Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

It's hard to really feel sorry for these guys but dude, this is officially the worst anonymous testing EVER.

Monday, July 27, 2009

100 (More) Things, Part 1

So now that I'm mostly recovered from the flu, non-swine variety, I find myself really, really wanting to blog but there is nothing Sabres-related going on. I cannot find anything even slightly interesting to say about the little signings. I can't even work up much feeling one way or the other about Drew Stafford and his lack of a contract. Whatever.

But like I said, I want to write something so I thought I'd tackle a topic I find endlessly interesting. Me! Heh. Last summer I wrote a series of posts called "100 Things About Me." I can't promise that I'm going to make it all the way to 100 this time since this is really just a time-killer. We'll see.

1. I never wear a watch. I don't even own one. I hate the way they feel. I am almost always slightly late. It's possible that these two things are related.

2. I own two dresses and one pair of dress shoes. According to a Facebook quiz, I'm 0% girlie. That seems pretty accurate. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not even sure one of the two dresses still fits.

3. I've had seven teeth pulled, none of them wisdom teeth. Take care of your teeth, kids.

4. I have a dimple in the back of each shoulder. In related news, my second toes are longer than my big toes.

5. If I had to marry a movie character it would be Bert from Mary Poppins.

6. If I had to marry an animated movie character it would be Beast from Beauty and the Beast. But only in beast form. I found him a lot less appealing once he transformed to human form. Not sure what that says about me.

7. If I could live in any imaginary world it be the Shire in Lord of the Rings. Beautiful surroundings, bare feet, and many, many meals a day? Sign me up. Every time I read those books or see the movies, I wish I was a hobbit.

8. Forget Frodo, I believe Sam is the real hero of Lord of the Rings. I will not be convinced otherwise.

9. I have my library card number memorized.

10. When I recently filled out a meme that said to list the first 15 books that came to mind, here are the ones I said: The Outsiders, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Westing Game, The Great Brain, Little House on the Prairie, A False Spring, The Boys of Summer, On Writing, The Stand, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Matilda, The BFG, Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds, and The Lords of Discipline. I think it's interesting that so many of them are books I read at a young age. I can't swear that these are the best books I've ever read - though some of them definitely are - but I can look at almost all of them and tell you exactly when I read them and why they made an impression.

11. Five movies that really make me cry no matter how many times I see them: Field of Dreams, The Lion King, The Lord of the Rings (let's think of it as one big movie), Dead Poet's Society, and The Shawshank Redemption. Sports movies, dead fathers, teacher/student relationships, themes of hope all get me. Here's a more specific breakdown: Field of Dreams gets me when Ray asks his dad if there's a heaven, he replies with "Oh, yeah. It's the place where dreams come true," and Ray looks around at his house and his wife and daughter and says, "Maybe this is heaven." The Lion King is, of course, all about Mufasa's death. When Simba runs up to his body, tries to wake him up, yells, "Somebody! Anybody!" and then tucks himself under Mufasa's big paw... Well, heck, I'm almost crying just thinking about it. In Fellowship of the Ring it's the scene at the end between Frodo at Sam ("I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise! Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. And I don't mean to. I don't mean to") in The Two Towers it's Aragorn assuring a very young solider, "There is always hope,", and in The Return of the King it's pretty much the entire last half hour or so but especially Sam and Frodo reminiscing about the Shire and Aragorn's, "My friends, you bow for no one." In The Shawshank Redemption it's Red's monologue about hope that ends the movie.

Whew. Got a little long-winded there.

12. I could easily make a whole different list of movies that make me cry because I cry really easily.

13. My five favorite non-musical sounds are trains, typewriters, a can of pop fizzing open, one of my students really laughing, and film rolling through a projector.

14. I once read a book in which someone asked a friend who worked in a school very similar to mine how she goes on every day, working with kids in such dire circumstances. She responded with, "If we can't defeat despair, sometimes we can interrupt it." I write that at the top of my desk calendar at work every month to make me feel better on the really hopeless days.

