Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Elementary, My Dear Watson...

IBM's Eero Saarinen designed Watson Research Center

I had a truly lovely outing today in Yorktown Heights, NY. It's a beautiful part of New York and a pretty it's in Don and Betty Draper's Ossining neighborhood, so it's all good, right? (I'd have stopped in if it had been cocktail time...)

I literally and legally cannot tell you anything about what I did today other than that I was playing Jeopardy! sparring matches against IBM's Watson project. I had SO much fun and really enjoyed the other contestants, and folks from IBM--they couldn't have been nicer or made us feel more welcome.

One of the nicest surprises, though, was the building itself. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always too thrilled with modern architecture, but Eero Saarinen has grown on me in the past few years. The fluidity of line and Saarinen's ability to place the building perfectly within it's surroundings is nothing short of genius. Set amidst the rolling hills that surround Yorktown, the building is crescent shaped and has walls of windows that look out over the campus. I can only imagine what it looks like during in autumn, with the leaves at their peak or in the winter during a snow storm. Even today, snowless and dreary as it was for most of the day, the view from the hallway was stunning. I could've sat and read or written all day looking out those windows. Equestrian that I am, it did also occur to me, of course, that it would be an absolutely brilliant place for a good hack!

And what's most wonderful about this structure are the native materials that were used in construction. It's filled with local stone--inside and out--and it couldn't look more like it belongs among the hills and dales of Yorktown. Inside some of the walls use the same local stone and there are the most beautiful, highly polished stone floors that look like an inky river flowing throughout the floors. (They'd make an amazing kitchen floor!) One of the engineers was saying that employees over the years have actually tried rock-climbing on the wall faces--who could blame them?

At any rate, a good time was had by all and if you're at all curious about the Watson project or the Saarinen building here are a couple of useful links for you to explore:

IBM's Watson project

Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Odds and Ends: Jacksons (Feline, Equine, Human) and Lautrecs and Durers, OH MY!

Ahhhhh, Paris. After my New Year feast of Croque Monsieur and French Onion Soup Gratinee (all homemade, thank you very much!) I thought I'd probably sated my Parisian cravings for a while. Yeah, that was wishful thinking on my part.

I have two big Atget and Brassai photo books that are in a pile of oft-perused books that I thumb through when I am in need of inspiration. Nothing gets my thoughts back to where they need to be like the wonderful art photo books...trouble is, they also can distract me to a ridiculous degree. It's a fine line, for me, the one between distraction and inspiration, apparently.

Imagine my joy then when I was reminded that I still hadn't been to the well-received Lautrec exhibition at the MFA in Boston. (This is another example of the days getting away from you when you are a freelancer.) So I am off to Boston tomorrow for a day spent at one of my favorite sources of inspiration, The Museum of Fine Arts. Happily there's also a very nice room full of Durer prints that I've seen once but can't wait to see again, so it'll be very good fun. I also hope to pop over to The Gardner, if there's time, as it's another great spot to soak up some inspiration.

So that's the Lautrec/Durer part of the piece...what, I can hear you all (both) asking is the Jackson reference about? Surely you are not writing about the King of Pop, I can feel you thinking...and heaven help us, you're not going to pontificate about Jess Jackson and Rachel Alexandra, are you??

I am not. I am speaking of VERY different Jacksons.

We're (and by mean WE, I mean all the horse folks out there) are looking at the newly minted three-year-olds to see who might be on Derby Trail. Horses will come and go from the "trail" and some of the prep races are viewed more intently than others, certainly.

Last year, at a time when my mother had given away my piano (yeah, I'll need therapy for that for a while) I saw I Want Revenge run a stunner of a race in the Wood Memorial. He had a horrible start and rallied to win beautifully and it just seemed a perfect fit...I did, after all, want a little revenge for my mother and the piano fiasco and this horse was I Want Revenge became my Derby horse. I was of course sad when he was injured, and then really was horrified to hear the whole story behind his injury.

