Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's no Fios...but it Does the Trick

I ran an Internet speed test from home last night.

It appears I underestimated my download speed and overestimated my upload speed.

Nonetheless, a bit more blazing than my test on Tuesday from the Quincy office.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Prowlers in Southie

I managed a work-from-home day today with our weekly ice/sleet/rain event, and as usual was quite productive. It's probably a combination of a much faster Internet connection and fewer distractions. I left my house just three times, twice for dog walks (Rosie still had her play group and arrived home drenched - $15 well spent!) and one more time to buy milk, clean off the car, and (as usual) shovel the sidewalk.

During my shoveling, I saw a parking enforcer ticket a resident parked at the end of our side street. I almost parked in that same spot a couple nights ago, but knowing that for some odd reason cars at the end always seem to be ticketed, I thought better of it. Perhaps they are citing them for proximity to the curb cutout.

A few hours later during the final walk, I saw not only another parking enforcement vehicle shining the bright lights atop its car - I'm guessing the side and front lights allow them to spot resident stickers from inside their vehicles - but also two police cars circling the block.

Strange, I thought.

Could they also be seeking parking offenders?

Triple duty in Southie?

Nope. Instead we appear to have a prowler lurking.

Another prowler. Great.

I saw the police stop at a neighbor's house. Out emerged a woman who I always see walking her pooch. Either we have the same schedules, or she's simply always walking her dog.

I overheard her mention to the officers that she was on another dog walk (naturally) and she saw an unwelcome guy testing the handles of random parked vehicles. It appears he tried to break into a car familiar to her, and after discovering that it was locked, attempted another one, triggering the car alarm in the process (which come to think of it, I heard the alarm from my kitchen before we left for the walk).

Just what we need. More reports of attempted break-ins.

I find it a bit amusing that I fit the description of who she saw - white dude wearing a hoodie. Even though I had a dog in tow, I saw the cops peering my way, judging and wondering if they stumbled into the good fortune of seeing the perpetrator right there on the street.

Good thing I didn't bolt. That would have been an awkward chase. Icy sidewalks, holding a dog, and me being not guilty and all...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why I'm Hostile

I just did a speed test on our agonizingly slow network here at work. While these results are awful, they unfortunately aren't atypical here in the office:

Download speed 893 kb/s
Upload speed 40 kb/s

I have DSL at home (?!) and I hit download speeds of almost 2000 kb/s and upload of about 1100 kb/s.

Watching web pages load in - and the web apps that I use all day, every day, is like watching animated gifs and bitmaps load into websites from 1996.

Inefficiency makes me extremely hostile.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Since Thursday

Since Thursday, I managed to...

1. Go to the Apple store on Boylston St. twice and switch two friends to iPhone in the process

2. Weigh myself for the first time in forever. As expected, the results were not pretty. But good thing....

3.'s Day 1 of the 11-day diet! I have about 8 weeks between now and St. Patrick's Day, which means four turns of the diet are available to me (11 days on, 3 days off)

4. Spend $90 at Whole Foods on 13 items.

5. Learn that amidst those 13 items is Whole Foods' freshly ground coffee - their house blend actually - which I discovered tastes awful.

6. Claim victory in a Game Night bout of Apples to Apples

7. Be called hostile

8. Book a hotel and car for the Iceland trip.

9. Read news stories about the Icelandic government falling, "leaving the island nation in political turmoil amid a financial crisis that has pummeled its economy and required an international bailout to keep the country afloat."

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009 Phone Books - 25% more!

It's that time of year again.

Phone books.

My 401k might have dropped by 34% last year, but my phone directory portfolio is up by 25%!

Good thing they delivered FIVE Yellow Pages this year. Verizon must be aware that we considered adding TWO stories to our Southie triple decker. Quintuple deckers are all the rage these days.

I'm assuming that the same person dropped all of these off yesterday. I just don't get the logic. Look at the building - there's three units here. So why not leave FIVE White pages and FIVE Yellow pages, right? It doesn't make sense.

