30 September 2009

Watch Wednesday (9/30/09)

Welcome back to another edition of Watch Wednesday (now actually appearing on Wednesday again, but subject to possible future schedule adjustment due to middle-aged brain malfunction). This time around the watch is an Accutron Deep Sea from 1970. The Accutron completes my personal trifecta of vintage watch obsession, as it was and is a sibling brand to the Bulova and Caravelle watches previously featured.

Accutron was started at the beginning of the 1960s as a showcase for Bulova's technological achievements in watchmaking (which, of course, could be sold at higher prices than even the fanciest Bulova models). The Accutron 214 movement was the world's first battery-powered watch, but quartz watches would not come to market for another decade or more. The battery supplied power to a movement that ran off the vibration of a tiny tuning fork; if you hold one of these Accutrons up to your ear, you can hear it humming.

Accutron produced mamy desirable (and now valuable) models, including the Astronaut, which had a 24-hour movement (the hour hand goes around the dial only once per day instead of the more typical twice), and my personal favorite, the Spaceview, which exposed the electronic movement to view by eliminating the dial altogether. I had a Spaceview a long time ago, pretty early in my collecting, but sold it some years back when times were tight. I've been looking for another one for a while, but they have gotten consdierably more expensive in the intervening years, and if I'm going to make that kind of investment again, I want to find exactly the right one.

The Deep Sea was marketed as a diver's watch, which is fairly obvious given its rotating countdown bezel and the depth rating of "666 feet" marked on the dial. Other cool features of this model: the Accutron tuning fork symbol at the end of the second hand, the red numerals on the date wheel, the magnified date window on the inner side of the crystal so that it doesn't protrude on the outside, and the crown tucked in unobtrusively at the four o'clock position.

I love this watch, but it has always run fast. It can gain a couple of minutes over the course of a work day, which isn't terrible, but it should run more accurately than that. However, when I took it out of the drawer to take the picture, it was about 30 minutes slow, so I have no idea what's going on. I may have to think about having it serviced.

29 September 2009

New York Thoughts

A few observations and thoughts from my most recent visit to New York:

Everyone should visit the observatory at the the Empire State Building. It's a little corny, but it's one of those things that you really ought to do. I had been twice, as a kid of maybe ten or eleven, and once during college, on the way back from spending spring break with a friend at his grandparents' place on the Jersey shore. If you have been, you should go again, at night. The Mrs. had never been, so we went on Friday night. It was beautifully clear and just a bit windy a thousand feet above Fifth Avenue. The stars, the lights, the night air, it's all truly an amazing experience. We even saw a group of Tibetan monks in line.

I also recommend walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. You can get the same view by riding the subway line that passes over one of the bridges, but it's gone in a couple of minutes. You can walk the bridge at your chosen pace and really soak in the magnitude and grandeur of the city.

All the fashionable people in Manhattan were wearing scarves looped and draped loosely around the neck. Mostly women, but a noticeable number of men too, and no one seemed to have any regard for the temperature. I mean, it was around 70 degrees the whole time we were there, and the parade of scarf-wearing folks never let up.

It's almost impossible to walk down the sidewalk on Broadway in Soho on Saturday afternoon. On Sundays, most of the stores start opening at 11, but hardly anyone shows up until at least an hour later.

Greenwich Village, particularly west of Seventh Avenue, is an excellent place to park the car for a few days. There are no parking restrictions other than street cleaning, which means you can park on Friday afternoon and not need to move it again until Tuesday morning.

And you won't need the car. Between subways, buses, cabs, and just walking, you can get anywhere you need to be. Just being there encourages walking, which is great.

Go to ground zero. Just go down there. Don't go as part of a big tacky group of bus-riding tourists from out in the flatland, though you'll have to work your way around plenty of them. Go and stand and look at the actual site, sixteen-plus acres, and contemplate what happened there. Go over to St. Paul's church on Church Street, on the east side of the site, and look around at the commemorative displays they've set up inside, and think about how incredible it is that one of the oldest buildings on the island, that close, was not damaged. Then go around the corner to the firehouse on Liberty Street, on the south side of the site, and look at the bronze memorial that runs the length of the building. I've done this several times, and I'll keep doing it long after the new buildings are finally finished.

Breakfast at Junior's on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. We go every single visit, without fail. Get the french toast.


