Friday, November 18, 2005

Fashion Statements

For now, I’m going to stop pretending I can write Canes game recaps. For that, I leave you in the extraordinarily capable hands of David Lee, whose knowledge of the game – and the Canes in particular – vastly eclipses mine. And, he’s a hella good writer to boot. He’s also one of the few bloggers kind enough to include me in their blogroll; extra points for that.

I’m pretty darned excited about this team, though, and by my decision this year to abandon my beloved Colorado Avalanche in favor of them (“abandon” might be too strong a word; “demote” might be more accurate – I still love the Avs, just not as much as I love the Canes). So, expect continued updates on my experiences as a Carolina Hurricanes fan. Feel free to jump on the bandwagon any time. There’s plenty of room.

And now, on with my regular irrelevant blog post (Cross, you can click away any time now):

Curiously, I don’t own any Carolina Hurricanes swag. Not a sweater, nor even a hat (though I expect that to change once Christmas / Billmas week rolls around). Since I can’t dress up like 80% of Canes fans when I go to games, I have to make do with the clothes I already own.

Last night, I wore a Patrick Roy Avalanche sweater to the game, and a bright orange Yuengling cap (which I was wise enough not to toss on the ice after Kevyn Adams’ hat trick). I took a lot of grief from my buddy Dave, who went to great lengths to point out I was the only one in the building wearing an Avalanche sweater.

Then, midway through the first period, a 15 year-old kid sat down in the row behind us. He was wearing an Avalanche sweater and a bright orange cap.

No kidding.

A couple weeks ago, I went to the Toronto game straight from work. That day, for reasons completely independent of my plans to attend the game that night, I wore a blue and white striped rugby shirt. In the minutes leading up to the game, I was seated comfortably, enjoying a beer, when one of several hundred conspicuously dressed Leafs fans – this one, a “generously proportioned” woman wearing a blue miniskirt, a Leafs sweater, and with her face painted blue on one side and white on the other – winked at me on her way up the stairs. “A Leafs fan, I’ll bet!,” she proclaimed, smiling widely. I shook my head, slowly. “Canes fan. Sorry.”

She slumped her shoulders and frowned like someone had stolen her back bacon.

On opening night, I wore a Saint Lawrence University Skating Saints sweater. I wore it because it was a hockey sweater, and because it was red. The Saints’ logo looks an awful lot like the St. Louis Cardinals’ logo, so it’s understandable that people think I am advertising my allegiance to the Cardinals through my hockey sweater (as little sense as that makes, give these folks a break – they’re sort of new to hockey). And lots of people that night – at least a dozen – asked me if I was, indeed, wearing a Cardinals sweater (duh, please, the Cardinals play baseball).

Between the second and third periods, though, I heard some guy yelling from the “Liquor Drinks Sold Here” booth: “St. Lawrence University! St. Lawrence University!” The guy yelling it looked about my age, and like he might have gone to SLU (he was wearing the standard Larry uniform: khaki ball cap, Lands End button down shirt, Levi 501s). I don’t run into many Larrys down here (or anywhere, for that matter), so I approached him.

“You’re the only person here who recognizes this sweater,” I said.

“I played there!”

“Who are you?” I asked, feeling sort of stupid for doing so.

“Mike Lappin!,” he screamed back at me.

(Mike was yelling, sorta loudly, obviously excited, and might have already visited the “Liquor Drinks” booth one or more times earlier in the game. Hard to tell for sure.)

Well, I knew Mike Lappin! Yes indeedy I did!

Mike Lappin was a Hobey Baker award runner up in 1988. He scored a hat trick in the most exciting hockey game – hell, the most exciting athletic event, period – I have ever attended, a 3-2 victory over Minnesota in the 1988 NCAA Frozen Four semifinals in Lake Placid. His third goal, on a breakaway with just over a minute remaining, absolutely smoked goalie Robb Stauber (who actually won the Hobey Baker award that year) and completely deflated a much larger and stronger Gopher team that would almost certainly have crushed us in OT. Saints fans exploded into a celebration the likes of which I have never seen since – people screaming and embracing each other and rolling down the aisles. It was glorious, that game! And so was Mike Lappin!

