31 January 2010

Not Proofed

While browsing RueLaLa, one of the sample sale sites I've mentioned, I came across this briefcase. (I can't just link to the item because the site is invitation-only, and sales stay active for just two or three days.)

Notice anything? Come on, RueLaLa proofreaders, we expect better from you.

30 January 2010

This Week in Awesome (1/30/10)

I hope you were able to survive a week without TWiA. I would have liked to set it up ahead of time like I did before, but as of when we left last week I didn't have anything postable. Anyway, onward...

Looks like this trendlet isn't going away anytime soon: in the footsteps of Look at This Fucking Hipster and Hipster Is the New Homeless, I give you Unhappy Hipsters.

And now, the schadenfreude portion of the program (that word's been coming up a lot lately), vehicular division: first, from Chile, an attempt to right an overturned truck goes wrong. (LiveLeak via Jalopnik) Then, from Turkey, a mind-boggling incident involving a dump truck driving with its bed raised, with predictably disastrous results. (Telegraph UK via Jalopnik)

A nod to the iPad (sort of) by way of MadTV from several years ago. (TV Squad)

And finally, if you have aspirations to be a TV news field reporter, this instructional video from UK humorist Charlie Brooker should be extremely helpful. (NewsWipe via Videogum)

29 January 2010

Security Advisory

On our trip home from California, the TSA confiscated my pocket knife. It's my own fault, because I forgot to take it off my keys and put it in my checked bag before going through security. But the guy was kind of jerky about it, as though it was a given that I had malicious intent with my tiny little knife and scissors, or I'd just pulled a flask of some sort of bioweapon out of my pocket.

But here's the thing: on our outgoing trip, nobody noticed that I had it. When I took off my shoes and put them through the scanner along with my coat and messenger bag, I didn't see any of those little trays that they use to hold your keys and change and stuff, so it didn't trigger the reminder to take my keys out of my pocket. I went through the scanner and nothing happened. No alarm, no flashing lights, no secondary screening. Nobody noticed, which made the confiscation on the way home that much more aggravating.

It's been my experience over many years of traveling that the things that security claims set off the scanner--keys, belt buckles, watches--do not in fact do so. So what does that mean regarding, you know, actual weapons like knives or guns?

28 January 2010

Please Don't Lick the Furniture

A couple of hours ago, while watching TV, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the dog licking something. She often cleans her paws like a cat, so at first I thought that's what she was doing, but when I turned my head I saw that she was licking the side of the console, or whatever you'd call the piece of furniture that the TV sits on, which is right next to her bed.

I have no idea why she was licking it; it has an oiled finish, so it can't taste very good. But I did find her licking the arm of my chair one other time, so maybe it's some dog compulsive disorder or something.

27 January 2010

Winter TV Overview

We came to find a small mountain of TV recordings on the TiVo, and we were already a little behind before we left. This is a busy time of year, with many new and returning shows. Many of these are worth your time; others are not. Of course I will share my opinions with you, because that's what I do.

A few shows are back from arbitrary breaks to finish their seasons. In the past I've talked about how I don't care for this practice, but I doubt USA and TNT will be dropping it anytime soon. These shows--Burn Notice on USA, Leverage on TNT--are light and breezy, with action and humor but not too much depth or seriousness, a perfect wind-down after a long day. While they may be slight, they are also pretty entertaining; I wouldn't watch them if they weren't.

To these you can add USA's new show White Collar, which has thematic similarities to both Burn Notice and Leverage but is establishing itself as its own thing. Its vibe is helped in part by its New York setting, where it is also filmed; USA's willingness to finance such productions adds greatly to their atmosphere (Leverage's obviously fake locations (especially the Boston ones) can seem a little cheesy by comparison).

TNT also picked up the cop drama Southland after NBC discarded it despite some critical praise back in the spring. They are in the midst of showing the seven episodes that NBC aired, which will be followed by six more episodes that NBC produced but did not air. Southland is likely to find a receptive audience on TNT; I would love to see it draw higher ratings than it did on NBC, but that's just schadenfreude.

