31 March 2011

Couth Booth

Remember phone booths? Actually, depending on your age, maybe you don't: they were small box-like chambers made of glass and metal (or, even further back, wood) with a folding door. They had telephones inside that you used by depositing coins. There are still a few public pay phones around, but phone booths have largely disappeared.

I was thinking about this the other day, as I was stuck listening to one side of a deeply personal phone conversation about some very messy family issues* that, not very long ago, anyone with reasonable sense and dignity would have been much too embarrassed to conduct in a public place. (Side note: believe it or not, some people still don't have cell phones.)

The great thing about phone booths was that they enabled a modicum of privacy in public environments, so you didn't have to conduct your discussion of last night's booty call* or your most recent visit to your therapist* in full earshot of everyone around you.

So I humbly suggest: doesn't this seem like the perfect time to bring back phone booths? They don't even need to have phones in them, since everyone is already carrying a phone, so that would make them cheaper to build and install. Say you're walking down Boylston Street and your mother calls to ask how your pre-trial hearing* went. You could say, "Hold on a sec, Ma, I'm gonna step into this phone booth so I can tell you about it IN PRIVATE."

But of course, not everyone would be naturally inclined to do this, since it seems that many people have forgotten what "in private" means. Then how would people be encouraged to actually make use of them? I have an idea for that too: the phone companies could inhibit phone signals in most areas, but make them really strong inside the phone booths, making them the best spots to use cell phones.

But then we'd probably have to deal with people getting into fights over them.

And of course, this wouldn't solve the issue of having to listen to people have conversations while on the subway, either. Should the T enclose a couple of seats in each subway car?

(*All the examples I've cited above are actual, real conversations I have overheard in public places, including subway trains.)

30 March 2011

In Perspective

I generally try to avoid getting all serious and, you know, real about stuff around here because, well, mainly because there are so many others who do it better than I ever could.

But of course all of us are concerned about the events taking place in Japan, and about what they could mean for us here in the US in terms of possible exposure to radiation. (It's selfish, but it's also justifiable.) With that in mind, one of my colleagues passed along a link to a very helpful graphic that nicely expresses a lot of information about radiation exposure.

29 March 2011

Mad Men Update

Various entertainment sites are reporting that AMC has a deal with Lionsgate for season 5 of Mad Men, but that it won't air until 2012 (not a surprise at this point, given the length of the negotiations).

However, a deal for Matthew Weiner to continue as showrunner hasn't happened yet, and we all know that the show wouldn't be the show it is without him, so let's hope they can reach an agreement soon. Basket of Kisses says they will be speaking to Weiner tonight, so head over there for more.

28 March 2011

Day Tripping

The Proper Bostonian and I had a fun time in New York on Friday, even though we were only there for about six hours and it was kind of cold and windy. When I went alone a year ago December, I took Megabus, but this time we took BoltBus. Both are fine, and the longer before traveling you can purchase your ticket, the better the fare.

I found the seats in the Bolt buses less welcoming; the shape of the bottom cushion and the imitation leather surface made it difficult for me to find the a comfortable seating position. Also, the Bolt buses make a rest stop about halfway between Boston and New York, which adds 15 minutes to the trip. Megabus used to leave from Back Bay Station, which would have been more convenient for both of us, but now they leave out of South Station along with Bolt, as well as the Fung Wah and Lucky Star buses.

After we'd made plans to go on Friday, I learned about a J. Press warehouse sale taking place last Thursday and Friday, only a few blocks from where the bus would let us out, so I figured it was worth a look. Neither of us ended up buying anything there, but I could have: there were some very nice, American-made suits in my size, and everything was 70% off the original tagged price. Selection was hit and miss; the PB found a suit she and her husband had seen a few months back in the Cambridge store, but not in his size. They have sales like this a couple of times a year, and unlike some of these events, this one had some seriously good deals. I think the thing to do in this case, if you plan to attend one in the future, is to be there as soon as it starts on the first day for the best selection.

