Friday, August 29, 2008

100 Things Not About Me

26. Movies that scared me as a kid:
Gremlins – gremlin blowing up in the microwave
The Never Ending Story – Atreyu's horse drowning and the wolf attacking Atreyu
Labyrinth – Toby kidnapped, fieries taking off their heads, David Bowie's hair
The Black Cauldron – the Horned King

27. The two movies I quote more than anything are Karate Kid and Tombstone. Neither movie has the MOST quotes but there are two quotes from both movies that I use more than any. They are “Sweep the Leg”, “No Mercy”, “I'm a daisy if you do” and “I'm your huckleberry.”

28. My sister informed me that nobody calls it “Ice Hockey” just “hockey”. There are two reasons I called it “Ice Hockey.” Number one is my first experience with hockey was playing the NES game and it's called “Ice Hockey.” Number two is the first hockey I watched on television was actually roller hockey not ice hockey. I don't remember what the league was called but it came on during the summer and they played on a blue court if I recall. I'm pretty sure that some NHL players were in the league. I remember Eric Dejardins for some reason but I could've made that up.

29. Best fast food burger – Wendy's, best fries – Chick-fil-a, best milkshake – Chick-fil-a,

30. Since this a hockey blog. My favorite hockey video game of all-time was Mutant League Hockey for the Genesis. For those unfamiliar with Mutant League Hockey all the hockey players were mutants like trolls, aliens and skeletons. If you didn't feel like scoring goals you could also win the game by killing enough of the opposing players that they have to forfeit. There were also all kinds of obstacles on the rink like fire pits and mines. I also liked EA's NHL series for a while but haven't played one since the Genesis days.

31. I wear a lot of baseball caps and my absolute favorite is my Birmingham Thunderbolts hat. The Birmingham Thunderbolts were an XFL team. I never watched any of their games but picked it up one day just because it was an usual hat, that and the league had folded so the hat was $1.00. I've been wearing for like 5 years now so it's broken in and dirty how I like it. Unfortunately I think I lost it on vacation this week.

32. Since we're on the topic of fashion. I was once known to a lot of people as the guy that wore the red shoe. I say “shoe” and not “shoes” because I only had one red shoe and wore it with another shoe that didn't match. One of my teammates on my basketball team wore red shoes and we always picked on him for it. One year we had a dirty Santa party where everybody brings a gag gift. My friend brought one (not both) of his red shoes. I “won” it and he dared me to wear it. I think he dared me to win it just once but I wore it for about 10 years.

33. When I have enough money and can find a good job there I want to live in the North. I like the cold weather and love snow. Everybody tells me I have no idea what I'm getting into because I can't imagine how cold it gets or how much it snows. I realize I probably have no idea since I've never been to the North in the winter, but I think I'll like it anyway.

34. The only thing that worries me about snowy weather is driving in the snow. I hate driving. About 90% of humans are morons so why should I trust them to operate huge metal death machines going at 70 mph.

35. My television-reality show guilty pleasure is Beauty and the Geek. I have no reason to like that show but it's actually cute and heart warming at times. Most of the beauties are shallow and are there trying to win money but I think a lot of the geeks have actually learned valuable lessons in being social and having more confidence in themselves.

36. Earlier I mentioned the (Sega) Genesis a few times. My most popular article on the website I wrote for (Associated Content) is my article on the top Sega Genesis video games of all-time. It has over 34,000 page views. I'm not sure why that particular article is so popular. I imagine some popular website must have come across it and put a link to it on their website.

37. If I could go to any sporting event it would be the Australian Open. Why not? I get to watch tennis. I get to see Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva, Ana Ivanovic and Nicole Vaidisova up close and I get to go to Australia.

38. Speaking of Elena Dementieva, I didn't know until the Olympics that she s dating a Buffalo Sabre. He is now my favorite Sabre.

39. One sport that I've always wanted to play is called Bossaball. Bossaball is a mix between soccer, volleyball and jumping on a trampoline. There is a net like in volleyball but there is a trampoline on the front line in the center where one person jumps the whole time and can spike the ball. Players are also allowed to kick the ball and often do some bicycle kicks and whatnot.

40. I'm pretty sure that my sister mentioned she goes every bare foot. 99% of the time I'm the opposite. I wear shoes almost all the time unless I'm getting ready to go to bed. The 1% of the time that I don't wear shoes is when I drive. For some reason I prefer to feel the brake and gas pedals with my foot instead of my shoe.

41. My favorite character of all-time (book, movie, television show, it doesn't matter) is Robin Hood. First of all I like that he's good but still a rebel. I don't like goody two shoes like Superman. I like that he wears all green and I love archers. They have a cool weapon but it takes a lot more skill than shooting a gun. I mean Arnold Schwarzenegger's guns are big enough that he can miss his target by 3 miles and still blow it up.

42. My favorite version of Robin Hood is the Disney movie but I also love the movie starring Errol Flynn and the current television show on BBC.

43. I can spell Arnold Schwarzenegger without looking it up.

44. The one word I can never spell correctly is villain. I always spell it villian and then have to change it when the spell check says it is wrong. At first I felt stupid for always misspelling a word but then I found that one of my friends, who is actually an excellent writer, always gets from and form backwards.

45. I have lived in Alabama for 28 years but I have never hunted, fished, ridden a tractor, drank beer, drove a pickup truck or married a relative. I do have missing teeth though.

46. I like giving athletes nicknames. Today's sports nicknames are horrible. Usually the nicknames I give players are only things I would think about because I get to them in very round about ways and they usually have nothing to do with that athlete. For example I call Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets “Soundwave.” Why? Because Beltran (pronounced Beltron) sounds like the name of a robot and my favorite robot is Soundwave from Transformers.

47. I only like the Transformers cartoon and the original cartoon movie. The new movie sucked.

48. The best properties to own are the yellow properties. For my explanation why read my article.

49. Some day when have my own house and can have a pet I'm going to have a dog named Marvin Gardens.

50. After me and my sister played fantasy baseball for a couple of seasons she asked me if I wanted to play fantasy hockey with her. I had never seen an entire ice hockey game before, I didn't read a single website or magazine. I just picked my team based on 1) players that were ranked high 2) players that I have heard of on ESPN and 3) players' names that I liked. I won the regular season and playoffs.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

100 Things Not About Me

Hello fellow Top Shelf Cookie monsters. Welcome to the very first guest blog post on the Top Shelf Cookies. This is Heather's brother Lee and I will be your guide on this non-hockey journey. I'd love to sit and chat about ice hockey but I don't know anything about ice hockey. So i will borrow from my sister and tell you about myself.

1. I have not yet decided what I'm going to do for a living but I'm leaning towards being a writer. I paid to write articles at a website called Associated Content. My sister and her blog have gained 60,000 page views. Cute. 60,000 page views. My articles over at Associated Content have gained 1.2 million page views. Check them out. There isn't much about hockey but plenty about other sports, movies, video games, religion and some other fun stuff.

2. Jennifer Connelly is my favorite actress. I first saw her in the movie Labyrinth when Jennifer was only 15. She wasn't a GREAT actress when she was younger but she has morphed into one since then. I think I must have pretty good taste in actors because how many actors start at that young age and turn out to be as good as Jennifer Connelly? Not many.

3. The Green Lantern is the best. He would totally kick Superman and Batman's butt and Hal Jordan is WAY more likable than Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

4. I hate orange juice pulp. Sometimes I go to grocery store and stand in the juice section. When somebody takes a carton of orange juice with pulp I punch them in the throat.

5. I'm a big sports fan but I'm just starting to get into ice hockey. My favorite sport though is college football, followed by college softball and major league baseball. After that I like tennis and college basketball. Sorry but the NFL and NBA are just boring.

6. When I sneeze it sends a jolt down my neck through my shoulders and to my fingers and my fingers go numb for approximately 1.37 seconds.

7. I have recently taken up cooking. I've gotten pretty good at it. I make a pretty awesome homemade macaroni, some good ham and pineapple and kabobs and my specialty is probably Apple Sausage Pancakes.