And here I was, seventeen years later, in Raleigh, North Carolina, talking to Mike Lappin – THE Mike Lappin – in front of the “Liquor Drinks” booth at the RBC Center. I went on and on and on, recalling Mike Lappin’s incredible heroics in a loud voice that was perfectly appropriate for the setting.

But Mike looked confused. Then, he looked a little sad.

“You’re thinking of my brother, Pete,” he said. “I played there a couple years after my brothers.”

There was an awkward silence. Then I smiled, clapped him on the shoulder, and told him it was good to meet him. I slipped into the crowd and disappeared.

(For the record, I want an authentic Reebok Erik Cole sweater for Christmas / Billmas. Thank you in advance.)

posted by Bill Purdy, 11:33 AM | link | 10 comments

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ninjas!!!

So, I was riding the metro home last night when two folks sat down right by me. Each had that kind of disaffected 20-something slacker look – both in black, he with a goatee and she with dyed black hair with reddish streaks and cat’s eye glasses. She even had black platform sneakers with a skull and crossbones where you would expect to find a Nike swoosh. From their conversation I deduced they are both office temps. She was talking about how tough it is when she outperforms the secretary pool, foments unrest and gets fired because she made them look bad. He was talking about how he loves MS Access but cannot stand Excel. “Everybody hates Access but I love it. You set me up with an Access database and I can do wonders. And nobody else can because they can’t stand the program.”

This is where the most precious comment came in. She claimed to be, and I quote, a “PowerPoint Ninja.” Ahh, a ninja. Well that would explain the black clothing, I suppose. She went on to proclaim “Give me a PowerPoint presentation and I can make it sing!” They then continued in a Starbucks triple shot, soy venti latte fueled rapid-fire conversation about their “mad skilz” with MS Office Suite and how 2003 is so much better than XP and how one of them once worked in an office where they had – GASP – Windows ME. It was as if I was transported to geekdom and got a slight glimpse into their world.

The whole surreal nature of their conversation reminded me of a time my brother and I were in a bagel shop. One of the girls behind the counter let out a squeal of glee as some scraggly looking dude walked through the door. She told her bagel sandwich making companion “That’s Tony. He is the best anarchist ever!” Whaaa? Mark and I just looked at each other trying to make sense of that comment. Is there a hierarchy in anarchy? And if so isn’t that kind of antithetical to the Anarchist movement? How does one become “the best” anarchist? What is the position description and the performance evaluation criteria? What had good old Tony been doing in his spare time that makes him worthy of the title just now bestowed upon him? And what does the "best anarchist ever" do in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York? Hide the shopping carts at Wegman's? Move the men's tees at Drumlins Country Club to the ladies' tees? De-alphabetize the science fiction section of Barnes & Noble on Erie Boulevard? Damn anarchists! I look back on that and even now, some 8 years later, am still baffled by it.

Anyway, I hope I never proclaim myself to be a ninja of any sort. Much less an MS Office Ninja. At least being called the "Best Anarchist Ever" has something of a ring to it. It would make me appear at least a little dangerous and mysterious. But a “PowerPoint Ninja”? I think they stay home on prom night.

posted by MGSoden, 10:20 AM | link | 3 comments

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Make that SIX for TWENTY-TWO

The Carolina Hurricanes were looking for a franchise record eighth straight win tonight, in Buffalo, against the reeling (Bitter, perhaps) Buffalo Sabres. They got that win. And it was beautiful. And you probably didn’t see it. That needs to change.

If you live in the Triangle, and you’re not paying attention to the Canes (what with the riveting NASCAR points race winding down, the Wolfpack just might maybe qualifying for the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, and the Panthers’ TopCats cheerleaders bumping uglies in a Tampa bathroom, I can sort of understand how your attention might otherwise be diverted), it’s time to start. This team represents our region better than any team has since the Jim Valvano-coached NC State Wolfpack beat Houston for the 1983 NCAA championship and reminded the country what it learned when the USA Olympic Hockey team beat the hated Russians at Lake Placid in 1980: when underdogs win, we feel good. The way they are playing, though, the Canes might not be underdogs much longer. It still feels good when they win, though.

