31 January 2013

Shut It Down

After seven seasons and around 130 episodes (edit: Tina Fey says 140, so I'll go with her number), 30 Rock says goodbye tonight with a one-hour episode (8 pm Eastern on NBC). I have loved this show since it premiered in 2006, and my sadness at its end is something I don't usually experience with TV shows, regardless of how good they are.

Tina Fey and the other writers conjured an alternate-universe NBC full of crazy shows and crazier characters that somehow seemed like it was real, or at least could be real. My favorite moments include the two live episodes from seasons five and six, any episode with Liz's clueless ex-boyfriend Dennis Duffy, and the many appearances by NBC News's Brian Williams.

Last year I rewatched all of seasons one through five in order (the show airs in syndication on many channels) and I will probably do it all over again at some point, adding seasons six and seven (it's also on Netflix streaming). To me it's just that funny; I'll never get tired of it, and it will likely end up as one of my top five all-time favorite TV shows. (I think Liz would approve.)

There's been a LOT written about the show in the weeks leading up to its finale (a lengthy list is here), more than one could hope to get through in a reasonable amount of time, but you could do worse than reading these appreciations from Vulture's Matt Seitz and HitFix's Alan Sepinwall, and then take a spin with the Jack Donaghy Insult Generator.

Overheard: Wild Kingdom Edition

On the Orange Line: "Downtown, in front of where the Borders useta be, I saw a seagull eat a dead sparrow...whole."

29 January 2013

Food Stuff

I got an email from someone at Shake Shack thanking me for mentioning them in my bit from last month about eating in Manhattan. Not necessary at all, but nice of them. They also reminded me that they are coming to the Boston area (Chestnut Hill) later this year.

Also, the Mrs. has been waiting years for California-based See's Candies to open a permanent store in this area. The seasonal stores and carts in malls are nice, but we would like to be able to buy their dark chocolate nuts and chews assortment and walnut square bars year-round without having to order by mail. Well, according to the See's website, a store is opening Friday in the Natick Mall, and also one in Providence Place on the same day. Yay!

28 January 2013

The Hunt Is On

I haven't had an item of clothing to obsess over for a while, so I guess I was due. The other day I was downtown and went into Macy's to poke around, something I do maybe two or three times a year these days. This is a good time to check out clearance stuff, so that was enough of an excuse.

The clearance dress shirts were stocked standing up in boxes, arranged by neck size. I found a very nice Ralph Lauren shirt in gray end-on-end fabric, one of my favorites for dress shirts and in a color I could use. EOE fabric has tiny alternating lines of colored and white threads that you can see by looking at it really closely, but when viewed from a few feet away it appears as a textured solid.

Ralph's dress shirts fit me very nicely, and this one also had a spread collar, which is my preference for dress shirts, partly because it looks more dressed-up, and partly because the collar and knot of the tie form a sort of horizontal counterpoint to my longish, oval face. Most men's style advice I've seen says that a spread collar looks good on just about any man, and if you look at dressed-up guys on TV or even on the street you'll see that this tends to be accurate.

Unfortunately I could only find the shirt in neck sizes 17 and 17-1/2. I still wear a 16 after all these years, so I'll have to keep looking. At the clearance price it's worth it to expend some effort checking other Macy's stores that are T accessible. And it's something to do with my copious free time...

27 January 2013

This Week in Awesome (1/26/13)

I like it when we get only a fraction of an inch of snowfall and I can clear it with a push broom. Much easier than shoveling...

Remember the '80s? Remember the TV commercials? Want to get lost for nearly an hour? (Smash TV via Laughing Squid)

MBTA riders have to be able to laugh at their commuting misadventures, or they'd never be able to leave their houses. (Universal Hub)

Ladies, these are just for you: special products for women, here and here. (Yahoo! Screen; Funny or Die)

And finally this week, BU Today looks at how Kenmore Square has changed. The slide show moves way too quickly, but all the images in it are also available on this page, and are much larger anyway. (Universal Hub)

26 January 2013

Retro Video Unit (1/25/13)

As I was prowling around YouTube looking for clips, I was thinking about how so many of the songs I liked from back in the late 1970s did not have official videos, but often I will find vintage footage of live performances from back when the music was new.

I started thinking about Boston bands, and before long I found this clip of the legendary (to us locals, anyway) Neighborhoods performing both sides of their 1979-ish single, "Prettiest Girl" and "No Place Like Home." I still have this 45, packed away with all my vinyl.