8. I am a big video game fan. My favorite games are usually either roleplaying games or sports games with a few classic NES games thrown in there.

9. Favorite Athletes
All-time - Danny Wuerffel, Mike Piazza
Current - Caitlin Lowe, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Joe Thornton, David Lee, Tim Tebow, Donovan McNabb, Rafael Nadal

10. My biggest sports pet peeve is when people chant "OV-ER-RA-TED". I understand that by calling the other team overrated you are insulting them. But doesn't that make your team look bad when you admit your team just beat a team that wasn't really that good? Wouldn't you rather say that your team beat a good team?

11. My biggest non-sports pet peeve is the word redunkulous.

12. I like to name objects. My car is named Rebekah. I named a flower that I planted Jenny and my former mp3 player was named Destro. My new mp3 player is called "The Panther."

13. My sister said in her 100 things about her that she uses the same password for everything. I now know what it is (thanks Mark) and will sell it to you for $50. Like her, I use the same password for everything and I've used it for about 13 years now. Nobody knows it though (not even Mark.)

14. My favorite word is shenanigans.

15. My favorite book of the Bible is Proverbs. It's got a lot of words of wisdom and even some pretty funny parts as well. It's also more straightforward. Jesus' parables are great and all but sometimes you just need to be told exactly what is right and wrong without thinking about it.

16. The most underrated books of the Bible are 1 and 2 Samuel. If I were to choose any book of the Bible to make a movie about it would be 1 and 2 Samuel. It's basically a big war epic with the Israelites and Philistines battling 13 times and it includes the rise of David. It's actually a great read but never gets as much attention as Genesis, Exodus, the Gospels or revelation.

17. I had a brief run playing both baseball and soccer when I was younger but I actually played basketball for 15 years.

18. Even though I like actresses like Jennifer Connelly and actors like Joseph Gordon Levitt I enjoy older stuff. Get Smart and the Dick Van Dyke shows are two of my favorites. I love Arsenic and Old Lace and Swing Time. Errol Flynn and Steve McQueen are two of my favorite actors.

19. I also love foreign movies and don't mind reading the subtitles. Oldboy is possibly the best movie of all-time.

20. I have never broken a bone in my body, that I know of. I've probably broken fingers at some point but just never bothered to have them looked at. So I don't get injured much and rarely get sick too. I think I'm also the only member of the family with no allergies.

21. I don't know how to swim or ride a bike.

22. If I could go on vacation anywhere in the world it would be Japan. I took Japanese in high school and even though I know very little Japanese I began very interested in the country. Plus video games come out sooner there.

23. Lee ranks the cheeses: 1. Swiss, 2. Mozzarella, 3. Ricotta, 4. Cheddar, 5. American

24. My favorite baseball players are typically third basemen. When I played little league baseball I played mostly first base and outfield but for parts of two seasons I played third base and it was by far my favorite position. My favorite current player, David Wright, is a third base man and I also really like Garret Atkins, Eric Chavez and Ryan Zimmerman. My least favorite player, Chipper Jones, also plays third base though.

25. The worst awards decision in sports history was Peyton Manning losing the Heisman Trophy to Charles Woodson. A close second would be Terry Pendleton winning the NL MVP over Barry Bonds and of course Mike Piazza losing to Larry Walker in the NL MVP.

One Week Down...

So this week did not go at all as planned. Remember how I was going to be driving boxes back and forth from the apartment to the house all week? Didn't happen. We hit yet another snag in the closing process - seriously, buying a house is one big pain the butt - so we're now moving next week. Or Mark's moving next week I should say since I'll be somewhere in Pennsylvania. Heh. (For the record, I did offer to bail on my family and stay here to help but I was told that was out of the question.)

Still, I did manage to squeeze in some good stuff. I got a lot of reading done which delights me since that goes on the back burner a lot of the time. Watched some DVDs. Stayed up till all hours of the morning and then slept in to compensate while also indulging in the occasional afternoon nap. Did some shopping, both the fun and non-fun variety. (I came across these while looking for a birthday present for my nephew, Luke. Luke's pretty lucky there were no Han and Chewies in stock because it would've been happy birthday, Aunt Heather.) Chillaxed at the Bisons game yesterday with a friend. (I was supposed to be seeing Travis Hafner but his rehab schedule didn't coincide with my schedule. I did see Victor Martinez though.) And Kate's coming over in a couple of hours and we're going to see if we can pull together a podcast.

So it was a fairly quiet week but I love those weeks. I'm planning on having a lot of fun next week but it'll be a lot more go, go, go so resting up this week probably worked out well.

Ideally I'll be making at least a couple of posts from PA but I'm not sure what the wireless situation is going to be since we'll be bouncing around so we'll see what happens.

Here's a slightly more detailed recap of my week:

1. Baseball Tonight
2. Mets vs. Astros
3. Seinfeld (The Burning - "Don't boss me! This is why you're going to hell.")
4. The Wire (Just finished up season 2, moving on to season 3. I find this show very difficult to watch sometimes - there was a moment in season 1 that made me cry more than anything else on TV ever - but it's so, so good.)
5. Project Runway

1. Want To - Sugarland (Totally obsessed with Sugarland right now. I'm not really fond of a lot of female vocalists but I love Jennifer Nettles' voice.)
2. You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This - Toby Keith
3. Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews Band (I know I said they're overrated but I do like this song quite a bit.)
4. Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) - U2 (I don't go out of my way to listen to Christmas music in the off-season but if it comes up on my iPod and it's a song I really like, I won't change it.)
5. Small Town - John(ny) (Cougar) Mellencamp

1. Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant - Daniel Tammet
2. Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's - John Elder Robison (I didn't really meant to read these two back-to-back - I had Look Me In the Eye on request at the library for a long time and it showed up right after I checked out Born on a Blue Day - but they actually made for a very interesting one-two punch.)
3. Hope's Boy - Andrew Bridge
4. The Big Field - Mike Lupica (I'm not super familiar with Lupica's newspaper work although I hate him on Sports Reporters which used to be one of my favorite shows. I have read almost all of his YA novels however and I do like them a lot.)
5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards

1. Celebrity Baby Blog
2. Fire Joe Morgan
3. YouTube: Punch-Up in Piestany (I'd never seen this video until a few days ago and I can't even tell you how many times I've watched it since then. I'm completely fascinated by it. If you've never seen it - or even if you have - you should check it out. Whoops. I guess this one is kind of hockey related. Oh, well.)
4. Gizmodo (Gotta keep up on my iPod rumors!)
5. Do They Have Salsa in China? (For a while we were talking about international adoption and I got hooked on this blog then.)

1. Jason Pominville signs a contract for 25/5.
2. Jason Pominville signs a contract for 25/5.
3. Jason Pominville signs a contract for 25/5.
4. Jason Pominville signs a contract for 25/5.
5. Jason Pominville signs a contract for 25/5.

You know what, here's the Punch-Up for those of you too lazy to follow a link. It's awesome.

I'm out! I'll see you when I see you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There Is Nothing To Blog About

Elma mentioned this in the comment section a couple of days ago and while I didn't respond to it - he was trying to distract me from my argument, I know it! - it did send me off to YouTube. I have nothing else to blog about so here, for your viewing enjoyment, is the only shootout that's ever mattered.

Look at that grin!

Oh, Hank. You're just full of surprises. Please come back soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If I Ruled the NHL...

So yeah, hockey. Remember that? Last off-season was a pretty wretched one to live through as a fan but as a blogger it was way better than this one. There was something to write about right up until the puck dropped the next season! I'm dying here, people.

