Boston (and Cambridge) in fall

modernity in Boston's business district

It’s been a while since I posted photos, but the cameras haven’t been idle. I’ve been keeping in practice both with the Nikon and the phonecam (since I don’t always remember to keep the Nikon handy). Check out this highlights series, featuring my voting booth photo, the first snow, a cold afternoon at Downtown Crossing and Government Center, an extremely windy stroll around the Common and Beacon Hill, and a skip around the Harvard campus and in the Fogg Museum.

The phonecam photos here are attempts to adhere to my new phonecam rules, which I made up over the last week. Phonecams are, I believe, good for the following three kinds of shots:

  1. Large blocks of color. This example, like my winning phonecam shot, is mostly interesting because of the intense color saturation of the shot.
  2. Extreme close-ups. (In this shot and others, I like finding out what statues in museums are looking at.)
  3. Capturing events where no other camera can go. So far, this polling booth shot is my only example in this genre, but it’s probably the most intriguing possibility of the three.

I am obviously still exploring the technology and having fun playing around with it, so I’m sure I’ll find other kinds of images.

This posting is a two-fer; the photo to the right is also my LensDay entry for the modernity” challenge.

I was going to write about the Virginia Tech game…

…but fellow Hooblogger Jeff Hawkins does it better for me:

First, ABC broadcasts Virginia-Virginia Tech nationwide, and we repay the favor by having a score of 0-0 at half. Switch to the second half where we take a nice lead and the refs see their way to switching momentum with the worst called non-interference play I’ve ever seen televised. Now, sure, perhaps that’s some bitter hyperbole, but nonetheless, a god awful call. My mom, who knows nothing about football was on the phone at the time and asked why they threw the flag.

Then we rejected the Tangerine Bowl (now the Champs Sports Bowl) because of exams. So it’s either Boise or Shreeveport [sic]. Yeah, I’m sure fans will want to spend their hard earned money travelling to the wondrous splendors of Boise. Shreeveport I went to in 1994. I think the President declared it a disaster area before any hurricanes.

P.S. the new marching cheesed*ck band looks like clowns. Nothing like wool in a rainstorm. I’m still miffed that the Pep Band is disbanned. I fully blame our 3 blowout losses to a marching band versus a scramble band

(I’m reminded of all the games George Welsh blamed on the Pep Band for firing up the opposition’s fans)

So after a really promising season it’s back to the Independence Bowl. I’m amused to see that the school turned down the former Tangerine Bowl (now Champs Sports Bowl) because it was on the last day of exams. Go go student athletes!

Update: Prompted by a reader’s mail, I should note that I don’t share Jeff’s acerbic views about Shreveport or Boise, having never been either place myself. I think we should all give Jeff a little comic license on that paragraph…

3 o’clock in the morning, it’s quiet and there’s no one around

We just saw my in-laws off, back to New Jersey. It was a fabulous weekend with far too much food, including last night’s clam chowder and salmon with “Asian glaze” (soy, hoisin, brown sugar, ginger, hot pepper) followed by homemade pie (lemon meringue). Now that they’re on the road the house is quiet, and will be eerily so once Lisa takes off for the first of three less-than-24-hour business trips this week.

On the positive side my Mom should be back from her pilgrimage to Guatemala by now, so I can catch up with her.

Otherwise, not a lot to say. I’m kind of enjoying the silence.

Monkey going to heaven

Boston Globe: Gigantic steps. I read this article with some interest. It’s rare that you see artists come out with a bare statement of fact about the purpose for reunion tours, like the one Frank Black made at the end of the article:

“We’ve had this chip in our back pocket for a long time, and it keeps going up in value,” Black explains. “We’re cashing it in this year.”

The most remarkable thing about the Pixies’ comeback is that none of the participants—the band, the organizers, and especially the media—seem to understand how big the event is. That the Globe, of all papers, would begin this article with the sentence “No one could have predicted the large and passionate crowds that have greeted the band on its first tour in more than a decade,” is the symptom. This is what’s wrong with the music business and music journalism—it doesn’t listen to its customers.

How else could a Pixies reunion be a “surprise” when: (a) the Pixies were the top-downloaded artists on eMusic after they were added to the catalog; (b) KEXP routinely rewards listeners during its pledge drives by playing huge blocks of the Pixies; (c) they were that good. I think anyone who thinks that the Pixies’ greatest contribution to music was inspiring Nirvana either hasn’t listened to the Pixies or doesn’t understand music.

At any rate, I’ll be catching their concert on Thursday, December 2 (happy birthday to me!) at Tsongas Arena, with Mission of Burma opening. I’ll subsequently be visible in your skies sometime early Friday morning as I’ll be orbiting the Earth.

Damn you, Comcast! Damn you, BC!

Grr! I was all set to waste an afternoon watching the Virginia–Virginia Tech game, which the VirginiaSports site assured me was televised on ABC, until I checked our local listings. There was a college football game on ABC at 1, all right… but it was Syracuse vs. Boston College.

