30 August 2009

Style File: Shuron Freeway Sunglasses

I talk a lot about style and putting thought and effort into how you look. I thought it might be fun to periodically explore some of my personal "elements of style" (with apologies to Strunk and White).

I wear prescription sunglasses. I really have to; the sun is just overwhelmingly bright otherwise. When I wore contact lenses I could wear just any old sunglasses, as long as they were suitably dark. When I decided 11 years ago to go back to wearing glasses full-time after 15 years of wearing contacts, I knew I would have to deal with the sunglasses issue.

My first solution was a pair of glasses with the Transitions lenses. They didn't really get dark enough, and I spent a couple of years walking around squinting. In 2001 I purchased a new pair of glasses and a pair of sunglasses to go with them. (I wanted to go with the magnetic clip-ons, but I couldn't find them in a frame style I liked.) I still have both of these, but the everyday glasses got pretty beat up, so I replaced them about a year and a half ago.

Not long after that, I started thinking about getting a second pair of sunglasses. I wanted a change from my standard roundish metal frames. After much searching I happened upon the company Shuron, from Greenville, South Carolina. They are the originators of the Ronsir, which is sometimes referred to as the "Malcolm X" frame style, with plastic temples and brow pieces on a metal chassis. (Tom Hanks also wore these in Catch Me If You Can.)

I was very surprised to learn that they still manufacture all their frames in the United States. I thought it would be great to get something classic, a little retro, and somewhat out of the ordinary while supporting an American company. I was set on getting the Ronsir with a chrome chassis and dark gray lenses, but my friend A Proper Bostonian looked at their web site and told me that the Freeway in tortoise with green lenses would look better with my fair coloring.

Of course, she was right (when it comes to matters of style, she generally is). Shuron has excellent customer service, and since their products are not carried by many stores, they will sell direct to individuals. You can purchase frames from them and take them to your preferred optometrist, or they can make your lenses and fit them to your frames in their in-house lab. You can pay for one frame and they will send you two or three different sizes of it, so you can determine the best fit, and then return the others.

With regular lenses the Freeway looks like Buddy Holly's glasses, but in the "demi amber" color with sunglass lenses it's something altogether different, I think. It makes me think me of those French New Wave movies from the early 1960s that I've never seen. I wish the green lenses were just a little darker, but otherwise I really like them. One other thing: I discovered that they are too wide to wear with curved-bill caps, so when it gets cool enough to need a hat I'll have to revert to my other oval sunglasses, but on second thought, I'm more likely to wear a different hat, so I can keep wearing these glasses.

29 August 2009

This Week in Awesome (8/29/09)

Can't believe August is just about over already... but it did have five weekends, so five TWiAs.

This is a couple of weeks old now, but it's kind of cool. There's a public art project going on in Philadelphia that involves painting "love letter" murals on buildings, in lieu of graffiti I guess. (PSFK)

I don't know how I missed a great site like this for so long: Overheard in New York.

Similar to the job interview questions I mentioned a while back, here is some of the crazy stuff people put on their resumes.

After the Bridezillas clip and the KFC thing from last week, I was thinking that we may have to start dividing this feature into "awesome" and "awful." Here's this week's contribution to the latter category, something that as a dog owner I could not conceive of using. (Consumerist, Soup blog, many, many other sites)

26 August 2009

Just Can't Get Enough

If just watching Mad Men isn't quite enough for you, the web is happy to help you augment your viewing experience. (I promise this isn't going to turn into an all-MM blog, but I do feel an obligation to point out these things.)

Start with the show's official site, which is full of good stuff, including episode recaps, longer previews of upcoming episodes, interviews with cast and crew members, background on some of the products and companies featured as Sterling Cooper clients, trivia quizzes about the 1960s, a lively fan forum, contests, and much more.

Basket of Kisses is a fan site run by two sisters that has a very active fan community, interviews, and lots of other good stuff. They have an impressive level of access to the show and its creators and actors.

The localish blog Unlikely Words is not exclusively a Mad Men site, but one of its creators has gone to the trouble of sifting through the first two seasons in order to isolate all of Don Draper's lines of dialogue. Wow. (He's also done the same for all of Tracy Jordan's lines on 30 Rock, which is equally ambitious, but reads a bit differently.) They also do episode recaps.

