Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reviews: One Book and One Movie

Book: Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, by Gary Paulsen. Winterdance is a first-person, non-fiction account of a relative novice attempting to complete the Iditaord, the famed 1150-mile dogsled race held annually in Alaska. Madness it is. Paulsen faces frostbite, storms, moose attacks, hallucinations, and dogfights in his 17 day trek through a beautiful but punishing terrain. It’s a great read- Paulsen’s easy style captures his love for the dogs, the race, and most importantly, his ability to laugh at himself. He recounts with humor his near-disaster at the race’s start in Anchorage, where his overly excited dogs veered off in the wrong direction, dragging him through backyards, and he pulled off a car’s bumper trying to catch his sled hook on it to stop the dogs. His description of the coldest section of the race, a two hundred mile stretch of the frozen Yukon river, where temperatures routinely reach -60ºF made me jump into bed and pull the covers up:

“Cold came at me from everywhere. Any seam, any crack, any opening and I could feel jets of it, needles of it, deadly cutting edges of ice, worse than ice, absolute cold coming in. It was, simply, not believable.”

Winterdance is a fun, fast, and enjoyable book, sort of like Jack London meets the Three Stooges. I'd read a lot more non-fiction if it were always this entertaining.

Movie: The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro). This film by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar tells the true-life story of Ramon Sampedro, a sailor who becomes paralyzed after breaking his neck, and spends the next twentysome years as a quadriplegic in a legal battle with Spain’s court system over his petition for euthanasia. Javier Bardem (of whom I’ve been a fan ever since I saw The Dancer Upstairs) carries the film as Ramon, a captivating figure who entrances everyone around him with his intelligence, passion, and sheer force of personality. It is easy to understand why the women in his life fall for him, and easier still to see why everyone around him seems to ponder the same question: how can someone so alive want to die? I had never heard of Sampedro before this movie, but apparently he was a well-known public figure in Spain. This is not a story about euthanasia; rather, it is the tale of one man and the people who loved him. Almost the entire movie takes place in the farmhouse where Ramon is cared for by his sister-in-law, brother, nephew, and aging father. I would recommend watching this movie in private, as I cried for, oh, almost the entire thing. It wasn’t the love story that got me, it was the senile father and the teenage nephew. Some of the dream sequences were a bit too art-housey for my liking, but The Sea Inside definitely deserved the Best Foreign Film Academy Award it won for 2004. I learned on that Javier Bardem is starring in the upcoming movie versions of Love in the Time of Cholera and also No Country for Old Men, so I’m now looking forward even more to both of those films.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Elephants strike back!

Last October, the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy and fascinating article on the increase of violence in elephants.

Here are a few excerpts:

"Attacks have become so commonplace that a new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-1990’s to monitor the problem. In the Indian state of Jharkhand near the western border of Bangladesh, 300 people were killed by elephants between 2000 and 2004. In the past 12 years, elephants have killed 605 people in Assam, a state in northeastern India, 239 of them since 2001; 265 elephants have died in that same period, the majority of them as a result of retaliation by angry villagers, who have used everything from poison-tipped arrows to laced food to exact their revenge. In Africa, reports of human-elephant conflicts appear almost daily, from Zambia to Tanzania, from Uganda to Sierra Leone, where 300 villagers evacuated their homes last year because of unprovoked elephant attacks."

"For a number of biologists and ethologists who have spent their careers studying elephant behavior, the attacks have become so abnormal in both number and kind that they can no longer be attributed entirely to the customary factors. Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But in ‘‘Elephant Breakdown,’’ a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and several colleagues argued that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture."

Sounds a bit anthropomorphic, no? Well, elephants are extremely social creatures.

"When an elephant dies, its family members engage in intense mourning and burial rituals, conducting weeklong vigils over the body, carefully covering it with earth and brush, revisiting the bones for years afterward, caressing the bones with their trunks, often taking turns rubbing their trunks along the teeth of a skull’s lower jaw, the way living elephants do in greeting. If harm comes to a member of an elephant group, all the other elephants are aware of it."

And in more recent news:

Two British tourists killed by elephants last week.

Wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin (who's kind of hot, by the way) gets attacked by an elephant while filming a segment with CNN. Watch the video here. Yikes!

Links for your entertainment

Here's a list of former hosts and musical guests banned by Saturday Night Live. The Cypress Hill incident cracked me up, but seriously, who knew that Chevy Chase was such a dick?

via Freakgirl

Here's very strange and oddly amusing cartoon that's been popular around the lab all week:
Charlie the Unicorn.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Grossest Thing I Ever Ate

I haven't done much worth blogging about lately, so instead, I will tell you the story of The Grossest Thing I Ever Ate.

