Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from Costa Rica!

Merry Christmas from Costa Rica!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The (Internet) Year in Review

Basically Facebook grew 12 fold and passed MySpace. Not bad for a site now valued in the $10-15 Billion dollar range. Can I just write a check for $15,000,000,000.00, how about an IOU? As a side note, Facebook reportedly made $150 million in revenue this year, which doesn't justify the valuation in my opinion, though Facebook is very light on advertising so it must be based on increased monetization as well as furutre growth in users. Has a social networking site lasted long enough to justify that kind of investment (see

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Top Dinners Ever

In honor of Dale (who is known for his Top 10 lists) I have decided to create a list of my best dinners ever. This is partially because I had a Top dinner just last week in Boston!

The criteria is Overall Experience, sometimes it might be good food, other times might be good company, and sometimes are because of a special location. Here the ALL TIME list so far, I am hoping I left some off the list and someone will jog my memory because I think all of these meals occurred in the past 2 years, so I feel like I am missing something.

#6 - Right Field Roof Deck of Fenway Park
For Dave's bachelor party, My Dad and my two brothers and I went to back to back Sox / Yankees games this year in September. The Right Field Roof Deck is awesome because you have your own table, a waitress serves you, and $100 of food and drinks for the table is included with the tickets. While Fenway food isn't gourmet, I do enjoy a good Fenway frank, some clam chowder and a hot chocolate on a cool day. Being with the guys at a Sox game is a great way to have a meal!

#5 - Tango in Aruba
Meghan and I went to Aruba for our Honeymoon, the beaches were amazing, the weather was perfect, no one is there in September, and the food was amazing! Tango had the best Argentinian Beef, maybe the best meat I have ever had and it wasn't too pricey. Of course the company for the honeymoon makes for a great atmosphere. In addition to my lovely wife, I was entertained by the restaurant's professional Tango dancers who put on a show every hour which was fun to watch. They also had outdoor seating so we made a return trip because we wanted to hear the outdoor band. They were a really great band and somewhat funny!

#4 - Flat Bread Company in Boston
This was the most recent meal and it didn't make the list because of the food (it's off my equity). Meghan and I were able to catch up with our friends Kathy & Evan, Beth & Tom, and Aaron & Laura from home. We had a long and funny dinner, we laughed the whole time and Meghan said her stomach hurt from laughing so much! The time really flew and it made me miss seeing everyone back home.

#3 - Honeymoon Dinner on the Beach in Aruba
On our first day in Aruba we scheduled the sunset dinner on the beach and it was awesome. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly because as soon as you land you are excited about being on the honeymoon and this was a classic honeymoon activity. The steak was good, the jumbo shrimp better, and the dessert was a delicious chocolate cake. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach and then ate by tiki torch light as the sun set.

#2 - Private Room in the Precinct for Dale's Promotion
This one was a shocker because I made the reservation online using open table, but in the note I put that it was a promotion dinner, and next thing we know we have our own private room in the back and the captain served us! Eating at the precinct is pricey and an annual event for us, but this dinner certainly was the peak of the "high society" dinner at the precinct. The steaks are amazing, and with great company of Dale, Dave & Rachel, and Jim & Karen - Meghan and I had a blast!

#1 - Omni Dinner in Indianapolis
It's not what you know but who you know, and Ivette's brother is someone important at the Omni hotel in Indy. We were there for research and were all hooked up with end suites for rooms. I think my room was the size of 3 with 3 walls of windows. The entire end of the building was my room! I thought we were living large until we went over to Ivette & Jamie's room for dinner, they had a 2 story suite with a spiral staircase in it! Their view and balcony was amazing. We had dinner catered in the suite by the staff, and they kept bringing drinks and food and desserts! The food and service were top notch and we were treated like VIPs for sure! We also had our secret santa exchange which was hilarious. The conversation was great and I really was "in the moment" enjoying the time with such great friends from work. Rachel, Jamie, Ivette, and Kandis (the Venus goddesses) have been a lot of fun to work with and I miss the SWAN team already! We also had our favorite moderator Alisha who is great, and our Agency person Jen who is funny. This dinner certainly takes the #1 spot as I know I don't have the connections required to duplicate this feat!

Honorable Mention
While not actually a dinner (and therefore didn't make the list), our Venus team was in Chicago for research and after a funny dinner in some fancy diner, we ended up at the hotel bar and had a blast! It was again the goddesses and Alisha but this time Joel joined us for the design research and he is a riot! I remember laughing the entire time and some detailed analysis of the new YAZ! commercials. It certainly was a memorable time and I think also the invention of the "crab arms" impersonation that Kandis does!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Awesome Trip to Boston

Meghan and I had an awesome trip to Boston. We got to hang out with my parents for a 30th Birthday (I'm old!) / Thanksgiving / Christmas trip, it's always fun to see them, plus we were able to catch up with a lot of people we hadn't seen in a while.

My cousin Laura cooked a great meal for us at her apartment. It's a really nice place, if I lived there Laura could find me at the poker table most of the time! We got to see my Uncle Paul and Aunt Diane who we haven't seen in months so that ware awesome. We also met Laura's boyfriend for the first time, he seemed very nice and we all had a good time.

Thursday night we got to spend some quality time with the parents and watch the Cowboys / Packers game. Unfortunately it was on the NFL network so I had to add it to my parents package, but the price was right at $5 per month so it all worked out.

Friday we got to go out to lunch with Jen and my niece Carly. We had a blast, Jen picked us up in the new VW bug which is a fun car. Poor Carly was under the weather so she slept through most of the fun. It was great to spend time with Jen because when both of the girls and the rest of the family all get together it's hard to catch up, plus Meghan usually gets kids duty and entertains them (aka distracts them) while I get to catch up with Mike and Jen. I almost need a separate day for adults and a separate day for the kids to see everyone!

Friday night we went out to dinner with Aaron and Laura, Beth and Tom, Kathy and Evan! I never laughed so hard in my life! We had a blast! The flat bread company was pretty interested, even though it was nitrate-free organic pizza made with whole dairy milk, it tasted fine. Our waitress was definitely "on equity" with the whole organic theme, and she didn't get sarcasm. I was especially glad that Beth hadn't delivered baby Trudie yet so we could see her and Tom, though we were hoping we would be present for the birth at the restaurant - no dice. Now I just need to meet Trudie in person. I hear she has been asking about me.

Saturday was fun and Mike, Jen, Josie and Carly came over. Josie seems like such a big girl now, and Carly is as cute as a button. They both love Aunt Meghan and she kept them busy. We had Apple pie and Boston creme pie - my two favorites! Mike also took me for a ride in VW #2 - the bug. It was a lot faster than the Rabbit, it's amazing how much fun you can have with 48 hp.

Saturday night I got to meet up with Lauren for dinner. Meghan was a little under the weather, so she stayed home. Lauren and I had a great time at dinner. I got to see her new car which is really nice and who doesn't love seat warmers when it's 13 degrees outside! We had a blast and had a long dinner, it's so nice to catch up but it also makes me a bit sad I don't get to see everyone back home that often. We decided to plan more vacations together, and one of these days Cincinnati will become a vacation hot spot and we'll get some people to come out for a visit.

Sunday was uneventful as we just flew home. The best way to survive a plane involves an iPod (in this case iPhone) and Bose Quit Comfort noise cancellation headphones. You are in your own little world of peace and quiet!

It was lonely to come home to an empty house without Shelby, she is so beautiful! She just got back from college last night and she was sooo happy to see us!

All in all a great trip home. Boxboro is a nice quiet little town, doesn't seem like too much has changed since I left.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Car is Here

Meghan and I picked up my new car in SC. It's awesome!

Here a shot of the odomoeter before we put 500 miles on the car driving it back. It only had 1.3 miles on it (rounded to 2 on the left side) when we got it!

Also the Performance Center doesn't drill the front liscence plate in for you upon delivery (like they are required to do here in Ohio). Which means so far... no front plate.

Read all about the Performance Center Delivery in the next blog to be posted below (soon)!

BMW Performance Center Delivery!

If you are thinking of ordering a new BMW, The Performance Center Delivery (PCD) is a must! It is the same price as having the car delivered to your local dealer, but you get a day of driving on the courses at the BMW Performance Center in a car similar to the one your ordered. The most important thing they told us to remember was NYC - Not Your Car! So we beat them up pretty good. Our instructors were Donnie and ray and they were awesome.