24 is back, and having watched the first five hours of season eight, it may be time for Jack Bauer to hang up his shoulder holster. I had hoped the New York setting would be invigorating to the story, but the action so far seems lackluster; Freddie Prinze Jr. looks really uncomfortable, or constipated, or something; and the subplots (always the show's weakness, but necessary to fill its "real time" hours) have become annoying to the point of aggravation. However, I'm not ready to stop watching... just yet.

Fox has another new show that I'm enjoying, called Human Target. Based on a comic book, it's about a bodyguard for hire. The action is pretty satisfying, and the show reminds me somewhat of the first, great season of Alias. We'll see if this one finds an audience. Fox also has a comedy slated to premiere in March called Sons of Tucson, about a loser who pretends to be the father of three orphaned brothers so they don't have to go into foster care. That might not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but I'm looking forward to it.

Damages returned for its third season this week on FX with a storyline modeled after the Madoff case. The show is continuing with its time-twisting structure (not a surprise) and has lined up a cast that's even more impressive than last season's, with Lily Tomlin and Martin Short in dramatic roles as the corrupt financier's wife and attorney, respectively. Damages can be a bit over the top at times, but it's great television.

And of course, Lost returns next week for its final season. All the mysteries of the island will finally be revealed... or something like that. Actually I'm not expecting everything to be wrapped up neatly, and the show's creators have stated that not every question will be answered, because really, how could they? But I think we can expect a reasonable degree of closure, along with a few more brain-dislocating moments.

26 January 2010

Return Trip

We've made it back home, and I'm actually at work today, though I'm not sure how much I'm going to get accomplished. I really don't know why I didn't take today off like the Mrs. did.

The wedding was a great success. The weather was about as perfect as anyone could have hoped for, and everyone had a terrific time. I've never been to a wedding with a frozen-margarita machine before, but I think it should be a mandatory feature at all such events, along with a Wii setup to keep the kids occupied and entertained.

Our trip home yesterday, like our flight out last week, was delayed due to weather, but this time it was the weather on this end causing trouble. The westbound flight each day turns around and flies right back to Boston, and since it was delayed taking off from here, it was late getting into San Francisco, and thus late coming back. This is why we prefer nonstop flights whenever possible. I don't know if the same flight crew does both trips, but if so that's a hell of a long day even without delays.

It's always tough to get back into the normal routine after this type of trip, but I'm sure we'll be settled right back in soon. Semi-regular blog posts will now resume as well.

22 January 2010

Chance of Showers

The sun made an appearance today here in Santa Cruz. It's been raining pretty much constantly since before we arrived, so it was a welcome change. However, the wedding for which we're here is tomorrow, and while forecasts earlier in the week promised a decent day, things are not looking as promising now. The ceremony is supposed to take place on the beach, but a backup location has been arranged.

21 January 2010


Hey guys, it's me! (Well duh, who else would it be?) Yep, I'm hanging out at the SARSiL's house while she and the Mrs. are off doing girly things like manicures, and her place is laptop-equipped and wifi-enabled.

I have to tell you about our travel experience yesterday, definitely not one of my better ones. Way back more than 20 years ago, I missed a connecting flight while on my way to Florida for Christmas because the plane for the first leg of the flight was late getting into Logan due to bad weather. In that instance, when we arrived in Philadelphia, already knowing we weren't going any further that night, the guy ahead of me in line made such a stink about getting a free ticket to compensate for his inconvenience (it got to the point where he was literally standing there going "I WANT A FREE TICKET! I WANT A FREE TICKET!" like a damn five-year-old throwing a tantrum) that I was able to simply coast on his ranting and get one also.

Yesterday's situation wasn't quite that bad. The Mrs. always insists on getting to the airport insanely early, so we left the house via taxi at 6:30 AM for a 9:15 flight. It took less than 30 minutes to get to the airport, check in, and go through security, and I have to admit it was nice to have enough time to have a sit-down breakfast. After we'd been sitting at the gate a while, the gate attendant announced that they had to swap out the plane for a different one, which was going to cause a short delay. Oh, okay, haven't heard that one before. As we were watching them do that, we were told that our departure had been pushed back to 11 AM due to weather conditions on the west coast.

