28 April 2009

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Given that we're about to hit (and possibly surpass) 90 degrees this afternoon, I felt pretty bad about leaving the dog home alone today. We don't have the air conditioners in yet, so the best I could do for her was to leave a fan running, pointed directly on her. And after this evening, things will be much more comfortable, for her and for us.

Speaking of warm weather, I've been looking around for a summer suit. I'll have more to say about this in due time, but for now I want to sort of circle back to last week's post about pants, and warn everyone about something even more hideous and appalling. Over the weekend I wandered into an H&M. This is a store I don't normally bother going into, because even though their clothes are inexpensive, they are also cheaply made and aimed at a younger, thinner audience. But I was in a mall, saw the store, and thought I'd remembered seeing something in a magazine about an H&M suit.

I didn't find what I thought I'd seen, but I did see something so horrifying that I made an audible exclamation of shock. Fortunately, no one was near me at the time. The source of this distress? A striped seersucker sport coat and MATCHING SHORTS. (Fortunately for the rest of you, the H&M web site doesn't have any images of it.) Now, I've already made my feelings clear about this incredibly awful look, but I guess it won't die. But guys, if I see any of you wearing this outfit later on in the summer, I seriously cannot be held responsible for what I might do.

26 April 2009

This Week in Awesome (4/26/09)

Whoops, I almost let the weekend slip by without posting this...

This is a strange little video about a horse that has some very, uh, un-horse-like behavior. The Mrs. thought this was amusing enough to post on her Facebook page, so if you've already seen it I apologize, but she only knew about it because I showed it to her. And yes, I want the credit, and yes, I am just that petty, sometimes. (Next time I'll wait until after I've posted it first to show her...)

Vintage commercials are the best.

Someone out there doesn't care for hipsters. I laughed at this, and you probably will too.

This last one is also a commercial, though a contemporary one. But it sure doesn't look like one, and it's so cool you won't care anyway.

24 April 2009

A Sure Sign of Spring

With today's beautiful weather and the even warmer days expected this weekend, I was just thinking about this, and then Esquire goes and articulates it so concisely for our benefit.

Thank you, ladies, thank you all. Now, let's see how long it takes until I see last summer's favorite confusing female fashion choice, the sundress worn with cowboy boots (see #7 here).

Update, 2 PM: Well, that really didn't take long... just got back from getting lunch, and walking down the "Pike" (central corridor) in Brigham & Womens was a woman wearing exactly what I'd described above.

22 April 2009


I don't follow high fashion, but I do pay attention to what is being offered to men of average means and tastes. I do this for a number of reasons: I just like to shop, I care about my appearance and I like to know what's out there, I like to observe how trends make their way into the culture, and I like to have some advance warning about things that are horrible and wrong and should not be suffered by any man.

It's that last part that leads me to today's example of What Not to Wear: The Guy Edition (with apologies to Clinton and Stacy, but I suspect they wouldn't mind). For more than four decades, Lands' End has been dressing men (and women) who want to look presentable at work but don't want to put any effort into thinking about it. There's really nothing wrong with that. They serve a need, and their clothing tends to be fairly priced and decently made.

But a while back I noticed something in the Lands' End catalog called "trouser jeans." Basically these are pants that combine the front half of a pair of khakis (a flat front with pockets on the side seams) with the back half of a pair of jeans (a seamed yoke below the waist and sewn-on back pockets). This is the sartorial equivalent of a mullet (business in the front, party in the back), and an answer to a question that never should have been asked.

As soon as I realized what I was looking at, my first thought was, Why? I can't help but wonder what the designers were thinking. It's so wrong on so many levels. Jeans may be a little more comfortable than khakis, but it's not like the typical pair of khakis is constricting; if yours are, you are either buying the wrong size, or you're shopping in the wrong place. If you work somewhere that doesn't allow you to wear jeans, how is this any better? The only difference is that these are made out of twill or canvas, but it's not difficult to find jeans that are made that way. They could be worse, but only if the front was pleated.

The more I thought about it (and I couldn't stop thinking about it, although I certainly tried), the more I felt that if anything, this unholy hybrid pant should have been done the opposite way: jeans in the front, khakis in the back. Why? I think the front pockets of jeans are easier to use because the opening is horizontal instead of vertical, and the set-in rear pockets are neater and more presentable. Then I decided I was nuts for thinking about it so much.

If you clicked on the link above, you may have noticed that these pants are now on sale. We can only hope that Lands' End has learned its lesson and is getting rid of them for good.