The events include:
1) Driving an auto-cross style course
2) Testing the Dynamic Traction Control on a wet skid-plate
3) Testing the ABS brakes while learning to steer at the same time
4) An off road course in the X5
5) Delivery of your Vehicle in your own showroom

Typically there is also a tour of the factory there, which makes all of the x5s and the Z4s for the world, but it was closed as they switched over to some confidential build. We also had a tour if their Museum there which was fun for a bit.

1) Driving an auto-cross style course
Probably the best part of the whole trip was that Meghan got to drive all of the courses as well and she loved it. She said it released her inner race car driver! In this video you'll see Meghan driving part of the course, the instructor is talking to her over a walkie-talkie. He is not in the car but in the middle of the course switching between all of the drivers in the course giving them tips.

2) Dynamic Traction Control on a wet skid-plate
Dynamic Traction Control is pretty amazing. When it is turned on, no matter how much you try to accelerate on wet roads or ice, the car will only go as fast as it can while still making the turn. This exercise involved taking a few turns without DTC on and skidding out, then taking a few turns with on.

Without DTC

With DTC
I guess what was most amazing to me is you can still try to floor the car but it won't let you get out of control with DTC

In the car with Meghan - no DTC
Here, Donnie is trying to help Meghan correct a skid by steering into the skid when you don't have DTC.

In the car with Meghan - DTC
Now the car won't spin out no matter what you try to tell it to do.

Reverse Spin Out
Just for fun Donnie had Meghan do a spin out in reverse for the crowd, I wish I got this video from outside of the car! You will see he wanted everyone to think Meghan was driving that way, so he steered but then told Meghan to put her hands back on so everyone would think she did it!

3) Testing the ABS brakes
This was a lot of fun, each driver got 4 or 5 trips down and we kept increasing speed up to 50 mph, and Donnie kept sending us deeper and deeper into the sharp turn. It was a great way to learn how to lock your brakes up and still steer. Your instincts are to do one or the other!

Driving School
In addition to the Performance Center Delivery, this site lets you come down for a full day of driving (regardless of whether out bought a car or not). Here is some video of the other school going on. They had M class drivers there as well as an intermediate class. What you can't appreciate in the video is how fast they are going on this wet turn!

Donnie then took all of the couples for laps on this track. he drove an M5 with 500 hp and it was amazing! One women ditched her husband and went with us again because she had her eyes closed the 1st time she went! It was intense! I even thought we'd die, but since Donnie has even done "counter-terrorism" training on how to stop a moving car by ramming it, I figured we were fine. He even took us through a J turn where he starts off going really fast in reverse and whips around and goes forward without really slowing down!

4) An off road course in the X5
Then they took us off road in the X5. The car is amazing! They took us on a course that ended up putting the car up on 2 wheel, the front-left and the back-right (diagonal). Then the instructor rocked the car up and down to show that even in this extreme stress on the frame, nothing creaked or rattled, and all of the doors opened. Also through all of the course maneuvers, they have never cracked a sun roof, which is 2-3x larger than the normal sun roof (it starts in the front seat and goes all the way to the back seat)!

Other cool maneuvers included going through 20" of water!

Going over some crazy steep hills that included huge trenches (you were supposed to have some wheels off the ground and learn how to keep going)!

On the steep hills, they showed us how "hill assist" works, which is awesome for a manual transmission. If you come to a stop on a hill, you can take your foot off of the break and the car will stay put for 2 seconds. This gives you time to get over to the gas and the clutch without going crazy. Also there is a button for hill descent, which will control all of the breaking for you to go down hill, you only have to steer. This would be awesome for a slippery steep hill in winter, or driving down Mt. Washington without destroying your brakes (or going out of control)!

We also drove on 2 wheels which puts the car at an almost 45 degree angle!

It's weird to look out the sunroof and see land!

5) Delivery of your Vehicle in your own showroom
Then you spend 2 hours with a specialist going through all the features of your car. I said the same thing you are thinking - 2 HOURS! But it actually went by really fast and we both learned everything about the car!

This is the cleanest my rims will ever be, unless Warren invents that new product!

Museum Tour
We also toured the Zentrum Museum there, it was a self guided tour and we were ready to get the car on the road so we flew through.

Here's my car outside of the Museum, the special parking place they had for us was to drive and park on the sidewalk!

The best part of the museum was that I found a BMW that looked like my Dad's triumph. Since I was a kid I have always liked my Dad's car, but I couldn't keep up with all of the worked it would need, so maybe a new BMW that just looks like a triumph would be in my future!

I also found a BMW model for Mike and Jen. Maybe the can rebuild one of these and add it to the collection!

I have to say the whole day exceeded my expectations, mostly because I went there thinking Meghan was going to wait in the lobby while we were out on the track, but not only did she go with me, she even drove her turns AND enjoyed it. The only bad news is that I think Meghan is sold on the X5 as her next car, so I better pay this one off ASAP! The whole experience was top notch, they really made us feel like it was our special day, and we had a lot of fun!

Not sure why more people don't do this when they order their BMW.

Fun Car Facts
Other quick fun car facts. The car has a rain sensor to automatically run your wipers, that's not that cool, but the same technology is used to determine if your brakes get wet (either in a puddle or in the rain) and the brake pads slightly tighten on the brakes to dry them and you never notice! Always having dry brakes will be awesome! Also the comfort access is awesome. You can walk up to the car, it'll unlock, and you can start it without taking the key out of your pocket, it just has to be near the car for it all to work!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

70 mph blog!

Reason #143 why the iPhone is so amazing - I am blogging on the road while going 70 mph somewhere in Tennessee. No easy feat while driving! Just kidding - Meghan is driving. I also love my Garmin GPS. "Jill" is skillfully navigating us. What a wonderful world!

Monday, November 05, 2007

iPhone... therefore I am

iPhone Review

OK. I got the iPhone. In a word it is - Amazing. It's not the perfect phone (keep reading) but it certainly exceeded my expectations.

I knew it would have the internet on it. The REAL internet, as you'd see it on a computer. And that fact alone was more important than I ever thought. The fact that anywhere I am I can keep an eye on my fantasy football team (without a laptop) is amazing. The fact that I can be playing poker with my friends and we can find an obscure song lyric. Or the fact that you can quickly show people a youtube video on demand. An unintended fun part of the phone, while I have always enjoyed reading a business magazine in the bathroom, now I have the whole internet (CNN, ESPN, it's endless). Also imagine getting google maps driving directions while on the road! It's amazing. Plus the iPhone web browser can keep multiple pages up at the same time, so I can have my fantasy sports team, ESPN scoreboard, CNN home page, and Yahoo Finance all sitting open at the same time waiting for me to check them out. This is ideal for an open office environment at work. Also I will not be travelling with a laptop to Boston or to Costa Rica anymore because of this phone (yes I will have wi-fi in Costa Rica while in the house, but no phone service).

Because it is a phone (and a speaker phone) the speakers let you play audio. From youtube videos to your itunes MP3's, all of them can be played without headphones, just not very loudly. Which brings me to my only complaint about the phone (day 2). The volumes on the iPhone leave something to desired. It is certainly the most common complaint on the internet and something that must be addressed for the next version. The speaker phone volume is ideal for a library, challenging for a noisy drive, and forget about it in Fenway Park. The volume of the phone speaker when used normally (not in speaker phone mode) is also not as loud as you'd want. Ideal for a library, just ok for the car (thank goodness for bluetooth in the car!), and forget about it in Fenway Park or a room full of kids. In fact the ringer itself is not that loud. Just plan to have all of these volumes on MAX and still want some more from your phone.

That being said I am really excited about the phone. Sure it's not the best actual phone, but the total package with the internet plus the slick interface and cool look makes it worth it in my opinion. Plus with integrated email accounts (mine is from yahoo), it's like a blackberry for your personal life!