One of the things I hate most in this world is sitting around in an airport waiting to get on a plane, and I was already pretty cranky, having gotten only about four hours' sleep. But weather is weather. We moved to a seating area at another gate that was almost empty and thus quieter, and a little before 11 they boarded us. We taxied out and ended up sitting for another hour while everything out in the San Francisco area sorted itself out, and we finally took off a few minutes after noon.

The rest of the flight was nearly perfect--plenty of legroom, no screaming babies, snacks, no turbulence. I tried to sleep, but I was only able to drop off for a few minutes at a time here and there. (I've never been able to sleep on planes, except for one time when I was flying to New Orleans for Mardi Gras on a late-evening flight; the plane was less than half full, and since I was the only person sitting in my row I was able to lay on my side and doze.) Even the landing was one of the smoothest I've experienced.

Neither of us had ever flown into the San Francisco airport before; we usually fly into San Jose because it's closer to Santa Cruz, but JetBlue is currently not flying there nonstop from Boston (though supposedly they are going to reinstate those flights some time soon). The terminal at SFO is very large, and our gate was at the absolute opposite end of the long, long terminal from baggage claim. Then you get to go upstairs and ride an automated train around the airport to the car rental garage. And by "around" I mean ALL the way around; if the train had gone the other direction, I'm quite sure the rental garage would have been the first stop.

After we checked in at the rental counter, we had one more bit of silliness to deal with. A bunch of the rental companies are now under the same corporate umbrella, but they don't bother to mention this, so you go into the garage looking for your company's signage and find it's all different. We found a guy who explained to us that we were in fact in the right place, and when we got to the section for compact cars we found a situation very much like what happened to us in San Jose a couple of years ago: only two cars left, both kind of crappy, and one technically an "economy" class car. Even more strange, the facing row was for midsize cars, and one of them was the exact same model as the other car in the compact row. While we considered what to do, someone else came along and took that car.

We managed to find another employee (they seemed to be wandering around the garage at random) who told us that this company had done away with the economy class, which seems like a convenient excuse for why you're stuck driving a kleenex box when in fact they should just let you take one from the next class up. As we were preparing to load that car, another employee parked one just like it a few spaces away. The Mrs. went over to look at it to see if maybe it had power windows and door locks; it didn't, but she noticed a "no smoking car" sticker on the dashboard, which she deemed more important, so off we went in our Hyundai Accent. Whee.

Once we got out of the airport and onto the highway, I noticed that over 90 minutes had passed since we had landed. It was also still raining, not steadily but more like in sheets every few minutes, with just little sprinkles in between. Fortunately we are familiar with the Bay Area/Silicon Valley highways from previous visits, so while the driving was somewhat difficult, the rest of the trip was uneventful. I had quite a nice headache going by that point, but food and Tylenol and ten hours of sleep took care of it.

20 January 2010

Schedule Adjustment

Things are going to be pretty much offline for the next several days around here. Our flight leaves at 9 AM eastern time. I don't know what sort of internet access we're going to have; I don't travel with a laptop, and I don't yet have a smartphone (more on that soon, though). I may be able to check email from where we're staying, but I'm not even sure about that.

So, I'm afraid there will not be a TWiA this week, and I'm opting to bump this week's scheduled watch post to next week. (Maybe you'll want to use this opportunity to rummage around in the archives?) If things change and I can post I will, but you should probably assume I won't.

And for you fellow winter-sufferers, you should know that I'm heading to northern California, where the forecast is for temperatures in the mid to upper 50s, with at least a chance of rain almost every day, so while it will be better than Boston, it won't be that great.

Back at you soon...

18 January 2010

Snow Work/No Work

We got only three inches of snow today, but it took me about three hours to clear all of it because it was really wet and heavy. I acquired a used snow blower a couple of months ago, but I didn't think it would be worth using on such a small amount. But I ache so much that in hindsight that was a poor decision.

