31 July 2012

See It.

We made it to see The Dark Knight Rises tonight. I'm certainly not going to spoil anything, but I'll say it was very very good. It's a little longer than the second one, but it doesn't feel nearly as long as it is. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (and now it's pretty clear that the three Nolan films are meant to be taken together as such).

One other thing, for those of you in my area: Showcase Cinemas offers a Tuesday discount: all movies are $7 all day. I think tickets are normally $11 and change, so if you can make time to see a movie on a Tuesday, it's a decent deal.

30 July 2012

Last Week in Awesome (7/28/12)

All day I had this feeling that I'd forgotten something...

It turns out that what we have all suspected about 3-D movies is true. (Funny or Die)

There's a lot of cool stuff underground, as this list shows. (Flavorpill via The Daily What)

The wisdom (?) of Ralph Wiggum. (Laughing Squid)

Ooh, so close... (The Daily What)

And finally this last week, those with acting talent have so much to offer the rest of us. (Gawker)

Ironed Out

I've discovered one annoyance with our new iron: once I have used it and turned it off, I have to unplug and replug it before it can be turned back on. I imagine this is meant as some sort of safety feature, but in daily use it becomes a nuisance.

I have not tried leaving the iron on and letting it shut off automatically to see if that makes any difference when turning it back on. I suspect it doesn't, but it's probably worth checking.

28 July 2012

Retro Video Unit (7/27/12)

How is it that I've overlooked this video? The dB's have been one of my favorite bands for decades, and in honor of their newish release Falling Off The Sky, their first album in 25 years, we absolutely must pay tribute to the genius of "Amplifier."

27 July 2012

Happy Dog Day

Whoops, I almost forgot: today is our six-year "dogaversary." We are very lucky to have found such a sweet and well-behaved dog.
Uh-oh, looks like someone got a little carried away with the celebrating...

Towel Pride

I came across this aisle a few days ago at our local Ocean State Job Lot:
I guess they're really going after the Irish customers in the area.

26 July 2012

Stock Up Now

I have a tendency to buy household items in large quantities. Part of it is the idea of taking advantage of a good deal, part of it is having the space to store the haul, and part of it is a dislike of running out of things that we use every day or regularly.

Costco and the other warehouse clubs encourage this approach with the way their items are packaged. You want this cleaning product? Well, you'll have to purchase it in this bulk-pack. At the moment I have an eight-month supply of laundry detergent that I purchased at Costco a couple of weeks ago. It's their store brand, Kirkland, and it comes in an enormous squared jug that sits on its side with a spout on the bottom.

But I do this when shopping for other household stuff. I almost always buy two tubes of toothpaste at a time, or two sticks of anti-perspirant, when I go to Target. I'm already there, it's a good price, and I know I won't have to go back so soon for more. Target has the best everyday deal on tissues that I have found: four boxes of store-brand, 200 per box, for $5. Tissues are one of those items that are almost universally overpriced, so this helps avoid that pitfall.

A few weeks ago the Mrs. returned from a trip to CVS with 52 rolls of toilet paper (two 20-packs and a 12-pack). Normally we buy it by the 12-pack, but CVS was offering a $10 gas card to those who spent a certain dollar amount on certain products. (I am curious to see how long the 20-pack lasts in a household with only two adults.)

However, this purchasing behavior does not always extend to food. We try, but we have to be selective about the purchases. We can't always justify bulk food purchases because we often won't be able to use whatever it is before it spoils, which ends up wasting money, which is the opposite of what we're trying to do.

Where's Bloggo?

Things have been busy this week: career workshops, informational interviews, dental appointments for both me and the dog (at different places, fortunately). But don't worry, I'll be back with more real stuff soon.

24 July 2012


I was up and out fairly early today (relative to my current norm), and so far I've seen two different people wearing fleece jackets. Given that the temperature and humidity are where you would expect for late July, I simply don't understand it.

22 July 2012

This Week in Awesome (7/21/12)

I'm not sure yet when we'll be seeing The Dark Knight Rises (probably next weekend), but based on a couple of the reviews I've read, we are going to prepare by rewatching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (on blu-ray, baby). It has been a while since we've seen either movie, and apparently the new movie references the previous ones enough that a refresher is helpful.