20 April 2009

The Endorsement: Merrell

For a long time I've had problems with my feet. I've had to put some sort of cushioning insole in several pairs of my shoes (even ones that are supposed to be extra-comfortable), and sometimes I get a very painful cramp in my right foot, depending on how much standing or walking I'm doing. If I take off the shoe and stretch out my foot, the cramp tends to go away, but it isn't always convenient or dignified to do that. The problem is not confined to one particular type or brand of shoe, so I know that my foot is the problem, not the shoes. I know that I should see a podiatrist about it, but I feel like I can barely manage my time as it is.

One problem is that shoes frequently don't start to cause me trouble until I've had them for a while, at which point they can't be returned. A notable exception to this is L.L. Bean. For generations outdoorsmen, thrifty Yankees, and countless others made mail-order purchases from Bean with confidence because of the security of the company's guarantee that if a customer was unhappy with any product, for any reason, at any time, they could return it.

I have been a Bean customer for nearly 30 years. I've bought just about every article of clothing they offer, and I never had a problem with anything I purchased, until a couple of years ago. I bought a pair of casual shoes to wear to work, and I found that after a few hours, the shoes were causing sharp pains in my legs. This was different from the foot cramp, and worse. The shoes had to go back. The clerk at the store was extremely apologetic. I thought it was a fluke occurrence, and didn't give it much more thought after that.

Each year after Christmas, Bean has a big clearance sale to get ready for spring. I was in need of a pair of outdoorish shoes, what most people would call a trail shoe. This is a type of shoe I like to wear on weekends in spring and fall, something a bit more rugged than a typical sneaker, maybe something with waterproofing or at least water resistance. I'd looked at Bean's trail shoes a couple of times, and when I saw that they were 30% off their regular price in the post-holiday sale, I ordered a pair.

The first few times I wore them they were fine, but then I started to have pain similar to what happened with the other shoes. Not quite as severe, and more in the ankles than the legs, but significant enough that I knew I wouldn't be able to keep wearing them. I fear that Bean is making products to hit a target price point, and that quality is suffering as a result. It doesn't mean that I'm giving up on them completely, but I don't think I can keep buying shoes from them, which is unfortunate.

That still left me in need of a trail shoe. One reason I'd liked the Bean shoes was that they were fairly low-key in appearance; a lot of the other shoes I looked at resembled lumpy spaceships. So-called trail running sneakers were even worse. Somehow I stumbled onto some Merrell shoes on the web. I always thought that Merrell made shoes for serious outdoor types like rock climbers, or those slip-ons for older folks who can no longer bend down to tie their shoes, so I just never paid much attention. I was even more interested when I learned that certain styles were available in wide widths.

Eventually I decided on the Moab, which is available in two versions. One is ventilated and I guess is meant to be worn in warmer weather; the other is waterproof, making it much more practical for year-round wear. I went to several shoe sites and read customers' reviews, and found that this shoe was generally very favorably reviewed, a good sign. It's very light compared to other shoes I've seen in this style, and the interior cushioning is made of a very dense foam; I have some other shoes with this type of insole (Rockport's XCS line has it), and they have been among my more comfortable and less troublesome shoes. It's also available in four colors, which made it easier to find one I liked (I chose the gray/black combo that Merrell calls "beluga").

I wore the shoes all day Saturday and all day Sunday: no cramping, my feet did not hurt at all, and neither did my ankles or legs. This is a big relief, and gives me confidence that there will be other pain-free shoes in my future.

19 April 2009

This Week in Awesome (4/19/09)

A bit of a theme to this week's entries, though I wasn't trying for one; it just sort of came together that way. You'll see what I mean...

3. We begin with a piece about Harlequin romances that ran on Nightline at the beginning of the week, though I found the clip on Consumerist. The "readings" are cute, but what I found most interesting was that Harlequin publishes a series of books aimed at female NASCAR fans. Who knew?

2. Over in Norway, a couple were apparently so into each other that they couldn't wait until they got off the road and out of their car to have sex. Hope it was worth it.

1. Finally, folks in South Bend, Indiana prefer not to have sex while driving at excessive speeds, but that doesn't mean they aren't having sex in other inappropriate places. Apparently the restroom in one local fast food place is the hot spot for Hoosier swingers.

15 April 2009


We left our taxes until last night. I don't know why; it's not like we owe money. It's just one of those things that's easy to forget over the course of weekend after weekend, until the deadline is at hand. We're not getting back as much as last year, but that's mostly because the Mrs. only worked for about one-third of 2008.

