Thursday, December 31, 2009

12-31-09: Night Skiing at Mohawk

I'd never been night skiing before, and, seeing that I need a lot work since I'm very much a novice skier, I headed up to Mohawk Mountain in West Cornwall last night with the lady and our friend Ken. They have a two-for-one deal on night lift tickets, and we have the time off of work.

Overall it was quite successful, and quite fun. I got a little too aggressive at the beginning by starting with the blue square runs "Mohawk" and "Arrow Head." That wore my legs down a little bit because I had trouble getting my mechanics down and got too scared with the steepness, which caused me to "wedge" my legs to slow down. So, after dinner, I did a bunch of runs on the green trail "Pine," which really helped to build up my confidence, while the lady and Ken went on their black diamond runs. After four or five runs down Pine on my own and once with them, we hit Mohawk again.

One thing I found out, thanks in large part to my very patient instructors, was that my arms were throwing off my balance during my turns. So, the lady suggested I hold my poles in front of me, horizontally. This would help me know when my shoulders were flying open. At first I was very weary of this drill, but I tried it out, and skied better than ever. I've begun to connect my turns better, but still find that I do a "hockey stop" when turning left, which slows me down too much. But, I was able to build up more speed, which helped me to turn much more easily.

Next ski trip might be just a couple days away. There's a "CSC Awareness" weekend at Mount Snow; $45 lift tickets. Should be fun.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

12-27-09: How to Get to Avis at LaGuardia

I'm flying back to Connecticut tomorrow, and remembered how harrowing my trip to LaGuardia was on the way down. I've always disliked the drive into the city, and LaGuardia, though not as bad a drive as to JFK, is a real pain in the ass.

I'd also never rented a car on my own before, which was an experience unto itself. My company has a deal with Avis that allowed me to not only receive a discounted rate, but also enabled me to pick the car up at the main office. So, back on the 21st, I asked the lady to drop me off (she works there, my office is actually across town), and I was on my way. Getting the car was relatively painless and quite easy.

But finding out how to get to Avis at LaGuardia was a real chore. I tried mightily to find out where it was online, to no avail. So, I'll put in this post the specific directions, which I hope enable at least one soul to make the trip a little easier:

How to Get to the Avis Location at LaGuardia Airport:

These directions are assuming you are coming from the north (where I came from) and take the Whitestone Bridge (if you take the Triborough I cannot help you, sorry).

After you get off the Whitestone, follow the signs to LaGuardia. Make sure you slow down if you haven't been there before, because the merges can be confusing. In general, if you see a line of traffic, follow it, because chances are they're trying to get to the airport. Follow the taxis!

Once you get near LaGuardia, you'll see a blue sign for Rental Car Returns telling you to get off at 94th Street. Not too long after you'll be told to turn right at 94th Street for Avis (and also Hertz, if I remember correctly). Get in the right lane before the light, and make the right onto 94th Street. This next part is where I screwed up: stay to the left, and make the hairpin turn to the left (you'll probably see a bunch of cabs pulling up to pick up or drop off). There will be another blue sign for Rental Car Returns telling you to make this hairpin turn to the left. Follow that sign. I was an idiot and stayed to the right and had to make the whole long loop again through traffic.

Once you come around the hairpin turn to the left, you'll see a sign telling you to bear right to get to Avis and Hertz. Follow that, and you'll end up on an access road. Stay on that for a couple minutes, and you'll eventually come to a traffic light (you'll see Avis up ahead). Go straight, then make the left at the gas station (or buy gas!) into the Avis lot, and you're there!

Here's a satellite view for you:

View Larger Map

I hope this helps at least one person, because I certainly could have used it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12-26-09: Sherlock Holmes

Yesterday I went with members of my family to see Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, and directed by Guy Ritchie.

I've been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes since childhood, though I will admit I haven't read many (or more than one) of the original short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But I have been watching the British television series starring Jeremy Brett. I think the character himself is something to marvel. As much of a genius as Holmes is, he is deeply flawed, even admitting to recreational use of cocaine to stimulate his mind between cases.

The film appeared to be more of an action-movie approach, which always generates serious reservations for any "die hard fans" or pretty much any one familiar with the story or who read the book(s). But it had Robert Downey, Jr. in it, and I loved him in Tropic Thunder and Iron Man, so I gave it a shot.

I was pleased with the outcome. It's not perfect, but I didn't find many flaws in it whatsoever. I'll have to re-examine the story to try to remember some details about certain characters, but overall, I was quite entertained. It is still a mystery, which is refreshing, but has quite a bit of action. Some of the scenes are very cleverly done, and the acting was great. Downey, Jr. was superb, even with the fake British accent, and Jude Law did a great job as Dr. Watson. I'm not sure how well a sequel would go (they left it wide open), but I'd be up for it. Maybe I'll see how Iron Man 2 ends up, first, though.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12-25-09: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from (rainy) Southport, North Carolina!

Here's my latest and greatest Christmas-themed playlist.

