27 February 2010

This Week in Awesome (2/27/10)

I hope you enjoyed yesterday's afternoon goof-off posts, but don't worry--there's plenty more where those came from...

Have you ever been stuck in an airport for hours with nothing to do? All night, alone? I didn't think airports let people hang around the gate areas overnight anymore, but apparently this one did. (YouTube via Consumerist)

Have you ever watched The Office and thought about the colossal legal minefield that Michael Scott and the various other Dunder Mifflin minions tiptoe through week after week, with seemingly no consequences? You're not alone. That's What She Said is written by a group of employment lawyers who do writeups of each episode from their perspective. (Hat tip to SM)

Have you ever wished someone would change the music on the NBC commercial for Jay Leno's impending return to The Tonight Show, to more accurately reflect how most people feel about him now? You're in luck. (YouTube via Consumerist)

And finally, have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch an athletic young woman crush watermelons between her thighs? You haven't? What's wrong with you? (Videogum)

26 February 2010

More Friday Funnies?

Oh hell yes. (This is what I get for posting the other thing before looking at The Awl today.)

This is just so amazingly awesome, and it's not even the news story itself (a nudist church, big whoop), but the anchors' discussion of it afterward, that takes it to a whole 'nother level.

Now, those of you who live in the Boston area may be familiar with Scott Montminy, who gives rather colorful traffic reports in the morning on New England Cable News. (I was going to link to his facebook page, but since I'm not a member of facebook, apparently I can't do that. Fine, screw you, facebook. Whatevs.) Well, the traffic reporter in this clip, a young woman named Jennie Stencel, is certainly giving Scott a run in terms of colorfulness. Why isn't more news like this?

Friday Funnies: 'Sup, Bro?

I'm not sure if this is going to become a regular feature or not, but let's see how it goes...

Back at the end of October in TWiA, I linked to The Ed Hardy Boyz on Funny or Die. The second episode finally hit this week, and as you'd expect it's at least as outrageous as the first one, if not more so. Please to enjoy...

25 February 2010

Gates and Passes

Back in the very early days of this blog, I wrote about my special MBTA pass and the limitations imposed on its use by the T when they installed their new fare collection system. Basically, I have an unlimited-use pass that could only be used at specific gates in stations, and I thought that was kind of a stupid way of doing things.

Apparently someone at the T also finally concluded that it was stupid. On a recent evening I was on my way home. As I entered the station, people exiting a train were coming through the gate I needed to use, so I stood to one side, waiting for them to pass through. There was a T employee standing on the other side of the gate. He saw me waiting and motioned for me to use one of the other gates.

I explained to him that I couldn't, and showed him my pass so he would understand what I meant. I said, "It won't work at any of the other gates." He said, "Yes it will." Obviously this was news to me. I asked, "When did this happen?" He said, "A while back."

Of course, this is the T, so as far as I know the change was never publicized. I don't remember seeing anything about it on the T's web site. And, you know, the T sent me the pass in the first place, so I know they have my name and address on file, but I guess it's asking too much to expect them to inform me (and other people with these passes) about something that's directly relevant to my use of the pass, something that would make my everyday life a bit easier.

And since behavior patterns tend to get pretty ingrained over time, I'm finding it difficult not to keep using the restricted fare gates in my daily commutes. I think on some level I just don't quite trust that the pass will work on the other gates. But I'm trying.

24 February 2010

Watch Wednesday (2/24/10)

Can you stand one more Bulova product? I hope so. (I do have a couple more.) This is my only other Accutron. I bought it about ten years ago from an online dealer somewhere in the midwest, but that was at least two computers ago; I neglected to save the bookmark, and I can't remember the name of the place. I do remember that their site was kind of primitive, with all the watch info was laid out in table grids that grew hard to look at after a while.

This is a 1967 watch, with the second generation Accutron movement. One of the biggest shortcomings of the original movement was that it did not offer a date function. The Bulova people were kind of hoping that everyone would be so impressed by the scope of their technological achievement that they wouldn't notice the lack of a date, but after a while they had to offer it in order to remain competitive.

The dial on this watch is a champagne color that did not photograph especially well, but I think you can get the idea. I also like how the "Accutron" is applied to the left side of the dial. Some watch manufacturers were starting to experiment with asymmetrical dial elements at this point in time, opening the door for the increasingly outlandish designs of the 1970s. This watch is not currently running, but all it needs is a fresh battery. I need to take it in to get one installed.

As with the Accutron Deep Sea I featured back at the end of September, the crown is at the 4 position. I have no idea if this served some mechanical or technological purpose, but it looks cool, and quite a few Seikos of the same era also have the crown at 4 (though those have automatic movements and their crowns are more recessed into the side of the case). I've been after a Seiko Sportsmatic of this vintage for a while, but I haven't found the right one yet.

