30 June 2008


We had a decent weekend. Went to see the Indiana Jones movie Saturday evening, which I mostly enjoyed, except for the ending. I'm not going to give anything away, but a big chunk of the action is based on a premise that turns out to be a little, well, stupid. Maybe that isn't the right word. How about "ridiculous"? But hey, the Somerville Theatre now sells Richardson's ice cream, and boasts a satellite location of the Museum of Bad Art as well.

Yesterday we went to a barbecue. Normally I would not have even ventured outdoors in such unpleasantly muggy weather, but this is a once-a-year event and worth a little discomfort. Everyone positioned their chairs so that we were sitting in a shaded area adjacent to the hosts' garage. But being in the shade was not really the same as being out of the sun, and last night the Mrs. said to me, "Your head got sunburned."

When I got up this morning, it was obvious that my forearms and the tops of my knees had also been burned. I had meant to bring both a hat and some sunscreen, but in our haste to get ready and leave the house, I forgot both. I really should know better, because I've had to protect myself from the sun my whole life. Hopefully a couple of days of painful hair brushing is all I'll have to endure.

27 June 2008

Nap Time

Last night, I was coming home from work on the Orange line, as usual. I was reading my paper and not paying much attention to anything else. There was an empty seat to my left that was filled at State by a guy who looked to be around 30, wearing typical office attire.

As we left North Station and started up the grade to come above ground, the guy's weight shifted and he kind of leaned into me a little. When we finished ascending the grade and leveled off, he was still leaning on me. He was a fairly tall guy, so the weight pressing on me was not insubstantial, and even though the AC was on, it wasn't that comfortable in the subway car. I very gently pushed against his right shoulder with my left one, to try to get him to shift his weight off me, but it didn't work. Shortly after that, the train made a bit of a lurch, and the guy abruptly lifted his head and shifted so that he was no longer leaning on me. That's when I realized that he had been asleep.

Between Community College and Wellington, he dozed off three or four more times for maybe 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Each time he would jerk back awake and lift his head, seemingly fighting the urge to catch a quick T nap. When I got up to leave, I wondered what would happen. With no one sitting next to him, would his next doze send him slumping over sideways? Would he wake up at Oak Grove and realize that he'd meant to get off at Malden Center?

25 June 2008

Apple Slice

We had a good time on our trip to New York. Getting there and getting home was much less traumatic than last year, when we were stuck in traffic so bad that we opted to exit the highway and work our way to Manhattan via surface streets in the Bronx. But last year we were trying to get into the city on a Friday evening, and this time we did it early on Saturday afternoon, which made a big difference. We still hit a bit of a slowdown in the same area of the Bronx as last year, but things opened up again pretty quickly and we made excellent time overall.

As much as we enjoy visiting New York, we also enjoy coming home. I don't really want to stoke the old rivalry, but everything about New York is just so... to the nth degree, I guess. On the sidewalks and streets, there is no such thing as personal space. No one will move out of your way, for any reason. Tables in restaurants are about six inches apart. I'm not complaining, it just takes some getting used to. I'm sure that if I had ended up living there, I would have gotten along fine. I'm even starting to feel like I have a decent grasp of the subway system, after only a decade or so of regular visits.

We stayed way downtown again, right around the corner from Wall Street. I like it downtown, especially on weekends. It's quiet. I think I feel this way about lower Manhattan because it reminds me of downtown Boston. The streets go in all directions; no one had yet bothered laying them out on a grid. You can walk around with a bit more room, without having to elbow people off you. The streets are easier to cross because they're very narrow, and many of them were blocked off to vehicles.

We never went above 14th Street on this visit, preferring to stick to the Village and Soho and downtown, the older parts of the city. And for us, a visit to New York would not be complete without a stop at Junior's in Brooklyn for breakfast, and cheesecake to bring home. It's the kind of place that makes you feel like a local, even if you're just stopping by on your way home.

20 June 2008

We're Off...

We're off to New York for a few days. Gotta drop off the dog at "camp" (aka my mother's house) on the way. More when I return...

19 June 2008

Jesus Lights Our Way

The picture to the right is our Jesus night light. (Sorry for the lousy pic, but it was not easy to photograph.) It's been lighting our bathroom for well over a decade. The Mrs. found it in a long-gone dollar store in the Twin City Plaza near Lechmere, and ended up buying several more to give to friends. If I remember correctly, they came in pastel blue and pink, as well as the white we have.

