30 November 2012

Retro Video Unit (11/30/12)

This one popped up on my iPod as we were driving home from Thanksgiving. One of the many synthesizer-based bands that found success in the early 1980s, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) had a series of hit singles including "If You Leave" from the soundtrack of the John Hughes movie Pretty In Pink.

Though this song, "Enola Gay," is from their second album, it's the first song I ever heard by them. Like some other '80s bands, OMD reformed several years back and are again recording and performing.

Deal Alert

You never have to pay full price for anything from Lands' End, because there are constant coupon codes available. Some codes offer better discounts than others, but it seems like they offer 30% off at least every couple of weeks. (Usually you have to spend $50 to get free shipping.) Maybe every six weeks or so, LE offers a code for 40% off one item, which is a good way to purchase something with a higher regular price.

A few months ago LE introduced American-made jeans, after earlier bringing out American-made sweats and T-shirts. I haven't tried on the jeans or seen them in person, but the effort to offer this type of product at a more reasonable price than comparable US-made jeans is admirable. The regular price for these jeans is just below $100, and with the 40% off code you can get a pair for under $60, shipped to you for free. (If you aren't happy with them, you can return them to any Sears store that sells Lands' End merchandise.)

To make things just a little more confusing, LE offers these US-made jeans in both their regular line and in their more modern Canvas line, and each of those is available in two fits. The differences between all of the fits are a little nebulous, but generally the Canvas items are cut slimmer and have a lower waist than their standard LE counterparts. With the free shipping and easy returns, you could order your size in two fits and see if you prefer one to the other.

The current code JINGLE and PIN 1203 (you need both at checkout) is good through Monday, December 3rd. The $50 minimum for free shipping applies, but ordering even one pair of these jeans will put you over that.

Gift Idea: Tickets to Something

I'm not presumptuous enough to try to put together a comprehensive holiday gift guide, but sometimes it's difficult to come up with the right gift for someone.

One suggestion is to consider getting tickets to a play or musical, a concert, the opera, the ballet, the circus—it can be any sort of event, as long as you know the recipient will enjoy going, and you will enjoy going with her/him. I know someone who reads this blog who once took his then-girlfriend to a monster truck event on Valentine's Day. (Your mileage may vary depending on your recipient's capacity for appreciation of irony.) Or, if your giftee loves Gregorian chants and you can't handle them, consider giving the tickets with the intention of having the recipient bring another friend or relative.

The cool thing about this gift choice is, the person receiving the gift has the excitement of opening it and seeing what it is, then a whole other round of anticipation leading up to the event itself. If it happens to be in another city and requires travel, like a Broadway show in New York, then that makes it even more exciting.

One thing to remember: for many one-time events like concerts, tickets can go on sale as far as six months ahead of the event date, so depending on your loved one's interests, you may need to be thinking about this gift and planning it well ahead of time. But it will be worth it, and it will show you've been paying attention.

28 November 2012

Vintage Tech

Today I saw a guy with a portable CD player. I guess some people just prefer to keep it old school.

27 November 2012


Following up from last week, here are some additional pictures of the vintage Brooks Brothers tweed jacket I recently acquired.
The fabric is a traditional black and white weave, but the pattern is slightly less so. Instead of a typical herringbone, this is less regular—I think I have seen this referred to as a "broken bone" pattern, with the longer diagonal sections interspersed with shorter, zigzag sections.
On top of that, there's a windowpane. The horizontal lines are sort of a beige or light tan, but the vertical lines are a bright blue. Taken all together it makes for a very unusual and distinctive pattern. Flecks of other colors are scattered around randomly in the weave, something else I like.
The lapels are 3.5" wide, which is perfect—not too wide, not too narrow. Three-button front rolls very nicely to the center button. Two-button cuffs aren't seen much these days, which affirms my belief that this is at least a few decades old, but there isn't anything to go on in terms of interior labeling that could help narrow it down.
I'm not a big fan of patch pockets, but as long as they have flaps they make perfect sense on a jacket like this one. (Open-top patch pockets are a little too European for my taste.)

I have a beautiful Donegal tweed jacket that I got from Lands' End about 15 years ago, back when they were still offering very nice stuff at very reasonable prices, and it was made in the USA. Unfortunately this jacket no longer fits me, so for at least the past year I have been searching for a suitable replacement. I wanted something very specific, and this was a lucky confluence of color, pattern, fit, and price. The fact that it's vintage is just a bonus.

26 November 2012

Monday Reality Check

There's nothing quite like accidentally poking yourself in the eye to put everything in perspective.