This watch also has a signed Accutron strap and buckle. It's not original to the watch; I found it on eBay shortly after purchasing the watch. Most Accutron straps from this period were lizard grain and had a very glossy finish. This style took a little more searching, but it's more subdued and more to my taste. It may not be exactly like the one it left the factory with, but at least it's close in terms of age, and it may add a little to the value if I ever decide to sell it.

23 February 2010

Extra Edition

I've been reading a daily newspaper since I was around ten years old. We always got the paper delivered; back then the Providence Journal published two editions each weekday, and we got the afternoon/evening one.

I remember that when I started college I used to buy the late edition of the Boston Globe out of habit, but eventually multiple daily editions disappeared and I got used to reading the paper in the morning, typically on the commute to work.

I remained a loyal Globe reader for a long time, until some time in the mid-90s. By that point the paper had declined so much that I could no longer tolerate the daily typos and grammatical errors, the stories that didn't provide the information I was looking for, and the complete lack of coverage of certain things. I switched to the New York Times, and it's been my paper of choice ever since.

You can call me a liberal, elitist snob if you want (I don't pretend not to be any of those things). And maybe the Times has lost a little luster too, but it's still an excellent paper. Their coverage of business, the arts, health and science, even their sports writing is top-notch.

But I really missed one thing about reading the Globe: the comics (though, before the Sidekick and "g" sections existed, they were never consistently in the same part of the paper, which was really aggravating). Because the Times Corporation owns the Globe, I soon learned that I was eligible to get the Globe in addition to the Times for a very low weekly rate, less than I'd been paying for just the Sunday Globe. I did it basically so I could read the daily comics again.

[Tangent: when I was about fourteen I got to go with my parents to a family wedding on Long Island. We stayed with my dad's cousin who lived on the outer edge of Queens, and I remember looking through her copy of the Times and asking why the paper didn't have any comics, and her awkwardly trying to explain to me why.]

So I've been getting both papers for over a decade, but I hardly ever look at anything in the Globe other than the comics, though the other sections do come in handy for cleaning up after the dog. But last week I got a letter telling me that my bargain rate on the Globe is going away as of next week. The new rate will be 50% off the cover price, but it would still be a significant monthly jump in cost, and I just don't think it's worth it to pay for a daily paper that I don't read. So I'll have to get used to reading the comics online, at least until those get put behind a paywall.

22 February 2010

A Different Kind of Curling

She's really good at it...

(Some of you may have already seen this picture on the Mrs.' facebook page, but it was my idea to take the shot and caption it this way, so I claim joint use rights.)

The Razor's Edge

From time to time here, I've talked about various aspects of my grooming regimen. I keep it occasional because I don't want to go overboard, but such things are indeed relevant to men (and women) of style.

A little over a year ago, I visited the topic of shaving, primarily focusing on which razor gave me the best results. I'm pretty consistent with the rest of my shaving habits, but I'm always interested in trying new products. However, I'm not interested in shelling out money to try new products that almost always end up being a letdown. So I approach such decisions carefully.

For quite a while I was a firm adherent of shaving cream applied with a brush. It feels great going on, and the ritual itself is pleasant and masculine. But when I switched to shaving in the shower, the brush thing didn't quite work. Not only was it cumbersome, but the high moisture content of the cream (regardless of which brand I was using) made it too runny to stay put on my face in the shower. I spent a lot of time searching for something thick enough to stay on my face, but still with enough moisture that it wouldn't dry out.

After a lot of trial and error I found Zirh. Their shaving cream is a thick, pale blue paste; a thin layer is all that's needed, and it stayed moist on my face. (They also make a shave gel, but it turns clear when applied to the face, which isn't helpful to someone like me with poor vision; it's meant more for guys who need to work around partial facial hair. I do, however, like their facial cleanser and moisturizer.)

I used Zirh for several years, but I noticed that it was taking a long time to rinse out of my razor, even under the pressure of the shower head, so when I finished my last container, I decided it was time to check out some other products.

I'm a big fan of most things that Kiehl's makes, so it was logical to try their shaving cream, which somehow I'd never done. It's suitably rich, but the shaves were a lot less comfortable than I was used to. With the Zirh cream, I almost never got any nicks or abrasions, but with the Kiehl's they were abundant (and I was using the version formulated for sensitive skin). Chalk it up to the ingredients, I guess.

Burt's Bees started selling a line of men's products a couple of years back. The shaving cream was a huge disappointment, but all the products have a very distinctive, unusual fragrance that I really like. The soap (bar or liquid) is very nice, and there's also a cologne that I will be wearing come spring. You can find the line at Whole Foods, among other places.