The 8 GB size (the only version now) is as small a HD as you'd want. It's passable for an ipod (about 2,000 songs) but once you get into video you start getting crammed. I have 400 songs and 20 episodes of the office and I am 1/2 full. I might only have room for a couple full length movies and it's full. In the future I have heard rumors of a 20 GB version and that will be plenty. 8 GB is fine for now. Also the phone is a bit heavy and a bit large, but not as bad as I thought it would be. It's slightly bigger than your video ipod but fits in your pocket quite well! I was surprised. One minor issue is that during normal browsing you do not get all of the plug-ins on pages (like flash). I understand that some people have unlocked their phones so they can download 3rd party plug-ins but I am not there yet. Youtube is the exception since it is built into the phone as a menu option.

If you are into text messaging (I am not) it is really easy because the entire screen is touch sensitive, so a full keyboard pops up for any inputs.

The other cool points about the phone is that it has a button on the phone (where your ipod power button would be) that instantly locks you phone, so you can slip it in your pocket. Also there is a toggle switch that instantly silences the phone, so if you are in a movie or a meeting you don't have to fumble through menus to do so. Also the interface is very smart (on equity with apple and the ipod). The touch screen and the zoom in and out is intuitive and not cumbersome at all. The fact that what you are looking at rotates as you rotate the phone is not only really cool, but very practical. Some web pages are best read portrait while others are landscape.

Overall I am really glad I got the phone. Basically just buy it, then go home, plug it into your computer, and iTunes asks you a few questions and your phone number is transferred and your previous carrier is notified that you have left them for AT&T. Don't think of this as an expensive phone, even though it is at $400, but really it's like a laptop on the go, and for someone like me or Dale it keeps us in touch with the internet while not looking as nerdy by carrying our laptops to a football party. So really it's a reasonably priced internet browser (laptop) / ipod / phone all for $400. Having said all that I think the price cut on the iPhne will make it sell like hot cakes this christmas as soon as more people see them and begin to appreciate the value for your money. It's not for everyone, if you are a business person on the go or in sales, you might be disappointed with the phone's performance from the whole volume issue. If you are a normal person, you'll be fine. And if you are an internet-aholic, it's a must have!

Now go back to the top and look at the picture of my iPhone viewing this blog entry! How awesome is that! How is that possible?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Exploiting Puppies?

If you haven't seen the Sales Genie commercial, it's pretty sick. I am not sure they should be allowed to do this.

The product is a way to manage sales leads for people in sales, the advertising is borderline exploitation of children and puppies. I also think it's insulting to our collective intelligence. Take a look for yourself.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wiffle Ball Kuckle Ball

Dale - you are in trouble the next time we play wiffle ball. I am going to learn to throw this knuckle ball. 2-3 of these pitches go right, then left, then right! Most are only so-so but watch for the nasty ones!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red Sox WS Game 1

Who's hot? Everyone in a Red Sox uniform

By Jayson Stark

BOSTON -- Are they still up there, working those counts? Drawing their 78th bases-loaded walk of the night? Cranking those doubles up the gaps, down the lines, off the Monster?

Has Manny Ramirez made an out yet? Did Kevin Youkilis ever get rescued from the basepaths -- or is he still out there?

Have the Boston Red Sox stopped scoring yet? Or is Game 1 of the World Series still going on?

Sorry. We should know this stuff. But watching the Red Sox orbit those bases Wednesday night gave us a serious case of vertigo.

And if they made us dizzy, you can only imagine all the afflictions they must have laid on those poor Colorado Rockies.

Ya think the Rockies were getting nostalgic for that Arizona Diamondbacks lineup Wednesday as Game 1 of this World Series unraveled on them? The Rockies gave up eight runs to Arizona in the entire NLCS. They gave up nine runs just in a span of (gulp) 14 hitters Wednesday, on the way to a 13-1 mashing by the Red Sox.

You can mark down that 13-1 score as the most lopsided Game 1 blowout in World Series history. And if you want to chalk that up to rust, eight-day layoffs, jet lag or sea-level readjustment issues on the part of the Rockies, go right ahead.

But it sure seemed as if it had a lot more to do with (A) the Christy Mathewson of his generation (aka Josh Beckett) and (B) the hottest lineup ever to march to home plate in the annals of 103 Octobers.

Wait. Did we just say "the hottest lineup ever to march to home plate in the annals of 103 Octobers?"

Yep. We sure did. Which means ... hotter than the '27 Yankees. Hotter than the '36 Yankees. Hotter than "The Big Red Machine." Hotter even than the 2004 Red Sox.

Seriously. We can say that because this makes three straight postseason games now that these Red Sox have scored in double figures: 12 runs in Game 6 against Cleveland, 11 more runs in Game 7 against Cleveland, and another 13 runs in Game 1 of the World Series.

So let's see now. How many other teams have ever rolled up more than 10 runs in three consecutive postseason games? That would be ... exactly ... zero.

"It's fun to watch," said hitting coach Dave Magadan, after his team had made him look like the Albert Einstein of hitting coaches. "When we get like this, I just try to stay out of their way. They're in a zone right now where all I've got to do is let them know what the pitcher's got and what approach we need to have against him. And they're so good at following through on that ... it's just fun to watch."

Yeah, well, that's easy for him to say. For the Rockies, on the other hand, the scenery apparently wasn't quite as much fun to behold as, say, a fall foliage tour.

Asked to describe what it's like to see those Red Sox hitters stomping into the batter's box, Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca put it this way: "[They're] big hairy-chested guys, one after another, who work the count and pounce on your mistakes."

We can't personally vouch for the veracity of that chest-hair scouting report. But the part about working the count and pouncing on mistakes, one after another? It's safe to say he nailed that part.

"It's just havoc, man," said Red Sox infielder Royce Clayton, "up and down the lineup."

What we saw Wednesday -- what we've seen from this lineup over the last few games -- shouldn't be possible, or even legal, this time of year. Not in October. Not against the best pitchers alive (Non-Josh Beckett Division).

But over the last four games -- games started by C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and Wednesday's innocent victim, Jeff Francis -- the Red Sox have outscored the Indians and Rockies by the narrow margin of (yikes) 43-6.

That's 43 runs in 33 innings. Not to mention the second-largest run differential any team has piled up over a four-game span in postseason history (behind only the '96 Braves).

And what those Red Sox thumpers did Wednesday -- against a team that was 21-1 over the last five weeks, and against a pitching staff that came into this World Series with a 2.08 postseason ERA -- was flat-out ridiculous. For instance:

• The all-time World Series record for extra-base hits in a game was nine -- set 82 years ago by the 1925 Pirates (in a game started by Walter Johnson). The Red Sox not only tied that record. They'd tied it with two outs in the fifth inning.

• The most runs ever scored in Game 1 of any of the previous 102 World Series was 12. The Red Sox racked up 13 before they'd even made their 15th out.

• And no team had ever staged a two-out rally in which it went an entire turn through its lineup -- all nine hitters -- with every one of them reaching base in any inning of the previous 597 World Series games ever played. But the Red Sox did that in the fifth inning of this game (on five hits and four walks).

[The Red Sox hitters] are going to make the pitcher throw three tough pitches to get them out. ... Every guy is seeing five, six, seven, eight pitches. And then boom ... one swing of the bat. It makes it tough.
--Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan

"You know," said Lowell, when informed of some of those feats, "when you hear that stuff after the fact, you say, 'Wow. We did that.' But while you're doing it, you're so focused, on every pitch, every inning, every at-bat, you don't even think about it."

Neverthless, it's the sheer accumulation of what they do every pitch, every inning, every at-bat, that makes all this possible -- and makes this lineup what it is -- an official pitcher's nightmare.

The leadoff man, that pesky 4-foot-6 (or whatever he is) Dustin Pedroia, is now 8-for-18 over his last four games, with two homers, three doubles, seven runs scored, six RBIs and three walks. And all he did to kick off this game was crunch the second World Series pitch ever tossed in his direction over the Monster for a historic leadoff home run.

That bomb made Pedroia just the second player in history to lead off the first inning of any World Series opener with a homer. And he and the other guy to do it -- the Orioles' Don Buford (who homered off Tom Seaver in the 1969 opener) -- are also the only two leadoff men ever to do that in the first World Series at-bats of their careers.

Asked if he'd gone up there trying to hit a home run, Pedroia laughed.

"I think I hit, like, 10 all year," he retorted. "So ... no."

But he admitted that he did head up there thinking about setting a tone. And he sure accomplished that.