Needless to say, in addition to the normal way of looking at a horse race, i.e. past performances and pedigrees, I also like a horse that catches my imagination in some way.

Flip the calendar pages forward to today. It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday--and I know that because (a) an old museum boss of mine who had worked at VMI would always alert us to the day and (b) my beloved tabby cat was named Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson Moscowitz Davidusky Schmenckmann--so it's just stuck in my head.

Thus it is, on Jackson's birthday, that I am made aware of a horse, a terribly game one, too, named Jackson Bend. Yup...Jackson Bend on Jackson's birthday. Turns out, after watching a video of his race at Calder, he stumbled out of the gate just like I Want Revenge did...and he's a goer. He's being pointed toward the Holy Bull's a link to the Miami Herald piece about the highly regarded Jackson Bend. How can I not make him my Derby hopeful with all these coincidences and hunch possibilities?

(Thanks to @wowhorse who is better known as Ghostsnapper-- her link to Jackson Bend this morning!)

And now, a shameless photograph of my beloved Jack Schmenkmann, whom we lost on September 11, 2008. I miss his Rolling Rock bottle green eyes and mischievous little furry presence every day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough...

I thought this was an especially clever and witty response to Tuesday's events in Massachusetts...and it should be required viewing for Congressional Democrats, to be sure. Special thanks to Twitter-tweeps @JenniferGiroux and @Ezra Klein for this inspired bit of humor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Lost On Jeopardy!...No, Seriously, I Did

One of the obvious drawbacks to my freelance existence is that I don't always check the calendar to see what the date is. This can create myriad issues--from allowing deadlines to creep dangerously close, all the way to letting anniversaries and special days pass by unnoticed.

And when I looked at my BlackBerry and noticed that today was the 19th of January I realized that it has been about a year since my taped episode of Jeopardy! was on television. I was home in Minnesota when it aired so I was able to watch with my parents which was exciting. The entire odyssey had started on a whim with an online test I took the day after I was laid off--literally. From there I went to a casting session in Boston in May and then Jeopardy! called in October of 2008 and invited me to LA for a taping in November of 2008. And by the way, there's no preparing you for how you'll look on television, or how annoying your little nervous habits can be--putting your hair behind your ear or pushing up your glasses--over the course of 22 or 23 stressful minutes. VERY stressful minutes.

Everyone at home who yells out answers to Jeopardy! questions from their davenports knows that some days the category gods are with you and other days they are just plain cruel. In the days leading up to my flying to LA to tape the show I was practicing, as they suggest you do, with a clicky ball-point pen and answering questions along with the TV show. (Yeah, that's how I roll...MANY nights spent in front of the TV watching Jeopardy!, religious devotion to the NYT and WSJ crosswords, and friends emailing pop-quizzes.) More often than not there were categories I liked and felt confident about--and that should have been the first clue, the first little pebble from the universe that things might not go my way. (Come on, I'm Catholic, Scandinavian, German and Irish, what in that mix prepares you to think positively?!) In the theatre a rotten dress-rehearsal means a good opening night...and in Jeopardy! (in my experience, at any rate) good practice sessions did not mean a good show performance.

During those "practice games" at home, though, there was SO much possibility. Maybe I'd become a long running Jeopardy! champion a la Ken Jennings (okay, that was NEVER a serious possibility, but it was a fun fantasy to entertain) or I'd win enough money to buy part of a racehorse or the world's largest collection of Hermes scarves, custom riding boots, and Barbour jackets. Maybe I'd win enough to buy an old ChrisCraft or Garwood run-a-bout (think the Thayer IV boat in On Golden Pond.) And if I had won oodles and scads of money, I'd have started my own publishing company--one comprised of all the great and talented friends who had been laid off with me--and we'd bring together our favorite authors to have fun and do great work. All fun and frivolous things to contemplate, all still fantastically possible.

I think it was that pie-in-the-sky level of possibility, the realization of what today was, that got me thinking. How easy it was to see possibility then and how much harder it is today--with the incredible devastation of Haiti and the disappointing election in Massachusetts, possibilities are more difficult to focus on.

And that's the trick, I suppose. To find a way to see beyond the fog of disappointment and sadness to the myriad options, choices, and opportunities waiting off in the distance. I know all the possibilities are still there, even if I can't reach out and touch them at the moment, or even see them through the muddiness of my brain today. The extravagant monetary windfall surely didn't materialize, but the possibilities of those dreams--both silly and serious--live on as things to strive for, opportunities to continue to work for, Quixotic quests worth embarking upon. how DID my Jeopardy! day go? Well, not as well as I'd have liked--it was the first time the returning champion was too sick to return for the next game so I went on in her stead. It was all a bit frazzled and last minute, but it was great fun. The categories were not really up my alley and I never did really get the hang of the buzzer. I did, however, correctly answer a Daily Double and I did very well in the Potent Potables category (no shock there) and in a word category and I answered Final Jeopardy correctly. And happily, the young man who did win my game went on to win several more games, deservedly so.

Monday, January 18, 2010



Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Woman's (and a Mare's) Prerogative

It's common knowledge that it is a woman's prerogative to change her mind, and to do so early and often. Apparently the adage applies to equine women (read as mares) as well, since all the news online is that "the big mare" will race again 2010. Zenyatta to race in 2010 --Throughbred Times piece.

This could be wonderful news to all of us who have wished for a race featuring undefeated Zenyatta and her gutsy "little sister" Rachel Alexandra. I say could because I'm part Irish and I'm pretty superstitious, so I don't want to make any pronouncements or express any sentiments that could jinx the possibility of the two horses being in a race together. Whether it's a match race or a larger field, the announcement that Zenyatta plans to continue her racing career for another season means a world of fun (and wild) speculation for horse aficionados.

Oh the wonderful possibilities!

On a similar note, with the Eclipse Awards being announced on Monday, I'm going to take a moment to make a final comment about the Horse of the Year voting. And as you all know, I'm a rider, not a seasoned horse player or trainer or anything, so my impressions and feelings are merely those of someone who just loves spending time riding and in the presence of horses.

It's hard to compare apples and oranges, isn't it? It's not any easier with horses, so many race conditions, so many's fascinating and frustrating. I don't know how conflicted most of the Eclipse voters were about who was HotY, but I can say it would have been an easy choice for me. And yes, it's always easier to make these kind of decisions from your davenport where there's nothing at stake, I get that, but here's why Rachel would've had my vote...

Her campaign. A well-managed and properly strategized campaign can make or break any season--ask Martha Coakley. I have to give Rachel's connections credit for what to my mind is a really well planned campaign. She was presented with a number of challenges following her most impressive victory in the Kentucky Oaks. From defeating the broad Preakness field to her prominence in the slop of the Haskell, and ending with her gutsy victory in The Woodward, she continually rose to the challenges placed before her, and she improved with each win.

Her travels. It's easy to win at home...and let's face it, really talented athletes are also usually lucky. My beloved Minnesota Twins always had "Dome Field Advantage" when they played in the Metrodome. In their two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991 I don't think they lost a single game at the Dome. I digress, but you know where I am headed with this. Zenyatta has done all of her running in California and on synthetics. Rachel has excelled (even dominated, if I may say so) at different tracks and on different surfaces. I don't know enough about the full impact of dirt vs polytrack for this comment to be a judgment about that issue, but I do really appreciate the many ways Rachel has found to win on various surfaces, at different tracks.

Her competition. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I don't know who was really left for Rachel to defeat as a means to prove her greatness. She destroyed the 3 yr old fillies and most of the best of the 3 yr old colts, too. She beat older horses, among them males, on more than one occasion and did so showing great spirit. Zenyatta didn't race against the boys until the Breeders Cup Classic, which she also won stylishly...but it's one race.

The intangibles. In the interest of full disclosure, I've seen Rachel run twice--once in the Mother Goose at Belmont and then her incredible victory in the Woodward at Saratoga. So yes, I'm biased. I'd perhaps feel differently if I'd seen the "Big Z" in person, as I've no doubt she's a wonder to see up close with her pawing and dancing. And should Rachel have been at the Breeders Cup? The Jacksons didn't think so and they know her pretty well, so I'll defer to them. These two horses are both fire-in-the-blood exciting to watch, certainly, but Rachel gets my vote.

I've read various pieces handicapping Rachel vs Zenyatta in the HotY race on blogs and in the horse papers like Thoroughbred Times and Bloodhorse, and it's a toss up, it seems. My guess is that Zenyatta will be rewarded with the title as she's undefeated, an impressive feat in any year. And who knows, maybe it's like the Oscars--you know, how you don't win for the performance that you really should and so they award you an Oscar for a lesser, though still high quality performance, to right the earlier wrong? Perhaps Curlin's back-to-back HotY titles will negatively impact Rachel's stellar campaign. Maybe not...but I'd guess it will for a few voters at least.

Racing needs stars, as both the Mosses and Jacksons have said on various occasions, and I'm pleased that we have two such fine ladies in the constellation.

I'm hopeful that whether it's Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta in that Winner's Circle on Monday night that 2010 will be a great year for horse racing fans. And the winner is...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Late Night Schadenfreude

With all of the gut-wrenching, emotionally draining photographs and stories that continue to emerge from Haiti, the late night TV nonsense has provided a welcome (and funnier than usual!) diversion.

I'll say up front that I'm on Team Conan, mostly because of how well he's handled the really uncomfortable situation in which he's found himself. I'm not really a fan of either Conan O'Brien or Jay Leno, to be perfectly honest. Jay's kind of humor has never really resonated with me and while I've watched Conan now and then, I would never consider myself a real fan.

I have, however, been a loyal David Letterman viewer for, well, practically forever. I watched him as a teenager, mostly because he was in NYC, I suppose...but he's always been my go-to late night host. My most favorite, though sometimes I am no longer awake when he's on, is Craig Ferguson. He's extremely silly and his obsession with puppets and his snakey cup make me laugh, often until my sides ache.

All this to say that I've been greatly amused by the back-and-forthing between all of the late night hosts. I feel for Jimmy Fallon, whom I do enjoy--his Real Housewives of Late Night is hysterical and utterly over the top. And Conan's open letter to the "people of earth" was very well written--a totally classy move on his part. I can fully understand that he feels protective of the Tonight Show legacy and all that's the fulfillment of a long-held ambition for him as well. It also seems pretty clear that Jay Leno wasn't ready to cede his Tonight Show mantle to Conan O'Brien and therein lies the recipe for unrest and hard feelings.

For my money, the winner in ALL of this is David Letterman. He has the catbird seat and can watch the mud-slinging between the other two while taking his own jabs at his former employers at NBC. I think anyone who has been fired, downsized, unceremoniously dismissed, or ***insert your favorite shit-canning euphemism here*** keeps a fantasy in the back of their mind that someday they will be avenged, or at least, that their boss or employer will "rue the day," so to speak. David Letterman is living that dream for the rest of us. He is having, and I'd say enjoying, his moment of schadenfreude--that lovely word we've borrowed from the Germans that expresses the joy one can feel at the misfortune of another. 

I understand that this may come off a little mean-spirited and even, dare I say, bitter, but it's really not meant to be. I'd bet that anyone who has worked for a difficult boss or been put in untenable situations by their employer has a little revenge fantasy playing out in their head from time to time. Unlike the movies, most of us will never get the opportunity to storm dramatically out of the room, slamming the door after having uttered a perfectly phrased bon mot. (I cite as a further example the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where Randy Quaid kidnaps Chevy Chase's boss in the middle of the night and brings him--still clad in his pyjamas--to the Griswold house to face the music over the lack of holiday bonuses.)

Letterman, though, he's basically won the schadenfreude lotto. After being treated rather badly by NBC in 1993 when they chose Jay Leno over Letterman for the Tonight Show, Letterman moved to CBS and I'd say has done just fine. He's rarely beat Leno in the ratings, but he had--and still has, I think--a loyal fan base. I can only imagine the grin that must have crept across Letterman's face when he heard about all the drama unfolding at his former TV home.

Granted, it took 17 years, but David Letterman may well have the last and best laugh over the slug-fest between O'Brien and Leno. (And I'm sure most mental-health professionals would suggest that it is unhealthy to hold on to that revenge fantasy for 17 years, but still...) Enjoy your schadenfreude, Dave, the rest of us will fantasize vicariously via your snarkily-worded witticisms.

OH...and if you need a smile today (and who doesn't??) here's the link to Craig Ferguson and the puppets...The Lonely Goatherd.

Don't forget the people of Haiti in your prayers and thoughts today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

35 Seconds

35 seconds is both forever and a mere instant. It's an instant if you're taking a timed test or trying to scribble down the right answer to a Final Jeopardy Question. It's seemingly forever (in our world of instantaneous responses) when waiting for voicemail to click in. It's a little longer than many of the annoying and inane advertisements that pepper our daily television watching. It's also how long it took for the earthquake in Haiti to devastate and destroy Port-au-Prince and beyond. (USGS estimates that the earthquake lasted for somewhere between 35 seconds and one minute.)

I've never experienced an earthquake and (*touch wood*) I don't ever care to. I have sincere admiration for people who live in California and other earthquake-prone places, you're all collectively braver than I could be. Some days the only things I take for granted as real certainties are that the sun will rise and set and that the earth won't quake and crumble beneath my feet. While there are tornadoes and hurricanes, blizzards and floods here in the Northeast, we're usually warned and have time to reach a place of safety. I've been through a devastating flood as a child in Minnesota and lived in NYC pre and post 9/11. I sweated with all my fellow New Yorkers through the big East Coast blackout of August 2003. Difficult, frustrating, and frightening in various degrees, to be sure, but my inconveniences and fears are insignificant in comparison to the human suffering and tragedy befalling the people of Haiti today. And I apologize in advance if this sounds too much like a sermon.

What of course makes the disaster in Haiti so much more devastating is the pre-existing abject poverty. It's one of the poorest countries on the planet and the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, there is no real building code nor any significant organization of first responders. And that alone, the absence of large scale teams of firefighters and other EMTs, is absolutely unthinkable to most of us. We assume and expect that when tragedy strikes, the local firehouse or ambulance team will arrive in timely fashion to assist or transport us to a medical facility. Not so in Port-au-Prince today. Further, it seems like most of the heavy machinery (and gasoline/fuel) needed to dig through rubble and move obstacles will have to be brought into the country. And fresh, potable drinking water is not a given in this country--that issue alone compounds the difficulties and dangers exponentially. What infrastructure there was in Haiti has barely recovered or rebuilt from the hurricanes and mudslides of 2008, so this is, in the worst of all possible scenarios, most cruel insult added to injury.

Haiti is also heavily Catholic--something like 80% Catholic--and it was truly heartbreaking to see their lovely cathedral turned into a sad shell...with further word that the Archbishop and scores of seminarians lost their lives in the quake. I know that all the Catholic churches in my area are mobilizing to take donations of clothing and blankets, etc. (And I'm sure other congregations are as well, I'm just connected to the Catholic community so I'm commenting specifically on their work.) I've read the Vatican's statement on the tragedy and hope they will be contributing substantial amounts of money, materials, and aid to the people of Haiti. There's a huge network of Catholic charities and groups like Caritas, but in my opinion, the Vatican itself has to take the lead. It goes without saying that most Catholic parishes have sister parishes in the Caribbean or South America that they do mission work with and send aid to, but I'd really like to see the Vatican throw a little of their considerable coin toward Haiti. I know everyone individually will do what they can--and we can all make a contribution in some small way, whether it's of a financial, spiritual or clothing/household goods. That said, I want there to be more than prayers emanating from the frescoed, gilt covered walls of the Vatican.