Update 2:30 PM: I accidentally left out what I consider the most interesting of these sites, The Footnotes of Mad Men. They dig into many of the references made in the show that people younger than, say, 50 might not have firsthand knowledge of, like (from just this week's episode) the 1964 World's Fair, the outcry over the plan to tear down Penn Station, Pepsi's Patio diet soda, Yetta Walenda, and so on.

24 August 2009


Went down to RI yesterday to visit the family. My mother is still recovering from knee replacement surgery, and she asked if we would go and get her some groceries. Since the arrival in her area last year of a branch of the European grocery chain ALDI, she has done a good portion of her shopping there due to their rock-bottom prices, so that's where she wanted us to go.

You find some unusual things in ALDI, many of which are available for only a limited time. While picking up a package of lunch meat, I noticed this. I thought it was so strange that I had to take a picture of it with my phone, but getting pictures off the phone and into the computer is still such a ridiculously difficult process that it's easier just to link to it.

Has anyone ever tried this product? I'd be too scared.

22 August 2009

This Week in Awesome (8/22/09)

There's so much stuff this week (some of it held from last week because it wasn't on theme) I almost don't know where to start.

In that case, why not start with another crazy gadget? I can't imagine anyone seriously using this, but you never know. (Dvice)

Remember the guy who wrote the song about United Airlines wrecking his guitar? He's back with the second song. (Consumerist)

This Is Spinal Tap is still one of the most brilliant movies ever made. How could it possibly be improved upon? Here's how. (YouTube)

The rest of these fall more or less in the category of "there's so much I want to say, but I just can't find the words..." You'll see what I mean:

A surprising sighting in a Walmart parking lot. (Autoblog via Bloodhound blog)

Did you know there was a show called Bridezillas? If I didn't watch The Soup I wouldn't have. Maybe this is typical of the show, maybe it's not. I don't really want to know any more about it. (Soup blog)

And finally, a fast food item that is both horrifying and strangely fascinating. (Consumerist again)

21 August 2009

Cultural Disconnect

The Mrs. saw my Mad Men cartoon icon and decided to make one for herself to use on her Facebook page. Her sister commented on it, so she made one for her too.

Some time later they were talking on the phone and the pictures came up, and the Mrs. said something along the lines of, "It's really a great show." The SARSiL (Some Assembly Required Sister-in-Law) said, "What do you mean?" The Mrs. explained that the illustrations were related to the show Mad Men, which her sister had not heard of.

See. the SARSiL does not watch television. She has one, but she lives in a fairly remote, wooded area up in the hills north of Santa Cruz. There is no over-the-air reception to speak of, and she does not have cable or a satellite dish. So the TV is only used for watching DVDs, and she's a bit out of touch regarding a lot of pop culture stuff.

In a way I envy her ignorance, but I don't think I could give up TV.

20 August 2009

Wet Dogs and Cheerleaders

Can't forget to mention this... you may (but probably don't) recall that last year we took our dog to a dog-washing event to benefit the MSPCA that featured New England Patriots cheerleaders helping to wash the dogs.

Well, it's that time again. This year, the fifth annual "Paw Wash" event takes place this Sunday, August 23rd, from 10 AM to 1 PM in the parking lot of the MSPCA's Angell Memorial headquarters at 350 South Huntington Avenue in Boston (last year it was at Gillette Stadium). It costs $15 to get your dog washed, $15 for a photo of your dog with cheerleaders, or $25 for the combo package.

All proceeds benefit the MSPCA's Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Trade-In Allowance?

In the past three days I've seen three dorks people zipping around on Segways. Are they having an end-of-model-year sale or something? Can you apply the Cash for Clunkers discount to the purchase of one?

19 August 2009

Watch Wednesday (8/19/09)

I was all set to shoot some watch pictures with the other camera (the one that's better at close-ups), but it needs a new battery, and it takes a weird lithium one. I keep meaning to stop and get one on the way home from work, but it's been so hot that I don't want to do anything after work other than get home as fast as possible. (Having several nearby coworkers who run heaters under their desks because their feet get cold from the AC means the office is less comfortable than it ought to be.) Since I skipped doing this last week I didn't want to blow off doing it again, so I used the newer camera that doesn't focus as well up close.