We're back, and we had a wonderful time. And, as it happens, today is my third blogoversary. Each time I hit this milestone and look back, there is so much more to reflect on. I keep coming up with new ideas that take the blog in new directions, and I appreciate that dozens of you (yes, I track the stats, no point in being modest) stop by on a regular or semi-regular basis to read my often self-indulgent windage.

Having an audience is terrific, though it brings with it a sense of responsibility. But the great part is that, the more I do this, the more it energizes and motivates me to keep producing stuff that's entertaining and worthy of an audience. So thanks to everyone who reads, everyone who's commented. I could and would keep going even if you weren't visiting, but it's much more satisfying because you are.

26 September 2009

This Week in Awesome (9/26/09)

Hi there. I'm away for a few days and probably not in the general vicinity of a computer, but you're still reading this fresh installment of TWiA through the magic of post-dated posting. Isn't technology cool?

There's a site called Old Jews Telling Jokes. Really. I wish it had been around a couple of years ago; we could have tried to get my father-in-law on it, except they probably would have run out of videotape before he'd finished telling the joke. (The Awl)

Three words: Lego. Iggy. Pop. (Telegraph UK via Unlikely Words)

In the vein of last week's "MA Men" but not quite as over the top, there's a new McDonald's commercial that's geared specifically to the sensibilities of New Englanders. (YouTube)

24 September 2009

Programming Notes

The Mrs. and I are heading to New York for a few days to celebrate our 11th anniversary. I considered borrowing a TV-network approach and running a repeat of an earlier TWiA this weekend, but concluded that would be pretty low-class and tacky, and I was raised better than that.

So I've prepared an episode that will appear on Saturday (the clever folks at Blogger have given me the ability to write posts and schedule them to go live on a future day and time of my choosing). After that I don't expect to post again until Tuesday.

And best wishes to all our friends who are also celebrating wedding anniversaries this weekend (it's a popular time of year to get married), including APB and The Prof, W&C, and our Brooklyn friends whom we'll be seeing Sunday (what was that line Peggy Olson said early on in the first season of Mad Men? "I’m from Bay Ridge; we have manners." Completely irrelevant to this, but they live in Bay Ridge so my mind just jumped there...)

23 September 2009

File Under "Fanatically Obsessive"

Last week on the season premiere of Fringe, there was a nice little shout-out to The X-Files, its obvious television antecedent. Actually, there were two. The first was in the first scene, when the guy in the apartment was watching the show (the image of Scully and Mulder was briefly shown on his TV set), and then later, during Agent Broyles's testimony before the Senate committee, one senator made a reference to more than 50 years of budgetary indulgences of "the old X designation" and Fringe Division.

While reading a post on TV Squad about these references, I followed a link posted by a commenter that's pretty seriously brain-bending. If you remember the 1980s TV series St. Elsewhere, then you'll probably recall that in the final scene of the final episode, it was strongly implied that everything that had happened in the six seasons of the show's run had been a figment of an autistic boy's imagination.

What I didn't realize is that, based on character connections, crossovers, references and other links between St. Elsewhere and other TV series, and further connections between those shows and others, there is a school of thought that contends that all shows within this web of connections would also have to be products of this boy's imagination.

This theory is referred to as the "Tommy Westphall Universe" (referring to the boy with the vivid imagination), and it encompasses nearly 300 TV shows going back as far as I Love Lucy and includes The X-Files, and thus Fringe as well, although this is debatable: the mythology of Fringe is predicated on the existence of a parallel universe, or possibly many of them, so I'm not sure that would count under the rules of the theory (yes, there are rules), or whether or not it explains how Fringe can link itself to the X-Files and have someone be watching The X-Files within the same episode. Ouch.

If you find this stuff interesting and feel like having your mind twisted, beat on, drop-kicked across the room, and otherwise blown for a couple of hours, have a look at it here.

Regardless of whether or not a sizable chunk of our collective television history was entirely the product of the imagination of someone who himself was a character on a TV show (just forming that phrase made my brain hurt), the simple fact that there are connections linking so many shows is pretty amazing on its own.