25 January 2013

Medical Advice

Yesterday I saw a podiatrist. X-rays were taken which showed the presence of a small heel spur, confirming that the pain is, as suspected, due to plantar fascitis. But the small size of the spur means it hasn't progressed far and is still manageable.

I already know the basic parameters of what I need to be doing: ice, not heat; various stretching exercises; heel cushion inserts for my shoes; and wearing shoes with a defined heel. In other words, flatter shoes are bad. I spend the summer in boat shoes and flat-soled sneakers like Vans, so I may have contributed to this unknowingly.

For people whose pain does not get better, the podiatrist typically recommends physical therapy, and if that doesn't help, a cortisone injection. I hope my situation does not progress to that point. I just want to be able to walk with as little pain as possible.

24 January 2013

Overheard: Go (Insert Team Name Here) Edition

I was standing near a guy whose phone rang, but his ringtone was the music Fox uses during its NFL broadcasts.

23 January 2013

Coming Soon

Attention Mad Men fans: AMC has announced that the sixth season will premiere on Sunday, April 7th. Like last year, two episodes will air that night. I don't care for this practice, as it effectively shortens the show's season by a week, but TV programmers seem to favor it.

For whatever reason, season five has not yet made its way to Netflix streaming, but AMC already runs episodes from earlier seasons early on Sunday mornings, so they will undoubtedly be showing last season again for those still catching up, or just wanting to watch them again.

22 January 2013

Meal Planning

We're being careful about our expenses, so last week we stocked up at the grocery store, and over the weekend we made a bunch of food.

On Saturday I made meat loaf using a stupidly easy recipe from a Boston Globe cookbook published in the 1980s. It works nicely with a blend of ground beef and pork, and the market conveniently sells a package of the two combined. For me the whole point of making meatloaf is to have meatloaf sandwiches, which taste best the next day, after the loaf has been refrigerated, on good bread.

On Sunday I made chicken breasts, cut them up, and threw them together with tortellini and some cheese and olive oil. I then added pantry items we had on hand: a can of olives, a jar of artichoke hearts. We also had some grape tomatoes, so I put those in too. You can also make this with pre-cooked sausage like Trader Joe's (most markets carry some version of it) instead of the chicken.

Yesterday the Mrs. baked chicken thigh pieces that she had marinated overnight in the refrigerator. We'll be having those tonight with salad and some broccoli. Now we basically have enough food prepared for the rest of this week. Next week we'll shop again, and I'll make another batch of slow-cooker chili, which I've been perfecting for the past several months.

19 January 2013

This Week in Awesome (1/19/12)

Got it posted on Saturday! (slow clap) Anyway...

Remember when you used to have to leave your house to play video games? Here's a very interesting article on the history of video arcades. (The Verge via The Awl)

Who'd have thought termites would lead to these compelling photo opportunities? (Wired via Laughing Squid)

This video surely inspired Jimmy Fallon's "found footage" of a video dating service, and possibly also the "Lowered Expectations" running bit on MADtv. (The Daily What)

And finally this week, as 30 Rock nears its final episode, take a look back at some of the show's best jokes (Rolling Stone; hat tip to Dr. H), and then check out Tina Fey's thoughts about Twitter.

Start Your Engines

Great news for all you Top Gear fans: the new series (season to us Yanks) starts on BBC Two on January 27th, which is a week from tomorrow. I know a lot of people torrent the shows illegally right after they air, but according to Jalopnik, these episodes will air on BBC America a mere eight days after they've aired in the UK. I'm pretty sure that's the shortest gap yet between British and American airings.

I (along with many other people) have long wondered why it typically takes such a long time for the new episodes to make their way across the Atlantic, so let's hope this is how things are going to work from now on. If you have BBCA, look for the first episode of Series 19 on Monday, February 4th.

Also, to be fair, Top Gear USA returns to History Channel (?) on Tuesday, January 29th. We all know it isn't as good, but it still has its moments.


When the doorbell rings and you aren't expecting anyone, it's probably better just to not answer it, especially if you're still in a bathrobe and haven't showered yet.

17 January 2013

Say It With Beer

I just saw this picture on Inside Medford. While I'm not as big a fan of Kappy's as I used to be (and certainly no fan of "Pissweiser"), I have to give them credit for effort.
(Picture copied from Inside Medford)

16 January 2013

Walk Safely

I just did a bizarre and rather obsessive-compulsive thing.

Today's snow was soft and slushy. We got only about an inch, and by the time I went out to clear it around 10 am, it came off the sidewalk easily, leaving no residue behind. A little later it warmed up a bit, the snow changed to rain, and some of it even started to melt.