For a number of years we have been able to file our Massachusetts state taxes over the phone, but now they have an online system. It was pretty simple, except I had to enter all the W-2 information for each form. This wasn't horrible, but if you have more than one job, and your spouse has more than one job, it could get pretty tedious pretty fast.

13 April 2009

This Week in Awesome (4/12/09)

I'd meant to get back in the habit of posting this segment over the weekend, but we were gone most of yesterday, and then at around 10:45 PM my computer decided to devour a blank CD that I was attempting to burn some music onto. I spent about 45 minutes trying unsuccessfully to get it to eject the disc, then gave up and went to bed.

Anyway, a few blips of awesomeness did cross my radar screen last week.

3. This rap video (by a white guy named Zach) is either a very clever spoof, or just too depressing to contemplate. I recommend not watching more than the first minute or so--that's long enough to get the idea--or at least watch it with the sound off, so you don't do any permanent damage to your brain. (Unlikely Words, via Universal Hub)

2. Want to feel a little better about yourself? Read this story, then this one. (both via Jalopnik)

1. And finally, an online tribute (celebration? commiseration?) of some of life's more embarrassing moments. I have no idea if these are real or doctored, but really, who cares? (Thrillist via Racked, which is not what you think at all, you dirty-minded guttersnipes, but rather a shopping blog)

10 April 2009

Color Them Bad

Add one more item to the rapidly-growing list of Every Single Eighties Fad That's Coming Back From The Dead Like A Zombie And Getting Recycled This Year: boat shoes. Not only are they apparently back, but they are proliferating in a rainbow of ungodly colors, as evidenced here and here and, perhaps most painfully, here.

These shoes were popular when I was in high school, but they only came in one color, dark brown. I'm definitely in favor of variety, but more importantly, the examples above are not colors that should be seen on the feet of any self-respecting man. Guys, if your significant other attempts to buy or get you to buy boat shoes for the spring and summer, PLEASE stand up for your dignity and insist that they be a tasteful, grown-up color, like these.

And one more thing: no socks. Boat shoes are meant to be worn without socks, okay? If I see you on the subway wearing these things with socks, I'm going to laugh and point, but if I see you wearing one of those silly colors, I'm going to cry.

08 April 2009

Giving It Away

[CAUTION: Spoiler alert! This post contains information about Monday's episode of House. If you have not watched the episode and do not want to have a major plot point spoiled for you, please don't read any further.]

Now that the public service warning is out of the way, I have a couple of things to say about this week's episode. Not so much about the story line itself, though it was certainly a twist I didn't see coming. Viewers now know that the actor Kal Penn left the show to take a position in the Obama administration. I learned this from reading an Associated Press story yesterday morning on boston.com, before I'd seen the episode. Near the end of the article it also said, "His 'House' character committed suicide in Monday's episode."

WHAT?! Thanks a lot for ruining that for me, AP. (Oh, and by the way, AP, titles of television shows are supposed to be in italics, not in quotes. "AP style," my ass.)

I tried to find a statistic regarding the percentage of US households with digital video recorders; one estimate from September puts it at 27%, which is good enough for my argument. Monday's episode of House drew 13 million viewers, so let's say that 27% of those, including me, recorded the episode to watch later. That's well over three million people that potentially had the episode's plot spoiled for them. TV-oriented web sites have learned to be more respectful of viewers, placing spoilery information on inside pages. Does no one at the AP use a DVR?

The other thing about this whole scenario that is a bit odd is that, at the end of the episode, following a public-service ad for a suicide-prevention organization, Fox encouraged viewers to visit a memorial web site for the character played by Penn on the show. The Mrs. said, "That's creepy." I just think it's strange. Characters die on television shows all the time, sometimes by their own hand. But for a television network to create and promote an online memorial for a fictitious character is just a little too... meta for me, I guess.

One other thing about the memorial site that I think is amusing: there are handwritten notes from the other characters on the show, each one on personalized stationery. What a lovely, quaint anachronism. Does anyone bother to get personalized stationery made anymore? I know at one time it was considered obligatory for adult professionals and folks who considered themselves part of polite society. I'm not maligning it; rather, I've always thought it was a very grown-up and dignified thing to do, but I can't even remember the last time I wrote a note to anyone on paper. I guess the show's producers were simply looking for a visual hook for the memorial page.

