31 December 2010

On to the Next One

I'd hoped to do a nice end-of-year wrap post, but I got distracted and forgot, leaving me only a few minutes before the ball drops.

I'm getting to the point in my life where marking the end of another year brings a tinge of sadness along with the optimism of looking forward to what's to come. I'm not entirely sure why, but it's been there, just below the surface, for the past week or so. I think it's just a part of aging, and the fact that this year was somewhat shittier than others in lots of ways, for lots of people.

But while I felt it was important to note that, I won't be dwelling on it. I'd rather think about the future, plus my life now is better than it's ever been. I hope that's true for all of you as well. Happy new year; I'm sure the best is yet to come.

30 December 2010

North Shore Eats

Trying to get into one of the popular restaurants along route 1 at 7 pm in the midst of school vacation week probably wasn't one of our best ideas. Border Cafe gets pretty crazy, but I've never seen it so mobbed. Kind of makes you wonder why they didn't keep the original location open on the other side of the road to handle all the business.

It was the same story up the road at the new Santarpio's: things were not quite as chaotic there, but we were told the wait would be at least 45 minutes. One of our group suggested a Chinese restaurant on a side road nearby, so we drove over there.

Su Chang's in Peabody is the kind of place you could easily miss if you weren't looking for it. It's in a building that looks to have been a house at some point, and its signage is low-key. It was also busy, but even though there were six of us, we had to wait less than five minutes to be seated.

Some people think Chinese food is Chinese food, but I'm very fussy about it. I wouldn't be telling you about it if I didn't think it was good. The atmosphere is pleasant, the prices are very reasonable, the staff were friendly and joked around with the two children in our group, and an elegant woman who appeared to be the owner stopped by our table to make sure we were enjoying our meal.

(It also happens to be close to the Northshore Mall, making it a good choice for dinner after a shopping expedition.)

28 December 2010


I enjoy a glass or two of wine now and then, but I don't tend to consume a lot of it (my at-home drinking tastes run to the basic, like Narragansett beer). I know even less about champagne, except that you tend to have to spend a lot to find anything good. In the mid-90s I worked a second job on the front-of-house staff at the Huntington Theatre, which included concessions, where I was introduced to, and completely spoiled by, Veuve Clicquot.

This year my family decided to spend Christmas Eve at home, opting to order a bunch of prepared foods from a local market. I thought it would be nice to have some champagne, but I wasn't feeling flush enough to drop $38 on a bottle of VC (that's the price I found at Kappy's). I went to the liquor store one night last week, hoping to find a decent bottle at a decent price.

I browsed the sparkling wine aisle for a couple of minutes, and considered just copping out and grabbing a bottle of Freixenet, but I felt I could do better. Normally the staff at Kappy's are happy to give advice and make suggestions, but the store was very busy and I could not locate anyone free. I went back to the aisle and saw a sign, made by someone at the store, that said "good French bubbly" stuck to the shelf below a bottle called Veuve Moisans.

Technically this wasn't champagne, because it's made in a different part of France, but I reasoned that it was closer to champagne than Spanish sparkling wine, and it also happened to cost less than the Freixenet. I figured I'd give it a try, and if it turned out not to be very good I'd only be out $10, and if it did turn out to be good, I'd have found a relative bargain.

As it turned out, it was really good, and especially impressive given its low price. The label is a similar orange to that of Veuve Clicquot, though it's striped in a darker orange so as not to be too blatant a ripoff. My idea was well received, and we polished off the bottle so quickly I found myself wishing I'd gotten two bottles--which I'll certainly do next year. But for only $10, I almost certainly won't wait for next Christmas to have this very enjoyable sparkling wine again.

PS: In the beer department, this is the only time of year you can pick up Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale. It's an IPA with a bit more bite than the regular Sierra, but without any of the spices typically added to "holiday" or "winter" beers. While I enjoy it in bottles, I think it's best experienced on tap, if you have the opportunity.

27 December 2010

Blizzard Notes

We had planned on staying at my mother's house to have Christmas leftovers for dinner last night, but we drove back yesterday morning to get ahead of the storm. We got 18 inches of snow, and of course I couldn't get my snowblower to start. I don't think it was an issue with how hard I was pulling the cord, because I was able to start it last year without any problems.