15. I've never gotten a speeding ticket.

16. The only ticket I have gotten was for driving with a broken headlight.

17. We've gotten an increasing number of kids with PDD/Asperger's in the last few years. I've done a lot of extra reading on my own and I find autism and how to teach those kids endlessly fascinating.

18. The one thing I do really hate about Twitter is any and all "Let's get Topic X on the Trending Topics list!" tweets. Hey, I'll talk about that topic if I want to, all right? Don't push me.

19. I hate using abbreviations or shortcuts of any kind when twittering but I've found that I will eliminate extra spaces between words without too much problem. I'll also lose commas. My comma usage varies widely depending on mood anyway. I'll use "u," "ur," and "fave" if I absolutely have to. I will not, under any circumstances, use "luv" or eliminate apostrophes.

20. When I was a kid, I used to tell people that Rickey Henderson was my uncle. He isn't.

21. I love taking personality tests. I always come up as INFP on Myers-Briggs tests which means, in a nutshell, that I'm a dreamy, slightly introverted, idealist. Famous INFP's include William Shakespeare, Mister Rogers, and Mary, the mother of Jesus so I feel I'm in good company. Yeah, don't ask me how they managed to test Mary.

22. My current favorite non-hockey blog is Fake Neal Huntington. Huntington is the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Fake Neal is so funny, I'm just going to pretend he's Real Neal. I've almost started a fake Bucky Gleason Twitter a few times, but I don't think I can make it entertaining enough.

23. My favorite celebrity couple is Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany. Honorable mention to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

24. I've never had a TV in my bedroom.

25. A few months ago, a friend posted the video below on her Facebook. I bookmarked it and on really bad days, I watch it, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm sure Mr. Rogers is talking directly to me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time for Bills Training Camp!

Bills training camp! Wooooooooo! After much thought and studying, here are my hard-hitting thoughts about the Bills going into camp...

What the HECK is up with their HAIR?

Paul Posluszny! You sir, are a good-looking guy! Trim that crap up! I can barely see your face. Leave a little length, that's fine. I do like your wavy curls. But this is a mess.

Trent Edwards, this interview really made me question your preparation for this season. You're QB 1, man! In the NFL! There are only so many spots for doofy-looking QBs and I think the Manning brothers are using both of them. You're the face of the team! The one who's gonna get all the camera time! You are far too good-looking for this haircut. Honestly, WHAT are you thinking?

There is good news. One, Poz has shown in the past the ability to get his hair at exactly the most attractive length and two, Trent's mom evidently hates his current hair style. But really, these guys are both entering their third year in the NFL. I expect better things from them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flash Back!

Three days into summer school and I've already been walloped with a bunch of little kid germs. I feel gross. Since I don't have the energy to come up with something new, please enjoy this Top Shelf blast from the past, originally written on July 11, 2007. Some of the details have changed, but the overall feeling remains the same.

Doesn't My Employer Know it's Schedule Day?!

Why I Love Hockey #12 - Schedule Day

Schedule Day is now officially one of my favorite days of the year. Is that a little bit pathetic? Perhaps. But I love the excitement it brings. Look, there's a new schedule! That means that hockey is coming again! It means everyone gets a fresh start. It's time to put all the disappointments of the past season - the bewilderingly bad power play, the lackluster playoff performances, the free agency losses - behind us and look to the future with the hope that this time - this time! - it's going to be different. Right now the season ahead is unwritten and every fan can imagine for herself how it's going to go. Thomas Vanek is going to live up to that big fat contract. The young players left behind are going to play with fire and determination. Brian Campbell is going to sign an extension and wear a letter on his chest. (ed. note: Heh. Whoops!) The team is going to prove the naysayers wrong and make the playoffs and maybe - just maybe - they'll finally go all the way. Some of that might not happen. Heck, none of it may happen. But the point is, right now it all could because it's a brand new day. Technically, it was a new day the second last season ended. But now with the map for the next season laid out before us, it's official.