Another product I stumbled across on drugstore.com that gave me much better results is something called Cremo Cream. I'd never heard of it before, but a tube was only $8 and it came with a free mirror. It's not much more than a piece of coated cardboard, but that means it's light and I've made good use of it while traveling (it has a suction cup so I can stick it on a hotel bathroom's shower wall). Cremo initially has a cloyingly sweet scent, but it dissipates quickly, and it gave me good shaves.

I had read about a line called Billy Jealousy (a couple of years back Esquire named their Hydroplane shaving cream the best product of its kind), but never saw it for sale anywhere. After reading a couple of other endorsements, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered some online. It comes in a hard plastic container with a flip cap on the bottom so you can stand it up and open it with one hand.

While not as pastelike as Zirh, it's still very thick and rich. As soon as I spread it on my face the first time, I knew I'd found what I'd been looking for. It's not the absolute closest shave I've ever had (that was courtesy of the old-school Italian brand Proraso, but it also made my face sting something awful), but it's definitely the smoothest.

The before and after phases of shaving are almost as important. I wash my face beforehand with an exfoliating cleanser (the Bigelow brand sold at Bath & Body Works is good, but you can get decent alternatives from Neutrogena or Nivea at the drugstore for less money), then I apply a pre-shave oil. This step isn't necessary for everyone, but I find that it helps keep the razor gliding smoothly. I recommend Em's Place in Oregon for a natural, reasonably-priced oil that can also be used as a massage oil (nudge nudge...). Emily also sells lots of other neat products for men and women.

After shaving, a post-shave soother is a must (for me, anyway). I've tried literally dozens of these, and have almost always been disappointed--too much stinging, not enough soothing. The one product that consistently gives me great results with minimal discomfort is Jack Black's (no connection to the actor) Post-Shave Cooling Gel, which contains aloe, sage, lavender, and other good stuff.

Hopefully my experimenting will be helpful to some of you. And as I've mentioned before, stores like Kiehl's and Sephora (which carries Zirh and Jack Black, among other lines) will provide samples so you can try before you buy. At other stores your mileage may vary, but it never hurts to ask. And if you've used something that you think is really good (or really bad), by all means, sound off in the comments.

20 February 2010

This Week in Awesome (2/20/10)

Hi there. You may have noticed that I was just kind of throwing links at you there for a bit. Well, into every life a little work must fall, and as in each month, this was my busy/deadline week at work. But now it's finished.

Lots of good stuff to keep you occupied and (hopefully) amused this weekend, but you know, the weather around here is pretty nice (for February), so why not get outside, and come back to look at this later?

I love the idea of these pet peeve cards, but I think you'd have to be very careful whom you choose to hand them to. Having said that, the "you walk too slow" card featured in the large photo is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves. (Collect3d via Kempt)

Do you know the IKEA song? It's pretty groovy. (Atom Films via Consumerist)

In the grand internet tradition of "you're doing it wrong," give it up for You Suck at Craigslist.

And finally this week, the more skeptical among you may think this isn't real, but I think most of us know better. First instance I've seen of the coined word "cramazing," meaning crazy and amazing. I don't always support this kind of word blending (I'm looking at you, "ginormous"), but I approve of this one. (Videogum)

19 February 2010

Friday Funnies: Stupid Ash

Sometimes I come across things that are too good to save until Saturday's TWiA posts. (I know it's only one more day, but just go with it, okay?) This is one of those.

The morning show Good Day LA is often unintentionally hilarious. I know this because of the frequency of clips from it that show up on The Soup. I really kinda wish I lived out there so I could watch it every day, but this is precisely why we have an internet.

But this time the Good Day LA hosts are turning the tables and goofing on a British broadcaster who forgot what day Wednesday was in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Please to enjoy...

18 February 2010

An Appropriate Farewell

This is now about a week old, because when I first saw it I wasn't quite sure if or how I wanted to feature it. But, for lack of any other relevant thoughts at the moment, this will do nicely...

Dan Neil has been writing about cars for the Los Angeles Times for the past seven years or so. He recently accepted a position with The Wall Street Journal. This is the email he sent out to the Times newsroom staff on the eve of his departure. We should all hope to be so eloquent if/when the time comes.

17 February 2010

Watch Wednesday (2/17/10)

Let me begin by stating the obvious: I did not take this picture. My little pocket-size digital camera, for whatever reason, will not focus this close to an object. Perhaps I should have considered that before buying it...

But I do own this watch, or more accurately, one just like it. About seven months ago I got an email from my friend DC with this picture attached, and the title "wow, that's vivid." My response was that I liked it and would wear it. A few days went by, and I found myself thinking about the watch. It has one of those self-winding mechanical movements that I've mentioned in previous watch posts, and I'd been wanting to add a modern watch with a Swiss movement to my collection.