You might ask why we have such a thing, and your question would certainly be justified. I guess the best answer I can offer is, why not? We are not religiously observant, and we're not really into kitsch as a decorating theme, so I guess it's a little touch of oddity for its own sake. We just thought it was so peculiar that we needed to have it in our lives. The base part that holds the bulb is not even original; that burned out years ago, but fortunately the plastic Savior part fit onto a standard night light base, so His light could keep on shining.

When I look at it, I wonder why someone thought it was a good idea to make them at all. How did they end up in a strip-mall dollar store? Were they originally manufactured to be sold in a religious store, like that one that used to be downtown behind Macy's (does anyone know if that place is still there?), or were they destined for the dollar stores from the moment the hot plastic hit the mold?

Back when I was first thinking about starting a blog, one of the things that held me up (besides mustering sufficient motivation) was coming up with a satisfying name. One day I was wandering around the house, hoping for inspiration to bump into me. I walked into the bathroom and looked at the night light. For a moment I wanted to call the blog The Jesus Night Light, which is why I took that picture in the first place. I still like that name, but I was afraid that people would misinterpret it, either taking it too seriously or taking offense at it, so I moved on, for better or worse. But I thought it was time to share what could have been.

17 June 2008


Today there was an envelope in my mailbox at work. There's rarely anything in there, and this was on office stationery, with my name and address printed on it, so I was a bit puzzled as to what it could be.

It turned out to be a letter from our two top bosses, informing me that I will be receiving a bonus with this week's paycheck. I had known that the company awards bonuses, and that they would be announced near the end of the fiscal year, but I was not hired as a full-time employee until a year ago; before that, I was here for almost 18 months through an agency on an ongoing temp assignment. So until this year I was not eligible for a bonus, and I had more or less forgotten about it.

I thought a worker bee like myself might get maybe a couple hundred dollars, but it turned out to be significantly more, and certainly more than I would have expected. This is the first time in my entire career that I've ever received a cash bonus. I used to get jealous around Christmas when I would hear about the bonuses my friends and family members got. Over the years I've received my share of company-logo-embroidered hats and fleece clothing; I've gotten paid time off; I've received gift cards and gift checks, and there were plenty of years when I got nothing more than a "Merry Christmas!" from a manager.

So this is kind of a big deal, and needless to say, I'm quite pleased. I don't even care that it's not happening at the holidays. In fact, the timing is really good, because the Mrs. and I are going to New York this weekend, and this way we can enjoy ourselves without guilt, and maybe even splurge a little. We're already being sensible by banking our tax refunds and the forthcoming stimulus check, so this time we're going to have a little fun.

16 June 2008

How I Spent My Weekend Doing Nothing

The Mrs. went away on Friday to attend a close friend's baby shower, and she's due back later today. So what did I do with my weekend of freedom? Pretty much nothing. (Obviously I didn't post any new blog entries.) I mean, I cleaned up the kitchen so it would look tidy and presentable when she gets home, and I did some laundry yesterday, but other than that, I more or less watched movies of questionable quality for the better part of the past three days.

It's not like I haven't seen True Lies or Paycheck before. I've also seen Eraser, but I watched about half of that again too, fully aware that it's one of the most preposterously implausible movies ever made. I managed to lift my butt out of the chair long enough to walk the dog a couple of times, and to go to the Italian deli down the street for a salad and an order of chicken, ziti, and broccoli, which was more than enough food for Saturday's and Sunday's supper.

But it wasn't all drivel. I also watched the Beatles biopic Backbeat, which I had not seen since it came out in 1994. It's certainly several notches above those other movies in quality. And I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, because it was on and because I don't think I'd seen it since it came out either. I have not seen the new one yet, so I figured this would get me in the mood. And the modern Ocean's Eleven is one of those movies I can watch over and over, any time it's on. Since by now I know the movie by heart, it's fun to step back and watch the assortment of techniques, lighting, and camera angles employed by Steven Soderbergh, or count the scenes where Brad Pitt's Rusty is eating something.

I watched an oldie from 1975, The Killer Elite, which was directed by Sam Peckinpah and stars James Caan and Robert Duvall. It's ostensibly an action movie about two friends who work for a shadowy organization that does things like contract killings for the CIA. There's definitely action, but by today's standards the movie chugs along for slightly more than two hours with lots of character and story exposition, occasionally interrupted by a gunfight, car chase, or hand-to-hand martial arts battle.