Our wanderings took us down to the Flatiron area for lunch at Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, then along 23rd Street to the second location of the Doughnut Plant on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel. (Yum.) We then stopped at Fishs Eddy and ABC Home, where The Conran Shop now occupies the lower level. I have fond memories of the old Conran's stores (somewhat like Crate & Barrel) that used to be on Exeter Street at Newbury (the site of the Exeter Street Theatre and later Waterstone's bookstore) and in the Porter Exchange building in Cambridge, so I was pleased to check out its new incarnation. (The store had been at a different location in New York, but I never made it there.)

Heading toward Soho for the obligatory visit to Uniqlo (maybe one of these days they'll start selling online here in the US), by pure coincidence we happened to pass the site of the Triangle factory fire, which occurred 100 years ago Friday. I'd been reading the coverage in the New York Times leading up to the centennial, but hadn't expected to pass by the building itself, and definitely hadn't expected to witness a memorial ceremony taking place on the sidewalk. (If you're interested in learning more about this terrible, tragic incident, which is considered one of the key events in the history of the American labor movement and the development of workplace safety regulations, this book is a good starting point.)

After visiting Uniqlo and a couple of other stores, we walked over to St. Patrick's Old Cathedral on Mott Street (now designated a basilica by the archdiocese of New York) to light candles, then we had to hurry back to catch the bus home.

27 March 2011

This Week in Awesome (3/26/11)

My sources this week may not be especially broad, but the material's good...

These two go together: people who hold up either a record album cover or a book cover and have styled themselves so they blend in with what's depicted on the cover. Hard to explain, but easy to understand if you just hit those links. (The Hairpin)

Photos of stuff found on the street. (The Hairpin)

You've probably heard about some artist's great album that never got released for some reason. Here's a list of 10 of them (each on a separate page, unfortunately). (Flavorwire) As a follow-up, The Awl discusses a few more (satirically).

25 March 2011

Friday Away

By the time this has auto-posted on Friday morning, the Proper Bostonian and I will be rolling along the turnpike (courtesy of BoltBus) on our way to New York for a brief (same-day return) shopping excursion. It was her idea, but I don't need much convincing, especially when the words "shopping" and "New York" are used in the same sentence. More later...

24 March 2011


It's kind of early in the year to be talking about this, but the fashion designer Tom Ford says men "should never wear shorts in the city." I understand where he's coming from, but I find this rather unrealistic. But then again, Mr. Ford's version of reality is likely vastly different from mine.

(the following is more or less paraphrased from a comment I posted on The Awl's story on this)

I can appreciate Mr. Ford's intent—after all, he's a designer, of course he wants to see men dress better—but somehow I suspect he doesn't spend many 90+ degree July days walking around in Manhattan (or Boston or any other city) or riding public transit there. I imagine his summers are spent largely in the Hamptons or in Europe, lounging on beaches, and when he does have to return to the city for work, he's driven around by a car service and only has to walk from the door of his home to the car to the door of his office building. If that was my life, I'd probably wear long pants in summer too.

23 March 2011

What America Needs?

Lewis Black hadn't done a "Back in Black" segment on The Daily Show in over a month, but last night's bit about one of the potential 2012 presidential candidates was hilarious:

22 March 2011

News of the Mad

It's been a while since I've mentioned Mad Men here, but FYI: the DVD and Blu-Ray sets for season four of Mad Men release one week from today, so you can still place a preorder if you're so inclined, or just buy it from a B&M store next week.

You may not have heard, but AMC is still negotiating a deal for the show's fifth season with its creator, Matthew Weiner, and production company. The latest reports say a two-year deal is close to being finalized, but they've been working on it for a couple of months now. What this means to you and me and other fans of the show is that it's very unlikely it will be back in production in time to air in its typical late-summer/fall time frame, so you should prepare for a longer wait for its return.

21 March 2011

Tech Schlubs

My attention was directed to this piece on the New York Times site (go read it now, while you can still do it for free) about the sartorial habits of tech entrepreneurs. Disturbing, to say the least. We all know that engineers and programmers and developers generally don't care much about how they look (I worked with a group of guys who proved this every day), but the implication of this article is that Silicon Valley types seem to think that T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers are how they need to dress in order to capture venture capital funding.

Allow me to quote directly from the article: “It seems that if you dress up too much, you run the risk of not being taken seriously,” said Erica Zidel, a Seattle-based Web entrepreneur who attended Harvard around the same time as Mr. Zuckerberg. “There is an unspoken rule in entrepreneurial culture that your look should be laid back.”