A remote-controlled drone flight over Detroit with a camera attached gives a unique perspective on the city, both the good and the bad. (Deadline Detroit via Jalopnik)

If you're old enough, this flickr gallery of old library posters might stir some memories. (The New Yorker Culture Desk)

Here's a really neat fake map made up of familiar elements from the movies. (BuzzFeed via We Are Dorothy; for a look at some of their other work, go here.)

This is the kind of thing that can cause the internet to break itself, if it isn't careful: Suggested BuzzFeed Articles (McSweeney's via Videogum) which of course led to...

And finally this week, this needs no explanation or introduction: The Lego Wire. Previously, from the same people, CSI: Legoland. (Yahoo Sketchy via Videogum)

20 July 2012

Weekend Reading: Talking Heads

I don't get The New Yorker (I know, what a philistine...) so I was unaware of this piece on the band Talking Heads from mid-June, but I discovered it yesterday while catching up on the magazine's Culture Desk blog.

It's longish but definitely worth reading, and when you've finished there is a high probability that "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)"—you know, the one that starts with that flutelike sound—will be lodged in your brain for a while. (And if you want to get a head start, here's the music video.)

19 July 2012

What's Not in Store

Boston-area residents in need of cheap furniture are going to have to continue driving to Stoughton: it was announced today that the long-promised, quasi-mythical (can a retail store be considered vaporware?) Somerville IKEA will not be happening, according to the Boston Globe.

It's been well over a decade since IKEA purchased property between the Assembly Square shopping center and the Mystic River. If I remember correctly, the original proposal had the store opening in 2001. At the time I lived within walking distance and was quite excited at the prospect, but after years of delays I began to wonder if the store would ever be built.

After my first experience visiting an IKEA in Virginia in 1991, I desperately wanted to earn enough money to have my own apartment and furnish it entirely from there. But the longer we waited for the Somerville store, the less its existence came to matter to me. IKEA became less of a novelty, and at the same time I grew up and my tastes changed.

If I do want or need something from IKEA, the Stoughton store is about a 30-minute drive from our house. It's still a useful store for inexpensive household items, and I've had this gigantic aerial photo of the Flatiron Building in New York bookmarked for a couple of years now. (It's almost five feet high by six and a half feet wide.)

When the adjacent mixed-use Assembly Row project started construction earlier this year, along with the future Orange Line stop, and no mention was made of the IKEA project, I suspected the worst. According to the story, IKEA will look to sell the property, and with the other activity already underway on the adjacent sites, I imagine it won't be too difficult.

18 July 2012

Feeds and Reads

I was asked by a friend to add an RSS feed to my blog. I was kind of surprised, because I thought that feature was already built into the Blogger template. Poking around in the settings showed me that I was mistaken.

Although I'm a heavy internet user, I've never used RSS feeds, and to be honest I've never quite grasped how they work, which is partly why I stayed away from getting into it. I went and looked around at a bunch of other blogs, Blogger and otherwise, but none of them had RSS set up either.

The Blogger help section is rather obtuse and pretty unhelpful about this feature. I was able to figure out what I was supposed to do, but an explanation of how to do it was sorely lacking. My friend pointed me to the correct place in Blogger's settings, and the correct widget to add to the layout, and I managed to suss out what code to add to the widget.

So now you'll see an RSS button over there in the right column (scroll down a bit), and those of you who use RSS can take advantage of it. Please let me know if it doesn't seem to be working properly.

(Side note: I wonder if this will have any effect on my visitor stats?)

17 July 2012

Hot Dog

The dog doesn't understand that it's not a good idea for her to be outside for more than a few minutes on a day like this (it hit 97 here today). She still wants to wander and sniff things, regardless of how uncomfortable she is.

16 July 2012

Iron, Man

Some months back, our iron of several years started misbehaving, dripping water on the garment being ironed seemingly at random. It was a basic iron we had bought at Costco for $30, and I think we'd had it six or seven years, so I figured we'd gotten our money's worth out of it.

I started thinking about what to replace it with, and I went to Amazon to read some reviews. After maybe half an hour I was dizzy, and felt like my brain was trying to stab itself. There were just far too many products, and every single one of them had at least one person who'd had a miserable experience with it and needed to vent about it. (This probably isn't news to those of you who shop online with any frequency, but people are much more likely to post negative reviews than positive ones.)

I decided the path of least resistance was to do what we'd done before; we went to Costco and I got the less expensive of the two irons they were carrying. It was a different $30 iron than the one we'd bought before, but it was the same brand, so I figured it would be all right. But a couple of months after we got it, I noticed that it wasn't generating steam properly. It was getting plenty hot enough but not making any steam, even on the highest steam setting. As a result, ironing a shirt was taking three times longer than usual.