It was interesting, but I wouldn't exactly say I enjoyed it. I got the feeling Peckinpah was trying to evoke or mimic the Dirty Harry movies, due to the San Francisco setting and blunt violence, but without their social commentary or anything close to Eastwood's charisma, it felt like a curiosity, a cultural artifact, like finding a perfectly working 8-track machine at a yard sale: kind of cool once, but definitely outdated now.

12 June 2008


I notice that I've done a number of posts about strange things that happen in the restroom at work. Well, here's another one...

I just witnessed someone brushing his teeth while taking a leak. I mean, that is so many kinds of gross and disgusting I don't even want to contemplate it. But I still had to share it with you, my loyal readers.

11 June 2008


I have my issues with the cafeteria at work, which I've previously mentioned. But the coffee is consistently good (though they frequently seem to run out of the blend I prefer, so I suspect it's the favorite of a lot of other people as well), and if you bring a travel cup (instead of using and discarding a new cup, lid, and heat sleeve every day), they give a pretty generous discount off the regular price, and it's obviously better for the environment.

Now that we're in the firm, sweaty grip of the heat and humidity, my thoughts naturally turn to the refreshment of iced coffee. Once I asked the worker who makes and tends to the coffee why the cafeteria did not offer iced coffee. He told me that they had tried offering it a couple of years ago, but it didn't work out. He was vague on the details, so I just left it at that.

This morning I went to get my coffee as usual, and as I entered the serving area, I said hi to the coffee guy. He returned my greeting and pointed at the coffee urns, which at that point were behind me, and said, "We have iced coffee." I guess they decided to try again, so I figured I should at least give it a shot and see if it was decent.

I picked up a cup and looked around, but there was no ice anywhere. I thought that was a little odd; you can hardly call your coffee iced if it isn't chilled by ice cubes. (This was probably one of those vague details about why serving iced coffee did not work out before.) For a moment I was worried that the coffee in the new urn would be hot, or warm. But it was really more like slightly cooler than room temperature. Since I knew we had ice cubes in our office kitchen's fridge, I decided to forge ahead.

The coffee turned out to be okay, but not great. I may have added a little too much cream, but I think really it wasn't brewed as strongly as iced coffee should be. I'll try it one more time before giving up on it. But if I do decide to keep getting it, I'm going to need a bigger travel cup.

09 June 2008


This is kind of stupid, but I went to the dentist today for my regular cleaning and check-up, and the hygenist told me that I had a lot less plaque on my teeth than on my previous visit. I mentioned that I had been paying more attention to what I eat, and I've been having salad for lunch a lot. She said that vegetables and roughage work naturally to clean plaque from the teeth, so that may have helped. It's such a tiny thing, but it's nice to have some independent semi-confirmation that you are doing something that's good for you.

I'm also considering getting braces, something I've wanted to do my whole life. My teeth have always been crooked, but when I was growing up, my parents did not have the money for me to have orthodontia, and then a little later it was get braces or go to parochial high school, and my parents decided on my behalf that they felt my education was more important. My dentist deals specifically with adult braces, and the mechanics have advanced quite a bit--no more rubber bands, no more sharp edges on the metal, fewer office visits spaced farther apart. And my insurance will pay for some of it, so it will take some of the financial sting out ot it.

06 June 2008

No Cameras Allowed

Our friend Sunny got us a pass to see the preview screening of the new Adam Sandler comedy You Don't Mess with the Zohan. The showing was last night at the big multiplex across from Boston Common. The movie started at 7, so the Mrs. and I agreed to meet in front of the theater. I arrived around 6:10, and she arrived about ten minutes later.

We went inside and upstairs to where the line had formed. The staff was already letting people into the theater, so we didn't have to wait too long, but it did seem that the line was moving rather slowly. As we got closer, we heard a voice saying, "Please have your cellphones out and turned off." The Mrs. thought they were just going to check our phones to see that they were in fact turned off, but I realized that they were collecting everyone's phones in an attempt to prevent illegal copying of the movie.

I haven't been to a preview screening in a long time; I think the last one we went to was the first Harold & Kumar movie back in 2004, and things have changed a lot since then. Not only do most people now have a cellphone with a camera, but many of those cameras can record video, and there are other types of video cameras that are small enough to be easily concealed.

The guy behind us in line grumbled to his companion, "What's the big deal? The movie's going to be out tomorrow." But with the right equipment and a fast internet connection, a pirated copy of the movie could be online an hour or so after the screening ended, or copied onto DVDs a couple of hours later, so to the movie studios, the potential lost revenue is kind of a big deal. (I'm not necessarily defending the studios' general business practices, but I do think they have the right to protect their copyrighted material.)