I managed to deal with the snow by shovel in about two hours, with a little help from, at various points, the Mrs., one of the upstairs folks, and even a next-door neighbor (not the guy I mentioned last week). The guy from upstairs parked his car behind ours last night, which also helped (it cut down on the driveway surface area).

Now I hear it's going to be in the 40s by the end of the week. I'm not complaining, but it is a little strange. The dog is confused; all her favorite spots are covered in huge mounds of snow. I took her out around 10:30 last night, and she managed to accomplish some of what she was supposed to be doing, but she was distracted by the snow and wanted to romp, then after a couple of minutes she realized how cold and windy and nasty it was, and lost interest in anything but getting back inside, not that I blame her.

25 December 2010

This Week in Awesome (12/25/10)

Merry Christmas, everyone. I have a few holiday presents for all of you...

Have yourself a Maury Christmas. (Is That All There Is? via Videogum)

I dig this site out of Switzerland called Data Visualization. (Very Short List)

Top ten time: HitFix's Alan Sepinwall did his year-end TV roundup in a format I like: new shows, returning shows, and an overall top ten.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the Village Voice has a priceless take on the 20 worst songs of the year. Seriously, this is a hilarious must-read. Thank you, Maura Johnston, for the biggest laughs of my week. (via The Awl)

24 December 2010

Locked Out

Yesterday was a trying day, and a new low for me in middle-aged brain malfunction. After I'd gotten the mail, I noticed a couple of pieces were for the upstairs apartment, so I stepped back outside to put them in their box. In doing so I had closed the inner door behind me without undoing the lock. leaving me stuck in the vestibule. It was around 12:30 pm.

One of the upstairs folks was home, but she was playing her stereo, blasting Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" over and over, so she couldn't hear my knocking. I think she must have played it ten or twelve times. When the music finally stopped, I was able to get her attention and her keys, thinking that since our keys to the outside front door are the same, our inner-door keys might be similar enough that I could use it to get in. That idea didn't get far.

I went through their apartment and down the back steps to try the same thing with the inside back door, with the same result. I considered what I should do. I was wearing sweats and slippers, so I wasn't dressed to go outside, and I had no phone and no money on me. I used the neighbor's phone to call the Mrs. and left her a voicemail, hoping she might come home to let me in but figuring she might not be able to get away from work.

Ultimately I spent the afternoon in the basement, looking into boxes that had been placed there when we moved in and sorting through some old letters. My neighbor offered to let me stay in their living room and watch TV, but I wouldn't have been watching TV if I was in my own apartment, and I guess I was still a little paranoid about the whole bug thing.

The Mrs. had said she was going to try not to have to stay late at work, but she didn't make it home until 6:30. She never noticed the voicemail notification on her phone. More than any discomfort or inconvenience (the basement was pretty cold), the whole thing was embarrassing and humiliating, and I really hope I never do anything that stupid again.

22 December 2010

Rarefied Air

I don't have much interest in technical outerwear. It's partly because I'm not an outdoors sort of person, and partly because I don't care for how it looks. So why, then, do I really like this Cloud jacket from technical outerwear company Aether? (By the way, I tried copying that image and pasting it in here, but it's so small that it looked terrible.)

In fact, I like many of the jackets in their line. I think a big part of it is the minimalism of the designs. A lot of outdoor gear is terribly overdone in appearance, with color blocking, pockets on top of pockets, extraneous zippers, gaudy logos--basically everything I hate in a garment. The Aether jackets are distinctive because they are pared down to the essentials. And most of them are available in black or at least gray, which suits someone like me whose outdoor time involves navigating the concrete jungle.

But damn, this stuff is expensive. That Cloud jacket is $625--ouch! (Sometimes I feel like I'm cursed by having expensive taste.) One of the uninsulated shell jackets is under $250, but even that would be an unjustifiable purchase for me. There's an opportunity here: I'd love to see someone step in and execute some outerwear with the Aether aesthetic at less aethereal (see what I did there?) prices.

21 December 2010

Who Let It Snow?

Good morning! Welcome to the winter break edition of SAR. I'm sitting here enjoying my second cup of coffee (Whole Foods organic Mexican, not that you asked) in my comfy house clothes (i.e., sweats). In fact I've been up since 8, because the dog needed to be walked and emptied, and the sidewalk needed to be cleared.