I realized that we could still return the iron, thanks to Costco's generous return policy; for most items they sell other than electronics, there's no time limit on returns, as long as you have the receipt and don't abuse the privilege. That still left the question of what to get in its place. A Bed Bath & Beyond sale catalog arrived in the mail that same day, and inside was a basic iron, a different brand and $40 instead of $30. Conveniently there's a BB&B in the same shopping center as the Costco, so off we went. Costco even gave me the refund in cash, even though I'd made the purchase with my debit card.

I know there are people who swear by their $100 "professional" irons, and I did consider that option, but for the amount and type of ironing we do I believe a "regular" iron is sufficient. Some of the pro models are still made in Germany, however, instead of China, which is something I know some people like to be aware of (I'm one of them). If this new iron does turn out to be deficient in some way, I will most likely give in and get a pro model, but I'm hoping it won't come to that.

15 July 2012

This Week in Awesome (7/14/12)

I didn't even notice it was Friday the 13th. I guess that's how Friday the 13ths should be, right?

As a word nerd, I appreciated this argument for the reintroduction of some obscure old words. (Note that "loggerheads" is not among them.) (Thought Catalog via Kempt)

Of course there's a website with scanned archives of decades' worth of Radio Shack catalogs, silly—it's the internet. (The Truth About Cars)

Have you ever wondered why we wear pants? (The Atlantic)

Here's an interesting piece from PBS's OffBook web series about logo design. They post new videos every other week, so it's worth bookmarking this page and revisiting it. (The Daily What via The High Definite)

Have you seen this alternate version of the Dark Knight Rises trailer? That voice sounds awfully familiar... (Hulu via Videogum)

And finally this week, in anticipation of tonight's season five premiere of Breaking Bad, some reading to get you in the mood: first, a recap of the first four seasons in 10 minutes (SlateV); an analysis of the show's approach to storytelling (Grantland); and a wish list of hoped-for answers in the final season (Vulture).

13 July 2012

Retro Video Unit (7/13/12)

Today we have another instance of "this band just popped into my head for no particular reason." The Replacements weren't the biggest fans of making music videos, and in some cases they worked hard to make what they considered anti-videos, but in hindsight those can be just as interesting. Here's the official video for "Alex Chilton," a truly great song:

12 July 2012

Meddling with History

If I was given the opportunity to erase one band from existence, I think it would be Supertramp.

Readers: your thoughts on this, please? Agree, disagree, suggest alternatives...

11 July 2012

Game Face

I've never been much for video or computer games. I've never used an XBOX or a Playstation, or even a Wii. I do not have Angry Birds on my iPhone, nor have I ever played it. Way back in the pre-smartphone days when I was using a Palm handheld, I used to like a couple of puzzle games, Tetris and Bejeweled.

But not long after I got my iPhone, I did download the free version of Scrabble. And about a week after that I downloaded the $2 version so the incredibly annoying ads would be gone. I started a game with a college friend who lives in Texas, and another with a friend who lives nearby. When we visited family in California in May, I started a third game with my brother-in-law.

A couple of days ago, my in-progress games suddenly would not load on the main menu screen. The game would search and a little cursor thing would spin, and after a couple of minutes I would get this message: "something went wrong, pull down to retry." Not good.

I found a support email address in the game info, and sent a request explaining the problem. I expected it would be at least a couple of days before I heard anything back. This evening, nearly 48 hours later, my games were just as suddenly back, and shortly after that I received a message from Gmail informing me that it has been unable to deliver my message, for vague reasons. I suppose it was a bit naive of me to think that email address would actually work, but at least my games are back.

10 July 2012

It Comes in Colors

A couple of weeks back, when I was writing about the items I'd picked up at Target, I came across this.
I meant to do another post about it the next day, but my middle-aged brain let me down (again) and I forgot about it. Today my memory was jogged when it showed up on Dappered as "offered without comment." What fun is that?
Seven color choices (what, no acid green?), 100% cotton, matching pants, $80 for the whole rig. How can you resist? Seriously, how?
The blue might be passable in certain situations, and people who like to wear bold color in general could probably get away with wearing either the jacket or the pants, if the rest of the outfit was suitably toned down, but the two pieces together are just too clownish, too reminiscent of The Time back in the '80s.
But hey, maybe you want to go retro and do a Morris Day thing for Halloween this year...
(All images borrowed from Target's website.)

