30 December 2011

Today's Three Weirdnesses

The Mrs. was at her internship today, so I went into Back Bay this afternoon to do a few things. The Orange Line was fairly empty, but I was joined in the car at the next stop by a group of three young people, one of whom was showing off his Pandora mobile app, which meant I was once again subjected to someone else's terrible music through a tiny, tinny speaker. In this instance, the night before I had just watched the season two episode of The League called "Ghost Monkey" in which two characters criticize the cheesy dance music a third is listening to in his car via Pandora, and the music this guy was playing was hilariously similar. Thankfully, there are still areas in the T tunnels where cell phones still don't work, so eventually the music died, to my great relief.

On my way home later in the afternoon, I got on the Green Line and immediately noticed an unpleasant, vaguely vomitish smell. Not even New Year's Eve yet, and the T already smelled like puke. Way to get the jump on the new year, T.

And later on, we stopped at a liquor store to look for something bubbly to take to our friends' house tomorrow night. This is a place we've never been, but it happens to be on the way to the restaurant where we'd decided to eat. As soon as we walked in, we both noticed that the whole store smelled like a gigantic ashtray. 20 or so years ago that might not have been so unusual, but workplace smoking has been banned for a long time; someone has obviously been ignoring this rule in this particular store for a long time. We quickly turned and left, and happened to pass another store on the way where we got what we needed.

29 December 2011

Laundry Tip

You folks all use OxiClean, right? Amazing stuff. I've found the spray and gel stick to be more useful than the powder, but that's good for certain things too. For the past couple of months I've been using the spray on my shirt collars before putting them in the washing machine. It's quicker and easier than pre-treating them with detergent, and just as effective if not more so.

28 December 2011

Not Flannel Enough

I managed to get over to the UPS customer center in Watertown yesterday to retrieve my package from Lands' End. I had ordered wool flannel suit separates, but the fabric is not flannel. It's wool, and it's decently put together (in Mexico), but the fabric does not have the heft, thickness, or nap that you would expect of wool flannel. Flannel is a fall/winter fabric; this might even be light enough to wear in late spring.

This does not come as a complete shock, given the gradual cheapening of LE's products over the past several years, and the struggles of its parent company Sears. At $165 for both pieces it was certainly a good enough deal, but it isn't what I wanted, so I don't know if I'm going to keep it.

26 December 2011

After-Christmas Sales

This being the day after Christmas, there are a lot of great sales happening. This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive listing, more like suggestions for some places to look.

Nordstrom's semi-annual men's sale started today, and it's one of the best times to stock up on basic items like dress shirts (their house brand is a good choice). Brooks Brothers also has a pretty wide-ranging sale, and today only they are offering an additional 20% off sale prices online and in stores. They have a nice discount on dress shirts if you buy in bulk: four shirts will get you 40% off, or 25% off two. I think this offer applies to ties too.

(Of note on the Brooks sale: if you go for the bulk-shirts thing, the extra 20% does apply on top of the 40%, and you can mix and match dress shirts and casual shirts. It also applies to their made-in-USA Levi's, which is nice because those are $148, but at 25% off and with the extra discount they're down to $89, which makes them somewhat more justifiable.)

Lands' End Canvas is taking an extra 20% off sale stuff, and their sale prices are already quite low on a bunch of their stuff. J. Crew has a similar offer, though their online sale selection can be iffy. Usually the online sale gets restocked once a week or so, but if there's a specific item you want that isn't available in your size, get in touch with customer service. I've had excellent luck with them finding items for me, even if they have to have it shipped from a store that has it in stock.

L.L. Bean's sale applies to both its regular and Signature lines. Sometimes these deals can be great, other times not so much. Stores tend to have a much narrower selection than online, unless you happen to live near Freeport or are in the mood for a road trip. A sale at Orvis is more like a "sale," since their prices are generally high to start, but you might want to browse and see what's on offer.

All of Crate & Barrel's holiday candy is 50% off, and it usually goes quickly, so get moving.

24 December 2011

This Week in Awesome (12/24/11)

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating. I've left some gifts for you under the internet tree...

As far as I can tell, this is a real commercial for a real product. But you have to wonder... (Videogum)

The Village Voice's Maura Johnston is back with her list of the most irritating songs of 2011.

See the characters from Parks and Recreation as cartoon illustrations. (Jon Defreest via Vulture)

This is just one person's opinion, but this list of the best web films of the year has some pretty cool stuff on it. (The Awl)

And finally this week, an awesome Christmas flashback: Run-DMC performing "Christmas in Hollis" back in '91. (The Awl)

Christmas Question

What does it say about me that the only Christmas music I own (bought from iTunes) is "Fairytale of New York"?

(...and just as I was about to sit at the computer and post this, I saw on the Mrs.' facebook that Lisa had posted about the same song. Have a merry one, Lisa...)

23 December 2011

Delivery Exception

Today was the first day of my holiday break. When a holiday falls on a weekend, it's "observed" on the nearest weekday. Each year, when the calendar of work holidays comes out, Christmas Eve is listed as a half-day, and each year, the dean announces that everyone gets the whole day off, which I guess is supposed to make us like him more, or something.

During last weekend Lands' End was having a big sale with 40% off everything, including stuff that was already marked down. I ordered a few things, feeling that some of the deals were too good to let go by. I signed into my account and clicked "place my order" without thinking about it too much. The order didn't ship until Wednesday, but I wasn't concerned because I knew I would get it at home today.

This morning when I went online to confirm that the package was scheduled to be delivered today, I realized that it was heading to my work address. Because of the holiday, the building was not even open today, so UPS could not deliver there. I called Lands' End and was told they could not change the delivery address, so I called UPS, where I was told my only option was to pick up the package at their distribution facility, or wait until after the break.

I could have picked it up today, but I couldn't get there on my own. So hopefully I'll be able to get over there on Tuesday. But when I placed the order, I should have been more mindful of my situation and schedule this week, and defaulted to my home address.

22 December 2011

Watch Wednesday Upgrade Update #2

There, I fixed it...
For some context, this "woven" style of strap was fairly common on sport and diving watches in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Back then they were made of rubber or vinyl, and they usually had flat edges without any sort of stitching, and especially not with contrasting-color stitching like this strap. So it's kind of bridge between past and present, as well as a visual connection to the red accents on the watch dial.

This strap is made by Hadley-Roma and is available with stitching in orange, white, or black in addition to the red. I've also seen other similar styles with blue or yellow. They generally aren't expensive, either; I got this one for only $20 from GlobalWatchBand.

21 December 2011

Watch Wednesday (12/21/11): Bonus Holiday Watch

Notice I didn't say "holiday bonus watch"; it isn't, because I didn't receive one...

So, the one-watch-per-quarter rule got a little bent, but I have a long history of buying myself presents at this time of year anyway.
I first became aware of this Timex watch almost nine months ago when it was shown at the big watch trade show in Switzerland. At the time the word was that the watch would be available "soon," but it only appeared in the Timex online store in November, so I have no idea what was going on there.

It's a nice watch, nothing fancy, just good looks. It does have Indiglo, which is always useful. This is the strap that came with it. It's some sort of soft-touch silicone, and it feels okay on the wrist, but it's a lint magnet. I took this picture right before I removed it to attach the strap I'd bought for it, but after I was finished I got distracted and didn't take a picture with the new strap. It's too late now, so I'll try to do that tomorrow.

20 December 2011

Winter Break TV Projects

I was just talking with a couple of my coworkers at our holiday party about this: the next couple of weeks are kind of a wasteland for TV, but it's an excellent time to get into a show you've heard about but have not gotten around to watching. Of course it helps if, like us, you have ten or twelve days off.

I'm lending one person my Dexter DVDs, someone else is checking out Louie on Netflix, and another person is planning to watch Deadwood. Me? Not sure yet. Hoping to maybe get into The Good Wife, as it generally gets good reviews and praise from critics.

19 December 2011

Random Bits

—I got a package delivery from the postal service yesterday. Sunday. Huh? Not complaining, mind you; in fact I was pleasantly surprised. It had been sent via Priority Mail in Oregon on Friday, which makes it that much more impressive that it crossed the continent so quickly. I guess the USPS is trying to make customers happy this holiday season, and paying some overtime to have people drive around and delivery Priority Mail packages on a Sunday isn't a bad way to do that.