Over at Puck Daddy (Kate accidentally called it Puck Bunny one day so now we always refer to it as that), Greg W. has been running a series where different people share 5 ways they'd change the NHL. So here, for your reading enjoyment, are my changes. Some of them are repeats of things that have already been said over there but hey, deal with it:

1. Extend overtime to 10 minutes and bring back the tie.
I can certainly understand not wanting to play marathon games during the regular season but five minutes of overtime isn't enough. Just as the teams are starting to create some pressure and get some good chances, the horn goes off and we move to a shootout which, by the way, sucks donkeys. If we're all agreed that the shootout isn't good enough to decide who wins a playoff game - and oh, sweet lord may that day never come - it's not good enough to help determine who gets into the playoffs in the first place. I admit, when I first started watching hockey I hated ties. Now I'm over it.

2. Shorten the regular season.
Do we really need 82 games? I could lose ten games, easy. There's always a stretch at the end of the regular season where I'm ready for the season to end and I love hockey. If we end the season sooner it cuts down on some of the grind on players and we can also start the playoffs sooner. Maybe the ice would be better for the most important games of the season and I would sure appreciate not having to sweat through my jersey in May and June. (To the wise guys out of town, no, it is not still snowing in Buffalo in June.)

3. Make player tees available for any player in the league.
If you go to the shop at you can order a player tee for any player on any team. If I want to order a Detroit Tigers tee that says VAN SLYKE 18 on the back, by golly, I can. I may be the only putz in the world wearing a jersey tee for a first base coach but hey, I'll be happy. It seems so simple that it kind of boggles my mind that you can't do the same for the NHL. Seriously? Is it that hard to iron on letters and numbers, NHL? One of the best things about sports, particularly hockey, is how those little role guys can steal your heart. If people out there want Andrew Peters' name and number on their back, God bless 'em, they should be able to get it and they should be able to get it without have to plunk down $200 for a jersey.

4. Lose the kicking motion rule and do something about the inconsistent officiating.
If the puck goes off a skate, it's not a goal. The end. I can't sit through another debate about whether the player used a kicking motion or was merely turning his skate to come to a stop. I'm convinced the same goal wouldn't be called the same way one night as it would be the next so it's time to lose the rule.

And please, call the game the same way in the third period as you do in the first, the same way at the end of the season as you do at the beginning, and the same way in the playoffs as you do in the regular season. I don't even care how you call it - blow the whistle for the slightest infraction, let everything go - I'd just like to know what to expect.


Tell the crowd in the arena why a goal review was called the way it was. The refs are already mic'd up. I don't need a lengthy explanation, just a simple, "Upon review it was ruled that the puck was gloved into the net." Sometimes it's obvious what's being looked at but sometimes you're stuck with no clue. On at least a couple of occasions last season I was trying to get a peek at the TVs in the press box to see if I could ascertain what the problem was.

5. Don't let people order jerseys with their own names on them.
Some people needed to be protected from themselves. You look stupid, people.

A couple of random Olympic thoughts:

Kate reminded me of something that I keep meaning to bring up. One of the things I dislike about the Olympics is that I think silver is far prettier than gold. I'd totally want a silver medal. (104th thing about me: My engagement ring and wedding band are platinum, not gold. I don't wear a lot of jewelry anyway - 105th thing about me! - but I don't own a single piece of gold jewelry.)

And regarding the judging controversy in the women's uneven bars, good grief, give it a rest, NBC. I personally don't understand why there can't be two of a certain medal awarded if gymnasts have the same final score, but everyone knew coming into the competition that there was a tie-breaker system and the explanation wasn't really that hard to follow. And while I understand that as an athlete it would be tough to not end up with the medal you feel you deserved, hello, THAT'S HOW GYMNASTICS WORKS! If you don't want a judge to have the final say-so on where you finish, well, I guess you should have become a swimmer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Getting Back in the Blogging Groove

I intended to blog today but I woke up with allergies from hell and unless they miraculously dissipate as the day goes on (which sometimes happens) I have a feeling I'm just going to curl up on the couch and watch some baseball. But I will hit you with a couple of quick things:

- Thank God the Michael Phelps show is over. Yes, he is amazing. Yes, he just accomplished a remarkable feat of endurance, strength and athletic ability. Yes, it's worth being celebrated. Unfortunately we've been celebrating it for the last week and a half to the point that now that Phelps has finally broken the record I really just want him to go away. Go away! Take your size 14 feet, your 6'7" wingspan, your freaky arm flap, your 20,000 calorie a day diet, your mic'd up mother and go away. (Seriously, do we need the replay of the race with Mrs. Phelps yelling, "Go, Jason! Go, Jason! Go, Jason!" She yells a lot and she wants her son/her son's team to win? Earth-shattering stuff.) I was annoyed when the NBC interview after the 4x100 relay skipped over Jason Lezak blowing through the anchor leg and focused on how MICHAEL PHELPS CAN STILL WIN 8 GOLDS! and WOW, ISN'T MICHAEL PHELPS A FANTASTIC CHEERLEADER! and I never quite recoverd.

- Also glad Dara Torres is done. NBC, Torres is not the first woman to ever have a baby and she's not even the first woman to have a baby and then compete in the Olympics. I know she's old but come on, give it a rest already.

- Over at Bfloblog Kevin posted his Sabres All-Time Team. I haven't been watching the team long enough to contribute but I've been reading and enjoying some of the debate in the comments section. I'm usually not a huge fan of people commenting while pretending to be someone else. I've noticed there's one particularly obnoxious guy who does that on Jerry Sullivan's blog and it drives me bonkers. It's no wonder Sullivan appears to hate blogging. But I have to give major props to the person responsible for this comment:

bucky g. Says:
August 17th, 2008 at 12:33 am

briere - drury - dumont
grier - drury - briere
dumont - briere - drury
drury - drury - drury

campbell - mckee
mckee - campbell
campbell - kalinin


That's funny!

- The Sabres just announced plans for Puck Drop 2008 which sounds pretty cool. Included at the link is this:

When the Sabres hit the ice for their first full practice of the season, fans will get their first look at the team’s new third jersey that will make its debut during the 2008-09 NHL season. The jersey features a modernization of the team’s vintage design elements, while incorporating the latest in sports uniform technology.

A modernization of the team's vintage? I'm scared. My guess is they're going to darken the blue so it matches the navy blue of the slug which is just a freakin' travesty. I'll hold out final judgment until I see the things but I am not optimistic.

- And finally I leave you with this video of the Toronto Maple Leafs off-season training (even Derek Roy is embarrassed by that dive at the 1:23 or so mark):

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Heather and Mark Do Buffalo: Our Lady of Victory Basilica

Again, without Mark. He's been dropped to a guest-starring role due to contract issues.

(But first! I was playing No Stress Chess with one my kids on Friday and when I made a move that took his rook and blocked the move he was planning, he called me a dirty knave. A dirty knave! A seven-year-old called me a dirty knave! I think that leap-frogged him over everyone else in the class as my favorite.)

Yesterday I made my annual visit to one of my very favorite places in the Buffalo area, the Our Lady of Victory Basilica. I'll hit you with some pictures and facts in a minute but first a very quick history lesson.

The Basilica was a dream of Monsignor Nelson Henry Baker. Father Baker was born in Buffalo in 1841 (he was one of the first students at nearby Canisius College) and worked in the area in various capacities before being appointed Superintendent of what would become Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity in Lackawanna, NY in 1882. The Homes of Charity would come to include an orphanage, an industrial school, a home for infants and unwed mothers, a maternity hospital and a protectory for young boys who were "inclined to truancy and willfulness." Even though Father Baker is no longer with us, his work with orphaned and abandoned children lives on today through Baker Victory Services which, among many other things, provides foster care, adoption programs, residential homes for troubled kids, and various counseling programs for children and families. BVS also runs a few different school programs including the one I work for so it's pretty near and dear to my heart.

At age 79, Father Baker announced that he wanted to build a church that would rival any church in the country, a tribute to the Blessed Mother who he felt had provided him with so much through the years. Father Baker hadn't set aside any money for the building but he had faith that it would be provided. And it was. When the church opened in 1926 the cost of $3.2 million - a whole lot of money back then - had been paid in full through donations from around the country.

