30 June 2010

Leaving the 'Cue

Last week the Mrs. heard about a barbecue "festival" taking place at Suffolk Downs. Admission was free on Friday, so after work we headed over to check it out.

There were about ten different BBQ vendors, but none of them seemed local--at least, we didn't recognize any of them. She thought it might be a good idea if we split up and got food from a couple of different places to compare them, so we got into lines at two adjacent vendors. The lines moved quickly, though the person who took my order was extremely indifferent and might as well have been asleep. The Mrs. was disappointed with her brisket, which was dry and rather chewy. The one I got was better, though the sides of beans and cole slaw that came with mine were bland and unimpressive, while her sides were better.

Elsewhere, the only beer available in the whole place was Bud Light or Bud Light Lime, at $6 for one of those aluminum bottle-cans, or Bud Light Wheat on draft. Now, I understand that the organizers of the event (the people behind the Phantom Gourmet TV show) probably had to make some sort of sponsorship deal, but there are a lot of people like me who will choose tap water over anything with Bud in the name, and barbecue without beer just isn't the same. $6 for a beer is Fenway pricing, but at least at Fenway you have a choice of Narragansett, Sam Adams, or several other beers.

There was also some ridiculously loud, ridiculously bad music from some would-be teen heartthrob, sensitive singer-songwriter type, rides for the kids, and a smattering of vintage cars on display. The Mrs. spotted a cannoli vendor and bought one, but after a couple of bites she declared it the worst cannoli she'd ever had. She offered me a taste, and I agreed, so she threw it away. The cream filling was completely lacking in flavor, and the chocolate coating on the shell was too waxy.

At that point, disappointed by pretty much everything, we headed home. It's a good thing we hadn't waited until the next day to go--the thought of paying $5 just to walk through the gate of this event, in light of everything that followed, probably would have sent her over the edge.

29 June 2010

Thermal Dueling

During the summer our office is kept comfortable but not unreasonably cold, yet several of my nearby coworkers require portable heaters under their desks for cold feet. This seems counterproductive and inefficient, since running these heaters raises the temperature at my end of the office by several degrees, thereby forcing the cooling system to work harder against that warmer air.

Instead of heaters, I propose that they should be given pairs of slippers, and if they are still cold, a quick step outside should warm them up quickly enough, on a day like yesterday or today.

28 June 2010

Expense Report #12

What a brutal day. Best to stay indoors with AC if you can. Supposedly we're going to have some more comfortable weather coming along after tomorrow, at least for a couple of days. I know there are plenty of people who will be angry with me for saying this, but I've already kind of had it with summer. The heat and humidity arrived early this year, plus I think it's just part of getting older; I'm much less able to tolerate discomfort than I did when I was younger.

Anyway, I bought another watch this past week. It's a vintage Seiko automatic from the late 1960s, when the brand was little known in this country. (I don't even know if their watches were sold in the US back then; many of the ones for sale on eBay are from either Singapore or the Philippines, which would suggest they were primarily sold in Asia.) They made many excellent watches during this period that are not especially difficult to find now, and also are not prohibitively expensive, which is great if you're starting a collection or looking to add a specific watch to one.

I've been looking for one of this model for well over a year, since I saw one for sale on a vintage watch site for $200 and knew I could find one for less. In fact I ended up paying $65 for a watch that is in fine cosmetic and mechanical condition, has been cleaned and serviced, and has a new crystal, so it was an excellent deal, and it came from a US seller. Better yet, I'm paying for it with saved change that I rolled over the weekend and will be depositing into my account this week. I'll have more to say about this particular watch when the next Watch Wednesday rolls around.

I also bought a couple of watch straps from The Watch Prince in Oregon, and that would have been it for the week, except for one other thing. A long, long time ago, I sent a watch to be serviced. One of my coworkers had mentioned a repair place in her town, and offered to bring the watch in on my behalf. I seriously think it was about two years ago. It was a watch that I had damaged several years ago through my own carelessness (I stupidly banged on a stubborn paper towel dispenser with my left hand, and caused something inside the watch case to come loose), but after the repair person had a look, he found some other issues. He offered to fix everything for $175, which was very fair considering Alpha Omega had quoted me $500 to $600 a few years before, and they weren't even going to do the work in-house (which is why I was looking for another repair place to begin with).

