Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why I admire Bobby Hurley

I never heard of Bobby Hurley until March when the movie about him and St. Anthony's School premiered on PBS. Frankly, I hadn't thought much of him since until I read the other day that his team was playing in Newton this week. But even though I just heard of him and haven't given him much thought until this week, I still greatly admire him for what he does for Catholic education. Yes, he is an amazing basketball coach but if he coached at a public school, frankly, I would not be as interested. He is committed to the school, not the team per se.

Case in point. I am reading the Adrian Wojnarowski book "The Miracle of St. Anthony" and I was just reading a section about a basketball clinic he was running. It said:

On his way out, the clinic organizer asked Hurley to whom to make out the check for his appearance fee.

Bob Hurley's answer never changed, becayse the money went where it always did.

"Saint Anthony High School," he said.

He's the real deal.

Seeing a legend

Erin and I headed to the St. Anthony's-Catholic Memorial game at Newton North High School around 4pm yesterday and got there around 4:45. There was already a big crowd when we got there for the 5:30pm game and it only got more packed. Once the game was underway, there was hardly a seat in the house with hundreds of people standing in the back.

The St. Anthony team was very professional during warm-ups, doing drills, stretching, defensive drills, etc. CM, however, was just shooting around. The guy behind me asked his son which team was being more effective. His son asked, "What does effective mean?"

The game was surprisingly even in the first half with CM playing strong defense and St. Anthony's missing a ton of easy lay-ups and free throws. St. Anthony's had a small 6 point lead going into halftime. The half ended with St. Anthony's being called for two straight fouls - one offensive and then another on the next play on defense. Bobby Hurley was not happy and gave the refs a piece of his mind as they headed to the locker room. Everyone was watching him as he talked to the ref near center court.

St. Anthony's dominated the second half with CM unable to keep up. They were crisper with their shooting, they were hitting the easy shots, and they controlled the boards (they made three offensive rebounds on one set alone). CM was getting tired with St. Anthony's seeming to have more stamina. They also had more height and CM just couldn't match up with them. In the end, St. Anthony's won by over 20 points.

Like I said, the place was packed. In front of me were a bunch of students from CM. CM is in West Roxbury and is an all boys school (they're actually the rivals of my alma mater BC High). They were taunting the St. Anthony's team during the game which is par for the course (it reminded me of when I was in school). However, it was a little uncomfortable at times to see a group of white kids from a wealthy school in white West Roxbury taunting a group of black kids from a poor school in black Jersey City. They were fair weather fans anyways - they left after the third quarter.

Anyway, I am so glad I went. We saw some great basketball as well as a legend. I said to the kids behind me that they can always say they saw the best high school basketball coach in history. Me too.

Photo from Boston Herald article on the game. See it here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gender Reversal?

Lynn happened to get four free tickets to today's Disney Princess on Ice show in Providence from someone at work. She is going to take her two nieces...and Kevin. Princess on Ice is not really for boys but he doesn't know the difference really yet. There will be plenty of boys there I am sure.

So I am going to take Erin with me to the St. Anthony's-Catholic Memorial basketball game in Newton. Kevin's going to a Princess show and Erin to a basketball game? Too funny. I would love for Erin to get a full sports scholarship to a Division I school so this may be the first start to that!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Democrat I can finally agree with

"My biggest beef is that this is part of what's happened in this country," [Pennsylvania Gov. Ed] Rendell said in an interview on 97.5 radio in Philly.

"I think we've become wussies. ... We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."

- Gov. Ed Rendell after Sunday's Vikings-Eagles game was postponed due to snow

Hurley coming to Massachusetts

Back in March I blogged about a school in Jersey City, NJ called Saint Anthony High School. The school is small (about 200 students), is housed in a building built in 1917, has little to no amenities, and is on the brink of closure every year. About the only thing keeping the school alive is its legendary basketball coach, Bobby Hurley. Hurley has coached at the school for over 30 years and has won over 900 games, over 20 state titles, and a handful of national titles. This past April he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, only the third high school coach in history.

Hurley's success on the court and his efforts to keep the school opened were documented in a book "The Miracle of St. Anthony" (which I picked up today at the library) and a movie "The Street Stops Here" (which I saw in March). As a Catholic school teacher, Hurley is an incredibly inspiring figure.

I was alone today so I decided to go out for breakfast after I went to the gym. I stopped at the store to pick up a Boston Globe (which I never do) so I would have something to read. I couldn't believe it when I read that Hurley's team is coming to Newton tomorrow to play Catholic Memorial in a tournament game! I would never have known if I didn't pick up the paper. Anyway, I am definitely going to the game. This guy is a legend and his team is amazing. I cannot wait.