And here's The Boss singing one of my favorites.

Monday, December 21, 2009

12-21-09: Skiing at Okemo

For the first time since January, I was able to hit the slopes to get back into skiing.

The lady and I spent the weekend up at Okemo in lovely Ludlow, VT. It was quite a time, indeed. I have, as would be expected, never been to Okemo before. In fact, I'd never been to any ski resorts in the entire state of Vermont before. The only skiing I consciously remember doing has been in New Hampshire (when I was four and five years old, if that counts) and in Connecticut in January. This was quite new to me.

We stayed overnight, heading up on Friday evening. That turned out to be a very good decision, as we missed all of the storm. Though it was frigid up in VT (four degrees Fahrenheit on Friday night), we didn't see any snowfall. Our hotel room at the Best Western, just a two or three minute drive to the resort, was quite warm and cozy.

My buddy Tom's family has a condo at Okemo in the Trailside complex. Very, very nice. We hung out there on Friday night and during lunch on Saturday. One of my other buddies, Kevin, and co-worker George and members of his family stayed there overnight. It's in a great location along the Sachem trail; ski on, ski off.

Saturday morning started off with a quick test of my "new" skis (they're used, but new to me). I am still very new to the sport, so I hit the bunny hill. Let me say this: going from skiing on a dull pair of rental skis to tuned, sharpened skis is a steep learning curve. I nearly ate it right away, and immediately thought: "Oh shit, this is going to be a long weekend." Fortunately, I got a little more confident after a couple more runs down the bunny hill, and the lady left me in good hands as she split to meet up with Tom and the others while I went to my 10:00AM group lesson.

The lesson was pretty good. The instructor, Deb, was certified, and definitely knew how to get the best out of even the most novice of skiers. My lesson group, all Beginner Level 3's, was distinctly divided: two high school freshmen girls, and two guys in their early to mid 20's that have played hockey for most of their lives. The other guy, who I believe was named Matt, was a Canadian who played prep hockey at Berkshire Academy and is now a med student at Dartmouth. He was fun to talk to on the lift. The girls were very nice, and did quite well, but I was surprised to be asked what grade I was in. But hey: I'd rather look younger than older.

The lesson began on the bunny hill, with a couple trips up and down using the "magic carpet," which I did not like. I prefer the lift, mostly because whenever they stopped the magic carpet, I nearly fell over. Very annoying. But, after a couple easy runs down that, we moved on to the beginner lift and down the "Open Slope" to work on our turns.

The things I learned quickly, and worked on for the rest of the weekend:

- Relax the upper body
- Keep your hands forward
- Keep the shins in contact with the boot
- Don't hunch forward; stand up straight
- Be patient with the turns

After my two hour lesson, I was feeling good. The lady and my buddies cheered me as I maneuvered around a fallen child (she was OK) at the very bottom of the hill. We took the lift up to Sachem and skied down to Tom's for lunch.

The rest of the day was spent on the Green trails with the lady, who helped me work on my turns. I noticed right away that I had a far easier time turning to the left than I did to the right. It was the same phenomenon I experienced back in January. But, over time, I was able to turn to the right better and better. We went to the top of the mountain, and I had my best spot of skiing on Easy Rider, turning in both directions with relative ease, and minimal "pizza-ing" (wedge turns). We then headed down Mountain Road to finish the day before heading back to Tom's. A very encouraging day. That night we met up with Tom and Kevin at the "Cool Moose Cafe" across from the resort. Tom was upset that Archie's, which had been at that location, had closed, but we still had a good time. I think he was more upset at his injured finger, which we believed to be broken, and are awaiting word on the x-ray results.

On Sunday morning, I awoke to very, very sore and tired legs. In fact, my calves are still killing me. This was mostly due to a lot of "pizzas" I did to slow myself down when I went down steeper inclines. But, nevertheless, I wanted to work on my turns. We did a quick run down the Open Slope, then headed to the top to do Sunburst, then to Coleman Brook to Mountain Road to Village Run. We then arrived at Solitude Lodge, where we took the lift up and then dared to try a Blue Square run: Upper Arrow.

Mind you: this was my third day of skiing as an adult. And I found myself on a Blue Square trail. Let's just say I was scared shitless at certain times. The lady was, for the most part, puzzled and bored, considering the terrain pretty flat. I didn't blame her, and appreciated her sticking with me. While on Upper Arrow, she captured my likeness on video as I made my very, very elongated S turns across the trail, no doubt frustrating the more experienced skiers as they zoomed by me. By the end of that run, my legs were nearly done. They were definitely done later in the day when we did Sachem again, and I ate it a couple times. After a while, I just got tired and lost the fundamentals. But overall, I was much improved. I had survived a Blue Square.

