Monday, November 27, 2006

one holiday down, one to go

I don't feel like recapping my entire weekend in depth this morning, so I'll just mention the highlights:

I prepped the turkey and started making the gravy late Wednesday night after spending most of the evening drinking with some friends. While the gravy was simmering on the stove, I was downstairs at the bar enjoying a few more beers. Maybe it was my state of inebriation, or maybe it was the fact that I used the giblets to make it, but that was the best gravy I've ever had. I could drink it straight. The brined turkey came out juicy and delicious, just as I'd hoped. Thanksgiving dinner was a complete success, and the old and new friends who dined at my apartment thoroughly enjoyed the meal. In the process, I used every single plate and bowl in my set of dishes. I've never seen that happen before.

Saturday night was a "Match Game" marathon viewing party at a friend's apartment. It was a collision of worlds as old friends from Georgetown got reacquainted and met new friends from New York and beyond. I took some of the photos from that night, but I don't remember which ones -- someone else commandeered my camera and got some great snapshots.

I also saw The Departed (finally!) and Casino Royale this weekend. They're both excellent movies, but they could each lose about 15 minutes. I spent nearly six hours in movie theaters this weekend, and I only saw two films.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

my annual pre-Thanksgiving slow day post

I could probably re-post last year's pre-Thanksgiving post without changing any of the details and it would be just as appropriate now as it was then. But there's no "we" anymore, just me, so the plans for tonight, tomorrow, and the rest of the weekend differ greatly from last year. Considering the events of last year's Thanksgiving weekend, which I didn't even allude to in this space, I'm happy for the changes. My God, it really has been a year. Hard to believe.

As in past years, I'm staying in the city for Thanksgiving. I was tempted to visit my family this year, but even if I'm traveling by myself it's still a serious pain in the ass to get out of New York for this weekend. I'm hosting tomorrow night's dinner for some friends at my apartment, and I'm in charge of the turkey, gravy, and cornbread. This evening, I'm brining the 13-lb turkey in a giant bucket of salt water. I've brined chickens before, but never a turkey. Brining the bird is supposed to seal in all the moisture and leave you and your guests with an extra-juicy turkey. It's worked for roast chicken, so it should work just as well on a turkey, just on a larger scale. Tomorrow morning James arrives with the roasting pan and we'll cook that bad boy for about four hours. Hopefully, when the rest of my guests arrive in the afternoon we'll have an actual meal to serve them. No matter what, the best thing about having dinner at my apartment is that when I'm ready to pass out in a food coma, I can do it on my own couch.

I'm not sure how I'm spending the rest of my weekend, but I'll probably see at least one movie and maybe finish up one of the projects I've been working on at home lately. If nothing else, it will be a much less dramatic weekend than last year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

pre-Thanksgiving weekend activities

I haven't posted a weekend wrap-up lately, though I've been keeping busy. Most of the time my weekends consist of waking up around 10 AM on Saturday, watching an EPL game on FOX Soccer Network, then figuring out what to do with the rest of my day. Sundays are roughly the same, except that on Sunday nights I go to a friend's apartment to watch "The Amazing Race." This weekend wasn't that different, but I did make some changes.

On Saturday afternoon I went to Mo's Caribbean to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game with some friends, both partisan and non-. Mo's has a frat-boy feel to it, and just about everyone there had some stake in the game, so whenever either team scored the place erupted in cheers and drunken renditions of "Hail To The Victors" or the OSU fight song. The game was as entertaining as I'd hoped, and the rowdy atmosphere made for a fun viewing experience, definitely better than watching it at home. James couldn't see the game, so I sent him updates by text message in the 2nd half. I have to get a better deal on text messages in my next cell phone plan, because I'm too cheap to pay 10 cents a message.

After the game I ate a quick dinner at a pizza joint and hopped on the subway to Williamsburg to catch up with some friends from work who were wrapping up an all-day pub crawl. The first stop was Barcade, a bar with an assortment of 1980s-era arcade games and at least 20 microbrews on tap. After a few drinks there, the remainder of the pub crawl group moved on to The Levee to wrap up. I ended up getting home around 2 AM, thankfully not so drunk as to be hung over on Sunday.

On Sunday morning another friend from work picked me up in his SUV and we drove out to Ikea so I could pick up some new furniture. Last week I wrote about my old bookcase nearly falling over on me. I'd looked around my neighborhood at some other bookcase and dresser options, but I hadn't seen anything in my price range or that I really preferred over something from Ikea. My friend agreed to give me a ride and save me the delivery charge, and I promised we'd go early so he could have the rest of his day for his own plans. I bought a new six-drawer dresser for my bedroom, a new bookcase, a second CD tower for my living room, and a new floor lamp for the living room and a desk lamp for my office. We got back from the store at 12:30, and I spent the rest of my afternoon assembling the bookcase, lamp, and dresser. I was going to wait until my friends came over on Thursday for Thanksgiving to move the old bookcase to the trash, but when I noticed it had the same hex bolts as the Ikea furniture I took it apart and threw it out in pieces. It was in surprisingly decent shape after all, and I probably could have moved some other things around and kept it. But since it didn't match anything else in my apartment and it was so old I decided to trash it anyway. And after I'd re-shelved all my books I didn't need a second bookcase.

I took some photos of the mess I made yesterday, so check them out in this Flickr set. Note the special appearance by Vladi in one of the photos.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I coulda been a conductor

I've developed a habit of humming, whistling, or singing along with whatever music I'm listening to, usually classical music. This isn't news to anyone close to me, as I've been doing this for years, probably as far back as my teens. It's sort of like the noises the late Glenn Gould made on his recordings. I'm aware of this habit, and when I'm at work or in a quiet environment I try to keep it down. But when I'm walking or, more recently, on the subway, the occasional odd hum or scat-like sound comes out. This evening I was waiting in line at the grocery store and listening to a Beethoven piano concerto, and absent-mindedly humming along with the music. The guy in front of me must have heard me, because he turned and looked at me like I was crazy. I'm not really self-conscious about this habit, but I'm beginning to think I should be.

