I don’t remember exactly when I first fell in love with BMX, but it was probably more than 20 years ago, sometime between the 5th and 6th grades. Kenton, my best friend at the time, had a sweet freestyle bike and bedroom walls covered with hundreds of cut-outs of his favorite freestylers. I was instantly intrigued. I ran home to tell my parents how I absolutely needed to have a trick bike of my own! I collected stickers and put them on everything. I started checking the tore every day for the new issues of BMX Plus and Freestylin’ Magazine, cutting out the photos to put in my locker. I dreamed of meeting Mat Hoffman or Dennis McCoy. I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before my parents gave in to the constant begging and got me my first freestyle bike, a beautiful, white 1987 GT Pro Freestyle Tour Team model (exactly like this one except with white mag wheels and one-piece cranks). This bike changed my life. I don’t know how many thousands of hours I spent riding this bike, but it was a lot. We’d ride every chance we got. We’d ride to school. We’d get together after school to ride.

Ritually, every Saturday morning we’d meet up early to eat a bowl of Kix and watch the movie “Rad” before going out riding. The trip was basically the same every time. We’d zig-zag all over town, hitting every curb-cut, every little jump, going through all the parking lots, stopping at the McDonald’s for some McNuggets and an apple pie. Then we’d stop at the bike shop and hang out for hours. That place was like our second home and Jerry, the bike shop owner, was like our other dad. We’d almost always end up at the Bazaar Mall (redundant?) where we’d hang out until I would call mom to ask her to come pick me up with the family Suburban because I was just too tired to ride all the way home again.

After 6th grade, I spent a week over the summer at Woodward Camp in Pennsylvania. This was a completely amazing experience. They taught us how to do flatland, how to ride ramps, how to ride down a dirt track, etc. We did all kinds of drills and learned a ton. There were Pros there teaching us and performing for us. Spike Jonze would be there taking pictures for Freestylin’ (which later merged with BMX Action to become Go!), taking a break from his main gig at Sassy. Not to mention you had all the cute girls from the Woodward gymnastics camp there to keep things interesting. Good times!

During this part of my life, my bike was everything. I saved up my money to buy parts and did all the work myself. First, there were some axle pegs for the front to complement the fork stands. Then some fancy hot pink Shimano pedals to match the decals. Mushroom bar grips. Barefoot tires that would leave a line of tiny little wet footprints in the pavement anytime you’d drive through a puddle. I eventually made so many changes to the bike, including a new frame (this exact blue/black 1987 Haro Master frame), that it barely had any of the original parts. It was completely built for me, by me (FMBM)! I loved this thing to death.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many hobbies, my involvement in BMX eventually faded. I wasn’t able to return Woodward in the summer of 1988 due to a case of Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis that had me hospitalized near the end of 7th grade in order to have pins put in both of my hips. I spent some time in physical therapy recovering and then spent months on crutches. Although that wasn’t the end of the bike for me, but as the years went on and my friends started to get cars in high school the bike and I eventually drifted apart.

That was then and this is now.

Turn the clock ahead to January 2006, almost exactly 20 years since I first discovered BMX, when my brother Niklas, after years of hearing me talk about maybe someday getting a bike again, decided to kick things in gear and make something happen. He called a local bike shop in Somerville and put a down payment on a new 2005 Haro Master M7. I’m back baby!

Since then, I’ve been riding my bike as much as possible. I ride to work every day, except when the weather is bad. I save up my money to buy parts for my bike. In the last 18 months, I’ve gotten a new tires, new front and back pegs, new brake pads and springs, new stem, new head set and new pedals. I even have my actual 1987 Haro Master frame and plan to restore it and build a new bike around it.

I subscribe to BMX Plus! and Ride BMX (I don’t cut the pictures out anymore because now I can scan them). After work, I hang out at the local bike shop, Timeless BMX, and the owner Jody is my new BMX mentor. I fantasize about the day when the new Charles River Skatepark will open and I can finally have somewhere fun to ride! I actually have dreams about pulling off amazing tricks and wake up somewhat disappointed that it was just a dream but all the more excited to get back on the bike and try!

I feel like a kid again and I love it!

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We drove down to Hartford yesterday to join family and friends of Gregory’s in remembering and celebrating his life. I’m so glad that we went! It felt really good to be there in that house with all these people who loved him.

Chris, Gabe and Patty were there. We showed up too late to see Becky.