"Yeah, it was great," Lowell deadpanned, "because it meant he could come back to the dugout and tell us how hard he hit that ball."

It also meant, however, that the volcanic Red Sox offense was right back in full-throttle lava flow. So by the time the first inning was over, they'd mugged Francis for five hits and three runs -- making this just the ninth time in World Series history that a team had scored that many runs in the first inning of Game 1.

It took Francis 30 pitches to survive that inning. And there was more where that came from. By the end of the second, he was already up to 57 pitches. And he was gone after four innings -- forced to hurl 103 pitches just to get 12 outs. "That," said Clayton, "is unbelievable."

But after Francis departed, down 6-1, this mess just got messier. Franklin Morales succeeded him -- and became the first pitcher in any postseason game in history to give up seven runs or more without even making it through an inning. Oof.

Then Ryan Speier stalked in and became the first reliever in World Series history to face three hitters and walk all of them.

So by the time the sixth inning was through, 24 Red Sox had already reached base via a hit or a walk, there were 13 runs on the board, and four Rockies pitchers had combined to throw (ready?) 180 pitches -- to get 18 outs.

"One-hundred eighty?" Clayton gulped. "I've never heard of that."

"All that means," Lowell quipped, "is that [catcher] Yorvit Torrealba had to squat a lot more."

Except, of course, that's not all it means. It means the Rockies had just gotten manhandled by one of the most patient, relentless lineups ever to show up in any World Series. And if the NL champs don't throw more strikes, they're going to meet the same fate as the Indians and Angels did in this postseason. Which ain't good, by the way.

"For me, patience is not necessarily walking," said Magadan. "Patience at the plate is waiting for your pitch to hit. And the byproduct of that can be a walk. But a lot of times, you're going to hit in a lot of hitters' counts. These guys have a real good idea of what they're looking for, and they will be stubborn and wait till they get that pitch.

"They're going to make the pitcher throw three tough pitches to get them out. And when you've got to make three quality pitchers to get hitters out, it's tough to grind and get through the lineup. Every guy is seeing five, six, seven, eight pitches. And then boom ... one swing of the bat. It makes it tough."

Yeah, the booms keep on coming, all right. And in the middle of it all, you find two mashers having just about unprecedented Octobers out of the 3-4 holes -- David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Do they ever make an out?

Ortiz bopped two doubles and a single Wednesday. So he has now reached base in 28 of his 51 trips to the plate in this postseason -- a .549 on-base percentage.

And Manny ground out two more singles, a double and a walk in Game 1. So he has now been on base in 30 of 50 plate appearances this October -- a .600 on-base percentage.

"I'm sure the Rockies are over there saying, 'We can't let these two guys beat us,'" Magadan said of that deadly duo. "So they're very careful the way they pitch to them. But the mentality both of those guys have is, 'If they don't give me what I'm looking for, something I can drive, we'll take our walk. We'll let Mike Lowell get the job done. We'll let J.D. [Drew] get the job done. We'll let [Jason] Varitek get it done.' They're not afraid to let the next guy get it done. And that's been kind of the mantra with this team."

It's a mantra that has already sent two tremendous teams home for the winter this month. And if the Rockies don't want to join that offseason baseball-player golf tour, they'd better adjust -- faster than you can say, "Oops, we're not 21-1 anymore."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for

Monday, October 22, 2007

Red Sox Win!!

Can we all just appreciate where Coco Crisp caught that last out?

Way to go Pedroia and Youk! And Lugo for avoiding becoming the next Buckner!

People thought I was crazy when we were down 3-1 and I still thought we had a shot. I basically counted Beckett as a guaranteed win, Schilling as a strong win, and Dice-K as a toss up, but if the offense showed up we'd only need a "serviceable" start. We got more than that AND more offense than I thought!

What a series! By then end of it I was pretty annoyed by Lofton anyways, so I was glad to see him mess up on the bases twice this game. I didn't realize he was a punk, I also didn realize that he has missed the world series when his team was up in the ALCS series 3-2, 3-1, 3-0 (w/ Yankees in 2004) and now up 3-1 with the Indians and STILL not make the World Series. Talk aboout comebacks!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pumpkin Carving

Step 1 - Get Some Pumpkins

Step 2 - Copy a Stencil

Step 3 - Painstakingly Carve it out

Step 4 - Put a candle inside and Voila! (My Pumpkin)

Matt's Pumpkin

Another Matt Pumpkin

Nikki's Pumpkin

Another Nikki Pumpkin

Poor Meghan's Pumpkin :(

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ALCS Game 3 - Power Outage

Dave and I drove up to Cleveland Monday afternoon (1/2 day from work) only to get home at 3am to go to work the next day. We met a friend of ours from Cleveland (for those at my table at Dave and Rachel's wedding, it was our friend Tony - the fan of the Pittsburgh Indians and the Cleveland Steelers). Anyway all and all the Jake was a great place to see the game, we had a great time with Tony, and as you can see we had great tickets, 15 rows off the field. Unfortunately the sox decided to take the night off so we lost 4-2. Could have been worse.... we could have gone to game 4.

National Anthem

First Pitch

The Eff You TD

I just read one of the best articles of the season that not only captures the attitude of the Patriots, but of how I feel about them this season with the whole "spying" saga. I have a link but I also pasted the article here in hopes more people (the lazy) will still read it.

Kneel before the Pats -- 'cause the Pats ain't kneeling

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Right after Junior Seau's interception clinched the Patriots' 48-27 victory in Dallas on Sunday, my BlackBerry vibrated with a six-word text from my friend Willy:

"Here comes the Eff You TD."

Three minutes later, it happened: Fourth-string running back Kyle Eckel rammed home a fourth-and-1 carry with 19 seconds remaining in a 14-point game. Normally, you take a knee there ... but not this year. Back in the mid-'80s, every time the Celtics walked off an opposing floor after a hard-fought road victory, a giddy Kevin McHale clenched his fists, raised his Frankenstein arms above his head and showed off his victorious armpits. This was the hairy victory cigar of the Bird era. Maybe the 2007 Patriots don't have anything as magical as McHale's pits, but they do have the "Eff You TD." It's their little way of telling the other 31 teams, "You took shots at us after the Jets game, you discredited our three Super Bowls, you pretended we were the only team stealing opposing signals when everyone does it, so you know what? Eff you."

You might remember me bringing this up in my Week 4 picks column: "Yeah, it's wrong to run up the score. I'd be the first one to admit it. But it's a natural reaction to the way they were vilified for two straight weeks. The rest of the nation turned them into a mutant cross between Cobra Kai and the Yankees, so screw it, they're acting like the Cobra Kai Yankees. Can you blame them? I can't answer that one objectively, so I won't try. But if you don't think they'll be running up the score in Cincinnati on Monday night, you're crazy."

What happened in that Bengals game? Leading by 14 points with nine minutes left, the Pats commenced a climactic 85-yard drive by putting Brady in the shotgun, then throwing five straight times before following it up with three Sammy Morris handoffs that brought them to Cincy's 14-yard line with 3:24 remaining. Teams always run out the clock, make the opposing team burn the rest of its timeouts and kick the game-clinching field goal here, right? Not the 2007 Cobra Kai Yankees. Coming off a Cincy timeout, Brady nailed Moss for a 14-yard touchdown. In other words, eff you.

As you might have heard by now, the Patriots are 6-0, they've outscored opponents by a 230-92 margin, and Tom Brady might quintuple Gus Frerotte's QB rating before everything's said and done. In each of those six wins, they specifically went for a meaningless touchdown just to stick it to their opponents. Here's the complete list:

Week 1 at New York Jets (38-14): 1-yard TD by Heath Evans, 1:58 left.

Week 2 vs. San Diego (38-14): 3-yard TD by Sammy Morris, 3:18 left.

Week 3 vs. Buffalo (38-7): 45-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 10:22 left.

Week 4 at Cincy (34-17): 14-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 3:18 left.

Week 5 vs. Cleveland (34-17): 15-yard fumble return TD by Randall Gay, 0:42 left.

(Important note: This came one play after the Pats failed to convert the "Eff You TD" on fourth-and-goal from Cleveland's 4 when Brady just missed Kyle Brady in the end zone.)

Week 6 vs. Dallas (48-27): 1-yard TD run by Kyle Eckel, 0:19 left.