09 July 2012

Bathroom Break

Most people keep at least a few things in the shower: soap, shampoo, a scrubber. I have a few others, like face wash and shaving cream. Even in a household like ours with only two adults, it's difficult to avoid shower clutter. (This is not exciting stuff, but it is necessary.)

Years ago I lived in a very old house in Somerville. The bathroom had a footed tub with one of those old shower curtain rods that goes all the way around, and a shower head fed by a length of hose from the faucets. There was some shelving built into a corner where two walls met that worked nicely for holding the necessities. Later, when the Mrs. and I moved in together, we tried a variety of storage solutions, including one of those plastic buckets that attaches to the shower wall via a suction cup. This was fine except that it decided to de-suction every once in a while.

After moving into this apartment six years ago, we settled on one of those pole things with shelves on it. It provided enough space, but we had to pay attention to how much we put on the shelves, because they were held in place by tiny rubber rings and couldn't handle too much weight. After several years that unit started to show some rust, even though it was made of stainless steel coated with a white vinyl outer layer. We replaced it with a similar unit that was just stainless. It started to rust literally within a week of installing it, and after a while both of us were sick of looking at it.

While flipping through a recent catalog from The Container Store, I found this shower head-mounted caddy. Not only was it attractive and on sale, but the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, including one that claimed no rust after two years. It's made by simplehuman, whose products are well made and well regarded; we already have one of their kitchen trash cans. I'm generally not a huge fan of over-the-shower-head organizers, but we both liked the adjustability of this one.

So on Friday we headed out to the Natick Container Store, which is a bit of a drive from our house, but there is also a fabric store nearby that the Mrs. likes quite a bit. (The shower caddy also comes in a version with bamboo elements, but it was not on sale and $20 more, and it would look out of place in our shower and bathroom anyway.) As a bonus, the Mrs. found a nice little work desk on clearance in the back of the store for about 75% off its original price, so she decided to buy that too. It had to be disassembled to fit in our car, but that small inconvenience was worth it.

(The Proper Bostonian asserts that Shower Caddy Organizer was a semi-underground band back in the 1980s, but I can't find any evidence to support her claim.)

By the way, The Container Store is opening a new location in the Northshore Mall in Peabody in October, which may be more convenient for some Boston-area shoppers.

08 July 2012

This Week in Awesome (7/7/12)

Ah well, good intentions and all that. This week's TWiA is extremely abbreviated due to, um, a dearth of awesome out there in internet land. Let's blame it on the midweek holiday...

Fathers of Katy Perry fans: there's a special version of her new movie just for you. (Jesse Thorn)

Remember those courses and programs that purported to teach you speed reading? (Everything Is Terrible)

And finally this week, This is pretty much how I've always felt about this. (BuzzFeed)

07 July 2012


Getting packages in the mail is always nice. Being able to track their progress online is also nice. Sometimes various shipments end up being delivered all on the same day, which is slightly disappointing. I would rather receive one package a day for several days than have them all arrive on the same day. But that's just me.

Counting Down

Just a reminder: we're now less than two weeks away from the opening of The Dark Knight Rises. Somehow, I have not seen the assault of advertising for this movie that I expected. Where are the TV commercials? Shouldn't they be everywhere by now?

05 July 2012

Overheard: Word Nerd Edition

Mother, having lunch with her college-age daughter and some of the daughter's friends: "You should be glad you're not around at home right now. He [referring to daughter's younger brother, still living at home] and I are at loggerheads."

Who the hell talks that way?

04 July 2012

The Bond Collection

Happy 4th, everyone. Today isn't a big deal for us, which is fine. We aren't the sort to fight crowds on the Esplanade; I'm perfectly happy spending today at home reading a book, or watching movies.

Speaking of which, the cable channel Encore is doing a month-long James Bond retrospective on its HD channel. Sure, other channels do this from time to time, but the nice thing about Encore is that all the movies they show are completely unedited, as they were originally shown in theaters, and without commercials. Encore is a sibling channel to Starz, but it isn't a premium channel. Some cable packages have it, others don't, so you'll have to check your guide or hunt around. (On our Comcast it's channel 785.)