I went to the Hamilton web site, and was surprised to learn that the watch was supposedly not sold in the US. But a little more poking around on the interwebs revealed a few places that sold it. But a Swiss-made automatic watch is a little outside my normal price range, so if I was going to splurge on something like this, I wanted to be able to do it in person. The internet is great for many things, but sometimes you want to see a thing in front of you and hold it before buying it.

A short time later I happened to be in a jewelry store, and I saw a different but similar Hamilton. I tried it on, and felt it was close enough. I started looking on eBay and within a couple of weeks I had found one that was slightly used. As soon as it arrived, I knew I'd made the wrong choice. It just didn't have the zing of the orange accents and the huge 12, 3, 6, and 9. I was able to resell it for 80% of what I'd paid. I looked around a little more. I found a store downtown that claimed they could order it, but I couldn't get anyone to return my messages.

A few weeks later, around the end of August, the Mrs. and I went to the mall one night, and I wandered into Tourneau. Tourneau is a big-time watch palace: they carry all the fancy stuff, and if they don't have it, they can most likely get it. I have mixed feelings about the place; I love going in there and looking around, but it's also somewhat depressing to look at amazing stuff that I'll never be able to afford, and once or twice I've been given icy treatment by staff who felt it was their job to affirm that I was unsuited to shop there.

I had checked one of their other locations and they didn't have it, so I was surprised to spot this watch in the display case. It was right before my birthday, and I was feeling like I wanted to get myself a present. The clerk gave me their price. I knew from looking around and talking to people that other jewelry stores typically offered bigger discounts off list price on Hamilton watches. I'd also read an article on Consumerist about how stores were more willing to bargain or haggle due to the recession.

I used this knowledge and information and told the clerk the best price I had been quoted elsewhere. She wanted to know how serious I was about buying it. I told her it depended on the price. She stepped away for a moment to speak to a manager, and I thought, this is like what people go through when they're buying a car. She returned with a number that was within $20 of the one I'd given her, which was close enough. I guess they wanted to make the sale.

It's a heavy sucker, and it has three (?!) crowns. The one by 2 does the usual time-setting, the one by 4 turns that outer ring, and the one on the other side, by 9, turns the dial inside the outer dial, the one with the place names on it. (I keep it set to New York.) It's kind of silly, but it's also kind of cool. And the strip of numbers on the inside next to the 9 is for a second time zone, which is handy when you're traveling to the west coast.

16 February 2010

Mardi Gras Memories

Happy Mardi Gras! I had the good fortune to be able to attend the festivities back in 1989, but getting there wasn't so easy, so I thought it might make a good story for today...

A friend had been to New Orleans during the summer of 1988, and made some acquaintances who invited her to return for Mardi Gras. I got invited to go along, but because of my work schedule I could not travel with the others who were going, so I made arrangements to arrive a day or two later. It was suggested that I bring a sleeping bag, as the accommodations would be somewhat spartan.

My flight from Boston to New Orleans was on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, leaving around 6 PM and connecting through Dallas. For once, the weather here was not an issue; I went from work directly to the airport and got on my way easily. But just before I left, the southern part of the country was gripped by unseasonably cold temperatures. I had assumed it would be warm in New Orleans (compared to the weather at home), so I didn't really pack appropriate clothing.

When my flight landed in Dallas later that night, the temperature was 17 degrees. The one other time I'd passed through the DFW airport, during the previous summer on the way to attend a friend's wedding in Los Angeles, it was 107 degrees. Fortunately, I didn't have to venture outside either time, since I was changing planes within the same terminal. I passed by one of the doors leading outside and got a blast of the cold air, and that was more than enough.

The flight from Dallas to New Orleans left around 11 PM, and it was less than half full. (This was the time I was able to lie on my side across the three seats in the aisle and sleep, which I referenced in one of my recent posts). No one was able to pick me up at the airport, but I had been instructed to catch a shuttle van that ran to some of the downtown hotels (about a 30-minute ride, and the least expensive option) and catch a cab from a hotel to the house where we were staying. This was a good idea in theory, but getting dropped off alone, with heavy luggage (no wheels back then) and my silly sleeping bag, in the middle of the French Quarter, in the midst of teeming throngs of Mardi Gras celebrants, in the prime drunkness hours after midnight, was disorienting and a little unnerving.

These days it's highly unlikely I would find myself in a completely unfamiliar place without any resources, but I wasn't yet a seasoned traveler. I didn't have any maps, I didn't have any sort of guidebooks, and I didn't have any sense of which direction I needed to be going. The few taxis that I saw already had passengers in them. I didn't panic, but I was at a bit of a loss. But I did have enough sense to figure out that I would be better off getting away from the crowds.

After going a couple of blocks away from the center of the revelry, I was finally able to wave down a taxi. I gave him the address, and before long I was being dropped off. The other part of the instructions from my friends was that when I arrived, they would most likely be out at one of the big balls given by the krewes (the social organizations that sponsor and organize the Mardi Gras parades), but that someone would be at home to let me in. So I'm sure it's no surprise to you that no one was home.