I actually enjoy getting outside and shoveling, but I can tell I'm getting old because my hands start to hurt after a while, and tomorrow my arms and hips are going to be feeling really great. The good news is, I don't have to go to work tomorrow, because on Wednesday we're flying out to California (the Mrs' sister is getting (re)married, and it's been almost two years since we've visited anyway) and it seemed silly to go into the office for one day this week--this way I have more time to pack and otherwise get ready.

16 January 2010

This Week in Awesome (1/16/10)

This was a busy week for me at work, so I didn't have time to find my usual complement of material for TWiA. But fear not, you won't be leaving empty-handed.

Courtesy of Sandi, the Boston Restaurant Examiner, we have this exercise in cooking various things using a waffle iron.

From Japan, another bizarre product I don't think anyone was asking for. (Consumerist via OhGizmo)

And how about a little schadenfreude? Here's a little compilation of cars sliding on icy roads. (CurrentTV's InfoMania via Jalopnik)

15 January 2010

Local Pickup Only

There's no way I could ever find the words to properly express the colossal awesomeness of this, so I won't even try: Conan O'Brien has put The Tonight Show on craigslist. For real. (The ad has already gone away and come back once, so if it goes away again you can see it here.)

That's just fucking brilliant.

14 January 2010

Off the Rack

Over the weekend I acquired a new suit. It's not exactly something I was actively looking for, it just sort of fell into my path and was too good a deal to pass up.

One night last week we went on one of our regular supply runs to Target. (We now buy almost all our household needs like cleaning products and toilet paper, as well as the personal stuff we used to buy at CVS, at Target because everything is less expensive there.) I usually take a spin through the men's department; none of the clothes are going to win awards for design or quality, but I have found some useful basics there over the years.

I particularly like to check the clearance racks, because the longer stuff is around, the deeper the markdowns get. Last year I scored a button-front shirt for $6, 75 percent off the original price. This time they had a bunch of suit separates. The last time they had their suit pieces on clearance like this, I missed out on finding a bargain in my size, so I diligently pored through the racks. I found a couple of styles that I liked, but I was unable to find two matching pieces in my sizes.

On Sunday we headed up to the North Shore to take care of a few things, and there happens to be another Target store in the shopping center. This time I was able to find both jacket and pants in the appropriate sizes. The jackets were originally $100 and there were three different orange clearance tags, so I was able to see that the markdowns had been 30 percent, then 50 percent, then 75 percent off. So, $25 for a 100% wool suit jacket. The pants were similarly discounted from $50 down to $12.50.

Even at the original prices, Target's suit separates are a good deal for guys on a budget. The quality is surprisingly good for clothing from a discount store (I've seen worse, selling for more money, at Kohl's). The jackets are fully lined and are reasonably stylish, with side vents and lapels that are neither too wide nor too narrow. The pants are flat-front, have an inner waistband button tab, and are lined to the knee, as is customary on wool dress pants. And buying separates is convenient, eliminating the need for tailoring in most cases. I have no idea how well these pieces are going to hold up, but since I don't often need to wear a suit, it's not really an issue.

At the Nordstrom Rack outlet in the same shopping complex, I saw some really nice Burberry suits, which are made for them in the USA in the same factories that produce Hickey Freeman suits, marked down to $500 from original prices of $1,200 and higher. That's an exceptional deal, and I would have loved to grab one of these, but that's a bit beyond my budget at this point. However, $37.50 for a suit is an expense I can justify. That's probably less than I'd pay in a thrift store, with some of the same thrill at finding a bargain and none of the worry about moth holes or odors.

12 January 2010

Gauntlet Thrown

Well, this statement makes the NBC/Conan situation a bit more interesting, huh?

(Image credit: Mike Mitchell)

11 January 2010


One of the few things about our neighborhood that is slightly less than wonderful is a lack of little stores and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. I have access to pretty much anything I need, but it's not quite doorstep convenient. Where we used to live in Somerville, I only had to walk to the top of the street and I was on Broadway, with a bank, food stores, a barber shop, cleaners, and lots of other local businesses. (I don't miss a lot about living there, but I do miss being so close to Leone's, who make what I think is the best Italian sub I've had anywhere.)