What does this all mean, other than we should start preparing ourselves for the first 100-point game in NFL history against the Jets in Week 15? We have our first potentially dominant team of the hard-cap era, but more importantly, we have our first true NFL villain since the Raiders in the late-'70s. People hate this team. They want them to lose. It's like having the '96 Bulls back, only if everyone despised them and MJ played garbage-time minutes just to make sure every opponent lost by 20-plus points.

Regardless of how you feel about the 2007 Patriots, at the very least, you have to admit the following three things:

1. You haven't seen football played this well in a long time. Three weeks ago, Malcolm Gladwell e-mailed me to say he was heading to Europe and wanted to know if there was a Web site that allowed him to buy a game tape of the Pats-Bengals game and have it Fed Ex'ed to him. When I asked why he didn't TiVo the game and just watch it when he came back, Gladwell explained he didn't want to wait that long -- the Pats were playing at such a high level, he was fascinated with them in a way that went beyond football. And it's true. We haven't seen anything like this with professional sports in a while. When Dallas took the lead in the third quarter Sunday, the thing that amazed me wasn't that it happened, but how assured I was the Patriots would immediately answer with a score. There was no doubt in my mind. Honestly, I haven't felt this way about a Boston team since the '86 Celtics.

2. Barring injuries, it's going to be an enormous, enormous deal if somebody beats New England this season. That's the sign of a truly great team, regardless of the sport. During my sophomore year in college, I remember watching the '89 Niners and thinking, "There's no way in hell they can be beaten. You'd need about 35 things to happen." As it turned out, they outscored their opponents by a 442-253 margin in the regular season, lost two games by a total of five points and rolled through their three playoff opponents by the unfathomable score of 126-26. Yeah, the '92 Cowboys were great; so were the '94 Niners and the '98 Broncos. But the '89 Niners were on a different level, and we haven't seen anything like it since. Now we're seeing it again.

3. It's fun to have a old-school villain in sports again, right? There's a reason every sports movie has a bad guy in it. There's a reason "USA 4, USSR 3" was the single greatest moment in American sports history. There's a reason people enjoy hating the Yankees and Duke as much as they do.

Over the past 25 years, we've found more and more ways to become attached to sporting events -- there are fantasy teams, office pools, gambling and everything else. On Sundays during the NFL season, I'm rooting for so many different things that I can't even keep track of everything. But here's a case in which sports has been reduced to the purest form: A great football team broke the rules and paid the price; media members and NFL folks had a field day excoriating the team for what happened; somewhere along the line, people decided the team's Super Bowls were tainted even though the NFL didn't send out its much-discussed memo about videotaping opposing signals until September 2006; and that's when the team made the collective decision, "You know what? Eff you!"

It's a two-word phrase that can't be printed on, but it's become the mantra of the 2007 Patriots season. Eff you. You can see it with every rubbing-it-in touchdown in the fourth quarter, as well as every "Get 'em a body bag ... YEAHHHHHHHHH!" reaction on the sidelines after it happens. You can see it with Brady's ticked-off game face that hasn't changed for five straight weeks. You can see it with Belichick's super-satisfied grin during the postgame handshake with the opposing coach -- especially with Wade Phillips, who made the fatal mistake of taking a shot at the Pats this week, when Belichick looked liked he was dying to tell him, "Man, imagine what the score could have been had if we were allowed to videotape your terrible coaching signals!"

It's a great football team with an even greater edge. If you're rooting against them, you hate them for it. If you're rooting for them, you love it and feel the same way. Best of all, there's no middle ground. Maybe the 2007 Pats were caught stealing signals, but only one signal matters anymore: two middle fingers turned toward the sky.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doggy Surgery

Poor Shelby Dog. She had to have another tumor removed. Doggy-doo got another mast-cell tumor, but fortunately once again it was Stage 1 and removing it should do the job.

Shelby doesn't really understand what was going on, why she couldn't eat for a day (for surgery) and then why she had this stupid bandage around her. She has now had the bandage removed and has a lot of energy. Unfortunately she isn't supposed to run for 5-7 days, which will be impossible.

Instead of saying, "Shelby, don't go crazy" I have been telling her, "Shelby, don't have cancer!"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

... Awards there too!

To quote the most pompous speech I ever heard told at P&G:

"I went to Head & Shoulders. I won awards. I went to Pantene... awards there too."

On a more serious note, I am excited to say that I have finally received my 1st Patent. It takes forever. Though this one was fast, only 2 years. I have a few others out there pending and I think this one passed them. There are of course those great projects where you could have gotten a really cool patent and we abandon the work, but for now I will enjoy my milestone!

What's it for? - "Methods of Assessing Characteristics of Fibrous Substrates and Treating Fibrous Substrates"

Translation - Cool ways to measure and treat Hair.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Yankee Elimination Day

It happens once every year - the day I no longer have to watch the Yankees play a game until next year. I only wish the Yankees had lasted long enough for us to beat them.

Impossible Headline From ESPN

"Sizemore's leadoff HR leads to 2-0 Tribe lead"

(un)Luck of the Draw

A follow up to a weird incident. A few weeks ago we had our friends Jim and Karen over for dinner (we had a great time). However a bizarre thing happened when Jim opened a bottle of IBC to find it had only been filled with water. It must have been an issue at the plant because it smelled exactly like IBC root beer, only it was water. The weird thing is the other 5 out of 6 bottles in that case and the entire other case were fine. Was it just a once-in-a-lifetime luck of the draw?

APPARENTLY NOT! This week I opened up a 12 pack of coke only to discover a sealed can of coke that was completely empty. There wasn't a hole in it (it's not as if the coke leaked out). It was just empty. I haven't opened it, it's kind of a souvenir now.

I remarked "what are the chances of me finding a can like this" and appropriately enough Nikki commented "the chances of you finding that can are better than anyone else's because you drink so much coke!"

And she's right. I drink a lot of coke. And only in cans.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Baseball In Pictures

Dear Bartman - This is how you do it!
If you didn't see the Sox game tonight, you missed a hometown fan taking a foul ball away from the angels catcher Jeff Mathis - Bartman Style, only this time the fan was helping his team WIN.

I know it hurts but let's see that Bartman catch again!

Good thing Fenway Park is "Bartman-proof!"

ONE LAST THING! - Sorry Joba! (Joba the Butt)

Go Sox!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Congrats once again to the Pats. One year to the day after their 38-13 thrashing of the Bengals, they beat the who-deys again tonight 34-13. It is still fun to beat the Bengals because of all of the cocky Bengals fans (especially the drunk ones at the game - though I was home sick for this year's game). I think the Bengals have been so bad for so long that an 8-8 season looked good, and just being in the playoff picture the last year or so has gone to the Bengal fan's heads. I blame the Bengals players themselves for propagating this nonsense. After losing 51-45 to the Browns, Rudi Johnson said "to be an elite team you have to beat your division opponents, and we consider ourselves an elite team." In my book you are not an elite team until you consistently make some noise in the playoffs.

FACT: The Bengals have not won a playoff game in 13 years (or is it 14 now?).

FACT: I am tied with the Bengals for NFL playoff wins the past 13 years and I don't play football.

Props to Marvin Lewis for his reported "swearing rant" at his players after this game. It's time to be less cocky, less selfish, and go and play good football.

FACT: The Bengals have given up more points this year (129) than any other team.

OPINION: The Bengals are 1 offensive pass interference away from going 0-4 (Ravens Game). And how many times do you see an offensive pass interference?

GAME BALL: My game ball goes to Tom Brady, 52 straight weeks being listed as "probable" on the injury report since he got hurt in the 2003 game against the Redskins, but still 52 straight starts! And he will PROBABLY do it again next week.

I know some of my Bengal-fan friends will read this, it's really not aimed at you as much as Bengal nation. The reality is this team is in the middle of the pack in a league of parity, their "good" seasons so far have been a mere walk down a random number generator. Which is a shame since Carson Palmer is a good QB. Too bad Jon Kitna is on pace for 12 wins this year in Detroit, the same number of losses the Bengals are on pace for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Blog is Bigger than Your Blog

It's true. I was a little upset to see that all of the Blogger templates are set to 800x600 resolutions, however some quick research will show you that 90% of people surfing the internet have higher resolution, so I feel that 1024x768 should at least be the new template sizes.