So, just to recap, it's now around 2 AM, I'm standing on the porch of this empty house (which, while locked, has lights on in every room that I can see), I have no idea what sort of neighborhood I'm in, I'm tired, it's cold (not as cold as in Dallas, but maybe 35 degrees), and I don't have a winter coat. Now I admit, that part was really stupid. For whatever reason, I'd decided to travel wearing a shirt, sweater, and denim jacket. It's a long time ago, so I don't remember all the details, but it's possible we'd caught a slightly warmer spell at home, or I just didn't want to be burdened with a heavy outer coat.

But I did have my stupid sleeping bag. I'd brought another light coat with me, so I put that on on top of my other layers, got inside the sleeping bag, assumed a sitting position on the porch with my back against the house, and eventually fell asleep. My friends and the people who lived in the house rolled in around 5 AM. They assured me that when they had left, there were other people still at the house so they thought I'd be able to get in.

The rest of the trip was great; by that evening I'd forgotten all about my unexpected, improvised camp-out.

15 February 2010

Shopping Roulette

As someone who approaches shopping as part sport, I frequently have to "stalk" particular items that I'm interested in, by waiting for them to go on sale, or by locating them through an alternative source such as eBay or Style Forum. Sometimes, none of these options is successful.

Back in the fall J. Crew had some flannel workshirts. The fabric didn't really feel like traditional flannel to me, but it was still nice and soft, and I liked the patterns, particularly a light gray plaid accented with red. (Gray is pretty much my favorite color for clothing.) I figured I'd pick one up after Christmas when everything from the fall got marked down, but the shirt was sold out on the web site and in stores by around Thanksgiving.

I don't know if this is normal or not, but I suspect that maybe a buyer underestimated the shirt's popularity. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago in another post, and I thought that was the end of it. But one day last week, while poking around the sale section on the J. Crew web site, the shirt was back, and the only available size was my size, so naturally I ordered one right away.

After I'd placed the order, I wondered if I would actually receive it, because it was sold out again a short time later, and I know that weird things can happen when inventory gets low. I've read stories about canceled orders on blogs like J. Crew Aficionada. (Yes, there are people who devote their time to blogging about one particular store's merchandise, and there are people like me who read such blogs. Deal with it.)

The next day I got the email saying my order had shipped, and I more or less stopped thinking about it. I mean, there's always a chance that the UPS truck could crash, but something like that's pretty remote. On Friday I checked the tracking and saw that that package would be delivered that day. Someone in my office brought it by my desk around 3 PM. I opened the package and... they had sent me a different shirt. Not just a different one, but one I'd never seen before on the web site, in a catalog, or in a store. It was a flannel shirt, but it wasn't gray, and it was a completely different style.

I called customer service, and sadly the shirt I wanted was not available anywhere, but since they had made a mistake they refunded my shipping cost, and I returned the wrong shirt to the Copley store on my way home from work. Guess I'll just have to keep looking.

13 February 2010

This Week in Awesome (2/13/10)

Whoops, had that feeling I was forgetting something... ah well, kind of a busy day.

So, you know how when you type something into the Google, it offers suggestions based on other people's searches? That's called auto-complete, and there's a site that collects them. (Consumerist)

I fear the day is coming when Auto-Tune will rule the world, but for now it's good for some fun. Someone with more free time than you or me has been auto-tuning news clips, with suitably amusing results. (YouTube via Cult of Mac)

In the UK, a web site renamed the country's most accident-prone street Accident Avenue, and shrouded everything on it in bubble wrap. (Confused via Autoblog)

Someone took an ad for a furniture store with merchandise of dubious taste, and dubbed in their own audio track. (Consumerist)

And finally (just in time for Valentine's Day, I suppose), a compilation of 10 exceedingly strange men's underwear commercials. (The Frisky via Racked)

12 February 2010

Progress Report: Braces

Today marks a year since I got my braces. I was scheduled to go into the dentist's office a week from Monday to get my wires changed, but as it happened, my upper wire shifted a few days ago and the right end was poking me, so I went in yesterday after work. He went ahead and changed the upper wire, and now I don't have to go back for another month.

The dentist is quite pleased with my progress; he said my teeth are 90 to 95 percent of the way to where they ought to be, and he expects that I'll be able to get the braces off in four or five more months. That's actually a little sooner than I'd expected, but I will be happy when they are finally removed. Eating is still more challenging than it used to be.

One byproduct of this process is that I am now much more attentive to how long and how thoroughly I brush my teeth, and I'll continue that after the braces come off.