22 September 2009

Bad Vibes

There's been some weirdness in the air. Yesterday morning as I was getting off the bus, the doors slammed shut in front of me. I think the driver wasn't paying attention, because as I reached the front of the bus I looked toward her, meaning to say thanks, but she was looking the other way out her side window, perhaps checking her mirror in preparing to pull back out into the road. Fortunately no damage done (the doors caught the tip of my shoe and reopened), but it was close. Kind of jarring when you're not fully awake yet. Some days just getting to work is work.

Later on, while on my way home, I got bitched out by a panhandler because I ignored her. That's a new one, a panhandler with issues. To be honest, I've been ignoring panhandlers for almost 30 years, mainly because I don't like the idea that I may be supporting someone's drug, liquor, or cigarette habit in the guise of a request for money for food (and in instances when I have had surplus food on me and offered it to someone, I've been rebuffed and scowled at), but also because I think it's unfair to give money to one person and not to the others who are also out there asking, so it's just easier not to make eye contact or engage. Obviously there's no easy answer, but I guess the woman had a valid point.

This morning's commute sucked, but not for the usual reasons. Traffic on route 28 (the Fellsway) was backed up as far as my street, which fortunately is a very unusual occurrence. It has happened a couple of times before, but I haven't seen cars backed up so far. There were some problems on 93 south this morning, and a lot of people take 28 south to get over to Storrow Drive or get onto 93 by Mystic Avenue. When things get messy, the backups can extend all the way through the ridiculous light cycle at Wellington Circle, but where I board the bus is about a mile and a half from 93, so things had to be really screwed today. Instead of standing around watching traffic crawl by, I opted to walk up the road ten minutes to an intersection where two other lines meet my usual one, and caught a different bus there.

When I finally made it to Wellington and onto an Orange Line train (20 minutes later than usual), there was no AC in the car, and of course the train was fully packed, and just for good measure we had to stop in the tunnel outside North Station because the trains up ahead of us were not yet moving. Yeah, good times. But really, it's been a long time since I've had a rough morning commute, so I have no real cause to complain. But we're going away this weekend, and I hope the vibes or karma or whatever has sorted itself out by then.

21 September 2009


The older I get, the more I look backward with regard to music. I suppose this is natural; the music of our formative years tends to be deeply rooted in the psyche. I still like discovering new music, but I find less that appeals to me these days.

I have over 200 vinyl LPs in the basement, and I've started going through them with the intent of selling some of them on eBay. But I wasn't one of those people who bought duplicates of everything on compact disc when CDs replaced vinyl. I would have loved to do that, but I was making so little money at the time that it was impossible. As time went by I rebought some albums on CD, and I still do once in a while; I recently found a remastered edition of Graham Parker's 1979 new wave classic Squeezing Out Sparks.

Now it's possible to buy many of my old albums as mp3 downloads, but I haven't quite been able to give myself over completely to that notion. I have bought mp3s, of course, but only scattered singles, like the '70s classic "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, or The Pogues' bittersweet Christmas song "Fairytale of New York."

I received an iTunes gift card for my birthday, and spent about two hours looking around, trying to decide what to use it for. I found a best-of compilation by Bauhaus, a band I'd always liked but never got into too deeply (though among my vinyl there is a 12" single of "Bela Lugosi's Dead"). It seemed like a good choice until I noticed the dreaded iTunes words "partial album" in the listing. I went looking for the CD on Amazon and found that three of the tracks are not part of the iTunes version, for whatever reason.

Eventually I settled on a two-volume, 32-track greatest-hits collection by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Listening to it reminded me of Jimi Hendrix, not just because of SRV's version of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" but because he's often compared to Hendrix. I've always loved Hendrix's music, but I've never owned any of it, so I rolled over to half.com and picked up the three original Jimi Hendrix Experience releases for about $5 each. One of the sellers had a copy of the Bauhaus disc, so I got that too.

I don't get why music labels don't make older albums available at lower prices; five or six bucks seems reasonable for something that's been out for twenty years or more. I know I would buy a lot more CDs at those prices, and since the music industry is supposedly struggling, it might boost sales.

All this nostalgia must have caused some sort of brain fever, because I found myself looking through the "vintage electronics" section of eBay in search of an Onkyo analog receiver like the one I had in college (scroll down a bit to the pic with the Yale pennant). I found and passed on a couple of them before succumbing and buying one. I don't really know what I'm going to do with it. I don't have a place to put it, and I don't have any speakers I could connect to it, and looking for vintage speakers is a sure route to madness. But there's some space on top of the dog's crate, and I could haul my old turntable up from the basement...

