Sunday, February 24, 2008

Remember the 80's?

We went to a neighborhood party last night. The theme: 1980s. Brilliant! I chose to dress as one of the coolest guys I remember from the 80's: Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice (as portrayed by Mr. Don Johnson). Check out my hot bride with her leggings and hairspray in full regalia:

Can you believe my whole outfit cost less than $20 on top of clothes already in my closet? The party store had Ray Ban Wayfarer knockoffs for only $1.49. Definitely check that place out next time you need a costume.

The owners of Fell's Market (local celebrities) were there and wouldn't you know it they chose to dress as Miami Vice guys as well. "Are you vice too?" they asked without any hesitation. One of the brothers had a nifty under-the-jacket holster that really heightened the legitimacy of the outfit. Well done!

It was great to get to see our neighbors under circumstances other than the usual, when we're all herding our kids who just want to play away from the occasional car. We really do have great neighbors, and for that we are very grateful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A love letter to sleep

To my long lost beloved,

You used to come so easy
Refreshing and strengthening me
Though now I catch you in only bouts
Responsibilities keeping us apart.

Rarely are you mine in the daylight
Though I remember our time together
Till noon, a long time ago.
Will you be mine again, one day?


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Boston Wine Expo

For Christmas, Deanna got me tickets to the Boston Wine Expo. Today was payoff day- and we had a great time hanging out together just the two of us. We had gracious babysitters lined up, and after a few moments of worrying about Sam and Will we were focused on enjoying our time together. We even took mass transit in from Wellesley for the first time- the "T" is what they call the subway here in Boston. The green line to the red line to the silver line- $2! What a deal.

The show was a bit of "mosh pit meets wine tasting" experience. Very crowded and difficult to get around to taste the wines. It was a good opportunity to quickly taste a lot of wines we otherwise wouldn't have tried. Above all, it was great hanging out just the two of us- totally unencumbered, totally undistracted. Check out this cheesy picture of us:

The highlight of the show, no doubt, came right at the beginning. We've discovered a little program on the Internet called "Wine Library TV"- a daily wine video blog. The host of the show, Gary Vaynerchuck is an incredibly energetic and entertaining guy. I've learned a ton about wine by watching the show, and I'd encourage you all to give his show a look. We got a chance to meet Gary and talk with him for a while. What a great guy. Down to earth, at ease, funny; he acted like we were old friends when we were talking to him. It was a little surreal talking to him because we've watched him so much on his show and his demeanor in person is very similar to how he is on the show. It was like we were talking to our imaginary TV friend yet he was talking back. I think the key to Gary's success is the inclusive way he talks to people- he makes everyone feel like they're welcome to the party. Here's the three of us below:

Food was unfortunately scarce at the show, mostly cheese and chocolate. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we needed some food after guzzling wine for 2 hours! So we took the opportunity to visit a restaurant we'd been meaning to visit- Smith and Wollensky. Rather than take the plunge and drop $200 on dinner there, we wanted to sit at the bar and sample some smaller dishes. The food was so-so, but the service was phenomenal. From the moment we walked in until the moment we left we were treated exactly how I like to be treated at a restaurant. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be back there any time soon- The Capital Grille remains my favorite steak house.

Update (1/27/2009): We also attended the 2009 Boston Wine Expo. Check out our impressions here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Comcast TiVo Review

It has been a month now since we upgraded from Comcast DVR service to Comcast TiVo service. Comcast is (I believe) the first cable company to partner with TiVo to provide the critically acclaimed TiVo interface on cable company DVR boxes. More information on the offering here:

What you get:
  • A new TiVo remote
  • TiVo interface
  • Comcast On Demand works with the guide
  • One box, one bill- all from Comcast

What you don't get:
  • A new box- the old Comcast DVR box remains
  • Amazon Unbox support
  • TiVo "to-go"
  • I'm a sucker for the cool TiVo sounds
  • WishList programming has found shows I never would have found with regular DVR
  • The TiVo remote is pretty nice
  • On Demand still works

  • Slow channel up/down
  • Slow/Flaky channel guide behavior
  • Flaky overall behavior

We've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the TiVo so far. It is a very new product and as such it is downright flaky. The thing goes off in the weeds for minutes at a time quite often. I've had to reboot it a couple of times. I don't know how "snappy" most TiVo boxes are, but this box is a little slow at times, especially for common tasks like "channel up".

I thought I'd lost the secret squirrel "30-second skip" trick that is available on TiVo boxes (and on the Comcast DVR), but I found a way to re-enable it.