Snow? Snow! Who knew? Certainly not the meterologists. I read last night that the storm reversed course unexpectedly and that's why nobody had any equipment out to treat the roads, which is why last night's commute was a total clusterfuck. Fine, okay, I realize that weather systems play tricks on all of us from time to time, but really, you guys sit around and look at weather data all day, every day, all the time--it didn't occur to even one of you that this might happen? Get a job.

Anyway, I kind of like getting out and taking care of the snow, especially when there isn't enough of it to be a chore. It's pretty outside, and even an inch of snow makes it feel a little more like Christmas. I also had a nice chat with our next-door neighbor, a very sharp and spry 76-year-old guy who is as good a neighbor as we could ever hope to have.

It's nice that I don't need to be anywhere today, but it's already looking better outside (I think I see the sun) and I still have a few last-minute things to get (my mother reads this now, so I can't blab everything like I did last year), so I'll probably venture out at some point. Maybe I'll go downtown and get a sandwich from Cosi, or maybe even banh mi from Saigon Sandwich.

20 December 2010

Bus Discomfort

Since this is the holiday lead-in week, I thought I might have an easier commute today. There was definitely less traffic, making the bus ride relatively quick and painless, but the T was just as crowded as usual.

I did witness one interesting exchange this morning. When I got on the bus I grabbed a seat near the front, and one of the other people waiting with me at the stop sat across from me. By now you're probably at least passingly familiar with the newer buses that have the low floor from the front to the rear doors, then there are steps up to the seating in the back area.

Just after she sat down, the woman turned toward the back of the bus, because someone she knew who was already on the bus was calling to her. She started to stand up but hesitated, looked toward where her friend was sitting up in the back, and said, "I don't like sitting up there." Her friend came down and sat next to her.

What's the big deal? I can only speculate, but I know that sometimes I try to avoid having to go to the back of the bus, but only because I'm the impatient type, and the back area is a bottleneck and it takes a long time to get out when the bus reaches the station, which can cause you to miss a train. Some people are just bustrophobic (coined!), and there aren't as many windows back there. Or it could have been something else entirely.

Anyway, today's my last work day of the year. Getting a break from commuting is about as nice as getting a break from working.

18 December 2010

This Week in Awesome (12/18/10)

It was a pretty good week for internet stuff. Some of it's holiday-themed, some of it isn't...

Defaced is a site that collects instances of prankage that probably wouldn't seem funny if they weren't clever. (Thrillist via Racked)

Here's the undisputed winner of the "creepiest Christmas sweater" contest. (Etsy via The Hairpin)

A couple of good clips from Funny or Die this week: first, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly channel David Bowie and Bing Crosby in a version of their famous Christmas duet that's equal parts homage and spoof.

Then Christina Applegate and friends demonstrate the fitness value of pole dancing for a certain subset of the population.

Finally, the Museum of the City of New York posted a trove of vintage photographs online. (Racked)

Not wanting to disrespect our own fair city, I looked for similar collections. I know Universal Hub has linked to various online archives in the past, but searching the site didn't yield what I was trying to find. A google search turned up this collection of links via BU; it includes links to the Boston Historical Society and the Boston Public Library's Flickr stream, among many others, so that should at least get us started.

17 December 2010

Friday Reading

Technically I work in academia, though our publishing products are geared toward consumers. Therefore we are bound to a certain degree to the academic calendar, which means that most of the following two weeks will be paid time off. Officially our break starts on the 23rd, but I'm taking off a couple of extra days before that.

However, this means that a lot of stuff has to get done ahead of time to compensate for not being here for almost two weeks. So in addition to finishing my monthly deadline stuff this week, I've had to set up emails that will go out to subscribers next week and the week after, deal with a formatting problem in one of the emails, and make arrangements for how a few other small things will get done while I'm not here. (Short answer: I'll be doing them from home.)

Anyway, what all this means is that I don't really have anything for you today, but I can point you in the direction of something you may or may not find interesting, depending on your point of view. Fifty years ago yesterday, two planes collided over Staten Island; one landed there, in an unused army field; the other crashed into an intersection in Brooklyn. The New York Times has been doing look-back coverage all this week on their City Room blog. (It's in reverse order; the posts from the beginning of the week are at the bottom of the page at this link.)

