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Monday, November 29, 2010

Cutting the cable

A Wall Street Journal article notes that the number of pay-TV subscriptions has fallen:
For the first time since the dawn of cable TV, the number of U.S. households paying for TV subscriptions is falling, marking a potential turning point in the TV business.
Between the first and third quarters of this year, 335,000 fewer homes out of 100 million subscribed to TV service from a cable, satellite or telecom company, according to research firm SNL Kagan.

The economy probably plays a role, as does the ability to watch TV content on the internet. But when I was last out in San Francisco visiting my brother, he noted that almost none of his friends have cable. I think it's probably 50/50 among my friends here in DC, but it's certainly not unusual to not have cable. Most of these people watch some television online, but I think there's the beginnings of a trend toward less television watching among younger demographics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pete's Donuts

While I was home for Thanksgiving, Uncle Dick stopped by one morning. He came partly because he just wanted to stop by, but also because he had read my account of Doughnut Quest 2010 and wanted to bring some from Pete's Donuts, a New Haven favorite. (You'll notice that the box says "Whitney Donut Shop," but to those in the know -- which certainly includes Dick, a long-time customer -- it will always be known by the owner's name.)

As you can see, Dick brought us a very impressive spread of doughnuts. I tried the glazed, French cruller, blueberry jelly, and blueberry cake varieties. While I did not do a full DQ2010 scoring sheet workup, I kept our rating criteria in mind as I ate.

Overall, I'd put Pete's at the top end of the traditional doughnut shops we tried. The dough of the glazed was the right density and level of sweetness for my taste, and the fried-ness was just right. The French cruller had fewer spice notes in the flavor than others we had tried, but it was notably lighter and eggier, and I liked it a lot. Like the other traditional doughnut shops we rated, it can't compete with gourmet places like Doughnut Plant (where I, ahem, also stopped on my way back to DC), but Pete's puts in a very good showing.

Speaking of calories, some of my other Thanksgiving photos can also be seen on Flickr.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

TV news

I had a very nice Thanksgiving here in Connecticut, and am headed back to DC tomorrow, via NYC.

As a cranky aside to follow my somewhat-cranky prior post: My typical abstention from television was broken by being at my parents' house, and it reminded me how inane television news coverage is and how it lacks any sense of proportion. The latest round of push and pull over airport security turns into "OMG! Crisis at the airport! Rebellion in the security line!"

This also shows up in coverage of holiday shopping. I realize that Black Friday is tailor-made for TV news, but I do not under any circumstances want to hear another story about it. And more broadly, news coverage of holiday shopping is all organized around breathless anticipation of "Will consumers spend more than last year?" It starts to make you feel that if you're not planning to spend more, you're just not doing your part. The fact that gauging whether or not more crap was purchased than last year is seen as the best barometer of the "success" of a holiday season is just kind of depressing. Time to bring in Reverend Billy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Takedown notice

I received two "takedown notices" from Blogger for my most recent Songs of the Moment post:
Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog is alleged to infringe upon the copyrights of others.
If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.

Actually, I do have some legal questions about this notice, but since I'm not going to retain legal counsel, I'll just pose them here: If there was no copyrighted content in the post itself -- just hyperlinks to pages on YouTube -- how can I be in copyright violation? If the video I linked to is violating copyright, wouldn't having YouTube take it down be the way to address that? If linking to infringing content on other websites puts me in direct violation of copyright, how am I supposed to determine the legality of things before I link to them? A couple of the videos I linked to were obviously posted by the record label or artist, and a couple others were ambiguous. But even for the couple videos that were obviously posted by some random person, that is legal in many cases because the copyright owners have deals with YouTube to show ads (and get the revenue) on any videos that use their content. It's not possible for me to sort this out.

I presume that this whole process took place without any human intervention along the way -- a system scanning the web on behalf of a record label identified my nefarious links and sent an automated notification to my host, Blogger, whose systems automatically took down my post and emailed me the takedown notice. So it's possible that the system just messed up and linking to other websites isn't considered infringement. But if it is, I consider that pretty unreasonable.

I actually got two takedown emails for the same blog post, which presumably means there were two different links flagged. I wasn't able to locate these two complaints in the database that the takedown notices directed me to, so I can't tell which links were accused of being in violation. So I took all links out of the post before republishing, but I'll admit to being a bit grumpy about it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen progress

Last year, I wrote a post about my relatively limited cooking repertoire, and my desire to expand the number of dishes that I know well enough to not work from a recipe. Now that the cold(er) weather has arrived, I'm more enthused about cooking again. Yesterday afternoon I made pumpkin-ginger pancakes...they were very tasty, and more substantial than regular pancakes, but I still somewhat regretted making them my lunch, which usually happens when I decide to make pancakes for a non-breakfast meal.

In addition to the lasagna and quiche that I noted in the previous post, I now feel comfortable improvising with vegetable soup, stir fry, and polenta. Granted, polenta is probably the only thing on that list that goes at all beyond kitchen basics, but I still consider this a reasonable rate of progress. I've also gotten better at preparing salmon a couple different ways and with different accompaniments. And I've made pad Thai a few times, but I'm still pretty tethered to the recipe. Any suggestions on dishes that are relatively easy/quick to make, and can be varied on the fly to stave off boredom?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Night photography

It's been a gorgeous fall weekend here in DC. Last night I decided to take advantage of the weather to take a ride down to the Mall and try some night photography, now that I have a legit camera. The World War II Memorial and the Washington Memorial, seen below, are good subjects, because they're dramatically lit, and thus easy to shoot.

A couple others are on Flickr.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Songs of the Moment (An Occasional Feature)

> Santogold - Lights Out
> Arcade Fire - Ready to Start
> Sleigh Bells - Tell 'Em
> Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
> Matt and Kim - Daylight
> Battles - Tonto

The linked video for "Tonto" is pretty awesome.

(EDIT 11/24: I had to get rid of the links because Blogger said it had received a copyright violation complaint on this post.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Visit to NYC

I went to New York this past weekend, in part to celebrate Alex's 30th birthday. Saw some old friends from both high school and college, too, which was great.

The weather was gorgeous, and even though NYC isn't the New England countryside, the foliage was still a really nice touch. A few of my pictures are up on Flickr.

Despite the awesome weather, we spent a fair bit of time in the movie theater, seeing I Can't Sleep (a French film from 1994) and Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (a new American indie film). I liked them both a lot, especially Guy and Madeline, which one might call a mumblecore musical.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back of the napkin

In DC, people can oftentimes be overheard in talking in public about arcane policy topics in great detail. Occasionally, one wonders if the conversation at the next table over might actually be between Very Important People who are assessing the options in preparation for a big decision.

Combining that with the Washington tradition of writing things on napkins during meals, I have arrived at a new pastime: When eating out, write stuff on napkins that looks sort of cryptic and important, and leave them behind to befuddle those who might pick them up. This past weekend Alex put in this excellent effort, which was left on the table at Ella's.

I think the inclusion of "panda travel" was particularly inspired. (The napkin also shows the influence of Fair Game, which we had all just seen at E Street.)