The building I work in is right down the street from the Basilica so I drive past it at least a couple of times a day. A few years ago, I found myself really drawn there on the last day of school. I have no idea why. I'd been inside it a few times with kids but I'd never been down there by myself. The kids have always been remarkably well-behaved there but when I take them in I do spend most of my time making sure they're not climbing on altars or tipping statues - that would be bad - so I'd never really examined it closely.

Anyway, it turned out to be just what I needed on that particular day. It had been a tough year with a group of kids - the only one so far, thankfully - that I'd really struggled to like at times and never felt as attached to as my previous classes. It was also a year where I really struggled to leave work at work because the kids were in some seriously messed up situations. Over the past few years I've gotten better at realizing I can only worry about the seven hours I have the kids at school and have to let go of the things I can't control but that wasn't always easy to do. The half hour or so I spent wandering around the Basilica that afternoon was like a balm to my sad, beat-up soul. Since then I've made it a tradition to stop in on the last day of summer school and take a stroll through the church and the surrounding garden, think about the previous year (trying to focus on the good stuff), and say some prayers for all the kids I worked with that year and any other kids that come to mind, current students or past ones. It's my way of putting my kids in the hands of someone who actually can help them while also decompressing before I head off to vacation and then the new school year. I'm not Catholic so I don't get everything in the church - I don't recognize all the various saints and some of the Mary stuff seems a little intense since she's not as revered in the Protestant religion (though obviously important) - but I did grow up Christian and I don't know, I find being in a church a really peaceful, comfortable thing.

All right I'm done navel-gazing. On with the pictures! I didn't re-size any of the photos so if you want to see more detail you can click on the image to get a full-size version.

The view from the front.

And the view from the back.

When the Basilica was built, the dome was the second largest in the U.S. Only the Capitol Builiding's was larger. It's made of copper and over the years the weather has dulled it to its greenish hue which is the same weathering process the Statue of Liberty has experienced. The two spires you can see in the front were originally taller but they were damaged during a lightning storm in 1941 and shortened when rebuilt to avoid any future problems.

Father Baker once said, "There are thousands of angels in the Basilica." Estimates place the number at somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 but no two counts have ever resulted in the same number. Father Baker's plan was to have at least one angel in every possible sight line in the church. This one was outside in the little garden off to the side.

My favorite parts of the church are the statues on top of the two colonnades in the front. They both show a group of children with an angel hovering over them. On one of them, the children are huddled around a nun which was done in tribute to the order that worked for OLV during Father Baker's tenure and still works in certain areas of OLV today. On the other statute, the children are huddled around Father Baker himself. That statue was ordered and sculpted by Father Baker's assistants and the primary architect and the first time Father Baker saw it, it has been installed on the church. He was really upset and embarrassed about being singled out from the other people who worked with him and he insisted that it be taken down. After a lot of heated debated he finally relented and it's still there today. I really like those statutes because it's a great reflection how important helping children in need was and is to OLV/BVS.

Here's the front entryway. The picture didn't completely capture it but the way the light was falling through the windows was really beautiful.

And here's your first look at the church when you enter from the main doors at the back. The lighting is pretty dark and I just had my automatic camera with me - not that it would've mattered since I've pretty much forgotten everything I ever learned about f-stops and shutter speeds - so the quality of some of the interior pictures isn't great.

The architecture includes 46 different kinds of marble and the pews are made of African mahogany.

This is my favorite corner on the inside of the church. The grotto is cut out of lava rock from Mount Vesuvius in Italy. Father Baker used it to honor the vision of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, France. I don't really know what that means since I have no idea who St. Bernadette is and I know Lourdes as the daughter of Madonna the singer but I really, really like the way the lava rock looks. Oh, the casket at the bottom of the first picture contains the remains of Father Baker.

This is the underside of the dome. It's 80 feet in diameter and 120 feet from the floor. The theme is the Assumption and Coronation of Mary. Around the edge, the 12 apostles and three archangels are shown and another angel carries Mary to heaven. (I admit, I'd really never examined it that closely. I got all that info from the Basilica's online tour.) This is the one part of the church that every kid I've ever taken in there goes crazy about. A few years ago I had one kid who literally lay on the floor of the middle aisle and stared up at it for a good five minutes before he finally said, in awe, "HOW did they DO that?"

All right, this is getting long so let me just hit you with a few more pictures.

Oooh, preeetty.

That's the pipe organ in the back.

The Basilica is open to the public free of charge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m every day. They also offer tours between 1 and 3 on Sundays. I've never taken one but I've heard the woman who does most of them does a wonderful job.

(Coming up next: A post about hockey! Really!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Wanna Be Kate! Kate! Kate! Kate!

Please open this link in another tab or window, turn up your speakers, and listen to it while you read the following. It's the mood-setter:

I love the Buffalo blogosphere. I do. I think it's full of cool people who write really good blogs. Funny, smart, and insightful blogs. We got it all somewhere, folks. I think we also mostly like each other and support each other which is really nice. We're like a little family. I want people to read my blog but I also want people to read Bfloblog, and the Goose's Roost, and Shots Off the Crossbar etc. etc. That said, I'm not going to lie, I have a special little place in my heart for one Sabres blog out there. If Kevin is the cool dad, always there to hang out or offer support and the Roost guys are the goofy little brothers that you can't help but love even when you want to (affectionately) punch them in the head a little then Katebits is my really cool twin sister.

Kate and I entered the hockey blogosphere around the same time. She started reading and commenting on blogs about the time I started Top Shelf - I believe she was one of my first commenters - and I had the pleasure of being around while she was in the planning stages of the Willful Caboose which is, as you all know, a totally kickin' blog. If you just read my blog, you're missing out on some things. If you just read the Willful Caboose, you're missing out on some things. But if you read BOTH blogs, I think you have a pretty complete picture and that's kind of how I think of Kate and me in general. Separately we both have holes in our knowledge, small (very small) weaknesses, blind spots. Together? Well, it's just a matter of time before we take over the Buffalo media because we're awesome. Consider that your warning, Buffalo. In addition to being an awesome blogger, Kate's just a really cool chick. She's smart and funny and a lot of fun to hang out with. As the song says, when she smiles it's a rainbow and you can see daisies in her footsteps. No, it's true!

The reason I bring this up now is because it was one year ago today that the Willful Caboose officially entered the world. I remember the shift in the interwebs like it was yesterday. Things will never be the same and that's a good thing. I think. I'm pretty sure. So here's a hearty "Happy anniversary!" to Kate and a boisterous, "Let's go Buff-a-lo!" to everyone who makes the Buffalo blogosphere what it is. And yes, that includes you.

I wanna be Kate!

Disclaimer: I picked the song "Kate" to accompany this post for obvious reasons but I have never seen Katebits smoke pot. Just so we're clear.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Top Shelf Programming Note and Other Things

A word of warning: Things might be fairly quiet around here for the next few weeks. I'm sure I'll pop in here and there - I'm pretty incapable of not getting on the internet unless someone kills our connection and even then I have my ways - but I suspect it'll be irregular at best.

This coming week is the last week of summer school and while that is definitely a good thing, there's a reason some of us refer to it as Hell Week. The kids are totally off the wall. They're partly excited about getting out of school. Most of their friends and siblings haven't been in school all summer so they're not very happy about those six weeks of summer school. But they're also partly nervous about being at home for two weeks. It's unfortunate but many of them will go home and get no attention - or very negative attention - until school starts back up. And then at this point of the year there are a number of kids who are moving to new classes in September or changing programs altogether and both of these things cause a lot of stress for our kids. Take a bunch of kids who have a hard time recognizing and identifying their emotions and don't always cope with them in the best way and pour a ton of conflicting emotions on them and you have a lot of acting out. A lot of acting out equals tired staff. A lot of acting out with five days till break equals VERY tired staff. We're going to be walking around all week, hands raised and fingers wiggling, yelling, "SERENITY NOW!" Survival is the name of the game.