And if you live outside the Triangle, you can officially start paying attention to the former Hartford Whalers. I know you sort of glanced their way back in 2002, when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and even took the heavily favored (and, frankly, substantially better) Detroit Red Wings to 3 OTs in Game 3. But I also know you realized then they were a bit of a flash in the pan, a hardworking, gritty team that clutched and held their way into the playoffs, but were unlikely to be there the next year. You were right. Those Canes faded into history, and the 2003 squad didn’t even make the playoffs.

This year’s Carolina Hurricanes team, however, is a very good hockey team. They are extremely well-coached, and (more importantly) well-assembled to take advantage of the new-look NHL. They have speed and they have skills. What they don’t have much of is size, but for now at least, size doesn’t really matter much.

They are also extremely cool.

Consider tonight’s game. I picked it up on the radio late in the second period, after the Canes took a 3-1 lead on a Frantisek Kaberle goal. The goal was assisted by Corey Stillman (who also assisted on the first two goals) and Erik Cole, who assisted on one of the earlier goals.

This is the same Erik Cole who skates with an almost reckless abandon, literally throwing himself forward in a desperate attempt to create an advantage – any advantage – on a breakaway. This is also the same Erik Cole who was called for diving not once, but twice, against Toronto last week. The second dive in that game nullified an empty net goal that would have earned Eric FREAKING Staal a hat trick, and a lucky fan a John Deere tractor. Cole’s style of play means he will be called for diving from time to time, but it is especially unusual to see the call made twice in a game. And it’s even odder to see a diving call on an empty net goal. Seriously – why would anyone take an intentional dive on an empty net chance?

For what it’s worth Tim Peel, the referee who made that diving call, approached Cole a couple nights later and apologized for the bad call. Cole called that move “classy.” He’s right, but I digress.

So the Canes had the dreaded two-goal lead, on enemy ice, going into the third period. The same two goal lead the Canes themselves had overcome at least four times this season to win the game. See, a two-goal lead just doesn’t mean what it used to mean in the NHL.

I got home and flipped the game on the TV, but I wasn’t feeling good about how things were going, with a 2-goal lead with 20 minutes to go. The Sabres outshot the Canes a stunning 22-3 in the second period (with two of Carolina’s goals coming on those three shots – it was like watching me play Patrick in NHL 2K6), and they weren’t laying off Canes goalie Martin Gerber at the beginning of the third. Then Jesse Boulerice gets called for tripping, and the Canes were facing a rejuvenated Sabres power play unit. I’ve been watching hockey a long time, and I know how important momentum is to a team. The Sabres were riding a tsunami of momentum at that point. It looked grim.

Then Erik Cole got the puck on a clean shorthanded breakaway. And he was hauled down from behind – a big no-no. The referee pointed to the ice: penalty shot. The most exciting play in hockey (the excitement of which has been diluted significantly by the new shootout rule, but I digress – again). He didn’t whistle Cole for the dive like he did last week (yep, it was Tim Peel, the same ref). Instead, Peel awarded Cole the penalty shot.

Cole skated in on Martin Biron and put an absolutely beautiful backhander top shelf on the glove hand side. It was the sixth successful penalty shot in the NHL this year, in twenty-one attempts. It put the Canes up by three goals with about twlve minutes to go.

It also proved to be the game winner. Thomas Vanek (who’s a lock for the Austrian Olympic team, I am almost sure) scored his first and second NHL goals three and a half minutes apart to get the Sabres to within one goal. That was as close as they got, with Jason Williams adding an empty netter for the Canes to lock it up, 5-3. Canes win eight in a row.

Again, I digress. The point I was trying to make is how cool this team is. Here is how cool they are:

Erik Cole, who was called for diving twice last week because of his hyperenthusiastic skating style, and who scored on a rare penalty shot, got caught from behind on another breakaway late in the third period, and was awarded another penalty shot.

That’s right. One guy. One period. Two penalty shots. Unheard of.

Cole missed his on his second shot, but that’s not really important. What’s important is how the guy who was the goat one night gets rewarded for the same style of play on another night. It’s like karma, and it’s got me thinking this team might have a destiny.

