Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Barney Frank digs deeper into FBI raid, own nose

Barney Frank: How can you not love this guy? He's smart, witty, and a damned effective legislator. He's one of the few guys left who was never ashamed of being liberal, and that's my kind of guy. So it should not have surprised anyone that Frank came out against his party leadership and decried all the criticism of the FBI for raiding Rep. William Jefferson's office.

But I will say this: If you're going on national television to explain your position, don't pick your nose. Frank was on MSNBC's Countdown last night, and after giving a great answer about why he's bucking the trend and supporting the FBI's actions, he got right in there and buried his finger up to the first knuckle. The show cut back to a single shot of fill-in host Brian Ungar, but it was way too late.

Unfortunately, there's no film yet on the countdown Web site. But it totally happened.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Baseball in San Francisco: They're not worthy

Just one other note about San Francisco: The city doesn't deserve baseball. I always thought it was a form of selfcongratulation when people would talk about how Boston fans were rabid and loved their team and other places weren't like that. Based on what I saw at Pac Bell Park, it's totally true.

I decided to get tickets for a few reasons; to see the park, to experience one of baseballs biggest rivalries (The Dodgers were in town), and to see that fraud Barry Bonds.

During the game, I had noticed the guy next to me had a dark blue hat, so he wasn't a Giants fan, and the color was too dark for the Dodgers. During the middle of the third, he got up and took his windbreaker off, and then I saw it: A "26 rings" Yankees shirt. I was sitting next to a Yankees fan. He started jawing with the older couple in front of me and the lady said something snide about the Yanks (with a smile. These people were all season ticket holders).

So I said "I can't believe I flew 3,000 miles to see a ballgame, and they sit me next to a Yankees fan." The guy turns around and says, "Are you from Boston?" Yeah, I am. It ends up he's a transplant to the West Coast, and the lady in front of us is originally from Attleboro. Small world.

The Yankees fan and I chatted it up the rest of the game. He said it was actually good to sit next to a Boston fan, b/c people from San Francisco really weren't that into baseball. As the game progressed, I could see that was true. These people were committing every ballpark sin imaginable: Half the place showed up late, at least a thoudans people were out on the shoreline, with no view of the game, they talked during balls in play, walked up and down the aisles during the game, left early, the whole nine yards.

When Bonds grounded to first to end the eighth inning, the Yankees guy elbowed me and said, "Now watch the stands." I looked up, and I swear to God, a third of the place emptied out. The Giants were only down by three to their biggest rivals, the Dodgers, and they had their 4-5-6 hitters up next, and everyone was leaving. Friggin bandwagon.

But they're the ones who missed out; The Giants rallied for four runs in the ninth and won the game. And with about 12,000 non-fans now out of the park, the people left were like a distilled version of the crowd; These were the people who really do like baseball, and weren't there just for the Bonds spectacle. So in the end, it felt like a real ball game. But for like 20 minutes. The rest of the time it was like watching a movie outside.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Open Berto for Steve Perry!

It's been raining. Thought you'd might want to know.

I actually missed a good portion of the rain. I was in San Francisco on business (Jesus, did I just write that?) most of last week. It's a spectacular city with a little bit of Boston in it. But just a little.

But San Francisco itself, while great, wasn't the best thing about my trip. No the best part was meeting Steve Perry at a Giants game. You know, Steve Perry, lead singer of Journey, Oh Sherry, You should have been gaw-awne, Steve Perry.

I went to the Giants-Dodgers game on Saturday. Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park) is friggin gorgeous and super fan friendly. I was sitting in the club section of the stadium, which I didn't realize until I got there. I was in Section 202, the last on that deck before you get to the water. Just awesome.

So I got to the park early and walked around for a bit. There were only a couple of people in my section, so it was pretty quiet. Then these two guys walked up. One was totally nondescript, but the other looked wicked familiar.

That hair. That nose. The guy looked just like Steve Perry.

I immediately called my buddy Jonathan and left him a message, asking whether it was lame to try and talk to the guy. Jon left me a message saying I should just yell out "Steve!" ands see if he turns around. But I was afraid to do it, because that seemed like it would be lame. I was worried about seeming lame to Journey's Steve Perry, you see.

So I finally got Jon on the phone and again he pushed me to yell. I guesstimated that the maybe-Steve guy was about 20-25 feet away, looking over the railing at the concourse below and the expanding Pacific in front of him. It's too far, I decided. I couldn't just yell out.

Then I heard the guy talk, and that totally confirmed it; I was looking at Steve Perry.

Just then, he turned as he and his buddy started to leave. They were about to walk past me, about two rows down. There was still like maybe 10 people in my section, so it's like he was right in front of me.

I half-turn away and hiss to Jonathan: "Oh my God, he's leaving. He's walking right up. He's walking right in front of me! Hang on!"

I look up, and there he was.



"Steve Perry?"

"Yeah, what's your name?"

"Roberto Scalese. I'm a big fan."

(Cue big shit-eating grin on my face)

"Hey, thanks, man."