We surrendered our phones and were given tickets that matched up with numbered brown paper bags arranged on tables. We went into the theater and discovered that the upper section, with the more viewer-friendly stadium seating, was already filled. There was no place in that whole section with two adjacent available seats. The first two rows were empty but reserved, presumably for reviewers and assorted "VIPs." That was a total of about 50 seats, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was really necessary to hold aside so many seats at such an event.

The five rows in the forward section of the theater were nearly empty, because most people understandably don't like to sit so close to the screen. Given the choice of sitting there or not seeing the movie, I was content to sit close, but the Mrs. wasn't. I took a spot in the last row of the front section, and I thought at least she would sit down with me to see if the viewing position was tolerable, but she was already somewhat irritated by the whole scenario, so she left. I felt badly about it, but it was her choice.

And the movie? Good, not great. Could have been a little tighter and thus a little shorter, and the last 20 minutes were kind of a limp across the finish line, but the basic conceit--Sandler as an Israeli superspy who is tired of war and violence and just wants to be a hair stylist--works, and there are quite a few good laughs and funny bits. And since it is an Adam Sandler movie, of course it has the general air of pervasive raunchiness for which he's known, so if you like that sort of thing, you'll probably have a good time.

03 June 2008

Indian Food in Medford!

The Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/Arlington area has many fine Indian restaurants, but once you cross over from Somerville to Medford, there are none to be found. When we moved two years ago, we were surprised by this, especially considering that the Salem Street corridor from the Fellsway to Medford Square has all kinds of food places. But if you stop to look, most of those are sub & pizza joints, with a couple of Chinese places thrown in.

We have been satisfying our cravings by going over to India Palace in Union Square, or Passage to India in Porter Square. So we were pleased to notice that recently an Indian place by the name of Kabab Corner had opened in the Wellington Circle Plaza, behind the CVS. Now, this is barely in Medford, but it's very convenient to our house, so tonight we decided to get take-out, on the theory that if we liked it, we would go back for a sit-down meal.

Our initial impression is that it's quite good. We shared an order of aloo naan, which had a thin layer of mashed potato inside the bread; kabab samosas, with ground lamb and peas; and garlic lemon chicken, which was cooked in the tandoori oven. The chicken was served on a bed of cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes, which was a nice touch. Everything tasted fresh and was well-prepared. The staff invited us to sit at a table while we waited, and brought us glasses of water.

The location is a bit less than obvious, but I did notice that sign boards announcing the restaurant had been placed on the edges of the parking lot on both the route 28 and route 16 sides, so hopefully word will spread and the place will get reviewed by the Globe or the Phoenix. I'm doing my bit by mentioning it here. And hey, there's plenty of free parking. Tell your friends.

01 June 2008

Breakfast, with Insult on the Side

Today the Mrs. and I went to have breakfast at the Ball Square Cafe, where SoundBites used to be before moving next door. If I understand the story correctly, the newer place was opened by a guy who used to be a cook at SoundBites. We've been there twice now, and we like the food.

Today, though, I had a weird encounter with the owner. I was pouring cream into my coffee, and I was bent over looking at it closely in order not to spill it. The owner walked by behind me and said, "Looks like you're analyzing it. What are you, a scientist or something?"

Those of you who know me, and those of you who have been reading for a while, know that I have poor vision, and that I often have to get up close to things to see what I'm doing. Also, I'm a bit touchy about it, having endured people's ignorant comments all my life. As I went back to my seat, I stopped and said to the owner, "I happen to be legally blind, which is why I was bent over so close to the cup, so I don't appreciate your comment."

First he apologized, which was fine. But then he kept talking, which in such a situation is usually the wrong choice. He first tried to minimize the offense by saying that he was just kidding around, and anything he says should be taken with a grain of salt. Then, because I was ignoring him, he kept going, and tried to turn it back on me, basically saying that it was my fault for being so sensitive about it.

The Mrs. asked me if I wanted to leave, and I said no. I was hungry, and I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of walking out in a huff. I was going to sit there and eat, and hopefully continue to make him uncomfortable about what he'd said.

I don't know what comes over people sometimes. It's one thing to see a situation and think such a comment to yourself, but to say it out loud, in a public place, is a whole other level of rudeness and ignorance. The lack of basic human respect just blows my mind. And I would have been just as upset if I had seen it happen to someone else. There's simply no excuse for that sort of behavior.