After the vintage Bulova, I thought I'd go with one of my contemporary pieces. This is a Momentum M1 dive watch that I bought new three or four years ago, on eBay of course. I'd been looking around for something with an orange face and came across this (it's also available in several other colors). I wear it frequently during the summer, but almost never during the rest of the year. Orange is just more of a summer color, I guess. I don't dive, but divers' watches tend to be highly water resistant, which never hurts. It's also easy to read, which is always a bonus.

This watch has had several straps since I got it, and I haven't really been happy with any of them. It came with a horrible nylon thing that I had no intention of keeping (I often buy watches knowing the first thing I'm going to do is change the strap), so I put on whatever leather strap I had around.

Later I came across someone else selling these watches on eBay who also sold silicone straps with contrast stitching in the same colors as the faces, so I ordered one with orange stitching from him. But it was shaped in such a way that the edges of the strap flared out past the inside edges of the lugs (difficult to imagine without an accompanying image, I know) and I never really liked how it looked. The strap that's on it currently is a faux-Kevlar style, another one that I just had lying around. I still like the idea of the stitching picking up the color of the watch face, so I'm looking around for something else in that vein.

18 August 2009

One-Track Wonder

I finished watching the second season of USA Network's very worthwhile In Plain Sight. The show is about a US Marshal who works in the federal Witness Security program (what most people incorrectly refer to as "witness protection"). It's wry and funny, the characters are very nicely drawn and played, and the show made some great strides in its storytelling this season.

Typically, they left us with a cliffhanger that won't be resolved until the show returns next spring. But as the final scenes of the episode played out, they were accompanied by a striking piece of music that grabbed my attention. It was unfamiliar to me, but the show's web site is courteous enough to list songs that are featured in the episodes, so I browsed over to check it out.

I was stunned to learn that the song, called "The Lightning Strike," was by Snow Patrol, the Irish band responsible for that horrible, insipid weeper ballad "Chasing Cars." You know the one, "If I lay here/If I just lay here/Would you lie with me/And just forget the world?..." Ecch, just typing that makes me feel ill. I never would have guessed the two songs could possibly be by the same band.

I only heard a minute or so of "The Lightning Strike" during the show, but it turns out that what I heard was just the beginning; the song is made up of three "movements" and clocks in at around 16 minutes long (link to listen here). Unfortunately, the other two parts of the song are not as impressive as the first, and they probably should have been three separate songs, but I'm just a snarky blogger so what do I know?

And of course, you can't buy the song by itself at iTunes; you have to buy the whole album to get it. while that other piece of dreck is on a different album, I still don't think I'm going to be interested in the rest of this one, based on a quick sampling of the other tracks. Anyone got a copy?

17 August 2009

Clickin' Drag

Technology is just great, until it fails you. At work I use a trackball that I bought years ago, but at home we have a small bluetooth mouse because the Mrs. has wrist issues and prefers to mouse with her left hand, and it's much easier to switch back and forth with a wireless device.

On Saturday the mouse, which is three years old, gave out. Actually, it still turns on, but its bluetooth seems to have ceased to work. I have another of those trackballs somewhere (I used to use the same kind at home), but damned if I could find it. So I had no other input device available, which is an odd situation indeed.

Yesterday I made a trip to a nearby OfficeMax. I didn't expect to be able to find what I wanted, and they didn't disappoint me. (Well, technically they did, but I was expecting to be disappointed, so...) They carry one bluetooth mouse, it's made by Microsoft and they sell it for $50. I paid $30 for the dead one, and that's about all it's worth to me.

I asked the upstairs neighbors if they might have a mouse I could borrow, but the only one they could come up with was from a pre-USB Compaq with the old cylindrical type of connector. (I think they're all using laptops at this point, so they don't need modern mice.)

It was weird to spend the weekend unable to use the computer. We have a laptop, but it doesn't have any of my passwords stored, and its screen is too small to use for long periods of time. I have a spare mouse that came with my work computer, which is going to fill in until I can get a replacement, but I couldn't get it until today.