11 February 2010

Peace, Love, and Soul

I don't bother with any of the pocket lint that's normally shown on VH1, but they did a very worthwhile documentary about Soul Train that premiered over the weekend. I should have clued you into it ahead of time, but I didn't know about it myself until after it had aired. I was able to record one of the subsequent showings and we watched it last night.

The first music I recall from my childhood is Motown--The Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Jackson 5. My dad loved R&B and soul, so we also had Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Marvin Gaye, and Sly & The Family Stone on regular rotation in our house. Naturally Soul Train was a show my dad would want to watch.

I can't say I remember us watching it every week, but that was probably because my father was a police officer, and often worked nights and weekends. So we were probably catching the show if it was on when he happened to be home. But I do remember being ten or twelve and getting an introduction to the idea of live performance and the visual aspects of music along with an appreciation of the artists and their work.

The VH1 show, Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America, did a nice job of placing the genesis of Soul Train in the context of the larger social and cultural changes taking place around the beginning of the 1970s. It was first nationally syndicated in 1971, and stayed on the air for 35 years. As of now the documentary does not appear to be scheduled to air again, and I don't think it's available anywhere to watch online, which is unfortunate. If I find it in the listings again I'll post an update.

10 February 2010

Watch Wednesday (2/10/10)

I've unintentionally neglected my watch posts since we got back from our trip, so I'm going to make up for it by doing them weekly for the next few weeks.

I had to go and look back at January's posts to see whether the last one was for a vintage or modern watch. It was modern, so we'll go back to vintage for this one.


This is another Caravelle, date-coded to 1971. This was one of my earlier eBay purchases, but I haven't worn it for many years. Although the luminous material on the hands and numerals has aged, it still glows when exposed to light. This was considered a military-style watch when it was sold, though I'm fairly certain that by that point watches that were actually worn by enlisted men had 24-hour markings on the dial.

The other thing about this watch is that it's comparatively tiny. Its diameter is 31 millimeters, and it takes a 16 mm strap. After years if wearing larger watches it looks strange on my wrist, but I think it would suit a woman's wrist well.

I also happen to have this same style watch with a cream-colored dial. I couldn't manage to get a decent picture of it, but in the interest of fleshing out this entry I've included it anyway:

It's a couple of years older than the other one, but I bought this one first, then came across the black-dial version a while later. Both watches still run, though I'm sure their insides could use a cleaning.

09 February 2010

On the Lamb

A few weeks back I got an invitation to a restaurant tasting event at a place on route 1 in Saugus called ZaZa. I confess that I hadn't heard of it before, and I thought it was interesting that I was invited to the event because, while I do sometimes write about food and eating at places in the area, I'm not a food blogger per se. But free food is free food, and guests were permitted, so the Mrs. and I went.

We were given generous samples of several appetizers, like coconut-crusted shrimp, baby lamb chops, and my favorite, a big spear of artichoke heart with a dollop of goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto. I love all three of these things, but it had never occurred to me to combine them; it was a delicious mix. (Waitstaff also brought around samples of some of the restaurant's martini offerings, but martinis are not my sort of drink at all, so I don't feel I can offer a valid opinion on them.)

Our friend Sandi, who is very much a foodie and food blogger (see her Boston Restaurant Examiner page) was also supposed to attend, but could not. She was on a different mission anyway: to talk to the restaurant's chef about one of ZaZa's special dishes, lamb osso buco. She made arrangements to have an early dinner there that Saturday, and it turned out that we made plans to see a movie with her later that night, so we ended up accompanying her.

Unfortunately, the chef was out of town, but the manager, Chris, took excellent care of us. We shared a tapas appetizer platter containing the shrimp and artichoke items mentioned above, plus crab cakes, gnocchi, and Italian sausage with broccoli rabe. We also tried the arancini, a favorite of mine (I talked about the ones from our neighborhood place just about a month ago). ZaZa makes theirs with peas and asiago cheese, an interesting variation that works nicely.

We were also able to sample the lamb osso buco, which was pretty amazing, but time ran short and we had to leave (Sandi got to take it home). I don't believe it is a regular menu item, but rather an occasional special; if that's what you're interested in, I suggest calling for more information. Chris is an affable and gregarious host, and the staff were highly attentive. This is by no means an impartial review, because that's not what I do, but consider it a recommendation.

08 February 2010

Finally Getting Smart

A little over two years ago I decided that I could no longer stand to be without some form of mobile internet access. What I most wanted was the ability to check the MBTA web site for information about delays, and the ability to access my email while away from home or work.

At the time Verizon did not offer any devices that were of interest to me, but I didn't want to switch carriers, so I looked into getting a second device. I found that it was possible to get a BlackBerry with only internet service on AT&T, and they were selling refurbished devices through their web site for only $30. It wasn't the simplest or most elegant solution (the BlackBerry web browser is woeful compared to its competitors), but it gave me what I most wanted and needed at the time.