To preface, I am not a picky eater. In fact, I have trouble understanding picky eaters and they tend to get on my nerves. There are foods that I am allergic to, and foods that I eat. There are no foods that I can eat, but opt not to. Some foods I am not particularly fond of (I'm looking at you, lima beans!), but I will still eat them without complaint. When I was in the Peace Corps, I ate pretty much everything that was offered to me. Fried pig skin, sure, why not? Wild boar? Yum! Armadillo, iguana? Tastes like chicken! I lived with a family in close proximity to five or six other houses. Per local custom, whenever anyone made a special dish (i.e. not rice and beans), they would often send some over to the neighbors to try. Every few weeks, one of these special dishes was something called Chomfain. (I never saw the word written down, so I have no idea how to spell it, but that's how it sounded to me.) It had a pork flavor, but a creamy texture, sort of like pureed sausage. Upon inquiry, I learned that it did indeed come from a pig. I never thought much more about it, and happily gobbled it up whenever it was sent my way.

Until one fateful day, when I saw a neighbor girl walk by holding a severed pig's head.

Me (grossed out, but curious): Hey Adriana, what are you doing with that pig's head?
Adriana (excitedly): I'm going to make Chomfain!

After a brief moment of confusion, I was hit with a cold, ugly truth.




And that, my friends, is the Grossest Thing I Ever Ate. Although once I learned of its true origin, I never ate it again.

Monday, March 26, 2007

MREs getting some bad press

The Chicago Tribune recently published an article on field rations for U.S. troops that quotes my my dad and his coworkers. He's a biochemist who works in food preservation at the army base in Natick, MA. The article focuses on the negative- weight loss, soldiers complaining about the MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat)- but does mention the challenges of combat feeding and highlights recent improvements.

As an aside, I was once offered a job at the Natick base with the coolest title ever: Liaison for Project Land Warrior.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- Watched The Namesake. Adapted from a novel by Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake stars Kal Penn as a Gogol Ganguli, an American born to Bengali immigrant parents. The movie begins with the story of Gogol’s parents- after surviving a train wreck, Gogol’s father moves to the New York for graduate school and returns to India to marry Ahsima, who accepts his proposal and accompanies him to the United States. For me, it seems unfathomable that someone would marry and move halfway across the world with a complete stranger, but that is essentially the whole point- The Namesake deals with the differences between American and Indian society and the struggle for Indian parents and their American children to understand each other. I won’t give away too much of the plot but I will say that I really enjoyed the movie. Kal Penn was excellent, as were both the actors playing his parents (Irfan Khan and Tabu)- the family dynamic was both hilarious and heartwrenching, and completely realistic. The weak parts of the film were in Gogol’s love interests- Maxine, the rich, white girlfriend, seemed very one-dimensional. Although they date for years, it seems like she and Gogol spend all their time kissing and snuggling and never actually converse. Gogol later marries the daughter of Bengali friends of his mother, but that segment of the film struck me as rather rushed, likely the consequence of trying to cram an entire novel into two hours of screen time. In contrast, the relationship between Gogol’s parents is subtle, moving, and the most powerful storyline of the film. I haven’t read The Namesake but I did read and like Lahiri’s collection of short stories, many of which are set in Boston, The Interpreter of Maladies, so I was looking forward to seeing The Namesake. One of my Indian coworkers saw it with his wife and LOVED it (they have a teenage son). “It is our story,” he told me. I imagine that this movie will be most popular among people of Indian decent, but everyone can relate to the battles between parents and children, and the process of growing up.

Saturday (aka Maria Day)- Since Ern and I missed the Vegas trip to celebrate Maria’s 30th birthday, we planned a belated Maria Day in Boston. In the morning, we took a lotion making class at the Boston Center of Adult Education. To get myself motivated, I listened to the Silence of the Lambs-inpsired song “Lotion,” which you will find to be either A. hilarious and awesome or B. incredibly disturbing. I choose A. (linked video dedicated to Kelly McMahon, who introduced me to the song). After a long, painful introduction by the very spacy instructor (She wore socks with cats on them, told us she was having hot flashes, and tried to teach us the Latin nomenclature for a bunch of herbs. I almost lost it when she started writing Family, Genus, Species on the board.), we finally got to the fun part. We made lip balm, hand salve and lotion, and got to mix in our own scents. Mine came out nice except I chose citronella for the lotion and added too much of it, so my lotion smells like insect repellent. We went out for sushi after class, and later that night met up with Lisa for drinks. Our original plan to go out dancing was derailed due to lousy weather and unavailable taxicabs, so we stayed local and hung out at the L Street Tavern….how very Good Will Hunting of us.