19 September 2009

This Week in Awesome (9/19/09)

After a busy week at work, I slept for almost ten hours today (minus a brief dog-walking interruption), and it felt great. Wish I could do that every day...

This has been around since the beginning of the week, but it's too good not to mention: a Mad Men spoof with a heavy Boston accent. Warning: extremely NSFW! (Funny or Die via Universal Hub)

I don't know if these awkward facebook moments are real or not, but they are funny. (CollogeHumor via Unlikely Words)

And I leave you with a roundup of some very inappropriate toys. (Huffington Post via Consumerist)

18 September 2009

Fall TV Thoughts

The fall TV season is upon us. You are of course entitled to not care, but if you're reading this, then you know that I do care, at least to some extent. As with every new season, there are some promising new shows; the trick is to figure out which ones are worth your time. I usually try to do this before they make their debuts, but that's not always possible. At least now, with DVD box sets and Hulu and Netflix streaming, it's possible to get on board a show you didn't start watching from its premiere.

In 2004 I was determined not to get caught up in Lost because I wasn't sure I wanted to make the commitment to a serialized show that would require rigorous weekly attention. But there was so much buzz leading up to the premiere that at the last minute I decided to go ahead and record it (I was still using a VCR back then, how quaint), and ended up recording three or four episodes before getting around to watching them, at which point I was, of course, completely hooked.

Ours is a TV-loving household, but we are selective. The Mrs. goes to bed much earlier these days, because she has to get up earlier, so the evening's TV viewing typically ends by 9:30 or 10 PM, which means we are usually catching up on shows over the weekend. Also, I have learned to muster the strength to stop watching a show when it declines or jumps the shark, which helps cut down on the overall time commitment. And with a TiVo we save some time by skipping over commercials.

(For a handy grid showing all the networks' fall schedules, see this TV Guide Magazine page.)

I'm going to run through the networks one by one, starting with ABC. They have a block of four new comedies on Wednesdays, all featuring familiar faces like Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Ed O'Neill, and Courteney Cox. So far the only one of these that has any significant buzz is the one with O'Neill, Modern Family, which is presented as an Office-style mockumentary about three families. I'm not a particularly big fan of O'Neill, but I'll be checking this one out because it looks pretty funny. The rest of them just look like the same old sitcom thing.

ABC also has four new dramas: one, following those Wednesday comedies, is called Eastwick and is based on the book and movie about the witches, which means it has no appeal to me whatsoever and I can skip it. There's a procedural on Tuesdays called The Forgotten that looks an awful lot like Cold Case, which I've never watched, so I don't need to watch this. As of now, there is not one single show on Tuesdays that we already watch or plan to, so it looks like it will be a good night to catch up on Sunday's and Monday's shows.

On Tuesdays starting in November, ABC will launch a remake of the 80s sci-fi miniseries V (which I never watched, as it was on during the 1980s, a period of time when, amazingly, I watched almost no TV). It stars Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), but that alone isn't enough to get me to watch. I'm still undecided on this one.

The one that has caught my interest is another sci-fi show, FlashForward, which will be on Thursdays at 8. Everyone in the world blacks out for two minutes, and during that time has visions of themselves six months in the future. ABC is hoping this turns into their next Lost, and it even has two of that show's actors, Dominic Monaghan (Charile) and Sonya Walger (Penny), along with Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, and others. I'll probably end up getting hooked on this one too.

CBS has one new comedy and three new dramas, but not much here is looking interesting. The comedy, Accidentally On Purpose, stars Jenna Elfman as a cougarish woman who hooks up with a much younger dude, gets pregnant by him, and decides to keep the baby. Hilarity ensues? The few brief bits I've seen have been very typical, cliched, and not funny. Also, I don't care much for Ms. Elfman as an actor; she always comes across as the same character to me regardless of what she's in.

I don't care about NCIS, so I don't need to care about its LA-set spinoff. The casting of Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J tells me that CBS is going after the female audience for this one anyway. Three Rivers is a medical drama about a transplant team at a Pittsburgh (hence the title) hospital that also tells the stories of the organ donors and recipients. My mom is psyched about this one, which tells you all you need to know. The Good Wife brings Julianna Margulies back to TV as the wife of a disgraced and imprisoned politician (Chris Noth) who must return to work as an attorney after 13 years. I dig her, but I think I'll skip this one. Thanks, CBS, for making this easier for me.