The next trip is Sunday River, Maine, for early January. I definitely plan on doing another lesson, probably more advanced, but still well within the Beginner range. I'm much more used to the skis, and can do a hockey stop (to the left) like it's my goddamn job. But overall, I had a blast, and very much look forward to heading back out there for more tumbles and turns.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12-14-09: Some Good Christmas Songs

I've been working on a play list (using Grooveshark) of my favorite Christmas songs. Here are the first six I could think of. I hope to have the list finalized (and posted here) by Christmas Day.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

12-13-09: Swoon by Silversun Pickups

I was listening to Swoon by Silversun Pickups yesterday whilst working on my grad school take home exams. Good stuff. Here are three of the better songs on the album:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

12-12-09: "Waterloo Sunset"

This is my favorite song by The Kinks. I'm glad I found this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Would Landon Donovan Playing at Everton be a Smart Move or Not?

Should help him get ready for the World Cup, at least.


Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:


via EPL Talk by The Gaffer on 12/9/09

landon donovan Would Landon Donovan Playing at Everton be a Smart Move or Not?

Everton are in advanced discussions with Landon Donovan to acquire him on loan for a three month deal, according to several sources in the English press.

If the deal goes through, it should be a win-win for both Everton and Donovan. For Everton, the club is desperately in need for new players to help a team that has been savagely disrupted by injuries. Plus the club is very much in need of a creative attacking midfielder who can take over from the still-injured Mikel Arteta and to thread passes through for Everton strikers such as Yakubu, Louis Saha and Jo.

For Donovan, it'll be an excellent opportunity to maintain his fitness, to compete at a much higher level than Major League Soccer where he may be able to improve his game, as well as prove to the world whether he truly is an accomplished footballer. While he's a massive star in the United States, his previous appearances in Europe for Bayern Munich and Bayern Leverkusen have been considered flops.

If the deal does go through, it'll give Donovan an opportunity to not only try to break into the Everton team, but the Toffees will be competing in the Europa League as well as playing several high-profile Premier League matches such as the Merseyside derby on February 6 (televised live on ESPN2) and versus Manchester City on January 16 (televised live on Fox Soccer Channel).

With all said, there are definitely big question marks about whether Donovan can compete at a Premier League level as well as for a team that often plays hoofball. Everton is a tough, physical team and playing for the Toffees would significantly increase the chances of Donovan being injured before a critical World Cup tournament for him. Plus, there are many question marks surrounding the size and physique of the player and whether he would be able to adapt to the English game.

My personal opinion is that I don't think Donovan would be an instant hit in the Premier League. It's going to take him time to adapt to the cold temperatures and to the style of play. He's not going to get as much space or time on the ball as he does in MLS. That said, I believe he'll turn some heads and will make some valuable assists in games. But I don't envision him setting the league on fire. As for Everton, they're a team that wouldn't necessarily be the best fit for Donovan. But given the opportunity, I feel there's a lot more for Donovan to gain than to lose by making the move to Goodison Park.

What do you think? Would Landon Donovan playing at Everton be a smart move or not? Click the comments link below and share your feedback.

Photo credit: Stuart Wainstock.

Related posts:

  1. Poll: Which Premier League Club Will Sign Landon Donovan?
  2. Poll: Landon Donovan Heading To The EPL?
  3. ESPN Makes Smart Move With Andy Gray Hiring


Things you can do from here:


Monday, December 7, 2009

CNET IBM wires trucks, water lines in smarter city bid - CNET News

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Neat stuff.

IBM wires trucks, water lines in smarter city bid - CNET News

Chesapeake, Virginia signs on with IBM "smarter city" campaign to improve efficiency by collecting data on buildings, trucks, and utility infrastructure.

CNET: The source for computers and technology

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Favorites

The lady and I picked up a Christmas tree yesterday (at Jones Family Farms in Shelton for the second year going; good people). While decorating it (at her place), we played various Christmas favorites. Here are a few of my selections:

12-5-09: The World Cup Draw

I took a half day yesterday and, before doing homework, was able to catch the end of the World Cup Draw, live from South Africa on ESPN2.

It turned out to be both good AND very interesting. The U.S. did as well as one could hope (it's a luck of the draw, literally) by drawing England as the only big team in their group (Group C), which also contains Algeria and Slovenia. A very fortunate draw, and with any luck we should make it through the Group Stage along with England. Mark your calendar: Saturday, June 12th @2:30PM: USA vs. England.

And, oddly enough, the "Group of Death" (Group G) features Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, and North Korea. Three big teams and the political pariah North Korea. From a soccer standpoint alone that is a good group to watch. You read it here first: Brazil and Ivory Coast will go through.

Here are the other groups, with my advanced predictions:

Group A:

South Africa

Winners: Mexico and France.

Group B:

South Korea

Winners: Argentina and Greece

Group D:


Winners: Germany and Ghana

Group E:


Winners: Netherlands and Cameroon

Group F:

New Zealand

Winners: Italy and Slovakia

Group H:


Winners: Spain and Honduras

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Steve Winwood

I heard "Gimme Some Lovin'" on the radio on the drive down to North Carolina, and totally forgot Steve Winwood sang it.

Here are two of my favorites from that talented fellow: