30 January 2007

Good Neighbor

In my neighborhood, the bus into and out of the subway station runs every 20 minutes in the morning and evening. It would be nice if it was every 15 minutes, especially now that it's actually cold outside, but at least I know when to expect the bus to arrive (within a reasonable window of time), and it is generally reliable, which is a near-miracle for the T.

This morning I was just a tiny bit behind schedule. Maybe I took too long to tie my shoes; maybe I was trying to get too many little things done before I left the house. Whatever the reason, the cycle of the traffic light at the corner was against me, and the bus pulled away just before I got to it. I stopped running and was taking a moment to debate the wisdom of walking versus standing still, when I noticed a car had stopped next to me and the driver was gesturing for me to get in. I took a quick look at the car and the driver--no one I knew, so I figured he'd been at the traffic light and had seen me running.

I got in the car, thinking the guy was going to offer to get me ahead of the bus so I could get on at another stop. But he said he was going over to Cambridge and was willing to drop me off anywhere along the way. We determined that Lechmere was a good target because it would not take him out of his way and would give me a direct ride to work. He introduced himself and told me where he lived, on a street that runs off ours. We passed a pleasant 20 minutes talking about the weather, the T, the increasing amount of traffic on the roads during his daily commute, and his daughter's college plans.

He dropped me off at the station, I thanked him, got on the train, and it rolled right out. I ended up getting to work about 15 minutes earlier than usual. So thank you again, Hernan, for making my morning, and my whole day, much more pleasant than it started out to be. Hopefully I'll see you around the neighborhood again.

29 January 2007

Greyhound Love

If you've read my sidebar over there to the right, you know we have a dog. I've been planning to post about her for a while, and this past weekend marked six months since we brought her home, so it seemed like the right time to do it.
In late July we adopted London*, a retired racing greyhound from Greyhound Welfare, an organization based in the DC area that also has a New England chapter. They hold "open house" events every few weeks at various pet stores around the area where prospective owners can meet several dogs informally and get information about the adoption program. We went to three of these before and during our application and screening process. It was at the second one that we first met London, who had just come into the program and was nervous and shy. But by the next open house a couple of weeks later, she was wagging her tail and generally making herself irresistible.
(*We didn't choose her name; at the time, they were naming the dogs after cities and, though they assured us we could change her name to anything we wanted, we thought it was a good name and saw no reason to change it.)

As part of the adoption process, Greyhound Welfare places dogs with foster families to help them make a successful transition to post-racing life. For example, a racing dog typically does not know how to go up and down stairs, because racing kennels are on one floor. It's easy for the dog to learn, but it requires a little effort, so having the foster family do this lets the adoptive family focus on helping their new friend get comfortable in its new surroundings.

GW is very thorough: their process includes a written application, with required references from people who know you; a phone interview; a visit to your home with an adoptable dog to evaluate safety and general dog-worthiness; and a visit with the dog you are considering adopting at its foster home. They make a concerted effort to match the right dog with the right family.

A greyhound is a good choice for people who work, because they are generally content to spend the day sleeping, and they rarely bark. Contrary to what some think, they don't require a great deal of exercise, but some attention and activity time is necessary for any dog. When I get home from work, I take London outside and she runs a few laps around the yard to release that pent-up energy. But within an hour or so, she's back to lying down on her living-room bed next to us as we watch TV. Of course, some dogs are naturally more energetic than others; London's brother was up for adoption at the same time she was, and it was clear when we met him that he would need much more activity to be content.
Growing up, we had at least one dog in the house from the time I was about three, but as an adult I had never owned a pet until now, so it felt like a big deal. The Mrs. loves all animals, and her mother even raised German shepherds for a while, but this was her first time as a pet owner as well. As a couple who have chosen to be child-free, it still feels a little weird to have something that we are responsible for, that is dependent on us for its care, but it has been a tremendously rewarding experience. And as far as we're concerned, she's earned the right to be lazy. She's retired, after all.

23 January 2007

Pet Peeve Dept. Unit

I'm sure all of you readers are courteous, respectful, and well-groomed people, but not everyone else out there in the world is so. Today's gripefest concerns those folks who insist on keeping their overstuffed Godzilla backpacks on while riding the subway. Guess what? Your shit is hitting me, and it's pretty fucking annoying.

I was coming home from work yesterday on the Green Line (a whole realm of torture in itself), minding my own business, reading the paper. Jack and Jill Dumbass get on, Jack stands next to me, and they have a really, really stupid conversation. (I wanted to quote a sample, but it was so insipid I blocked it immediately. I think it was about theater. Sorry RH, if you're reading.) As the train picks up speed it starts to sway, and with each sway Jack's giant backpack hits me on the shoulder. This goes on for about fifteen minutes. Jack never notices, never says anything to me, never attempts to shift his position. I think he finally got out at Park Streeet. On tonight's ride home I got hit in the back of the head by another genius (which he must be, if he needs to carry all those books around).
This is where we need a rule that you can just go ahead and smack someone, and get a free pass, and not even have to explain yourself. Maybe we'd all be issued a card or something, and you'd just hand it to the person, and it would read: "You've just been idiot-smacked. Because you're an idiot."

Personally, I haven't used a backpack since college, which was a long time ago. (Even then, I never filled the thing the way people do now.) Shortly after graduation I switched to a messenger-style bag, probably before they were even called that, and I haven't looked back. One reason is because, no longer being in college, I had less stuff to carry for a typical day. I was also in the process of a personal style overhaul and decided it was time for an upgrade. The bag I have now is very thin, so it doesn't stick out from my body much, and the ends of the strap are attached to the bag at an angle, so it is even less obtrusive. Civilized, dare I say.

I know, this is the #1 college "town" in the nation, and a lot of those people whose backpacks are hitting me repeatedly are students who need to lug around every textbook they own, everywhere, every day. But clearly some responsibility is called for, and that's the problem. Everyone has become so selfish, no one gives a shit about anyone else but themselves. People won't even step aside anymore; they walk right at me all the time, and I swear if I didn't move out of the way they would crash right into me, then say it was my fault. At which point I would be forced to use another idiot card.

22 January 2007

Silver Screens of Yore

In addition to watching football, I also wasted some time this weekend on a fun web site called Cinema Treasures. I enjoyed looking up information and readers' reminiscences about movie theaters I went to while growing up, or in college, that no longer exist, including the hometown theater where I first saw a little movie called Star Wars.

But be warned: the site's performance is erratic, and it can be very slow.

Season's Over

Ouch, that hurt. Not how our season was supposed to end, especially on an interception. But I don't want to be too hard on Brady and the boys, because they've given us so much great football over the past six seasons. And I was lucky enough to attend my first Patriots game this season, thanks to my brother (the ticket was my birthday present from him).

One observation, though: I've never played or coached football, but I know enough about the game to understand that with three and a half minutes left and a lead in your possession, you give the ball to your running back(s), keep it in bounds, and burn the clock, doing whatever it takes to get the necessary first down(s) to get inside two minutes and take a knee. So why was Tom heaving the ball up there on that next-to-last drive? Three pass attempts equaled no first down, and gave the ball to the Colts with more than enough time to score the winning touchdown, but not enough time (realistically) for the Patriots to answer it.

We can be fairly certain the NFL w
ill schedule the Pats to play both the Colts and Chargers next season, to stoke the rivalries.

I think Belichick and Co. have at least one more Patriots Super Bowl victory in them, but if anything it's going to be more difficult to attain than the previous three. What I'd love to see is a season similar to 2003 and 2004, only better, where the team hardly loses all season and is really dominant, not just in their division but in the whole AFC. I want to see a year where the Pats are the #1 seed, giving them the first-round playoff bye and two home playoff games at Gillette Stadium, a magic carpet ride of a season that leads them to wherever the Super Bowl is being played that year and their fourth championship. That's my idea of
fantasy football.

ADDENDUM: I was going to mention (but forgot) that, as a consolation for Patriots fans, spring training for the Red Sox begins in about three weeks.

16 January 2007

Victory, Spoiled

Spent the long weekend mostly relaxing, though that's not the word I'd choose to describe watching either the season premiere of 24 or the Patriots playoff game. Probably "nail-biting" for both. I was totally thrilled the Pats were able to come from behind and beat the Chargers, nerve-racking as it was to watch. When they tied the score via that slick 2-point conversion play with just over four and a half minutes left, I could feel the momentum shifting back to their side, and had renewed faith in their ability to win it. Years from now, when the Brady-Belichick era is over, this game is still going to stand out as a highlight.

However, the victory was somewhat tarnished by the team's behavior after San Diego's 49-yard field goal attempt fell short and to the right. Victory dances are nothing new in the NFL, but they're not something we're accustomed to seeing from the normally decorous Patriots. I have to say I was surprised and a little disappointed to see this sort of unsportsmanlike display from a team that typically considers itself above that sort of thing. I'm sure the players understandably got caught up in the moment, but the Chargers players and fans aren't going to forget it anytime soon. Let's hope Coach Belichick has given the players a good talking-to, and a victory next weekend at Indianapolis is not followed by any similar arrogance.

But to swing it back the other way,
the Chargers were acting pretty cocky throughout the week before the game; according to this Boston Globe article, they were already planning their Super Bowl victory celebration. Not a great idea in today's NFL, regardless of your opponent. So who's disrespecting whom?

12 January 2007

Dundie Up

This is for all of you who are fans of The Office: my Dunder Mifflin cap arrived today from the NBC online store. I ordered it a couple of days before Christmas, but it wasn't supposed to be shipped out until today, so it arrived nearly a week ahead of schedule.

As much of a fan of the show as I am, I wouldn't want to wear anything that says "The Office." That's just not who I am. But I would wear something that represents the fictional paper company on she show, because I find it a little ironic in a good way, and because I appreciate the reminder of the idea of suspended disbelief: we want to pretend that Dunder Mifflin and its employees are real, if only for half an hour each week. So when I saw this I thought, someone has the right idea. I'm curious to see how long it takes before someone notices and makes a comment to me about it.

11 January 2007


I'm been a huge Apple fan and booster for a long, long time. I bought my first Mac fifteen years ago, and have bought three others since (voluntarily, not because of any hardware or software problems). So naturally I was excited by Tuesday's announcement of the iPhone. But I won't be buying one, for a number of reasons that are going to be shared with many, many other Apple loyalists.

I have an iPod that's only a year old, and even though I love my tech, I don't tend to replace things right away just because a newer, better one comes out. More importantly, I'm not a Cingular customer, and I have no plans to become one. It's not that I feel any particular warm fuzziness toward Verizon Wireless, my cell carrier; in fact I think they're about as evil as any other big corporation, which is to say, plenty evil. But their network is widely considered to be the best in the US, and I'm inclined to agree. I rarely have any issues with call quality or signal strength. (Last week, I got a call from the Mrs. while I was underground, in a subway station.)
And it takes only one visit to a cell-phone discussion web site like HowardForums to find plenty of anecdotal evidence that there are lots of places in this country where Cingular's network, um, blows.

I think Apple is making a huge mistake by offering the iPhone only for Cingular. Smartphone makers such as Palm, Samsung, and even Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, understand that the market for their products in the US is spread among the major cellular carriers, a situation that is unlikely to change anytime soon. They maximize their potential sales by offering versions of their devices for most or all the major cell companies. There are plenty of people who would want an iPhone but, for various reasons, are unwilling or unable to switch carriers; Apple has simply shut the door on those potential customers, an uncharacteristic act of corporate ill will that I think will hurt the image of the company, regardless of how many iPhones they do sell.

At some point I hope we'll see a version of the iPod with the iPhone's interface design but without the phone features. Maybe by then I'll be ready for a new one.

09 January 2007

How It's Done (Customer Service)

Back in October I bought a new pair of slippers. Normally this would not be cause for a blog entry, even in my warped world. I just needed slippers. My old ones were ratty, so I'd thrown them away when we moved, and since we'd gotten the dog, I needed ones with rubber soles to wear when I took her outside first thing in the morning.

I ordered a pair from Lands' End with the requisite rubber soles and fleece uppers, which seemed like a good idea for the colder months, even if our winter hasn't been very wintry this year. When they arrived, I immediately noticed a strong, unpleasant chemical odor, like you get sometimes with certain plastic or rubber products. I put them outside, figuring the smell would dissipate in a few hours. It didn't. I wore the slippers anyway, because it was chilly in the house.

A couple of months went by, and one night while we were watching TV, the Mrs. said, "What's that smell?" I said, "Oh, it's my slippers." (I was amazed it had taken her that long to notice, because she is extremely sensitive to smells.) I had sort of stopped noticing it, as tends to happen over time, but since she had drawn my attention to it, I noticed it again. If anything, the smell seemed stronger than when I first got the slippers, and it really was noxious, so I decided they needed to go back.

I called Lands' End customer service. One thing I wanted to know was if other people had noticed the smell, but the person I talked to said it was the first time she'd heard of it. "Still," she said, "it's obvious you're not satisfied with the purchase, and you shouldn't be. If you live near a Sears store, you can just take them back there, and save the time and cost of shipping them back to us." I appreciated the acknowledgement that something had gone wrong with my Lands' End shopping experience, and they wanted to make it right as quickly and easily as possible. She told me I would need my order number, which she provided.

