31 May 2009

This Week in Awesome (5/31/09)

Why yes, I do have some good stuff for you this week. Let's begin with our (okay, my) continuing fascination with anything and everything ShamWow-related. I'm pleased that someone finally decided to spoof it properly. (Consumerist, as usual)

We all know, or have at least encountered, a dude like this at some point. (CasualMafia)

And from the same people, a little dig at both hip-hop and hybrid-car righteousness.

27 May 2009

Back in the (Warehouse) Club

A good while back, I talked about my affinity for warehouse clubs, and Costco in particular. But after the Mrs. left her previous job her Costco membership, which she'd gotten through the employer, lapsed.

For a while we were clubless. It didn't matter much at first, but as time went by I started to miss things like the two-pound blocks of Cabot aged cheddar (called "special reserve" or some such nonsense), the razor blade cartridges in packs of 12 or 16 that would last me a year, the five tubes of toothpaste for $9, and other such things.

I looked into my benefits at work and found that I could get a membership to BJ's Wholesale Club at a discount, so I signed up. One nice thing about BJ's is that there is one within walking distance of our house, though depending on how much I buy, carrying home a bunch of club-sized mega-packages on foot isn't necessarily the most convenient approach. If I walk there I just have to be mindful of how much I can carry, and for bigger loads we can plan ahead and take the car.

After two visits I'm giving them a mixed report card. BJ's does carry things that Costco did not, like the brands of toothpaste and certain other household items we use, and they have a very nice in-house bakery department (Costco had some baked goods, but it seems like BJ's has more). But I am starting to feel that the membership might not be as worthwhile as I once thought it was.

Razor blades are definitely a good deal (the only place you'll find them priced as low is on eBay, and who knows if those are real or not) but with each package of 12 blade cartridges you get a new razor handle, which is silly and wasteful. A three-pack of anti-perspirant was $10, but I recently got it on sale at CVS at two for $7, which is basically the same deal give or take a few cents, and even that is only slightly less than what I normally pay at Target, so not really that impressive.

I think bigger-ticket items like TVs and outdoor furniture can be better deals, and certainly if you have a large family you can save on food at a warehouse club. Sometimes it's just handy to be able to get a large quantity of something all at once so you don't have to buy it as often, provided you are able to store it. But I think the idea of the warehouse club is more enticing than the reality of the place. It seems like I go there with visions of deals that never materialize, and you also have to factor in the cost of the membership, which is a better deal if you shop there frequently, not such a good deal if you don't.

Since I paid for my membership and it's valid for more than a year, I will continue to make use of it, if only for the three-pound tubs of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. But when it expires, I don't think I will renew it.

24 May 2009

This Week in (Possibly Not) Awesome (5/24/09)

Given that it's a holiday weekend and I've been out most of the day, this is going to be more like "This Week in Mildly Amusing." In fact, I admit that this week's entries are leftovers from previous editions that I didn't think were quite worthy, sort of the JV squad of TWIA. Like I said, it's a holiday weekend. I reserve the right to be lazy.

Signspotting is, well, a blog of funny signs.

I didn't realize bands still bothered to make videos, but I liked this one.

The note I made for this site is "crazy suits," so I guess that's what you'll find. (Note: I was asked to remove the link, for an unspecified reason and FIVE YEARS LATER.)

22 May 2009

Heading into the Weekend

This morning's commute was... shockingly normal, in all respects. The bus came when it was supposed to, the traffic on the Fellsway was normal, the train rolled into the station just as I reached the platform, it moved at typical rush-hour speed and did not make any unexpected stops. I actually got to work before 9 AM. Small miracles.

Now things are winding down here at the office, heading into the holiday weekend (wait, it's Memorial Day weekend already?). I'm planning on partaking in some retail therapy at the Kittery outlets, either tomorrow or Sunday, depending on the Mrs., who is getting over her first work-derived cold from her new job. Two whole months before getting sick, that's longer than I expected. And I hope to get to see Star Trek over the course of the next three days.

One more thing: I haven't geeked out over Mad Men in a while, mostly because it's been off the air between seasons (the show is back in production on its third season, which is supposed to start in August). However, I still check the official AMC Mad Men blog a couple times a week, and on Tuesday they posted an interview with a young lady who goes by Dyna Moe. Dyna has done a series of illustrations, one for each episode of the two seasons of MM, which are posted here on Flickr. These are extremely cool, and, even better, are available to purchase as prints, cards, and such here.

21 May 2009

MBTA Blues, Continued

It seemed like things were starting to get a little better with the commuting, though on Tuesday and Wednesday there was terrible traffic on the Fellsway. I don't know why; maybe people were getting fed up with the Orange Line fiasco and decided to drive instead? The bus trip to Wellington station from my house, that usually takes about ten minutes (about half of which is spent getting through the light at Wellington Circle) took 25 on Tuesday and 20 on Wednesday.

Yesterday I somehow still managed to arrive at work only a few minutes after 9, so I thought today would be more or less the same. That was my mistake: getting overconfident too quickly. Today we were rolling along on the Green Line when we stopped just outside Arlington station, and sat. And sat. And sat for a good fifteen minutes, with occasional announcements about "signal problems" ahead. I could see out the front of the train that there was another train just ahead of us, waiting in the station. What fun.