16 December 2010

Bargain Alert: David Chu at Ocean State Job Lot

We popped over to our local Job Lot this evening for a few odds and ends. Among the holiday decorations, fleece jackets, and Antonio Banderas cologne gift sets, there was a mannequin done up in a sportcoat and dress shirt next to a sign that said "David Chu Clothing and Sportswear 90% Off," with an arrow and--I am not making this up--stick-on footprints on the floor leading the way to a side room I hadn't even noticed on our previous visit.

The room, maybe the size of a small mall store space, was filled with men's clothing. For those of you who may not know, David Chu is the guy who started Nautica back in the '80s, but he sold the company several years ago and started another under his own name. The clothes are generally fairly conservative, with a few touches of color and personality here and there, but the fabrics are quite nice and the tailored clothing is well made.

The Job Lot stash had a bit of everything: dress and casual shirts, pants, a few knits, ties, shorts, a small group of suits, and lots and lots of sportcoats. It's almost like a sample sale, and there is a lot of stock in just about every size. All the suits and sportcoats are made in Italy, and it's a decent bet that a lot of the fabrics originate there too.

The original prices on the tailored items range from around $900-$1200, so I'm sure you can do the math and figure out the Job Lot pricing, which is a pretty good deal. Casual shirts are priced at $10, as were some khakis, though those seemed to come only in sizes 30 and 32. Ties are also $10. Boxed dress shirts are $20 to $25. There are also American-made dark blue jeans for $22.50. (Would someone really have paid $225 for those jeans in a fancy store? I had to wonder.)

I have no idea whether or not any other Job Lot locations have this merchandise (this was at the new Medford store); it might be worth a phone call to find out. Some of the shirts and ties are made in China, but none of it is typical low-grade department store stuff. Whether you're still doing holiday shopping for a man in your life, or just want to pick up some work clothes for yourself, this sale is worth checking out.

15 December 2010

Suiting Up

This evening is our work party, a low-key affair at a pub across the street from our office, the same place we've held it for the past four years. This year we were encouraged to bring something either homemade or regifted for our Yankee swap (and I've heard hints that there will be some additional wrinkles to the swap rules this time). So I decided to keep the item I'd originally bought for the swap, and chose to regift a book I'd bought a few months back.

Typically I make an effort to dress up for the holiday party, mainly because it's an excuse to do so, and because my work outfits, while always put together, are distinctly casual. Last night I went down to the basement "closet annex" to pick out something to wear. My dress clothing resides in a pop-up wardrobe down there, since I use it rarely and we don't have much closet space in our bedroom. I also moved my dress shirts downstairs earlier this year, onto a rolling rack that I also use to hang-dry things I don't want to put in the dryer.

I came across a deep blue dress shirt with very fine white stripes that I bought at Lord & Taylor a long time back, maybe nine or ten years ago. I've always liked it, and I remembered that I wore it out to a Christmas Eve dinner some years back (when the various parts of my extended family were still speaking to one another and we all went out to dinner together). At that time I wore it with a solid silver tie and a dark, dark charcoal suit.

I think I still have that suit, but I have some doubt that the pants would still fit, so I quickly assembled a similar outfit, substituting my favorite pair of charcoal wool twill dress pants (the fabric is a bit more substantial, nice on a frigid day like today) and an all-purpose charcoal suit jacket that I got at the Gap about 15 years ago for $40, and which miraculously still fits me quite well.

Interestingly, I noticed that the dress shirt was made in the USA. I didn't remember ever noticing its origin before, but it prompted me to think about how much Lord & Taylor has changed over the past decade. I used to shop there all the time and frequently found good stuff on sale. Now I hardly ever go there, and when I do I'm invariably unimpressed by what they're offering. The company has had its ups and downs of late, and has changed its merchandise focus to try to lure younger customers, and I think that's where they've lost me: all the stuff I liked that they no longer carry fell in the category of "stuff younger guys wouldn't like." Oh well.

Oh, and here's a tip: you may have noticed that your hands get dry this time of year, and when you go to tie a tie, the tiny little points of dry skin catch on the silk. But if you put a little moisturizer on your hands first, and give it a couple of minutes to be absorbed, it will make the tie tying easier.