—This morning while heading into the T station, there was a dude in front of me wearing a black nylon technical parka and a porkpie hat, which set off the WRONG alarm (the one in my head, I mean). I've long since accepted that certain fashion trends and specific items of clothing are not going away, and that people are going to keep wearing them regardless of how unstylish they are.

But the issue for me here was the cross-pollination between two items that are of questionable style merit to begin with: I can think of few items of clothing more ill-suited to being worn with each other. Fact is, there is a dividing line in men's clothing, and these items live on opposite sides of it. And if there is any "rule" of style that you cannot break, it's that one: you can't mix stuff from opposing sides of that line. You have to choose a side.

18 December 2011

This Week in Awesome (12/17/11)

Wow, the last few months have absolutely flown by. It feels like it was just Labor Day, but there's only two weeks left in the year, and the Mrs. finishes up her first semester of grad school in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the internet brought us some early Christmas gifts...

This week's time-lapse is of Ho Chi Minh City, and it's pretty cool. (Rob Whitworth via Jalopnik)

Bored? Try this cat video masher-upper. (Hemmings Auto Blog)

Tom Hanks was on Late Show With David Letterman, promoting the latest project he's producing for HBO. (CBS via The Daily What)

And finally this week, a reminder that Apple wasn't always awesome. (Cult of Mac via Retronaut)

Winding Down

Ravioli with bolognese sauce, inexpensive chianti from Trader Joe's, and the football highlights show is a nice way to wrap up the weekend.

TWiA will be up later this evening...

16 December 2011

Retro Video Unit (12/16/11)

Just dug up this old nugget from XTC, "Making Plans For Nigel." I'm quite sure I've never seen this video before, which is kind of surprising, though XTC were never exactly a high-profile band. Anyway, it does a nice job of adding a visual element to the song's lyrics while maintaining their innate British specificity, and acts as a reminder that the England of 30-some years ago seemed much more distant than it does today. And I wonder what those giant dice were made out of?

15 December 2011

Chambray Ralph

I've been a fan of chambray shirts for a long time. Back in the mid-1990s I even had a tab-collared dress shirt version. These days you're more likely to find them over in the heritage-Americana wing of menswear, but that doesn't mean you can't wear a workshirt with a tie and jacket—it'll just look better if you choose the right ones.

I tend to confine mine to weekend wear, but I haven't had a "regular" blue chambaray workshirt for a couple of years now. I had one that I'd picked up at the Gap, right before I decided it was no longer worth shopping there. I wore it here and there, but I was never that excited about it; the pockets were too small, and it didn't fit that well—the sleeves were egregiously long.

This fall, Ralph Lauren introduced another sub-brand to its empire: Denim & Supply. Some of you may remember the old Polo Jeans Co. line, which disappeared from department stores about five years ago; this new label sort of fills that gap in the lineup, while also serving as a kind of poorer guy's substitute for the super-nice and super-pricey RRL line (finally available online, by the way). Some of this stuff is a bit costumey, but some of it is basic, simple day-off clothing: flannel shirts, jeans, henleys, and chambray workshirts.

None of it is going to approach the quality you'd have found in Ralph's offerings of, say, two decades ago (Polo Country, anyone?), but on the positive side, the fabrics (like most all of Ralph's stuff) are above-average, the fit is modern without being ridiculous, and since the line is sold in stores like Macy's, it gets marked down, and then marked down again, and then has another 20% taken off.

The other day I picked up this shirt at Macy's (the first time I'd been in the downtown store in maybe three months). Don't even bother with the lighter, faded blue; the darker blue is the way to go. (The Mrs. is kindly going to remove that silly little tag from the pocket, as soon as her semester is finished in a few more days.) They were on a 50% off rack, with an additional 20% discount being offered that particular day without any coupon hassle, for a grand total of $28, or 60% off the original asking price.

I might have been able to get it for even less if I'd been willing to wait a bit longer, but then I'd run the risk of not being able to find my size. (And FYI, even when the Ralph site marks things down, the prices are inevitably going to be higher than the markdowns in a store like Macy's.)

14 December 2011

That Would Be Me

There's an interesting article in the business section of today's New York Times about people who don't use facebook. By the numbers, roughly one-third of Americans decline to participate in the social network, for various reasons. Here are a few of mine:
  • I don't care for the way they've conducted themselves as a corporate entity, with all the bullshit about privacy settings, and if you step back from the "connect with your friends" aspect, the real reason facebook exists is as a marketing tool, so right there I'm out. I don't like the idea that I would have to "like" some company's facebook page in order to enter a contest.
  • I'm not interested in reconnecting with people I went to high school with, and I wouldn't want those people to be able to contact me that way. Both my high school and college offer web gateways for alumni, and I'm registered on both of them, so if someone from those periods of my life really wants to get in touch with me, it's relatively easy.
  • Sorry, but I don't really care what you had for breakfast, even if you are my friend.
  • As for my real-world friends, I do not lack ways to communicate with them
  • The design is just horrible, so bland as to be offensive, and the lack of basic functionality, like the ability to move the chat pane or pop it out as a separate window, like I can do in my Gmail account, is extremely irritating. I'm not a web designer, but I know enough about interface design to know it is not that difficult to implement such a feature. I've had facebook chats a couple of times through the Mrs.' account, and having to keep my neck bent down toward the bottom of the browser window gets uncomfortable very quickly.
The fact is, in today's connected world we no longer have privacy, but we still have some choices about who does or does not have information about us.

The one thing in the article that did bother me was the suggestion that employers and recruiters might look down on those who don't use facebook. Unless you are trying to get a job in "social media" (which I think used to be referred to as "marketing"), it shouldn't matter. In fact, I'd think that a potential employer would regard a lack of facebook use as a plus, i.e. no embarrassing photos out there, one less distraction during the work day, etc.


Well, it's been quite some time since I experienced a good old MBTA clusterfuck, so I suppose I was due. Today we were having a monthly staff meeting at work, so I wanted to make an effort to be on time. The bus was more or less on time, and I got to Wellington just before 8:20, only to find a full inbound platform and announcements that a "power problem" had knocked out service on the southern part of the Orange Line, but trains were still running.

Each time an inbound train rolled into the station, only a few people were able to squeeze on. Having had more than a lifetime's share of sardine-packed T rides, in such situations I tend to step back and let others subject themselves to squishing. But because part of the line had been cut off, there were fewer trains available than during a typical morning rush hour.

There was a lot of grumbling and eye rolling. I looked at my watch and saw that nearly 30 minutes had passed since I'd arrived. I was also getting cold, but not terribly so. Since we've been having this in-between weather for a while, I've been opting not to layer up because it's too easy to become overheated. Instead I've been wearing my usual layers of shirt and undershirt, and adding a scarf and a medium-weight coat.

Eventually the trains grew less crowded, but by the time I was able to board I'd been waiting on the platform for almost an hour, and the train was still pretty full. Then we rolled into Sullivan. I'd completely forgotten that things would be worse down the line. I sympathize with folks who have to board the Orange Line at Sullivan every day, because the trains are almost always packed after picking up passengers at Wellington, but people were just forcing themselves into the car.

I know I shouldn't really have been surprised at this, but I still was. I know, you need to get to work; everyone on that train has somewhere they need to be, and nobody likes to wait, and nobody likes to be stuck outside when it's cold. But I'm still taken aback at times by the overwhelming selfishness that has become the norm these days. I only needed to go three stops so I could switch to the Green Line, but I waited because I figured there were people who needed to get where they were going more urgently than I did.

I ended up missing about 90% of the meeting. Oh, well; stuff happens.

Addendum: Looking at the comments about this morning's incident on Universal Hub, I now realize that I should have taken an outbound train one stop to Malden, where I could have gotten on an inbound commuter rail train. But as the commenter points out, none of the PA announcements mentioned this option.

12 December 2011

More Candy

After I wrote about some of favorite holiday candy treats the other day, I realized that, while deserving, all the attention didn't need to be focused on See's.

Each year I eagerly anticipate the arrival (and subsequent discounting) of dark chocolate sea-salt caramels, nestled in their metal tins at Crate & Barrel. The price has climbed a couple of dollars since last year, but if you can score a tin or two after they've been marked down, they are well worth it.

New this year, and similar but just different enough, are dark chocolate covered peanut butter "bites," also sprinkled with sea salt. These come in a much smaller package (7 ounces, vs. a pound for the caramels) but they also cost less. As it turns out, both are already marked down, but if you can wait they'll go lower.