But one thing we do have is a great Italian salumeria called Il Sogno, which means "the dream." It's essentially a father and son operation; I might have seen one other person working there, once, in three and a half years (probably a cousin). They have the basics, and then some. When we buy cold cuts or deli meat at al, which isn't too often, we buy from here. They roast their own turkey and offer it in three varieties: regular, smoked, or honey.

They have all the typical Italian grocery items like pasta and olive oil, cookies and candy. But what I really love about the place is the prepared food. They make excellent panini, salads, and pasta dishes. An order of ziti, broccoli, and chicken and a salad makes a fine dinner for the two of us, with leftovers. Best of all, they make arancini. These are balls of arborio rice and cheese that are breaded and fried; they typically have sausage or spinach inside, and they are crazy delicious.

(I had one a month or so ago from Modern Pastry in Medford Square; it was the size of a softball, which is too big, and all the cheese was in a glob in the middle, instead of blended throughout. I'll stick to the baked goodies from them.)

Arancini are time-consuming to make, so you don't find them in that many places. Growing up, my grandmother made them maybe once or twice a year on holidays, Christmas Eve or Easter. I mentioned this to the owner once; he said that in the part of Italy he came from, they make arancini all the time, so it feels natural for him to make them daily.

My only wish is that Il Sogno would stay open past 7 PM, even if only on Fridays. The early closing time makes placing a spontaneous order for ziti, broccoli, and chicken difficult, but that's how it goes with small neighborhood businesses. We're still fortunate to have them nearby.

09 January 2010

This Week in Awesome (1/9/10)

Welcome to the first full edition of TWiA of the new year. Quite a haul for you this week:

Further mutations of the Snuggie have been sighted: now it's succeeded in growing legs! Run, run for your lives, before it's too late! (Consumerist, Racked)

Some poor fool over in the UK stuck something where it didn't belong. (The Sun [UK[ via The Awl)

The new year always brings with it a batch of dubious ads for exercise and fitness products, but this one is a little different from most (which doesn't make it any less dubious). (TV Squad)

Last week The Soup counted down its top clips of the year. One of the craziest was from a show on Discovery Health called I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. Pretty entertaining on its own, but they added a little extra something to really make it special. (The Soup via YouTube)

And finally, there are many potential hazards to driving on the roads in California--earthquakes, mudslides, brush fires--but this is a relatively recent development brought about by the proliferation of reality shows. (Onion News Network via Fake Steve Jobs, somewhat NSFW/K)

08 January 2010


By now you've probably heard that NBC is considering throwing in the towel on the Jay-Leno-in-prime-time experiment. Everything is strictly rumor at this point, but given the swiftness with which the story broke, the fact that it went from a post on a small TV industry blog to pretty much every mainstream media outlet in the universe--from my local morning news show to the front page of today's New York Times--in less than 24 hours, you have to figure there's something to it.

This was a desperate, wrong-headed, foolish idea from the start, and I criticized it when it was first announced back in the spring. Not only was it a bad business decision that alienated TV writers and producers (whose scripted programming NBC shunned to make room on the schedule for Leno), but it's a continued slap in the face to Conan O'Brien, who has done everything NBC asked and is getting screwed over for it.

Why anoint someone the chosen successor to the seat behind the desk of The Tonight Show (whether or not you watch it, it's a television institution and an important job) and spend five years paving the way for the transition, then at the eleventh hour pull an end run and give the outgoing host a prime-time slot five nights a week? NBC got nervous about Conan's ability to maintain Leno's ratings; as it turns out, they were right, but that doesn't excuse their behavior. Either you bet on the horse, or you don't, but you can't change or rescind your bet halfway through the race.

And as if that's not enough bad behavior for one network, the scenario now being floated would involve giving Leno a half-hour show after the late news, and moving The Tonight Show to a 12:05 am starting time. Wow. That's hubris, pure and simple. That's saying, "We made a terrible mistake, but we can't bring ourselves to admit it, so we're just going to shuffle the deck chairs on this sinking ship again, and snub you [O'Brien] even worse in the meantime." I hope O'Brien has his lawyers looking for a loophole in his contract that would allow him to get the hell away from NBC.