And sure enough, the call came this past week that the watch was finally ready. I suppose I could have waited a bit to pick it up, but I really wanted it back. Given the amount of time involved and the updates I had received from the repair person along the way, I expected the final bill to be higher, but he charged me exactly what he had quoted me originally. So I guess I'll be featuring this watch in the future as well.

And, okay, no more watches for a while, I guess.

26 June 2010

This Week in Awesome (6/26/10)

We're overflowing with web goodness this week. The internets are showing us the love:

Don't mess with street dogs in Serbia. (Jalopnik via YouTube)

More retro-future gadgets. (Engadget via Behance Network)

Mashup time: Kubrick vs. Scorsese. (The Daily What)

Headache? Try this. (Upright Citizens Brigade via Consumerist)

Feeling down? Try this (probably NSFW/C). (Funny or Die)

25 June 2010

Halfway Done

Yesterday my bottom braces were removed. They were put on in May of last year, three months after the top teeth. They were originally supposed to come off four weeks ago, but the dentist wanted to tweak the position of one tooth, and what difference does a few weeks make?

The Mrs. asked me if it felt weird. Only for a few minutes, then I didn't even notice that they were no longer there. Of course, now I have the pleasure of wearing a retainer, but as with the braces, science has improved this too. It's just a mold of clear plastic that fits right over my teeth, so it's not even noticeable.

The best part is that the top braces will probably be coming off in three more weeks--again, this is so some adjusting can be done to one top tooth. I had expected the top braces would need to stay on another two or three months, so this is great news.

24 June 2010

Bargains, Rapped

I'm not much of a fan of rap. I was into the early stuff from Run-DMC, De La Soul, and a few others, but it kinda lost me after Public Enemy's popularity peaked in the late '80s. I can always appreciate a good beat, and I admire the skills needed to rhyme and flow, but as music it doesn't do anything for me.

I think it's really just a generational thing; had I been born five or ten years later, I'd probably be more inclined to like it (though I'm basing this assumption solely on my younger coworkers' tastes). But how could I not love a rap about discount shopping? More importantly, how could I not share it with you?

Have you heard of Ross? As in "Ross Dress for Less"? They're kind of like Marshalls, except we don't have them in our part of the country. They are as close as New Jersey, but are mainly in the southeast, south, and west. My father-in-law, who lived in southern California, shopped there so frequently, he practically had a shopping cart with his name on a plaque. He never tired of bragging about the deals he found there, or that Tuesdays were senior citizen days and he got an extra 10 percent off.

But, as usual, I digress. I've never heard of the rappers Abraham Linkin, but clearly they are guys who appreciate a bargain, and they have a sense of humor too. So, please to enjoy the all-kindsa-awesome video "I Got It At Ross." Non-stick pans, indeed. If Ross has any clue, they'll pay these guys for the rights to this and make it their official song.

23 June 2010

Watch Wednesday (6/23/10)

The camera battery needed a charge, but we have an older camera that the Mrs. likes to carry with her to take pictures of flowers and such. I know this picture is still slightly out of focus (mainly because the older camera lacks the image stabilization of the newer one, and I have a very hard time holding the camera completely still while shooting), but this camera really does a better job on the close-ups. So why haven't I been using it all along?

Somehow I'd forgotten about this watch, which I've had for about two years and which I do wear, though perhaps not as frequently as some of my others. It's from a company called Jacques Lemans, part of a line inspired by auto racing (hence the "F1" designation on the dial). These watches were all over the internet at the time I bought mine, on sites like Overstock and SmartBargains; I happened to find the best deal on this one on ShopNBC, which I otherwise never bother with.

I guess I liked this watch because I thought it slightly resembled a TAG Heuer Carrera, which costs around $3K. I also like the red accents (though they don't pop off the black dial quite as much as I'd like) and the knurled crown and the sleeves of the chronograph buttons. Overall, it's maybe just a little too busy-looking, but it's a nice size and it keeps accurate time.