My next-door neighbors probably received an identical delivery. They too have three units. That would, then, be TEN books of each color for a maximum of SIX units. Immediately, four of them would be unnecessary. That's almost this entire pile - guaranteed to be unneeded between our two buildings.

Who said everyone was cutting back in '09? The phone directory folks forge ahead, littering the landscape with more, more, and more.

These will, naturally, remain unloved in the front alcove until recycling day next week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Poor Timing - Elimination of FastLane Transponder Fee

My morning radio lately has consisted of Radio 92.9 to get me out of bed, followed by The Sandbox on WFNX to entertain me while eating breakfast, having coffee, blogging, and checking email. I then usually leave FNX on to keep Rosie company. She appears to like MGMT and The Ting Tings now.

With the inauguration, I decided to switch back to NPR. I went through a major NPR kick last year, and somehow managed to let is drift away over the past few months.

Back I am - extended news stories, mellow music beds, Morning Edition, and Bob Oakes.

This morning, upon turning on the kitchen radio, I was greeted by Bob telling me that the Masspike was doing away with the $25 fees it charges for FastLane transponders, and was instead switching to a 50 cent/month structure.


I JUST acquired one of these a couple weeks ago! What bad timing, I thought.

25 quid out the door.

I found this, however, on, which included the following factoid:

"The free transponders will be available Feb. 15 and those who bought a transponder in the 30 days before that will get a credit for that amount."

Awesome, I'll receive a credit for the transponder I purchased on January 10th.

Or so I thought.

Then I re-read that and actually thought about the words. In the 30 days before "that." NOT in the past 30 days.

I do believe that January 10th would be 36 days prior.


So now, I'm stuck with the $25 fee and 50 cent/month maintenance fee. Normally, I'd give them a ring and attempt to fight something like this, but I have a sinking feeling that I'm simply a victim of bad timing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Am Through With Winter

I totally feel like the snowstorms this weekend caught me off guard.

Were we really forecast for THIS MUCH snow?

Just staring at the piles and piles of white mountains...

And having shoveled at least 4 or 5 times already this year (somehow I appear to have inherited this responsibility for my entire building)...

And seeing little melting relief in the 10-day forecast...

I'm so fortunate that my job does not require the use of public transit and the resulting life as a downtown pedestrian. I've already lived much of the past few weeks in wool socks and hiking boots. Walking on slick, brown slush-covered sidewalks through puddles of indeterminate depth at each intersection is just a miserable experience.

This is also my first winter enjoying thrice-daily dog walks in such conditions. Last year's temperate January was a cake walk compared to this.

Tonight I had to make my way to the Back Bay for dinner. 20 minutes until the #9 showed up on Broadway, and another 15 until it rescued me from the Copley Square bus stop. Short, gingerly-taken steps amid the snowmuck in between. Another dog walk upon my return.

It's just very tiring - simply getting around. I'm ready for the Spring.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dark Month Activites

I often joke that after the holidays, Bostonians hunker down for a few months of cold, snow, ice, and darkness, emerging sometime after Easter.  Street cleaning begins again, leaves and flowers return, and people spend more time outside beyond waiting for the bus or walking the dog.

It's these months of shorter days and chillier nights that I should take advantage of Jason time.  I'm staring at a few piles of books that I must have found interesting enough to purchase but not interesting enough to read.  I should probably work my way through these at some point soon so I can purchase more books to ignore.

The magazines are piling up again as well.  Many of them are poker magazines that just aren't "must-reads" for me anymore.  I browse them, sure.  But I haven't played much these days.  I should probably add that back to my list of dark month activites.

I could also always purge my possessions and just start selling stuff.  I wonder how much I can get for a broken Sony 5 MP camera.  Or a 3.1 MP that takes pictures onto mini-CD's.  OR a rolled-up area rug.  Or

I probably don't need folders full of notes from focus groups I conducted between three and nine years ago.  Nor do I need cassette recordings of these projects.  But, I still have them.