Here's another question: if NBC does pull Leno from prime time, what are they going to use to fill those five hours per week? They probably have one or two midseason shows on deck, and I suppose they could pad those Biggest Loser episodes more than they already do, and throw on some (more) Law & Order reruns. I'm sure they'd like to rebroadcast Project Runway, but they probably can't because it's no longer airing on corporate cousin Bravo. They could borrow Burn Notice or In Plain Sight from USA, but that might imply that USA's programming is better than NBC's own. Oh, wait, it is. Oops.

I'm not the first person to say this, but Jeff Zucker should be fired over this fiasco. It was his idea, and he should answer for it.

07 January 2010

Watch Wednesday Thursday (1/7/10)

Watch time again? Totally sneaked up on me. I would have held today's earlier post until tomorrow. Whatevs...

This is the first chronograph I bought, almost ten years ago now. I have several Timex watches, because they make so many different styles and they are eminently affordable. This was one of their first forays into somewhat nicer territory with correspondingly higher price tags; I think the suggested retail on this was $90 but I got this on eBay (naturally) for around $50 at the time, and it was money well spent. I don't know who supplied Timex with the movement for these, but it's very accurate, and the battery lasted five or six years before it needed to be replaced.

The diameter of the case is 38 millimeters, which seemed huge at the time because I was used to wearing vintage watches that tended to be smaller, but now this almost seems small compared to some of the other chunky modern watches I've acquired since, like those Casios.

This originally came with a strap that resembled kevlar but was really some sort of nylon, and was backed with leather. It didn't prove to be as durable as it looked, and I ended up replacing it with a leather one. Eventually that strap wore out too (my own fault, I bought something cheap) but this one, which is from the previously mentioned Watch Prince in Oregon, is of much better quality.

New York, London, Paris, Munich...

During my lunch today I was reading some stuff on The Awl (I've said it before: you really should be reading this site regularly) and one of the pieces was about a pop singer named Ke$ha (yes, really; it's pronounced "kesh-a"). There are video clips, and a link to a song by a rapper named Flo Rida (it's pronounced like "flow rider," not "Florida") on which she was featured. This young lady broke some sort of record for sales on iTunes the first week her song was available.

It's a good article, but as I watched the clip of her performance on Ellen I was thinking: has the bar really fallen this far through the floor? I know that musical preference is highly subjective, some performers think of themselves more as entertainers than as artists, and not all albums can be Revolver or London Calling, but come on. This is what's passing for popular music these days? It's just...vapid. There's nothing to it.

I can't even tell whether or not Ke$ha (I hope to heaven that's not how it's spelled on her birth certificate) is a good singer, because what's coming out of her mouth can't really be called singing. Say what you want about the traveling freak show that is Lady Gaga, but at least she can sing.

Last week we were at our friends' house for New Year's Eve, and of course they put on the Ryan Seacrest/Dick Clark thing so we could watch the ball drop. But a bit later we were watching The Black-Eyed Peas, and all eight of us, who are in our mid-40s or older (except the Mrs., who's knocking on that door) were sitting there going, "This is music?" I found myself thinking I'd rather be watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on CNN.

[Speaking of BEP, some kids up in Canada made a cool video to go along with one of their songs. It's one continuous, unedited take and is pretty impressive. I recommend watching it with the sound off, though, because it's one of the stupidest songs I've ever heard, and it will get stuck in your brain and make you want to cry. (Video via Fake Steve Jobs)]

There's also a story on The Awl about the band Vampire Weekend, and while they may come off as somewhat more artistic, their music does nothing for me either. I'm an equal-opportunity curmudgeon.

06 January 2010

Half and Half

This is the time of year when people make an effort to change their ways. I am not a resolution-maker, but I support anyone who is trying to live a better, healthier, more mindful life. I'm kind of a lazy-ass myself, though I'm pretty sure this isn't a revelation to any of you who visit on a regular basis. I don't exercise in any regimented way; the idea of going to a room full of other people and getting all sweaty and grunty just doesn't compute for me. It might be nice to have a treadmill or stair-climber in the basement, but those things tend to be kind of expensive, and also tend to go unused.