25 November 2012

This Week in Awesome (11/24/12)

I hope you all have had a pleasant holiday weekend. Now let's get back to the usual foolishness...

TV news bloopers—nothing more need be said. (The Daily What)

This is one of the more interesting music mashups I've seen (heard?) in quite a while. (Laughing Squid via Waxy)

This collection of objects reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. (Paradise Row via The Daily What)

I can't imagine having this much free time, but if I did I doubt I'd spend it this way. Also, it must have cost a fortune. (The Daily What)

And finally this week, if you've ever wanted to travel the entire length of Route 66, give this a look. (Laughing Squid)

24 November 2012

Food Thoughts

Yesterday my mother said she wanted pizza for dinner. It's kind of an ideal way to phase out of turkey and all the trimmings.

And apple pie makes an excellent Saturday morning breakfast.

21 November 2012

Time and Texture

I took this shot today with my phone, for no reason other than I liked how everything looked together:
The Spaceview has been seen before; the shirt is an L.L. Bean Signature chambray, the jacket is a vintage Brooks Brothers tweed that I recently scored on eBay. It's a very interesting jacket, so I think I'll post some additional shots of it soon.

20 November 2012

Another Chance for Pie

Following up from last week's Pie Day post: the deadline to order a pie was last Saturday, but if you want to get a pie and support Community Servings, you can still do so.

Tomorrow is pickup day for those who pre-ordered pies, and as I have done for the past three years, I will be at a pickup location downtown. If you missed out on pre-ordering, the good news is that many of these locations will also be doing walk-up sales.

Over the years so many people stopped at the pickup tables and said that they had forgotten to order, or hadn't heard of Community Servings and Pie in the Sky, so it was natural to offer this option. Here is the list of on-site sales locations.

19 November 2012

Closed on Thanksgiving

Yeah, TWiA did not happen this weekend, in case anyone was wondering. It'll definitely be back next weekend.

At this point I'm pretty sure I don't have to mention that you should not go shopping on Black Friday, right? So it totally goes without saying that you shouldn't go shopping on Thanksgiving Day either, unless you're doing it on your computer. Besides, the Patriots are playing the Jets in prime time on Thursday, so why would you be doing anything else instead of watching that?

Anyway, I got an email today from JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson that reads, in part:
...and yes, we're going to start our Black Friday—on Friday.
I know that some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving this year. But spending Thanksgiving with family is one of America's greatest traditions. Since jcp was founded on the Golden Rule, I'm proud to honor this tradition by keeping our stores closed on this special day.
I hope our customers and employees all enjoy a wonderful holiday with loved ones.
Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for doing your part to respect this holiday. Look, I understand that some people don't enjoy holidays for whatever reasons, and not everyone gets along with their family members. But there also have to be some limits to the lengths retailers will go to to separate people from their money, and the effect these policies have on their employees.

I keep hearing that working on these Thursday-night openings is voluntary, and there may be employees who do want to work those shifts, but having spent more than a decade working in various retail settings, I know too well that "voluntary" often means "compulsory." I think retail employees deserve to have the Thanksgiving holiday off, and I think that staying away from stores on Thursday night is a simple thing you can do to show your support for that belief.

17 November 2012

Retro Video Unit (11/16/12)

I'm in the mood for a trip in the wayback machine, back to some real first-wave new wave. Who better, then, than Gary Numan?

He wasn't the first rock performer to float the "I've just arrived on your planet from outer space and I'm here to blow your minds and change music forever" story, but he certainly looked like it might have been true.

His early releases were genuinely groundbreaking, and he's still recording and touring after nearly four decades, mainly in Europe, where he has remained popular all along. Here's one of my favorite songs of his, "Down in the Park," a live version from the outstanding compilation album Urgh! A Music War.

14 November 2012

Don't Be An...

I just learned that there is a book about the history of the word "asshole" and what it has come to mean in our society. It's a serious book, written by a linguist. This is excellent; I want to read it.

13 November 2012

Hi There

I spent a couple of hours today trying to coax people into having a free piece of cake, explaining why free cake was being given away, and handing them postcards they could refer to after they'd walked away and forgotten what I'd said.

I haven't dealt with the public in any meaningful capacity for almost seven years. I've never handed out flyers or anything like that. But what was very interesting about today was: I had a hell of a time just getting people to make eye contact, even as I was speaking to them.

As people walked toward me in the mall corridor, I would say "hi there" or "hello" or something like that. Talk about a tough crowd. I'd say I had barely a 1% success rate. And I'm not talking about the people texting, talking on the phone, or otherwise manipulating a digital device. I didn't even bother with them. When people try to talk to me or hand me things on the street, I always say "no thanks" so they at least know I'm not ignoring them.