11 December 2011

This Week in Awesome (12/10/11)

With the Mrs. a full-time student, it's been tougher for me to get computer time on the weekends, but I'm doing my best for you guys...

Crazy-ass clip from a Bollywood cop movie. (Jalopnik)

Language nerds: this one's for us. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

The story of this viral video, and how it led to a music video, is pretty interesting. (Gawker)

And finally this week, a brief drawing lesson. (The Daily What)

09 December 2011

Fun Friday Read

Leave it to the British to come up with this one: the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award was bestowed earlier this week, chosen from among a dozen nominees.

08 December 2011

Want Some Candy?

Speaking of imminent holidays and sweet treats, the seasonal See's Candies pop-up stores are back. See's is a California-based chain beloved by the Mrs. since childhood. There are no permanent See's stores in our corner of the world, but for the better part of the past decade they have been operating temporary stores during the holiday season, and a (very) small selection of their offerings is available year-round at Lord & Taylor stores.

Among our favorites: the vanilla and butterscotch lollypops; the individually-wrapped bars in two varieties; the dark chocolate nuts-and-chews assortment; and what is quite possibly the best peanut brittle to be found anywhere (it's certainly the best I've tasted).

Any of their candy choices would make an excellent gift. In the Boston area, the temporary stores are in the Northshore, Natick, and Chestnut Hill malls, and in the Derby Street shops in Hingham. And they're always giving out free samples, as if you needed another enticement. To see if there's a pop-up near you, check the store locator page. If not, you can always order online.

06 December 2011


I do love that time each year when the egg nog finally shows up in the supermarket (though it seems like it gets earlier each year). I try to restrain myself, buying a quart and stretching it out for a couple of weeks. My current favorite is anything with vanilla flavor added; it's less eggy than the regular kind, and is more or less like drinking a vanilla milk shake.

The folks at Huffington Post's Kitchen Daily did a taste test of 17 varieties of egg nog. The results are quite interesting, I think, though I will say that I am entirely not surprised that the soy variations finished near the bottom of the list. I guess I need to try some of Trader Joe's version.

05 December 2011


Right around the time I ordered my iPhone, I saw a picture on a style blog of one that had its glass back swapped out for a metal one. I liked it, thought about it for a bit, and decided to order one for myself. It looks like this:
The back is held on by two extremely tiny screws in the bottom edge. They require a special star-pointed screwdriver, which you can get for a couple of bucks on eBay (that's what I did). The back came from a place in Hong Kong, and took about a week and a half to arrive. I got a weird-looking tracking number that is actually for the US Postal Service, and for a couple of days nothing came up when I entered it, then it showed up and became trackable.

The back panel couldn't be easier to replace: undo the screws (have a plastic cap or something around that you can put them in, since they're so small they would be easily lost), slide the back up a few millimeters, and lift it off the phone. The screws are a little hard to handle when reattaching, but it only took a minute or so.

There are a couple of different styles to choose from. One has a beveled edge, and another is described as "diamond cut" which, best I've been able to discern from the pictures, means the edge is metal-finished like the back, whereas the style I chose has a black edge, so if you look at the phone from the side, it looks just like the edge of the glass back. They're also available in some different colors, if that's your thing.

I thought swapping the back would make the phone lighter, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I have not noticed any difference in phone reception or data speed.

04 December 2011

This Week in Awesome (12/3/11)

Okay, I sort of stalled on this week's installment because I don't have as much as usual, but we'll just press on regardless.

This will remind you of any time you've had to deal with an obnoxious salesperson in a store. (Vimeo via Racked)

An imaginative (and rather downer) exploration of what happens to the people in catalog photos when no one's looking at them. (The Hairpin)

A collection of unseen TV characters. (The Daily What via Videogum)

Retro Video Unit (12/2/11)

This was supposed to be Friday's post...things have been busier than usual. TWiA will be up later today.

I wasn't looking for this particular video, but it's a nice artifact from early in the New Wave era:

01 December 2011

Gray Suede Shoes

I wasn't intending to talk about shoes two days in a row, but things happen... Over a year ago, I found suede bucks on Nordstrom's web site in an array of colors, including gray. I ordered a pair, and when they arrived I was dismayed to find that the toes were "burnished," which is apparently something that's fashionable to do to shoes to make them look lived-in. I exchanged them for dark khaki bucks that hadn't been messed with in any way.

Not long after that, I came across some nice-looking gray bucks made in Pennsylvania by Walk-Over, a company that's been around for a couple hundred years. They weren't cheap, but they were exactly what I wanted. I ended up convincing myself that I didn't need them, since I'd just gotten the other bucks. But one day back in the spring, I was shopping and saw the shoes (in other colors, but not the gray) and decided to try them on, to see how they fit and felt, with the idea that if I did decide at some point to order them, I would know what size to get.

Earlier this week, I came across a link to a sale on the Steven Alan web site. Even though most of their clothing is made in the USA, I never bother looking at their stuff because the prices are pretty high, their shirts are cut way too slim for me, and they make them with this horrible little detail (use the zoom feature and you'll be able to see what I mean) where the placket is twisted around, on purpose, between the collar and the second button.

Anyway, I decided to look at the sale just because I hadn't looked at their site in a long time. They also carry some things made by other companies, and in the sale section I found the gray Walk-Over bucks, marked down almost 30% off their usual price. They aren't carried by many places to begin with, and they don't tend to be on sale, so I decided to go ahead and get them. They're still on sale, if you are so inclined.

Purchases from the sale section are final, and if I hadn't tried on the shoes several months ago I wouldn't have been sure which size to get. They arrived today, and I'm very pleased. They have a 360-degree welt which makes them resoleable if necessary, and a full leather lining. Are they better than Nordstrom's bucks, which are made in Brazil? Not necessarily. The Nordstrom shoes have thicker cushioning in the soles, but they couldn't come up with a gray shoe that was unblemished.

30 November 2011

Penny Picks

I just received a comment on my post from a month or so ago from someone else who is dissatisfied with Bass's penny loafers (though for a different reason):
Yah, man. Bass is dead! They have traded quality workmanship in favor of trademarks. I have gone through 2 pairs in less than a year; the soles wear down too easily and the stitching tends to give way around the front upper. Decided I'll go with a look alike if I can. Thanks for the AE recommendation, BTW. Nice shop. 
This made me think about what other choices are available for someone who wants a pair of penny loafers but doesn't want them to be Bass. There are several options, depending on how much you care to spend. There are shoes that cost less than $100, like the Florsheim Cabot and Berkley, but they are made in China and will almost certainly be more of a disappointment than the Bass Weejuns.

All prices quoted below are "list" unless otherwise specified; try searching online for lower "street" pricing. And since the holiday shopping season is upon us, you might want to watch for discounts and deals at sites like Amazon, Endless, Piperlime, Shoebuy, or direct from the companies' own sites (Cole Haan was offering 30% off this past Monday, and they may well do so again before Christmas). If you don't have the option of going to a store and trying on shoes in person, I suggest buying from a site that offers free returns.

At the lower end, Sebago offers a traditional beefroll penny, in six colors and a wide range of sizes and widths, for $140. The bulk of Sebago's shoes are made in the Dominican Republic. I have a pair (not penny loafers), and they are decently made for what they cost. They used to offer a strap-style penny called the Cayman, which seems to have been discontinued but may still be available if you look around.

At the same price, you might consider the Lorenzo from David Spencer. These are available in narrow, medium, or wide, and are made in Mexico. (There's also a tassel version, but we don't talk about those.)

Cole Haan's Pinch Air penny ($168) looks traditional on the outside, but inside it's packed with Nike Air comfort technology and nicely padded footbeds. I've owned a pair of these for a year or so, and they are among my most comfortable shoes. Choice of widths, as you would expect. Made in India. Couple of things worth mentioning: the soles are leather with rubber inserts, which might matter to some people (most of the others mentioned here have all-leather soles and rubber heels); the leather is noticeably glossy, which can look a little odd if you are wearing them with more casual clothing; and there is also a version (older, I think) that does not have the Nike Air. It runs $20 less, but I can't imagine why someone wouldn't opt for the added comfort.

Brooks Brothers has a penny loafer ($188), but I don't know where they are made, I have not seen them in person or tried them on, and they are only available in medium width. If there's a BB near you, it might be worth a visit.