And none of our 400-something channels are showing the game, either.

Ah well. There’s always the GameTracker. (Weeps.)

Well, here are some game links anyway:

  • Senator Useless—I mean, George Allen, who was a Virginia quarterback before becoming governor of the state and tackling the University’s funding to the ground in the mid-1990s, weighs in on the matchup: “I’m for Virginia Tech in every game that they play except one.”
  • Virginia has its pride to worry about, with an 8–2 record going into the series, but Tech has, at least according to these articles, a title on the line.
  • The Washington Post profiles little-known Virginia linebacker Dennis Haley, who has come back from an academic ineligibility in 2002 to graduate with an anthropology degree and take graduate education courses.
  • The ball will already have traveled 157 miles by the time it gets to Lane Stadium for kickoff, courtesy of a Charlottesville to Blacksburg charity run by the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) chapters from both schools.

Things to do in one’s copious spare time

Not shopping today? Here’s a bunch of stuff that you can do to feel productive. (Me, I’ll be agonizing over the design of this year’s Christmas card.)

I think that’s enough to keep me busy today, aside from the tryptophan coma…

The meal, dissected

As I sit down to make notes after my first Thanksgiving dinner as family head chef, one question runs through my mind: How the hell did Julie Powell make complete and entertaining stories out of cooking meals—for a year? I can barely remember two hours ago when we ate the meal, much less when I started working on it. But giving it the old college try:

First, the menu changed a bit from its original incarnation. I looked at the timing and considered the overall weight of the dishes in the main course, and decided that rather than a risotto we needed something lighter in the first course. Something like Faith Willinger’s Yellow Pepper Soup (as made in the fabulous Florentine restaurant Cibreo). That substitution made, yesterday afternoon I eagerly boiled my brine (as per Alton’s Romancing the Bird special, I used a gallon of vegetable broth, a cup of kosher salt, half cup light brown sugar, a half tablespoon candied ginger, and—my only substitution, on account of running out of black peppercorns and having no allspice berries—a tablespoon and a half of juniper berries) and set it on the porch to cool, then made the soup. The yellow pepper soup is remarkably easy and satisfying: brown chopped onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil; add peeled potato and seeded yellow bell peppers in chunks together with chicken broth and hot red pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft; blend; and in my case refrigerate for the next day. (An approximation of the recipe is here; the real thing is in here.) That done, I figured, all I had to do was get the turkey into the brine before I went to bed.

Hah. First problem: at 8:30, four hours after cooking the brine, it was still hot—too hot to put a turkey into without inviting salmonella. OK. I sealed two freez-its in Ziploc freezer bags and dropped them into the brine to cool it down. An hour later, the brine was acceptably tepid and I mixed it with a gallon of heavily iced water. And here my troubles began: in the process of getting the ice, I somehow zinged my old back injury. I managed to lever the turkey out of the fridge into the sink; remove the wrappings; lift it into the clean five-gallon Home Depot bucket that had previously received the icy brine; drop the aforementioned freez-its in; and haul the bucket back out to the porch, where I figured it would find an acceptably chilly temperature. How was I to know that this was going to be one of the warmest Thanksgivings on record? (Yes, OK, I could have read the paper.)

Anyway, we started the next morning in the hole, as making the apple pie (Lisa’s suggested dessert, for which I happily scrapped the other offerings) took a lot longer than expected. I took a few minutes while the pie came together (happily without me) to pull the recipes together and plan my order of operations. The chief difficulties were:

  1. I couldn’t start the turkey until the pie was done.
  2. I couldn’t start the stuffing and the brussels sprouts until the turkey was done.
  3. I couldn’t really make the Swiss chard or the green beans—or the gravy—until the turkey was done, either.

So basically that left: get the turkey in the oven; make the stuffing; do a ton of prep work; wait; then dash like crazy at the end. And that’s about how it went. Thankfully Lisa’s mom was an able sous chef beside me every step of the way. I had the Brussels sprouts in their roasting pan, tossed with garlic, par-cooked pancetta, and olive oil, about two hours before the turkey was ready to go. Lisa’s mom had the green beans trimmed and sitting in the steamer, ready to go. But the stuffing was the long pole in the tent. It took forever to get the bread cubed and toasted, and thankfully Lisa’s mom took that and diced onion and celery while I browned sausage, diced and cooked apples, and chopped herbs. Mixed everything together in a great big bowl, splashed in about three cups of chicken broth that I had made last week, and topped it with a generous glug of Calvados. And set it aside. We had time to wash all the prep dishes and eat the soup before the turkey finally came out.