Eventually we were allowed to move forward into the station, but were told that the problems were affecting the entire Green Line, and that once we got to Copley the train would be sitting for an indefinite period of time, and we might want to consider getting off the train and making other arrangements. Luckily I was able to walk the two blocks down to Copley Square and catch a 39 bus down Huntington Avenue, but it was still nearly 10 AM when I arrived at work.

Of course, we now know that not just the Green Line but the whole system was affected, by a maintenance crew's error. Whoopsie. Not a real good week for the T. One thing about dealing with more than a week of transit problems is that I've been able to detach from concern about what time I'm going to get to work. When there's nothing you can do about it, the best thing to do is stop worrying and let it go.

One other bit of weirdness this morning: as I came out of the Berkeley Street exit of Arlington (the main entrance has been closed for a couple of years while they redo the place) and crossed the corner in front of Shreve's, I saw a youngish woman, her cell phone pressed to her ear, burst into tears and start crying loudly, right on the street corner. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of bad news she had just received. (I assume she wasn't crying about the T's problems.) Did she just get dumped? Not so likely at 9:30 AM. A lost pet? A death in the family seemed the most likely explanation. I felt badly for her, but before I could even stop to see if I could help in any way, she had already turned her back and moved into a corner of the building, to be as alone with her grief as possible on a busy street.

18 May 2009

MBTA: MayBe Train Arrive?

The level of suck on the Orange Line is reaching epic proportions. Since last Wednesday, the morning and evening commutes have been disastrous.

This morning started on a wrong note even before I even reached the train. My usual bus was 15 minutes late (the usual gap between buses in the morning is 20 minutes). When I reached the platform at Wellington I saw a coworker (we are our office's only two Medfordites), and we immediately noticed how crowded the platform was. After almost 30 minutes and two trains that were too full to contemplate boarding, we were able to squeeze onto the third.

We switched to the Green Line at North Station, and eventually made it to the office at 9:35. I left my house at 7:50, so that's one hour and 45 minutes. On a good day, with fortuitous connections, I can make the trip in 50 minutes; on a more typical day, one hour. Today I need to get home to tend to the dog, so I'm wondering what time I should leave work.

I don't know what is wrong with the Orange Line's signals (since that's where they keep telling us the problem lies), and I don't know why it's taking the T so long to diagnose and fix it. I do remember a few years back, being inconvenienced for months at a time while the signal system on the Orange Line was supposedly being upgraded.

Regardless, the situation is unacceptable, and the T is not helping matters by not giving the riders any useful information. Cryptic robo-announcements about "signal problems" don't do us any good. Telling us to use the Green Line doesn't do us any good if we're stuck at Wellington.

17 May 2009

This Week in Awesome (5/17/09)

After my last check-in, the rest of the work week turned out to be about the same. Things should calm down in a couple of days, and I have some stuff that I've started working on but just haven't had time to complete.

Meanwhile, on to the awesome...

There's definitely some schadenfreude to be found in looking at these pictures, but who among us doesn't have similarly awful stuff in their past?

Someone has way too much time on their hands... apparently there's a whole series of these clips on YouTube, but since the titles (and all the toy vehicles) are in Japanese, I'm at a bit of a loss to decipher the sequence. If you too find yourself with an abundance of free time, perhaps you could watch them all and report back?

Whatever you think of TV pitchman Vince, the products he hawks, or his extracurricular activities, you have to admire the effort and talent that a guy named Steve Porter put into this "remix" of the Slap Chop infomercial. (The Auto-Tune is truly a wondrous thing, especially if it can make someone "sing" who wasn't singing in the first place.) Of course, there's also one for the ShamWow; the consensus seems to be that it's not as good, but I'll leave that for you to decide. And if you're lucky enough not to know who this guy is, then I salute you.

13 May 2009

That Bites

I know I haven't posted anything this week. Things have been a little bit pressurized at work, which is unusual, and it's distracting me from my ongoing mission to deconstruct the concept of productivity.

However, I find myself with a bit of time at the moment. I had my lower braces put on last week, and a slightly thicker wire put on the top ones. No problems so far, other than the end of the bottom wire giving the inside of my mouth a good gouging, but a quick visit to the dentist's office yesterday took care of it.

But he also put a block behind my two front upper teeth to prevent my bite from closing all the way, so as not to hit the bottom braces with the top teeth. This has made eating weird all over again, because I can't use my front teeth to bite into things like I normally would. Very frustrating, and it's also more difficult to chew food as thoroughly as I should. Consequently, I'm trying to eat soft foods whenever possible, and to avoid sandwiches and things that require biting, but there's no way I'm giving up Anna's burritos.