Passing the $200 barrier gets us to the Allen Edmonds Walden ($235). Made in USA, and available in the generous range of sizes and widths typical of the brand, these are the shoes I chose instead of Weejuns (though I found mine on eBay for far less). They also offer a similar style, the Montecito ($199), which has a lower vamp that may be more comfortable for those with higher insteps. (Why the price difference? I have no idea.) One advantage to spending more up front is that shoes like these can be resoled.

AE has a big sale once a year, but unfortunately it's already happened for this year. Sites like Shoebuy tend to exclude AE from their frequent discounts, but a week or two ago they did offer 10% off without restrictions, and on Monday Amazon and Endless were offering variable discounts depending on how much you spent, so getting these shoes for less than list can be done, but may take some extra effort.

Epaulet is a store in New York (locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan) offering a wide selection of house-brand clothing and footwear, much of it made in USA. They have a beautiful penny loafer that's made in Maine using Horween Chromexcel leather with a distinctive and subtle matte finish. It's only available in medium widths, and only in black, and at $295 it's a bit on the steep side, but this is most assuredly a quality shoe. They also have a few styles of beefroll loafers in the same general price range, done up in more casual-looking leathers.

If you're the sort of person who thinks of shoes as a lifetime investment, you should probably just go ahead and get a pair of Alden LHS ("leisure handsewn") loafers. They run about $450 a pair, but if you take good enough care of them, you'll be able to pass them on to your son a few decades from now.

29 November 2011

Enjoying the Warmth

It's a little odd walking around outside without a jacket at the end of November, while looking at all the houses in my neighborhood decorated for the season. But I don't mind. Once we got beyond the days with highs in the mid-70s, I was able to enjoy the much warmer than average temperatures we've had for the past six weeks or so.

I know colder weather is coming, but I'd like to think that these warm November days are a sign that we're going to have a mild winter. I haven't checked the Farmer's Almanac or anything, so I don't know what's been predicted; I'm just choosing to be optimistic.

28 November 2011


Yesterday I needed a couple of home hardware items, but I didn't feel like spending half an hour wandering around inside a Lowe's or Home Depot trying to find stuff, so I had the thought to go to an Ace Hardware store nearby. Even though I don't consider myself particularly handy, I've always enjoyed poking around in stores like this.

Your local hardware store isn't going to be anywhere near the size of a big-box store, but that's actually a benefit. The store was of manageable size, and I was able to locate the items I needed without having to ask for assistance. I did have a couple of questions, though, and shortly after entering the store I spotted a guy who was clearly an employee, so I tracked him down and got polite, thorough answers. It was evident that he had worked in the store for a while, and knew his way around the products.

There are things about Home Depot and Lowe's that I do like, but service isn't one of them. You can probably find a person to point you toward what you need, but more involved questions may be met with answers, or with a blank stare; in my personal experience, the odds are about equal. That isn't necessarily the fault of an employee; working in such a huge store, it must be difficult to have product knowledge for even a fraction of what's sold there.

Smaller stores have had to figure out how to survive in a superstore age, and I guess service is one way to distinguish oneself. It's something to keep in mind next time you need a household item.

26 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/26/11)

I hope everyone had a good holiday. Now for the leftovers...

It's like doodling with your mouse, only instead of drawing, you get... well, I don't want to spoil it; just try it for yourself. (Videogum)

Huge, mind-blowing, amazingly comprehensive chart about money. There are plus and minus size controls in the upper-left corner; you'll need them. (xkcd via Consumerist)

The folks at Vulture analyzed decades of Saturday Night Live episodes to determine, among other things, which seasons had the highest incidence of repetition of characters. (Vulture via Kempt)

And finally this week, this will only be funny if you've seen Drive. Sorry, that's just how it is sometimes. (Funny or Die)

25 November 2011

Black Friday Online Deal

I have a Black Friday deal that you can take advantage of right from home: these corduroy sportcoats are on sale today for $40 at JCPenney. It's a store brand, but I have seen them in person and they are decently made, nice plush 100% cotton with a full interior lining. There are six colors to choose from, and at this price you might want to get two.

As a bonus, JCP is doing one of its frequent tiered extra discounts: spend at least $50, get $10 off; spend $75, get $15 off; spend $100, get $20 off. Use the code WITHGLEE at checkout.

24 November 2011

Watch Wednesday Thursday (11/24/11)

I wasn't at work yesterday, but it was still kind of a busy day, with my stint at a Community Servings pie pick-up location. This was my third year, and I'm fortunate enough to have been at the same location with the same person each time. I look forward to being there again next year.

Meanwhile, this quarter's watch has... a metal bracelet? What's going on?
This is another Alpha, like the one I posted recently with the new strap. These Alpha watches are fairly blatant copies of Rolex models, but technically they can't be called knockoffs because they don't say Rolex. This is a version of the Rolex Submariner, which is probably the best-known Rolex model.

Sometimes you see a Sub on one of those one-piece military-style straps, but most often you see them on a steel bracelet like this. I was thinking that I might like to have one watch on a bracelet, and I figured if there was one watch I would wear with a metal bracelet, it would be this style. Then this watch popped up on eBay, and I was able to grab it for a very good price.

It was used, but you'd be hard pressed to tell. It also came with the felt pouch and papers it was originally sold with. It's an automatic movement, and the bezel rotates in only one direction. It has a nice heft on the wrist, but because the metal surface is brushed, it's not too flashy.

22 November 2011


I was thinking about getting one of those Timex Weekender watches that I mentioned a while back. They're cheap and nice-looking, and I guess I was buying into the idea of "low cost, but also fashionable." Over the weekend I got a close look at several different styles in a store, and I decided I'm not going to bother buying one.

The main reason: there are three or four different case sizes, but they all take 18 mm straps. The largest style, the one I was thinking about getting, is about 39 mm in diameter. When I saw it right in front of me, I realized that the strap looked disproportionately narrow relative to the size of the watch's case size. It's not egregiously noticeable, like a World War I-era trench watch, but it just doesn't look quite right.

A watch's strap should be at least half as wide as the diameter of the case, if not slightly larger than half. Even the Timex I got several months back is 38 mm on an 18 mm strap. After I'd had it and been wearing it a while, I realized that its case should have been made to take a 20 mm strap. It's a small thing, but it's one of those small things that I tend to notice.

21 November 2011

Too Many Vowels

I'm playing Scrabble on my iPhone with an old friend who lives in Texas. It's a close game, and at the moment my rack holds six vowels, two each of three different letters. My word options are thus rather limited.

20 November 2011

Study Buddy

Since I wasn't broadcasting at full strength last week, I thought I'd throw out a weekend bonus: here's the dog "helping" the Mrs. study.

19 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/19/11)

My deadline week is over; my reward is a short, easy week and a food-filled holiday.

You don't want a boring computer voice giving you your GPS directions; you want a couple of characters like these. (Neatorama via Videogum)

I stumbled across a site with lots of interesting info about the city.

Canada's getting plastic money. Cool. Why can't we have that? (Consumerist)

Ooh, time-lapse time: Dubai, a 24-hour period. (Gizmodo)

And finally this week, as a young adult in the 1980s, I had a lot of fun, and I didn't think there was anything particularly strange or odd about the time. But looking back now, there was some weird shit going on. (First one: The Trad via VideoJug; second one: Jalopnik)

17 November 2011

Seasonal Thoughts

I make an effort to avoid repeating myself in here, but I'm still in the midst of a deadline week, so it seemed like a good idea to revisit a few semi-connected, seasonally relevant thoughts from years past:

Thanksgiving Comes First: credit to Jim Sullivan for starting this one. I offered my thoughts on it a few years back, and Lisa weighed in more recently. There are some houses in my neighborhood that even have Thanksgiving decorations in their yards, which I really appreciate. (I ought to go for a walk and take some pictures, huh?) And let's remember to give props to Nordstrom for their ongoing policy of waiting until after Thanksgiving to roll out the holiday decorations.

Black Friday Blackout: again, something I've shared my feelings about in the past. There's no justification for putting yourself at risk of bodily harm by venturing out to a mall or big-box store the day after Thanksgiving. I like a good deal as much as anyone, but shopping online is so much easier, and I bet you could accomplish at least 75% of your list that way.

I would also suggest you consider visiting a neighborhood shopping district near where you live: check out what's available right in your community, and help support a small, local business instead of contributing to the bottom line of a huge corporation that doesn't really need it.