That notion is really disturbing. Of course I believe that what a person is capable of is more important than how that person dresses, but business attire represents a sense of respect for the process. I don't like the idea that someone might view a person dressed in a suit and grown-up dress shoes as trying too hard. I guess this is one more reason I'm not a tech entrepreneur.

(This also begs the question: what do the VC's wear?)

Nonetheless, I hope that there are entrepreneurs who are willing to challenge this mindset and dress well because they like to dress well.

19 March 2011

This Week in Awesome (3/19/11)

All right, the work obligation has been met, sleep has been obtained, the coffee and leftover pizza has been consumed—what are we waiting for?

My love of die-cast cars goes back all the way to my early childhood, when my parents used to get me Matchbox cars (when they were still made in England) in the little yellow cardboard boxes from a local drugstore, and some of the first generation (1968, I believe) of Hot Wheels. Sadly, my mother sold them all off at various yard sales after I'd left for college, so whenever I see things like this I'm both nostalgic and envious. (Telstar Logistics)

This couple hilariously recreates poses from romance novel cover illustrations. (Oli + Alex via The Hairpin)

From the "more awful than awesome" file, here's a little game for you: start watching this informative, helpful video from Phoenix, AZ lingerie store Mr. Bra. See how long you can go before you (a) feel nauseated; (b) close the tab; or (c) google the number for the Phoenix police department. (The Hairpin via Reddit)

And finally this week, to cleanse your visual and mental palate from the above, Jimmy Kimmel has branched out from late-night host to fitness guru. Here's his first workout, and here's his diet plan.

17 March 2011

Stuff to Read (About the Media)

So, I've been working toward the monthly deadline this week, hence the silence today. I don't expect I'll be all that available tomorrow either, so I'm going to suggest a few pieces of reading material to fill the void. (There is kind of a theme here, thought it happened coincidentally.)

The New York Times ran a page-one Critic's Notebook piece yesterday about the growing prevalence of vulgarities in pop music. It might have been a bit more intriguing if the author, Times music critic Jon Pareles, had turned his pen on himself, so to speak, and assayed the connection between the existence of stories like this and the decline of mainstream media (because prudish newspapers won't print naughty words, see?), but it's still worth a few minutes of your time.

Over at Jalopnik there's some worthy coverage regarding The Detroit News's decision to edit the online version of a car review in response to alleged complaints by an advertiser, and the author's subsequent decision to resign.

And in a similar vein, The Awl wrote about some internecine wrangling between AOL cousins TechCrunch and Moviefone. (You'll want to follow the links in that one to get the whole story.)

16 March 2011

A Stop Too Far

On my way home last night, the Orange Line train I was on came out of the tunnel after North Station and stopped at Community College station. I was standing in front of a woman who stood up suddenly, so I moved aside, but instead of heading for the door, she craned her neck to look over the other passengers and out the window of the train (she was rather short).

She turned to her left and addressed a woman standing next to me: "Did I miss North Station?" The other woman tried very hard not to smirk and replied, "I'm afraid so." The first woman had been asleep and was trying to figure out how far out of her way she'd gone. She quickly exited the train, probably grateful not to have found herself all the way out at Wellington or Oak Grove.

15 March 2011

Adjustments Required

I got the message from Costco yesterday that my glasses were ready. It was sooner than expected; I'd been told seven to 10 business days, and yesterday was the sixth business day, and they had to be sent to the Pacific Northwest and back, so that's a pretty fast turnaround.

I'm pretty excited about these glasses, so of course I went to pick them up last night. No problems with the lenses, but the frames had been altered. Specifically, the temples were bowed outward and then bent back in again toward the back, making them too wide for my head. (They were quite straight when I got them, and fit my head the way I wanted.) I also believe (though I can't say with complete certainty) that the edges of the frame, where the temples meet at the hinges, had been filed down slightly to allow the hinges to open wider, causing the temples to angle outward more before the shaping. I had to have the optician bend the ends in more, and after a couple of tries she got them so they held my head snugly enough.