I'm also feeling grossly undereducated on movies these days.  I canceled my Blockbuster Online a few months ago, and have sat in movie theatres so infrequently over the past year that the movies now being released on DVD are unfamiliar to me.  These days, I pretty much entirely skip the movie section of my Entertainment Weekly.  I need to become interested once again.  Perhaps I'll rent a few PPV movies or grab some off itunes.  It's just so easy to stick with what's in the DVR list that I rarely go beyond it.  I need to shake that up.

This is all temporary, though, as it's already mid-January, and I have two pretty exotic trips planned between now and Memorial Day, both of which I'm very much looking forward to.

Softball also begins in a few months, which will be fairly time consuming for a while.

One of these trips and getting ready for the softball season are my main motivating factors to drop some weight and workout.  This is a great time of year to accomplish this as well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson

I have been on many airplanes in my lifetime (hence the genesis of Platinum Elite, actually - my former frequent flier status level).

Given the odds of a plane crash are quite poor, I shouldn't say that I'm shocked that all of my flights have resulted in my (and the aircraft's) safe arrival at our destination.  While thankful, I kind of expect everything to go smoothly.

But clearly, things don't always work that way.

Yesterday's events are nothing short of a miracle - it's the kind of story we needed.

Not a plane crash.

But rather, a plane rescue.

No casualties.  Coordinated effort.  Quick, correct decisions.  Everyday people going about a usual Thursday until about 3pm.  A few hundred passengers and rescuers who lived it.  Thousands more who witnessed it.  And now millions more, slackjawed, that this ended happily.

Much of the news for months has been terrible - layoffs, foreclosures, depression, bankruptcies, and loss of wealth.  I'm trying to picture the coverage of this story if it had ended much worse.  Airplane crashing into Jersey City?  Fiery crash into the Hudson?  Jet destroys George Washington Bridge?  Plan crashes into lower Manhattan (again)?

None of that.

We need heroes these days.  What a story - remarkable story from top to bottom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Restaurante Montecristo in Eastie

After dropping Rosie off at the beauty salon on Saturday, I ventured into a part of Boston that I've seen so infrequently in my 7+ years here.

The mystical land of Eastie.

Sure, I've been to Logan Airport far more times than I can count. But I hadn't spent much time in Eastie proper, and knew very little about the neighborhood. Basically, I thought of it as Southie but much cheaper and much louder due to the constant sound of airplanes.

My journey to the "other side" of the tunnel was centered around my new FastLane toll tag. I finally switched over from EZ-Pass, motivated primarily by the Resident Tunnel program that allows me deeply discounted trips through both airport tunnels. All this time, my $3.50 trips could have been 40 cents.

I made it to the Tunpike Authority building at just the right time, as the line that grew behind me just 10 minutes after my arrival was pretty crazy. When I received my FastLane, I was told that I had to wait 30 minutes before using it.

Whether that's a racket to keep people in Eastie thereby supporting the local economy, or simply a technological fact, I hung out in Eastie for lunch (which was always my intention).

I went to my Urbanspoon iPhone app, shook it to see what came up, and it picked Restaurante Montecristo in Kelly Square.

So off I went. I found a parking spot on Meridian St. and quickly learned how Latin this area was during my brief walk to the restaurant - signs everywhere in Spanish. I was then anticipating a quick and authentic meal, exactly what I had hoped for.

And that's exactly what I received.

Inside, I turned out to be the only gringo. Mostly all of the other patrons spoke in Spanish.

The decor was unpretentious, simple, and practical, and the music they played was a mixture of cumbia, duranguense, and norteƱo - styles I relate to Texas actually, since I had once worked for a few Spanish-language music stations in Austin, McAllen, and San Antonio.

Since I had skipped desayuno, I was starving. I ordered the carne asada and a pupusa, my eyes a bit bigger than my belly.

Shortly, the server arrived with a ton of food. A bowl of three freshly made flour tortillas, the pupusa con queso with a side of dipping sauce, and a plate of carne asada atop a bed of rice, with a small side salad, avocado, salsa, and frijoles con cebollas.

Everything was awesome and reasonably priced. I grabbed a slice of their sweet bread for the road, and ended up spending $17 plus tip.