Sunday- I had a somewhat productive day, catching up on some chores and work, and then had a delicious dinner over at Lisa’s new apartment.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy Friday

It's a beautiful, sunny Friday in Boston, and spring is here: I had my first Iced Coffee of 2007 this morning. After I slept in and went for a long run on the beach. Simple pleasures for simple people.

Here's a couple of happy songs for a happy Friday (right click and save as):

Mr. Blue Sky, by Electric Light Orchestra (I'm getting Prog Rock on y'all.)

The Littlest Birds, by The Be Good Tanyas

and here's a funny picture Eri sent me this morning:

No interspecies friendships to report, but yes, oh yes, there's been another Fung Wah incident. *squeals with joy* (via Universal Hub)

I don't know why I love hearing about Fung Wah accidents, but I do.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Real March Madness

Has anyone else been following the crazy stories from the Cricket World Cup?

Since I work with several Indians, it's been the talk of the lab all week.

First, Bangladesh upsets India. Irate Indian fans destroy the house of star player Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who performed poorly during the game. This is the equivalent of Yankees fans trashing Derek Jeter's penthouse were he to strike out during a playoff game. And then burning him in effigy.

Next, World Cup newcomers Ireland defeat perennial power Pakistan on St. Patrick's Day.

Shortly thereafter, Pakistan's coach winds up dead.

And now, rumors are flying, as the death is ruled suspicious. Was Coach Woolmer murdered? Signs point to yes.

Here's one for all the frustrated scientists

From The Onion: Scientists Find Jack Shit

My favorite section of the article:

When a study's results are inconclusive, a research team often asks for more time and money to finish. Such is not the case with the Johns Hopkins project.
"No. No fucking way," Ingels said. "I don't know about Dr. Chen, but I know that Dr. [Kerri] Bruce, who has been a real trouper through all of this, is quitting science to start a catfish farm in Louisiana. Me, I have a long date with my bed and cable TV. I may still do something in science, but if I do, it'll probably be something easy, like re linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer, just to get my confidence back up. It's too early to say. I'll have a better idea after a month of watching the Game Show Network and eating raspberry danishes."

Sometimes I know how they feel.

Wipe that Canadian flag off your backpack

Hey, everyone, it’s random rant time! I saw this question on Ask Metafilter, and it made me recall my annoyance whenever I hear people make comments like “When I’m in a foreign country, I don’t tell anyone I’m an American.” Or “I just say I’m Canadian.”

Dear Everyone Who Does This,

What the hell, people? I ain’t no fortunate son, but I never try to hide the fact that I’m from the United States. What, you think people won’t like you because you’re American? Despite the fact that our government’s policies may not be at the peak of their international popularity, in my experience, most people do not regard the individual traveler as a personal representative of George W. Bush. If you’re so worried about being stereotyped as an obnoxious American, behave like a decent human being without hiding your nationality, and you can play your own little part in dispelling this stereotype. I think a big part of it is that many Americans seem to have an inferiority complex when it comes to Western Europe. Just because the Brits have slick accents doesn’t make them more culturally refined than us; remember, these are the same people who invented soccer hooliganism. But they certainly don’t feel the need to buy ugly sneakers and tank tops when taking a trip to the United States.

Proud to be an American,

Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Patrick's Day, Part II

Sunday- Ern and I headed to the new convention center to attend the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast run by State Senator Jack Hart. The annual roast features local politicians, including the mayor and the governor, who give comical speeches ripping on each other. Here's the Globe review. I've always wanted to go, so I was pretty excited to end up with tickets. Although we weren't able to stay for the entire thing, we did see Deval Patrick, who brought with him a scoreboard to keep track of how many times his car and the curtains were mentioned (he's been getting a lot of criticism from the press for the Cadillac and the statehouse redecoration). I think everyone took it easy on him due to last week's announcement that his wife is being treated for depression. It was a fun event, although it is strange to see elected officials joking and singing in public. On a presidential scale, Mitt Romney was thoroughly mocked in absentia, and democratic candidate Joe Biden made an appearance. (hmmm...trying to do damage control for his Obama comments?)