As with most of my watches, this one came with an awful strap: it was black perforated neoprene with red edging, and there were pieces of metal inside it to keep it in a curved shape. This strap is made in the US by a company called Hadley-Roma. I love the red stitching (it's also available with blue, orange, or yellow), but I don't love the red edge, which you can kind of see a little of at the bottom of the pic. I think it's painted on or otherwise applied, because it's starting to come off in a couple of places. But it's still a huge improvement on the original.

22 June 2010

Of Note

In my mail the other day, along with the Val-Pak coupons and unsolicited credit card offers, was a small envelope the color of kraft paper. I thought maybe it was an invitation of some sort, but it turned out to be a note--a hand-written one, at that--from Lands' End Canvas, thanking me for my recent purchase.

That's the second time I've received a hand-written note in the past couple of months (the first was from J. Crew's customer service, after the hat incident), and it's a great finishing touch, such a simple and smart way to cement a bit of positive afterglow in a customer's mind.

But I do wonder what percentage of these companies' customer service employees have handwriting that's actually legible, because no one writes anything anymore. My own cursive writing is atrocious; in high school I got in the habit of printing all my class notes, and now I can barely sign my name, and my printing isn't that great either. Perhaps they are being sent to refresher penmanship classes?

21 June 2010

Expense Report #11

I realize that at this point you may be bored by my weekly itemizations, but doing this has helped me pay more attention to my spending, and that forces me to evaluate potential purchases more rigorously than I might otherwise, so I'm going to continue it for the foreseeable.

I have so far managed to resist anything from the sale section on the J. Crew site, even with an extra 30% off. There are a couple of things I would probably buy if they were available in my size, but I'm not about to contact the customer service rep who helped me before--too easy, nothing I need badly enough.

Otherwise this was a disciplined week for me. I am considering investing in an uninterruptible power supply for my television and other audio/video equipment, but I haven't made a definite decision about it yet. I'm probably going to be stopping at Newbury Comics on my way home today or tomorrow to pick up the new CDs by Stars, The Gaslight Anthem, and The National, but I haven't bought any new music in a couple of months, at least.

19 June 2010

This Week in Awesome (6/19/10)

Seems like summer has arrived for real. We're even going to a solstice party (a couple of days early) this evening. Meanwhile, stuff for you to look at on the internet--imagine that!

These guys were kind enough to demonstrate exactly how not to attempt to load a jet-ski into a van at the water's edge. (YouTube via Autoblog)

Hyundai did a couple of clever commercials that spoof the TV show Top Gear. Of course, hardly anyone in this country even knows what the show is, so these are airing in South Africa. (YouTube via Jalopnik)

A Russian artist painted something rude on a drawbridge in St. Petersburg, so that when the bridge opened (apparently they leave the bridges open overnight) his handiwork was on display and, um, upright. Pretty damn funny (possibly slightly offensive to some, though I doubt it). (The Awl)

How could I not be intrigued by a series of snarky illustrations called the Douche Series? The first one takes aim at a certain type of ad-agency worker. If you enjoy it, there's plenty more here (they make me think the artist has some anger issues to work out, but they're still funny). (I can't remember how I found these, so I can't give proper attribution.)

18 June 2010

Dear Old Dad

So, Sunday is Father's Day, and it's always a challenge coming up with a suitable gift for my father, because, to not sugarcoat it, he's kind of a grumpy old guy who doesn't have likes or interests like an ordinary person. (And some of you have met him, so you know what I'm talking about.) He isn't into gadgets, he doesn't use a computer, has all the tools he needs (a few years ago I got him one of those laser levels, and he later admitted that he'd returned it), doesn't care about clothes (I know, I know!), isn't interested in movies or books, and generally makes any attempt at gift-giving extremely difficult.

But the man's gotta eat. For Christmas, I hit on the idea of getting him an assortment from Omaha Steaks, and he seemed to genuinely appreciate it. I was going to just do the same thing again for Father's Day, but it kind of crept up on me, so this evening we drove up to one of the stores. After looking over the various packaged items in the freezer cases, I decided to get him a gift card, since there is a store fairly close to where he lives. I'm hoping he will make the effort to go there and choose some stuff.

