise seem stupid.

   So logically, upon entering a no-limit tournament right after making a deposit, I finish 7th out of 180 players. After having never made the money of any multi-table tournament on-line, I make the final table and lead it for a chunk of time.

   Perhaps most frightening about it, outside of the fact that I was never really in any danger of not making it that far, is that I didn't exactly play all that great. By the numbers, I saw far too few flops, but managed to do more than you could possibly hope for with the ones I saw. In three-plus hours, I got AA four times ... and won every time. This after last month, where I think I lost a week's pay having said hand lose to 99, KQ, 85 and who knows what else.

   I didn't get AK once until the final table, and then got it twice. The first time was the hand that began my eventual downfall, and the second was my last hand ... when it lost to QJo. No matter how happy you are about how you've done, and how fun putting bad beats on two other players over the course of the evening was, it's still that same hollow feeling of mild anger.

   This will probably lead to me continuing to not play much online poker, since the winnings feel like children and I'd really rather not gamble them away. And I don't particularly feel like I learned anything outside of the need to concentrate more when I play ... getting this far in a tournament of that size if fas much a function of luck as it is a function of skill, since you can be good enough and finish, say, within five of the money twice without ever making it.

   Still, it's nice to know that I can play cards even I can't calculate complex math in my head or remember what the tournament chips are worth at Foxwoods.


July 3, 2006 - Sort Of Like A Holiday
   Better Than The Event: And take it from someone who watched the whole thing, thanks to the wonders of TiVo.

Sports Cover 7/4/2006

Created Scorecard

   Creating a scorecard like that for the paper made me realize that the screated scorecard on here is yet to make an appearance this year. I've played all of two 9-hole rounds so far this golf season, each of which featured a hole where I picked up my ball and just walked to the next tee. So, no scores.

   Golf and I are at a kind of truce at the moment. I still love it, but am struggling with how exactly to go about loving it. I've talked in the past about how I have no real golf partners anymore, and given there's no personal goal for me to shoot for in the game, I've got no real motivation to go to the driving range and make myself better.

   So, the game just sits fallow in me, needing someone and something to spark it. Sad, when I think about it. Pointless, when you do.

   But that scorecard built from scratch is pretty awesome, right?


   • And now, a night in the life.

   I get a call about 10 o'clock from a friend who's in town visiting for the holiday. Upon telling her what I'm doing, she tells me where she and her other friends will be hanging out -- a bar not far from our office. I tell her I'll give her a call when we're done at the paper around midnight, 12:30, somewhere in there.

   About 12:15 a.m., I get another call asking where I am. Explaining I hadn't called because we weren't done yet, but would soon be, I ask if they're still where they said they were. She says no, they're at another place which is basically as close as Whale City is getting to an actual dance club.

   This is said place, which I pass walking home from work every night. Given that story is a promo piece, it doesn't include that it the name change from its previous incarnation brought on by the first gunshots I ever heard in the city -- a murder that has nothing to do with the current club, but makes for a fun story.

   And given it's old, it doesn't include the talk of amateur nights and everything else that goes with the sorts of places people dressed in baseball jerseys, ballcaps and other night-shift work clothes go. There's actual casual, and what he's talking about as "casual." But I digress.


   I try to explain to my friend that the three of us -- myself, and the duo I roped into said meet-up -- were not dressed for such a place, and that we would much rather go somewhere where we could get cheaper beer and actually hear ourselves think. Not reading between the lines, my friend kept explaining how we'd be fine, listing off all the not-actually-casually-dressed people she had seen get into the club. So long as we didn't wear baseball hats, we'd be cool.

   Ulitmately, the three of us went to the bar where we always go, saw the bartender who knows us, and sat where we could watch SportsCenter highlights and look at the various sports cards suspended in varnish on the bar. At 2 a.m., we walked down the street to the club, finally meeting my friend in the parking lot after a couple of minutes.

   It was at this point my friend saw us and chuckled to herself about how she didn't fit in inside there because she was no longer from the area, and how awkward the three of us from the office would have felt inside. Whether she was aware of the irony, I'll never know.

   The time we'd spent vainly waiting outside the club for them wasted, their security team had begun trying to usher people out of the parking lot. Fair enough ... that's their job. So I found out where my friend was going with the people she'd been visiting, told her to drive over to my apartment -- literally a 90-second walk away -- and we would follow them.