15 August 2009

This Week in Awesome (8/15/09)

Welcome. Are you ready for some Mad Men? I know I am.
If you're in the Boston area and feel like getting together with other Maddicts (devotees of the show) to watch the season premiere, the Noir bar in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square is hosting a viewing party starting at 9 PM tomorrow. Period dress is encouraged, but you already knew that. (I'll be watching at home, because it's a school night and I want to be able to just fall into bed as soon as the episode is over.)

If you haven't had a chance to see the first two seasons and you're looking to get up to speed quickly, New York Magazine has an extremely concise (some might call it pithy) synopsis of the first 26 episodes. If that's not quite enough detail, AMC has put together a four-minute video recap of season two. If you'd rather watch the episodes and find out what happens on your own, I suggest avoiding these links. Come to think of it, that's probably true of most of these...

The food section of Wednesday's New York Times had a fun little piece about the role of alcohol and drinking in the show and the producers' quest for accuracy in this, as in everything else about MM.

In a slightly more serious vein, the Times also talked to Matthew Weiner, the show's creator, about the seismic cultural shifts of the 1960s that serve as the show's foundation.

This month's Esquire has an interview and photo shoot with Christina Hendricks, who plays office manager Joan (Holloway) Harris. The word "hotness" seems ridiculously inadequate. This is (some of) what you're missing if you don't watch, because there's plenty of beauty among the whole cast, the gents and the ladies.

And for something a bit different, here's a well-done video essay on the cinematography of Mad Men.

(By the way, the image above is from the December 2007 issue of GQ. Front, left to right: Christina Hendricks, Jon Hamm (Don Draper), January Jones (Betty Draper). Rear, left to right: John Slattery (Roger Sterling), Bryan Batt (Salvatore Romano), Robert Morse (Bert Cooper), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell), Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson).

14 August 2009

What Gives, T?

And now for the flip side... For the past three years, I've been going to work through Wellington station on the Orange line. My daily travels have generated some observations about how this station could be improved.

When the northern portion of the Orange line was rerouted and extended out to Oak Grove in the early 1970s, perhaps the station's design made sense. I'm not really talking about the aesthetics, because there are none; it's just a big lump of concrete. I mean the functionality, the ways that people and vehicles approach and exit the station.

For pedestrians, entering the station is needlessly difficult. There is only one entrance, with eight steep steps up from curb level, which slows people down. The station doors are almost never propped open, which slows things down more. Once you get up the steps, the corridor is too narrow for the volume of people using it at rush hours, and then you have to make a 90-degree left turn to get to the fare gates. The entire area leading up to the gates is a giant choke point. It seems like every aspect of the on-foot approach was designed to be as difficult as possible, to thwart the movement of people in and out of the station.

There is a ramp, which was probably added later, that is easier to walk up, but the bottom of the ramp is situated away from the doors, away from the direction people are moving. This entrance also serves people coming in from the parking areas. It could be widened and extended outward and made so the whole thing was a ramp instead of stairs. (The ramp could not be built inside the existing structure because of the clearance needed above the train tracks.)

But before people can even get into the station, they have to pass through other obstacles. Most buses enter from the eastbound lanes of Route 16, requiring a tight right turn that also descends a grade. Then they have to stop for crossing traffic coming from a road that runs under Route 16 (some of which is heading into the station's parking areas, some to get on 16 going east), make a left turn, and pull up to the station to drop off passengers.

I think the biggest problem is that buses coming into the station have to mix it up with vehicles near the entrance. There should be a way to establish some sort of priority for incoming buses. I think the best way to accomplish this would be to build a dedicated roadway for buses leading into the station. An elevated viaduct could funnel buses off Route 16 and into the station above and parallel to the train tracks; they would not have to contend with crossing traffic, and passengers could then descend to station level instead of climbing up stairs. Buses would then loop around to pick up passengers where they do now. Access to the roadway would be controlled by transponders in the buses that would activate a gate or bollards (those pop-up pillars used in European parking facilities).

I realize this is just idle daydreaming. It's unlikely that any of this will ever come to pass, especially given the T's always-precarious financial situation. But the station is probably going to have to be overhauled and refurbished at some point. Why shouldn't we imagine how it could also be improved?