I love printing out the schedule and poring over it, looking for little stories and interesting things. Oh, we play the Sharks! Bummer, it's in San Jose. Too bad, I would've loved to have gone to that game. We don't play the Rangers at home until February. Guess by then we'll know if they're playoff bound or struggling to force all those free agents together in a unit. The Flyers are in town just before Christmas. Does Danny get booed or cheered? And is it possible to boo Danny while cheering Marty? Marty! First month or so of the season looks pretty light which works out well for the team. I have faith in the kids but anything to help them get their feet under them is a good thing. And squeeeeeee! Jay McKee is coming home - if he's not on IR that is.

The husband and I are getting a mini-pack this season, probably five games again. I've been trying to talk him up to ten but we are trying to pay off our debt so he wants to do the responsible thing. (Boooo!) We're definitely doing the potential Ice Bowl game on the first of the year. I love outdoor sporting events during Buffalo winters and it sounds like such an awesome experience. (ed. note: Still not over missing that.) Plus I really wanted to see the Penguins this season so that works out well. And we're definitely going to the St. Louis game and I hope Jay stays healthy that long because otherwise we're stuck watching... well, St. Louis. Everything else is up in the air though. I really wanted to see Marty's return to Buffalo but now that Danny's in the mix, I don't know. I'm not sure how he's going to be welcomed and I'm not into booing returning players so it'll bum me out if that's the response he gets. We'll probably throw a Senators game in there while avoiding Toronto like the plague. The home opener is always fun. And it might be cool to see Detroit. Those Western Conference teams don't get over here often and there's no telling how much longer Lidstrom will be around. And oh, there's Dom! If he doesn't chicken out and make the backup play that is.

Is it time for training camp yet?!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All-Star Game Thoughts

I'm totally annoyed Tim Wakefield didn't pitch in the All-Star game. That sucks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Talking Baby Sabres

So I went to prospect camp today. I'm not going to pretend to know enough to tell you who looked good and who didn't - it's hard to tell from some of those drills - but I did take a close look at Tyler Myers and I'm going to admit something that probably won't be very popular. I'm just not sure about bringing him up to the NHL level next season.

He looked really good. He can definitely skate, his positioning seemed sound (although I think we can agree that games are not like drills), and for someone still growing, he seems to have a good handle on his body. There's absolutely zero awkwardness about him. But he's very young. And he's very skinny. I watched a few of his games during the Memorial Cup and while it was clear that he was a stand-out, it was also clear that juniors is very, very different from the NHL. The NHL will be much faster and much more powerful. In street clothes, Myers is a bean pole even after putting on weight. I really question whether he's going to be ready to stand up to grown men with plenty of NHL experience.

I know Bucky Gleason has said many times that he doesn't see any reason not to play Myers up next season because hey, lots of teenagers have been successful in the NHL and then he reels off a list of people. First of all, I think any time a list starts with the name "Sidney Crosby" we have to stop and take into consideration that that's probably a pretty special group of players. Second of all, for every teenager that has come in and immediately been successful, there's a bunch of players who were brought up too young and who really struggled both with the NHL game and with the expectations heaped upon them. Some of them eventually straightened themselves out, but some of them had serious setbacks. Myers certainly isn't going to come in with Crosby level expectations, but he's not going to fly under the radar either, especially not in Buffalo. On one hand, fans are talking about being able to live with his mistakes, on the other hand they're talking about him being the next Zdeno Chara. Not even Zdeno Chara was Zdeno Chara until he was much older and physically mature than Myers is. Conventional wisdom has always been that defensemen mature more slowly than forwards.

Please remember he's just a baby giant.

If the Sabres start Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Chris Butler next season is Myers' inexperience going to make much difference to the on-ice product? Probably not. Even without him the defensive corp is going to be very young. But I'm not sure "How will it affect the team?" is as important a question as "How will it affect Myers?" How will he handle it if players are flying past him or pushing him around? How will he adapt to the opposition playing at a much higher skill level than his competition this past season? If he struggles, how will he deal with fans complaining - as you know they will - that he's not as good as they were led to believe? I think the Sabres have always had the right idea when it comes to bringing prospects along slowly, giving them time to grow up physically and mentally and emotionally. I know with the salary cap and the lower free agency age, that has to change some - you really have to take advantage of players while they're on their entry level contracts - and I know the Sabres are in a unique spot with Myers because he can't start in Portland which is what they would probably do with him if they could. I'm just not sure it's as simple as "Oh, what the hell, the team's gonna suck anyway."