Buy Some Pie: I neglected to mention Pie in the Sky last year. Community Servings is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides nutritious meals to hundreds of residents in the area who are ill and unable to take care of themselves. Each year they sell Thanksgiving pies to benefit their programs. I've been ordering pies from them for years, and volunteering for a few as well. You can order pies right here.

15 November 2011

Live from 1980

I'm in the midst of a busy week, so I'm going to suggest something to occupy your time: concert archive site Wolfgang's Vault has recently added several sets from the Heatwave Festival (sometimes described as the "New Wave Woodstock"), which took place in Ontario, Canada on August 23, 1980. (The easiest way to get to these shows is to go to the site and search for "heatwave.")

Bands appearing at this festival included the B-52's, Pretenders, Rockpile, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and Talking Heads. If you are a member of the WV site (which is free, and takes just a moment to sign up) you can listen to these concerts by streaming them on your computer.

I've listened to the Pretenders and Talking Heads sets, and both are excellent. Talking Heads' performance is particularly notable, as the band are just in the process of debuting the expanded lineup that accompanied the Remain In Light tour and became famous through the Stop Making Sense live album and concert movie, and a couple of the songs performed here sound like works that are still in progress as far as the arrangements are concerned.

Cool stuff—enjoy.

14 November 2011

The Inevitable

It's a law of the universe, or something: new shirt, worn first time = splash-back from salad bar. A Tide To Go stick in the desk drawer is a necessity, and of course I'll blast it with OxiClean when I get home. (That stuff is seriously amazing; someday we'll find out it's given us all cancer, or it is cancer.)

13 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/12/11)

Nice weekend... hope you're enjoying it.

Ever wish you were agile enough to do parkour? This guy found his inner... parkourer? (The Daily What)

My wish for a collection of old Boston photos has been answered, by the city itself. (Flickr via Old Boston)

Chevrolet is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Here's a great story of two brothers who spent years tracking down their father's beloved 1965 Impala SS, which he was forced to sell in the 1980s, so they could return it to him. Sure, it's a commercial, but one with some actual resonance behind it. There's also a longer clip explaining more of the background of the story. ((Jalopnik and Hemmings Auto Blog)

And finally this week, it's been 25 years since the release of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, which was somewhat controversial at the time. To mark the anniversary it's been released on Blu-Ray with nearly an hour of additional footage that didn't make it into the final theatrical cut. (Numerous spoilers, so if you'd rather just watch it without knowing what's in those scenes, I suggest not following the link.) (Slate via The Awl)

11 November 2011

Retro Video Unit (11/11/11)

All right, let's move back to what I tend to think of as the beginning of the music video era: 1981. The Tubes were always an odd band, but when they gave in to their poppier instincts they got some great results. Their 1981 album The Completion Backward Principle was their first for a new label, and they were matched up with David Foster, a producer who understood how to make the most of their songs.

Sometimes I choose these clips because I think the videos themselves are significant or outstanding in some way; other times I just choose clips because I like the songs. This one, for the single "Talk To Ya Later," is one of the latter: the video is nothing special (again, looking back from the vantage point of 30 years later, it's easy to see that a production like this would not have cost much), but I've just always thought this is a great song and the video doesn't get in its way.

Denim, Revisited

Denim is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Women work out and starve themselves in order to fit into their "skinny jeans." Guys who care about style and clothes often favor pricey selvedge denim jeans from obscure labels. People get mocked for wearing "mom" or "dad" jeans.

I've had my own ups and down with jeans over the years. I realized that I was wearing jeans with legs that were too narrow, both because they were getting caught on some of my boots, and also because the legs were not wide enough in proportion to my taller-than-average frame. I found that I didn't like wearing relaxed-fit jeans because they looked bad on me in the opposite way. Trying to find a decent compromise takes effort and can be difficult.

Over the past three years or so, I've tried a number of different brands and fits, in an ongoing effort to find what works best for me. I have no interest in selvedge, because it tends to stretch out with wearing and because it's expensive. Another tricky issue with jeans: an awful lot of the stuff looks like it's been dragged behind a truck for 50 miles. I'm a middle-aged guy, and I don't want to be seen in jeans like that, even on weekends.

Also potentially embarrassing: wearing jeans that are cut too low. It's probably obvious to say this, but slimmer jeans also tend to have a lower rise. Depending on how you are built, a lower-rise jean can make sense. It elongates the torso, so it might work better for a shorter guy, but taller guys have to be careful that their shirts are long enough to stay tucked in and that they don't end up looking out of proportion. Beyond that, I've found that sitting all day in lower-rise jeans tends to cause my shirt to come untucked in the back more quickly.

I had bought some jeans from Lands' End Canvas because they were marked down to around $15, but after wearing them for a while I decided that they were cut too low and too slim, and didn't look right on me. Finding a reasonable mid-point is not easy. The Levi's 501 and 505 fits represent the lower limit for me in terms of rise and slimness. J. Crew's "slim straight" cut fits me very well and is comfortable, but their "484 slim" is too far in both rise and leg width. So while going through all my clothing for donations, I made some decisions about what was staying and what wasn't, which left me with a slight jean shortage in the "jeans nice enough to wear to work" category.

Not long ago Target started selling a brand of jeans called Denizen, which is a really stupid name, but what are you gonna do? They are free of external branding except for a back waist patch, which is easily removed. They come from Levi's discount-store sub-brand Levi Strauss Signature, and seem to have replace that brand in Target stores. There are maybe half a dozen different fit styles, and after looking them over and eliminating the ones aimed at younger guys, I bought two pair in a fit that's called, appropriately enough, "regular."

They come in a dark blue and a medium blue, both of which are of a consistent finish without any whiskering or other distressing. I can wear either one to work and feel confident that they look appropriate. Both go nicely with my various shoes and boots. They aren't as slim as the J. Crew and Levi's jeans I have, but they aren't big enough to be considered relaxed either. (They do offer a looser "relaxed" fit, for those who prefer it, as well as other fits.) Perhaps best of all, they're only $23 a pair. I suspect they were originally meant to be priced at $20 a pair before the cotton supply problems; they have been on sale at least once for $20, and probably will be again in the run-up to the holidays.

09 November 2011


The grinder in my coffee maker really doesn't like oily beans, but unless you buy beans from a bulk container, you have no idea whether they're oily or not.

08 November 2011

Case Closed

After some deliberation, I've chosen a case for my iPhone. As much as I liked the idea of the book-like case from Twelve South, I didn't need the wallet part of it, and the brown exterior of the "book cover" turned me off somewhat. I'd love to see this company offer more options down the road, though.

After I saw the Moleskine case, I contacted them to see if I could get an explanation about why they hadn't updated it for the iPhone 4, never mind the 4S. That was two weeks ago, and I haven't heard a word from them. You let me down, Moleskine.

Then I had the idea to look on Etsy, thinking there might be someone making something similar to either of these designs. Almost immediately I found the storefront for PadandQuill, makers of device cases for the iPhone and iPod Touch, MacBook Air, iPad, Kindle, and Nook. They had exactly what I had in mind, and at a lower cost than either of the other options I'd considered.
The cover is bonded leather, lined with book-bindery cloth:
That's a ribbon sticking out at the bottom, to help you remove the phone. One other cool thing about it is there's a cutout on the back so you can take pictures while the phone is in the case:
The tray that holds the phone is made of birch, lacquered in a satin finish. It's lightweight, and the inner corners are lined with thin strips of rubber to help grip the phone, but the overall fit is really sung and precise:
The case is slightly smaller in height and width than the Moleskine calendar book I use. Obviously this is not the most streamlined option, but that isn't what I was after. When I'm at home or at work, I remove the phone from the case; that's what I always did with my previous smartphone. I wanted to ensure the phone was protected when it's in my bag, or when I'm carrying it in a pocket.

After I received the case, I realized that it would be cool to have my initials stamped into the spine, like the logo on the back cover. I'd like to find someone who can do that for me. Ideas?

(Sorry for the shaky pictures; my camera needed to be recharged, the older one doesn't have image stabilization, and I've never been very good at keeping it still through the entire shot.)

07 November 2011

Store Credit

Last week I ordered some stuff from Drugstore. I've found that their prices on a lot of everyday items like toothpaste are about the same as Target or CVS; sometimes that's true only if you buy two and average the price, but I'm fine with that. They also lowered their free-shipping threshold to $25, and I've never had an order from them take longer than two days to arrive, plus they give you a small percentage of your purchase in the form of a credit to use on a future order. So if you can plan ahead and order things before you've run out of them, and order enough at one time to get free shipping, it's a nice deal.