I also popped into L.L. Bean, which is in the same shopping center, hoping to get a look at some of the Signature line, but unfortunately they aren't carrying any of it (at least not yet). The store never seems to lack for customers, but after looking around I have to say that Bean's regular stuff is looking really boring, and bringing in some Signature merchandise would definitely perk things up.

After that, we had to drive to where the Mrs. works, because she'd left her cell phone in her office. We also needed to eat, and she mentioned that we were going to pass a Sonic, where I guess she's been going for slushy-fruit drinks on her way home from work, or something. I didn't realize that Sonic operates like an old-fashioned drive-in, with carhops on roller skates and everything. Of course, this being 2010, there are male carhops too. There's also a drive-through window, but no inside counter service.

I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon and ranch dressing. The first sandwich the carhop brought me was breaded chicken, with lettuce and mayonnaise. When I told her it wasn't what I'd ordered she was extremely polite and said she'd get me the correct sandwich. The second sandwich she brought me was grilled chicken, and there were a couple of tomato slices, but still no bacon. I didn't bother trying to get it fixed again, because I was hungry. But I have to say, the shake I had with it was excellent.

17 June 2010

Grooming Garage: The Empire Strikes Back?

It's deadline week again, hence my absence yesterday. However, I didn't want to leave you hanging for too long.

A little over a month ago, I did a writeup on the new Hydro 3 razor from Schick. At the time, I made a comment about receiving products to try and review. A PR person from Gillette found my post (presumably through a Google alert triggered by the keywords "razor" and "Gillette") and contacted me to ask if I would be interested in trying the company's forthcoming Fusion ProGlide, which purportedly offered some of the same improvements as the Hydro. So of course I thanked him and accepted his offer.

A few days later I received a package with a Fusion ProGlide Power razor (the battery-powered, vibrating kind) and a can of Fusion HydraGel. I had tried another Power razor some years ago (probably the M3 Power, which I believe was the first of its kind) and hated it--it irritated my neck something terrible, just like traditional electric razors do, so I didn't bother to install the battery in the ProGlide. Also I figured it would make for a more equivalent comparison to the Hydro if I wasn't using the power feature.

As for the gel, I haven't used any shaving product that squirts out of a can in probably fifteen years, if not longer.--they just don't give a good shave for someone like me with ultra-sensitive skin. I'll get around to trying it at some point, but I don't have high expectations for it, so I'll probably end up keeping it around for an emergency, or giving it to my brother. And again, I wanted to make my comparison as fair as possible by using the same products (face wash, pre-shave oil, and shaving cream) as I did while shaving with the Hydro.

By the way, the ProGlide went on sale about ten days ago, and I had originally intended to have this review ready right around that time, but I wanted to get at least three shaves with it first, and since I only need to shave a couple of times a week, I wasn't paying enough attention to the on-sale date to figure out when I should have started using it in order to make that deadline. Also, I was still shaving with that first Hydro blade, and it was still giving me great shaves, and that reservoir still had moisturizing lotion in it. I think I used it six or seven times and it was still getting the job done; in fact, when I finally discarded it, there was still some lotion inside the head, and if I hadn't needed to start using the ProGlide, I would have kept using it.

It had been more than a year since I'd first tried the original Gillette Fusion, so in a sense I was trying to compare the ProGlide to that as well as to the Hydro. Ultimately I came away with the same opinion as before, with one slight difference. The blades on the ProGlide have thinner edges, but it still rinses easily and generally handles well. But what surprised me most was that, despite Gillette's claims that the ProGlide gives a smoother shave, I found the shaves to be less smooth and less comfortable than either its predecessor or the Schick Hydro. This could be attributable to the composition of the lubricating strip (they've added mineral oil), to a new "low-resistance coating" on the blades, or some other reason. Also, even though Gillette says that lube strip is 25% larger, it still wears away pretty quickly: after three shaves it was pretty much gone.

I wanted to like the ProGlide. I was hopeful that Gillette had produced a product that would eliminate the bias I have against them based on my prior negative experiences with their products. But it didn't happen. Keep in mind, you might be completely happy with your Fusion, and you might get totally different results than me with a ProGlide. And that's fine; that's why there are competing products at the drug store. And if you do decide to try a ProGlide, I suggest you look for sales or coupons (I think I saw some in this past Sunday's newspaper coupon inserts, or you can check this out) to save yourself a couple of bucks.