Since we didn't get to eat anything at the breakfast (only seated guests get food and we were in the standing room section), we stopped by Phil and Sue's for some delicious pancakes and bacon. Then, back to our place for the parade party. This year's was another success and shall go down in the history books as the year everyone came late and stayed late. Normally, the kegs are kicked and the party is over by 6 or so, but this one didn't even get wild and crazy until late afternoon. It was a long day full of drinking and dancing and friends and neighbors and scientists and whistles and firemen and good times.
Parade photos:

Party photos:

Weekend Report: St. Patrick’s Day edition, Part I

Friday- Found out at all of my friends’ flights were cancelled due to the storm, so instead of having a dinner party with seven close friends from college, I got depressed, made snickerdoodles, drank wine, and watched Southie with my roommate. As for the movie, plotwise it leaves much to be desired, but does have several things in its favor: our house appears briefly during the opening sequence, and I St. and the Quencher feature prominently in the film. In addition to Donnie Walhberg (who was my favorite New Kid, by the way), Rose McGowan, Amanda Peet, and Job from Arrested Development star.

Saturday- St. Patrick’s Day! I began the day by shoveling off the back porch. Note the gigantic church that looms over my apartment. Sometimes I think it is beautiful; sometimes I think it is silently comdemning my sinfulness.

Ern and I had a full day of party preparation, so we stopped in at Tom English’s Cottage for a quick Guinness before we began our errands.
We met a man who gave us two tickets to the official St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, hosted by Senator Jack Hart- it’s an annual roast in which all of the Boston politicians poke fun at each other. More on the in Part II.
Our first errand was to pick up the kegs from the liquor store that I am convinced it run by gypsies. I will not say which one, because I fear the gypsies and their curses. My theory is based on the following observations: the store employees all appear to be related to one another and they have dark curly hair and wear a lot of flashy gold jewelry. They speak what may be Romanian, and they get very offended if you mistake them as being Russia. However, if you ask what country they are from, they will avoid answering. See what I mean? Gypsies. Anyways, the power went out while I was in the store picking up the keg, so Head Gypsy looked at me and said “You come in the back room with me. I am afraid of the dark.” I laughed, until he handed me a flashlight and I realized he was not joking. I followed him, holding the flashlight to light up the path as we weaved through stacks and stacks of beer cases. A meowing cat startled me. “Do not be alarmed. Zat is Beast,” Gypsy Man informed me. When we made it back to the register with the kegs, a long line had formed, and now all of these people believed that I worked at the store (probably because I just came out of the storeroom holding a flashlight.) I was bombarded with questions: “Do you sell phone cards?” “Is the register working?” I informed them all that no, I did not work there, (do I look like a gypsy? No.) and Ern and I went on our merry way.

We came up with a plan to solicit help carrying the kegs up to our apartment. We could have done it ourselves - Grrrrl Power! - it just takes so darn long because we can only handle a couple of steps at a time. We went back into Tom English’s and spotted a couple of guys sitting by themselves. “Hey boys, how would you like to make ten dollars the easy way?” I asked. No deal. While Ern politely chatted with them, I had already decided that A. They were douchebag faces (they were.) and B. they weren’t going to help with the kegs. I spotted two guys at the bar with sweatshirts bearing the name of a construction company and decided they would make better targets. I tapped one on the shoulder and he turned around. “I have a proposition for you,” I told him. “Oh, would ye like me to take off me shirt?” he responded, in a thick Irish accent. “Nope. Well, maybe. But I’ll buy you and your friends a round of drinks if you help my roommate and me carry a keg up the stairs.” He smiled and quickly agreed. “Ye don’t have to buy me nothing nor pay me any money, and I’m not doing it because you’re attractive. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” He grabbed his friend and we headed out the door, and I informed him of the bad news: it’s two kegs, not one, and I live on the third floor. Good sports, they hauled both kegs up to the apartment and posed for a photo. I found out that one of them is from the town in Kerry where my cousins live, and knows my cousins and all their friends.

The rest of the day was taken up with grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking, and we finally made it out and back to Tom’s (for the third time that day) to meet up with a few friends for late-night pints.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Do you know what I hate right now?


It's screwing up everyone's travel plans, including my honored out-of-town guests.

St. Patrick's Day through the years

As you may have guessed (the name, the hair color, the freckles, the penchant for storytelling and fondness for drink), I come from an Irish-American family. In fact, I'm a dual citizen. St. Patrick's Day has always been a pretty big deal for me. (Here's a bio on the patron saint himself.) When I was a kid, we dyed everything that would absorb food coloring green (bagels, pancakes, milk, yogurt), listened to Irish music (my mom used to play piano and sing "Black Velvet Band"), and ate a traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner. Then came college. I went to Notre Dame, so you can probably imagine what that was like.