See the Globe story here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"First Family"

My favorite American history writer is Joseph J. Ellis. He writes mostly about the Revolutionary/Founding Era with his most famous book being "Founding Brothers", a phenomenal book of five short stories from the Founding Era. I got it as a Secret Santa gift when I worked at Sun Life Financial and have read it about five times. I also assign it as summer reading for my AP US History class.

Ellis' newest book is "First Family", a look at the relationship between John and Abigail Adams. I was a little disappointed when I heard this was going to be his latest book as Adams has gotten a lot of play lately. Not only that, the Boston Globe gave the book a tepid review when it came out last month. Either way, I love all things Ellis writes and I asked for it for Christmas and got it.

I won't get a chance to read it for a bit but was excited to read that the New York Times gave it a positive review:

There have been numerous collections of John and Abigail’s wonderfully candid and witty letters, of course, and several biographies of Abigail, including Phyllis Lee Levin’s “Abigail Adams,” Edith Gelles’s “Portia: the World of Abigail Adams” and, most recently, Woody Holton’s “Abigail Adams.” But Mr. Ellis — the author of an astute 1993 portrait of John Adams (“Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams”), as well as of books on Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other members of the Revolutionary generation — uses his easy familiarity with the era to invest his portrait of the couple with authoritative historical perspective. We may not learn anything appreciably new about the Adams family, per se, but in “First Family” Mr. Ellis employs his narrative gifts to draw a remarkably intimate portrait of John and Abigail’s marriage as it played out against the momentous events that marked the birth of a nation.

I'll let you know what I think when I get a chance. I can't wait to read it.

Shared sacrifice?

There was a neat segment in Ken Burns' amazing documentary on World War II ("The War") that discussed the sacrifices Americans made during the war. From saving bacon grease, to rationing food, to recycling aluminum, to buying war bonds, to serving - everyone played some part in the war effort.

Today we're fighting two wars and there seems to be no real talk of shared sacrifice. In fact, when some politicians, including the recent Debt Commission, make suggestions about raising the retirement age or raising the gas tax, the proposals are DOA. Now, I am not about to advocate for massive tax increases but I have been thinking...part of the reason we have such massive deficits is because of the amount of money we're spending on the wars in the Middle East. By some estimates, we have spent well over $1 trillion on the wars since 2001.

I wonder if we're all doing our part to help pay down a deficit that is high in part because of the men and women fighting to protect us from harm. See more on this here.

Another book in the books

I was able to read one of the books I got for Christmas in less than an hour! Impressed? Well, it was only 42 pages or so - Bill Bryson's "African Diary." I discovered Bryson earlier this year when my friend Dave Sullivan told me about his book "A Walk in the Woods." The book chronicles Bryson's hike of the Appalachian Trail. To say it's perhaps my favorite book is an understatement. The second I finished it, I wanted to read it again. It's just that good...and funny.

I decided to get all of Bryson's books - the subjects of which range from travel books, to science, to an autobiography, to a biography of William Shakespeare. I have been reading his book on Australia but with two kids and school, it's been tough to read much of it at a time. I got the last few that I didn't have as Christmas presents thanks to my parents, including the one on Africa. Bryson traveled to Kenya in 2002 for CARE and he donated all the royalties from the book to CARE. It was brief as I said but it whetted my appetite to learn more about Africa.

I have become more and more interested in Africa, especially since I am teaching a class on Comparative Government next semester and one of the countries we have to cover is Nigeria. I know so little about Africa (like most Americans) so I am reading and watching all that I can. I did take a class in graduate school on Colonial and Modern Africa which was quiet fascinating but I have so much more to learn.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Another Christmas Day in the books. Of course the Christmas season extends until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 9 in 2011) so Merry Christmas to all.

As has become our custom, we all went to the 6pm Mass at our parish on Christmas Eve. In the past this Mass had been somewhat quiet but this year it was pretty packed (especially with many people I didn't recognize as is usual on Christmas and Easter!). Luckily our friends the Sullivans were there and sat behind us. It's always nice to see some familiar faces on Christmas Eve. Kevin was a handful of course but it was a lovely Mass. Afterwards he and his friend Julia Sullivan looked at the creche on the altar, took some pictures, and caused mayhem. Kevin brought Jesus a brownie for His birthday. Lynn told him to give it to Jesus (aka the creche statue outside) but he went running up to our pastor and said, "Here you go Jesus."

We got home around 7:30 and had a late dinner all around. Lynn and I make some seafood on Christmas Eve - shrimp, steamers, and scallops. It wasn't as formal this year as Erin was up late but it was still tasty. After dinner Lynn asked me to step out of the living room as she had to wrap my presents. I went into our bedroom where I unintentionally fell asleep right away. So that was that!