I got the opportunity to tell Greg’s mother Eleanor all about how I came to knew Greg and what he meant to me and to others who knew him. A couple of months before he died, at the California Pizza Kitchen, Greg and I discussed a position at the Broad that I was hoping he would take. Eleanor told me how excited he was to start working again and how he thought this job would be the perfect thing for him. It made me so happy to know that in his final months, Greg was jazzed about the idea of us working closely together and getting to rekindle our friendship. I think we would have had a blast!

On the drive back we passed a bus that was completely engulfed in flames. The police and fire trucks arrived just as we were driving past the bus. It didn’t look like anyone was hurt. Bailey made a little video with my phone.

We’re heading back down to Hartford this afternoon for the memorial service.

A dear friend of mine, Gregory Blake, a.k.a. Snooze, died yesterday at the age of 37. He endured a long battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (see also: 1, 2), which left him weak and uncomfortable just about all of the time.

On April 14th, 2005, after years of waiting, Gregory finally got himself a new lung! It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was tough going there for a while. But he was strong. He kept pushing on. A year ago today, this is what he posted in his blog:

Hot Damn – Just now I made it up the stairs from the first to the second floor without using my cane. I never thought I’d be so excited by stairs. The lung is working great still, every bit of exercise makes me feel a bit stronger. My next goal is to be able to walk around the block by the end of the month.

and just six months later:

It’s the little things – Earlier today I paused midstep as I was jogging up the stairs and thought “Holy Fuck, I just jogged up the stairs. Cool!

The following April, right around his one year (re)birthday, Greg posted about how he was going to be going back into the hospital for surgery to fix his acid reflux issues.

I’m actually not that nervous about it. Maybe having surgery as major as a transplant makes one a little jaded.

Then, on May 18th, he went in for the stomach surgery. His system had trouble adjusting after the surgery. They had to put him on an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxegenation) machine to oxygenate his blood for him. Things were touch and go for a couple of weeks, but he wasn’t able to pull through. He passed away on the afternoon of May 5th. It is a sad, sad day for people who knew him. Greg will be dearly missed.

See also:

A few weeks back, Logitech held a 100 Remotes A Day Giveaway where 700 lucky winners would receive a new Harmony 676 Universal Programmable Remote ($199.95 msrp). To enter, I filled out a little web questionnaire about my home entertainment system and how many remotes there are and whether or not anyone can seem to use it for anything without my assistance. Not long after I was happy to receive the report that I was indeed a winner!

The first thing you notice about the Harmony 676 is that in order to configure it, you don’t mess around with reading a bunch of annoying codes that you have to cycle through and try before you find the on that controls your device. Instead, you plug it into your computer via the included USB cable and program it by directing your web browser to HarmonyRemote.com. Once you setup an account and enter the manufacturer and model number of all your devices and tell it how you want them to interact with one another, it updates the remote automatically and you’re ready to go.

For me, the setup phase took some time because of the number of devices I’m working with. After gathering all the information and figuring out how I wanted it to work, the process of entering it and updating the device wasn’t too tedious.

I configured it to control the following devices:

  • Sony television
  • Sony amplifier
  • Sony stereo receiver
  • Sony dual cassette deck
  • Sony 200-disc CD jukebox
  • Sony VHS/DVD combo
  • Sony PlayStation 2
  • Motorola digital cable box
  • TiVo Series 2
  • Turtle Beach Audiotron

The Harmony 676 is also a pleasure to use. The way I have it configured, I hit the “Watch TV” button and it turns on the TV, sets it to Video 1 (the TiVo), turns on the amplifier and sets it to Video 1. When I use the volume buttons, they control the volume on my amplifier. When I hit pause it pauses the TiVo. The off button sends the off signal to all the devices.

In addition, the Harmony 676 also allows you to set a list of favorite channels for which it will download the schedules and allow you to scroll through a “now playing” list of shows that are currently airing on your favorite channels. If you click on one it will go to that channel, in my case, via the TiVo.

The remote is physically designed similarly to the TiVo Series 2 remote. Though it lacks some of the more tactile features like the giant pause button, it has the same hourglass figure and a similar layout. I found the buttons didn’t feel quite as responsive as I’m used to with the TiVo Remote, but that may also be just it still needs to be broken in. Either way, for now I’m down from nine to just two remotes and loving it!

A couple of months ago I started to get an influx of comment and trackback spam from our friends at the online casinos, penis enlargement medicine makers and pornography peddlers. So, rather than putting the effort into developing my own custom spam prevention system, I decided to try out WordPress.