Finally, showtime. Turkey on a cutting board with a groove to rest. Sprouts and stuffing in the oven. Steamer with green beans on the back burner. Sudden panic as I realize I haven’t chopped the onions and sage for the gravy. Manage not to break any skin as I do so and drop it into a pan together with all the rest of the butter on the dish. Pour the pan juices through a sieve into a quart measuring cup. Put the disposable roasting pan over two burners, turn them on, and pour twelve ounces hard cider in to deglaze. Realize that the disposable pan lacks some desirable characteristics for reducing sauce, such as not smoking; turn off the heat, strain the deglazing juices into the quart cup, then throw away the pan. Strained pan juices and cider into the onion, sage and butter, then thicken with flour (and a little arrowroot—my fave for lighter sauces). Voila: gravy.

While this was going on, the green beans steamed and I somehow got the Swiss chard tossed in the garlic and anchovy oil (I cheated and used anchovy paste, which we had, rather than buying whole anchovies). Then we got everything onto the table.

And damned if it didn’t come together. The hot sausage in the stuffing counterpointed the apple in the gravy, the vegetables were excellent—the chard was a surprise hit—and even without much in the way of carbohydrates we were all put into comas after the meal.


Today I’m thankful for a whole bunch of things, including:

  • My wonderful wife
  • My family, including my amazing mother, who’s on a pilgrimage to Guatemala this week—this being the first time she’s been out of the country in 30 years
  • My in-laws who are with us enjoying the day
  • Our dogs, who have I think finally given up on getting at the turkey now that it’s been put away
  • Our house, even though it’s too damn warm in here after baking a pie, roasting a turkey, and doing countless other stovetop and oven dishes
  • About a bajillion bloggers
  • You, my readers
  • This blog, which makes me keep my brain exercised and keeps me honest

Around the blogosphere

I haven’t surveyed my friends and neighbors in the blogosphere for a while, and there have been some developments:

  • Tony Pierce: a little housekeeping for your ass. Tony reports that Blook II is done, and that he may have advance copies for ordering shortly.
  • And it looks like the book buzz is catching, as Scott Rosenberg is taking a hiatus from his day job at Salon to write a book.
  • Speaking of Salon, “Wednesday Morning Download” columnist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) got taken to task for criticising the string-heavy production on the first two Nick Drake albums in favor of the divine Pink Moon. His interlocutor throws out the following argument: “Pink Moon is the album that all of the Northeast liberal Blue State elites like. For those of you, like me, surrounded by the real people in the Red States, I recommend Drake’s first album, Five Leaves Left.” While I can’t argue with Mr. Parasol Blog about the greatness of “River Man,” I’ll raise him “Fruit Tree” in response—and hope that “red state” and “blue state” make it onto the verboten words list for 2005.
  • On an entirely different foot, the brilliant Merlin Mann not only writes 5ives, he is also the author of 43 Folders, which turns out to have some tremendously cool tips about a lot of OS X software that, um, I don’t really use. Though reading what he says about Quicksilver, I’m inclined to try.

The Complete U2 (almost)

Both “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and the Complete U2 digital box are available right now from the iTunes Music Store. And what’s catching my attention right now is the latter. All the rarities can be bought by the song, and there are some real rarities, including the Another Day and U23 singles that preceded Boy, the “Passengers” recording with Brian Eno, a ton of b-sides, and the greatest hits sets. Waitaminit—the greatest hits are in there as well as the original recordings? Guess that’s why it’s $149 and not $0.99 a song…

There are also 18 songs listed as “unreleased and rare,” rarer than the B-sides, including some tracks from their sessions at Sun Studio, and a live 1981 Boston concert. What appear to be missing are Bono’s duet with Frank Sinatra on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, which was a B-side for “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” as well as appearing on the Duets album (which isn’t available in the store), and the fan club Christmas singles.

Shouldn’t it be “Some Days Are Better Than Others”?

I received an email this morning letting me know that it would be a “Perfect Day” to shop at the Apple Store either at retail or online on Friday the 26th, the day after Thanksgiving, to get “the perfect gift on the perfect day at the perfect price.” What’s interesting is the price match part, which is good only against authorized Apple resellers—the people Apple has traditionally alternately supported and undercut:

…if you’ve seen any Apple hardware or software at a better price elsewhere, we’ll match that price.*

*If you see Apple hardware or software for less at an authorized Apple reseller, we will match that price up to 10 percent off the current Apple Store regular price (excluding sales tax, shipping, and all other fees, costs and services).

Time to stuff your stockings…

Brand Democrat

Oliver Willis engages on a one-man branding campaign for the Democratic Party. I think he’s really onto something here. The Dems have tried to be so many things to so many people for so long, the core message has gotten diluted. This is a good way to bring it back—combinations of evocation of famous Democrats past with enunciation of core values. I think, along those lines, that this might be my favorite one:

equal pay. equal rights. 40 hour work week. social security. medicare. clean water. clean air. safe food. freedom of speech. voting rights. we're just getting warmed up.

Though this one is also good for a laugh:

brand democrat: our congressional leadership isn't under any sort of criminal investigation. that would just be bad form.

Another nice touch, the images are explicitly Creative Commons licensed (By-NC-SA). And Oliver has put the template up for reuse..