In this particular order I got some tea-tree shampoo. The site listed it as a 500 ml bottle, and given how little hair I have, that's enough to last me quite a long time. But when the order arrived, the bottle was only 400 ml. I emailed customer service before going to bed, and by the next morning I'd received an email saying that they had credited me half the price of the shampoo. The one catch is that the credit was applied to my Drugstore account, basically like store credit. But as long as I order something again, it's not a problem, so I'll probably just get a second bottle of the shampoo.

06 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/5/11)

I thought about posting these last night before going to sleep, but I was just worn out.

Did you watch the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons? I though this year's vignettes were just okay. If you're feeling obsessive about it, Splitsider has gone and ranked all of them.

Do you remember Robert De Niro's crazy '70s outfits in Casino? Would you like to see them collected in the form of a poster? You can even buy it, if you like. (Welcome to Obsession via Kempt)

The folks at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon keep cooking up delightful zaniness, this time in the form of "found" video from a dating service that they claim occupied their studio in 30 Rock back in the '80s. (But what about Letterman?)

When I followed this link I thought it was for another time-lapse video. It's not, but you should watch it anyway: it's just a really nicely done compilation of everyday life in New York City. (Uproxx via The Daily What)

And finally this week, a series of alleged IM conversations between a man at work and his cat, whom he's taught to use IM, at home. It helps if you can suspend your disbelief, but even if not they're still hilarious. (The Hairpin)

04 November 2011

Pearl Snaps

I have a tendency to get lodged in my brain the idea that I want or need a particular item (usually an item of clothing), and then spend weeks or months trying to find it.

Recently I was noticing and thinking about how popular Western-style shirts have been for the past several years, and how I've never felt comfortable with the idea of wearing one, mostly because of the association with cowboys and rodeos and horses and things that have nothing to do with my life up here in New England.

I thought to myself that it would be nice to find a denim shirt that had snaps instead of buttons, but without the Western yokes, which are the thing about Western shirts that I dislike the most. I looked in many, many places online, including reasonably well-known retailers like Sheplers that specialize in Western wear.

I found nothing even remotely close, and had basically decided to give up on the idea, when I was somehow reminded of the Denver Western-wear emporium Rockmount Ranchwear. It's a store that's popular with a lot of musicians, and looking through the clothing on the site it's easy to see why. They have a whole page on their site just for denim shirts, with about 15 variations. Near the bottom of the page I found what I'd been looking for.

Funny thing, though: when I finally found what I'd been looking for, I was somewhat surprised to realize that (a) I didn't think it would look especially good on me, and (b) I was no longer interested in it. The time I'd spent searching had actually helped me figure this out, and thus saved me from making a $75 mistake.

[Side note: who remembers Walker's Western Wear on Boylston Street? That was a cool store. I had some nice Justin boots I got there, and some gloves, and probably a few other things...]

03 November 2011

We Are Experiencing Delays

My morning commutes have been horrendous since Labor Day. In years past there has been a definite change when people come back from summer vacations and kids go back to school, but this year it has been noticeably worse.

It typically takes a few cycles of the traffic lights for the bus to get through Wellington Circle, but on many days the traffic is snarled across route 28 and onward toward the river. On a good day the bus ride into Wellington takes 10 minutes, but for the past two months it has taken closer to 20 on most days. I have no idea why this is happening, and there isn't anything I can do about it. Fortunately, no one notices or cares what time I get to work.

In the mornings I check NextBus to track my bus's progress, but lately I've also been opening Google Maps to see how bad the traffic is. The buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes, but with the delays I can sometimes catch the "earlier" bus, which isn't really early anymore, if you know what I mean. If I don't catch that bus, I'm faced with what often turns out to be a 30- or 40-minute wait for the next one.

If the weather is agreeable, rather than wait around I'll walk the 10 minutes to where two other routes converge with the one I normally take, thereby increasing the odds that I won't have to wait long for a bus. I still need the bus to get through the circle (there's no way I'm crossing all those roads on foot) and into Wellington, but a brisk walk in the morning is kind of nice: it helps clear my head, and it's good for me. I don't mind walking when it gets cold, but as soon as it gets snowy or icy, I can't do it. Maybe by then this delay will have sorted itself out?

02 November 2011

Empty Basement

Perhaps by now you've seen/read/heard the news that Filene's Basement is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for the third time in a decade or so. But this time it's permanent; all stores will close by January 2012, and parent company Syms will be shutting down along with the Basement.

This is sad to hear for anyone who has spent time searching for treasure in the Basement (and by that I of course mean the real one, the original Downtown Crossing store) over the years, especially for people who are, say, at least 40. When I arrived here 30 years ago to start college, I was already familiar with the ways and wonders of the Basement, including the famous automatic markdown plan. My mother used to take a bus to Boston for shopping day trips with a friend, and eventually I got to go along. I don't remember if I ended up buying anything or not, but by the time I got here as a college freshman, I knew the Basement was a key source for great deals.

I have great memories of hopping on the subway and heading downtown to shop at the Basement, both alone and with friends. Back when I was a student in the first half of the 1980s, I used to get stuff like Brooks Brothers shirts, Italian-made corduroy pants from Louis Boston, and Shetland wool sweaters from England. And the suit department was a joy to behold: the suits came from the best stores and were made of the best fabrics. I bought suits from the Basement to attend at least a couple of weddings.

Finding an item that had survived long enough to hit the Basement's 50% markdown was a point of pride, and of course that 50% was off the original Basement price, which was already significantly less than what it had sold for (or at least had been priced at) farther back in its history. At one point in my post-college years, I scored a $500 suit (which would be at least a $1000 suit today) for $125. It still had its price tag from Saks attached.

Back then, there was hardly any competition in the off-price corner of the retail business, but that soon began to change. Along with stores like Marshalls, there were changes in manufacturing patterns, and even higher-end stores had more of their merchandise made in the Far East. Now there are more sources than ever for low-price clothing, yet the merchandise that's available just isn't as good, and the divide between the mass-market stuff and the really good stuff has grown even wider.

When the Downtown Crossing Basement closed in 2007, that was essentially the end, though we didn't want to think so at the time. But even before it shut down, all you had to do was walk through the store to realize its era had passed. In the later years the stuff the Basement was selling was mainly just past-season overstock from mainstream mall chains and department stores, nothing like what you could get back in the good old days, if you were willing to do a little digging and, occasionally, successfully hide something in an out-of-the-way corner until its next markdown day arrived.

01 November 2011

Data Blindness

My lack of foresight has come back on me.

Earlier this year, I was looking over the account info for my cell phone plan. I was paying $30 a month for data service for my smartphone, but I wasn't using all that much data. In the time since I'd gotten the phone, Verizon had added the option of paying $15 a month for a smaller data allowance.

I thought about it and, even though paying the cell phone bill was not a hardship, I figured saving that $15 a month would still be nice. I looked at my data usage patterns and saw that I had not exceeded the amount being offered at the lower price, so I made the switch. I figured if I went over, I could switch back.

I did go over my data cap (150 megabytes) in July when we went to New York, because I was using the phone's map capability a lot, plus looking up other assorted info on the web and checking traffic on the drive down. But worse, now I have an iPhone, which means I'm using data on the network a lot more, to do stuff like play Scrabble with a friend in Texas.

But there was one aspect of the data plan I did not take into account. When I had signed up for the smartphone data plan, Verizon was still offering unlimited data at that $30 a month. At some point after I'd switched to the lower amount of data, the unlimited option had gone away, but customers who still had it were grandfathered and allowed to keep it, at the same rate.

When I made the decision to downgrade my data plan, I already knew at that point that I was going to bail on that phone as soon as I was able, but I still didn't take the long view of my future wants and needs. Had I just left the plan alone, I would now have an iPhone with unlimited data access for $30 a month. Arrrrgh...

Today I checked my usage for the two-plus weeks since I got the iPhone, and I could already see that I was going to pass the cap before the end of the billing period, so I switched back to the $30/month plan, but for that I now get 2 gigabytes of data. It seems unlikely that I would exceed that, but it wouldn't have mattered—I could have streamed Spotify or Pandora 24/7 without caring about my data usage. That stings.

