(l-r) vaseline intensive care renew & protect moisturising lotion, cvs advanced healing fragrance-free lotion, vaseline intensive care dry skin lotion, eucerin plus intensive repair lotion

i've always felt weird buying moisturizer. i'm not a lotion guy, and don't need others identifying myself with one. however, over the years, during the winters, my skin has become exceptionally dry. i usually hold off on the lotion for as long as possible, scratching the hell out of my itchy skin before the numerous bloody scabs all over my body finally compel me to hit the moisturizer. so over the years i've steadily built up a small collection of lotions, and here's my personal take on which one is the best. my first foray into the strange world of moisturizer began with the vaseline dry skin lotion. fortified with vitamins A & E, it seemed like a good candidate for solving my dry skin problem. out of all my lotions, this one has the strongest smell, a little bit like fragrant gasoline. it works as advertised, and disappears quickly after you apply it. however, it's very watery and feels sort of cheap, and loses its moisturizing power soon afterwards. it's also the one moisturizer that isn't white, but rather a cream color, just like the bottle. looking for something with a little more heft, i went out and got the eucerin. for anyone who's ever suffered any skin ailments, eucerin is the brand most recommended. it was also the most expensive i recall, but i figured since i was getting the best, it was worth it. although touted as non-greasy, i've found this not to be the case; when i put it on at nights, i feel like i've been dipped in oil and it's uncomfortable. it definitely moisturizes the skin, but the greasy feeling was just too much to bare. advertised as fragrance free, eucerin does have a smell like reminds me of elmer's glue. next up is the vaseline renew + protect. it's the one i've been using most of this year and it's pretty effective. it's not watery, yet at the same time disappears quickly. it stays on my skin longer, so i feel better protected compared to the vaseline dry skin. it has an indescribable lotion smell that doesn't make me nauseous. i like it so much that with the bottle near finished, i went to CVS a few weeks ago looking to buy another. that's when i came across the CVS brand advanced healing lotion, which is a complete knockoff of vaseline renew+protect, down to the same logo treatment and color choices. always looking to save a buck or two (i think i paid $5 for the 25 oz. bottle), i decided to give the advanced healing a try. verdict: this may be the best moisturizer i've ever used. it feels like renew+protect, except it smells different: although advertised as fragrance-free, it actually smells faintly of men's cologne, which is just perfect. it also comes in a user-friendly pump so no more fumbling with the lotion bottle with greasy hands. so anyone (particularly men) looking for a good and cheap moisturizer, look no further than the CVS advanced healing.

i decided to go to the library for the first time in many years. finding some good reading material might be the remedy i need to get some good night's sleep. the nearest library was 1.3 miles away, and since i don't have a car, i had to resort to walking, which i didn't mind, fulfilled my exercise quota for the week if not the entire month. people don't do enough walking. on all my past trips, watching was the default method of transportation. every day i'd walk for miles, from morning until night. no wonder i lost all that weight! walking is also non-polluting; it's also a humbling experience; and you get to see more when you walk, more opportunities to explore.

it's been almost 3 years since i've borrowed a book from the library: prior to my southeas asia trip i went to the belmont library and took out some related travel books. as for the cambridge public library, it's been more than half a decade since i've been there, and during that time they've relocated to an elementary school while their original building undergoes extension renovations. i'd forgotten how much i love libraries: despite the fact that i'm the first person to freely admit i don't read, when i was a boy the library was my favorite place. i graduated from the children section to the adult, taking out books from every single aisle under every single topic, from fiction to non-fiction, old to new arrival. one of my parents would come pick me up and i'd carry home a stack of books i'd just checked out. my favorite subject was the occult and the unknown (UFO's, loch ness monster, bigfoot) followed by nature. growing up in belmont, i knew the public library like the back of my hand, knew which books belonged in which aisles, could find something without ever looking it up in the card catalog. i loved libraries so much that the belmont library wasn't enough, and i branched out to arlington, newton, and waltham - as well as cambridge (back then you even needed a different card for cambridge; i used my father's).