I talked about NBC's new shows back in the spring when they were announced. Since then I've had a change of heart about the comedy Community, which premiered last night (most new and returning shows premiere starting the week of the 21st). I still don't care for Chevy Chase and I never have, but the rest of the cast and the writing will more than offset his presence. The pilot had snappy dialogue and knowing nods to pop culture touchstones like The Breakfast Club, and Soup host Joel McHale is a much better actor than I expected him to be. This one looks like it will fit in nicely with NBC's other Thursday comedies.

I'm fighting the lure of Trauma, which looks to be an action-filled hour about EMTs and first-response rescue personnel in San Francisco. This sounds strangely familiar... anyone remember the 1970s series Emergency! (from Jack Webb's production company)? Hmm, what network was that on? I try to avoid shows like this, because l end up feeling like I'm wasting my time, but it's the kind of thing I might check out for the sheer popcorn, things-going-boom stupidity of it after the Mrs. goes to sleep, knowing I don't have to make any kind of week-to-week commitment to it.

There's also a show about nurses called Mercy that's going to be on Wednesdays. Consider yourselves warned.

The Jay Leno Show doesn't interest me, but I am interested in what kind of ratings it gets, considering it means five fewer hours per week of original scripted programming. On the other hand, it's five hours per week of prime-time TV I don't need to watch, schedule, or think about. Thanks (sort of), Jay, for making this easier for me.

FOX only programs from 8 to 10 PM, which means that, like NBC, there isn't as much programming to be concerned with. Glee (about a high school, with singing) may turn out to be a great show, and it's from the creator of Nip/Tuck, but I am definitely not the target audience for it. FOX also has two new comedies: The Cleveland Show is a spinoff of Family Guy and it fits right into the Sunday animation block, so I'll probably watch it by default, but I'll only keep watching if it's funny. Brothers is about a retired pro football player who moves back in with his family, and it looks like one of the worst shows of the decade.

One other note about FOX: why did they have to move Fringe from Tuesdays to Thursdays? Now it's opposite CSI (which I refer to as "CSI: Original Recipe" and is the only one I watch) on CBS and The Office and 30 Rock on NBC. It just complicates matters, and I'll probably end up watching Fringe online. Thanks, FOX, for making things harder for me.

Oh, speaking of "not the target audience," I almost forgot the CW: since they canceled the doing-Satan's-bidding dramedy Reaper, I don't need to care about them at all. It's one thing to not have any new shows I'm interested in, but to not have any shows I'm interested in at all? That's special. Thanks, CW, for making this even easier for me than CBS did.

17 September 2009

Watch Wednesday Thursday!

Whoops, didn't take me long to screw that up, huh? This is my deadline week at work, and after I got home yesterday I completely forgot about my biweekly watch post. Anyway...

This is a Casio analog chronograph I got about a year and a half ago (on eBay, of course). I didn't realize Casio made analog watches until one time when I saw one that had hands but also displayed all this other digital stuff on the face when you wanted it to. I thought about getting that watch for a while, then I saw this one and liked it much better. Turns out that Casio makes a whole line of watches with analog movements that are accurate, dependable, and reasonably priced. I've gotten two others since.

It also comes in a version with a black dial, but I have so many other watches with black dials that I thought it might be nice to have some variety.

This watch is very large; the face is around 45 millimeters in diameter, which is far larger than someone with wrists as skinny as mine should be wearing, but somehow it looks all right on my wrist when I wear it.

This was another instance of a watch that came with a horrible crappy band, a resin diver thing with ripples. Because the watch is so large, the band is kind of wide, so it took me a little while to find something suitable for it. I ended up getting this nylon thing with a leather backing, but I'm not that thrilled with it, so I'll probably be looking for something to replace it.

14 September 2009

The Fog

This season's episodes of Mad Men seem to be getting under my skin a bit more than the previous ones. I think it's because of the ways the characters are reacting to things happening in the world of 1963. I woke up this morning thinking about last night's episode.

(Potential spoilers ahead...)