15 June 2010

Lands' End and Style: Oxymoronic?

A couple of weeks back when I mentioned the Lands' End event, A Proper Bostonian challenged me in a comment on that post to explain how Lands' End's offerings are stylish:
Style and Land's End seem kind of contradictory, don't you think? All I've ever found there is fleece and all the spouse ever found were ugly but practical weatherproof shoes. I look forward to your rebuttal!
This is a valid point, and I thought that discussing it in a regular post would expose it to more readers than just continuing the discussion in the comments area of the original post.

The first thing I think I should mention is that the word "style" originated in the email I received from Lands' End, and I was reusing it out of convenience. I never really bothered to consider the implications of the word in this context.

I'm fairly certain that the people at Lands' End are aware that their company's offerings are widely perceived as unstylish, or even anti-style, and I don't necessarily disagree with that point of view. I do think that one reason they decided to launch the Canvas line was to attempt to dispel this idea. (I'm also pretty sure L.L. Bean's competing Signature line had something to do with it.) There also seems to be a pretty significant J. Crew feel to the Canvas selection, which is even more pronounced when you see the clothes in person. Given the popularity of J. Crew's stuff and the company's performance over the past several years, this is not at all surprising.

But even with Lands' End's standard line, you can make an argument that anti-style is a style choice. Some people, both men and women, just don't care that much about clothes; some can't be bothered with shopping in stores. I know people like this, and LE is one of the places they go to stock up quickly and easily. Value is also part of it: the less you care about clothes, the less money you are going to want to spend on them.

I think people go to the office every day in khakis and a plain button-front shirt because they want to blend in. I see dozens of them every day on the T, especially men. A typical guy wants to look presentable with minimum effort, and wants clothes that aren't going to embarrass him. Some people aren't even comfortable wearing a striped shirt instead of a solid one. That's unfortunate, and I feel bad for them, but it's their choice.

I just bought a madras shirt from Lands' End. It's not quite as boring as a light blue dress shirt; it's a plaid called "light teal," but the dominant color is a berry red, with teal, white, and a little blue. It's colorful and summery without being loud, and it has a certain Leave It to Beaver prep/nerd vibe that I like in my short-sleeve plaid shirts.

Sometimes a person just needs a nudge. Lands' End does offer pretty good choices of colors for its products, and changing up the color scheme a bit is an easy way to inject some flair into your everyday outfits. But ultimately, LE is never going to be considered stylish. Their basic line fills a need for many people, and Canvas is offering a variation on the framework with some added distinction. Maybe some of the customers who buy from the regular line will find their way to Canvas.

I've seen a few pictures on style blogs of some of the forthcoming pieces from the fall Canvas collection, and it looks promising. If anyone from Lands' End is reading and wants to invite me to see the collection in person, I would happily write it up.

14 June 2010

Expense Report #10

After going on about Lands' End ad nauseum, this past week I pulled the trigger on a pair of shorts from the Canvas line and a short-sleeve madras shirt from "regular" LE. Both were discounted in some manner, and as usual free shipping was involved, so I spent less than $50 total. I know that I'll wear these items for many summers to come, making this a value-oriented purchase.

Elsewhere I was able to resist or avoid temptation. Yesterday we drove up to Newburyport, and even though it wasn't an especially nice day, we still enjoyed ourselves walking around and looking into various stores. There's a little shop on State Street that sells British things like tea and candy, and they also carry a decent selection of Barbour jackets and clothing. Some of it was on clearance for 50% off, making for some very nice deals. The shopkeeper tried very hard to find something for me to buy, but unfortunately for her (and, I suppose, fortunately for my efforts at restraint) none of the items I liked were available in my size.

By the way, I meant to mention this last week, but for those of you with the inclination to shop and who are trying to spend wisely, or maybe just need some clothes, the approach of Father's Day means that many stores have quite a bit of their men's clothing on sale. Naturally this varies from store to store, but this is traditionally a good time to shop for men's stuff, whether it's for your father, some other man in your life, or yourself.