ever since i graduated college and started working, instead of borrowing books i began to buy them. that's well and good for a reference book like a dictionary or a field guide, but it doesn't make much sense for a novel that i'm just going to read once and never read again. besides, even if i did buy every book i wanted to read, it'd still never match the amount of books available for borrowing from the public library. i guess i'd forgotten how much i love libraries until now. i was unfamiliar with this new library, but once i was lost in the stacks, it was like a homecoming. the library was fairly crowded on this saturday afternoon. many people were there just to use the free internet access. i actually had a book in mind i wanted to borrow (one on locusts), and got the reference number online. i ended up taking out the following books: aquariums: the complete guide to freshwater and saltwater aquariums by thierry maître-allain and christian piednoir; insight guides: vietnam; best shade plants by stegan buczacki; locust: the devastating ride and mysterious disappearance of the insect that shaped the american frontier by jeffrey lockwood. weirdest find: inside the shady plants book, somebody has gone through and labeled all the poisonous plants with yellow sticky notes.

returning home, i rested briefly in that park in the heart of inman square. i wasn't tired, but i was hoping i could make it home right when the sun was setting so i could get some christmas lights photos at dusk. i waited for about 15 minutes before deciding it wasn't a good idea. i would've had to wait another hour before the start of sunset, and the blue sky of before had already turned to overcast. plus i was carrying all those books, which made for clumsy camera work. i decided to hurry home and snuggle on the couch with a good book.

by the time i made it back, there was a fog covering the cambridge-somerville landscape. apparently all that melting snow during the day had saturated the air with too much moisture.

another present from hong kong was waiting for me back at home: from the shape of the package i had an idea of what it was: the lambency flash diffuser! it's actually a chinese knockoff of the gary fong light sphere diffuser, which supposedly is the best diffuser on the market. the gary fong retails for $50; i got my lambency diffuser for just $16. it's pretty much a transparent rubber funnel with a small semi-transparent plastic bowl attached at the business end. i know some shoestring photographers have managed to build their own similar diffusers (out of shampoo bottles and tupperware containers), but it was easier for me to just buy an imitation. i did some comparison test shots of myself around the house but only noticed a marginal difference; i'll have to try it out with more people. in any case, it makes my already bulky external flash setup even bulkier, if that was even possible. "inconspicuous" doesn't seem to exist when it comes to flash photography.

the scheduled highlight of the evening was the patriots-giants game, telecasted simultaneously on all three major broadcast networks here in the boston area. i felt obligated to watch the channel 5 broadcast, who were supposed to be the original local broadcaster, but out of the 3 channels, their quality was the softest, so i switched to one of their competitors. not that it made much difference - all the commercials were the same any, regardless of the channel. there was all this talk about the giants sitting some of their star players, but the giants' coach started everybody. and when they scored a touchdown on their opening drive, they smelled blood in the water and were suddenly highly motivated to possibly spoil the patriots perfect season aspiration. the patriots managed to get just a single touchdown and 3 more field goals in the first half while the giants scored 3 touchdowns. things didn't look good for the patriots at half time with the score 21-16 - although they were only down by 5 points. starting the 3rd quarter, things got even worse for new england as the giants scored another touchdown to bring the score to 28-16, pats down by 12 points. the new york crowd was really into it and for a split second it seems like the patriots might be sweating. but the pats hunkered down with some tougher defense and the momentum started to swing. first maroney runs in a touchdown. then randy moss catches a 65 yard throw for another touchdown (after having just dropped it in the exact same play on the previous down) with the successful 2 point conversion. finally the pats were back up again, 31-28. an eli manning interception followed by another patriots touchdown pretty much took the air out of the giants' tires.