Last night we had an extended exchange between Don and another expectant father in the hospital waiting room. At first I thought nothing much was going on there, but they kept cutting between them and Betty's troubled labor and Demerol-induced hallucinations, leading me to think that the contrast between the trauma of giving birth and the ennui of waiting for the news was meant as another reminder of how the experiences of men and women are so starkly different in our society, even today.

It looked to me like we might be being set up for something like a stillbirth, but then I thought that probably would be much too obvious a move for a show that's all about subtlety and subtext, what's left unsaid, what's beneath the surface. The baby finally arrived, but even though Betty said she wanted "everything to be perfect" when the baby came, I don't think that's really going to be the case.

(And baby Eugene was born about two months before I was...)

Then in the hallway, the other new dad wouldn't look Don in the eye, like he was embarrassed for having shared his true feelings with another guy. And of course, his earlier words about being a better man remind us again that Don keeps struggling with the same issue, and losing.

And hey: Francine! Where have you been? We missed you. Well, I did. After Anne Dudek's character died on House last year, I thought we'd see more of her in season two of Mad Men, but the opposite happened; I think she was in maybe two episodes last year (goes and checks IMDB... okay, three). Maybe now that the Drapers' housekeeper has left, Francine will come around more often to give Betty a helping hand.

But I thought the most interesting part of this week's episode was (again) Peggy's struggle with her own ambitions and desires. Sneaky old "Duck" Phillips showed up to try to lure Peggy away from Sterling Cooper, which sent Peggy to Don to try (unsuccessfully, for now at least) to get a raise. It seemed like a no-brainer for Peggy to accept Duck's offer, but I have a feeling that she feels a certain loyalty to Don because it was he who first promoted her to junior copywriter, and perhaps she feels that her loyalty and patience will eventually be rewarded. I hope for her sake that does in fact happen. I also think she doesn't trust Duck, which is probably prudent.

12 September 2009

This Week in Awesome (9/12/09)

Apologies for the recent, unintended interruption in service (the last post was Wednesday morning). I started working on something yesterday afternoon, but I couldn't find the right way into it, and then the rest of my workday intervened, so it will have to wait a bit.

We're off to RI today, for two main reasons: my (parochial) high school is having a 50th anniversary mass tomorrow morning, and a number of my former teachers are returning for the event, so I thought it might be interesting to attend; and my dad's birthday was this week (he, my brother, and I are all Virgos) so we're going to visit and see if we can talk him into being taken to lunch or something like that (more difficult than you'd think).

So, onward... this Brooklyn store has a slightly unorthodox return policy. I wonder how many customers follow it? (Gizmodo)

I happened across an eBay listing with a strange comment in its description that deftly straddles the awesome/awful axis. Hmm, no bids yet--what a surprise. Please, readers, I implore you: if each of you contributes, say, five cents, we can hopefully raise the $3 needed to get this poor, forlorn idiot woman the fucking lint roller help she so desperately needs. And man, that is one fat dog.

Chelsea Lately is a humor/talk show on the E! channel hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler, sort of a pop culture analogue to The Daily Show (in fact, both shows are on at the same time, which is slightly inconvenient). In the first part of this clip, a reality dating show visits the set of CL (it's not clear why). In the second, much funnier part, Chelsea shows us some of the workplace perks her staff receive. (Hulu via TV Squad)

And finally, this is one of the more bizarre incidents I've seen in quite a while, which is precisely what makes it so awesome. The power of the human spirit is... oh never mind. I don't want to give it away, just watch it. (Chronicle-Telegram, somewhere in Ohio, via Consumerist)

09 September 2009

Dodged a Bullet

Coming home from work last night I was waiting for the bus at Wellington. There was a woman standing next to me, not more than a couple of feet away, with a sheaf of printouts she was studying. I was reading the paper, and so not really paying attention to her or others.

Suddenly she shrieked, and the papers went flying in all directions. I looked over to see her looking up in the air, then she looked back down and said, to everyone, "That seagull just shit on me!" (There were a couple of them overhead, looping around aimlessly and squawking. They must have gotten lost looking for Revere Beach.) Sure enough, she had a substantial tannish blob on her right sleeve. She removed her sweater and tied it around her waist.

She said the guck had hit her pretty hard, and at first she thought she might have been shot. I thought about how close I'd come to being the victim.