The following week we'll hopefully be moving into the house. We had a bit of a snafu that made it look for a while like the deal was going to fall apart but we got it all straightened out (and actually ended up paying less so we're not complaining) but it's slowed everything down. Mark called our realtor this week to remind me him that hey, you know, we have NO PLACE TO LIVE once August is over so we're still hoping that everything will pull together so we can move some time over the course of that week. We'll be moving at least all of the small stuff ourselves so I'm going to be making quite a few car trips from the Southtowns to the Northtowns.

The week after that I'll be driving around Pennsylvania with the family. My mom and two of my brothers are flying into Buffalo and we'll then drive to Pittsburgh and pick up my grandmother and my other brother and his family who are coming in from Florida before heading out to Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Hershey and back to Pittsburgh. And maybe Lancaster. I forget if that got dropped or not. I'm totally stoked because it'll be the first time in almost two years that all of my family has been together. My mom, Grandma, and I have done some variation of this trip for quite a few years now but Lee and Chris, the two who still live in Birmingham, have taken turns coming up and John and Sarah haven't joined us since before they got married. And that was before Luke, the world's cutest nephew, joined the team. However, since we'll be on the road for a lot of the trip, I don't know how often I'll have a wireless signal although I will have the laptop with me.

So all that to say, if it's quiet around here for a while, don't forget me. I'll be back. And that's if I actually go away in the first place.

A few quick thoughts before I call it a night:

- I'm super happy that Teppo Numminen has officially re-signed and I think $1.1 million is a great deal for him even if he does end up being a 7th man who takes a night off every few games. (Though I'm totally fine with him being in the top six too.) I'm not sure how that means the rest of the defense shakes out. I'm guessing Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Jaroslav Spacek, Craig Rivet, Teppo and Andrej Sekera start the season in the top six with Nathan Paetsch acting as the 7th. I'd really, really like to see Mike Weber playing up with Sekera since I think Sekera played his best hockey last season when Weber was up with him, but I'm just not sure there's room and Weber is definitely better off playing every night in Portland than sitting in the press box in Buffalo. Plus I think Teppo will be a wonderful partner for Sekera on and off the ice. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Sabres missed Teppo desperately last season and his loss might have been the death knell of the season. The kids came into camp girded for the season without Chris Drury and Daniel Briere but they fully expected Teppo to be with them. Losing him so unexpectedly, right before the season, for such serious reasons had to have an effect. I love Teppo.

- All that said, I think Hank and Toni are the key to the defense. If they struggle the way they did last season, the whole group is going to struggle. If they return to previous form, the defense should be very solid if unspectacular. Hopefully Teppo can soothe their nerves and frustration when they don't play well. And hopefully the don't need that very often.

- Another reason Mike Harrington is the best guy at the Buffalo News? Check out that headline on his post about Teppo's return. I have a soft spot for punny/jokey headlines to begin with but a headline that's also a Seinfeld shout-out? Awesome.

- Speaking of Sabres Edge, on Thursday Bucky Gleason writes about how he thinks it's a terrible idea to re-sign Teppo. On Friday the Sabres announce that they've re-signed Teppo. I'm pretty sure Darcy Regier and co. held out all these weeks, waiting for Bucky to go on the record about this. Of course, in my world, everyone does everything to spite Bucky.

- While we're on the subject of TBN, the one sports blog I never, ever read unless someone points me there is Jerry Sullivan's blog. I don't think Jerry Sullivan likes blogs. I don't think he likes people who write blogs. I don't think he likes people who read blogs. I don't think he understands blogs at all. How he ended up with a blog of his very own is a mystery to me. I'd rather read the opinion of pretty much everyone else in the sports department. But I knew he was going to Beijing to cover the Olympics and I was pretty curious to see how often he would blog from there so I've been keeping one eye on things and you know, he's done a pretty good job so far. He's updated often and he's shared some really interesting things. And kudos to him for coming out in support of softball which, despite what anyone says about the lack of competition, got voted out of the Games because of an unfair association with baseball and its steroid scandal. It's a shame because the Olympics are pretty much the height of a softball career. Little boys who grow up playing baseball dream of playing in the Majors. Little girls who grow up playing softball dream of playing for Team USA. Hopefully the push for reinstatement is successful. Anyway, if you're a fan of the Olympics I'd check out Sullivan's blog. I'd get out as soon as they're over though.

- I was all geared up to watch the Cubs on Fox this afternoon so I was pretty disappointed to find the friggin' Yankees. I understand that I'm in the minority in the Buffalo market but just once I would like to get a national game that doesn't involve the Yankees or the Red Sox. Is that too much to ask? Really? It was shortly after that that I discovered the Ultimate Sports Road Trip's tribute to Yankee Stadium. Beautiful. In this case, a picture really does say a thousand words.

- So I have a steel plate on the outside bone of my ankle, I don't know, 3 or so inches long. When I first went back to work, people asked me if I could feel it when it rains. The last time we got a lot of rain it was hard to tell because my ankle was still hurting a lot, especially at the end of the work day. Well, now I can tell you definitely, yes, I can feel it in my ankle when it rains. Sometimes it really hurts, sometimes it doesn't hurt so much as I'm just really, really conscious of the plate's presence. I feel like a robot.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hey, Remember Hockey?

So I've had a complaint that my blog has been suffering in quality lately and a request for something that doesn't involve a guy pretending he's a major league baseball player. Even though there's absolutely nothing worth talking about going on in the hockey world right now, I'm going to attempt to make this whiny concerned husband reader happy.

Last summer I wrote a series of posts called Why I Love Hockey which were all about uh, why I love hockey. If you're ever bored, they're all tagged with "Why I Love Hockey," and some of them are some of my favorite things I've written here. When I check my blog stats, the popular posts of course fluctuate a lot, but one that's almost always in the top five is the post I wrote for that series about Lindy Ruff.

But when I sat down and made a list of things that I loved about hockey, there were some things that weren't really meaty enough to get a whole post out of so I put them to the side and forgot about them. Until now! So here are some quick, short reasons I love hockey to take you into the weekend:

Stick tapping. Stick tapping is awesome. When guys tap their sticks for a good fight or play, it always makes me smile and when guys tap their sticks in some kind of tribute it always, always makes me tear up. One of the most touching things in sports.

Players head-butting the goalie after a win.

Fun, melodious foreign names that just roll off your tongue. I always call Saku Koivu by his full name just because I like saying it.

First career goals.

Goal celebrations where the teammate looks even happier than the guy who scored the goal.

Goals by defensive defensemen. Hank and Toni's annual goals make me happy no matter how the rest of the game went.

Toni scored! TONI SCORED!

Goals by Andrew Peters. It's crazy but when he does score, it's usually a pretty darn nice goal.

The traditional team photo with the Stanley Cup and how it looks exactly like a photo a kids' team would take with everyone piled on top of each other, ear-to-ear grins and pointer fingers raised.

Preseason practices. Everyone's happy to see each other and a whole new season is in front of us.

Teammates fishing pucks out of the net for a teammate who just scored a monumental goal of some sort.

Ryan Miller's half circle spin as he leaves the ice.

Traditional markets griping about non-traditional markets and non-traditional markets griping about traditional markets.

Doug Allen singing the anthems. I hate when it's not Doug Allen.

Skaters kicking the puck to their sticks.

Photos of guys leaning over so far they're on the sides of their skate blades.

Car horns honking "HONK! HONK! HONKHONKHONK!" across Buffalo after a big win. Back when we didn't have a car we had to leave a game as it was going into overtime or we'd miss the last bus to Hamburg. But we knew what the outcome was as soon as the horns started up.

Stupid puckbunny signs and Stanley Cups made out of aluminum foil.

Come from behind wins.

Backhand shots for goals.

Slap shots in the shootout.

The mind meld of a large crowd that boos, cheers, oohs and ahhhs together.

Hope that this is the year even when that hope is misplaced.

Hope that this is the year especially when that hope is misplaced.

(Have a great weekend.)

Seriously, I'm REALLY Bored

Another video link. It's the lazy blogger's way.