Don't get me wrong. I like what I've seen of Myers. I love that he's said very directly that his goal is to make the Sabres and he doesn't see any reason why he can't. I hope he does make an immediate impact and I hope he does have the mental strength and maturity to know that struggling is just part of being a young defensemen in the NHL. But I do worry about him and I do worry that we're asking too much of him too soon.

On a totally different note, Kate and I have been arguing good-naturedly (mostly) about Chris Butler - or "Butts" as she's taken to calling him - for a number of months now. Unbeknownst to the other, we both started really taking a liking to him and she has repeatedly insisted that I can't like him, I have to like someone else. She's been very against him becoming next in line as my favorite player. (Hank will, of course, be number one as long as he's in Buffalo but I can count. If you add Weber and Myers to Tallinder, Lydman, Rivet, Sekera, Butler, Paetsch and Montador you end up with more d-men than you have spots. Someone's gotta go and a girl needs to be prepared for such things.) I assured her that no final decision had been made because I had really liked Weber on his call-up at the end of the 2007-2008 season and needed to see more of him.

Kate and I met up at prospect camp today and about halfway through, I turned to her and said, "I have to admit, I'm pretty drawn to Mike Weber." That beeyotch She didn't even attempt to hide her delight. But at any rate, it's true. There's just something about that kid that I really like and he looked very determined and sure of himself, as he should at this point.

After prospect camp, I went to the Bisons game. As I was making my way to the parking lot at the end of the night, I noticed a big tour bus outside the stadium. Didn't really look that closely at it, just figured it was a youth group or something. My phone buzzed so I looked down at it, continuing to walk, and I, of course, bumped into someone. I said, "Oh, excuse me," and looked up and it was... Mike Weber! That focused my brain and I realized all the baby Sabres were getting on the big bus. Mike nodded and said, "No problem." But I think it's a sign that I made the right choice. It's like Kate said (again, gleefully), he pretty much chose ME. How can I refuse?

"Please pick me, please pick me, please pick me, Heather B."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top Shelf Travels the Seaway Trail

One of the things that kept popping up on lists of things to do in the area was to drive or bike the Seaway Trail. The trail follows four bodies of water (the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie) from West Springfield, PA to Rooseveltown, NY. I thought it sounded really cool - I love to crank up some tunes and head out on a road trip - but I kind of set it aside. As much as I liked the idea, I wasn't sure I could see myself really taking the time to travel even some of the Seaway in the next couple of months.

Fortunately, fates bigger than me - my mother - stepped in. As you know, my mom and two of my brothers, Chris and Lee, were in town last week. We took a quick jaunt through this part of New York with our first stop being Rochester. Now you could take the boring ol' way to Rochester and just jump right on the highway. My mom, however, had other things in mind. She's a big fan of lighthouses - she and some friends often take lighthouse trips - so she set a different path for us. There are 28 lighthouses along the 504 mile Seaway Trail. She picked out five she really liked that were between Buffalo and Rochester and off we went. As usual, you can click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

The journey began like all good Henderson family vacations do. With us getting really, really lost. I was half asleep during the first part of our journey so I can't tell you what exactly happened. I can tell you that we drove past Fantasy Island at least four times and saw it from pretty much every conceivable angle and. We eventually gave up on the Grand Island Lighthouse in favor of driving on and having time to see ones that were farther away. We could always see Grand Island on another visit.

When in doubt, drive toward the blue stuff.

The first stop we actually made for a reason other than to try and figure out where the heck we were was the Fort Niagara lighthouse in Youngstown, NY.

Fort Niagara was the site of the first unofficial lighthouse on the Great Lakes, originally a lantern room on top of the French Castle inside the fort. (Chris and I decided on a whim to make a quick tour of the fort so more on that in another post. I know you can hardly wait.) After some time, the lighthouse was moved outside the walls of the fort and in 1993, instead of cutting down or cutting back 50 or so trees that were blocking the light, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, choosing to use a light on a nearby radio tower instead. Today the lighthouse is completely non-functional though at times there has been a museum and gift shop inside. There's a more in-depth history here for anyone who's interested.