Then came the year I found out that St. Patrick's Day is not that important to most people. I was in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, and was thrilled to find out that a sole Irish pub had opened in Managua, complete with Irish owners who imported Guinness from Ireland. My Peace Corps friends and I made plans to meet up to celebrate. We were all staying in the same dingy hostel, and after eating breakfast, I put on a silly green outfit and found my friends in the lobby. "Okay! Let's go." They all looked confused, and announced their plans to go shopping, see a movie, stop by the office, etc..."But, ...but,... you guys said you wanted to go out for St. Patrick's Day?!" I asked, dumbfounded. "Um, we thought you meant at night." Apparently they were not aware of the fact that St. Patrick's Day is an All Day Drinking Event. My friend Kara must have noted the disappointment on my face and took pity on me, agreeing to go to the bar with me. I was expected the place to be packed; by the time we got there, it was already a couple of hours past noon. We walk in, and find the place empty, except for a lone Irish traveler sitting at the bar. His face lit up...Guinnesses all around! Kara and I proceeded to drink delicious Guinness for the rest of the afternoon, and the rest of our friends finally did show up, but by that point we were about done for the night.

Five years ago, I moved to Southie, and for the last four, I've been living right on the parade route. So, it's basically a requirement to throw a huge party every year. They've all somewhat blended together by now, but every year has its own special moments. Like the year my sister drank an entire bottle of whiskey and knocked over a platter of deviled eggs. Or the year an anonymous friend was spotted making out with a fireman in the hallway. Or the year we threw about 50 rolls of toilet paper off the back deck and into the trees. Or the year the guy I was dating broke my window. One of the most memorable years was the one when Eri wore this outfit. There was the year of Johnny B. Nasty (a local guy who got invited because he carried the kegs up the stairs, but he turned out to be really creepy) and the year my Peace Corps friends got into a fight with my grad school friends, as ridiculous as that sounds (Pacifists vs. Scientists?). Other than that, it's the same food, the same cheap beer, mostly the same people, and the same awesome Celtics jersey dress every year.

This year, four of my good friends from college are coming to visit. Yay!

Have a great St. Patrick's Day, everyone. Slainte!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A good keg bucket is hard to find

After an unfortunate incident involving a dead squirrel, I threw away my keg bucket. Now I need a new one for St. Patrick's Day. I checked Home Depot, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond, all for naught (on the bright side, the experience did give me reason to use the phrase "all for naught"). Anyone know where I could purchase one? Big round plastic tub, about two feet high, two rope handles on the sides, and usually made of a brightly colored plastic.

Don't let me down, internet.

Old school Boston commercials

By popular request, here's the famous I Can Walk Like a Penguin commercial for the New England Aquarium. I didn't remember the little girl being quite so spastic.

Also, in my faulty memory, the "what makes an ocean wave wave" boy appeared in the same commercial. Not true. Here he is, pimping the Museum of Science: It's fun to find out. Hah! When I was a kid, hearing my own voice on those phones freaked the hell out of me.

Et tu, RT?

Happy 30th Birthday to my friend, former roommate, and blogger extraordinaire, Kristy!
This is a big year for those of us born in 1977.
Hmmm....I'd better hurry up and write a novel and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, otherwise I'm never going to fulfill my list of "Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 30" before October.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Book Review: On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

On Beauty is a novel about an interracial family from Wellington, a fictional college town just outside of Boston. Howard, the father, is a white, self-absorbed British art history professor, a lot like of Jeff Daniels’ pompous academic from The Squid and the Whale. His wife Kiki is an overweight black nurse from Floria who has never felt entirely comfortable in her husband’s circle, nor in the lily white liberal community that they call home. The eldest son, Jerome, rebels by becoming a Christian and befriending his father’s professional rival. The daughter, Zora, idolizes her father and longs to become part of his academic kingdom. The youngest son, Levi (in my head, his name is inexplicably pronounced like levee instead of like the jeans) loves hip-hop, tells everyone that he’s from Roxbury, and befriends a group of Haitian immigrants. The story focuses on the Besleys and the people who pass through their lives, with the themes of family, relationships, race, and identity prominently running throughout the novel.