Mark sent me to the Bills website to watch a video of Paul Posluszny doing an interview while wearing a backpack - I don't know, I think that's cute - but instead I found this totally adorable interview of Poz being interviewed by a nine-year-old fan. It really must be watched. (If the link doesn't take you to the right video just click on the video labeled "Junior Bills Backer Interviews Posluszny.") As someone who works with kids I think it's pretty obvious when someone is comfortable with children or not and Poz is a charmer here. Man.

(I'm in no way suggesting that there's something wrong with people who aren't comfortable with kids. I get that that's not everyone's thing and that's probably particularly true of young athletes who don't have kids of their own and might not have been around them a lot. My Safety is Harvard featured this hilarious picture of Derek Roy holding a baby a while back and it suggests that Derek has not held very many babies in his young life. Even the kid is like, "Who is this yahoo?")

So yeah... Poz is cool.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Told You I Was Bored

One of my favorite random, goofy things on the internet is Batting Stance Guy. BSG is, as you might have surmised from the name, a guy who's really good at mimicking baseball players' batting stances and swings. Some of them are a little over exaggerated but they're crazy accurate. Well, glory days are here again, and BSG has finally gotten around to the Pirates. Probably three people will actually watch this but I'm posting it anyway. You'd probably miss it if you're not looking for it but at the beginning of his Andy Van Slyke he shrugs his shoulders and gives the sleeve of his front shoulder a little tug. I do that to this day when I step in to hit, even if it's just gym class. I'm sure it started out as a direct copy of Andy but it eventually worked its way into my routine and now I don't even think about it. (If the video screws up your screen please let me know. I got a couple of complaints the last time I embedded a YouTube video. Which yeah, isn't stopping me from attempting it again. I'm such a good blogger.)

Seriously, When Does the Season Start? I'm Really Bored.

A few days ago Pookie sent me a link to USA Hockey Magazine's list of the best blogs on the internet. Yesterday Mirtle posted a link to the list and the accompanying article and since I'm bored and there's nothing else going on, I'm going to give you my take. Here's a link to just the blog list if you're not interested in the article. (Click on the image to enlarge it enough to read it.) I have a few immediate reactions:

1. Hockeybuzz? Really? I can't think of another blog out there that would make me take a list less seriously than Hockeybuzz. Hockeybuzz has, in my opinion, probably done more damage to hockey bloggers than just about any other site. Are there some talented people writing over there? I don't know, maybe. All I can tell you for sure is that Garth, the Sabres blogger, can't punctuate, can't write a complete sentence, and clearly doesn't know how to use spell-check and Eklund is a douchebag who lets real journalists do all the work and then pretends he got the information from an inside source. At least when I steal an idea or tidbit from someone, I give them credit and a link. I know tons of people read Hockeybuzz but popular does not equal quality.

2. I'm really disappointed at how many of the blogs on the list are written by professionals. I have nothing against professionals writing blogs - I read a few pretty regularly including, of course, Sabres Edge (Bucky seems to be in charge right now though so if you follow the link, don't say I didn't warn you) - but I don't know, when I think of sports blogs I think of passionate and yes, subjective fans. After reading the accompanying article I'm even more perplexed by the lack of fan written blogs because the article really focuses on how blogs have become the voice of the fan and are often written by amateurs. Although it does talk about how the popularity of blogs has forced traditional media to change its way of working so maybe I'm in the minority on still thinking of blogs as the home of the obsessed fan.

3. Ted's Take is not a great blog. I think it's wonderful that Ted Leonsis is so enthusiastic about the Capitals and I think it's wonderful that he goes out of his way to interact with fans but his blog is basically links to articles with comments like, "I really like this one!" or "I'm not sure I agree with this one!" I certainly wouldn't call it "a rare and honest view from inside the front office." It's nice. It's fine. It's not great. If it were written by anyone else, no one would read it.

4. I suppose you could come up with a more underwhelming list of blogs to recommend to blog newbies but I don't know. But don't mind me. I'm mostly just annoyed that I don't actually read most of the blogs on this list and don't enjoy some of the ones I have read. I'm sure it's all a matter of opinion. I'm a blogger, that's what we do.

A better list? Terry Frei's ranking of NHL coaches that puts Lindy Ruff in the elite category as one of the four best coaches in the league. That's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Heather Rambles About Her Job and the Olympics - But Not At the Same Time

So this has been a tough summer. I love, love, love my new class but they are a handful to say the least. They're all very explosive - it comes hard and it comes fast - and they're all runners. I've becoming very familiar with the layout of our building and the best spots to corner someone. I think the adjustment has gone very well considering I've only been in the room for four and a half weeks but they definitely keep me on my toes.

I've taken a particular liking to one of the kids. He's probably the most challenging. He lived the first part of his nine-year-old life in a very violent, abusive situation and it shows because he blows very quickly and he gets very aggressive. Twice this summer we've had to pull the other kids out of the room while he completely trashed it - kicking over chairs, flipping desks, throwing papers and pencils around the room. When he lifted the teacher's computer monitor over his head we finally escorted him out (whether it should have gone that far first is up for debate) and let me tell you, putting your hands on a kid who's already flipping out? Not that enjoyable. He's got a good heart - as most of them do - and he's really funny but he's a tough-talking little guy who already has way more walls up than any kid should.

But today kiddo had a great day. There was a point when it became clear he was starting to escalate - the body languate, the face, the pacing - and when I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk and take a break from what he was doing, he actually agreed which is a very big deal for him. He took my hand and we took a little stroll around the building so he could have a few minutes to chill out which he did pretty quickly. Right before we went back in the room I stopped him, put an arm around him and pulled him toward me and said, "Hey, bud, I'm really proud of you for taking a break before you got too upset. That was exactly the right way to handle things," and then I gave him a soft little head-butt on the side of his head - he's tall so his head is not too much lower than mine when we're standing side-by-side. He pulled back and said, totally shocked, "Did you just kiss me?!" I said, "No, I head-butted you, you goof." And he said, "Oh, okay..." and then added, a little more softly, "But you can if you want to." These kids, I'm telling you, they break my heart in good and bad ways all at once.

And now back to your regularly scheduled sporting news...

For a few months now people have been telling me how we're really lucky that part of this hockey off-season is going to be filled by the wonder and spectacle of the Olympics. Too bad I hate the wonder and spectacle of the Olympics.

I hate the pomp and circumstance of the Opening Ceremonies. It's fifteen hours of people walking around in stupid outfits. I hate the commercialism of things like the USA's official candy bar and the USA's official fast food sponsor. Please. Most of these Olympians have probably never sniffed a Snickers bar or a bag of McDonald's fries. I hate watching people run in circles around a track that leads nowhere. I hate listening to people go on and on about the beautiful swimmers in their stupid little suits. I hate watching puberty starved little girls flip around on mats and experience the peak of their careers at 14. I hate being told to care about sports where the winner is based on the subjective opinion of a judge. If I can't watch an event and know who the winner is, I don't care. I hate teams consisting of professional athletes who couldn't give a rat's ass about playing for their country pretend like they do.* I hate softball being tossed out of the Olympics with baseball for no good reason at all. I hate weeks of endless stories everywhere about something I'm not that interested in. It's impossible for me to avoid the Olympics because they'll be all over every single channel for the next forever and a day. I hate the manufactured drama of the Olympics. I hate that the networks decide weeks ahead of time who the stories are going to be. I do love when it doesn't quite work out the way everyone planned - see Dan and Dave, 1992. I hate the blown-up pageantry when it's usually a small moment that everyone remembers later. Dan and Dave were a bust in 1992 but who doesn't remember Derek Redmond's father running out of the stands to help his injured son finish his race? That's the kind of moment you can't manufacture and I hate that the bombast threatens to overwhelm things like that. I hate "inspirational" stories about kids who have grown up on the other side of the country from their families in order to pursue an Olympic dream. I don't care. Does that make me a bad person? I still don't care.

So in conclusion, I hate the Olympics.

You know what I do love a little bit though? Badminton. But that's it.