Now, though, it's starting to cool down again, and anything left on the walks is going to freeze overnight. I just came back from walking the dog, and the business that occupies the corner lot two buildings down from us had plowed their parking area as they always do, but they left the sidewalk untouched, along with an area at the back of their property on the side street.

I walk along these places with the dog one or two times each day, and given that she's getting older, she's been having a little trouble on the slippery spots. After the last storm there were some icy patches that didn't go away until this past Monday, so after I finished walking her I put her back in the house, grabbed my shovel (which was conveniently still on the back porch where I'd left it this morning), and went over to the corner and cleared the slushy areas around the business's lot. I didn't do it just for me and the dog; I also did it for the dozens of people who walk around here every day.

Foot Relief?

Over the weekend I was talking with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and somehow the subject of plantar fascitis came up. Turns out he's had it in both feet, but he went to a podiatrist and got orthotic inserts for his shoes, so this seems like a logical move for me as well.

14 January 2013

Last Week in Awesome (1/12/13)

I had everything ready for this, but totally forgot about it until I was getting ready to go to bed last night. Oh well...

This is the intersection of design-nerd and car-nerd interests. (Curbside Classic)

This week's time-lapse: building a bridge. (Berkeleyside)

A misheard lyric in a song (" 'scuse me while I kiss this guy," etc.) is known as a "mondegreen." but what about when a song references something you just aren't familiar with? (Mental Floss via Blogfood)

And finally this week, last week Jimmy Kimmel Live moved to its earlier time slot right after the local news, but there was some confusion along the way.

12 January 2013

Retro Video Unit (1/11/13)

I heard this while in the car a week or so ago, and it's one of those songs that instantly takes me back to when it was first released as a single in late 1979. At the time I was mainly listening to WBCN, because it was one of the only stations playing the new, different, and interesting music that I craved. But talent is talent, and "Heartbreaker" is the kind of song that forces you to notice it.

It's that voice. At the time, I had never heard a female singer with a voice like Pat Benatar's, except maybe Ann Wilson of Heart. It still kind of amazes me when I hear it. And that's one of the things that remains so thrilling about music—the power of a voice, and the sense of discovery.

(Oh, and Pat just celebrated her 60th birthday on Thursday.)

As is frequently the case with songs from this era, there's no official video that I could locate, but there are several live performances from around the time her first album came out, so I decided to feature a couple of them:

Today's Weirdness

I usually take the dog for her afternoon walk between 2 and 3 pm, and that seems to be when things happen around here. The day after our encounter with the National Grid guy, a police officer stopped to see if I had seen a seeing-eye dog that had escaped from its owner nearby. (I never heard anything more about that, so I don't know how it turned out.)

Today as we were out on our walk, a guy came down the street on rollerblades... being pulled by two huskies at a decent clip, in the middle of the street. A couple of minutes later they passed us again, going back in the direction they'd originally come from. I don't usually take my phone with me when I walk the dog, but I really wish I'd had it with me today so I could have taken a picture.

10 January 2013

Linens & Domestics

I was just changing the bed, and since I had pulled out the down comforter in haste when I was sick a couple of weeks ago, I'd put it on the bed without its cover, so I took that out too.

The cover is bright red, with variegated stripes in several colors: pink, orange, white, green, turquoise, and blue. It came from Target, and we have a set of sheets that goes with it, but those were at the bottom of the plastic bin where we store our sheets, so I chose another set, in a lighter green organic cotton with a vine pattern.

The Mrs. saw me stuffing the comforter into its cover and said, "That doesn't go with the sheets."

I replied, "Don't care." She was surprised. "You don't care?"

My reasoning: it's a bed, not an outfit. It's not being photographed for a shelter magazine, so it doesn't need to look perfectly matched, just be clean and comfortable. There is a bit of green in the cover, and it's not that far off from the green of the sheets, but... whatever.

09 January 2013

The Sale Game

At this time of year, there are a lot of good clearance sales and extra discounts going on, and you can pick up sweaters and things that you'll make use of right away and for the next couple of months (although the way things are going with weather patterns, that may not continue to be the case).

The trick to these sales is finding the things you want in your size and/or color. I got three J. Crew gift cards over the holidays, and I've had my eye on a couple of items. I've had a contact in customer service for a couple of years who is usually able to locate items in my size, even if they have sold out online. Last week I wanted to take advantage of the extra 30% off sale items, so I emailed him, but he was unable to find either item.

The extra discount went away for a couple of days but came back this week and will be around through next weekend. Typically the sale section gets restocked every few days, as items get returned and added back into inventory. Yesterday I lucked out and was able to order one thing I wanted, a pair of shearling-lined chukka boots. But online shopping can be iffy about inventory levels, and until I get the email confirming that the shoes have shipped, the order could still be canceled. Meanwhile I'm still checking daily to see if the other item I want reappears in my size.