with still just 10 minutes left in the game i had to leave for boston to meet up with joel at the boston common for the midnight screening of there will be blood. the pats had the lead with 10 points so i felt comfortable enough to leave at that point anyway. i set the VCR to record the rest of the game and headed out the door, listening to the radio broadcast the entire time on my mp3 player. in the underground porter square station i stood right underneath the escalators so i could get some FM reception. the train arrived with a minute to go in the game. on the subway was a sketchy-looking guy with sacks of clothes stumbling around the cabin talking to reluctant people. he plopped down opposite me and right next to this pretty girl wearing some tight jeans and rubber boots. "what's the score?" he cried, grimacing in my direction. i leaned forward, "38-35 with a minute to go." "who's winning?" he asked, swinging his head like it was too heavy for his shoulders. "we are, the patriots," i replied. without looking, the girl smiled overhearing our conversation. the man muttered something under his breath and fumbled with the clothes in his bags. he got off at the next station, to the relief of everyone.

i ended up finding out about the result of the game when i realized i could still get faint FM reception in the tunnels. in central square i heard the game was over and new england had won. 16-0!

ever since i left my house, i had this shooting pain in my tailbone. it didn't hurt when i was sitting, only when i was walking. it was so painful i basically hobbled to the theatre from park street, the pain blanking away any notion of taking some photos of the christmas lights on boston common. maybe i sat on it wrong when i was at home, or maybe my 2.6 miles roundtrip walk to the library aggravated something. i got to the theatre and waited for joel to arrive. rubber boots girl came in behind me, smiling at our mutual recognition. she seemed to be waiting for somebody, and just while i was mustering up enough courage to go talk to her, her boyfriend arrived and they went into the screening room (ironically, the same movie i'd be seeing).

daniel day-lewis is an actor's actor. other thespians in the industry look upon him with almost mythical adoration, the extent of his method acting, the selective choices in the films he stars in. if nothing else, there will be blood is a showcase of his acting chops. early in the movie, whole scenes evolve without dialogue, and the only thing you see is daniel plainview (day-lewis) digging for oil. when he finally does speak to a crowd of townsfolks, his voice fits the character, a gruff sounding man full of business-like charm, kind of like jack palance. he tells everyone that he's an oil man, a family man, his successes, and his expertise in oil drilling should the townsfolks allow him to dig in their fields. only later do you realize it's all a ruse, that it's a speech he's rehearsed and told to many other townsfolks in his pursuit of oil wealth. the film itself doesn't follow a story in the traditional sense, as it basically tracks the life of oilman plainview from the early days at the beginning of the 1900's when he was just starting out in the business until he comes a rich old man left with his idiosyncrasies. day-lewis is just so mesmerizing in his performance, it's almost worth the price of admission just to see him act. directed by paul thomas anderson, whose work i'm not too familiar with, other than the fact that he directed boogie nights. the music has a personality of its own in the movie; a recurring score sounds like something straight from a horror movie.

after the movie, joel stood outside getting patron feedback from the exiting crowd. a young biracial man clutching a red bull asked what we were doing. "he's with the studio. he's taking notes," i said. "what did you think of the movie?" i asked him. big mistake. obviously an emerson film student, the young man started talking about the nuances of the film, and this and that. i wasn't interested at all, and almost wanted to push him away just to make him shut up. later joel gave me a ride back to cambridge. while waiting to pay for the parking, a girl wearing a neon-green micro-mini-tubeskirt walked down the hallway with her boyfriend before getting into the elevator. a young man standing in line blurted out, "did anybody else just see that?" if i wasn't in such serious back pains, i would've given him a high-five. inside the parking garage, we saw a suspicious looking couple hiding behind a car, using their semi-hidden location as a bathroom. on the ride back, joel told me about his recent switch to being a full-time freelancer.

after i got home, i turned on the tv to get some post-game coverage, soaking up the 16-0 victory. i also got to watch the final minutes of the game on the VCR. by the time i was ready for bed, my back pain became even more severe, to the point where i could barely walk into the bathroom to brush my teeth. cursing at the gods, i almost crawled back to my bedroom and painful got into bed, hoping a good night's rest would heal whatever was ailing my back.