14 December 2010

Shades of Gray

Still looking for a gift for someone? I'd filed away this item some time ago, and today seems like as good a day as any to mention it.

Randolph Engineering makes high-quality sunglasses right down the road in Randolph, MA. They are mainly known for their aviator and shooting styles, but their P3 style caught my eye because of the round lenses. The P3 was originally available only in gold, but now there's a newer version (called, logically, the New P3) that's available in either gold or chrome, with slightly wider lenses and the option of traditional "skull" temples instead of the cable versions, which hook all the way around your ears.

These are quality eyewear products that are made right here in Massachusetts and sold at reasonable prices (cheaper than Ray-Bans, at any rate). You can also purchase just the frames from Randolph for prescription lens applications.

13 December 2010

Expense Report #36

Have you ever lost track of how much you had in your bank account? I haven't balanced my checkbook in five years or so, but thanks to online account access I always know exactly how much is in my account, except for those rare moments when I forget to check for a couple of days.

I'd paid my rent, I'd paid my credit card bill, I'd paid the cell phone bill, but I didn't think about how much was left. Friday evening I went to an ATM and was told I couldn't have that $100 I wanted because I didn't have funds in my account. Turned out I had $54 left in there, and another week until the next payday. Oops. At least I was able to take out $20 to pay for the meal and drinks I was about to have.

Sometimes I have small stashes of cash around the house, but not this time. I had two scratch tickets with $5 prizes in my bag, and enough stored on my ID cash card to get coffee from the cafeteria each morning for the rest of this week. The hospital cafeteria finally started taking credit cards a few months back, so that's how I paid for my lunch today.

I had tried to do the right thing and had paid more toward my credit card balance than I usually do, but in doing so I carelessly left myself depleted for almost a week. And I'm getting a little old to be running out of money between paychecks; I need to get serious about paying off this balance.

11 December 2010

This Week in Awesome (12/11/10)

TWiA is back at full strength. I'm sure you're all so relieved...

Comedians spoof "We Are The World" by commemorating its 25-3/4 anniversary. (Funny or Die via Basket of Kisses, because Mad Men's Rich Sommer is in it)

A collection of some of the cheesiest (and most illogical, and most superfluous) movie/TV car explosions. One could argue that, by extrapolation, this constitutes a list of some very cheesy movies, and one would be correct. (Jalopnik)

Video of a crazy person doing something pretty high on the "don't try this yourself" list. (BuzzFeed via Gizmodo)

A handy guide for how to describe your furniture when attempting to sell it on craigslist. (Flickr via The Daily What)

Let's close this week's edition with an interesting piece about the hidden workings of the Discovery Channel show Cash Cab, revealed by a former contestant. (tv.com)

09 December 2010

Set Your DVR

AMC has had a pretty good track record in choosing original series over the past several years. Rubicon did not receive a renewal, but otherwise the channel has been extremely successful in programming shows that garner critical acclaim, win shelves full of awards, and tap into the cultural zeitgeist in a particular way. I opted not to watch The Walking Dead because I'm just not into zombie stuff, but it drew very impressive ratings for a cable show, and you already know how I feel about Mad Men.

Earlier this year I wrote about how much I've enjoyed AMC's other original show Breaking Bad. In a departure from the scheduling strategy AMC has followed in past years, season four will not air until some time this summer. I don't know why they have chosen to do this, but in the meantime, word arrives from the channel (via Alan Sepinwall at HitFix) that it will be rerunning seasons one through three during the late night hours of Wednesday nights/Thursday mornings starting next week.

There will be two episodes per week, but they will not be on at the same time each week, because they will be shown after whatever movies AMC is showing that night, and the running times vary. If you're interested in catching up with the show, the best thing to do is create a season pass on your DVR so it will find and record the episodes each week. Otherwise you'd have to search for each week's showings manually, which can certainly be done but requires more effort and is subject to bouts of forgetfulness (take it from me).

Addendum: Huge apologies, I screwed up. When I read the post on HitFix, I didn't realize that it had been posted last Friday, so the words "next week" were referring to this week. So yeah, episodes 1 and 2 of season one were shown last night. I know you can watch the first episode on the AMC site here, and you can get the second episode from iTunes for a couple of bucks.