When Sears had bought Lands' End a few years back. It seemed like an odd match, and it wasn't the smoothest integration. When the LE merchandise started showing up in (some, but not all of) the stores, it was scattered among the other junk Sears sells, and it just kind of got lost. I try not to spend much time in Sears anyway, becuase honestly, it's just way too depressing to be in the vicinity of that much polyester. But I was on a mission, so off I went.

Apparently someone got the message about the product presentation in the stores, because they now have a dedicated Lands' End section, much like how you'll find Polo or DKNY in a more upscale department store. Definitely the right idea. There's even a sitting area with a sofa and chairs, for your significant other's marathon try-on sessions. The smart part is, the clerks use that order number to access your order history and personal information stored with Lands' End, so they don't even need to swipe your credit card to process the refund. Seamless, painless, and it took only about 30 seconds. And I found some suitable, non-smelling slippers on clearance at Macy's, for less than half of what I'd paid for the Lands' End ones.

08 January 2007

Fight Parking Abuse

One of the cool things about blogging is that it makes you want to read other people's blogs. And when you start doing that, you come across some truly inspired stuff.

Submitted for your appraisal: youparklikeanasshole. (While not technically a blog, I found it through the Boston blog Universal Hub.) My hat's off to the person who came up with this. Not only are the notices a fantastic idea (print up some and keep 'em in your car for when you need them), but the site's creator has set up a gallery where you can upload photos of the parking infractors (is that a word? ooh, it is--I checked) in action. I'm certain the Mrs. and I will get frequent use of the "that's a compact?" category at the Porter Square Shopping Center's notorious parking lot. Maybe handing these out will score some parking karma points?

I wish they'd leave the license plates readable in the gallery pictures, but in our overly litigious society, obscuring them is probably the safe bet. I'd also like to see the locations of the asshole parkers, but maybe that isn't being done for the same reason. Nonetheless, it's sheer brilliance, the kind of thing that makes the web great.

04 January 2007

Hold the... Everything

I've avoided picking on the cafeteria at work because it just seemed like too easy a target, not really worthy of my scorn. Besides, there are plenty of other good eats nearby (which you already know if you've been playing along at home). I have not bought lunch from the caf for probably about two months, mostly because their daily offerings were either boring me to tears or making me lose my appetite. They used to have an okay sandwich station, but they did away with it several months ago and substituted pre-made sandwiches, which taste about the same, only older and more expensive. Also, it seems like it would be a simple thing to post the day's menus ahead of time, since I often stop there in the morning for coffee, but when I do, it's invariably the previous day's menu that is still on the board, which is kind of not helpful.

Today I was on my way to the mailbox at lunchtime, and I was feeling kind of lazy about the whole lunch thing, so I decided to pop into the caf and see what was on the menu. The "BBQ chicken sandwich with cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions" caught my eye, naturally. As it turned out, the chicken breast was fried, which wouldn't be a deal-breaker for most people, but I think you'd agree it's not the healthiest thing a world-renowned medical school could be serving up for lunch, and they often serve grilled chicken so it wouldn't be an anomaly. Oh, and the bacon? Apparently by "bacon" they meant "green peppers," because that's what was on my sandwich, and I can't stand peppers. And there were mushrooms too, which I like, but they weren't mentioned; the Mrs. definitely would have freaked out, because she hates them (and that sort of thing seems to happen to her a lot where take-away food is concerned).

So I think I'm done with the caf for good, except for the coffee. And even there, I'd rather have Dunkin' Donuts. Except they almost always put in either too much cream, or not enough...

02 January 2007

Holiday Hiatus

Happy New Year, blogheads!

You know how the TV networks don't show any new episodes during the holiday weeks because people have lots of other stuff going on? That's how it was with me and the blog. I had 11 days off from work, and there was plenty of shopping, family visiting, and over-indulging to be done, plus a marathon viewing of the entire first season of How I Met Your Mother, courtesy of Netflix. Also, the Mrs.' sister came in from California on Thursday for a visit, a much-deserved break from nursing school and motherhood. We ate, we shopped, we ate some more, we even managed to slip in a little culture.

So today we begin the process of slowly trying to get back into the normal routine. But after days and days of blissfully sleeping in, it's going to take me the rest of the week (at least) to get used to getting up at 6:30 again. Damn gainful employment...