12 June 2010

This Week in Awesome (6/12/10)

A dreary, lazy day: slept late, drank coffee, watched soccer. Now it's off to the warehouse club, but first I have some diversions for you:

Speaking of coffee, BP's problems go beyond the Gulf spill, to containing a coffee spill in a conference room. (Upright Citizens Brigade via Consumerist)

And, in one more (coincidentally) coffee-related instance, the Boston Globe did us the questionable service of mapping all the Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks locations in New England. Um, thanks? Actually, it is sort of interesting to see the density of DD locations in various towns.

John C. Reilly was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week, and during a commercial break he sang a song from a commercial for an Oklahoma barbecue restaurant, backed by Fallon's house band, The Roots. Esoteric, yeah, but I'd still rather watch this than anything by Kesha. (Videogum; original ad here, YouTube via Aziz Is Bored)

For something a bit more, um, thoughtful, the blog Jeremiah's Vanishing New York did a very interesting series on searching for the location of, or even just some evidence of the existence of, the diner depicted in the famous Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks. (Link is to Part 1; links to additional entries can be found on JVNY)

11 June 2010

Fresh Sounds

Hm, something else I'd meant to post earlier in the week: I discovered the concert archive on the NPR web site quite a while ago, but I hadn't visited in some time. Earlier this week I found more music goodies, including studio performances from KEXP and previews of forthcoming albums.

This week, and through the weekend until its release next Tuesday, you can listen to the entire new album American Slang from The Gaslight Anthem, a New Jersey band I discovered last year and loved immediately, along with a new album by Laurie Anderson. Next week this "First Listen" feature will be streaming The Five Ghosts, the fifth album from the Montreal band Stars, another one of my favorites.

10 June 2010

Watch Wednesday Thursday (6/10/10)

Oh look, another Bulova. You're not really surprised, are you? I picked this one up a couple of years ago for some very small amount of money, probably less than $30. (I'm a sucker for that cross-hair detail.)

This is a nice, basic Bulova with an automatic movement, the sort of watch that would have been on the wrists of thousands of American men in the late 1960s. This one is date-coded to 1968, and it happens to be engraved on the back; it's the only vintage watch I've bought that has engraving. It says "Bill-Jean 1944-1969," so maybe this was a 25th anniversary gift from Jean to Bill?

It's in pretty good condition, with a few blemishes. You can see a couple of marks on the dial below the hands, and the crystal has a few scuffs that I think would buff out. But otherwise, given its age, it looks pretty good. The dial has fine lines radiating out from the center (too faint to show up in this mediocre picture), and while it was probably originally a silvery white, it has taken on a slightly cream-colored cast with aging, which works nicely with the luminous hands, which have also aged to a similarly creamy hue. Plus, they still glow, though rather faintly.

I don't remember buying this strap, so it either came along with the watch, or it was one I had around that was the correct size. But with the coloring I just described, I think this watch would look good with a tan or light brown leather strap, like the one on this Timex.

Seeing Double

Apologies for the unintended absence yesterday--I got involved in a project after lunch and it took longer than I thought it would. There's plenty of material in the pipeline, though. [In retrospect, that seems a poor choice of words, doesn't it?]

On the train this morning, I saw something that I thought was kind of unusual: adult twins dressed alike. Male, I'd estimate in their mid-20s, they got on at Government Center wearing identical corduroy jackets, shirts, jeans, and shoes. I'm pretty sure they were each carrying a different sort of backpack, though I wasn't really close enough to tell for certain. I considered trying to get a picture, but there was no way I could have done it without them noticing, and I figured it was a little early in the day to be pissing off two people.

08 June 2010


I'd like to give a plug to a newish coffee shop in Medford Square. Mystic Coffee Roaster opened a couple of months ago, and since we're typically in the Square on Saturdays as part of our weekly errands, we've been making it a semi-regular stop.

The coffee is roasted in small batches three or four times a week, and in addition to hot and iced drinks, you can buy beans to take home or have them grind it for you. They are also offering treats from local bakeries, including various bagels and breads from Iggy's. The atmosphere is pleasant, the staff and owner are very friendly, and the coffee is excellent.

It's great to see this type of business opening in Medford Square. Previously the only option was Dunkin', which has its place, but I also like being able to try other varieties of coffee and getting freshly roasted beans to brew at home, and I like supporting a truly local business (the owner is also a Medford resident).