I’ve started with a generic WordPress installation and haven’t bothered to integrate any of the features of the previous site immediately. I’m going to play with this a bit and expand as becomes appropriate. Bear with me.

Nine weeks ago, we picked up the most beautiful old stray from a shelter in Rhode Island. We named her Rosie after The Riveter.

Rosie the dog

She was most likely part pit bull terrier and part boxer. We fell in love with her immediately. She was so happy just being around people and hanging out. However, she recently started to feel sick. We took her to the vet last week and they ran some tests but didn’t find much. They put her on some medication but she quickly got worse. On Saturday, we took her to the emergency room and they kept her for the night. After performing a biopsy they found carcinoma. They gave us some options, but none of them were very promising. We went to visit her last night but she had gotten worse. So, today we went back and visited her one last time and then had her put to sleep.

This is really very sad. I mean, it’s only been nine weeks, but we had already gotten so close. I had meant to post about her so many times but I never quite got around to it. I can’t believe this is the first post I am making about her. She was so likable and she had so many hilarious mannerisms. For example, she loved to sleep laying on her back with her legs spread and her tongue sticking out. When you’d ask her if she wanted to go for a walk, she’d tilt her head to the side as if to ask “Seriously!?” and then spring up with all the enthusiasm the old girl could muster. Once you’d get her outside, she’d smell everything! I think smelling things might have been her favorite thing. That and napping. Anyway, she was great and in spite of the fact that she didn’t necessarily get along so well with other dogs or cats, she was the sweetest thing to every human she met. And they all loved her.

Vieve has also written a little something about Rosie on her Dogster page. We will both miss her very much. RIP Rosie.

Lately I’ve been listening through Sony’s Soundtrack for a Century, trying to expose myself to the music of some other styles and periods. One of the things that’s been happening as I listen to some of the older music is that I’ve discovered original or much earlier versions of songs I’ve been familiar with for a long time. For example, tonight I was listening to “Folk, Gospel & Blues: Will the Circle Be Broken, Disc 2” and I came across a song called The Patriot Game performed by The Clancy Brothers.

    Come all you young rebels and list while I sing
    For the love of one’s country is a terrible thing
    It banishes fear with the speed of a flame
    And makes us all part of the patriot game

    My name is O’Hanlon, I’m just gone sixteen
    My home is in Monaghan, where I was weaned
    I’ve learned all my life cruel and England to blame
    And so I’m a part of the patriot game

    It’s barely two years since I wandered away
    With the local battalion of the bold I.R.A.
    I read of our heroes and I wanted the same
    To play up my part in the patriot game

    This island of ours has for long been half free
    Six counties are under John Bull’s tyranny
    So I gave up my boyhood to drill and to train
    To play my own part in the patriot game

    And now as I lie here my body all holes
    I think of those traitors all bargained and sold
    I wish that my rifle had given the same
    To those quislings who sold out the patriot game

I had never heard this song before, at least not with these lyrics. The music is the same as in Bob Dylan’s With God On Our Side. So I decided to do a little research on its history. It turns out that the tune is also basically the same as The Nightingale, The Grenadier and the Lady, The Brave Volunteer, The Wild Rippling Waters, The Shores of Lough Erne, Come Fill Up Your Glasses, One Morning In May, Paddington Green, Pretty Polly Perkins and quite a few others. All of these are or are based on traditional Irish folk songs.

Apparently, Dominic Behan, who wrote The Patriot Game in 1957, made a fuss when he heard Bob Dylan perform With God On Our Side, saying that Dylan stole the song from him.

I decided to go through all the hits returned by a Google query for my name that actually reference me (and not some other joker named the same) to see what all is out there. Below is a summary of what the first bunch of real hits will tell you:

  • I run this here website (and have my resume online)
  • I have hacked my Tivo to do some interesting (though not necessarily original) things
  • I am a fan of Mr. Show and also A Christmas Story
  • I was involved with the whole “Kendall Square Turkey” thing and was apprehended for taking photographs on government property
  • I once worked at Cloud 9
  • I co-own an “ISP” in Somerville and am involved with BBLISA
  • I went to Oberlin and was active in the Computer Science department
  • I run Livephish.org
  • I send email with pine
  • I am an OpenSRS domain reseller
  • I am (or have at one time been) a Saab owner
  • I was at one point “way into” the OpenMind Common Sense server
  • The Wall Street Journal said that I am “not a shadowy stalker” in an article about the Tivo titled “Oh no! My TiVo thinks I’m gay”
  • I am a Panix user and my birthday is the last day of November
  • I once used BSDi
  • I was in some way involved with the “Heaven’s Gate” thing
  • I have contributed sample listings to the Top Sample Lists
  • I am a FreeBSD user
  • I am a Quaker
  • I am a TWiki user
  • I am a fan of Liz Phair
  • I am a fan of DJ Shadow
  • I am active in the Phish online community
  • I have used the Amanda backup system
  • I am interested in hip-hop culture
  • Carl Erikson calls me his friend.

It seems like a lot, but it’s really not that bad. It could be worse. Besides, all that stuff in Google and Googlism still only knows this about me.

Four years ago today, in what I imagine was a rather poorly attended ceremony, the street hockey rink across the street from my office was dedicated to one Jimmy Johnson. It is called the Jimmy Johnson Street Hockey Memorial Rink. A large sign on the fence states:

“The Jimmy Johnson street hockey rink, dedicated to the love & spirit of his passion for the game. June 24th, 2000.”

I’ve read this sign hundreds of times and it always seemed a bit weird to me. I don’t know the man personally, but after reading his sign I started thinking about what might have been alternate dedications they came up with before settling on this one:

  • Jimmy Johnson, whose passion for street hockey contained aspects of both love and spirit, is to whom this court is dedicated.
  • Jimmy Johnson was passionate about street hockey, so much so that you could say his passion was loving and spirited, as we have in this dedication.
  • …dedicated to the passion & love of his spirit…
  • Take one large scoop of passion for street hockey and a spoonful each of love and spirit and what do you get? Jimmy Johnson, that’s what.
  • If you look up “passion” in the book of street hockey, then you find the subheading “love & spirit”, there you will see a picture of Jimmy Johnson.
  • To say that Jimmy Johnson was passionate about street hockey doesn’t quite get the full message across, unless you also mention the love & spirit of said passion, of which there was an amount worthy of this rink dedication.
  • …dedicated to the spirit & passion of his love…
  • If loving, spirited passion for street hockey is what you want, look no further than Jimmy Johnson. If straight-up passion is your thing, look elsewhere.

Since I started importing all of my music into iTunes, one thing I’ve missed is all the album artwork that I used to look at back when I listened to CDs. However, iTunes has the ability to store cover art in the ID3 tags of each music file. So, I decided to take that on as another project. Thanks to Clutter, FetchArt, Slothdog’s Amazing CD / Album Cover Finder, Amazon and Google, I’ve managed to find and import cover art for nearly everything in my iTunes Library.

Now what do I do with it? Well, for a while now I’ve had my iChat set up to display what I’m listening to right now. So anyone else using iChat can see the title, artist and album of whatever is currently playing in my iTunes. Thanks to the CocoaObjects.com: iChat Script Collection, I was able to just drop an AppleScript into a folder on my Mac to make iChatStatus update my buddy icon with the album artwork of the current track. I am loving this! I’ve never been that into buddy icons for the most part, but this is really great.

Another thing I’ve wanted to do is publish a page of all of the music in my iTunes Library, like I currently do with my CD collection. Enter iTunesCatalog. This $10 application will read in your iTunes Library.xml file and create an HTML catalog of all of your music, with album covers and just about any other information you desire. I still haven’t got it working exactly the way I’d like. I emailed Kavasoft about some of the things I’d like to do and they said that the next version of the software should do everything, including allowing me to completely customize the layout of the catalog as well as having full control over the content. You can see a current copy of my iTunesCatalog here. It’s pretty large because of all the album covers, so be patient while it loads.

Another neat thing about iTunesCatalog is that it will update MusicMobs with your listening habits so that it can recommend other music that you’d like. I’m hadn’t been using MusicMobs before this, but since the software made it so easy, I figured I’d give it a try. You can see my page here.

So what’s next? I’m not quite sure yet. I have been thinking about writing some scripts to upload the information about what I’m listening to to this site with album artwork and all. I may also do something that changes the background image on my desktop to the current album cover. But the real project is still the ripping. I estimate that I have about 250-300 CDs left to import. So far, I’ve completed everything up to and including Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, as well as scattered items throughout the rest of the alphabet. There is still much to do. I am hoping to finish by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

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