07 April 2009

Overheard: Offspring Edition

A couple of bits from my weekend visit to the Bass Pro Shop...

1. Father to daughter, perhaps six or seven: "Where's your sister?" Daughter: "She's in the tree." (There are trees inside the store.)

2. In the restroom there were large, deep metal sinks nearly two feet square. Teenager, enthusiastically: "Dad, these sinks would be great for gutting fish!"

05 April 2009

Adventures in Outdoorland

Yesterday we went exploring in the wilds of suburbia, specifically the retail and entertainment complex known as Patriot Place that has sprung up like so much crabgrass around the fringes of the stadium's property down in Foxborough. Don't get me wrong, the Kraft family is obviously a very smart group of business people, but the Christmas Tree Shop and Victoria's Secret seem just a little incongruous.

The original purpose driving our visit was to look at some shoes. The shoes were at the Bass Pro Shop, which is an outdoor emporium the likes of which most people in this part of the country, myself included, have not seen. Yeah, sure, I've been to the Bean mother ship in Freeport and so have you, but as the Mrs. put it, "this place is like L.L. Bean on crack."

I was in search of something specific that I had seen on their web site, but I didn't want to order it because I didn't know if they would fit, and then I would have to pay shipping both ways because Bass Pro is one of those stores that does not allow web order returns at their stores. So I figured it was just easier to go there, try on the shoes, and see if I liked them, and I was curious about the place anyway.

If you've spent time in the midwest or the southeast and you do anything outdoorsy, chances are you've visited one of these stores. They are huge and rustic, and there are hundreds of taxidermied animals decorating the place. The whole store is built on two levels surrounding a pool and waterfall, and in addition to the clothing, there are acres of fishing equipment (including boats), lots of camping equipment, archery gear, guns, and just about anything else you could think of for an outdoor activity. It's retail as theater.

I took a spin through the men's department before heading to the shoes. They have a couple of their own labels, and some of that stuff was mildly interesting and reasonably priced, but nothing made me want to take it home. I ended up not liking the shoes, so I didn't buy anything. I might consider buying something there in the future, but I probably don't need to visit the store again. The Mrs. managed to entertain herself for about half an hour before losing interest, as well as being seized with a strong feeling of being somewhere she didn't belong.

The story would end there, except we were hungry, it was dinner time, and there are about half a dozen restaurants in the Patriot Place complex. We drove to the other end where the stores and restaurants have been assembled in a village-like layout, walked around for a few minutes, and decided to eat a a place called Red Robin. Apparently the Foxborough area has been lacking for weekend casual dining destinations, because it seemed like all of Norfolk County was either waiting for a table or already eating. There was a Revolution game taking place but it had already started, so presumably the people in the restaurant weren't going to the game.

We ordered burgers, which are supposedly Red Robin's specialty (it's a chain with some 400 locations, but I believe it's pretty new to this part of the country). They took an inordinately long time to arrive; at one point, after 15 or 20 minutes had gone by, our waitress came by to tell us our food was taking longer than expected, and she was on her way to the kitchen to see what was up.

You'd expect this might lead to the food arriving in another couple of minutes, but it was about another 15 before the food appeared. Both burgers had been prepared wrong: I had asked for no mayo, and there it was on the bottom bun, and the Mrs. had asked for her mayo on the side, and it was on the burger. Not only that, but she was disappointed overall because she thought the turkey patty tasted too processed.

When we told the waitress, she apologized profusely and promised to find a manager. A few minutes later a young fellow came over and introduced himself as Pat, the kitchen manager. He too apologized and offered to take both burgers off the bill, leaving my beer. So the total, which had been around $27 before tip, was now $6 plus tax. After Pat left I looked at the Mrs. and said, "Does it taste any better now?" We made sure to give our waitress, Sarah, a generous tip, because clearly whatever was going on was beyond her control.

02 April 2009

Bad Habits

There's nothing quite like stepping into a restroom on one's way to get lunch and picking up the unmistakable aromatic residue of someone's surreptitious and illegal smoke break. In a HOSPITAL, no less. So appetizing...

After I'd gotten my lunch, a caesar salad with grilled chicken, I was ladling on the dressing (they put it out in a big tub just to one side of the grill line where you get the salads) and trying to hurry so as not to hold up the person behind me, who had also gotten the salad and was waiting to add her own dressing. Seeing how much I was ladling on (something the Mrs. frequently chides me about), she said, "You might as well have gotten french fries."