07 June 2010

Expense Report #9

When I mentioned yesterday that we were out on the Pike, it's because we were on our way to the mall in Natick to do some shopping. This trip was actually instigated by the Mrs., who said she wanted to find some lighter-weight pants for summer workwear. (She can't wear shorts, and she isn't much of a skirt person.) She doesn't enjoy shopping much because it's difficult to find clothing that fits her well, so she tends to shop for work clothing only when she needs it.

As it turned out, she came away with only one pair of pants--technically capris, but she's so short that they land right at her ankles. But she also got six basic, patterned short-sleeve tops for $10 each, a Macy's house brand. We'll need to visit another couple of stores to see if she can find decent pants.

I ended up at JCPenney again, and this time I found the polo shirts I wanted last time but couldn't get because they were out of my size. I bought three, for $10 apiece. They are decent shirts for so little money, made of fabric that's substantial enough to wear well for at least a couple of seasons, but light enough to be comfortable when the temperature rises.

The cut is neither too baggy nor too snug (for me, anyway--I wear a 44 suit jacket, and the large fits me just right). Their fit is comparable to Lands' End polos, which normally sell for $20 (and are currently on sale for $12, through today only), though I would have to give the edge to the LE shirts for softness of fabric. (LE also offers their shirts in a "tailored-fit" option, for those of you with slimmer frames.)

One nice thing about the store-brand shirts at Penney is that they come in more than three dozen colors; I ended up getting ivory (to replace an old and much too large shirt, it's a difficult color to find, but works well with plaid shorts and looks better with my skin tone than white), turquoise, and a deep fuchsia that's going to look better on me than a more typical hot pink. But as I learned, selection seems to vary considerably by store, and after being in both nearby (to me) locations, Northshore Mall in Peabody and Natick Mall, recently, I have to say that the men's department in the Natick store is much better. There's a lot more space overall, so they can offer a wider selection and deeper stock.

You can make fun of me for shopping at a middle of the road store like Penney, but it's a good place to save money on basics, and the quality is much better than you might expect. Don't get me wrong, there are still clothes you would want to avoid, like elastic-waist shorts and non-iron dress shirts in a very unpleasant-feeling 60/40 blend, but there's plenty of useful, wearable stuff too, and as I've said before, I want to help you spend your money wisely. You can easily spend $50 or even $80 on a single polo shirt (especially if you favor the kind with a logo), but what's the point?

06 June 2010

Road Hazards

Out on the road today, we were on the ramp from 128 south to the Pike westbound when the Mrs. suddenly jerked the wheel to the left to avoid something. I could only see a small blob on the shoulder, but she said it was a group of eight to ten ducklings, all clustered together, that appeared to be trying to cross the road.

It was like Make Way for Ducklings on the Mass. Pike, but where's Officer Michael when you need him?

05 June 2010

This Week in Awesome (6/5/10)

Yuck, it's humid here today. Air conditioners are definitely going in later. But first, time to catch up on some of the things that make us keep coming back to the internet over and over...

If you saw Tropic Thunder, then I'm sure you remember Tom Cruise's nearly unrecognizable cameo as Hollywood agent Les Grossman. (If you didn't see it, what's wrong with you? That movie was hilarious.) He's revived the character in some promos for the MTV Movie Awards, which are on tomorrow night. (TV Guide)

You know the World Cup starts next week, right? To get you in the mood, here's a cool Puma soccer commercial. (YouTube via Unlikely Words)

A lot of people have those transponder things in their cars so they can pay tolls without requiring cash or the need to stop. But if you don't have one, this is not the way to avoid paying the toll. Obviously, intoxication was involved. (Dallas Observer blog via Jalopnik)

And we'll conclude today with another gem courtesy of Web Soup: the "musical" stylings of one Shane Lee. Thank you, Shane. You've done the world a great service. Or something.

04 June 2010

Friday Funny: Poor Judgment

It's turned out to be kind of a stressful week--the wire on my bottom braces poking the inside of my mouth, a large floater in my left eye for the past two days, more TiVo problems--and I'm sure you could use a laugh anyway, so I'm going to choose the easy path today, and offer you this brief clip from G4TV's Soup spinoff Web Soup, in which a person does something he maybe should have thought twice about doing, and suffers the consequences.

