Sunday, August 29, 2010

8-29-10: Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Yesterday I spent the day in New York with my buddy Dan before we went to see the New York Red Bulls take on the San Jose Earthquakes at the new Red Bull Arena. Both of us were very interested in seeing the new stadium, as well as the new signings Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez.

We took the 10:00AM train from Fairfield, which got us into Grand Central at around 11:15AM. Plenty of time to enjoy the city before taking the PATH from World Trade to Harrison. We wanted to spend as little time in New Jersey as possible, which proved to be a good idea, as there's pretty much nothing near the stadium.

The first thing: lunch. My buddy Jason, who spends a lot of time in downtown getting his MBA at NYU, recommended The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Let me tell you, it was good. We got there exactly at Noon, and timed it perfectly. The line was apparently "short" when we got in it, and it only got longer as we sat and ate. I had a Shack Burger, fries, and a chocolate shake. My buddy Dan had pretty much the same thing, only he tried out their vanilla shake. Everything was good. It certainly helped that we went in on a fantastically beautiful day. Sitting there, eating in the park, having a shake, very nice.

We then needed something to fill the remaining 6 hours before we needed to be in Harrison for the game. We decided to take the subway down to Battery Park to hang out there a bit. From there we walked to City Hall, then grabbed a coffee before heading up to Hallo Berlin in midtown for an early dinner of bratwurst and good German beer. After walking over to the Intrepid (didn't go to the museum, just walked nearby) and watching a Carnival cruise ship leave dock, we walked down the greenway on the west side a bit and took the subway near Penn Station to make our way to Harrison.

I was impressed by the PATH system. My parents had a horrendous time a couple years ago using New Jersey Transit, but I think they've gotten their acts together. The train ride was packed, but only took about 20 minutes from World Trade to Harrison. From there it's about a 5-10 minute walk to Red Bull Arena, which is in the middle of a big, empty lot. Very easy to find.

The stadium was BEAUTIFUL. You could have sworn you were in Europe watching a game. They did a great job keeping it cozy. The image on the right is the view from our seats - great, great seats. Second row behind the San Jose goal (for the first half). We got to see the first Red Bulls goal, which was quite exciting. The crowd, which was not quite a sellout, was pretty into it. Thierry Henry scored his first goal for New York, which I'm sure will be a proud moment in his career (heh). Red Bulls ended up winning pretty convincingly 2-0.

The trip back wasn't too bad. There was a bit of a line before getting onto the PATH train, but the train itself wasn't too crowded. We hung around for a few minutes to watch the first few minutes of the Mayor's Cup match between the New York cops and firemen. That wasn't much to see, but they seemed to care. We ended up taking the 11:20PM train back to Fairfield. I got home at around 1:00AM. Very nice day in the city.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little Feat - "Willin'"

I've had this song stuck in my head for a few days. Incredible. The version from Waiting for Columbus is the best one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8-16-10: The Dustin Johnson Incident and the Role of Officials

I feel sorry for Dustin Johnson. The guy played his heart out, and came up short in the end. The professional golfer, known more recently for a major meltdown than anything else, was in the hunt yesterday during the final round of the PGA Championship, hitting a great chip on the 18th to force a playoff. He was then informed that he'd committed a rules violation before his second shot on the 18th, grounding his club head before striking the ball. The two stroke penalty cost him the playoff.

I heard a few different takes on the incident. Most people feel sorry for Johnson, as they should, but a few called out the rules official for not notifying Johnson beforehand, as a heads-up. I disagree with that particular viewpoint. I think the rules official did precisely what was expected of him: he notified Johnson of a rules infraction. Now, it wasn't an obvious infraction, as a lot of people didn't even know that the ball was sitting in a sand trap (the course had an over abundance of sand traps to begin with) as it was quite a ways from the fairway. Nevertheless, Johnson fessed up and took the penalty.

Should the rules official have warned Johnson beforehand? Johnson did not think to ask for a ruling on whether the ball was sitting in a hazard, which would have been a fair question, because it simply didn't cross his mind. Many golfers would likely have made the same assumption. But you can't expect the rules official to warn Johnson. Golf isn't known as a sport that requires a lot of rule decisions. It's so rare to see the officials on camera that many viewers forget they are there. And they're far from omnipresent, as most players go through entire rounds without a rules official tagging along. Golf is very different than basketball or baseball or hockey in that it's largely an issue of self-policing. Players are expected to call infractions on themselves or their playing partners. No other game with officials is like that. They're simply rules officials, not referees.

It's unfortunate that Johnson lost out on what might be a career opportunity to win a major championship. But it's his fault for not knowing the rule, or not asking. It's tough.

Monday, August 9, 2010

8-9-10: Planet Fitness Locations in Southern CT

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been very busy with moving (from Derby, CT to New Haven, CT) and finishing my Master’s degree in engineering. I haven’t been able to golf, either, which I hope to rectify shortly.

I figured I’d start back off with something slightly more useful than explaining what’s been going on in my life, which is exciting to me but is rather boring blogging material.

I’ve been a member of the Planet Fitness exercise club franchise for about 3.5 years, not including two summers as a student member. I joined at their Trumbull, CT location in March 2007 as a “Black Card” member, giving me access to all Planet Fitness locations throughout the country and a few other perks which I don’t really use. I was going to college in Worcester, MA at the time, and wanted the option of visiting their West Boylston, MA location while up at school, which worked out well. The WPI gym was small, very crowded, and had a limited selection of equipment. I don’t regret the decision for a second.

Since joining, I’ve visited about 10 different Planet Fitness locations. Here’s the list from memory:

Trumbull, CT (home club)

Shelton, CT – Bridgeport Ave (most frequented during my time in Derby)

Shelton, CT – River Road

Fairfield, CT

New Haven, CT

Orange, CT

Milford, CT

West Boylston, MA

Wilmington, NC (near my sister’s school, went there once on vacation)

Marlborough, MA (went there once while visiting family)

More recently I’ve been visiting the Orange and Milford locations, giving me a better idea of which locations have more to offer. So, here’s the rundown of the eight I’ve visited more than once:

Top 3: Trumbull, Orange, and Milford : In no particular order, these are my three favorite. Trumbull is probably the largest, but I’d have to see a floor plan to know for sure. Orange has a lot of machines, but the layout is a bit odd because it’s split up in three distinct areas. Milford is mostly downstairs, and has recently renovated its locker rooms. I’d give Orange a slight edge overall because of its locker room, but it’s a close call between the three. Milford has the best layout.

4. Fairfield: Not particularly large in floor space, but it’s a newer location so the equipment is better.

5. Shelton – Bridgeport Ave: I went to this one regularly during my 18 month stay in Derby. I like the layout, but the machines aren’t in the best shape.

6. New Haven: Disappointed in the size. The layout is OK, and the machines are newer. If I went to this one more often than the Bridgeport Ave location I may have ranked it higher.

7. West Boylston : Probably the smallest of the locations I’ve been to. The only redeeming feature is the layout, and the Smith machines.

8. Shelton – River Road: Barely larger than West Boylston, if by a few square feet. Often crowded, very limited in machine selection, and cramped.

I’d probably rank the Wilmington location 5th and the Marlborough location 4th, but with only one visit to each, it’s hard to say. The Marlborough location is fairly new, and I’d recommend it to any member visiting the area.