   Ten minutes later, after the two of them had regaled me (and each other) with stories of how the only things to do at UMass Dartmouth are:

   -- Play video games.
   -- Join a band.
   -- Drink heavily.
   -- Have sex with people.

   I called my friend back. She was clearly already on the highway to the small town of Berkley, having either forgotten the conversation we'd had a non-forgettable time frame before or having failed to convince her friends that our company was worthwhile. Knowing roughly how to get to one of the more forgettable towns in the Southeastern Mass. metroplex, it was left that we would drive toward it and speak again later for more detailed directions.

   So the three of us drove my car toward Berkley, more or less aware it was approaching 3 a.m. and there was probably nothing awaiting us there. This was further confirmed when I made said call on my cell phone and discovered first that my friend had no cell service, and then that she wasn't answering her phone.

   In the interim, the three of us stumbled across the Freetown Little League field modeled after Fenway Park -- complete with Green Monster, triangle and Pesky's Pole -- basically because I'd seen it one or the two times I'd previously driven on that road. We then continued toward Berkley, cheering when we crossed the town line, marveling humans live that far from civilization and following a sign that promised gas. As suspected, it was a Mom and Pop gas station with a country store, though one tucked in "town center" with the library, police station, town offices and a large fire department.

   We then decided the night was over, ultimately driving a half-hour back to the newspaper offices and dispersing at 3:30 a.m.

   And to think ... if I hadn't picked up my cell phone, I might have just done something boring like play wiffle ball outside.


July 2, 2006 - I Want A New Drug
   Meet My Neighbors: Old boss Jonathan Comey commemorates the Portuguese victory, and ensuing celebration, in words. At least until he posts something about snuff porn or rabbits or driving or weed.

   It's hardly what you could call a limited scope. And suffice to say, that's a good thing.

   Power: For the second straight year, I have been given a vote for U.S. Soccer's Honda Player of the Year. Unlike last year, I actually feel like I've watched enough soccer that I'm going to use it.

   Yeah, I won't be voting for Landon Donovan. Please try not to act surprised, but also, please stop pretending to be asleep. I can tell those are fake snores. Jerk.

   Because I Never Mentioned This, I Don't Think: Next Monday, July 10, I make my initial post-Berliner appearance on "Sports Pulse" for a baseball roundtable. It will not likely result in a new shirt purchase, but I suspect I will also not wear the orange shirt that led me to be told I "looked like a pumpkin" during my recent trip to California.

   I have no idea why that warranted writing down, but that's never stopped me before.

   The Anti-GHO: I dare say Connecticut's annual PGA Tour stop has never happened without so much as a peep from me, but it is nice to see someone win -- Connecticut native J.J. Henry -- who doesn't just view the thing as the faceless schedule filler it has become.

   Thanks, Tiger!

   Matty Cooch once again worked as a standard bearer at the tournament, doing what I would consider to be the ultimate volunteer job -- walking around with the little traveling scoreboard, posting scores as they happen. He got into it once I went off to college, and I'm glad to see he still is.

   Especially since he keeps using the same hat for autographs, and the thing is now comically stuffed. It looks like Gerry Cheevers' hockey mask, but in golf form.


   • I could talk about two things today: the fact that I walked around the annual Whale City-based folk festival this afternoon, looking at crafts I wasn't going to buy and hearing music that I should have been paying for, or marveling at the inanity of this New York Times review of South Boston.

   Believe it or not, one has a lot more room for potshots than the other. Especially since no hippie actually approached me to criticize my choice in mass-produced clothing, and especially since the Times story begins like this:

Boston, while still not quite an avatar of cool, is showing plenty of new signs, for better or worse, of hipness. A Barneys New York opened at Copley Place this past spring ...
-- Unlike my fake indignance, this feels very real.

   Yes, kids, that's what makes us cool. Not being the perfect size, or having a beautiful waterfront, or not reeking like homeless people piss 11 months out of the year ... but our having an outlet that sells overpriced boutique garbage. And not even the best of the best in the "boutique garbage" category. Never mind the city's had an entire street devoted to making people like me feel poor and inadequate since they dredged it our of the bay 150 years ago ... because it didn't have a Barneys, every trip to Boston for a "cool" New Yorker was like having dairy cream put in their latte and then poured directly in their rectum.

   Note the effort not to swear. Though that probably makes me not cool in the eyes of the city that gave us the eight-inch thick pastrami sandwich, the need for rent control and the knockoff wristwatch.