Except... except for AT&T's notoriously bad service. Roughly 40% of the time I needed to go online to get some info, I could not connect to the data network. Sometimes I could resolve the issue by shutting down the BlackBerry and restarting it, but that was a cumbersome and ridiculous workaround. I was paying $30 a month for service that I often could not make use of.

The smart thing probably would have been to just ditch the service altogether and pay the early termination penalty (Verizon finally came out with its own version of the same device about six months after I'd gotten mine), but I felt nagged by the idea that I would end up stuck without web access (or even theoretically possible web access) in a situation when it was needed. And I had been able to make use of a dedicated Google Maps program for the device on several occasions when the Mrs. and I were driving in an unfamiliar place, so I kept the thing, using it only when it was really necessary.

My contract ended right before Christmas, and I canceled it immediately, because by then I knew that Verizon was launching its version of the Palm Pre in January. The Pre originally launched last June on Sprint, and it had been widely assumed that a Verizon version would be forthcoming. Then Verizon announced the official launch date, January 25th--the day we were flying home from our trip to California.

Monday is an odd day to launch such a device; usually smartphones go on sale on a Saturday to generate buzz and draw out the diehard early adopters. I griped out loud to anyone within earshot that if Verizon wanted to launch the Pre on a Monday, why not do it on the 18th, which was a holiday, so people like me could go get it, and that way I would have had it in time for our trip. But no one from Verizon consulted me about the timing of the launch.

On the morning of the 25th, we had coffee in downtown Santa Cruz before making the drive across the mountains and up the peninsula to the San Francisco airport. Across the street was a strip mall with, among other things, a Trader Joe's and a Verizon store. I mused out loud to the Mrs. that I could probably just go across the street and get the phone. She shrewdly pointed out that if I did that, I would have to pay the much higher California state sales tax, and on the full pre-rebate amount. I thought, what's a few bucks, but then I decided it was probably easier to just wait and deal with it after we got home. I think if we'd been planning to come home on Tuesday, I would have gone ahead and gotten it out there on Monday.

The next day, back at work, I checked the Verizon web site and was reminded of something I'd forgotten since my previous phone upgrade: when you order through their site (instead of going to a store and getting the phone in person), any applicable rebates are deducted from the transaction immediately, saving the trouble of collecting the bar code from the package and filling out the forms and mailing them and waiting six to eight weeks for a check, hoping you didn't make a mistake (believe it or not, rebate processes are designed to trip people up, or be so onerous that people won't bother submitting them at all).

Phones ordered through the web site are also shipped overnight for free, so if you can delay your gratification just a little longer (not always easy for someone like me) it's a pretty good deal. The phone came the next day by 11:30 AM, and all I had to do was call a number to activate the device on my line.

The Pre is a nifty little device. It's smaller than an iPhone (which means it will fit in my pocket comfortably) with rounded corners and edges. It looks like a glossy black stone of some sort. It has a physical keyboard, which was a requirement for me, and a removable battery, which was not crucial but is still nice. It has a touch-screen interface, like many other such devices now do, that is intuitive and easy to learn. Palm's app store has nowhere near the selection of Apple's, but it's growing, and apps are less important to me right now than reliable internet access.

One other thing that's really cool is an optional charging device called Touchstone. The Pre comes with a conventional wall-plug charger, an impressively tiny cylinder (about 1.5 inches high by 1 inch diameter) with flip-out prongs and a USB cord, so you have the option to charge the phone through a computer's USB port. But if you plug the cord into the Touchstone instead of the Pre itself, you can then charge the Pre just by laying it on the Touchstone: there are tiny magnets in the phone's back that hold it in place, and electrical contacts that conduct the charge. So you can leave the Touchstone on a desk or table and park your Pre on it each night. (I bought my Touchstone through Amazon and paid much less than what Palm or Verizon charge for it.)

As you might figure, I'm pretty excited about my new toy, and I'm happy to have finally entered my own personal Smartphone Era. I don't plan to bore you with any further talk of it, unless anything particularly good or bad happens. But this does mean that it should be much easier for me to post while I'm traveling, since now I don't need access to a computer. Lucky you...

06 February 2010

This Week in Awesome (2/6/10)

Plenty of good stuff this week...

Does anybody remember that old Bottle Rockets song "Thousand Dollar Car"? Head over to Cars for A Grand, which is going to perplex some and delight others. (Jalopnik)

Weird products: these candlesticks are certainly, uh, unique. (BuzzFeed via Consumerist)

Regrettable products: another commercial for something of questionable merit. This time it's Pajama Jeans. (Videogum)

Worlds are colliding: did you know David Hyde Pierce hosted the Sundance Awards? Did you know there was a Sundance Awards? Don't feel bad, me neither. Regardless, like many award-show hosts, he opened with a musical number, and that's all I'm going to say. (Videogum via Gynomite)

You know what's an excellent way to spend your time this weekend? Watching video clips of a professional demolition company's building implosions. Start at the web site of Controlled Demolition, Inc., then head over to their YouTube channel for lots of entertaining stuff-blowing-up action. (Esquire's Daily Endorsement)

05 February 2010

Aren't You Cold?