* - I'll exclude hockey players since I think playing on the national team is still a big deal for a lot of them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

If I Were In Charge

If the Sports Gods told me I had the power to do one thing, I would put Mats Sundin and Brett Favre in a plane and crash it into the snowy wild so I never have to hear their names again. They could survive on bears and fish and I could go on with the rest of my life.

Free at last! Free at last!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Heather and Mark Do Buffalo: BPO at Artpark

This time with less Mark!

So yes, I am aware that Artpark is technically not in Buffalo. However I went to see the BPO and the B stands for Buffalo so I'm counting it.

Mark was lukewarm when I first mentioned the idea of going to see the BPO perform. He seemed to perk up just a tad when I said I wanted to go to the Salute to John Williams, but ultimately he decided he wasn't really interested and I didn't push that hard. I would much rather go by myself and enjoy it than take someone who doesn't really want to be there. Anyone who was paying attention to my 100 Things will recall that I don't mind going places alone and I love a good road trip. Artpark is around 45 minutes or so away so it's not like it's on the other side of the world but still, once everything was settled I was kind of excited about having a few hours out to myself.

The best part of going without Mark? No one telling me what to listen to and how loud to listen to it. I have my favorite songs and then I have my favorite driving songs. Driving calls for a very specific music, I feel. I find that I listen to a lot of country music while driving and that's what started me off today.

Now it's guitars, Cadillacs, hillybilly music...

Artpark is in the same area as Niagara University where we went just a few weeks ago for Sabres prospect camp but I wasn't really paying attention to where we were going so I was a little bit nervous about missing the entrance to the I-190 but I managed okay. (I drove to NU but unlike some people, I think I pay even less attention when I'm driving. I figure, I'm driving. Someone else can tell me how to get there. Just ask Patty and Meg. We never would've made it to Ottawa if I'd had to direct us. I went to pick the two of them up, we loaded everyone's luggage, got in the car and buckled our seatbelts and then I said, "So... who knows where we're going?")

Here I am on the road. And yes, I did take this photo while driving. I'm a danger to myself and everyone around me.

I noticed this sign on the way to NU and it's probably my very favorite road sign ever. I'm assuming it means there's some kind of information center off the exit but I like to think of it as Mystery Exit. Wanna know what's off this exit? It's a surprise! You have to get off to find out!

Fortunately everything was very well marked. Lewiston has its crap together. You couldn't not find Artpark if you wanted to. At every intersection there's a sign pointing the way. I know an NHL franchise that could take some lessons, Ottawa.

I arrived an hour or so early. The first thing I did was pick up my tickets. Any time I have to pick something up at will call I'm paranoid there's going to be some confusion and if I was going to have to call Kate - who was kind enough to hook me up with the tickets - I wanted to do it you know, before she was on stage. No problems though. Everything was as it should be.

I could've sold my spare but it says right there on the ticket that I paid $0.00 for them.

Since I had a little bit of time to kill yet, I walked around. I didn't have a watch on (101st thing about me: I never wear a watch because I hate the way they feel) so I didn't want to wander too far, but I did walk across the picnic area. If you peeked through the bushes, you could just get a glimpse of the water below.

There was a trail nearby that didn't look like too much work - some of the walkways were pretty steep and I don't quite trust my ankle to stop me yet particularly after a week of chasing small children around the building - so I decided to give it a whirl. I was extra delighted to find stairs!

Ah, nature as God intended it!

Once I got down to the shore there wasn't a whole lot of room to wander but it was very pretty. I particularly liked the little church tucked in the hill on the other side of the water. One fella down there told me it was Canada, but I have no idea if that's true or not since I stink at geography. We'll go with it.

O, Canada!

I stopped halfway up the stairs to take this one but not because I was exhausted or anything.

Since I wasn't sure what time it was, I decided to grab a bottle of water (a fairly reasonable $2) and head toward the stage. I couldn't make heads or tails of the seating chart or the directions on the tickets but the very helpful elderly volunteers pointed me on my way. After crawling over the guy who refused to move his legs, I settled in, ready for the show to begin. Unfortunately, I was early enough to listen to the three people behind me prattle on about John Williams and how COMMON DENOMINATOR he is and how it figures that such a good crowd would come out to listen to MOVIE THEMES and how the BPO didn't have NEARLY enough BRASS for his songs but had way TOO MANY DOUBLE BASSES and good lord, give me a break, you freakin' douchebags. Why exactly are you here? Did someone force you here at gunpoint? No? Then quit acting like you're better than everyone else there. I have no idea what the quality of John Williams' music is as far as the writing and performing of it goes but I think you have to give the guy a little credit for writing so many pieces of music that are instantly recognizable to 98% of the population and take people back to certain times and places in their lives and don't think I didn't hear you humming along and begging for the theme song to Jurassic Park, DOUCHEBAG!


Can you spot the Sabres blogger?

The first portion of the show consisted of the overture from The Cowboys, Adventures on Earth (the E.T. theme), Harry's Wondrous World from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, theme from Schindler's List, and a Star Wars medley. I wasn't familiar with The Cowboys - I hate John Wayne outside of Rio Bravo - but it was a good piece as was all this other stuff. Theoretically the piece from Schindler's List probably should have been the most moving - the solo violinist was absolutely beautiful to watch and listen to - but it was the E.T. theme that really got me feeling all fuzzy and teary which really surprised me since I wouldn't say it's one of my very favorite movies. But I just got that image of Elliott and E.T. taking flight past the moon and it hit me right there. Until the bug flew up my left nostril. The dangers of outdoor concerts, people. It kind of killed the moment.

For the Star Wars medley, a little outer space background dropped down behind the BPO. I get what they were going for but it seemed a little random since they didn't do that for anything else. Still... Star Wars! Anyone who pays attention here knows I love me some Star Wars. It was quite a kick watching the percussionists bounce all around from place to place and they, along with the brass section, got a well-deserved hand when the medley ended. (One of my favorite things was how when the string musicians applaud someone else they wave their bows up and down in the air in front of them. It's like the orchestra equivalent of tapping your stick on the ice.) But dude, what kind of Star Wars medley doesn't feature the Imperial March. That is just wrong.

Since we're talking about the brass section, for those of you who feel the only place to find good-looking, talented men is on the ice or playing field, well you could not be more wrong! Allow me to introduce you to my OrchestraSquee, Jonathan "Mr. July" Lombardo. Jonathan is the principal trombonist so he must be good and ladies, he's pretty cute.

The one that started it all, Mr. July, courtesy of Kate.

Just one more reason to support the BPO!

During the intermission I made a quick trip to the bathroom and I have a bone to pick with the public restrooms of the world. Can we please stop with the sinks that spurt water for a couple of seconds and then shut themselves off? Are you saving money on water? I don't know, maybe. BUT I CAN'T WASH MY HANDS CORRECTLY! THAT REQUIRES RUNNING WATER AND THE ABILITY TO PUT BOTH HANDS UNDER THE STREAM OF WATER AT THE SAME TIME INSTEAD OF HAVING TO KEEP ONE HAND ON THE FAUCET SO THE WATER DOESN'T STOP! I hate those friggin' sinks.

I took a quick walk up to the lawn seats and I actually considered watching the second half of the concert up there. It looked very comfortable and it was a beautiful day. I kind of loved the idea of lying back on the grass, closing my eyes, and listening to the music. I wasn't sure how the sound carried back there though so I decided not to. Maybe another time.

The second half of the performance consisted of the following pieces: Call of the Champions (the Olympic Fanfare for the 2002 Winter Games), Escapades From the Film Catch Me If You Can, March From Superman, Hymn to the Fallen from the film Saving Private Ryan, Dry Your Tears Afrika from the film Amistad, and Duel of the Fates from the film Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I wasn't a huge fan of the Catch Me If You Can stuff. The trio of instrumentalists featured on it were all very good, particularly the saxophonist but I'm just not into that jazzy stuff. And I was really disappointed in the Olympic Fanfare just because it was totally not the Fanfare I was expecting. I have to admit, I didn't recognize this imitation piece at all. But Superman is probably my favorite main theme John Williams has done. That was the one where I really had to be careful that I wasn't humming too loudly because when this pops up on my iPod I go nuts with all the bum-bumbumbumbum-BUM-bum-bum bum-bumbumbumbum-BUMbumbum! I kept it reined in though, I promise.

