31 December 2012


A couple of weeks ago I brought up our down comforter from storage in the basement. Because last winter was so unusually mild, we didn't even need the heavy-duty bedding, but this year I knew colder weather was on the way.

Then I got sick. Last Sunday night I got into bed and immediately started having chills. The comforter was leaning against a wall, waiting to be unpacked from its zipper bag. I got up, shivering, and quickly threw it on the bed. After I got back in bed and the warmth started slowly returning to my body, I realized that there is no warmth quite like the warmth one feels when nestled under a down comforter.

This one is around 20 years old. I distinctly remember buying it when I was still single, at the old Jordan Marsh store downtown. I'd been a fairly regular patron of their bedding department since realizing I needed to buy double-size sheets for the first time right after graduating from college.

Back in the early '90s, Jordan Marsh and its competitor Filene's ran their sale ads almost every day in the Boston Globe. Being underemployed and relatively poor, I would have been watching and waiting for a "white sale," and most likely purchased the comforter with money received for Christmas from my parents. I know it was around $70 at the time, which from this vantage point seems like a solid investment; nowadays I don't really know what one costs, but I do know that A Proper Bostonian recommends Cuddledown and The Company Store, and I also know courtesy of her that there's a Cuddledown outlet up in Freeport, Maine.

30 December 2012

Retro Video Unit (12/28/12)

It's been another slowish week around the ol' blog, with traveling for Christmas and recovering from a cold. TWiA is also taking this weekend off.

There is real snow falling outside the SAR abode, the first we've seen in quite some time. Still not sure what sort of winter we're in for, but my gut says a repeat of last year is too much to hope for.

Meanwhile, it seems I overlooked my final Retro Video of 2012.. sometimes I think of songs for this and wonder how I haven't thought of them sooner. That's certainly the case with this one, "A Million Miles Away" by The Plimsouls. This song is roughly 30 years old, and it still makes my spine tingle a bit every time I hear it. For me, it's about as close to perfection as a single song can be.

27 December 2012


I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had an excellent one. We ate ourselves silly and spent some time with my family. My cold is slowly departing, and since it's kind of unpleasant outside, it's a perfect day to stay in and watch movies.

I was a bit down on the holiday season this year, due to the setback of being laid off yet again. I wasn't able to bounce back quickly into another job as I'd hoped, and consequently I had to lower my expectations for giving and receiving. The Mrs. is still in school full-time, so we decided we didn't need to give each other anything.

Maybe I had to choose the more prudent path and forgo buying myself a Nook this year, but I can still roam used bookstores and find books I want to read for less than their ebook counterparts. Other big-ticket items can also wait, plus I have a pile of stuff that I can sell.

Ultimately, I realized that I have everything I need, and quite a bit more. Whatever else there is, is a bonus. Like the J. Crew gift cards I got from my family...

24 December 2012

Christmas Cold

I got an early Christmas present from the Mrs.: the cold she had last week. I haven't had the slightest illness in at least a couple of years, so I'm not too thrilled.

When she told me she felt like she was getting sick, I started fortifying myself with Emergen-C. I thought I was going to come through unaffected, but four days later I noticed a funny feeling and I knew I was getting it. The timing is terrible, as we're now at my family's house in Rhode Island. Now I have to see how quickly I can shake it.

23 December 2012

This Week in Awesome (12/22/12)

I may not have posted much this past week, but I was still diligently gathering internet stuff for you, my loyal readers...

There's still time for one more riff on A Charile Brown Christmas. (The Daily What)

The things that can be accomplished with a camera will never stop being fascinating to me. (Flickr via Laughing Squid)

Some of these people are trying too hard; others aren't trying hard enough. (Laughing Squid)

Jimmy Kimmel looks back on the Year in Unnecessary Censorship. (Hypervocal)

And finally this week, car-nut site Jalopnik has a recurring feature of crazy video footage from Russian dashboard cameras. (Apparently most people in Russia drive around with a dash-mounted camera to prevent insurance fraud from faked accidents.) Appropriately, they did a year-end wrap-up of the most insane moments captured on video, and it does not disappoint.

21 December 2012

Seasonal Discounts

I know I've been light on posts this week. It was unintentional; I guess I've had less inspiration than usual.