So I spent an hour reprogramming this stupid template and I finally got it to work. I did, however, have to lose all of my rounded corners since they were static images that couldn't stretch. So NET - I was able to go from 800 width to 1024 for my blog.

Does this mean there will be more content? No. Does this mean more ads? No. It doesn't mean anything. Except for the fact that we have finally reached 2002 on Blogger (my current laptop supports 1920 x 1200 which means I can put web pages side by side on my screen).

WHOOPDY-DOO Bazzle - what does it all mean? Not much, but then again - it's just a blog.

Let the blog envy begin....

Friday, September 21, 2007

ESPN Pet Peeve

This is something that has bothered me for years and I can't believe it has taken me this long to blog about it.

When I go to ESPN to check the standings during a season I have certain expectations, and that includes seeing my team's record WITHOUT SCROLLING.

Check out MLB - BAM! AL East right on top.
Check out NBA - POW! Eastern Conference on top.
Check out NHL - WHAM! Eastern Conference right on top.

Check out NFL - SCREEEEEEEEEEEEECH! Wha'happened! What's this NFC league? (Is that like the minors or something?) Where's the AFC? Did they stop playing football in the only conference that matters? I don't think so because I saw my Pats romp all over baby LT and his charger team.

Mind you my screen resolution is ludicrous! I can put 2 web pages side by side on this 17" laptop screen with 1920 x 1200 resolution working. There is no excuse for me NOT to see the entire AFC standings scroll-free!

I noticed this started a few years back, I am sure it is somehow related to marketing or some network deal, however FOX seems to have a deal with NFC teams (at least they used to, most games I watch on DirecTV anyways) but still if you go and check out there are the Pats sitting on top of the entire NFL standings (it's something we have become accustomed to in New England). Check out same thing.

I plan to raise a formal campaign against ESPN's NFL standings. We will mobilize, this madness has to stop! Everyone knows that for those "other" conferences (NL, Western, Smythe Division, etc. etc.) you should have to scroll. It's related to the timezones or something. Our games start earlier - therefore we are listed 1st, why can't ESPN get with the program! Anyone willing to root for one of those loser teams deserves to do some scrolling on their dial-up modems on AOL or Compuserve. It's the natural order of things!

To top it all off, doesn't EPSN have a bad REP for being East-Coast biased (which to me isn't a bias as much as good sense). They of all people should have the NFL standings they way mother nature intended!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Red Sox / Yankees Games

Went to the 8-7 Loss (heart breaking with a 7-2 lead in the 8th)
Went to the 10-1 Win (beatdown, shout out to KJ and the gang for being at the game!)

Learned a new definition:

Optimistic op·ti·mis·tic [op-tuh-mis-tik] -
The car load of 4 guys who paid $32 to park in a Fenway lot next to us to TRY to get tickets to the Sox / Yankees game. Good luck guys... it would take a miracle!

More to come on the awesome seats and a cool parking garage feature as soon as I get home to take the images off my computer!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Vacation - Take #1

Well we are on vacation for the week, which means Shelby had to go to camp. Here is a letter I wrote to Shelby to make the transition easier:

Dear Shelby,
We just dropped you off to go to Camp Julie and I already miss you. When we got home the house seemed so quiet without you. Even though you never say a word I miss talking to you. Stay strong, we'll be home soon, and stay off those carbs (loaves of bread).

- Tom

P.S. - Be sure to thank Julie for taking good care of you with some licks.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Winning Car Chosen

OK - so I finally got to drive the 2006 325xi. I have to say the dealer did all they could to accommodate my request for a used car. The 2006 is the bigger body year, and it has almost all of the options I'd want. The car was clean (looked brand new) and had only 10,000 miles on it since it was a dealer executive car. The only thing I didn't like about the car was it was only 215 hp. Barely a step up from my Audi and a long way from the >300 hp 335xi which won engine of the year.

Winning Car: The 335xi!
So I am planning on getting the 2008 BMW 335xi in a manual. After driving the used 325xi I drove the 335xi and liked the engine a lot better. The dealer asked which one I wanted to take home for a night, so I took the 335xi. That was a lot of fun. I was able to drive it around for a night, even took it to work and took some friends out to lunch in it. When I returned the car I had put 114 of the cars 116 miles on it! I told Meghan I was going to sleep in the car than night but I just ended up driving around town and picking people up for a joy ride.

Performance Test Drive
When I returned the car and told the dealer I was interested in the 335xi he said I should come in on Saturday morning for a performance test drive. I said sure, but had no idea what I was getting into! Long story short it consisted of taking a series of tight turns at a crazy 55 mph and going from 0 to 125 mph to get on the highway! I have to say I was a bit scared at times since the salesman that took me out was younger than me and we were in his personal 335i. The car handles amazingly well and would be a lot of fun to drive. Though my car will have options for a little more luxury than sport. This guy had all sport options and didn't take some luxury ones (like Nav system) because he "couldn't afford the weight!"

Performance Delivery
I think the dealer recommneded the performance test drive because I mentioned I wanted to do the performance center delivery if I ordered a BMW. Basically I get to tear around a series of courses on a test track with a professional driver instructing me (in a car idential to mine), and then tour the factory and museum and then have my car delivered in my own showroom. And it costs the same as having your car delivered to your local dealer. It'll be a nice 7 hour drive back to Cincinnati in my new car!

So that's it - the car search for me is probably over, I am sure everyone has their own idea of the perfect car but the 335xi is a great fit for me and has just about everything I'd want. Now I just need to pick an exterior color (I am down to picking among 3-4 colors). I will keep you posted on the progress.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Crazy Car Buying

Here is how crazy car buying can get.

I have put down a $500 deposit on a 2006 325xi BMW that my dealer bought at an auction because it was an AWD manual. I have not seen the car, I have not driven the car, and I am probably not going to buy the car, and in an email the dealer mistakenly told me it was going to cost $437,800! (I told him that was getting out of my price range, he said it was a typo).

Long story short they did buy it at a BMW dealer auction thinking it had everything I wanted, but my deposit is refundable. It just gave me "frst right of refusal" so I can drive it and then tell them if I want it. It's kind of a flier, but I figured it's a safe bet, and they won't rip me off of $500 to lose the sale of a new car. I guess they think this car will move fast.

In other news, the ONLY 335xi manual in town has been sold! At least I got to drive the manual twice beforehand, however I was planning on driving it a few more times :)

The other really weird part about test driving cars is that sometimes I'll ask to drive a specific car and they say, "Oh yeah, we have one, we just sold it but you can drive it today." So a couple of times I have driven cars that other people have bought but haven't picked up yet, and let's just say people are not gentle when they test drive a car! This happened at multiple dealers and I would be a little pissed if I bought an expensive car and people were out joy-riding in it!

With All Due Respect...

I think the phrase "with all due respect" is a riot, because while at face value it may sound like you respect the opinion of the person you are talking with, at it's core it more closely means:
- I am about to disrespect you
- What you just said is stupid and here is why
- No respect is all that you are due
- I am about to belittle you
- Diss

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Additional Test Drives

A few quick updates on the car search since the last car blog.

2005 BMW 330xi
The BMW certified Pre-Owned warranty is a pretty good deal. It's 2 additional years under a warranty or an additional 50,000 miles. So a 2 year old car would still have 4 years left under warranty (up to 100,000 miles). So I figured I better see if I can find one I like.

First of all I like the interior of the 2005 3-series (2006 is the body change to the current version). I like how the dash is tilted to the driver, the radio display isn't polarized, and the built in cup holders are a lot better than the flip out version.

Driving the 230hp 2005 330xi I really enjoyed the car. It would be a fun car to drive, significantly faster than the Audi but significantly slower than the 300hp 335xi.

The 2005 options are somewhat limited though, and the body style looks "dated" according to Meghan. So I have also been looking for a 2006 330xi (really the only CPO option since the 2007 335xi's were a mid-year model). It's nearly impossible to find am xi (AWD) in a manual. I think there are pros and cons to to both and have been taking a look around.