With that, he shook my hand and went on his way. No muss, no fuss. And I was a happy guy, because I really do like Journey, and not in some ironic trucker hat indie rock way. It's good music, dammit. But the world is coming back to where I already am, and when it does, it'll see me with Steve, side by side, like Jake and the Fat man.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I wasn't even there at the time

Gienna, a friend of mine from work, went to Las Vegas for a conference and then took a couple of vacation days to unwind at Caesar's Palace. She asked if I wanted her to play anything in my name while at the casino, so I gave her $20 to bet on black at a roulette table. She didn't know exactly how that was done, so I explained it to her. While she was there, she e-mailed me, and I mentioned that she should feel free to let the money ride if I hit on black. OK.

So she's in the casino and she finds a table that'll take small action like $20. But she's scared, so she decides to watch a hand and see how it's done. The spin comes red. Now, she's mentally preparing to place my bet, but she's still nervous. Some guy steps up next to her and lays down $20 on black. Gienna thinks, "OK, now's the time!" but hesitates and the dealer waves off any additional bets.

It hits black. I'm out $40.

The guy who came to play let's the money ride, which is exactly what I told Gienna to do when we last spoke. But now she keeps thinking she just screwed up, and since the last bet was black, does that mean it's less likely to come up, etc. She's not stupid; she knows that it's still 50-50, but she's like parylized with fear.

Black. My $20 would have been $80.

Now she's frozen, panicking at the table. A couple of ladies who Gienna swears were nuns come up, and one of them puts a sizable bet on black. Gienna doesn't move.

Black. The nuns are way up, and I'm out $160.

Black comes up three more times; that's six times in a row. That's $20 to $40 to $80 to $160 to $320 to $640 to $1,280.

I'm out $1,280 bucks at this point.

So that's the final straw. Gienna now realizes that she cannot--CANNOT!--put any money on this table, because it's cursed. So she walks over to the new Roulette wheel and smacks down the $20 on black like a pro.


But at least she got me some poker-chip-shaped chocolate. Thanks for playing.

Is that fair? Of course not. Anyone would have walked away after the original bet and maybe let it ride once. But still, it's more fun to hang a grand over her head. :)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

MBTA fare increase: The rumbling's getting louder

The drums of discontent are getting louder.

Pelican In Her Piety has an outstanding summation of the T's funding situation and a spot-on analysis of the problems facing T riders and the agency, thanks in large part to outer suburb Representatives who cut the T's funding and then tried to raid its accounts (Via Universal Hub).

In case you missed it, Mike Dukakis got into the act in yesterday's Globe, and make some damn good sense:

''Gas prices are now $3 a gallon for regular," he wrote in an e-mail. ''Yet, here in Massachusetts where we are blessed with what could be the best public transportation system in the country, we seem to be doing everything we can to drive people away from the T.

''It is now clear, as it should have been at the time it happened, that tying the T to one penny on the sales tax as its principal revenue source was a terrible mistake. The T is a public service, just like our highways. It is a critically important piece of our metropolitan and state economy. It needs expansion, not contraction."

So is this the real start of the pushback, and where will we end up? If I had to make a guess, the T will offer transfer to CharlieTicket riders and keep the increase at $1.70, instead of retreating on the final increase amount itself. Then they'll say everybody wins, although the evidence shows this is the solution that should have been in place in 2000. Grrr.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Welcome back, Doug

I guess this is baseball's version of a mulligan: Doug Mirabelli's back with the Red Sox.

Seriously, has a trade ever been undone this quickly? I know Josh Bard was having some trouble, but Sheesh. Anyway, i like Doug, so welcome back and help out Wake, wouldja?

MBTAfare increases: The good and the bad

The MBTA used a delightful Friday afternoon to let slip the news of a new fare hike. It's lousy, and it confirms the worst fears opponents had last time around, but there are some silver linings here.

First, when the last fare hike was made two years ago, many opponents (including myself, in my only appearance ever on NPR) said it would start a vicious cycle: Ridership is down so you increase fares, but that forces down ridership, which forces you to increase fares. Clearly, that's what's happening here.

Some of the same rate hike canards are making the rounds again. The T has the cheapest subway fare in the country, but it doesn't offer free or reduced transfers for most rides, making it one of the most expensive total trips. Thankfully, the new fare structure will include free transfers from subway to bus. Even with that, though, the T offers far less service that New York, Chicago, and DC for the same price. All these lines run into the late-night or 24 hours, while Boston rolls up its tracks by 1 a.m. (depending on the station.

Eliminating the exit fares, free outbound rides and the rest of the irregularities is a small but appreciated item. Decreasing the combo pass price is also a great help.

Charging more per ride for CharlieTicket users than CharlieCard users is something that I find a little troubling. Look, you certainly want to reward the people who use the system the most and keep them as loyal customers, and lower fares for consistent users is a good way to do that. It also creates an incentive for people to use the faster technology (the CharlieCards are wave-throughs, while the tickets have to be manually fed into the system.

My concern, though, is that the price jump for non-traditional T users is so steep as to keep them away from the service altogether. At the very least, make CharlieCards purchasing available at the terminus of each line and branch, so out-of-towners can take full advantage of the better technology. If the T wants to increase its ridership appreciably, it needs to attract these people on the periphery who feel that driving to town is still worth the hassle and cost. Bilking them for an extra 55 cents than other users is just as unjust as an exit fare. These are customers who will see a full dollar jump in fares, all because they aren't aware of the new cards, or are less frequent users. That's bunk.