I need to research Eastie restaurants a bit - I hear it's mostly Hispanic and Italian food, possibly my two favorite types of ethnic cuisine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Despise Parking Space Saving in Southie

I just had the chance to survey the local environs during my morning walk with Rosie, and I must say, my Southie neighbors, you've disappointed me this time.

I wish people wouldn't use ANY amount of snow as an excuse to clean out their basements and save parking spots.

It's a bit absurd.

I spent far more time shoveling and salting my sidewalk (probably 30 minutes) than I did shoveling out my spot (probably 2 minutes). Perhaps I should put a cone, garbage can, and oscillating fan onto the sidewalk, thereby signifying that I don't want people walking on it.

But why did I mark my spot this morning? Because everyone else did, and out of fear for no spot when I return from work because everyone else has marked their spots.


I despise this.

And please don't tell me that if I don't like it, I should move. I'm not moving...but I can still not like it.

Take these two spots:

This person clearly did a little bit of shoveling. Emphasis on "little":

While this person did not:

Not much of a difference in the amount of snow on the street.

I would fathom to guess that even a rear-wheel drive sedan can make it into and out of either spot safely. You wouldn't need an SUV to traverse this quantity of snow.

But alas, here we are. Once again. A little snow falls in Southie, and out come the space savers.

I know this won't change. Ever. But neither will my grumpiness with the system.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Southie Neighborhood Crime Alert!

This was sent to me by a neighborhood group in Southie. Please be aware, my Southie neighbors!


"It has been requested by Boston Police sources that this information get out to as many residents as possible as quickly as possible. There has been a BIG spike in housebreaks justover the last 2 weeks. Police are asking for your help.

House breaks in South Boston are increasing in number everyday, but especially over the last 2 weeks. Be aware of the following:

- Unfamiliar people lurking in your area, often carrying duffle bags or gym bags. Police say call 9-1-1

- A common tactic now is to knock on doors, looking for people who do not live at that address - this lets burglars know if there is anyone at home. Police say call 9-1-1 if this happens at your home.

- The housebreaks are taking place mainly in daytime/weekdays. Take extra care to secure doors and windows and keep an eye on your neighbor's homes too.

Some descriptions of suspects: White males, between the ages of 20 and 30, approximately 5'10'' tall, wearing hooded sweatshirts and jeans, one is described as having a "weathered face".

PLEASE! Forward this to all residents on your personal email lists and ask them to do the same."


Fast Lane Communities Resident Program

Universal Hub rocks for many reasons.

But today, it rocks because I saw this story about The Fast Lane Communities Resident Program

(side note - when I asked if she had ever heard about this program, Karin the Irish asked if it was a program designed for people who live in the tunnels. Though she was clearly kidding, I can see how, technically, this could be inferred)

I had NO IDEA that as a Southie resident - 02127 - I was eligible. I thought it was just for people in Eastie.

So, it appears that I can use the airport tunnel for the discounted rate of whatever it is - 40 cents?


How could I have lived in Southie for almost six years and not known I was eligible?

All this time...I could have been hanging out in Eastie without fear of paying $3.50 to get home.

Saturday, I'm headed to the MTA building in Eastie, utility bill as proof of residency in tow, to hook myself up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Car Burning on Sherman Rd in Chestnut Hill

How's this for a bad morning?

My co-worker Sean lives in Chestnut Hill.

The white Jeep in this video is Sean's car.

Just as he's about to head out the door to the office, he saw a BMW pull up behind his car. The driver exited the vehicle and popped the hood. Smoke began billowing from the engine. Somehow, he was able to find some residents with fire extinguishers to spray onto the engine.

But then...

...something ignites...

...inside of the BMW...

...which is parked behind Sean's car.

Needless to say, the back of Sean's Jeep is no longer white. I'm told that the interior smells of burnt plastic.

His neighbor captured this video.

On the brighter side, I would imagine that there's no longer black ice in this part of the parking lot.

The aftermath...

The Joys of Black Ice

Nothing like a day of snow / rain / sleet / standing water / and black ice to welcome in the latter part of the week!

If it wasn't bad enough that there were gross puddles of slush everywhere yesterday, most of indeterminate depth, the entire city froze over come nightfall.