Audi A4
I enrolled the car expertise of Jake to test drive some cars. We drove the 255hp Audi A4. I say "we" loosely because while we both planned to drive it, it was so unimpressive I just drove it down the road and returned within minutes because we had seen enough. Jake didn't see the point of taking a turn driving. It was slow, and had a cheap interior. It's too bad because I have enjoyed my Audi but really I think my 1998 interior looks way better. I think Audi went cheap on their styling now. There is NO room in the back seat, an indicator of that is how Audi carved out two grooves in the back of the seats for your legs, so you'd have an extra 1/2 inch if you kept your legs lined up! The price point puts it in line with the BMW 3-series, so Audi is in big trouble. It's also more expensive than the Infiniti G35 so it's hard to justify an A4.

Audi S4
We also drove the 340hp Audi S4. The car looks sporty and it is fast. Though it is NOT as fast as the 300hp BMW 335xi, but certainly the 2nd fastest car I've driven overall. From just a car standpoint it might rank 2nd on my list of all cars. The interior is more sporty, had comfy seats. Some of the interior design left you scratching you head, and it had some cheap buttons and knobs that you just feel like you'd have to replace a few times. Some negatives are that it is a gas guzzler with 16 mpg and only a 16 gallon tank. You wouldn't get too far from home on one tank of gas.

The Audi S4 is also MORE expensive than the BMW 335xi. So it's pretty much not in the running. The S4 is not as roomy either. I'm guessing reliability and resale of the BMW will be better than the S4 and there are more options on the BMW that I like. Besides a major strike against Audi is that after driving the S4 I asked for the S4 brochure and they said they were out of them (and that I should just go online and look at their website)! I don't think they should be trying to sell an expensive car like that.

The final indicator would be that the BMW dealer was busy on saturday, and Audi was empty.

So what does it all mean?
NET I keep driving the BMW when there is nothing about the drive that would make me NOT want it. Last week I had an hour to kill after work before a dentist appointment, so I told Meghan (jokingly) that I was just going to go sit in the back of the BMW and "be with the car for a while." She said that I have a problem. I didn't really go, but it was funny.

I think the BMW is still the leader in the car chase, I just take my time making a decision and wait to get comfy with it. The 2008 pricing should be in any day so I'll have to take a look at that, the good news is they said they are changing the rims which I think could be good so I'll have wait and see a new one in the show room and see what all of the changes are (though likely minimal).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Has Anyone Ever...

This might be my best blog to date. Has anyone ever...

- Listened to all 8 minutes of "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward

- Seriously listened to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (with out it being a joke?)

- Listened long enough to "Final Countdown" by Europe to hear the words?

- Watched the video to "When The Children Cry" by White Lion WITHOUT feeling uncomfortable?

- Watched the video to "Mother" by Danzig and taken him seriously?

- Recently watched an entire episode of night court?

If you have done all of these things, your name is probably Jay Williams!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dinner Conversation

We are having dinner at our house. Attendees include Meghan, her brother Matt, his girlfriend Nikki, and myself. I am opening the water bill and decide to turn it into a game.

Tom: Guess how many gallons of water we used last month, "price is right" style - closest without going over. Meghan - you guess 1st.
Meghan: 900 gallons
Tom: Ok, Matt you're next.
Matt: 901 gallons
Tom: Ok, Nikki - closest without going over.
Nikki: 1 dollar

It's funny because it's the right strategy, wrong units. Nikki was disqualified. Matt won because we used way more than 901 gallons.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Don't Discard!

Here's that great speech by Steve Tomlinson about not discarding any of your passions in life. If you have 3 very separate career interests, keep them all going because you might not yet see how they will all come together.

I tried to link to this before, but here it is! Enjoy the video (although it's just audio!).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Test Drive - Final Round

Test Drive Round #2 - BMW 335xi vs. Volvo S60 R
This is what we have been waiting for! Finally a test drive of manual (stick shift) AWD cars. (This blog is a long one, if you get through this one be sure to comment!)

The 300hp Volvo S60 R
The Volvo S60 R has a nice interior. It's not as nice as the Infiniti but has more of a sporty theme going than the BMW (but we'll get to that later). The Volvo also has all of the features you'd want, they really thought of everything. There were also 3 push-button settings for the suspension. Comfort, Sport, and Advanced. In comfort you really wouldn't feel the road much. In advance a rail road track would shake you silly. Also the seats might have been the most comfy of any we'd seen, they were a fluffy "pillow-y" leather. Also the black leather interior had blue colored stitching, which I know sounds crazy but it went well with the theme (and Meghan agreed).

However, the Volvo S60 doesn't ride well AT ALL. We 1st drove a used 2004 S60 R manual. It's too bad I didn't like it because it's the exact Volvo I was looking for but for the 1/2 price. It had a crazy horizontal vibration, actually I thought there was something wrong with the car. I told the dealer when we brought it back to basically investigate the issue before letting people drive it. So we took out a new 2007 S60 R (automatic) and it had the same thing! (Only slightly less rough). We have dubbed it the "Volvo Shimmy" and the ride is ROUGH. The S60 R also wasn't as fast as the BMW or the Infiniti and you could certainly tell. The engine was LOUD. I mean LOUD. I don't mind hearing an engine, especially if it sounds cool, this one sounded like it was shouting "shift me" but it didn't need to shift. It sounded wimpy and over worked. Also the S60 R has a TERRIBLE turning radius. You'd have a tough time taking a right turn into traffic and staying in your lane, and you need a lot of room the swing in to park. In fact all of the Volvo's parked in a row were crazy over the lines at the dealer. I think bringing them out one person was slightly on the lines and a cascade effect took over. As if this weren't enough the back seat was too tiny, A4 style, and there is a giant oddly shaped speaker in the center of the front dash about 1 foot square! There are a lot of other nit-picky things I didn't like about the Volvo but it's already DOA.

I had read online that while the BMWs aren't discounted much, you can get the S60R for about $4,000 below MSRP. In fact the salesman offered the fact that the S60Rs are "significantly discounted" now because they aren't making them any more. When a salesman on the 1st day is already talking discount that's a sign. I think you could have gotten a brand new one for $6,000-$8,000 off MSRP but why bother. The ride was so poor I didn't even consider looking at the S80s. Besides we drove it after we had just driven the BMW 335xi. It didn't have a chance!

The 300hp BMW 335xi
I need to preface this review because there wasn't a 335xi manual on the lot. In fact there wasn't even a 335i manual on the lot (no AWD). We had to test drive an automatic 335i because manuals are typically ordered and they don't stay on the lot. Bummer, but it really didn't effect my review (what? is that possible?) Check it out.

The BMW 335xi is FAST. I mean noticeably faster than the Infinit G35 (is that possible when both are 0-60 around 5.3). In fact I liked driving the BMW automatic. I hate to say it but I did. Meghan also commented on how smooth the automatic drove as I tried to take it from 0-60 and ended up at 70 before I even knew it! Of course there was the typical lag of "I just floored it and the automatic hasn't yet figured out to go as fast as it can" but once the automatic figured it out, each shift was seamless. A marked improvement over the G35 where you noticed each shift.

The BMW 335xi has a fairly plain interior. Some call it conservative, I think it's definitely not luxury, but not cheap. It's not sporty like the Infiniti it's just kinda plain. It's fine for me. But visually the interior won't impress anyone, but at least there is nothing to really complain about. The seats are nice leather, comfy but not as comfy as the Volvo's. It was a more rigid leather surface which I think is more typical of leather seats. The pillow-leather of the Volvo I hadn't seen before. The back seats of the BMW have plenty of room. I wouldn't say roomy, not as roomy as the Infiniti, but not much smaller, and certainly fine for back seat passengers. In fact the back seats, while still being a bench, actually had a bucket seat design built in. Once you sit down you kinda sink in. Not only is that comfy but it seems even roomier.

The ride of the BMW was almost like riding on a cloud. In fact it might have had a bit too little road feel, but certainly worth the fact that the car drove extremely tight. Tight corners cause almost no lean and the car seemed to hug the road. It is a totally different sensation than driving an Audi. I love the Audi drive, kinda sport, the BMW drive can best be described as luxury-performance. You know the car is going to drive well, but it almost arrogantly handles the road feel (what road). I guess I just haven't driven something that smooth before. That's a better word. Even a bump in the road seemed smoothed out.