10 May 2009

This Week in Awesome (5/10/09)

We're just overflowing with awesome this week, so let's get right to this week's goodies:

3. I may have said this before, but I love locally produced commercials. However, this one creeps me out. (AdFreak via Jalponik)

2. Ever wondered what scenes from classic movies would be like if the dialogue were performed by an Amazon Kindle and an Apple iPhone? Wonder no more. (DVICE blog)

1. This clip gives a whole new meaning to the words "car jack." You probably don't want to watch this one at work, and it's probably not appropriate for kids either. (Break.com, also via Jalopnik)

07 May 2009

Vinyl Junkie Extraordinaire

In my basement I have around 250 vinyl LPs (and a couple dozen 12" singles) in storage, representing the focus of a good deal of my leisure time from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s (I got my first CD player in '87, but I kept buying vinyl for a while after that). Unlike a lot of other people, I didn't sell or discard my records after switching to CDs. One friend's husband is an extremely avid collector, and he owns several thousand LPs, which take up quite a bit of space in their home.

But the king of vinyl has to be Bob George, the co-founder of a recorded music archive that is profiled today in a story on the New York Times City Room blog. Mr. George's archive contains more than two million recordings from 1950 to the present. His efforts have led to a partnership with Columbia University (coincidentally the alma mater of the Mrs.' father) that opens the archive to research and classroom use.

Those of you who are into collecting music, regardless of format, will likely appreciate this story and Mr. George's dedication to preserving a piece of cultural history. The story also has a sidebar featuring some of the archive's music.

05 May 2009

Reuse, Retread, Recycle

Time for another TV rant; this time NBC's going to be the target of my disapproval. The Peacock made some announcements yesterday regarding their fall plans. They stopped short of detailing their full schedule, but outlined the new shows in the works.

First, there's Jay Leno. I have nothing against the guy, but his show is boring, and I think giving over five hours of prime-time real estate to what will essentially be the same show he's been doing since 1992 is a bad idea. It's a cop-out, and it might as well be a white flag from NBC, because there's no way Jay is going to draw more viewers than CSI: Extra Cheese or other competing shows at 10 PM.

So, what else does NBC have lined up for us? Not one but two medical dramas, trying to fill that ER void, I guess. One is called Trauma and focuses on EMTs, the other is called Mercy and focuses on nurses. How long until we get Hospital Accounting or a gritty drama about the travails of candy stripers? Yeesh.

Also, there's another attempt to do a series based on the 20-year-old movie Parenthood. I'm completely baffled by why anyone would think this is a good idea, especially since the first attempt, which I was not aware of (I had to go look it up on IMDB) was a miserable failure. I guess I'm not the target audience. They're also prepping a post-apocalyptic drama called Day One, which sounds an awful lot like CBS's Jericho from a couple of years ago, and we all know how well that worked out.

If you prefer comedy but don't get why people like those shows on Thursday without laugh tracks, you might enjoy Community, starring... wait for it... Chevy Chase, as a later-life student at a community college. Wow. I mean... wow. (Are we sure he's not a teacher?) I just have to think someone spiked the water cooler at NBC's programming offices with peyote. This one also stars The Soup host Joel McHale, probably because they owe him for not moving forward with the US version of The IT Crowd that he was slated to be in. There's one other comedy, 100 Questions, something about dating. I wouldn't even mention it, except that behind-the-scenes TV comedy legend James Burrows is somehow involved. And of course there are more crappy reality shows.

But what I'm really bitter about is that NBC did not see fit to renew Life. (Some other shows are still on the bubble as far as renewal, but I'm not invested in any of them.) Life wasn't a great show, but it was pretty entertaining, and it was an attempt at a police procedural that was a bit different than most, which probably made it too quirky to succeed. It would be a natural fit on parent company NBC Universal's USA cable network, but don't look for such a miracle to happen, because if it was going to happen, they would have already arranged it and announced it.

At least I know that, aside from the Thursday comedies and Sunday night football games, I won't have to concern myself with NBC come September.

04 May 2009

This Week in Awesome (5/3/09)

I can't believe I forgot to do this over the weekend... my apologies. I don't want to deprive anyone of their weekly dose of awesome.

After the president's news conference once again disrupted the prime-time TV schedule last Wednesday, the ABC show Better Off Ted, which was one of the preempted programs, released a tongue-in-cheek commercial response in the guise of Veridian Dynamics, the fictitious corporation portrayed in the show. This is a very funny show, in the vein of Arrested Development but with a vibe of its own. Some of their other fake commercials are here. (TV Squad)

Have you seen those Microsoft ads where supposedly real people (who are quite obviously actors) go computer shopping? Someone did a parody of them. (Landline TV)

And in the never-ending parade of stupid criminals, we have some video from the Houston Police Department. The Houston cops have been using bait cars to battle car theft, and these cars have cameras mounted inside. Not only does this help the conviction rate, it provides some amusing moments for us. (Houston Chronicle)

01 May 2009

Cheesy Chunks

Just got back from dinner at good old Cambridge Common. They have something on the menu called "mac & cheese bites." Basically they cut mac and cheese into chunks about an inch across, bread them and fry them. Interestingly, our friend's young son tried them but didn't like them.

First, how can a kid not like that? Second, while the menu says, "answering the question: can mac & cheese really get any better?" the first thing I thought of was, they found a way to make mac & cheese even less healthy than it already is.