30 November 2008


Well, that Black Friday shopping excursion didn't happen. The Mrs. wasn't feeling well, so she didn't go to work, and while she wasn't so ill that she needed me to look after her, it was just too easy to stay home with her and watch TV. We did venture out in the evening to the grocery store and to get burritos, but that was it.

And yesterday? We cleaned. Both of us tend to be lazy about this, but the apartment needed some serious cleaning, so we buckled down and it's much improved. Later we went out to do a couple of errands, and met up with Sunny and son for dinner at Christopher's. Today, I'm not sure. The Mrs. wants to try to do some work to make up for the day she missed, so maybe I should do what I'd planned on doing Friday. But T service is lousy on Sundays, so that might hinder me.

26 November 2008

Holiday Time, Plus A Shopping Tip

What's that? No new posts since last Saturday? Well, yeah, I know. But it's a busy time. Stuff needs to be done, and errands don't do themselves. Kids have birthdays. The Mrs. is participating in a holiday craft market, so she's been cranking out baby quilts for the past several weekends and is dropping them off today. Then this evening we're off to Rhode Island, but only for about 24 hours, because she unfortunately has to work Friday.

I do have Friday off, and it's possible I've sustained a blow to the head because I'm considering going into Boston that day. I seriously dislike crowds and I can't remember the last time I actually ventured out to shop on Black Friday, but I've been wanting to get to Newbury Comics for a while and haven't had the opportunity. I used to be able to pop into the downtown store fairly easily on my way home from work, but since they moved over to Qunicy Market a couple of months ago, it's somewhat less convenient to do that. So I'm thinking I'll head into the city for a few hours on Friday to take the pulse of the shopping public, so to speak, and report back about any especially juicy bargains I find.

For now I can pass along a web shopping tip for one of my new favorite stores, Martin + Osa. Through December 1st, all cashmere sweaters, men's and women's, are $79. That's almost an end-of-season price. The brand is from the same parent company as American Eagle but is positioned as an older sibling. The clothes I've bought from them thus far are of above-average quality, in my fairly knowledgeable opinion, certainly better than what AE sells. The style is more grown-up too, more or less splitting the difference between Banana Republic and J. Crew. And who doesn't love cashmere?

Update, 10 PM: Psst, this deal just got sweeter. I got a little holiday mailer from M+O today, and if you use the code 52216266 on the site, you'll get 30% off your order through December 24th. So that would make a cashmere sweater $56, which is a stupidly good deal.

22 November 2008

Not-So-Speedy Delivery

I've been doing a fair bit of shopping lately. Not for the holidays, but for myself, though when I do set out to shop for others, I usually end up buying stuff for myself as well. There are just so many good deals to be found these days, and I've needed some fall and winter clothing.

Over the years I think I've gotten pickier about quality, and I've learned a lot from my attorney friend DC, who has seemingly been aware of this stuff since he was in grade school. So one day a few weeks ago I was roaming around the dusty back halls of eBay and I came across a guy selling new Allen Edmonds belts. I remembered that my friend likes their shoes and belts partly because they are made in the USA (although he says they seem to have slipped a little since the company was sold a couple of years ago). To my surprise, the seller had eight or ten belts in my size. (I'm not a weird size, and that's often a problem--too common.)

The belt I bought ended up costing me $40. That might seem like a lot for a belt, but it's really only slightly more than you would pay for a lesser-quality belt from your local department store, and half of its retail price, plus it happens to match a couple of pairs of my shoes nicely. The seller shipped it on Monday, November 3rd, and that's where the story gets a little more interesting, because it's not really about the belt, but about what happened to it on its way to me.

Not all sellers bother to tell you that they have shipped your item (I always do, so remember that when I start auctioning things), so I've learned to be patient. I have never not received an item I bought on eBay, which I guess makes me pretty lucky. Typically I wait least a week before I send an email to the seller asking about the status of the package. In this case, I waited a little more than a week, until the day after Veterans' Day, since holidays can screw with delivery times.

He responded and gave me the tracking number, and said he had checked the tracking and it said the package had arrived in Boston that day. I went and had a look for myself. What he'd neglected to say was that it was the third time it had arrived in Boston. At this point, I think it would be slightly more entertaining if l just post the whole tracking sequence here:

• Acceptance, November 03, 2008, 3:44 pm, PALM DESERT, CA 92260
• Processed, November 03, 2008, 6:54 pm, SAN BERNARDINO, CA 92403
• Processed, November 05, 2008, 4:31 am, ALBANY, NY 12288
• Arrival at Unit, November 05, 2008, 7:44 am, SCHENEVUS, NY 12155
• Missent, November 05, 2008, 8:51 am
• Processed, November 06, 2008, 12:18 am, SPRINGFIELD, MA 01152
• Processed, November 06, 2008, 4:30 am, BOSTON, MA 02205
• Processed, November 08, 2008, 2:34 am, ALBANY, NY 12288
• Processed, November 08, 2008, 11:45 pm, SPRINGFIELD, MA 01152
• Processed, November 09, 2008, 8:43 pm, BOSTON, MA 02205
• Processed, November 11, 2008, 12:38 am, SPRINGFIELD, MA 01152
• Processed, November 12, 2008, 12:46 am, BOSTON, MA 02205
• Processed, November 13, 2008, 5:06 pm, ALBANY, NY 12288
• Processed, November 16, 2008, 11:18 pm, BOSTON, MA 02205
• Delivered, November 17, 2008, 11:03 am, MEDFORD, MA 02155

So, a priority mail package that typically takes three days to cross the country took two weeks to get to me. That's what happened, but why? If you look at the sequence, you can kind of figure it out. Where it says "arrival at unit," you see that it's some place in New York state that I've never heard of. I went over to Google Maps and found that Schenevus is about 35 miles southwest of Schenectady, on the way to Binghamton. Its zip code is the same as mine, except for the first digit, and that's the key to the whole fiasco. That's why it says "missent" right under that entry. From there, it seems like it would be a relatively simple fix to get the package back on the right track, but it bounces back and forth between Boston and Albany for another week and a half before finally making it to its destination.

In hindsight, everything becomes clear. When I got the package, I expected the seller to have botched my address, but he didn't. It was correct and perfectly legible. But the person who processed the package at the seller's post office entered the wrong zip code when they printed the little postage label with the bar code. Right under the bar code, a little "12155" was plainly visible, and that was the problem. The automated scanners kept putting the package back into the system, and the system kept trying to send it to zip code 12155, which I guess is what it's supposed to do. Eventually a human must have figured it out and intervened, because there was a thick black magic marker slash through the bar code and the zip code on the little label.

After all that, I was expecting that there would be something wrong with the belt, but it was fine. But I guess we're going to have to keep a closer eye on those postal workers.

20 November 2008

Ad Alta Voce

A couple of decades ago, I lived in Allston, and then for a while in Jamaica Plain, before crossing the river to Somerville. One thing all these places had in common is that I've always lived on a bus line, and one thing all the various bus lines--the 57, the 39, the 87, 88, and 89--had in common is that I could always count on seeing an assortment of colorful characters. There was a craggy old guy who shared his CIA conspiracy theories, the socially awkward guy who always tried to befriend me, and the older woman who was always sticking her nose into everyone else's business, just to name a few.

Of course, there are plenty of colorful folks on the subways too, but when you ride a bus route regularly, sometimes even at the same time of day each day, you often see the same people over and over. Since I moved a couple of years ago and started riding the 100 bus along the Fellsway daily, I've seen a lot of the same people, but no one has really stood out. Until now, that is.

For the past month or so, I have been noticing a young guy while waiting for the bus at Wellington on the way home at night, and sometimes on the platform waiting for the train in the morning. Really, he would be pretty hard not to notice, because he sings along with his iPod (or whatever is connected to his earphones). And when I say he sings, I mean he SINGS. He is always in full-voice, full-on belt-it-out mode. And he's pretty good.

I don't recognize any of the songs he sings, but I've listened to parts of some of them and I think they are from Broadway shows. Musicals aren't really my thing, which is probably why I don't know them, but they just have that feel to them. I get the sense that he's practicing for a show he's in, or possibly getting ready to audition for one.

Some of the other riders snicker to themselves and each other about the singing guy. It's true that his behavior is a little unusual, but I admire the guy, because he's got talent and because he's confident enough to stand there and sing in front of the other riders. That's how you build confidence, right? If you want to be a performer, you have to have poise and presence, and you get those by getting used to being in front of an audience. So we're kind of like his homework.

Also, he's respectful enough to stop singing when the bus or train arrives. Singing at the bus stop is one thing, but singing on the bus is another thing entirely. Then you're just another weirdo.

Update, 7:55 PM: After some discussion with A Proper Bostonian, I've changed my mind. I now think he's probably just some dude who's gearing up to audition for a reality show.

17 November 2008

Quantum Quibbles

So, Quantum of Solace was a decent Bond movie, but didn't quite live up to Casino Royale. For me it came down to a couple of things. First, the action scenes are really overedited, in such a way as to potentially induce dizziness. If you or someone you know is prone to seizures, it might be advisable to avoid seeing this movie. This was clearly an intentional choice by the filmmakers, but at times it's almost impossible to discern what is actually happening, which detracts from the overall moviegoing experience.

Second, the movie was devoid of any bit of humor. I'm not suggesting that it's necessary or desirable to return to the corny, campy, lecherous tone of the Roger Moore era, and I realize that this was primarily a revenge story so it's somewhat excusable, but I missed the element of wit. I'm hoping that next time out, Bond will feel like he can lighten up a bit.