Christmas morning was presents galore. Kevin got some neat stuff as did Erin (thanks to Lynn). I got some kitchen stuff, the new Ina Garten cookbook, and a Massachusetts Trail Guide book from the Appalachian Mountain Club. We got to my parent's house in Melrose around 11:45am where there were even more presents. Kevin got a huge fire station from my sister Meaghan, some fire boots, a big truck, etc, etc. I got a bunch of books I asked for - namely all the Bill Bryson books that I don't own, Joseph J. Ellis' new book on John and Abigail Adams, and David McCullough's biography on Teddy Roosevelt. My sister also got me a pass to the Massachusetts state parks! That will get a lot of use.

There was a good crowd of people there, including Lynn's parents, some cousins of mine, and uncles. We headed over to Lynn's sister's house (also in Melrose) around 6:30pm and stayed there for a couple of hours. The kids were dead asleep shortly after we got back on the highway. I myself fell asleep on the couch around 10:45pm as we were watching "Elf" (love that movie). Today will be a quiet day with the approaching blizzard. I am going to Mass at 10am (I am going to take Kevin myself to see how he does alone with me) and that's about it. We have good sledding land here so there will be lots of that today! Enjoy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cash only

I know, I know. Been a long time.

For the first time since before I had credit cards, I did not use my credit card once this Christmas shopping season. I was able to use the debit card for everything. In the past, I've dug myself a deeper and deeper credit card hole but spending a lot at Christmas and charging it all. This year I wised up.

Looks like a lot of people around the country are doing the same. See here.

I am going to try and be smarter with my credit card this upcoming year. I certainly don't use it a lot but every month, I charge $29.99 for my gym, $25 for the local paper ($15 plus $10 for a tip), and about $30 for Fast Lake (aka tolls). I can shift my gym membership to my checking account, move to the e-edition of my paper which is about $7, and not take the toll road to work. I only take the toll road (Rt. 3) if I am running late and on the two days when I have to pick the kids up from daycare in Lowell. By accident, on my way to pick the kids up the other day I spaced and missed the exit for Rt. 293 which takes me to Rt. 3. So I went another way (Rt. 93 to Rt. 495) which, I think, is about the same distance. I am going to measure it out sometime and if it is the same (or around the same) I am going that way for now on. That should save in the long run.

I was talking to a single parent from my school the other day who struggles mightily but still sent a number of kids through my school. It has not come without much sacrifice for this parent (they have no gas for example and have to use a toaster oven to cook). Now while I am not in that sort of situation at all it really put things into perspective for me. Kevin may be starting pre-K in the fall which won't be cheap. We want him to go to a Catholic school but even if he went to a public school, you still have to pay for pre-K. Tuition runs about $3,000 but then you have to pay for the after-school program (I would not be able to pick him up until 3:30 or so). So, we have to be smart financially. I am going to talk to our bank next week about refinancing our mortgage which may help in the long run too.

We shall see.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free t-shirt!

Last summer I discovered the DCR's Passport Program. I've talked about it before - essentially you visit a certain number of state parks in a region and you get a stamp in a passport book at each one. One you visit all of the parks in a particular region, you get a free t-shirt.

I took the kids to tons of state parks over the summer and on Veterans Day we visited the last two we needed for the Northeast Region - Cochituate State Park in Natick and Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton. There are twelve participating state parks in the Northeast region, the furthest west being Willard Brook in Townsend, the furthest east being Halibut Point in Rockport. My favorite, however, was Walden Pond in Concord with Halibut a very close second. I think Kevin liked Walden too but more for the swimming (I like the history there).

Anyway, I took Kevin to the regional DCR office in Carlisle last night for his free t-shirt. As we got out of the car, a ranger was just pulling in and I told him to tell her he got all his stamps (I didn't want to be the one to ask for a free t-shirt). She was all excited and asked him if he wanted his t-shirt. She took us into the office where he got a shirt, a really nice tote bag with a picture of Walden Pond's stamp on it (like the ones you can get at supermarkets now), and a poster of all the park's stamps. The people were incredibly nice and were so excited that we took part. They said very few people take part in the program anymore. Kevin had fun pointing out his stamps to the people and telling them about his trips.

The t-shirt is kind of big (they gave him the smallest one they had) so he will have to grow into it. But, we hung up his poster in his room under the map of state parks and we will certainly use the bag. My next conquest will be either the Central or Western region. We only have a few more to visit in the Western region but it's so far away. There are a lot more parks in the Central region and it's much closer so I think we'll focus on those.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday or??

Boston Globe is reporting that Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino will attend the lighting of the menorah on Boston Common today. My question is, will they refer to it as the "Holiday" Menorah like they do the "Holiday" Tree?