Negatives for the BMW? There aren't too many in my book, and we are really down to looking for small things. The cup holders are hidden in the dash and when you push them they fold out. They are certainly pretty flimsy and don't fill you with confidence. A drive through soda might be trouble, but then again I am driving an Audi where the cup holders have NO SIDES so when you turn the drink tips over! So at least I am still moving up in the world in that regard. One minor annoyance is that I wear polarized sunglasses, and the display of the BMW is polarized too. Therefore when I looked at it from the driver's seat I thought the stereo system was off the whole time, turns out I had to tilt my head a bit to see it. Certainly annoying! The audi has the same thing but the polarized direction is the opposite (the glass may be "upside down" versus the BMW) so I couldn't see it if I were in the passenger's seat. If I get the BMW I might have to invest in some nice driving sunglasses that aren't polarized.

Other things to note, there is no spare tire in the BMW. The tires are run flats, which I hear could ride louder, but I didn't hear them at all. It has all the bells and whistles you could want including 4 year no maintenance costs which is rare now. In fact brake pads and the clutch are covered. They even have my Umass maroon color (as pictured above) though it looks better in person.

If you haven't seen keyless entry, it will become a MUST HAVE. Basically you can keep you key in your pocket, walk up to the car, open the door (it automatically unlocks the door when you try to open it when you are near it). Once you get in, just push the "Engine On" button and away you go. No need to get a key out of your pocket! If you get a car with this option be sure to negotiate for 2 sets of these keys, they are $500+ to replace.

The Results
The Volvo S60 R is eliminated. In fact it has soured me on testing any other Volvos. But I will give a tip of the cap to Volvo for still offering a 4 door sporty AWD car available in a manual, apparently a dying breed of car.

The BMW 335xi has jumped to the top of the list. Basically I can't go wrong with it. I feel like every other car so far has had some trade off (no car is perfect) but at least the BMW the trade off is price, where other cars it might be automatic only or tiny back seats that make the 4 door a 2 person vehicle!

I was also encouraged by the BMW because a few days before I drove one I went to the dealer to see it and I had a great feeling about the car. I think Meghan could tell I was excited about the BMW when I got home, so at least the emotional instincts match my more analytical testing. It was the 1st car I could picture in my garage which is a big deal to say since I was actually biased against the BMW based on it's equity. I couldn't picture myself a BMW driver since I appreciate the Audi's low key equity. I don't want to be too flashy and I am cringing a bit thinking about rolling up to a softball game in a BMW but it'll be worth it since I love the drive so much.

So is it a done deal? Maybe. I could order a mid-year 2007 now but if I order in August I'd get a 2008 for the same price (plus a bit for inflation but I am sure I'd get that back in trade in value by selling a 2008 vs a 2007). So in the next few months I plan to save up some more money, see if I can get comfortable with the investment, and look around at a few more cars for fun. There is also the SLIM chance that a 2007 335xi will be on a dealers lot when the 2008s come in and I could get a deal but since I can't even test drive one yet, seems unlikely. Over the next few months I plan to find a 335xi manual to drive before ordering and give any other cars their last chances. But I am really excited about finding a car that I like because apparently my taste is pretty picky, I didn't even blog about how hard it is to find all the options I want including 60 / 40 folding rear seats for trunk access (which BMW has but not the Infiniti)). In fact the BMW has every feature I want except for ventilated (cooled) seats which is really nice but I can live without that in order to get the other 99 things I wanted.

Infiniti G35 Side Note
If the Infiniti G35x (AWD) could come in a manual, it would probably be the car I would buy. I don't think I would have liked the drive as much and there are some minor things I wouldn't get (like 60 / 40 rear folding seats) but for the money ($10,000 less than the BMW) I would have had a nice car that I would have enjoyed and felt like it wasn't CRAZY expensive (it's still on the pricey side). But the automatic seems to be a deal breaker. In the following months I plan to drive the G35 back to back with the 335xi to re-affirm this feeling.

Audi Side note
What about another AWD manual in the Audi. Certainly a possibility, and I plan to drive on soon. While the reliability isn't great, I have had no problems of late and over 9 years I'd say the reliability was between fine and manageable. However the A4 price point is higher than the Infiniti G35x and not much lower than the BMW 335xi and you''d compromise on the tiny rear seats. Infiniti has put Audi in no man's land in my opinion. But I have become nostalgic driving my Audi of late, it has certainly been a fine car to drive, I guess the older you get the more "nice to have's" add up and the back seat is just a bit too small.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Test Drive - Round #1

As you have seem from my previous post, a number of cars were eliminated at first sight and didn't make it to the test drive round (The Acura TL, VW Passat, and The Hyundai Azera).

Test Drive Round #1 - Lexus GS 350 AWD vs. Infiniti G35x
I am sure you may be asking, why are these automatics on the list? Well they made the cut because they each brought something special.

Lexus IS 250 AWD 204hp - I started looking at the IS 250 AWD, however at the Audi A4 price with a small interior (and no rear leg room) I couldn't pick this car over another Audi A4 so it was eliminated before driving. Also the hp just didn't cut it.

Lexus GS 350 AWD 303hp - At $10,000 above the Audi A4 the Lexus GS 350 AWD goes 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. The "Chardonay Pearl" color pictured here is the color we drove. It couldn't scream "florida retirement" any louder. As a positive, It is full of luxury features, and a lot of attention was paid to hide the buttons and controls away which is pretty awesome. It's a little bit like James Bond where you slide the arm rest back and there are rows of buttons and controls. I really enjoyed the ventilated seats! They are awesome! The back seat is roomy. The front dash left much to be desired as it is 80% rubber. I didn't like the look, the salesman said it was for safety. Overall the car didn't impress me on performance. It came across a little big and slow, but that could also be because I drove it AFTER the Infiniti G35.

Infiniti G35x AWD 306hp - Loaded with options the G35x Sedan is about the same price as an Audi A4 and looks like a fighter jet inside. Seriously, it has an awesome interior, the picture doesn't do it justice, go sit in one. The best interior on the list by far! The G35x goes 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. And it is fast! In the Lexus I was flooring it, in the infiniti I was "feathering" the acceleration because I felt like I could spin out (I'm sure it wouldn't with AWD). But needless to say it was plenty fast enough. However, I did notice the lag from the automatic (can there be lag at 5.3 s from 0-60). I guess I am used to a manual where the car responds so much faster. The infiniti was missing the iPod adapter but the nav system has a 9.3 GB harddrive that you can put all of your MP3s on as your own personal jukebox. While every other car give you a 4 yr / 50,000 mi warranty, Infiniti throws the 4 yr / 60,000 mi curveball.

The Results:
The Lexus GS 350 AWD is eliminated.

The Infiniti G35x survives. It will be driven again after the Audi, BMW and Volvo. If the Infiniti G35x AWD was a stick, it would be a no-brainer. It is a sharp looking car with killer performance for it's price.

Cars: Elimination Day

OK a lot has happened. A number of cars have been eliminated before the "test drive round" just by looking at them in person.

Quick Note: Many cars eliminated here are automatics that have a paddle shifter (shiftronic) to pretend to be a manual. After driving a shiftronic I am confident that it is fair to just call them automatics.

The Acura TL (type S) at 286hp is eliminated because it didn't have AWD until the RL model at 290hp (which is an automatic only) and then the price was in the Audi / BMW range so that's not happening. The Acura's are fairly roomy and can get a lot of "extras" like bluetooth, but they didn't make my cut.

The Hyundai Azera at 263hp was also eliminated. Don't be shocked, the Azera was on the list intentionally as a "low benchmark" but it's reasonably priced and it's a good looking car but not AWD and no frills. They also have the best warranty in America (10 yr / 100,000 powertrain).

The VW Passat at 280hp also did not make the cut. I do like the passat, it's a sporty 4dr car with AWD. However the AWD is only in automatic. You can pretty much pimp out a passat these days except for bluetooth, but the interior is pretty plain.

Making the cut to be Driven:
Infiniti G35x AWD
Lexus GS 350 AWD
Volvo S60 R
BMW 335xi
Audi's A3, A4

BTW - The Audi A8 is totally pimped out now. They are made to be chaufeured so everything cool is in the back seats too. The leg room is CRAZY. But at $84,000 it's too close to the Maserati to be tempting.