The writing itself isn’t anything spectacular, and even though it’s a nitpick, the editors should have done a better job Americanizing the language of the British author. For example, American teenagers do not receive messages on their pagers, they get texts on their cell phones. There is also one incongruous chapter written from the point of view of a student in Howard's class that probably should have been omitted. The strength of the novel, however, lies in the characters themselves. Kiki and the Besley children (especially Levi) are all likeable and believable, and the alternation between skirmish and solidarity among the siblings is an authentic look at family life. Howard, however, is harder to pin down. The Besleys’ marriage is falling apart after Kiki discovers a previous infidelity, but at this point, it is hard to see how this couple ever got together in the first place. The description of academic life made me thankful I’m a scientist, where theories are tested by experimentation, and data generally trumps personality. In Wellington, haughty professors proclaim their opinions as if they were proven facts. Although the town is fictional, the book is full of references to Boston, which I enjoyed. Overall, I would say that On Beauty probably doesn’t live up to the praise that’s been heaped upon it (it has won several awards for fiction), but it is still an enjoyable and worthwhile read. I have a paperback copy if anyone wants to borrow it.


My friends Kevin and Karen are still traveling around the globe. They have amazing pictures posted from Easter Island and Antarctica posted on their blog. OMG, you guys, penguins!

The Fug Girls are still making me laugh, hard. Lindsay Lohan's tribute to Poison frontman Bret Michaels? Genius!

March Madness has begun. Here's a printable bracket from I'm one of the few people who much prefer the NBA to college basketball, but I do like to bet. Out of school loyalty, I will be cheering for Notre Dame, although, to be honest, I've never been a huge fan of their program or style of play (at least now I won't be forced to listen to my ND fans rave about Chris Thomas. I couldn't STAND him as a player.) Or Mike Brey's love for mock turtlenecks. Upon first glance, I seriously thought this was a picture of Jerry Seinfeld, circa 1996. Last year, I won two of the three pools I entered, but I doubt I will get so lucky again. Also, for those of you who used to read the Daily Quickie, author Dan Shanoff has been running a quickie-style sports blog ever since he left last year.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weekend Report- Fort Lauderdale edition

Friday- Spent the day lounging by the pool at my grandparents’ condo complex, where my tattoo (shamrock, lower back, I know…. how cliché) was the talk of the octogenarians. Had the early bird special for dinner at the local diner, then my grandmother and I went to Ladies’ Bingo Night. I won $2. And yes, I’m expecting my AARP membership in the mail any day now.

Saturday- Went to the beach with my grandparents, where I got the worst sunburn EVER. No, I’m not one of those idiots who doesn’t use sunscreen. I fall into an entirely separate category of idiot. The Extremely Pale tend to have a system for sunscreen application. I always put mine on in private, before I leave the house. That way, I can take my time, be thorough, and avoid any abrasive sand grains getting involved. Besides, no one needs to see all that pale jiggling. I go section by section: face, arms, legs, shoulders, chest, stomach, lower back, and save the upper back, the most burn-prone region of the body, for last. Saturday, the process went awry when I got distracted and completely forgot to put any sunscreen whatsoever on the sesnitive upper back quandrant. Add two and a half hours of midday sun, and boom…..I’m not even red, I’m fluorescent.

While at the beach, my grandparents and I met all sorts of people. I don’t know if it’s because people down south are friendlier, or if they are just lonelier, but everybody talks to you. First, a homesick mom of two young boys who moved from Massachusetts to Florida for her husband’s job. Next, a girl from Poland who teaches ESL in Cleveland. The Polish girl and I made plans to meet up that night, because apparently meeting a cute guy at the beach who wants to hang out is apparently outside my realm of. I spent the rest of the day back at the condo complex with the old timers. After dinner, I pick up the Polish girl in my grandmother's enormous light blue sedan, and she promptly informs me that she doesn’t drink but loves to go clubbing. "Wow, you’re like my exact opposite," I tell her. We go out for coffee then chec out a local club, which turns out to be packed with college kids celebrating SPRING BREAK 2007! GIVE IT UP EVERYBODY! WOOOOO! For some reason (lack of flannel?), I seem to be much more attractive to college boys now than I was when I attended college. Polish girl (who, it turns out is the same age as me) and I stay for a little while, laugh and have a good time, then escape the madness and I head back to the retiree bunker.

Sunday- Time for this little snowbird to fly back North. A Perfect Storm of travelers converge at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, with the spring breakers headed back to school and the Sunday to Sunday cruisers flying home. After the long lines and a packed flight, I made it home and rented Superman Returns. I won’t bother writing a full review, because most people who would see it probably already have. I liked it, though. Brandon Routh makes a good Superman and a better Clark Kent, and Kate Bosworth isn’t half bad as Lois Lane, although I hope she doesn’t digest her own heart before they finish filming the next one. (Sorry, was that in poor taste?) Not a perfect movie, but a decent one, and fun to watch, although I miss the original cheesy Fortress of Solitude.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Florida bound

I'm leaving today for a weekend trip to Ft. Lauderdale to visit my grandparents, who, along with 90% of the eldery in the Northeast, fly south every winter. Poolside shuffleboard and early bird specials, here I come!