08 September 2009

Under Construction

Hi, we're back. We had a nice, relaxing weekend, plus the weather up here in the Northeast has been fantastic since the last heat 'n' humidity wave left over a week ago. People apparently are still pissing and moaning about what a lousy summer it was, but hey, guess what? It's still summer. Yeah, check your calendar. And September tends to be one of the nicest months around here (assuming, of course, there aren't any hurricanes).

Only one thing marred the weekend: the people next door are having their back porch rebuilt, and whoever they've hired must be in a really big hurry to get the job finished, or something, because they were there working all weekend. Yesterday was the only morning I was in fact awakened by construction noise (to wit, a table saw), and that happened around 8:30 AM, which is not a horrible hour.

Saturday I slept in until around 9:30, and Sunday until 10. The work started right around 10 on both those days, so I do think they were trying to show us some consideration. It just wasn't particularly conducive to sitting out on our own back porch enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee.

05 September 2009

This Week in Awesome (9/5/09)

Hello, and welcome to this Labor Day weekend edition of TWiA.

Let's begin with a funny little spoof video for a device no one really needs. Careful with that thing... (CollegeHumor via Gizmodo)

Some wag (from the UK, not surprisingly) with time on his hands decided to send invoices to companies he patronizes, billing them for the time he has lost standing in lines and such. That's kind of cute in a "what an asshole" sort of way, but he actually got a response from one company that's even more amusing. (Consumerist via #sixweeks)

Some clever folks managed to surreptitiously film a comedic soap opera inside an IKEA without getting caught. Nice. I hope they're able to do more of these. (Buzzfeed via Racked)

Now for my favorite thing this week: a candidate for Cambridge School Committee sent out a flyer that was riddled with mistakes. This is quite possibly one of the most awesome things I've ever seen on the web, and also vindicates my decades of grammar, spelling, and punctuation snobbery.

My father-in-law, who was a journalist with exacting writing standards (I'll have to tell you the story about Al Gore some time), used to write campaign pieces like this for a living, and I know he would have been colossally amused by this story, while at the same time horrified that someone else had done such a poor job at it. Thank you, Rachel Rubin. Thank. You. (Wicked Local Cambridge via Universal Hub)

And finally, it you haven't already seen it, People of Walmart. It's awesome and awful at the same time.

Ciao, amici...

04 September 2009


Everyone is hustling to get out of town for the long weekend. My coworkers have been slipping out of the office since the middle of yesterday afternoon. One sent an email this morning saying she would be leaving around 3 today to "attempt to beat some Cape traffic." Good luck with that. I mean, no offense, but that's pretty much what everyone else is doing, right around the same time they're doing it, so you're not really going to be beating anything, except perhaps your forehead against the steering wheel.

To me, the three-day weekends that bracket the summer season are absolutely the worst time to go away to the Cape, or Maine, or any similar New England vacation destination. I haven't been to the Cape in a few years, but for three years in a row we went for a weekend in October, and it was much more enjoyable because the weather is still quite nice, but there aren't nearly as many people around. You get better hotel rooms at better rates, you get seated in restaurants faster, you don't have to sit in traffic for three hours.

So we're staying around this weekend. We don't have any definite plans yet, but as I put it in an email to one friend, "'Go somewhere and eat something there' is about as far as I've gotten. I know it lacks detail, but I'm liking the simplicity of its structure." I've got some bits for TWiA, so there will be a post tomorrow, but after that probably not again until Tuesday. Enjoy your (hopefully long) weekend.

02 September 2009

Watch Wednesday (9/2/09)

I've decided a couple of things about this feature: first, every other Wednesday will be Watch Wednesday. It has kind of shaken out that way on its own, and I think it works better when spaced out as such--I don't want to overdo it. Also, I'm going to attempt to alternate between older watches and contemporary ones, so that means this edition's watch is vintage.

This watch is a Caravelle, which was a low-priced sibling line that Bulova introduced at the beginning of the 1960s to better compete with Timex, which was making serious inroads in the market with its low-priced models. Based on some period advertisements I've seen, a Timex or Caravelle sold for around $10 to $15, which at the time wasn't cheap, but was a lot less than typical Bulova prices of the period. Bulova hoped that the halo effect of its prestigious status in the marketplace would rub off on Caravelle, making it more appealing to consumers than Timex's somewhat more hunble image.