08 December 2010

Cubicle Hopping

When my office relocated to new space within the building three and a half years ago, there were both advantages and disadvantages to the physical space and my location in it. I was in an isolated spot at the far end of the office from the other people I worked with most closely, but on the other hand, no one was around to pay any attention to my comings and goings, or to what I did all day.

We've had several staff changes during this past year, probably more so than any other during the time I've worked there. But in fact, most of those changes involved existing employees, including me, shifting to new tasks and responsibilities, so in the end we have one less person overall. This allowed one person to move from a cubicle to an office (sadly, not me).

More recently, the production department decided to open up its work area from separate cubicles to one large, open uber-cube. These two changes left two open cubicles adjacent to the production folks, which is where I was originally supposed to be located in the office. People started asking me if I was moving down to that area, so I figured I should at least consider it.

I went and had a look at the new configuration. The setup of the uber-cube actually took away a small amount of space from each of the two adjacent cubes, but for me it was never about how much space I would have. In this space I would have more opportunities to interact with my coworkers; before, because I was so far away, I could go a whole week without seeing any of them.

I had planned to move my stuff last Friday, but needed to leave early to finish prepping for our bug treatment, so I moved Monday afternoon. One thing I hadn't thought about: I'm now a bit closer to a window, but where I was before the window was deeply recessed, so the sun never made it in anyway. The window near my new spot is not nearly as recessed, plus I'm on a different side of the building, so the sun actually shines in during the afternoon.

And since there are more people around where I sit now, and I am slightly more exposed, it forces me to stay more focused on my work, which, you know, sure I have mixed feelings about it, but I have more to do now on a daily basis anyway, so ultimately I'm better off.

Today the production crew had a little open house to show off their new space. As they were starting to decorate, I offered my strand of colored lights, which I was about to use to decorate my own cubicle. By joining the strands, there were enough lights to drape from the ceiling around the whole area, which turned out to be much more festive. And people stopping by their area had to pass by my new spot, so I got a few visitors as well.

07 December 2010

Expense Report #35

I did make two discretionary purchases last week, but in both cases I combined multiple discounts. First, I've been pondering a pair of blucher mocs from L.L. Bean for some time now. I had a pair of them about 20 years ago, and I'm not sure what happened to them, but I suspect that since my tastes went through several changes before coming back around more or less to where I started in high school 30-some years ago, I probably got rid of them due to lack of use.

For $69, these are very reasonably priced shoes to start with. I had received an email from Bean offering 15% off any order for Bean Visa card holders, of which I am one. I was also able to apply one of my $10 reward credits (earned by using the card), bringing the total below $50. And as in years past, Bean is offering everyone free shipping during the holiday season (with the Visa card, I get free shipping anyway). So it was too good a deal to pass up. The soles of these shoes are a bit thin to wear in weather like today's, but otherwise they are comfortable and, in my opinion, better made than most of the shoes Bean is offering these days.

The other purchase was from J. Crew. Last week they were offering 25% of all sweaters. I looked around the site, but didn't see anything immediately compelling. But then on Wednesday morning they announced 30% off one order, which also applied to the sweater sale, bringing the total discount on sweaters down to just short of 50%. (As I mentioned the other day, that's a number more likely to get my attention.) That's about as good a discount as you are likely to see from J. Crew, short of a multiple-markdown clearance item in the back of a store.

But I wasn't done yet: I had a $25 J. Crew reward card that needed to be used by December 15th, so I purchased this cashmere "sweatshirt" for around $100, which is roughly 40% of its normal asking price, and a fine deal indeed.

After this, I really do need to stop buying myself clothing and shoes for a while, and focus on trying to sell some of the stuff that doesn't fit or otherwise hasn't worked out for me.

(By the way, J. Crew is offering a similar deal this week on outerwear.)

06 December 2010

The Scourge: Aftermath

It was a long, exhausting week, but at least it's over. The preparations left our apartment in near-total disarray; it's a lot like those last couple of weeks when you're getting ready to move. And since the pest control folks will be back this Saturday to inspect and, if deemed necessary, apply additional treatment, we can't quite put things back to normal yet.

If there is anything that can be considered "good" about this sort of situation, it's that it became an opportunity for us to evaluate our stuff in a way that typically only happens when you're preparing to move. We've done some culling and decluttering, and we will continue to do so during this week, and then hopefully we'll be able to put everything back together again.