I have probably said this before, but while gift-giving to family and friends is thoughtful and nice, this is a great time of year to shop for oneself. The holiday season coincides nicely with the end of the fall clothing season for retailers, and all kinds of great markdowns are happening.

Since spring I've been looking for a dress shirt in chambray fabric. It's one of those unusual items that no one really needs, but it can make an outfit more interesting. I would most likely wear it with a tweed sportcoat and a tie, but in the right situation you could wear one with a suit.

Shoe mainstay Allen Edmonds offers a small selection of clothing, and they introduced a chambray dress shirt this fall, but at $125 it was out of reach for me. Now, though, it has been marked down to $50, which is 60% off. The catch: it's a trim fit, so it's not for everyone. Banana Republic is offering a similar shirt at a regular price of $80, with 30% off discount codes readily available to bring it down to $56.

Neither of these shirts is offered in neck-and-sleeve dress shirt sizing (I haven't been able to find any such offering in chambray), so its usefulness could be something of a gamble. From the size info on the AE site I learned that the sizing was a bit unusual: the medium has a 16 neck. I wear a 16 in dress shirts, but that usually corresponds to a large, so I was concerned about how it would fit in the body, especially being a size down from my "usual."

I decided I needed to try it on. I was going to order one online, but I was out the other day and my local AE store had the shirt in stock, so I bought one there. To my surprise, the medium fits, though it's definitely close-fitting. That's how I prefer dress shirts to fit, and it's no slimmer than any of my other dress shirts. The collar also buttons and fits properly, so I can wear it with a tie, which is the point after all. Even the sleeves are the correct length. I think it's just plain luck that it fits me so well.

There are a couple of other styles of "dress shirts" available from AE right now at the same discounted price, a tattersall in blue and white or khaki and white, or a blue and white butcher stripe. By the way, all the Allen Edmonds shirts are made in USA, which is fairly unusual, and it's highly unlikely you will find other American-made shirts for $50 anytime soon. Sizes are getting limited, so they probably won't last much longer. If you live near an AE store, I'd suggest checking to see what they have in stock.

19 December 2012

Foot Update

At the risk of boring everyone, my foot still hurts and I imagine it will for a while, but it's been no worse than it was a week ago, when it was the most painful, and has maybe even gotten a little better.

I've been able to keep things more or less steady with ice and the gel heel cushions. Even walking around in New York didn't hurt as much as I thought it would.

Maybe it will start to improve, but at least I'm able to get around normally. My folding cane arrived today; I'd hoped to have it for the trip, but I still think it might be a good idea to keep it in case my recovery doesn't progress as I'm hoping.

17 December 2012

24 Hours

We went to New York over the weekend, but due to time and budget constraints we stayed over only one night this time. With such a short amount of time to spend, it's best to have a couple of things you want to accomplish and let the rest happen as it may.

In this case our primary goal was to eat. You can spend a fortune on some of the world's best dining in New York, but one of the things I love about the city is that you can have a great time and eat very well without spending a lot. If you're planning on visiting New York, these are places I recommend going.

Shake Shack will be coming to Massachusetts next year (specifically Chestnut Hill), but it's still fun to visit the original location in Madison Square Park. The food is delicious and fresh, and you can have a burger, fries, and shake for around $15. (I skipped the fries.) The park location is a walk-up stand with outdoor seating; on Saturday it was mostly sunny and around 47 degrees, still a bit chilly to eat outside, but there are heat-lamp fixtures to cut the chill. If that's not your thing, there are other Manhattan locations with indoor seating.

Over on Second Avenue in the East Village, a humble candy store that opened in 1954 evolved into Veselka, a homey 24-hour place serving "Ukranian soul food" (pierogi, goulash, stuffed cabbage) along with sandwiches and burgers, breakfast, desserts, and other good stuff. After three visits I can say this is a place I would be happy to eat at every single time I'm in New York. Authentic atmosphere can't be manufactured; it has to be earned, and Veselka is the real deal. They've opened a second location a few blocks away, but it's more of a bar scene (over 100 vodkas are offered) with a more modern, more expensive menu. I'm sure it's good, but I'll stick with the original.