14 November 2008

Friday Afternoon

Deadline time looms once again, but on this dreary Friday afternoon my brain has decided it's pretty much done for the week. I may attempt to do a little work over the weekend, something I've done on occasion in the past.

Meanwhile, we're going to see Quantum of Solace tonight. Some of the early reviews don't seem too favorable, but we enjoyed Casino Royale so much that reviews probably don't matter. I'll post my two cents over the weekend.

Since I expect the theater is going to be quite busy, I went to the trouble to purchase tickets ahead of time. This is a silly modern frivolity, but at the same time it's nice to know the seats will be waiting for us.

11 November 2008

Checked Off

People still write checks at the grocery store? I saw someone do it yesterday, but I'm still kind of in denial about it. It just seems so... antiquated. Do they still save S&H Green Stamps too? (Go ahead, read the Wikipedia entry, I'll wait...)

09 November 2008

I Can't Hear You...

On Friday night we went to check out Roadhouse, the new barbecue place in Brookline. It's on Beacon St. out past Washington Square, in the building where the original Vinny Testa's used to be a long time ago, and it's run by the folks behind The Publick House a short distance up the street.

The wait was between 45 minutes and an hour, which we expected on a Friday. Once we were seated, I got a look at the beer list, which is extensive and well chosen, as I'd expected. We enjoyed our food and beers, but it was too noisy to maintain a conversation. I expect busy places to be loud, but there's loud and there's loud. I hate to sound like a curmudgeon because I know that's what people are going to think, but really, it's nice to be able to hear what the person sitting right next to you is saying.

A couple of weeks ago the Mrs. and I went to Tavern in the Square in the Porter Exchange building, and experienced the same thing, only worse. We really couldn't hear each other across the table. I managed to discern that the waitress was asking if we wanted dessert. I said, "I would like dessert, but we can't stand the noise so we're just going to go." The odd thing about this is that, a couple of weeks prior, I had been to the other Tavern location in Central Square, on a Saturday night, and it wasn't nearly as noisy.

I've always worn earplugs at concerts. I guess I need to start wearing them when we go out to eat too.

05 November 2008

The Great Divide

I've intentionally stayed away from the overtly political and ideological, but after last night I want to make just a brief observation. I watched the candidates' speeches, and I noticed that when McCain mentioned Obama, the ignorants in the crowd booed (to his credit, he hushed them), but when Obama mentioned McCain, the audience applauded politely. I think those two little moments encapsulated the ideological divide between the two sides quite accurately. I still think Democrats are frequently too soft and too nice, but I'd rather be on the side of the bigger person.

04 November 2008


While grocery shopping last night, I discovered that the egg nog has arrived. If you hate Christmas creep then this news will probably make you unhappy, but if, like me, you're a nog lover, it's great news. I highly recommend the vanilla flavored kind; it tastes pretty much exactly like a vanilla milkshake.

But in some parts of the country, the nog has been available for a while now. Over at Consumerist, there was a post about a grocery store in Missouri that was selling Halloween egg nog. Frankly, I think this is brilliant marketing, but it's also ominous. Before you know it, we're going to end up with one continuous holiday season stretching through the last three months of the year.

02 November 2008


When we lived in Somerville, we never had a single trick-or-treater on Halloween in eleven years. I think it was mostly because we lived in a little dead-end street, even though there were some kids who lived in adjacent buildings. We always bought candy, just in case.

After we moved, it was nice to be part of the neighborhood Halloween experience. Two years ago, one of our upstairs neighbors came down and we pooled our candy. We all sat in the vestibule with the outer door open, so people could see that this was a house they should visit. The dog greeted each group of kids, thinking they were there to see her.
Last year we went to California to visit the Mrs.' sister, so we missed Halloween. (We had a dog-sitter staying here who did give out candy.) So this year we were ready for the festivities again: the Mrs. came home at the beginning of the week with six bags of candy, and she even got a costume for the dog, a queen's cape and crown, highly appropriate for a dog we refer to as "her highness."

The first group of kids arrived, and one of them, perhaps around ten, sized up the Mrs. and said, "You're tiny." (She's 4' 11", which is tiny by adult standards.) Nobody likes a Halloween smartass, but he got candy anyway. It was such a nice night that we decided to sit out on the porch. We kitted out the dog in her costume, though she didn't much care for the crown.

By now we know quite a few of our neighbors, and some of them stopped by. One family is kind of the charter members of London's neighborhood fan club, and as they came around the corner, we could hear the mother saying, "Oh, there's London!" It seemed it was as important for them to say hello to her highness as it was for the kids to get their candy.

At one point all the kids were standing on the porch and London was giving them the sniff-over. One boy, around five, suddenly exclaimed, "She's trying to sniff my penis!" Well yes, I suppose she was. Oops, sorry about that. The grownups had a laugh, the kids got their candy, and they went on their way. See you next year.