This is the Fresnel lens from the lighthouse. It's hard to tell in the photo but it was pretty darn big.


Next stop was the Olcott Lighthouse in Olcott, NY.

I thought it was kind of an ugly little thing at first glance, but it kinda grew on me. Back in the 1870s there were two 800 foot piers extending into Lake Ontario which were used to form a protected harbor at Olcott. Canadian ships often off-loaded grain there to be shipped to Rochester and Oswego. At the end of one of the piers was this lighthouse. Well, not this lighthouse exactly. Around 1930, the lighthouse was decommissioned and moved to a yacht club where it fell into disrepair. This replica was built in 2003.

This was the point in the trip where I decided it would be really awesome to drive the whole Seaway Trail one day because the surrounding area was really, really adorable. There was a little strip of shops, really cute houses and a beautiful park along the water.

My memory card filled before I could take any pictures of it but there was also a little mini amusement part with a refurbished 1926 carousel and vintage rocketship and fighter plane rides, those little ones that only go six or seven feet off the ground. This was also where I come in contact with the awesome powers of Esmeralda.

Some day I'm going to do this again when I don't have an exact destination and time of arrival because I would have loved to just pulled over and taken pictures along the way. Big, beautiful farm houses, various animals and field after field of fruit trees of some kind. It was an overcast day but I kind of love it when the water is dark and moody.

Lee having deep thoughts about how a Mets player couldn't stand that close to the water's edge this season without drowning.

By this point in the day, it was starting to get darker so we decided to hit one last lighthouse, the Thirty Mile Point lighthouse which was probably my favorite of the three. Check out this cutie.

Love it.

Thirty Mile Point lighthouse shone for the first time in April of 1876. It was built after a number of shipwrecks were caused by a shallow sandbar that extended from Thirty Mile Point out into Lake Ontario. Like the lighthouse at Fort Niagara, the lighthouse was eventually taken over by the Coast Guard and then replaced by a light at the top of a tower. Certain weeks out of the year, the second floor of the dwelling is rented out for week-long stays which is totally awesome. You don't have to take care of the lighthouse or the lake but you do get a glimpse into what that life was like. When I have lots of money, I'm doing it.

Chris, wandering waaaaaay out...

... to get this photo from the water.

Living on one of the Great Lakes is one of those things Buffalonians totally take for granted. I hadn't even given it much thought until Patty (in Dallas) came to visit last year and I saw how excited she was about seeing Lake Erie. At Thirty Mile, I was finally able to get down to the water so I decided to dip my feet in. And when I pulled them out I still only had ten toes which is always a plus.

Two Great Lakes down, three to go!

And with that we bid a fond farewell to the Seaway Trail and another fun-filled day in Western New York.

"Say goodbye, Mom."
"Goodbye, Mom."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Top Shelf Does the Riviera Theatre

Before we get to the movies, I feel like I probably should say something about free agency but I don't really have much to add that 100 other blogs haven't already said. I like adding Steve Montador, I'll miss Jaroslav Spacek personally but think one of the kids will be able to match his PP production when getting the same number of minutes he was getting, and don't understand entirely what Montreal and Chicago are doing. I also think there's plenty of time left in the offseason and there are a number of teams who have some juggling to do to get safely under the cap (including us). I'm going to hold off criticizing next year's roster too much until it's officially next year's roster. For now I'll leave that to everyone else.

Okay, on with the show...

From the second I first saw the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, I knew I wanted to go. I love old movie theatres probably because I love old movies. My mom was really strict about what we could and couldn't watch when we were kids but she plied us with old movies. My formative years were filled with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and I adored all of them. Not only did I never feel like I was being punished or treated unfairly, I figured I was the lucky one. (Check out the YouTube links to see why.) I'm pretty glad to live in a generation where I can dress casually for a trip to the local multiplex, but I'm also fascinated by people getting all decked out in their finest to go see a movie at a fancy theatre.