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Boston Neighborhood Project: Fort Point

In case you were wondering what happened to my Boston Neighborhood Project, I covered Davis Square in January and hit Fort Point at the end of February. On a Sunday afternoon, I decided to go for a run along the new Harborwalk. The blue signs have been up for months, but I hadn’t yet investigated. I began at the Broadway T stop and proceeded along in front of Gillette (World Shaving Headquarters!), and continued along the canal.

I found the path to be a bit confusing, and signs like these didn’t help me much.

It also seems like the Harborwalk is not finished yet, because I encountered a lot of blank placards:

At the end of the path, I was in Fort Point, surrounded by giant brick buildings. The area was completely devoid of other life forms, except for a few seagulls. I have heard that there is another section of the Harborwalk that goes along the oceanfront near the courthouse, but either it doesn’t connect to the part I took, or I couldn’t figure it out. Overall, it was a bust. Too short for a good run, and it was creepy to be the sole pedestrian with the canal on one side and vast, empty parking lots on the other. I know Fort Point is being touted as an up-and-coming area in terms of real estate, but it still looks deserted to me, at least on the weekend. I poked around some of the condo complexes and didn’t find them very appealing- sure, they’re nice, but they seem pretty lonely and isolated. I hunted around for a coffee shop or a place to grab a snack, to no avail. Maybe the Harborwalk would be a nice spot to get out at lunchtime for people who work in the area, but if you want to get some fresh air along the waterfront on the weekend, I recommend Castle Island.

Last Thursday, my mom and I went to the new Institute for Contemporary Art. All of the good things I’ve heard about the architecture of the building are true, and I enjoyed the exhibits as well. I tried not to cringe when my mom repeatedly asked the security personnel to explain the exhibits to her. “I don’t get it- is it supposed to do something?” Apparently she doesn’t know that when it comes to modern art, you are supposed to feign understanding by staring at it pensively and quietly. The downside is that, despite the building being four stories tall, there isn’t much space devoted to the art galleries themselves. Also, it isn’t all that accessible via public transportation, and we ended up parking in one of the $7 lots. The good news? Most of the exibits we saw were wonderful, and Thursday nights admission is free. Yay!

After the museum, we went to dinner at Anthony’s Pier 4. Generally, the photos on the wall of all of the stars, politicians, and bigwigs that frequented the establishment in its heyday depress me. I mean, this place was once the hottest spot in the city, and now it’s frequented by high schoolers on their way to prom night in Revere. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dining room was hopping, with what seemed like mostly business travelers. We even saw a table full of priests- something about a group of priests, all in their priestly garb, having dinner at a fancy restaurant, is comical. My mom embarrassed me once again by asking the waiter “What’s the cheapest wine you have?” (apparently she doesn’t know that you’re supposed to ask for the wine list, scan it quickly, then select the cheapest one). My mortification disappeared when he admitted that it was his first night working and that he had no idea, and then proceeded to pull a crumpled up wine list out of his pocket to show us the options. The food was excellent, and we had a table right next to the big bay window facing the ocean, so overall, it was a good night at Anthony’s. And I already feel guilty for making fun of my mom.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Article on Jesse Owens has a feel-good article up on track legend Jesse Owens and the role a junior high coach played in his athletic development. It's an early chapter from a new biography by Jeremy Schaap entitled Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Just reading this article made me crave DD's

The Boston Phoenix has an interesting article up about Boston's devotion to Dunkin Donuts, appropriately titled Choosing Our Religion: How one little post-war doughnut shop became synonymous with Boston’s identity.

How do I love Dunkin' Donuts? Let me count the ways....I love that they make your coffee for you (hey, if I'm paying for it, I don't want to put the sugar in myself. That's like making your own sandwich at a deli), I love that it's cheap and fast, I love that the coffee is weak and hot, I love a huge iced coffee on a hot summer day, I love a bagel sandwich on a lazy weekend morning, I love the commercials, I love standing in line with construction workers and executives, students and retirees, I love that the employees are employees and not "baristas," I love that they are omnipresent in this city, and most of all, I love the pumpkin muffins in the fall.

So, yeah, I'm the people that they're talking about in the article.

Weekend Report

Friday- I went over Kim and Mike’s and we ate Papa Ginos and rented a movie. A very bad movie: My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Do yourself a favor and don’t ever watch it. The pizza was good, though, and Kim gave me two bagfuls of shoes that don’t fit her anymore, so the evening did have some high points.