13 August 2009

Smart Move, T

It hasn't been a good time for the MBTA lately. Lots of malfunctioning subway trains, the general manager being shown the door last week, problems with the launch of the online CharlieCard system, etc.

But I noticed something recently that (to me, anyway) constitutes improvement: for about a week now, the T web site's service alerts page has been including information about delays on bus routes. (Because I'm a bit anal, I check this page every morning before I leave the house, so if there's a problem I can attempt to avoid it.) Most of these delays seem to be due to traffic problems. Prior to noticing this, I can only recall info being posted about diversions due to road closures or station work, but these alerts are of a more up-to-the-minute sort.

Finding out your bus is going to be 20 minutes late may not be what you want to see when you're getting ready to head home from work, but it's better than standing around waiting for a bus that never comes, and not having any information about what's happening. Knowledge is indeed power, and knowing there's a delay can help you reroute, or just kill time somewhere until things get back to normal.

Out of Focus

I didn't do a watch post yesterday, because I'm unhappy with the quality of the pictures I've been getting. I finally realized that my camera just isn't any good at close-up shots. We have an older camera that is much better at this type of thing, simply because it has a different lens that is able to focus on items as close as a couple of inches. When I bought the newer camera I completely forgot about this feature, which is very useful when shooting things for, say, eBay. I'll get to work with the other camera and go from there.

10 August 2009


Lucky me: I got to do yard work yesterday. It's one of my least favorite things; I'd rank it right above camping, because yard work is over in a couple of hours, but you're stuck in a tent for a whole night, or worse.

Last year, our landlord let the back yard get really overgrown. We tried to tame it with a weed whacker, but it was just too dense and thick. After he finally took care of it, I thought he might hire someone to maintain it. Instead, during the winter he told us he was going to make it maintenance-free. In the spring he had a load of mulch delivered and spread it over the grass. But the weeds grew right back, because he didn't lay down a barrier layer of landscape fabric, like you're supposed to. This year's excessive rain didn't help.

I told him the yard was getting overgrown again, and he needed to come by and deal with it. He put it off, and the weeds grew. When the biggest ones got close to my height, I sent him a photo. He finally came by a couple of weeks ago and cleared everything, and put down some landscape fabric. Last week he had another load of mulch delivered and he came by and covered the fabric with it, so we probably won't have any more weed issues.

After he'd cleared all the weeds and dirt, he put everything into heavy-duty plastic bags and left them by the curb, but last week the trash truck didn't take them. He didn't close the bags, so the contents got wet. Meanwhile, this week is the monthly yard waste pickup, but they won't take anything unless it's in barrels or those brown paper yard bags. Like a sucker, I told him that if he got us some of the paper bags, I'd transfer the yard waste from the plastic bags.

So that was my chore yesterday. There were half a dozen trash bags, and I ended up using one paper bag for each one, plus one more for a pile that for some reason he'd left in the back yard. The toughest part was keeping the bags balanced, because he had pulled everything out including roots, so there were these big, heavy, wet clumps of dirt and root balls and long, wet weeds that caused the bags to tip over. I just wanted to do the right thing and make sure the waste gets properly taken away and turned into mulch, or whatever it is they do with it.

08 August 2009

This Week in Awesome (8/8/09)

A full bucket of awesome this week, kids:

Are you a gloom-and-doomer? Do you enjoy speculating about nightmare scenarios? This little exercise is for you. (Slate)

It was only a matter of time... the Snuggie is spawning. (TV Squad)

These go around the web every so often, but I think this is a fresh batch, because I don't remember reading any of them before. (AOL Jobs via Consumerist)

But the most awesome thing about this was a comment posted to the Consumerist story: "After a friend of mine realized he had no chance of getting the job, he replied to one of the interviewer's question with. "KHAAAAAAAAAAAN!" He was promptly escorted from the building by security." Brilliant. (If you don't understand why that's funny, email me and I'll explain.)

And finally, an amusing little clip starring Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen that comically skewers the potential dangers of watching too much television in a way that's very meta. Bonus: it also features Fred's fiancée Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on Mad Men. (Funny or Die via New York Magazine's Vulture blog)

Next week, in honor of the show's return: an all-Mad Men edition of TWiA!