I've also decided that, after all this stress and work, I'm just not going to want to deal with a tree this year. I'll pick up a wreath for the front door, and I'll be hanging my cubicle lights at work tomorrow, and that's as festive as I feel like getting.

04 December 2010

This Week in Awesome (12/4/10)

I'm not at home this weekend, but I hate the thought of leaving you all hanging, so please try to find some amusement in this compilation of utterly insane traffic-camera footage from China. Personally, I'm mentally piping in the Benny Hill theme music while I watch, but feel free to supply your own choice. (Jalopnik)

03 December 2010

A Deal and a Gift Idea

Let me just throw these two bits at you before I disappear down the rabbit hole for the weekend:

Lands' End is offering 40% off one item, with free shipping if you spend at least $75. If you are on their email list, you see offers of 20, 25, and 30 percent off fairly regularly. But 40% discounts are not an everyday thing from any retailer. This is an excellent opportunity to pick up a utilitarian piece of outerwear to keep you warm and dry this winter, or maybe something a bit more old-school (and more stylish), like this pea coat (the gray is a nice change from the typical navy). This deal ends tonight at midnight Central time.

When we were in New York a few weeks ago, we saw a clever set of folding, portable iPod speakers from Muji at the Museum of Modern Art's shop. The Mrs. thought they would be nice to use in her office at work, because she isn't allowed to have mp3s on her work computer. But not surprisingly, they sounded terrible. (That isn't meant as a knock on Muji, whose stuff is generally cool and useful and decently made.)

After we got back I did a little research and found a much better option: this little orb from ThinkGeek pops open into a speaker with surprisingly rich and amply loud sound, and it costs less than the Muji speakers too. It comes with a USB cable, which you connect to your computer to charge the built-in battery, and even a carrying pouch.

02 December 2010

The Scourge Adjacent

You may have noticed that I've been slightly less bloggish this week. There are two main reasons for this. First, my workplace has an annual meeting each year around this time, and this year we had to form groups several weeks before the meeting and prepare a presentation, so I was partly preoccupied by that.

But the bigger reason has to do with the upstairs neighbors. In August one of them moved out, leaving behind a special gift we just learned about this Monday: his bedbug-infested mattress. The upper apartment is on two floors; half the third floor is a bedroom, and the other half is used as an attic space. When the guy left, he tossed his mattress into the attic part, and no one knew about it until last Friday, when someone else attempted to move into the third-floor bedroom. She went into the attic and saw the mattress, and promptly freaked out, completely justifiably. (It probably goes without saying that she won't be moving in after all.)

On Tuesday morning a pest control professional inspected the house and confirmed the presence of the bugs. He also confirmed that our apartment doesn't have any, which was a huge relief, but it won't stay that way unless they treat the whole house as soon as possible. That's going to happen on Saturday.

The prep involves lots and lots of laundry, which then has to be stored in plastic bags. As we do it, we're leaving the bags down in the basement. Everything has to come out of our dresser drawers, the whole place has to be vacuumed, we have to buy a protective mattress cover to use after the treatment, all the furniture has to be moved out away from the walls, and all the switch and outlet plates have to be unscrewed from the walls, so the insecticide can get inside. We have to be away from the apartment for eight hours, but we're going to go stay at my mother's overnight and return the next day.

We're more than a bit shell-shocked by all this, but we're trying to deal with it. I would advise all of you to be vigilant and do what you can to protect yourselves.

01 December 2010

Deal Alert (With Conditions)

Attention J. Crew fans: there's currently an excellent deal on all sweaters, 25% off both online and in stores. But if you happen to have a J. Crew credit card, the deal gets a lot better: this morning I received an email with a code for an extra 30% off one order when using your card, online only (and free shipping if you spend $150).

What really sweetens this offer is that you can stack it on top of the 25% off sweaters, meaning one of their cashmere sweaters, which normally sells for $188 (too much, I know) can be had for around $99, according to my trusty calculator--but only if you have a J. Crew card. And if you happen to have any rewards cards (which expire 12/15), you can make a great deal fairly stupendous.

Still, this is probably the best deal you're going to see from the Crew this season. But hurry--the 25% off part ends tonight.