For someone with a hat size bordering on extra large, my head is kind of narrow from side to side, which is one reason I appreciate eyeglass frames that are offered in a variety of sizes. And I understand the difficulty of making glasses for someone when the lab is thousands of miles away from where the person who will be wearing them is, but I've done this a few times now (had glasses made through an online store, or otherwise in a place far away) and I've never seen frame temples shaped like this.

It seems like a much more sensible approach would be to leave the final shaping and adjustments to be done when the customer receives the glasses. If Costco feels this isn't a feasible option (there was only one person on duty at the optical counter last night, so I can see where this sort of adjustment might not always be possible to do quickly), then offer that information up front and let me decide if/how I want to proceed, such as giving specific instructions not to make any changes to the shape of the frame, or taking them to another optical shop and offering to pay for adjustments.

This issue aside, the lenses were done correctly, and were completed more quickly than I expected.

Now, in last week's post about these glasses, I meant to talk about why I was getting another pair after a little more than a year. So let's make this visual. Old frames (image borrowed from DreamShades):
And new frames (image borrowed from the eBay listing of the frames I purchased):
Before the black frames, I used to wear gray metal-framed glasses that kind of disappeared into my face. This wasn't intentional, but at some point I realized that I wanted my glasses to make more of a statement. Glasses that do this and are a more essential part of one's overall style tend to have a bolder frame, which is what led me to the Ray-Bans.

But ultimately I decided that they were a bit too hipster for me, and I also think they make more sense for a younger person. Given my age, personality, style of dress, and the image of myself that I want to present to the world, the round glasses in the tortoise color are a better fit. The black glasses were also too wide for my head, which is a function of them being available in only two sizes. The tortoise Anglo American 406's are available in four sizes, and these are the second-smallest. And finally, I hated the little Ray-Ban logos on the temples.

So, that should be the last I have to say about glasses for a while. If you like these frames and think you might want some for yourself, may I again suggest you visit Optometrist Attic, where they (and other classic and retro styles of eyewear) are available in a variety of colors and sizes.

14 March 2011


I'm pleased that I was successful in selling the two Seiko watches I posted on Style Forum a couple of weeks ago, and also pleased that both purchasers were happy with the watches. The money has been specifically earmarked to go toward my credit card balance, which was the reason for wanting to sell stuff in the first place.

The nice thing about the forum is that there is a built-in audience. People are members because they are interested in certain things, and the fact that there is no cost to sell is an added bonus. If you post something for sale on eBay, you know that a lot of people will see it, but you also know that you are going to pay a fee if it sells, and the higher the selling price, the higher eBay's cut (as a percentage of the sale price).

On the forum, you can start at what you believe is a fair price, and odds are you will have to lower it after a few days, and generally sellers include shipping in the selling price, but I think that overall there is a higher likelihood of being able to sell items on the forum at prices that make both seller and buyer happy. Heartened by the watch sales, I'm next going to attempt to sell some outerwear.

13 March 2011

This Week in Awesome (3/12/11)

I'm gonna blame the hour change for forgetting to do this yesterday, and leave it at that...

I overlooked this last week: a joke liveblog of the iPad 2 announcement. (The Awl)

A roundup of dumb warning labels is always good for a chuckle or two. (Forbes via Consumerist)

This site loves its retro, which makes it worth a look.

And finally this week, in the interest of expanding our cultural knowledge, The UK explained.

11 March 2011

Weekend Reading: The Grand Illusion

As we head into the weekend (which is going to be pretty decent around here), have a look at this interesting article over at Time discussing research about how parents idealize parenting in order to compensate for the emotional burden it creates.

As someone who has chosen not to have children, I find this sort of thing interesting. I try to avoid judging or disparaging the choices others make. I think those who want to be parents are to be commended, but I also think that too many people end up as parents for the wrong reasons, or without a serious and thorough consideration of all the ramifications.

10 March 2011

English Boots (Almost)

Last week I saw this post on Put This On, about these English-made Chelsea boots that were on sale at Brooks Brothers for half off the original price, with a code for another 15% off because they were in the clearance section. The final price was $224, around 60% off the original price.

The idea of a pair of made-in-England shoes at such an appealing price was very tempting. I added a pair to the shopping cart, pondered it for 30 minutes or so, then bought them, knowing that I could return them to the Brooks Brothers store if they didn't fit.