31 October 2011

Variable Conditions

My reaction to this weekend's freak snowstorm, on getting up Sunday morning and going out to get the paper, was, "That's it?" But this was highly variable depending on where you happened to be. When I saw on the news that an area around the Massachusetts/Vermont border got 30" of snow, and a wider area around that got 20", I realized how much it must suck to live out in the boonies. Even Worcester got a pretty serious hit, and an informal survey of people in my office who live between 128 and 495 found that four to six inches was the average.

But in closer to Boston, it was much more of a whimper than a bang. We heard on Saturday night that the peak of the storm would pass over our area between 2 and 6 am, and as a bonus I got a firsthand look at what was going on at 4 am, courtesy of the dog. When she wakes one of us in the middle of the night, it can mean only one thing.

[This is not the first time she's done this during a storm. There seems to be some correlation between severe weather and nocturnal stirring. It may be a moon influence, or possibly an atmospheric vibe she feels, or something else entirely, but it is real.]

Since I didn't yet have any winter outerwear handy (still in storage in the basement), I layered up under a raincoat and added a scarf and a waterproof hat. But when we got outside, it was more rain than snow that was falling, and the sidewalks, driveways, and streets were covered in maybe an inch of slush. That's what I found several hours later, plus the sun was out, and it stayed out all day, so the slush melted away within a few hours. That's definitely one good thing about off-season storms: the weather tends to move back to more or less normal quickly.

Maybe it wasn't so bad earlier in the month, when it was warmer than normal.

29 October 2011

This Week in Awesome (10/29/11)

Let me make one thing clear: I said I wanted fall, not winter. This is not at all what I had in mind...

Regardless of the weather, Monday is still Halloween. But if you live in certain parts of Brooklyn, you might be more used to seeing people playing dress-up year-round. (The Awl)

Time compiled a list of their choices for the top 100 pop songs since they began publishing in 1923. (Gilt MANual)

Stop-motion video is right up there with time-lapse video. This one's a collaboration between Spike Jonze and a French textile artist. FYI: meant for mature audiences. (Atlantic Wire via Kempt)

Check out a preview of this cool new book full of lots of interesting facts presented in artful graphics. (Boing Boing via The Hairpin)

And finally this week, back in February Jalopnik posted a trailer for a miniature (1/32 scale, to be precise) recreation of the centerpiece chase from the movie Bullitt. Now there's a new trailer, and a release date of February '12.

28 October 2011

Retro Video Unit (10/28/11)

I'm jumping ahead of the usual time frame for these selections, to 1991. As Nirvana roared to prominence and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and others followed, there were people like me who weren't all that interested in that particular sound. And there were bands like Chicago's Material Issue who understood, and offered a power-pop antidote to grunge.

This video, for the song "Diane," is not anything special (arriving a decade into the MTV era, you could argue that all the good ideas for music videos had already been used, plus it was obviously made on the cheap), but it serves the song well, and the song is what's key here. Bright, bouncy, and infectious, with just a hint of darker emotion lurking around the edges, "Diane" encapsulates everything that was great about these guys.

27 October 2011

Shopping Locally

On Sunday I visited the fourth installment of the semiannual Top Shelf Flea Market. At around 1 pm the VFW was absolutely teeming with people, which hopefully translated into big sales for the vendors. I've been to all of them, and this was the busiest I've seen it. There was even a greyhound tied up outside the entrance, waiting patiently for its people to finish shopping. I got a vintage made-in-England tweed jacket from Giuseppe, but his booth was so busy I didn't have a chance to chat with him.

Later on I headed down the street to Porter Square Books, because I needed to pick up a 2012 Moleskine calendar notebook. I've been carrying one of these for several years now. The version I like is arranged with a week down the left-hand pages, and blank, lined right-hand pages. There are other layouts, but this one works best for me. Since I pay all my bills online, I use the notebook to (among other things) make notes for when I make the payments and how much, in case I need to refer back.

The bookstore was also quite busy, which was great. It's a well-run store, and I always like to see local, independent businesses thriving, especially a bookstore at a time when all bookstores are threatened by online giants, warehouse clubs, and the growth of ebook readers. PSB filled a void in the area, and has become established enough to attract a busy slate of author appearances and support two book clubs (one for adults, one for kids). It also has a very good coffee bar.

Navigating the parking lot and environs of the Porter Square Shopping Center can be tricky, especially on weekends, but that's to be expected when a suburban-style strip mall is located in the midst of a densely-packed urban area. Don't let that deter you—just pay attention when you're walking in the lot.

25 October 2011

Today's Outfit

I've never gone in for any of the "what I'm wearing today" stuff, because it just isn't my thing, but today things came together nicely, so why not? Don't expect it to become a regular thing, though; for one thing, I'd have to manage better pictures...
Jacket: olive green herringbone with red and mustard windowpanes. I got this from Lord & Taylor maybe five or six years ago; it's from their old house brand Grant Thomas, which they discontinued several years back in favor of the generally unappealing and poorly made Black Brown stuff (if you've seen any of it in person, you know what I'm talking about). This was originally a 3-button jacket, but I re-pressed the lapels to roll to the middle button. Lots of nice little details: traditional leather buttons, side vents, ticket pocket, suede elbow patches. A good find.

Shirt: Martin + Osa, in a red, olive, and cream plaid. This is about the only shirt I have that goes well with pants in the olive-to-brown range. If you want to get wonky about it, the colors in the shirt also tie in nicely with the colors in the jacket.

Pants: not sure what you'd call this color—medium brown? Five-pocket corduroys from JCPenney's house brand St. John's Bay. Cheap, obviously. I bought four pairs of these last year and get lots of wear out of them.

Shoes: these are those boots from Lands' End Canvas. They're plain-toe lace-ups in a very nice dark brown with a bit of burgundy to it. Still breaking them in, but they are more comfortable than I expected. Also available in black, and currently on sale for 1/3 off the original price. If you're interested, I recommend going up a half size from your usual dress shoe size.*

I'm also wearing a cheapo (like, less than $10) Michael Kors belt that I found several years ago at Building #19. It happens to match fairly well with these boots, and with some other shoes I have.

If I do this again, I'll definitely take a better picture...

*Ooh, you can get an extra 20% off the sale price of these boots with the code WOW20OFF and PIN 3737, but this offer expires tonight.

24 October 2011

Banana Memories

Consider this an addendum to the weekend's TWiA if you like: back in the 1980s, before it was acquired by Gap, Banana Republic was a small, quirky company that sold "travel and safari clothing" from a catalog that featured illustrations rather than photos. Most of it was pretty interesting, and some of it was quite cool.

There's a fairly robust secondary market for vintage BR stuff, and sites like Abandoned Republic that share their interest with the rest of us. I had one of these bags, which I bought at the first BR store that opened in this area, on the ground floor of the then-new Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, and carried for several years.

But before that, I had made purchases from the catalog. I remember as a senior in college doing a group order with several of the people with whom I shared a brownstone dorm on Bay State Road. I bought a khaki-colored poplin shirt with flap pockets and epaulets that I wore for a long time.

Source: Put This On via Archival Clothing

23 October 2011

This Week in Awesome (10/22/11)

This week ended up having a nostalgia theme, quite coincidentally:

There are many places to spot older cars on the street, and you can get a good daily dose of them at Curbside Classic. But New York City is not a place you'd expect to see old iron in use, so this blog is documenting such instances. (Hemmings Auto Blog)

The first ten minutes of the first ever broadcast of Monday Night Football from 1970. Fascinating to see, old ads included. (YouTube via Esquire)

A nice piece, with accompanying video, looking back on the days when the stretch of Comm. Ave. between Kenmore Square and Packard's Corner was known as "Automobile Row." (BU Today via Universal Hub)

Who knew our currency used to look this cool? (Boing Boing via Kempt)

And finally this week, an amazing set of photos documenting the life and times of a Saks Fifth Avenue mannequin in the 1930s who had her own newspaper column and radio show. I am 100% not making this up. (How To Be a Retronaut via The Hairpin)

22 October 2011

A Shoe Solution

Not sure where yesterday got to... it's not like I was exactly maxed out at work. Anyway, I just wanted to briefly mention that the universe stepped in and helped me solve the black-loafer problem.

The same day I sent back those Bass loafers that weren't wide enough, I found an eBay auction for a pair of black Allen Edmonds Walden penny loafers in 10.5 wide. I've been checking the AE listings on eBay for months, and the only black loafers I'd seen in wide were in a condition that I didn't think was worth bidding on.