Working in consumer health publishing, I tend to see the same advice over and over in our publications: be more active, pay attention to what you eat, don't smoke. There is no denying that following these basic guidelines will help most people lead longer, healthier lives. After a while even an indifferent sloth like me gets the message. While hardly living what I'd consider a virtuous lifestyle, I've been able to make some positive changes in my habits and behavior.

Being a public-transit commuter means that I spend a portion of each day walking. I enjoy walking, and I often try to add some extra steps to my day (it's more difficult to keep up with this consistently in winter, but shoveling snow is good exercise too). If I leave work and there is no train or bus approaching, I will start walking up Huntington Avenue; occasionally I end up walking all the way to Ruggles station. When I'm entering or leaving a station, I always use the stairs. At work I always use the stairs, and I add steps by going to a higher floor to use the restroom (an idea I got from someone else who works here).

With regard to diet, I started paying more attention to what I ate, and to my total food intake over the course of a day. I've always had a taste for snacks, and that is probably the hardest thing to deal with. It's easier to cut back than to eliminate them completely, and I've also been substituting nuts for chips, things like that. We buy hummus and I eat it with either tortilla chips (which are not quite as bad for you as regular potato chips) or pita chips (which are expensive, but are a much better deal at BJ's than at most other stores). We used to buy ice cream regularly at the supermarket; now I try to hold off and enjoy it once in a while at places like Richardson's, because it's much less of a temptation if it's not in the house to begin with.

I eat oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal for breakfast, with 1% milk (we used to buy 2%). I love fruit, but I don't eat enough of it, so I need to try to work that into the morning. I used to eat a big sandwich every day; now I eat salad for lunch almost every day. I concentrate on things like broccoli, chickpeas or kidney beans, olives, tuna, and other choices that have real nutritional value. And I don't negate the nutritional worth of those veggies by covering my salad in ranch dressing; as much as I love it, I stay away from it and use the Greek dressing instead. It's olive oil-based and lighter, while still being flavorful. I never drink soda; I fill a one-liter bottle with water each day at work, and finish it by the time I leave, and I have probably another liter at home each night. (I'm pretty sure I will never get a kidney stone.)

About a month ago I got on the scale after not having checked my weight for a long time. To my surprise I had lost five pounds. All these little things had added up to a subtraction. But there's one thing that I know is bad for me that I can't possibly give up: cream for my coffee. I didn't know what half and half was until I was probably 17 or 18, because it had never been brought into our house. If you wanted to put a dairy liquid into your coffee, there was milk in the fridge. (Back then it was whole milk.) But once I'd tasted coffee with cream (most likely at Dunkin' Donuts), there was no going back. (I don't use sugar.)

A few months ago, one of my coworkers posted something on the bulletin board about low-fat half and half. I'd always wondered why such a thing didn't exist, especially after the vile fat-free stuff came along. When we went on our next trip to the supermarket, I looked for it, but they didn't have it. I kept looking, and finally last week I found some at the local Foodmaster, so I figured I should try it, if only for research purposes.

The texture and consistency is off. The coffee felt like it wasn't quite thick enough. And then I kept having to add more to get to where I thought the taste was right. Eventually I got to the point where the taste was okay, but it seemed like I was using more than I would have with regular half and half, which kind of defeats the purpose of it. It also costs somewhat more than the regular stuff. I think I'm better off limiting my overall coffee intake each day, as I've been doing for years.

04 January 2010

Tales of Takeout: The Follow-Up

Yesterday I wrote about my experience with a Foodler order on Friday night. At the time I wasn't sure whether or not I should name the restaurant in question. Generally speaking, I try to walk a line between expressing an honest opinion and being fair, and based on the incident and the information I had at the time, I decided to identify it.