Turn left at Charlie Chaplin.

The Riviera Theatre was originally built in 1926 by the Yellen Family. Decorated with elaborate moldings and burgundy, beige and gold accents, the theatre was called "The Showplace of the Tonawandas." Between that, an 18-foot chandelier, other ornate lighting fixtures, stained glass windows and brass railings, the Riviera really and truly is a movie palace. It opened with a huge gala that cost $1 per ticket. The theatre has changed ownership a number of times over the years but was finally purchased by the Niagara Frontier Theatre Organ Society. Volunteers continue restoration work today and live entertainment is presented regularly along with movies. The Riviera and Shea's are the only movie palaces, complete with Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organs, still standing today in an area that once had many.

When I saw that the Riviera's summer series was a Paul Newman Tribute, I immediately took note. Initially I was planning on seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a personal favorite, but when Lee saw a link from a previous blog entry, he noted that Cool Hand Luke was showing while he, Mom and Chris were in town and suggested it might be a fun thing to do. That worked for me because while I've seen bits and pieces of it over the years - who doesn't know the line "What we have here is failure to communicate" - I didn't think I'd ever seen it from beginning to end.

Every movie is preceded by a 3o minute Wurlitzer performance but unfortunately we missed it. We entered the theatre just as the movie was beginning. When we first sat down and started listening the sound was AWFUL. I'm all for historical preservation but I was starting to wonder if we were listening via the original 1926 sound system. Just about then however someone yelled from the back that it appeared the first reel had suffered some heat damage and that the sound should be fine once the second reel started. And it was. But really, who even needs sound when you're looking at this?

Hubba hubba.

I won't go into the details of the plot but I will say that it's a good movie. One of the funniest scenes in cinema just might begin with the line "I can eat 50 eggs." Which is not to imply that it's a funny movie because it's really not. Good stuff though and there's about a million recognizable faces in the cast including Mr. Walton who I always had a crush on as a kid.

After the movie we poked around a little and took some pictures.

Let's begin with the Mighty Wurlitzer itself. It's one of the few organs that still resides in its original theatre. A dedicated group of volunteers handle all the maintenance and any necessary repairs. At one point, the organ from the Kensington Theatre in Buffalo was donated and while it was badly damaged, parts were salvaged and used in the Riviera organ. Every month the Riviera presents an organ concert of some kind and one of these days I'm planning on going back and seeing a silent movie, accompanied by the Wurlitzer.

I took a bunch of pictures of the inside of the theatre, both from the front and the balcony but the house lights weren't on so everything came out very dark. I found these photos on some random website but there was no photo credit of any kind accompanying them. I feel a little bad using them because they're clearly professional photos (or darn good amateur photos) so if you're out there reading this and these are yours, please, please, please email me and I'll either give you a credit or take them down, whichever you prefer. If you click on these next two pictures, you'll get a larger image in which you can see even more detail. That goes for all the photos really but these two especially.

View from the balcony.

View from the stage.

Absolutely gorgeous. My one warning would be that the theatre was clearly built before the obesity epidemic and before people valued leg room. Tiiiiight squeeze.

While upstairs, Chris and I got to wondering about this door. You can't really tell in the photo but it's very small. Probably four feet high or so.

The theatre volunteer had just told us to look around so we opened the door and found this:

Another, smaller door! We weren't sure if we'd just stumbled across the entrance to Narnia, Wonderland or the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

The lobby, right inside the doors.

I love that blue molding along the ceiling.

Mom at the box office.

You can check out the schedule at the Riviera's website. I'd recommend pretty much anything in the Paul Newman series, especially The Verdict, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. While I don't care for it personally (I know, I know), they'll also be showing Slap Shot. The Riviera Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In addition to being a beautiful sight, admission was only $3 per person so I'd say it's well worth a visit if you're in the area.

After the movie, the organist played a quick ditty for the exiting crowd. Here's a short video of it along with some footage of the theatre. Like everything else, it's pretty dark, but I think you can get a feel for the space. Kindly ignore the singing.