   Anyway, it keeps getting worse, as the writer seems to embrace a smarminess which may make her smile, but makes me want to hit her with a car.

A lot of the cultural heat is smoldering in the city's South End. This vital neighborhood has been "emerging" for more than 10 years, but has now officially emerged. Engaging new restaurants, bars, shops and condominiums are found among the brownstones on Tremont Street, and are tucked into the side streets, too. Spending 36 hours in the South End proves that Boston has a happening, maybe glamorous, scene ... even if some Bostonians still believe in eating supper at 5 o'clock.

   I like the fact that if said writer showed up in Southie (instead of the South End) around St. Patrick's Day, a drunk man in a leprechaun suit would offer her a beer on the street. And, after she refused, make some lewd crack about the outfit she spent $500 on.

It's time for 28 Degrees (1 Appleton Street, 617-728-0728; www.28degrees-boston.com), a bar that shimmers with flashy cocktails, a flashy circular bar and an even flashier party going on inside. There are Bellinis, pomegranate cosmos and Herradura tequila and Cointreau margaritas to be downed with a mixed crowd of Euro-students, chic-beyond-belief adults and neighborhood regulars. This bar alone fills Boston's glamour quotient.

   I think I'd actually like to meet a 'chic-beyond-belief adult.' I'm not even sure how to word the stereotype.

   And that leaves me, mercifully, unable to go on.


July 1, 2006 - Wah.
   The Immigrants Say Hello: And this isn't even the soccer portion of the program.

Subject: Try this is Mexico
Date: Tue 27 June 2006
From: Michael Johnson
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Dear Jon:

   Okay, are ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

   TRY THIS IN MEXICO:

   Enter Mexico illegally. Never mind immigration quotas, visas, international law, or any of that nonsense. Just sneak into Mexico and take up residence.

   Once there, demand that the local government provide free medical care for you and your entire family. Demand bilingual nurses and doctors Demand local government forms, bulletins and driver license exams be made available to you in English.

   Even though you cannot support your family, procreate abundantly. Deflect any criticism of your irresponsible reproductive behavior with, "It is a cultural U.S.A. thing. You would not understand, pal." Demand that all those children receive a bilingual education at taxpayer expense.

   (You'll love our counterfeit 5 Dolares money at www.bordercenturion.com It sends a wake-up call to our snoozing politicians.)

   Read On.

   Keep your American identity strong. Fly Old Glory from your rooftop, or proudly display it in your front window or on your car bumper

   Speak only English at home and in public and insist that your children do likewise.

   Demand classes on American culture in the Mexican school system.

   Demand a Mexican driver license. This will afford other legal rights, like voting in Mexican elections, and will go far to legitimize your unauthorized, illegal, presence in Mexico.

   Insist that Mexican law enforcement agencies teach English to all its officers.

   Good luck! You'll be deported within a few weeks, in jail or dead. Because it will never happen. It will not happen in Mexico or ANY OTHER country in the world except right here in the United States. Land of the naive! We have let political correctness trump common sense.

   If you agree with this email, pass it on.

   Of course, the comedy isn't just limited to this. If you actually go to said site, you'll see it's not what it purports at all.

   It's a placeholder page full of vacation offers to South Africa.

   I'm done here.

AL Dominating Lackluster NL
-- Inside Baseball. You know the drill by now.

   • Well, it's the end of an era. And I'm not going to lie ... I was cheering for it in the end.

Sports Cover - 7/2/06

England sucks.

Portuguese, yay!
-- This one's actually by one of our guys,
down at the United Fisherman's Club in the South End.

   We watched the first half at the apartment, then in the time it took to drive a very small distance, David Beckham left with an injury and Wayne Rooney decided stepping on another player's balls, then pushing someone else in front of the ref, was cool.

   For that alone, I jumped ship. Given I was ostensibly pulling for both of these teams, I would like to see one of them win the World Cup. England clearly wasn't going to do that, given they now go home without actually playing a match with more than half an ass.

   Portugal, on the other hand, might have the best chance to win the tournament out of any of the team's left. It's a little alarming that they couldn't score in regulation, but with Brazil out, the road got much easier.

   Suffice to say, unlike 2002, there's no outcome now that could make the final four matches not worth watching.

   Even if I'll miss the British tabloids, and even if this loss ends the David Beckham era that I really found myself get swept up in over the years. No surprise he couldn't deliver, but that doesn't make it any more fun.


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2004: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
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