On Sunday morning we headed for the Doughnut Plant on Grand Street. I love doughnuts, but I try to have them only occasionally, and there's little worse than having a bad doughnut and the accompanying feeling of having wasted the calories on one. You will have no such worry at the Doughnut Plant; in fact, this place is worth breaking any kind of diet you may be on.

It's a doughnut lover's paradise: the cake doughnuts are offered in flavors like pistachio and triple chocolate mint; the filled doughnuts are square (seriously); and there are smaller specialty "doughseeds" like creme brulee and chocolate hazelnut. Right now they're also offering doughnuts in seasonal holiday flavors like cranberry, marzipan, gingerbread, and panettone.

Nothing I've tried is too sweet, which makes me feel a tiny bit less guilty about them. I think the peanut butter and blackberry jam is a must-try; it's definitely my favorite so far. There's also a second location on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street, if you don't feel like heading all the way downtown.

15 December 2012

This Week in Awesome (12/15/12)

If you're seeing this on Saturday morning, the Mrs. and I are on our way to New York, but I still left you something for the weekend...

As both a word nerd and an all-around persnickety person, I love this sort of stuff. (The Atlantic)

This clip from A Charlie Brown Christmas may not be exactly the way you remember it. (Laughing Squid)

Here's a fun bit of retro-futurism to waste some time with. (Mashable via Basket of Kisses)

And finally this week, two takeoffs on Breaking Bad from two different sources. The second one also amounts to a Downton Abbey spoof. (Tastefully Offensive; Colbert Nation)

14 December 2012

Retro Video Unit (12/14/12)

After my link to the Pogues story last weekend, the choice for this installment is an obvious one:

Pain Management

The past few days have been interesting, if not exactly pleasant. I've been in considerable pain whenever I walk, but I can't exactly give up walking. Here are a few things I've discovered.

First, pain relievers aren't helping at all. I tried both naproxen and ibuprofen, and neither made any difference. Given that, I don't see much point in taking them. Icing my foot has helped; I just have to remember to do it. Also, stretching works the foot and leg, though that hurts too.

What has also made a difference are gel heel cushions in my shoes. It seems obvious, but they do make walking a bit less painful. Also, I found that using them in a pair of shoes with a relatively flat sole was more comfortable than in shoes with a more defined heel. That goes against advice I read to use arch supports, but I've never had good arches so maybe that's why flat shoes are working better for me. Of course, I don't want to be limited to wearing one style of shoes.

I've been a fast walker my whole life, so it's frustrating to have no choice but to move more slowly.

While looking for canes online, I found that there are collapsible canes, something I hadn't thought about in decades (in college I knew a guy with worse vision than me, who used to use a folding cane to aid in getting around without tripping over curbs and such). If I'm going to choose that option, even occasionally, it would be nice to have something compact that I could store in my bag or in a pocket, so I ordered a folding cane. (My local CVS had only standard canes, and I can imagine myself losing one of those.)

Maybe it's something I'll only use if I've been walking a lot, or if my heel is feeling particularly painful, but I think it would be a good idea to have one around.

12 December 2012

Sleep Pretty

I saw these in a drugstore a couple of weeks ago. Presented without comment...

11 December 2012


I think I might have plantar fascitis. I've had pain in my right heel for a couple of weeks but I didn't think much about it until it started getting more painful a few days ago. Today I was out for a few hours and did a fair amount of walking, and after an hour or so my heel really started to hurt.

I have not talked to a doctor about this, but some quick online research combined with what I can vaguely recall from our published content where I used to work suggests that PF is the most likely cause. The initial treatment is pain relievers and ice, and stretching is also recommended.

The bad thing is, we're making a very brief trip (just overnight) trip to New York this weekend, and that always means a lot of walking. It wasn't mentioned anywhere in what I read, but I think a cane or walking stick might help, since it would let me take some weight off my right foot when walking. I may try to find one tomorrow. It's a medical aid—and a fashion statement! Right?

Getting old sure is fun...

Sixties Style

This seems like a good time to mention that Mad Men is back in production (and has been for a month or so, I believe). Here are some pix of Elisabeth Moss as Peggy, standing next to new boss Ted Chaough in the funky umber-brown suit.

By now we're probably closer to the start of season six than the end of season five, which is a very good thing.