And I'm so glad they did Duel of the Fates separately from the Star Wars medley because it's one of my very favorites. Make no mistake, The Phantom Menace pretty much blows chunks. I can't even really watch it for Ewan McGregor because his hair looks so stupid in it. Mark and I have seriously debated what order to show our kids the series - Episodes 4-6 and then Episodes 1-3 like we saw them or Episodes 1-6 - and I firmly believe it should be the former just because The Phantom Menace shouldn't be anyone's introduction to the Star Wars universe. But Duel of the Fates with the quick, bouncy, building beats and the kick-ass choral part (which was performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus) is pretty awesome. If Mark had been there, this is the part where he would've swatted me (lovingly) upside the head because no song makes me air conduct like this one. I did try to keep the flailing to a minimum but I don't know if I was entirely successful.

I admit, when I first looked at the program I said to myself (102nd thing about me: I talk to myself, often and aloud), "No Indiana Jones? What's up with that, BPO?" so I was delighted when we got a piece from Raiders of the Lost Ark as an encore. When it moved from the main theme to the love theme the douchebag behind me insisted - repeatedly and loudly - that it was from Star Wars and the BPO was mixing movies, but he was wrong. It does admittedly start a little bit like Han Solo and the Princess (from The Empire Strikes Back) but it's called Marion's Theme and it's from Raiders, smart guy.

And with a little more applause - there is a lot of applauding at a BPO show, you guys, because people are endlessly standing up and taking bows - the show was really over. I quickly found my car in the now packed parking lot - I'm telling you, it pays to leave the Sabres flag on your car after everyone else has taken theirs down - and headed home, another Buffalo experience complete.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Odds and Ends

Well, that was one of the toughest weeks I've had at work in a long time. But I am very happy to say that it at least ended well. Nothing seemed to work Monday through Thursday and suddenly things started coming together again on Friday. I think the kids were as relieved as I was. Four weeks of summer school down, two to go! And most importantly, we're officially one month closer to hockey season!

Here are some odds and ends:

- Speaking of hockey season, one of the bright spots of this week was getting our mini-pack order form in the mail. Woo-hoo! It never fails to make me laugh to read that we can order up to 40 games. That's the least mini mini-pack I've ever seen. After much discussion - if by discussion you mean, "Heather went through, picked some really expensive games and insisted we were attending them and then Mark rolled his eyes, muttered something about bankruptcy and then picked a bunch of cheap games" - here's what we came up with:

Friday 10/10 vs. Montreal - For a couple of years now I've said we should go to opening night but this year we finally are. I think it's the ideal situation. Fans will be excited, no player can be considered disappointing, and no one can complain that the team is underachieving. Yet. Once this game is over, everyone's fair game.

Wednesday 11/12 vs. St. Louis - Value game plus Jay McKee.

Monday 12/1 vs. Nashville - Value game plus JP Dumont. Also, as much as I hate Nashville - I don't think we've escaped a game against them without injury yet - our games usually are pretty fun to watch.

February 2/13 vs. San Jose - I was really disappointed that we played the Sharks in San Jose last season so I'm all over this one. Now that San Jose is once again a Brian Campbell-free zone, I can go back to rooting for Joe Thornton.

Saturday 3/14 vs. Atlanta - Atlanta is a silver game? Really? Still, Mark really wanted to hit up a Saturday game and this one worked out the best.

Monday 4/6 vs. Detroit - I don't particularly care about seeing Anaheim but I'm all over Detroit. I was really disappointed I didn't get to see them last season (although I think Nicklas Lidstrom ended up missing that game anyway which is why I really wanted to go) so I'm glad they're back here this season.

So if you're in the building for any of those games and you see a guy in a Stafford jersey and a girl in a Tallinder jersey, both wearing glasses, feel free to say hello.

I just have to say again, how amazing it is to me to look at that list of professional sporting events and know I'm going to be attending them. For a girl who grew up with AA baseball, it's still all very exciting. Every season or two we'd take a road trip to catch a Braves game, usually when the Pirates were in town, and it was such a huge deal. I'd be excited for weeks in anticipation and I still remember walking from wherever we parked - which felt MILES away - to Fulton County Stadium. The novelty of having a pro sports team I love right in my backyard hasn't worn off yet and I hope it never does. And this list doesn't even include the four or so games I'll go to with my group of girls and the couple of games Kate and I are hoping to attend together. October is soon, right?

- Margee, proprietor of SportSquee, took all the top ten lists she received (mine's here if you missed it) and tallied the total votes to create an authoritative Hockey SportSquee list. I feel like the whole list is invalidated by the presence of Alexander Ovechkin. The kid is super talented and I can understand how liking (or not liking) a guy's game can make him more or less attractive but I'm not sure anyone is that talented. Far be it from me to call someone funny-looking but... yeah. Also joining Ovechkin on the "What the Hell?" portion of the list are Jason Spezza, Eric "I Look Like a Serial Killer" Staal, Jordan "I'm Really Good-Looking If You Compare Me to My Serial Killer Brother" Stall, and Ryan Getzlaf. On the "Attractive But Not Top Ten" list are Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Mike Richards, and Rick Nash. And finally, the "O-VER-RATE-D :::clap, clap, clapclapclap:::" group, Rick DiPietro, Carey Price, and Vincent Lecavalier. And please don't comment or email that I just haven't been lucky enough to see this picture of Vinny because guys, that picture is creepy as heck. The only guy on the final SportSquee list who I can fully endorse is Mike Komisarek.

- I feel like everywhere I turn I'm being told I should like the Chicago Blackhawks. Well, guess what. I REFUSE the Chicago Blackhawks. Would I like Patrick Kane to play well? Sure, why not? Who doesn't want the local boy to look good? Do I feel an overwhelming desire to cheer for his team to win? No, not really. Do I think all the little connections the team has to WNY are interesting? I guess so. Does that make them my second favorite team? No, it doesn't. I certainly have no intention of claiming Brian Campbell as a WNYer. I'm sorry Chicago isn't playing here this year because I really want to see him booed to tears which judging by his willingness to cry over everything else, probably wouldn't take long. I don't care if the Hawks win, I don't care if the Hawks lose. I wish the NHL and everyone else would quit trying to tell
me what to do.

- I'm super annoyed that the Yankees got some pieces they needed, shocked that the Red Sox actually traded Manny Ramirez, bummed to see Jason Bay out of Pittsburgh (but not surprised), and optimistic that the Pirates got some decent prospects/players in exchange for players they clearly weren't going to keep past their current contracts.

- What happened to Teppo? I thought his re-signing was imminent! My official Teppo stance: Bring him back and put him wherever he'll have the most contact with Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera. Especially Sekera.

- I just want to say thanks again to all of you who commented on or emailed me about the 100 Things posts. I know they were a little outside the typical boundaries of a hockey blog and I'm glad so many of you enjoyed them. I had a lot of fun writing them. I'm also glad that some other people have taken the idea and run with it. If you want to know 100 Things about some other bloggers check out recent posts at Muckers and Grinders, My Safety is Harvard, I Should Have Moved to Canada, and the Humming Giraffe. If anyone else out there has a list I missed, please let me know! I love reading these.

- Earlier today Mark read me the following comment he found on a Bills message board, posted by someone named GoBillsDB:

Actually, for me watching the Bills play is the farthest thing from pure heaven. I have come to accept this Bills fandom of mine as a burden. It is my lot in life to suffer through season after season of getting my hopes up only to have them crushed in new and unexpected ways every year.

Preaseason. I watch every last snap. The entire time, I like to watch the backups and envision how, like all those who came before them, they will shatter my hopes and dreams in future NFL contests. I could care less if they win. I just spend the entire game holding my breath and hoping for no injuries.

Have I ever mentioned that I really love Buffalo?