Twitter and Facebook have once again been at the forefront of getting out useful information and details. From texting donations to networking people to find out the status of family members and loved ones, it's quite hopeful to see the positive effects these technologies can have.

Here's a link to the White House list of ways to help

And this website, is a great clearinghouse for donations. You can choose to donate to everything from AmeriCares to American Jewish World Service and Doctors Without Borders. Of course, prayers cost nothing and silly as it may sound, I've always felt my prayers worked a little better when said in Latin or when I've been somewhere to light a candle.

Seriously, though, do think about it. How much can change in 35 seconds. For those like me who have never had the earthquake experience, look at the second hand on your watch ticking off 35 seconds and imagine the earth beneath you shaking violently for that length of time. And then say a prayer, send a donation or help mobilize donations in your area. Each of us can do something, the recently deceased Miep Gies is proof of the difference one person can make.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Things to Look Forward To in 2010: Hockey Edition

(The amazing Gordie Howe at Centre Bell celebrating the Montreal Canadiens 100th Anniversary)

So here we are, give or take a few hours, four days into the new year. I'm happy to report that 2010 is already far superior to the first days of last year, which leads me to believe that more positive improvements and upswings are possible if not, dare I say, likely.

In the spirit of positivity--and as a person of Scandinavian, Irish and German background, that's not my natural fall-back position--here are a few things I'm looking forward to in the coming months--Hockey Edition.

Where to begin, where to begin...

Since 2010 is a Winter Olympic year, there will be hockey galore. I haven't even looked at the various pools to see who is playing whom, but I know there will be great some great matches. The Russian team always come to play, as do the Finns, Norwegians and Swedes. And there's always some upstart country who pulls a few upsets and becomes the underdog everyone cheers for. While it's not the same now (with teams being made up of professional players as opposed to amateurs) as it was back in, say, 1980, it's still great to watch. Plus it's fun to see your favorite NHL players skating for their respective countries.

And while we're feeling that Olympic spirit...I'm one of those people who gets a total kick out of watching the obscure sports in both the Winter and Summer games. This is probably because the equestrian events that I love are considered obscure by most of the public. That said, I'll be looking forward to curling with a kind of geeky glee. It goes without saying that I love the luge and bobsled (all that speed and careening!!) and the alpine skiing contests and ski-jumping. All great fun. So I guess we know what I'll be watching in February.

[And by the's just as well that the Olympics are on practically 24/7 in February since it is--with all due respect to T.S. Eliot who named April as the cruelest--by far the most brutal of months. There are no great holidays, there are usually giant snow storms and you're completely over any New Year's resolutions by that point. No, I didn't forget about St. Valentine's Day...I just think it's a big holiday and there's never a long weekend attached to it, so it doesn't count. *don't judge me*]

Right, back to hockey. From the pros to the pros-to-be, my next hockey event is this Friday--the outdoor game between BU and BC at Fenway Park. I can't wait to see hockey outside, though I am preparing how to layer my clothes so as not to freeze and/or lose any of my digits. College hockey is always a blast and these two teams have a fantastic rivalry so I know I won't be disappointed. It's also a nice warm-up for the rivalries that comprise the Bean Pot tournament games.

Speaking of the Bean Pot tournament, the first round games are on February 1 and the championship and consolation games are the next week on the 8th. We'll be there cheering on someone and listening to the chants of "safety school" and "sucks to BU" as the games unfold. It's GREAT fun and if I may make a plug for this tourney, if you consider yourself a real hockey aficionado, these games should be on your bucket list. It's like no other sporting atmosphere--a cross between a Red Sox-Yankees game (the rivalry); a college football bowl game (amateur athletes); and the Stanley Cup playoffs (quality hockey.)