Okay, seriously, what's up with the weather-inappropriate clothing? I've griped about this before, but it hasn't reared its head for a while.

Right now the Google says it's 26 degrees, and it was a couple of degrees colder when I left the house. Just as the bus was approaching, a guy came around the corner wearing a dress shirt, dark pants, and New Balance running shoes. No coat, no hat, no sweater, no scarf. I see this guy from time to time, and the most I've ever seen him wear is a suit coat over the rest of his outfit. I don't know where he lives in relation to the bus stop, but it seems like he times his arrival for minimum outdoor exposure. I'm not sure how he does this, given the unpredictability of MBTA buses. I guess it's possible he's wearing long underwear under his clothes, but somehow I doubt it.

Then when I got to the platform at Wellington, I saw another guy I've seen on several mornings, wearing what he always wears: a warm-up jacket, knee-length athletic shorts, and work boots. He carries a big duffel bag, so I'm thinking he's either going to or coming from a gym, but still. I don't know how people do this in the dead of winter. I understand that being underdressed in cold weather does not necessarily mean you're going to get sick, but it still has to be pretty damn uncomfortable. When he was younger, my father was one of those people who was seemingly impervious to cold, but he added a layer or two during the winter.

04 February 2010

Overheard: Denial of Moral Support Edition

I'd forgotten about this... over the weekend I went to see The Rationales play, at the Rosebud in Davis Square. For those of you unfamiliar, there is a separate bar room tucked in back behind the diner. It has a generous amount of... um, let's say "local flavor."

When I went up to the bar to get a beer, I happened to end up standing next to a couple who were in the midst of some sort of argument. I didn't dare turn my head because I didn't want to end up on the receiving end of a "What are you lookin' at?", so I stared straight ahead as I waited for the bartender to take my order.

I guess I came in near the end of the proceedings, because all I really heard was this, from the woman: "You don't have anything I need. You know what? I'm not gonna go to court with you after all."

03 February 2010

Winter Clearance

I had two or three post ideas rattling around in my head while I was on my way to work yesterday, but by the time I arrived I couldn't remember any of them.

Anyway, I guess the perennial fallback topic is clothes and shopping. I've been intending to hit the Wrentham outlets since right after Christmas, but with weather and travel we never made it. By now it may be too late to find anything good. I've been making an effort to be a bit more choosy about what I buy, and since the beginning of the year I haven't bought much (for me, anyway).

Last week I read on a shopping site that all the clearance merchandise at Saks stores around the country had been collected and sent to six stores, and Boston is one of them, so I thought it would be a good idea to pop in and have a look. I don't do much shopping in Saks--I think the only things I've ever actually purchased there are grooming products like shaving cream--but they have a pretty good selection of men's clothing spanning the spectrum from classic Italian suits to more trendy young-dude threads.

I went Monday after work, but unfortunately I was disappointed. Clearance stuff is usually on clearance for a reason, and the stuff on the sale racks was unimpressive. I did, however, see several nice things that weren't on sale, which is pretty much what happens to me everywhere I shop. I guess there's hope that those things might eventually go on sale, or show up on Gilt or RueLaLa.

Since I was on my way home from work, I had to walk through Copley Place anyway to get to the Orange Line, so I stopped in J. Crew. I did pretty well in their stores' sale sections in December, both around here and on my microvisit to New York (the stores in Rockefeller Center and on Fifth Avenue below Union Square have particularly good men's departments), and I was hoping for some additional markdowns.

So I was kind of surprised to find that there was no longer a men's sale section in the Copley Place store. There was a small section of women's sale stuff, and that was it. I guess it's possible for a store to sell all of its sale/clearance merchandise, but I think it's more likely that after a certain date, whatever is left gets sent to an outlet store (so maybe I should get to Wrentham after all).

There was one flannel shirt I really liked from the fall, but it sold out even before December. I know this because it disappeared from the stores and the web site and I couldn't find it anywhere, so I asked a store employee about it. I saw the character Andy wearing it on the show Parks and Recreation, and while I don't think that's why it sold out, of course it only made me want it more. Yeah, I really am that weird about clothes sometimes.

01 February 2010

Bore Bar

Sometimes lunch is better in theory than in reality. Today's salad bar had no olives (black or green), no mixed field greens, no pasta option, and perhaps most egregiously, no feta cheese!

I guess in the future I need to look things over before plunging in.