As it happened, the owner of Eat at Jumbo's uses a Google Alert to track online mentions of his establishment, so when my post popped up he looked at Friday's orders and was able to figure out who I was, and last night he called me to talk about what had happened. He offered me a genuine apology, and said that other restaurants that use Foodler, not just his, do sometimes have problems receiving their orders (when I called to check on my order, it seemed like I was being fed a line to placate me), but Foodler also brings them a lot of business.

But nonetheless, even if my order had not been received by the restaurant, after I called it should have been processed and delivered, and the owner admitted that something had gone amiss there. He said that it was an extremely busy day, and he had taken the day off anticipating that it would be a slow day. He's obviously very involved in running his business, and wants very much for his customers to be satisfied.

I definitely was not looking to slam anyone without justification, I was simply telling a story about what happened. I may have given Foodler a little too much credit, but I felt they did deserve credit for the speed with which my customer service issue was handled. They may in fact be to blame for the restaurant not receiving my order; in the time I've been using them such a thing has not happened (until now), but perhaps there is room for improvement on their side.

At the same time, the proprietor of Eat at Jumbo's deserves credit for admitting a mistake, and for reaching out to a potential customer who had a negative experience. It made me feel like I should give them another chance, but when I do so I'll probably just call in my order, or place it directly through their web site.

03 January 2010

Tales of Takeout

Friday was a very lazy day around here, like a snow day except the snow hadn't started yet. The Logo channel was running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, and we spent most of the day switching back and forth between that and TiVo-stockpiled episodes of Mad Men that I'd been wanting to watch again before deleting.

Around 8 PM we got hungry. For a couple of years now we've been using a great online service called Foodler. Foodler has arrangements with restaurants to process online orders and forward them on, and they tell me what restaurants in my area are available for delivery service. The great thing about it is that I can place the order online, pay with a credit card, and include the tip, so when the person arrives at our door with the food, I just take it and say thank you.

Because Friday was a holiday, some of our usual places were closed, so I ended up ordering from a place we hadn't tried. But we had received takeout menus from them, so I knew of it and figured it was worth a try. I placed the order, got the email confirmation a few minutes later, and went back to watching TV. After a while I noticed that no car had pulled up in front of the house, but again, since it was a holiday I thought the place might not be at full staff.

A while after that, feeling a little growly in the gut, I went and looked at the time: it was 9:30. We'd had a couple of delayed deliveries, but this was unusual. I looked at the email and called the restaurant. I was put on hold for several minutes, and then was told that they had been having a problem with receiving their Foodler orders, that they would start on my order, and it would be about another 30 minutes.

I went back to the TV, but kept looking out the window. Eventually the Mrs. fell asleep, and I kept getting hungrier. (Sadly, we didn't have anything in the house other than candy and breakfast food.) When I finished the seventh episode of season two of Mad Men, it was 11 PM and still no food. I called the restaurant again, but they were closed (at that point I didn't have any confidence in their ability to resolve the situation anyway).

Feeling a bit light-headed from hunger and not sure what to do, I went back to Foodler to see about contacting them. I saw that another local place that we'd ordered from several times before was still open and delivering until midnight, so I placed a desperation backup order, then wrote to Foodler about the incident. Within five minutes I had received a response, and not one of those stupid computer-generated ones, but a real response, written by a human being, at 11 something on the night of a holiday. He assured me that the order had been confirmed by the restaurant at 8:05 PM, and apologized and issued me a refund.

I'm still hoping they can speak to someone there and find out what happened, but the important thing is that Foodler fixed my problem, and they did it right away. So, not that we're keeping score, but Foodler wins, and Eat at Jumbo's loses. And the other place, Caprese Pizza, did deliver my backup order, right around midnight.

02 January 2010

This Week in Awesome (1/2/10)

It's another holidayish week, and as such there hasn't been as much going on out on the intertubes (though I've spent just as much time looking, trust me), but I managed to find a couple of things worth mentioning.

Consumerist did a roundup of the best commercials of the year. Some of you who don't spend as much time near a TV as I do may not have seen some of them. Should keep you busy for a while...

And for the little boys among us, here's video of a semi tractor (without a trailer) being drifted around a slippery roundabout (rotary), presumably somewhere on the European continent. (Jalopnik)