06 August 2009

Summer Clearance

If you're fortunate enough to be employed and have money, the end of season clearance sales are in full effect. Fall fashions are starting to hit stores, but the retailers still have stock left that they need to unload. You can find summer clothing for as much as 80% off original prices, depending on the store, and still have a month or two to enjoy it.

But keep in mind that stock will dwindle as discounts increase, so if you see something you like, don't hesitate, especially if you are of a more common size, because if you don't grab it, someone else definitely will.

(UPDATE Saturday 8/8: According to a story I read in yesterday's New York Times about July retail sales, stores have less leftover inventory this season due to more conservative ordering, so your mileage may vary.)

Last night we were at our local Stop & Shop, and I noticed that they were clearing out seasonal merchandise like coolers and outdoor furniture. On a previous trip a little "balcony set" had caught my eye: a high table with a small-diameter top and two tall, barstool-like chairs with backs, intended for small outdoor spaces.

I'd thought this would fit nicely on our back porch, which is only about five feet wide. Yesterday it was 50% off the original $100 price, and there were about half a dozen sets left. Rather than return today and risk having them be gone, I sent the Mrs. to the car with the groceries and went back and bought the set. I intend to spend weekend mornings sitting out on the porch, drinking coffee and reading the paper, until it turns too cold.

05 August 2009

Watch Wednesday

After talking about watches again recently, it occurred to me that featuring some of the watches in my collection might make a neat semi-regular feature. (This requires that I expend the energy to take an acceptable photo of each one, which is why it may end up being semi-regular, but I'll try.)

I thought it made sense to start with the first vintage watch I bought on eBay. (I had another, older watch that I had bought from another web site prior to buying this one, but I sold it some years back when money was tight, and I don't really miss it. Also, wristwatches tended to be smaller 50 or 60 years ago, and looking at similar watches now, it was really too small for me.)

My interest in watches is partly rooted in nostalgia, but I also value them for their aesthetics and as functional objects. I appreciate how a small steel container that attaches to your wrist on a piece of leather can encompass all these qualities, and so many more, and you can carry all that around with you every day.
For some reason I have always been drawn to Bulova watches, particularly those from the 1960s. The Bulova Watch Company was founded in New York in 1875 by a Czech immigrant. You can read a history of the company here; the company still exists, and you can find its watches in jewelry and department stores, but it doesn't carry quite the same cachet it once did. A half-century ago, Bulova was a high-end brand sold in prestigious stores; you gave or received a Bulova to mark a special occasion such as a college graduation, promotion, birthday, or important anniversary.

This watch is from 1967. I know this because one of the cool things about Bulova watches is that they are stamped on the back with a date code: a letter for the decade and a numeral for the year. It is not particularly valuable, and there is nothing special about it; it's a manual wind, and the hands are missing their original glow-in-the-dark material (it probably disintegrated over the years), but the simplicity of its appearance is what I like about it so much, and for its age it is in excellent condition.

03 August 2009

Finned Glory

I've always been interested in the design of objects, which dovetails nicely with my lifelong interest in cars. The 1950s produced the most flamboyant car designs ever; some were beautiful, others were bizarre, and some could have been loved only by their creators.

The New York Times recently posted a neat piece about 1950s cars and their tailfins, which reached their exaggerated peak in 1959. If this piques your interest, you can check out one of my favorite sites, the Old Car Manual Project archive of car brochures.

02 August 2009

This Week in Awesome (8/1/09)

I know it's no longer Saturday, but I like to think of the weekend, and this feature, as a state of mind. I'm a bit underwhelmed by this week's selection, but you know, it's August, and I'm afraid my brain took a quick vacation. Hey, not every week can be stellar.

Continuing with the meme of crazy ads for crazy stuff you can buy from TV or the web, we have two entries this week. This first one I would describe as slightly odd. (Consumerist)

The second one is in a whole other class of bizarre. (TV Squad)

Excerpts from Sarah Palin's farewell remarks, "interpreted" by a master thespian, followed by similar treatment of some of her Twitterings. (Tonight Show via Hulu)