During the pondering period, I thought about the fact that they were only available in standard (medium) width, which, depending on the shoe, frequently doesn't work for me. I decided to compensate by going up a half-size, which sometimes works.

The shoes arrived on Tuesday, and they were quite beautiful. The leather was soft and lustrous; the heels had a couple dozen small copper nails in neat rows. English shoes tend to have tapered, somewhat pointy toes, and these did, which worried me. But I put them on and found that they felt roomier than they looked like they were going to be. The half-size up seemed to give me enough room up front, but I was concerned about their appearance.

They seemed too dressy to be casual, yet too casual to be dressy. I thought about the situations when I would be most likely to wear them, and the clothes I would be likely to wear in those situations. I wondered how much wear I would really get out of them. I looked down at my feet and thought that the boots looked bad with the dark jeans I was wearing that day.

Ultimately I decided that there was no need for me to spend $225 on shoes of questionable usefulness. If I could buy a pair of Alden plain-toe bluchers for that price, I'd have no hesitation about keeping them because I know I'd wear them all the time, and aesthetically I think I prefer the rounded, slightly blunt shape of that sort of American shoe anyway. The boots were returned to the store.

(By the way, if you're interested in this style of boot, I did find an American-made Chelsea boot for around the same price; the brand is Neil M and the style name is Portland. But I'm not going to buy them either.)

09 March 2011

Business Attire

Because of my interest in clothing and style, I tend to notice what other people are wearing. There are seven other males who work in my office, and I realized that they all dress rather plainly. All of them are at least my age and most are older than me, so that may be a contributing factor, but it's unfortunate that more men don't take more of an interest in their clothing and appearance.

I realize that many people have more important things on their minds, and it's not that any of my coworkers dress poorly, it's just that there seems to be a lack of imagination. The thing that strikes me the most is the overwhelming dominance of solids and the general absence of color overall. I rarely see even a striped shirt among them, and there are other, less fortunate choices, like yellow dress shirts and half-zip sweaters.

Sure, I wear solid polo shirts in the summer, but I tend to prefer them in brighter colors, and equally as often I'm wearing a striped or plaid button-front shirt. I've always preferred patterned shirts, particularly stripes. I just find them more visually interesting, and I know the ladies in the office notice, because I've received compliments from them. That's not my goal, but who doesn't like being told "that's a really nice shirt"?

08 March 2011

The Virtual Funnies Pages

Just over a year ago I gave up home delivery of the Boston Globe, due to the elimination of the super-cheap add-on rate I got as a New York Times subscriber. But at that point the only reason I was really getting the Globe was to read the comics, so I reasoned that I could do that online.

I do that now, but it's not quite as easy as you might think. Only a fraction of the comics that run daily in the Globe are available on boston.com's comics page, so I was left to seek out the ones I wanted to read elsewhere.

Most comic strips are distributed to newspapers through syndicating services, so those are the sites you want to visit. They are overloaded with ads and slow to load, but they get the job done.

I now read 15 comics daily, and to do so I need to visit three sites: GoComics, comics.com, and Comics Kingdom, which is sort of a portal template that papers can use to customize a comics page; somehow I ended up using the one that belongs to the Portland Oregonian, but you can also access it via the San Francisco Chronicle or the New Orleans Times-Picayune (quite possibly the greatest newspaper name ever).

07 March 2011

The Next Pair

I finally made it to Costco over the weekend to visit the optical counter and see about getting lenses put in my new frames. I have a very strong prescription, so having it made into high-index lenses (which are noticeably thinner than traditional polycarbonate lenses) sometimes costs a little more (sometimes it costs a lot more, depending on where the glasses are being made).

The Costco price for the lenses is $110, which is extremely reasonable. They also charged $18 because I was bringing them a frame from elsewhere. I understand why they do this, and I don't find it excessive. The turnaround is 7 to 10 business days, because the frames need to be sent to their lab in Washington state, where Costco is headquartered.

I asked if the company has its own lab, and the person assisting me gave me the rundown: the lab makes glasses for all the Costco optical locations in the US, and only for them. She told me it's the size of a Costco warehouse building, but two stories, and they make 5,000 pairs of glasses a day. (I meant to ask how they get the lenses into plastic frames, since they don't screw together like metal frames do, but I guess I can do that when I go back to pick them up.)