Juvenile? Yes. Funny? Oh, yes. And if you enjoyed it, there are plenty of other funny clips at your disposal over there.

03 June 2010

Summer Style Event

I received an email from Lands' End about an event taking place this Saturday, June 5th, at the Lands' End Canvas mini-shop at the Sears in the Burlington Mall (for those of you reading this in my approximate geographical area), and thought I'd pass along the info.

It's in conjunction with Lucky magazine, so I guess it's more for the ladies, but maybe me blurbing it here will get the attention of someone at Lands' End and they'll do something similar for us guys, who knows?

There will be style tips, a chance to win stuff, mini manicures, light refreshments (key words, right there), and swag (if you're one of the first 100 people to show up). It's from 11 AM to 3 PM. We have a vet appointment during that time, so I don't think I'll be able to make it, but if any of you go check it out, let me know how it is...

02 June 2010

Cloudy with A Chance of Bombast

I've mentioned before that I watch New England Cable News in the morning. I think I've also mentioned that they have a tendency to repeat their commercials, so it's not unusual for the same ads to run at the same time each day.

For maybe the past two months NECN has been airing a promo for their weather. It comes on every morning right before the 7:30 news block begins, and it is hilariously cheesy. It has all this thunder and lightning, and this hard-rock song that goes something like "...every day the rain will won't fall/the sun will come out and warm shine on us all..."

Then one of the meteorologists says something to the effect of, "[Viewers watch because they want to know] ...is my house going to be hit by lightning?" Of course, this is something that no meteorologist can predict, which makes the ad all the more amusing.

Unfortunately they don't seem to have a clip of the ad on their site, and I couldn't find anything on YouTube. Does anyone know if this is a real song that the station is using in the ad, or if it's an original composition that they commissioned?

Addendum: Because I'm almost never in the room when this commercial airs, I was hearing it but not seeing it. But I happened to see it today, and there's a music credit at the end: it's a song called "Storm" (duh) by Lynyrd Skynyrd, but it must be the more recent incarnation of the band, because the singer sounds nothing like Ronnie Van Zant and the band sounds nothing like anything I know from them.

01 June 2010

Doggie Daybed

After almost four years with us, our dog has discovered that she likes the couch and the bed. We never prohibited her from using them, but she never showed any interest in either, until about a month ago.

On Mother's Day we were at my mom's house. Her beagle spends most of his time ensconced on either a recliner chair in the family room or a futon in the living room. Our dog has seen him hoist his overweight self up onto these perches numerous times, and never showed any inclination to imitate him, until this particular day.

We were all gathered around the computer, looking at some photos. Behind us, our dog suddenly jumped onto the futon, then settled down, but unfortunately none of us witnessed it. My mother happened to look over her shoulder and saw the dog laying there.

Back at our house that night, it took all of 15 minutes for the dog to vault onto our bed. She was in there with the Mrs., who was sorting laundry. I was in the next room, and she called me to come into the bedroom, where the dog was happily stretched out, already nuzzling into the soft, puffy comforter.

I always thought it was a little unusual that the dog did not show any interest in the couch, at least, because she's a fairly large dog with long legs, and it's relatively easy for her to jump up onto it. The bed is somewhat higher, so she does seem to prefer the couch. She also doesn't like sharing it; if she's laying on the couch and the Mrs. sits down, the dog will usually get up and leave, even though there's more than enough room for both of them.

We've decided to limit her access to the couch and the bed to times when we are home, in an attempt to convey that lounging on the furniture is a privilege and a treat, and she should not expect to get to do it all the time. When we go to work we close the bedroom door and flip up the couch cushions. I'm sure there are many of you who let your pets hang out on the couch and/or bed all the time who think we're goofy, and we probably are.

I think she started doing this at least partly because her dog bed has lost some of its squishiness, and she is seeking equal or greater comfort. But really, who knows what she's thinking? It's funny how a pet's behavior can change suddenly after a long interval of status quo. Animal behavior is truly a curious and wondrous thing.