The AE shoes are made in USA, which is always preferable; I've also searched for older Bass loafers from back when they still made their shoes in USA, and one pair did come up a couple of months back, but I lost that auction. This time I had the Buy It Now option, and I took it. These shoes have been worn (it's evident from the soles and heels) but the uppers still look nearly new, so clearly they have been cared for, which benefits both the seller and me.

The best part is that I ended up spending significantly less than even the $90 sale price of the Bass shoes, and got arguably better-made shoes in the process.

It may also be worth mentioning here that about a year ago, a salesman at the AE store downtown on Devonshire Street tried to tell me that with a pair of their Walden loafers I would not need to wear wide, because the shoes would stretch. I didn't try them on at the time, but I knew in my gut that he was wrong. As I mentioned the other day, there is no guarantee that a pair of shoes will stretch simply from wearing them, and if you do that, then you probably can't return them.

Sometimes shoes can be stretched by shoe repair professionals, but your mileage will certainly vary. You know your own feet better than anyone else, so don't be talked into something just because you think you want it or it looks good.

20 October 2011

Casing the iPhone

Now that I have an iPhone, I think I need a case for it. But I can't stand those neoprene "bumper" things, which do nothing to protect the glass anyway. I'm having a tough time figuring out what to do, because I have not seen much out there that isn't crap.

The iPhone is thinner than my Palm Pre, but it's also about half an inch taller. The Pre also had rounded edges on every side, making carrying it in my pants pocket easier, even in its case. I guess what I want is a protective case for when the phone is in my bag or pocket, but one that it's also easy to remove the phone from for when I want to use it.

I have seen a couple of things that fit these general parameters. Twelve South makes cool cases that look like antique books, for iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. Their iPhone case also serves as a wallet, a feature I would be unlikely to use but could be handy. Overall I like the idea of this, and Twelve South's cases are made in the USA, but it might be a little too precious.

I found something similar in the guise of a Moleskine notebook, which would work nicely, but the product page says it's for the iPhone 3 and 3GS, which suggests that either they are a bit behind in development, or they decided not to proceed with making a version to fit the iPhone 4, in which case I would be out of luck.

Orvis has a rather rugged-looking leather case that's sort of like a pocket notepad with a slot large enough to slide an iPhone into. At $70 it's more expensive than either of the others, but it's distinctive (a quality I always consider when making a decision such as this one) and it's also made in the USA.

If anyone has suggestions, please send them along.

19 October 2011

Paying a Premium

Today's my monthly deadline, thus my absence yesterday. In order to meet the deadline, I have to ensure certain things are complete the day before and are uploaded into one particular database, which then syncs with another database overnight, so I can do some other stuff and then make a bunch of content live on our web site on the 19th of each month. So I guess you could say my deadline has a deadline. (And I think I've just demonstrated why there's really no reason for me to talk about my work here...)

Anyway, now that those things have been accomplished, I had a bit of time to poke around the internets. I've been looking for a certain style of tweed sportcoat (not that the temps are cool enough to wear one yet, argh), which I believe I'm most likely to find through eBay or Style Forum, but just to be thorough I decided to take a quick glance at Park & Bond, which is the full-price cousin of flash-sale site Gilt Man.

[Edit: I'd forgotten about the Top Shelf Flea this weekend; maybe Giuseppe can hook me up.]

First strange thing: Park & Bond is selling J. Crew. stuff. I find that very odd; why would someone purchase from P&B instead of from J. Crew directly? And they are offering just a very small selection of J. Crew items. Maybe it has something to do with which countries the sites do or don't ship to?

Second strange thing: the same sportcoat is available through both sites at very different prices. Here it is on P&B, for $450, and here it is on J. Crew, in an additional color, for $278. Plus, it's out of stock on P&B anyway, so even if you were stubbornly insistent about paying 60% more for the same item, you couldn't. But why would you? Not to mention that things do go on sale at J. Crew from time to time, they offer occasional discounts to their credit card holders, etc.

I hope this is nothing more than some sort of data-entry error, but does the fact that it's out of stock mean that P&B has actually sold some of these (presumably to some extremely gullible shoppers)?

Pricing discrepancy aside, I'd think that Park & Bond would want to cultivate its niche on the web as a place to get items that aren't so easy to come by in other places, but their offerings aren't impressing me.

17 October 2011

The Return of Shoe Misery

Until I went looking for those penny loafers last week, I hadn't thought about shoes that much, because I had been more focused on sneakers for the summer months, and also because I had been trying to stay away from buying "regular" shoes since they tend to cost more than sneakers. In the interim, I had kind of forgotten about the problems I often have when trying to buy shoes.

Those Bass loafers arrived on Friday, and while the leather had a nice matte finish and the unfinished leather edges did not look as bad as I had thought (I still would have wanted to have them darkened), the shoes themselves did not fit. This is because this particular style is only available in medium width, and I usually need wide. I didn't think it would be enough of a difference to matter, but after struggling to stuff my feet into the shoes, I knew I wouldn't be able to wear them.

Sometimes this style of loafers will stretch with wearing, but there's no guarantee of that, and I was afraid I would spend two months suffering each time I wore them without getting any resulta. So back they've gone.

16 October 2011

This Week in Awesome (10/15/11)

So yes, my iPhone did arrive on Friday, before noon in fact (standard UPS deliveries typically arrive at my office around 1:30 pm, so I think the iPhone was sent via overnight). I figured out how to copy the photos off my outgoing phone into my computer, but (somewhat mind-blowingly for 2011) I still had to re-enter my contacts into the new phone manually, because Verizon's "backup assistant" thing doesn't work with pretty much any of the smartphones they sell. Anyway...

Those of you who remember MTV's animation show Liquid Television may be pleased to know that the show's various cartoons have been archived online. (Videogum)

Any type geeks in the house? Anyone see Helvetica? You'll want to check out this online type kerning game. (The Awl)

Here you'll find quite a comprehensive collection of photos representing the diversity of restroom signage, and some discussion thereof. (The Society Pages via The Awl)

Have you ever heard the expression "spite house"? This will explain everything. Interestingly, two of the houses featured are in greater Boston. (Twisted Sifter via The Hairpin)

And finally this week, you knew it was coming: Shit That Siri Says. (The Daily What)

14 October 2011

Retro Video Unit (10/14/11)

As I mentioned in an earlier edition of this feature, Saturday Night Live was the gateway to my exposure to alternative music in the 1970s, but Talking Heads were not the first instance. Shortly before I saw their performances, my true musical awakening occurred in the person of Elvis Costello, when he appeared on the show and performed "Radio Radio" from his second album, This Year's Model.

And it seems there is an official music video for this song, which surprised me a bit given when it was released. But it exists regardless, so enjoy...

13 October 2011

Grand Opening

If you've read my accounts of our trips to New York, you know how I feel about Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo and its Soho store. Uniqlo's presence in Manhattan is about to get much more significant: tomorrow they open a colossal new store (89,000 square feet) on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. (It's approximately 2.5 times the space of the Soho store.) A week from tomorrow they're opening a third store, also rather large, on 34th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, just down the street from Herald Square.

Earlier this week various media and bloggers were invited to tour the Fifth Avenue store. Here's coverage from GQ, Racked NY, and The Shophound. The photos will give you some idea of just how large this store is. I can't wait to see it in person. For those of you who live in the New York area, or who may be planning on visiting the city in the next couple of weeks, Uniqlo is offering special grand-opening deals on various products, like men's cashmere sweaters for $60 (check their site for details).

I may need to plan another day trip. PB, you in?

In Transit

I want to believe Verizon (naturally) when they tell me my iPhone has shipped and I will definitely receive it tomorrow, but the tracking number gives me only an error message, so it's making me a tiny bit nervous.

But I choose to remain optimistic. Then again, the address got mutated again. More and more lately, shippers are taking it upon themselves to alter the address I provide for shipments to my workplace. The address they're changing to is only slightly different, but it's enough to cause delivery problems. Looks like I will need to be extra-vigilant tomorrow.

12 October 2011

Not Suitable

I had another look at the cotton suit last night, and it isn't going to work, because I'd forgotten that the sleeves are too long and need to be altered. I wasn't 100% certain when I bought it whether I was going to keep it or not, so I never took it to the tailor. And anyway, I imagine it's going to cool down as soon as the sun sets Friday, and it's supposed to be raining, which just adds to the fun. Time to have a look at my other suits and see what fits.