The good thing is that unlike Gould, I don't hum or sing along when I'm playing the viola. I can't play and talk, sing, or hum at the same time. In fact, when I was in college I had an exam for a music theory class where I had to play one melody and sing a different tune at the same time. It was one of the most difficult musical things I've had to learn, and I doubt I could do it again now. Also, this habit is not to be confused with my other habit of "air-conducting" along with classical music. Since I live alone and sit in a cubicle by myself at work, I'm not at all worried that someone is going to see me conducting an orchestra that isn't there.

All of these weird idiosyncracies are probably signs that I should have pursued a career in music, or at least gotten back into active playing well before this fall.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

old bookshelves and new books

I have an old bookcase at home. I don't know how old it is, exactly; it came with my first post-college apartment in Washington, and I brought it to New York when I moved here in 1999. It's a cheap piece of junk that was ready for replacement seven years ago, and continued years of abuse by piling too many books on it have not helped matters. Since I moved to my current apartment on the UES, the bookshelf has been listing to one side, and it's been obvious that the end is near for my oldest piece of furniture. On Monday night, I was looking through my cookbooks for a particular recipe when one of the shelves started to collapse. One of the plastic pins supporting the shelf fell out of its hole and the others looked ready to go at any minute. I started pulling books off the weakened shelf and putting them on the floor in a calm, methodical manner. That's when the entire bookcase shifted even more to one side and looked ready to fall over entirely. I held up the bookcase with my right hand and started throwing books onto the floor, trying to accomplish in my own way what the bookcase seemed intent on doing without my help. While I was doing this, the cats looked at me like I was crazy, and I'm sure I looked ridiculous as I hurled books to the floor while leaning against the bookcase. (To be fair, the cats always look at me like I'm crazy. I'll save that for another post.) I cleared the collapsed shelf and moved some other books from another shelf, so the bookcase appears to be stable now. But I've got books piled on the floor and on my old computer desk instead of on the shelf, and I still have a bookcase that's leaning to the right and threatening to fall over any time. I think I'll have to go shopping for a new bookcase this weekend.

In the meantime I gave away a few books to a co-worker and started thinking about getting rid of some of my other books. Clearly, getting more books would be a bad idea given my current situation. However, on Wednesday night, James and I went to the Borders at the Time Warner Center for a discussion and signing of The Blind Side with Michael Lewis. I bought a copy of Lewis' new book for him to sign, and since the store gave all of us coupons for 30% off any sports books, I bought Friday Night Lights as well. I love the TV show, and I didn't see the movie last year because I wanted to read the book first. So I gave away two books, and I picked up two more. My grand plan to decrease the number of books in my office is off to a smashing start.

One note on the signing: James, along with a few other people in front of us, had Lewis personalize the signature in the book. But I just had him sign it for me without putting my name in it. If I'd planned to give the book as a gift, I'd have had him personalize it. Since the book is for me, I didn't feel like I needed to see "To Phil" next to the signature. James accused me of intending to re-sell the book on eBay, which made me think that's what Lewis thought I planned to do as well. Rest assured I'm not selling my copy of The Blind Side on eBay. I do remember reading somewhere that signed copies of books are worth more without a personalized inscription, and that did play into my thinking. But I just didn't need to see my own name on the inside of the book.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

fun at the polls

I voted on my way to the gym this morning at 7:15 AM. The polls had been open for an hour, and that's as long as it took for the voting machine for my precinct to break down. This is what happens when your machines date back to the Eisenhower administration. When the poll workers couldn't figure out why the main lever was stuck, they started handing out paper ballots. "Now our votes only count if it's close," I said to another woman waiting in line with me. I sat down at the table, with no privacy curtain or cardboard box to hide my choices, and filled out the ballot in pen. The poll worker in charge of the precinct told us to write our names on the ballots. Uh, no, I don't think so. I told her it's supposed to be a secret ballot, so I didn't write my name on mine. I just folded it up and gave it back to her. The way I figure it, I'd already signed the voter roll, so that proves that I voted. Had I voted by machine, it doesn't record my name, so why would I put my name on the paper ballot? But I'm sure that they don't count paper ballots unless the election is close, and in New York none of the major races are going to be close. So I showed up to vote, but I'll just have to accept on faith that my vote counted for something.

This is supposed to be the last election for the old voting machines in New York. Next year we're supposed to get new electronic voting machines. I can just imagine the lines at the polls next year, with the poll workers being just as clueless as the voters as to how the machines work. I think I'll vote absentee ballot next time.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

our long laundry nightmare is over

Of course the laundromat was closed when I got there last night at 5:30, despite their earlier promise to stay open until 6 PM. But they were open this morning at 11, as promised. Half open, as it turned out. The front shutters were halfway up, so I had to squeeze through the door to get in. There were two guys working with power tools in the back, and if I were a less honest person, I could have just grabbed my stuff and left. Instead, I paid them, and I didn't even complain about the fact that they held onto my laundry without any indication that I'd ever be able to pick it up. I unpacked it when I got home, and everything was there, with the added bonus that nothing smelled like smoke.

So all's well that ends well, and so on. I realize now that I was exaggerating the effect of this "hostage crisis" on my life, but I did really want my clothes back. I could afford to replace the things in that bag, but it was a matter of principle. I shouldn't have to replace it unless the original clothes were destroyed in the fire. I do still need to go shopping for more clothes, but now I can afford to wait a few more days and go when it's convenient to my schedule, instead of changing my plans so I can buy some emergency khakis.