09 December 2012

This Week in Awesome (12/8/12)

What's the best type of whiskey to use in egg nog?

HitFix TV critic Alan Sepinwall has written a book about how shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men have changed television. An excerpt about Lost will give you a taste. (Grantland)

This week's time-lapse video takes us to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. (The Daily What)

Jimmy Fallon and Tracy Morgan read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. But you'd probably watch the two of them read just about anything, right? (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon via Hulu)

Here's a collection of photos taken by people with an uncanny combination of luck and good timing. (BuzzFeed)

And finally this week, the story behind my favorite Christmas song, "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. (The Guardian via The Awl)

08 December 2012


My Visa card earns me $10 credits to use at L.L. Bean. I guess I don't shop there as much as I used to, because I noticed last week that my credits were accumulating. I also noticed that they expire one year after being issued, and the oldest would expire in January.

I did need a new bathrobe, so I looked over that section of their website. I was going to get a regular flannel robe, but then I noticed that Bean offers robes made of its chamois cloth. It's thicker and heftier than flannel, perfect for a robe.

It's available in three solid colors (navy, gray, burgundy) and two plaids (green/black and red/black). I went with the red and black plaid, and it's very cozy, and more comfortable than the robe I had before. These are also available in tall sizes, which might be nice if you are over 6 feet.

When I ordered mine there was 15% off for Bean cardholders; after that I applied almost all of my $10 credits, so the robe cost me nearly nothing. I kept a couple of credits for future use, and I got a $10 gift card with the order.

06 December 2012

The Party Don't Stop

Key & Peele is a very funny sketch show on Comedy Central. This was on a few weeks ago, but I thought it was one of the funnier bits they did this season. (The show got picked up for a third season and will be back some time in '13.)

It takes a minute or two for the gag to become evident here, so stay with it...

05 December 2012

Twill and Tweed

I don't need a new daily-carry bag, having bought an excellent one just over a year ago, but this just-released beauty from Filson certainly caught my eye. They've taken their standard waxed-cotton briefcase and added Harris Tweed accents.
(image borrowed from Filson website)

I love the colors in this, and it's just a great-looking pattern that goes so well with Filson's "otter green" twill fabric. The bag is also available in black with black-and-white herringbone tweed, but to my eye that one doesn't look nearly as good as this one does.

04 December 2012

Canine Dietary Choices

We have always been very careful about what our dog eats. She's 11 now, and we want to make sure she doesn't become overweight and put unnecessary stress on her legs. We don't give her any food or treats that come from overseas (little or no regulation of ingredients), and we are careful about the food we do buy for her.

Dogs love dairy products, but they should be given only in small amounts. Our dog gets a spoonful of plain yogurt on her food each day because it's good for her coat and her digestion. Otherwise human food—an occasional nibble of chicken or cheese, a few licks of vanilla ice cream—is a very rare treat.

Which brings me to this...
If I told you I had no idea how this happened, would you believe me?

03 December 2012

Yard Work

Our next-door neighbor is having a tree removed from his yard today. It's located on the edge of his property between his garage and ours, but the bulk of it hung over our garage, so the tree service needed to use our driveway to get its bucket truck close enough.

As a result we've had a front-row seat for the whole endeavor since about 8:30 this morning. Right now they've swapped the bucket for a giant chipper to devour the branches. Parked in the narrow space between the two houses, it is extremely loud.

02 December 2012

This Week in Awesome (12/1/12)

Hello, December. Wait, what?

Show your support for your favorite historical event with one of these fictional nonfiction T-shirts. (Laughing Squid)

Have you ever watched an old movie and thought to yourself, "This movie needs Nicolas Cage"? Done. (Pleated Jeans via Videogum)

This is my kind of Advent calendar. (Instructables)

And finally this week, some music: a BuzzFeed list of 22 worthy albums that folks may have overlooked this year. I'm not quite as plugged into what's happening in music as I used to be, so I have only one of these. (BuzzFeed via The Hairpin)

(Not really related, but worth mentioning: I have to praise BuzzFeed for eschewing slideshows on its list pages. I despise them and want them to go away forever, along with the infinitely-scrolling page style that facebook has inflicted on all of us, whether we use the site or not.)