Comparing the cost of this to buying a box from TiVo and subscribing to TiVo service is a tricky equation. There are some general pros and cons of going the TiVo route vs. renting the box and service from Comcast, and perhaps some compelling arguments can be made for buying a real TiVo box. But for the purpose of simplicity, let's assume that Comcast TiVo delivers value to you equivalent to a TiVo HD box. The TiVo HD box costs $299. Monthly TiVo service costs $12.95/mo. If you pay for 3 years of service up front, the cost comes down to $299. If you get the TiVo, you have to get 2 cable cards. Comcast charges $1.91 per month for the 2nd cable card. If you get Comcast TiVo installation is $17.95; TiVo installation is free/do-it-yourself.

The monthly cost of TiVo service (if you do a 3-year pre-pay) is $8.30 + $1.91=$10.21. The monthly cost of the Comcast TiVo service is $15.90. If we look at a 1-year scenario, TiVo costs $450 vs. $208 for Comcast Tivo. For a 3-year scenario, TiVo costs $667 vs. $590 for Comcast TiVo. The break-even point is around 4 years. After that TiVo becomes a better deal.

Given the pace of change in this space, I like the model where I don't have to pay anything up front for the box and I can cancel any time. I think we'll see how things go with this Comcast TiVo box for the next few months to a year and re-evaluate things at that time. Who knows, maybe I'll convince Deanna that we need to upgrade to a massive flat panel TV, a TiVo Series 4, *and* an AppleTV for good measure.


The Comcast TiVo continues to be flaky and for as much as it is nice having a DVR, it does some seriously stupid things:


We eventually abandoned the Comcast TiVo in favor of the regular Comcast box because new features like Comcast Caller ID and online programming weren't available on the Comcast TiVo box. It doesn't feel like Comcast is investing a lot of effort in sustaining their proprietary TiVo box.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Green Foodie's Manifesto

Food and its preparation are consuming- lame pun intended- for me and something I'm passionate about. I have been feeding my family mostly organic since 2005 at which time the impetus for making the switch was Sam's arrival. Since then, numerous people in my life have questioned my rationale for this choice so I've gathered my thoughts and a bit of research to share.

Much of my pregnancy reading mentioned the importance of feeding infants and children organic. For the last year, I've also been trying to incorporate seasonal food into our diet too. The two compliment each other and my values. Both approaches are environmentally responsible and healthful.

Food & the Environment:
Organic food is good for the environment because it's produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals that pollute the earth in the process. Buying organic also supports businesses selling goods produced by more environmentally responsible means. As more consumers choose organic options, the economics of the equation become more favorable for us all. Simply put, organic food will become cheaper and more attainable for us as demand for it grows.

Local, seasonal food means less carbon emissions resulting from transportation. Calculate the carbon footprint of those New Zealand kiwis and you'll know just what I'm talking about.

Food & Good Health:
In terms of healthfulness, I believe eating organic foods mitigates a yet unproven health threat. I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm uncertain about whether factory and conventional farming practices leave toxic residues behind in the finished product. Look at how Alar was used on apples for decades before it was proven to be a human carcinogen and the EPA subsequently banned it. Conventional chemicals used in farming today may be more of the same and given the option, I choose to not be the guinea pig in case that unfortunate truth is proven in the future. Additionally, there are some studies that show organic foods are actually more nutritious.

Eating local, seasonal food is a healthy alternative to the year-round repertoire because it introduces dietary variety. This ensures no nutrients are missed in our diet. If not challenged to make the most of our local produce, how else would I have become so adept at preparing butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash?

With all the information that's out there, Bob and I decided to practice the precautionary principle and choose organic whenever we can. It takes more time and money, but it's a choice I feel grateful to be able to make.

There are, of course, exceptions to organic eating in our house because we are reasonable people with two young children. (And everyone knows life can be challenging enough without climbing up on one's organic high horse.) First, I try not to lose sight of the big picture. Making major dietary improvements like eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is step one in improving any diet. Making the switch to organic is step two and should be done in a reasonable and thoughtful fashion. Sometimes I have to remind myself: it's better to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than organic cookies. Also, if I limit us to eating only organic, we'll miss out on many healthy foods that I simply can't find in the organic variety. Eating organic as much as we can takes away the mom angst I feel when Sam comes home from school with lips stained the color of Red #5. I'll do my best to control the food served when it's under my roof and when the kids are out, well, I won't feel so bad about what they eat. After all, nobody likes a soup nazi- especially not an organic one.

In my next post, I'll address some of my tactics for making this choice a feasible one for a young family. Until then, throw me some comments. What's your take on going organic?
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