I'd also like to mention that the person who helped me was polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. In fact, I've never encountered anyone working at Costco who wasn't all those things.

05 March 2011

This Week in Awesome (3/5/11)

Quite a decent weekend we're having, feels like winter is over (or at least close to over). The melting has progressed to the point that yesterday was the first day I could walk from our house to the bus stop without having to walk at least some part of the way in the street. Meanwhile, back on the internet...

I was reluctant to bring attention to anything related to Charlie Sheen, but this meme of New Yorker cartoons captioned with quotes from his interviews felt suitably removed from the fray. (BuzzFeed via The Hairpin)

This video serves as a cautionary tale, but the more significant question remains unanswered: how did the truck get there in the first place? Given the outcome, maybe it's best we don't find out. (StreetFire via Autoblog)

There's a good chance those of you on facebook have already seen this, so I offer it as a public service for the rest of us. (The Daily What; actual origin point unknown)

And finally this week, a clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live that affirms Tom Hanks's status as one of the greatest people ever, regardless of what you think of his acting. (TV Guide)

The Switch

My mother pointed out to me that Daylight Savings Time begins a week from tomorrow. I understand why the government changed the yearly start and end points several years back, but I don't like it.

I miss the gradual lengthening of the days we used to experience during March, before the hour jumped ahead in early April. Now it's getting dark just before six, and CLICK! it's shoved ahead an hour.

It also means it will go back to being dark when I get up for a few more weeks, which bothers me more than darkness when I leave work (which seems to bother more people). And the first week, when I'm adjusting to the change, usually frazzles my brain pretty badly.

And this all makes me wonder why we don't just switch to permanent DST. At this point we're already on it for two-thirds of the year. I'm sure there's DST info out on the web, but I haven't had a chance to look.

(TWiA will arrive later today.)

03 March 2011

The Show Is Free

On both my morning and evening subway rides today, the other riders and I were treated to some bonus entertainment:

As I was getting on the Green Line at North Station, a commotion erupted behind me. Two women got into an argument about being pushed; it seemed like each was accusing the other of pushing her. It had happened just as I'd turned my back to sit down, so I didn't know who was right or wrong. Interestingly, they both went toward the front of the car, where they continued their argument. (I would have expected them to go in opposite directions so as to avoid one another.) I could not see them, but I heard another voice intervene and get them to stop shouting at each other, and that was that.

On the way home, I got on the Orange Line at North Station and came face to face with what I first took to be two drunk locals. After a few moments it became clear that it was one drunk local and his friend, who was in another category altogether. It was more like he was bipolar and in the midst of a manic episode. He was talking continuously, and though not all of it made sense, some of it gave me the impression that he was fairly bright.

Since the train was crowded I had no choice but to stand near them, so I turned to face the other way. They were silent, but after a few moments, I felt a finger touch the back of my hat. I turned around to look at them, and the drunk one pointed at the manic one, who grinned and shrugged. I gave him a glare, removed my hat, and turned back around. They had a laugh at my expense, and the manic guy went back to his babbling.

But this was the best part: drunk guy happened to use the word "asshole." Manic guy said, "Hey, watch your language: there are kids on this train." (I'm not sure if that was true, but it's likely there was at least one.) And then he added, "I manage to say all my crazy stuff without swearing." Well said, dude. But seriously, don't be touching me like that. Not cool.

02 March 2011

Made in America

You all know I feel strongly about buying American-made stuff when it's realistically feasible. ABC News is doing a series all week on this subject, and it's worth watching.

01 March 2011

The Tuck Rule Revisited

Gentlemen of greater Boston: I'm seeing way too many of you walking around with your pants tucked into your boots. DO NOT DO THIS, regardless of what you may have seen on fashion-show runways or in GQ.

Because—think about it, and I really shouldn't have to point this out—you are not on a runway, you're on the subway. Okay? You look like you're five and your mom has just dressed you and sent you out to play in the snow.

You want to roll up your pants so we can all see how stylish your boots are? I'm not personally down with that look, but it's definitely the lesser of these two evils.