And it’s so fucking cool. Pay attention, folks. These Canes are for real.

posted by Bill Purdy, 10:33 PM | link | 3 comments

Monday, November 07, 2005

Breaking a Type of Wind

Bloggers are notorious for posting the mundanities of their daily lives, and I guess I am no exception. But I am about to tread on new ground and tell you how my car broke down the other night.

I was driving to the Canes game on Saturday night, having put Logan to bed on his 1st birthday and stolen away for my hockey fix. I was almost to the arena when my dashboard (I drive a 2002 VW Passat, btw, with just over 70,000 miles on it) completely lit up with the word STOP! in huge letters and the car made a noise similar to the "Luggage Compartment Open" noise, or the "Refuel Soon" noise, but much, much louder. The dash displayed STOP! for a few seconds, then said "Oil pressure low! Stop engine immediately!"

I am not one to, you know, follow directions well. So I kept driving. And sure enough, after a few seconds, the dashboard returned to its previous state. I turned down the radio and listened carefully to the car. It sounded normal -- just like it always does. I could detect no change from its normal performance. So, I made a mental note to check up on it on Monday (today).

Sure enough, three minutes later, the message popped up again. By that time, I was in the parking lot, about ready to park my car. I resolved to add a bit of oil to the engine (good thing I keep some spare oil in the trunk for just these occasions) before I hiked off to the game. Then I forgot all about it for the next two and a half hours.

But the problem did not go away during the game. During the drive home, the light came on again. And again and again. And I continued to ignore it. And the car continued to work, except for the annoying beep and urgent message warning me to stop the car immediately.

I made it home Saturday night, but today it got me a bit freaked out. I did some research on the internets about this problem in Passats and learned it's not merely common, but catastrophic (as in, probable engine replacement, $8,500+). And VW refuses to cover these problems under warranty unless you can show via receipts and documentation that you have changed the oil at the recommended interval of <5,000 miles. I have certainly not done that. In fact, not only have I routinely gone ~7,500 miles between oil changes (I drive conservatively, and about 85% highway miles), I've changed the oil myself several times and don't have receipts for those times, anyway (though I have always used synthetic oil, as recommended).

I think I'm hosed.

The car got towed off to a local import mechanic earlier today (I don't trust the VW service department, but maybe that's another post). Now every time the phone rings, I wince, wondering if it's the news I dread.

On the other hand, it could always be a faulty sensor, right? Couldn't it?

Update: Seems the problem is engine sludge, and it is (as I noted already) common in Passats. They are opening it up to see how extensive the damage is, but I am expecting the worst. Time to go car shopping. any suggestions from the masses?

posted by Bill Purdy, 3:32 PM | link | 6 comments

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Too Shout Out Loud

For a change, I went to the concert while my excellent husband, Bill, stayed home with our dear little Junior Mint. The group was the Shout Out Louds; a band I really like - at least on CD.

The venue was King's Barcade - a kitschy little dive in downtown Raleigh. Black walls, crappy furniture, vintage video games, foozball table. I have fond memories of this place from when we went to see Ted Leo while I was 8 months pregnant or so. Because of the way the venue is set up, I could happily sit at the bar and still totally enjoy the music and the concert venue atmosphere. All this was still tru last night.

The big difference was the quality of the entertainment. The opening band was a group called 'The Cassettes'. Strange group of ubergeeks with a truly bizarre sound. My friend Mark nailed it: They sound like the Beverly Hillbillies meets the Jetsons. Their music wasn't so hot, but their sound mixing was decent. I bring this up because....

We totally ignored the second band, Essex Green, in favor of sitting in a booth in the front of the place to socialize. When the Shout Out Louds started, we realized their sound was awful! Andrew, the only other person there truly interested in hearing the band, had the same expectations I did - a cool, rockabilly sound on CD gone live in a small, intimate venue should be great.

Not so. Whoever mixed their sound had their drumkit completely drowning all the vocals. The lead singer was nearly screaming just so the thick-black-framed-glasses-wearing crowd could hear bits of recognizable melody. After three songs, we decided it wasn't worth staying up that late to not hear anything melodius, so we bailed.

The upside? Great friends in a fun venue, and a great game of Foozball!

posted by purdygirl, 9:06 AM | link | 3 comments