I know, you're saying that there are a bunch of NHL games yet to be contested and there's the NCAA Frozen Four tourney. And you're right. But those are a ways off in the future and I'm not looking quite that far ahead least not hockey-wise.

However, as a little tease for things to come...I am already looking at possible horses for the Kentucky Derby on May 1. It is, in my opinion, not too early to start looking at Derby prospects, especially since all 2 year-old Thoroughbreds magically turned into 3 year-olds (and some of them are already tantalizing Derby possibilities...) on January 1. With that, I give you 10 to watch for the 2010 Kentucky Derby by John Asher.

So obviously, up next in the TTLFT 2010: The Horses Edition. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nuit du Les Habitants or How I Became a Canadiens Fan One Night in December

I love hockey. And I'll grant you that I've spent more time writing about horses, and perhaps even hounds, than hockey this past year, but that shouldn't be read as a measure of my love of the sport.

See, I'm a winter girl. I love snow, skiing, skating, hockey, ice in my drinks (not martinis, but most other libations) --I really like winter. Maybe this is because I come from a state, Minnesota if you didn't know, where they build palaces of ice blocks for the Winter Carnival in St. Paul. This is also a place that has dubbed itself The State of Hockey. (Don't let Massachusetts folks rope you into arguing about could develop into a kerfuffle of epic proportion.)

So this hockey-loving Minnesota girl moved east and fell in love with the Bean Pot tournament games in Boston, Bruins games and the like. I've been in attendance at Bean Pot finals and games for the last 6 or so years, one year we were in great seats right by former Olympian Dave Silk. Actually, our seats were better than Dave's, but I digress.

What was great about being a fan out here was that I didn't have to choose a team. I cheered for the Bruins at their games, Northeastern at their games, BU and BC even, just enjoying the competition and fervor of their entrenched fans. Whenever I had the chance to catch the Minnesota Wild on TV, it was great and I rooted heartily for them. But for the most part I was nothing more than a casual fan who watched and attended games whenever and wherever I could.

That all changed one evening in December.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the big celebrations for the Montreal Canadiens 100th Anniversary in early December and I'm not afraid to say it, I was immediately smitten. I'm a sucker for tradition and history. Needless to say, I've since immersed myself in The Habs. I follow several great Habs fans on Twitter and still find myself reading the great pieces that were written for the beautiful centennial program that we all got at the game that night. I listen to all the games on CJAD internet radio and I find myself scouring the Montreal Gazette and the hockey blogs for tidbits to share with my Hab-loving friends. I've jumped into Habs fandom with both feet--and with my eyes open. I've been warned of the number of heartbreaks that the team has suffered (and caused) over the past century, but as a Red Sox fan and loyal Chelsea FC football fan, I'm NO stranger to heartbreak.

So what was catalyst? I can't say for sure, but part of it was watching all the ex-Canadiens on the ice skating during the pre-game ceremonies, they really looked like generations of a family. And then to see how the team honored Elmer Lach and Butch Bouchard among all the other great players was so touching. The team really showed how much they appreciated their history and that really struck a chord with me. The chants of 'Ole Ole Ole' reminded me of an EPL football match and I think by the end of the thrashing the Habs gave the Bruins, I was on my way to being hooked. Add to it that I loved the city of Montreal from the moment I arrived. It's another city that likes ice--neighborhood rinks dot the city--and when you combine that with a European flair...well, I'm in.

I had a ball in Montreal...and fell for a hockey team while I was there. I can't wait to go back--for the hockey, the food, the wonderful people, all of it. Consider this Catholic girl converted to life as a Montreal Canadiens fan. 'Ole Ole Ole!!'