Archive for October, 2006

30
Oct
06

Fantasy Camp?! His whole life is a fantasy camp!

Yes, I’m a Seinfeld fan. Therefore I find it necessary to reference the quote(s) related to whatever topic is at hand. Right now, the topic at hand is Fantasy Camp.

I’m in the middle of reading Fantasy Camp: Living the Dream with Maz and the ’60 Bucs by Jim O’Brien, a sportswriter based in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. This book relates some of his experiences while he attended the Pirates’ Fantasy Camp in Bradenton, Florida in January of 2005, where many of the players in attendance were members of the 1960 World Champion team (plus Steve Blass of the 1979 World Series champion team). While the book is titled Fantasy Camp and it does relate some stories about the 2005 Pirates’ Fantasy Camp, it is primarily about the characters who took part in the fantasy camp. It paints a picture of the personalities that made up the 1960 Pirates team and it gives the players a chance to talk about their experiences over the 40+ years since they won the World Series. One of the most interesting things that I’ve found from reading the book is how many people associated with the Pirates live or lived in Upper St. Clair, which is where I went to high school. I knew there were some Steelers affiliates (Myron Cope used to live down the hill from our house and Chuck Noll probably only lived like a mile from our house), but I hadn’t realized that so many former Pirates live there. These include Steve Blass (won two games for the Pirates in the 1979 World Series), Kent Tekulve (I went to school with his son), Lanny Fratarre (long-time Pirates broadcaster – apparently no longer lives in USC), Grant Jackson, and some others, I think.

In addition to the Upper St. Clair connection, I have found that I have a geographical connection with some ex-Pirates based on where I lived during college: Webster Hall in Oakland.  It turns out that a number of Pirates lived in Webster Hall during the 1960’s. Since, during that era, the Pirates played at Forbes Field in Oakland, Webster Hall would have been a convenient place to live. In fact, it is no more than 3 blocks from Webster Hall to the site of Forbes Field. Talk about an easy commute! By the time I moved in, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any Pirates still living there, but I find it neat to think that I lived in the same building as many former Pirates.

Anyway, it’s interesting to read a book about a local sports team and hear about the players’ everyday lives and how they could easily intersect with your own – like Steve Blass looking after his grandson at the children’s play place at South Hills Village Mall. I could bump into a guy who contributed greatly to the Pirates World Series victory while I’m out shopping for underwear! That’s pretty wild.

A final side-note: if we’re talking about people who have been in the World Series and are affiliated with Upper St. Clair, we need to mention Sean Casey, who went to Upper St. Clair High School, graduating in 1992. He played most of his career in the Major Leagues with the Cincinnati Reds, but began this season with the Pirates. Just before the trade deadline, he was sent to the Tigers, managed by Jim Leyland, the former Pirates manager who led the Bucs to 3 straight division titles in the early 1990s. Anyway, Sean Casey came up big for the Tigers during the World Series, hitting 2 home runs and a few doubles. Unfortunately, the wretched St. Louis Cardinals won. With the way they played, the Tigers didn’t deserve to win, but still, who wants to see the Cardinals win?

I’m only about 150 pages into the book and it weighs in at a little over 500 pages, so I still have quite a bit of reading ahead of me. When I’m done, I’ll post my concluding thoughts on the book.

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27
Oct
06

On the cusp of mythical greatness

I spent a good chunk of tonight working on setting up MythTV on a computer I was given over the summer.  One of my officemates had an old (but not that old – P4 2.0GHz) Dell that he said he never used and didn’t need anymore.  I had been toying with the idea of building a personal video recorder (PVR) on the cheap for a while, but “on the cheap” was never cheap enough to fit my budget.  By the time you add up the case, the power supply, the motherboard, the processor, the RAM, the (hopefully large) hard drive, the DVD Burner, and, let’s not forget, the TV tuner card, you’ve got a pretty expensive bill of materials.  However, when my officemate offered me his computer, I jumped at the chance to take him up on his offer – it changed my whole cost model.