This watch is from 1969, and by then there was some cross-pollination going on: the Caravelle line had expanded to include self-winding models to keep up with Timex, and since Bulova was already making some excellent automatic movements, they started showing up in certain higher-end Caravelle models like this one.

Compared to some other Bulova products, this is a pretty rare model; I've seen maybe half a dozen of them for sale in ten years of collecting. It took me a long time to get hold of one--I was outbid on the first couple I encountered on eBay. Eventually I was able to buy one relatively cheaply because it was not working and was in very rough condition. A while later I came across another non-working example that was much nicer cosmetically, and I bought that one too.

A couple of months back, after they'd sat in a box for maybe three years, I decided it was time to talk to a watch repair person and get one clean, working watch out of them. It was also fitted with a new crystal, as neither one was any good. Now that I have one in working condition, it has quickly become one of my favorite watches. I like the juxtaposition of the black and white elements in the design: the days of the week on white background, the date numerals reversed, and how that is echoed on the half-and-half inner bezel.

The rotating outer bezel is also a cool touch. (The lettering looks yellow in the picture, but it's actually a very interesting metallic-looking gold-orange.) Set your corresponding time zone next to the 12 at the top of the inner bezel, and you can see at at glance that it's three hours earlier in the Pacific time zone, or five hours later in London, or something like that. It's a throwback to a time when dealing with someone several time zones away was still not an everyday thing. The little triangle says "GMT" inside it, and on the opposite side it says "DATE LINE." (They were probably hoping pilots would buy this.)

It takes an odd size strap--literally, it's 19 millimeters wide. 18 was kind of the standard at the time, though certain Rolex models did (and still do) take 19 straps. Maybe this was a conscious attempt on Bulova's part to imbue the watch with some perceived glamour, but it was probably a pain when it came time to replace it. I was able to find a very nice strap without too much trouble.

One other thing about this watch that's potentially frustrating: most modern watches that display the day and/or date have a "quickset" feature that allows you to adjust them easily when the month has less than 31 days, or when you haven't worn the watch for a while and you want to reset the day and date without having to keep turning the crown to get to the correct day. This watch doesn't have such a feature, and come the end of this month, I don't know how to get the date to advance without changing the day of the week. Should be interesting...

01 September 2009

Overheard: Not Even Close Edition

1:30 PM, Green Line E train inbound, Museum of Fine Arts station: "Does this go by BU East?" Ah, September...

Wake-Up Dog

About a year ago, we stopped crating the dog at night. It was partly because after having her for two years we figured it was no longer really necessary, and partly because she was waking us up by whining, sometimes several times during the course of one night. The reason for the whining was she didn't want to be in the crate while we were home (it didn't seem to matter that we were asleep), so we gave her what she wanted. She started sleeping on her bed in the living room most of the time, reverting to the open crate (where it was warmer) during the winter.

This has gradually led to more freedom for her while we are not around, including leaving her to sleep where she wants during the day while we're at work, and she has behaved admirably. But there are some unanticipated consequences as well. Her latest ploy for attention is a little gimmick we refer to as "Why Aren't You Up, It's Playtime!" She wanders into the bedroom, usually around 6 AM, making sure she walks loudly enough on the carpet to wake me. (This is the same dog who gets bumped into, and sometimes stepped on, because she has a tendency to sneak up on us, so she can be quiet when it suits her.) She comes around to my side of the bed, sniffs, and waits.

If she doesn't get an immediate response, she throws herself into her "play stance," thumping her front paws on the floor with her front legs and torso extended, butt up in the air, tail wagging feverishly. Typically she can barely be bothered to lift her head to acknowledge me when I arrive home, even though she has previously done a happy dance and thrown her stuffed toys around for the benefit of the Mrs. when she arrives home. So I'm not sure why I'm the lucky recipient of the early-morning attention, but it may be because I'm the one who walks her in the mornings before I leave for work. Who knows what goes on in a dog's brain?

If I pretend to still be asleep and continue to ignore her, she starts barking, which is really charming at 6 AM. Greyhounds rarely bark, but this has happened a couple of times on weekends when she has needed to go out, so it's usually wiser to give her a little attention (she's particularly fond of having her ears rubbed) until she decides it's time for her to go back to sleep and she wanders off again. Meanwhile I attempt to grab 15 more minutes of sleep before my alarm goes off.