The movies are not being shown in exact order, which bothers someone of my nature, but they are showing the complete series (except for the two most recent Daniel Craig movies). When's the last time you saw Never Say Never Again? For me, it was 1983, when it came out in theaters (I remember going to see it at the old Sack 57 near the Park Plaza with some friends from school). That will be on at 8 pm on Tuesday July 17th. Likewise, I have not seen 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service since probably some time in the mid-1970s, when it would have aired as an ABC Sunday Night Movie. That's coming up on July 10th.

There's a Bond movie on each night this month at 8 pm (nightly schedule here). They've been doing a marathon of sorts since this past Sunday, and I've already recorded most of the movies (so yes, I kind of missed the chance to mention this when I should have), but Encore tends to show movies multiple times over the course of a month, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are other opportunities to see or record them. Their online schedule is not the most useful thing I've seen, but between it and your DVR you should be able to scope out whichever movies you want to watch.

It's also worth noting that the versions being shown appear to have gone through a restoration process, making them look and sound great.

Correction: after looking over the movies Encore is planning to show, I realized that the last two Pierce Brosnan movies are missing: 1999's The World Is Not Enough and 2002's Die Another Day. Don't know why, probably has something to do with rights.

02 July 2012

SAR's Kitchen Helper: Easy Summer Meal

Hungry? Yes. Yes is always the answer to that question. But it's difficult to come home from work and be motivated to put together a decent meal, especially during the summer. So I thought I'd try something a little different and share an easy recipe I like to make when it's warm out.

You will need the following ingredients: cooked chicken, pasta, tomatoes, red onions or scallions, olives, cheese, and salad dressing. I'll get to the specifics and quantities in a moment, and there are also a couple of variations of how you can make this.

The easiest way to get cooked chicken is to go to the grocery store and buy one of those rotisserie chickens. If you already have leftovers in your fridge that's perfect. Last time I made this I didn't have any leftovers, so I pulled a couple of frozen boneless chicken breasts out of the freezer and cooked them first, which adds some time but allows you flexibility in preparing the chicken the way you like it. You should end up with at least two cups of cut-up chicken, maybe even three.

For pasta I like to use fusilli (the ones that look like corkscrews) or farfalle (bowties), but you can use whatever kind you like. Let me just point out, though, that bigger ones like ziti don't make sense to use in this recipe. And no spaghetti, smartass. Don't bother with anything fancy; as long as you cook it properly (which is to say, al dente) it will taste fine. I like to use Barilla boxed pasta. Cook the whole box, but use only about 2/3 of it for this. Set aside the rest and use it for something else (tough to go wrong with olive oil, garlic, and cheese). Don't cook only 2/3 of the box, because you know you'll eventually end up with a bunch of orphan boxes cluttering up your cupboard or pantry.

Grape tomatoes cut in half work nicely, but you can use the vine kind or whatever, maybe you're even growing tomatoes in your yard. I like the grape ones because that pint container is just the right size for this. (It's true that Virgos like precision, but this isn't anything that calls for a lot of careful measuring, so I just wing it.) Likewise, one can of olives, split into halves, is fine. You don't need as much onion as you think, so get a couple of smallish ones and just dice them up. I like to use feta cheese in this, but some people don't like it. That's a great thing about cheese: there are so many different kinds. If your cheese isn't already conveniently broken into small chunks (like feta is), you'll want to do some approximation of that. (Optional: something like celery or cucumbers, for a little variation in texture and additional nutritional value. Just dice them up like the other stuff.)

Is the pasta done yet? I hope you were paying attention and didn't overcook it. Drain it and put it back in the pot or a really big bowl, and start throwing in all the other stuff. After you add each item, add a little bit more dressing and stir well. This helps everything get coated nicely. I recommend an oil-based dressing like Italian, Caesar, or Greek, because they are flavorful, coat well, and aren't too heavy. You wouldn't want to use a creamy dressing, that would just be too heavy, blech. Paul Newman's dressings are great, I almost always use one of those.

That's pretty much it. If possible, prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate before eating. You may find that, like chili, this tastes better after a night in the refrigerator. One other variation I do once in a while is to use salami instead of chicken. Ask at your deli if they will cut you a hunk of Genoa salami and not slice it. Take it home and dice it up. Five or six ounces of salami is probably plenty, and if your deli clerks know what they're doing they will know how much to cut. I kind of prefer scallions when I make this with salami, but you can take it in whatever direction you feel like. Obviously, if you're a filthy hippie vegetarian you won't be using any meatish stuff anyway, but the rest is safe. Dig in...