Things must have gone from bad to awful sometime between 9PM and 11PM. I came home from the gym, parked in a spot quite close to my home, surprisingly available at that time of day, and sat myself down on the couch for a few hours.

That's when I began reading the Facebook entries of my Bostonian friends slipping in falling.


Rosie and I went out for our final walk around 11PM.

She's certainly getting her dose of extended ground ice and snow this year, and the resulting physiological issues. We went through a bout of limber tail a few weeks ago, when the sudden change in temperature and snow caused her to not be able to wag her tail normally for about 48 hours.

Last night, she learned that snow is slippery. Granted she has four legs to steady her, but she was sliding a bit at first. Mostly, though, the ice kind of caused her to freak out. She was much more jittery, with sudden bursts of random acceleratory energy.

A probably-70-pound-dog (we'll learn in a few weeks) pulling me along the ice isn't a game of dexterity I was hoping to play at 11 PM last night.

After a brief block of walking on crunchy snow and dry parts of the sidewalk, and after watching cars back down E. 7th Street after failed attempts to drive that incline, we retreated back home. The one area of blacktop that we crossed was absolutely covered in ice. I basically let her pull me across.

But, I didn't fall. I'm hoping I'm not speaking too soon.

I was fully expecting a morning of ice scraping and frozen doors / car handles, but thankfully my parking spot was drenched in sun this morning. Not a single scrape needed!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Best Friends - an Elephant and a Dog....Bella and Tara

AMAZING story. It's short - just about 3 minutes. Simply amazing. Thanks to Renee from Wanna Walk who sent this to me!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Jury Duty

As a farewell to 2008, I received a summons for Jury Duty for the second time in 2008, and third time in six years.

That seems a bit excessive, to be perfectly honest, but I am pleased to perform my civic duties.

My first summons resulted in my being placed on a case at the Forest Hills courthouse in Jamaica Plain. It lasted two days. What I thought was a cut-and-dry drug-dealer-caught-red-handed resulted in an acquittal. To my surprise, while in chambers, the rest of the jury determined that the DA had not proven without reasonable doubt that the drugs were in the possession of the individual charged.

While the evidence was pretty obvious that this guy was guilty, they were right. Being the lone holdout to that point, I begrudgingly changed my vote to "not guilty," now matching the rest of the jury and acquitting this thug of his accusal.

The judge met us in chambers afterward, courteously thanking us for our participation and finally being able to comment about the case. She told us that our decision, while quite difficult, was most likely the right one, and that we might be comforted to know that the heretofore defendant was to be tried for similar charges twice more. In other words, perhaps he'd be put away after one of those trials.

My second jury duty summons resulted in a follow-up note relieving me of my duty a few weeks before the scheduled date. I guess there weren't many criminals awaiting trial in Boston earlier in the year.

Now, here we are again. Jury Duty once more. They picked an inopportune date - one where I'll be in Iceland. But, they allow jurors to postpone the service date once with no questions asked, so I replied with an alternate date.

I suppose it's odd that I'm looking forward to serving on a jury once again. But I'm a pretty atypical guy. I can't wait!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Optimism for 2009

2008 was a toughie.

I mean, it could have been a lot worse, though.

Sure, my 401k and my home are worth less now than they were a year ago.

But, it's only money. I trust I'll earn more in my lifetime.

I'm thankful that I am gainfully employed and have the distinct privilege to contribute to a company's operations. I take none of that for granted.

But I'm also confident in my abilities and grateful that my parents invested in my education. They encouraged me to learn how to fish.

My family and friends are still around, as is my dog. I'm honored that I have such great family and friends who care for me deeply. Truly, what else do I need?

Sure I have a few more greys and a few more pounds.

But I'm hopeful that '08 was a bottom for a lot of us. Time to reset.

Day #1 of 2009 has been great so far. Waking up next to Rosie, talking to my parents, bloody marys, delicious brunch, cards, and a plan for a ziti dinner and a poker day on Friday. Plus, I'm expecting there to be a movie tonight.

One day at a time. Small victories. Optimism.