Saturday- Worked, played soccer, and entertained visitors. My friend Colann and her boyfriend Dave came up from Rhode Island for the night. We decided to stay local and had dinner at Café Porto Bello, a little piece of the North End right in Southie! When I queried my guests about their preferences for after dinner drinks, they enthusiastically opted for the “dive bar” category, so we went to the Quencher Tavern. If you picture a narrow sidestreet full of residential triple deckers, and the first floor of one of them has been converted into a bar, with a Tom Brady mural painted on what would normally be the living room window, and it's full of friendly drunk people, with a heavy dose of dirty old man, then you can imagine what the Quencher is like. I'd link to the website, but it doesn't have one. Here we are:

Sunday- Slept in, then I took advantage of the nice (well, for March) weather and went for a long run along Castle Island. I am finally getting back into the running again, after almost a year of combating plantar fasciitis. My multifaceted treatment included icing, stretching, and resting, cortisone injections, a ridiculous boot I have to wear at night, othrotic inserts, and a permanent ban on flip flops and flats. It’s just one of those chronic, lingering injuries that are best treated by time. And of course, it only became so severe because I foolishly ignored the pain and continued to run and play soccer for a few months after it started bothering me. I’m not going to train for another marathon anytime soon, but I finally feel ready to get back into my normal 5 mile, 4 days a week running routine. Anyways, I ran up to the base of the fort at Castle Island so I could catch a glimpse of the USS JFK, the aircraft carried that is making a farewell stop in Boston before it gets decommissioned. Man, that thing is gigantic. I saw it lit up at night driving across the Summer St. bridge and it was even more impressive.

I rented Babel, and I didn’t really like it. I mean, it's not My Super Ex-Girlfriend bad, but I’m tired of the whole “let’s cover a serious topic by creating a bunch of mini-storylines that somewhat intertwine, bonus points if they involve people of different ethnicities or nationalities” vein of moviemaking. (Traffic, Crash, Syrianahmmm, a one-word title must be part of the format.) I’ve recently seen a couple of other movies (Pan’s Labyrinth, Children of Men) that blow Babel out of the water in terms of originality, creativity and the ability to captivate an audience. After seeing Babel, I’m really surprised that it was nominated for Best Picture. The acting was fine, but the characters and the movie seemed too formulaic for me.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stuff to read

Chuck Klosterman does a New York Times piece on the NBA's most loveable weirdo, Gilbert Arenas.

Also, although I haven't seen, nor do I plan to see, the movie Black Snake Moan, Pajiba (a film commentary site I normally detest) rips the film a new rectum in the review. Basically, the reviewer calls it revolting, a fake-artsy soft-core porn filled with racist, sexist, and anti-Southern stereotypes. Which is exactly what I assumed after seeing the trailer. Christina Ricci has always grossed me out- I don't know why she's so revered in indie circles. She can't act, and if you take away her goth image, she's nothing more than another Hollywood surgeried-up anorexic.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Friday Fun

Hey, it's March! This means that vile February is over, and St. Patrick's Day is coming soon. In honor of he who drove the snakes from Ireland and in celebration of The Departed's Best Picture win, here's:

I'm Shippin' Up To Boston, (mp3) by the Dropkick Murphys for your downloading pleasure.

Bonus Track: My favorite Pogues tune, Tuesday Morning (mp3)

I was just introduced to Wonkette a snarky, DC website along the lines of Defamer and Gawker, except they make fun of politicians instead of celebrities. A favorite target is Rick Santorum (or Rick Sanatorium, as he is known in some parts, i.e. my brain), the Pennsylvania Republican who lost his Senate seat in the last round of elections. Feast your eyes upon this glorious photo of Sanatorium giving his concession speech, with his family at his side.:

Aside from the son inadvertantly (or deliberately?) flipping the bird to the nation while pushing up his glasses, the crying daughter is holding a doll who is wearing the same dress that she is. You can see it better here. Good thing I didn't give up making fun of children for Lent.

Lastly, someone made a response to SNL's hilarious "Dick in a Box" video: My Box in a Box

Two of my favorite kinds of news stories

1. A new interspecies orangutans and tiger cubs are playmates at an Indonesian zoo. The cuteness! It burns!
(Two people actually emailed the story to me.)

2. New species discovered. In a five year survey of fish markets in Indonesia, scientists have identified twenty new species of sharks and rays. I can't help but think of the crazy-looking shark from the Life Aquatic, but, unfortunately, I could not find a picture of it. You have failed me, Google Image.