Anyway, I got a good deal on a big hard drive, RAM and a DVD burner from Microcenter.  Then, I got a decent deal on a Hauppage WinTV-PVR350 from some outfit in New York.  This was a few months ago.  Finally, today, I stuck the card in the computer case and got to work.  A friend of mine had advised me to look into KnoppMyth because he said it greatly simplified the whole installation process.  So, I downloaded the latest CD iso image, burned it to CD and started installing.  Not everything is fully set up yet, but I can watch live TV.  The picture and sound are fine and the output through the tuner card’s S-video out works.  Now, I just need to get it to properly download the program guide, properly recognize all the channels on our local cable system, and properly respond to the remote control.  Hopefully, I can get all that stuff working this weekend.

22
Oct
06

Another one bites the dust…

Yesterday I went out for breakfast with some people from our church small group. After breakfast, my daughter and I headed to Harvard Square – I wanted to check out Ferranti-Dege, a photographic store. In addition to offering a range of photographic processing services, they also sell new and used camera equipment. I was looking for used lenses for my Pentax K1000. I got there at about 11am and I was surprised to find that the store was closed. Upon closer examination, I found that it had closed for good last week. There were signs in the windows saying that after 51 years in business, the store is now closed and that there’s an auction of their inventory in Newton on Thursday.

2006 has been unkind to photo labs in Cambridge. In April, Zona Photo Lab closed. It seems that they may have moved to Waltham, but nonetheless, they are no longer in Cambridge. Now, Ferranti-Dege is closed, for good, as far as I can tell. This leaves only one place in Cambridge that will develop slide film in-house that I’m aware of.

It seems that the advent of high quality digital cameras has sapped the demand for the services that these labs provide and the advent of online shopping (for said high quality digital cameras) and mail-in photo developing has depressed prices to the point that these small brick-and-mortar establishments just can’t compete anymore. I feel like everyone loses when one of these stores goes out of business. The public loses access to a broad range of services, a place where they can go to hold a real camera in their hands before buying, and, of course, access to a knowledgeable staff, who can answer all kinds of questions.

I guess the take-home message of all of this is that if we want to keep local stores in business, we need to support them, even if they don’t have the absolute best price.

21
Oct
06

In case you missed it…

Endy Chavez made an unbelievable catch in Thursday’s NLCS Game 7.  The Mets ended up losing after a 2-run home run by Yadier Molina in the top of the 9th, but the game would have been lost a lot earlier if Chavez hadn’t robbed Scott Rolen of his potential 2-run home run in the top of the 6th.

16
Oct
06

No baseball tonight…

So, I had to just settle for playing Tetris.  I also went to a little get-together for people who live in our building.  We stayed long enough to be entered in the raffle for the new iPod Shuffle.  I’ll keep you posted on whether we won.

14
Oct
06

This evening’s activities: watching baseball and playing Tetris

So, tonight, I did exactly what I said I needed to not do in order to keep up my blogging frequency: watching baseball and playing Tetris.  I watched a ton of baseball tonight.  I watched the second half of the Tigers-A’s game and pretty much the entire Mets-Cardinals game, with a little break for Tetris in the 2nd or 3rd inning.  I was happy to see the Tigers win.  I’ve been rooting for the Tigers more or less all season.  To a large extent, I find myself rooting for Detroit because practically their entire coaching staff is ex-Pirates (from the early ’90s when the Pirates were good).  However, I also find myself rooting for Detroit because of the team’s similarity to the Pirates.  Not unlike the Pirates, the Tigers had something like 12 or 13 consecutive losing seasons before this year.  While the Pirates have yet to break out of their string of consecutive losing seasons, Detroit’s success gives me hope that turning things around is not an impossible task and that things can actually be turned around quite quickly.

13
Oct
06

Happy Birthday To Me

Some of you may know that I just had a birthday.  It was a good time – my parents were in town and we had a good time together.  I also got some cool presents, including the official Pirates away jersey, Fantasy Camp by Jim O’Brien (about going to Pirates Fantasy Camp in Bradenton with members of the 1960 Pirates), and The New Tetris for my N64.

Now that things have settled down a little, I hope to begin blogging again with increased frequency.  This will require that I don’t spend the entirety of my evenings watching baseball and playing The New Tetris

Oh, and I finally cut my hair again for the first time since June.

pirates_jersey.jpg



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