Update, 1:20 pm: And the shipping confirmation just came through...

07 January 2013

Existential Delivery

I'm not sure which is more disappointing: a day with no mail, or a day when every piece of mail we receive goes directly into the recycling.

This Week in Awesome (1/5/13)

No wait, I really do have TWiA this week, honest... well, it's after midnight Sunday, but I say it still counts.

These illustrations of cities without lights are very cool. (The Daily What)

Do you have a "first-world problem"? Help is here.

This was bouncing around the Mrs.' facebook the other day, so you may have already seen it, but someone was kind enough to provide a link to a static page that got picked up on Universal Hub: one crucial difference between New York and Boston.

Who says blind people can't take photographs? (Laughing Squid via Photojojo)

And finally this week, your New Year's Eve could not have been worse than this disastrous live TV broadcast on a Los Angeles-area station. Keep in mind, this is just an edited version of a few of the, um, highlights? (Grantland)

05 January 2013

Hang It Up

Wire hangers have faded from common use (aside from when you get your clothing back from a dry cleaner). But I'm no fan of plastic hangers either. Several years back I replaced my plastic shirt hangers with wooden ones. I bought them in boxes of 20 at Bed Bath and Beyond. They still carry them, but they aren't as good a deal now; I think they come in packages of six or 12.

If you live in the vicinity of an Ocean State Job Lot store, there's a much better deal available to you. They have wooden hangers for 50 cents each, which is about what I paid per hanger for my first couple of batches from BB&B. These don't have a crossbar, so they might not work so well for heavier outerwear, but if you stick to using them for shirts and light jackets, they will do just fine.

Yesterday I discovered an even better deal at Job Lot: suit hangers. Suit jackets and sportcoats should be hung on wider hangers to preserve the shape at the shoulders and keep the jacket draped properly. Several of my sportcoats are vintage items I found on eBay, and a couple of my suits were bought online, so none of them came with hangers. Even if you buy a suit from a department store, there's no guarantee you'll get an appropriate hanger with it. You might have to ask for it, or you may be told it's store policy to keep the hangers.

What you want is a hanger that flares out toward the ends to at least a couple of inches wide. A bar for holding trousers is also nice. OSJL has hangers like this for only $2.25 each. I've been looking for such hangers for a while now; the best price I've been able to find online is $6 each for ones without a crossbar, $7 each with the bar, from a site called Wooden Hangers USA. I was about to place an order from them, and while the hangers I found yesterday may not be as durable, the lower cost is much better for my wallet at the moment. I grabbed half a dozen, and I may go back for more if needed.

04 January 2013

Wasted Paper

The phone books started showing up on steps and porches around my neighborhood this week. It happens every year, and since there are several different ones, it will go on for a while. This is so stupid and wasteful, plus it puts the burden of disposal on the recipients.

In 2013 printed phone books are unnecessary for most people, and it's rather surprising that these companies spend the money to compile and print something that few people want or need. I remember reading about a city out west (maybe Seattle?) that passed a law that residents had to be offered the option to opt out of receiving phone books. This is incredibly sensible, and seems like something that might also be handled by a state's department of consumer affairs.

03 January 2013

Dog Tales

After it snows, there is ample evidence of the number of dogs in our neighborhood. Of course, our dog insists on stopping to sniff every single yellow spot left by the other dogs, because they're right on the surface and therefore that much more accessible. It's not such a big deal when it's 30 degrees, but on a night like this when the temperature is flirting with 10, it can be a comfort issue. The dog doesn't seem to notice the cold; she still wants her outside time.

Also, when I was out with the dog this afternoon, a man driving a National Grid van stopped to ask me about an address. He then told me I was going to heaven because I had adopted a greyhound. That wasn't among our motivations at the time, but I'll take it.

01 January 2013

Holiday Thoughts

Happy new year, everyone. Just a couple of quick bits before I return to my day of torpor...

For New Year's Eve TV broadcasts, nothing can beat Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN. She spends the entire time trying to embarrass and befuddle him, and he tries to deflect by repeating, "I don't know what you're talking about." It's loose and unscripted, the opposite of the canned revelry on the major network shows.

Also, if you're a fan of the amazing FX series Louie, there's an excellent piece on New York magazine's Vulture blog about this year's season finale, which aired in September and was called "New Year's Eve." (If you aren't caught up on Louie, you probably shouldn't read it.)