If I succeeded in making eye contact, it was a lot easier. I would then say something like, "Are you in the mood for some dessert?" That got most people's attention. But most people wouldn't even acknowledge that I was speaking to them. Look, I get it, you're on your lunch break, you only have 30 minutes and you have to get three other errands done before you have to go back. I'm not trying to poison you or sell you anything. Really. I'm just trying to get you to look me in the eye for a second, that's all. Come on, give it a try.

12 November 2012

Pie Day 2012

In years past I've mentioned local organization Community Servings and the great work they do bringing meals to ill people all over the Boston area (and now in Worcester as well). This is the time of year when CS has its big fall fundraiser, Pie in the Sky. The pies, which are baked by dozens of area restaurants and bakeries, are $25, and that amount provides a full week of meals for a client.

Tuesday, November 13th is Pie Day. Volunteers will be at several sites around Boston and Cambridge, offering pie samples and information about Pie in the Sky. In the morning visit Dewey Square from 8 am to 9:30ish (pie for breakfast is awesome, and they'll have coffee too), or come by the Prudential Center from 11 am to 2 pm (I'll be there). From 4:30 to 6:30 pm there will be folks in both Kendall Square (Marriott courtyard) and Central Square (Cambridge City Hall).

11 November 2012

This Week in Awesome (11/10/12)

Gotta love the weather around here: snowstorm last Tuesday night, 60 degrees today, 65 tomorrow, back to the mid-40s by Wednesday...

This fascinating series creates time-lapse videos of cities with people and vehicles digitally removed. There are four installments so far, with more sure to come. All of them are here, along with some behind-the-scenes clips.

New York magazine goes behind the scenes of its post-hurricane issue's cover image. (Kempt)

The latest installment of PBS's Off Book series (which I've referenced previously) looks at outdated forms of media and why people still care about them. (Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, I'm just going to leave this over here... this woman is the definition of awesome. It's 16 minutes long and worth it, but if you don't feel like watching all of it, just jump to the 12:50 mark. (Dangerous Minds)

10 November 2012

At the Movies

I really want to see Skyfall (naturally), but I decided I didn't feel like dealing with opening-weekend madness. We did go to a movie last night, though: Argo. It was kind of a make-up for planning to go see it the previous two weekends, and failing.

It's a really good movie, quite tense and suspenseful. I have to give credit to Ben Affleck as a director. He has demonstrated good instincts in the projects he's chosen to direct, and his execution of them keeps getting better. It also has the feel of a movie from the time in which it takes place: there's a certain graininess to the image on screen, and the colors are appropriately washed out and muted.

As for the Bond movie, I think it merits seeing on an IMAX screen, so we're going to plan to see it at Jordans.

08 November 2012

Or Not...

A pleasant surprise: by the time I got up this morning, the snow had turned to rain and washed away whatever was sticking to the sidewalks last night, so I didn't have to shovel after all. If it had been a little warmer in the early part of this week, this would have been just a rainstorm with a lot of wind. It's still pretty unpleasant outside now, though.

07 November 2012

November Surprise

I am definitely going to have to shovel snow tomorrow morning... what fun.

Direct Effect?

So now that the president has been reelected, I automatically get a new job, right? Isn't that how it works? Related: we were also promised jetpacks, and flying cars...

05 November 2012

Uniqlo Online Shopping: In-Person Report

After Uniqlo's US e-commerce went live two weeks ago, you know I had to get in on the action right away. I placed an order that very afternoon, and since their warehouse is in New Jersey (and the hurricane hadn't happened yet) I got my package only two days later.

There were some "grand opening" type specials, including colored jeans for $10. I wasn't interested in those, but after looking around for a while I discovered that a couple of styles of their plain dark denim were also available for $10 (the regular price is $50), so I ordered a pair of those.

I've been going back and forth on Uniqlo's pants since my first visit to the Soho store in 2007. Most of their stuff has been cut wrong for my middle-aged body, but on my visit back in April of this year I bought a pair of their vintage chinos that I like a lot, and they have added a "relaxed fit" jean cut. Unfortunately that style wasn't part of the $10 promotion; the one that was is called "regular fit."

I would describe that fit as not quite as regular as I'd expected or hoped. It does fit, but the waist is still a little low for my taste. I've seen them described as similar to the Levi's 514, which I've never tried on, mainly because the legs are pretty skinny, but it may be a helpful reference point for some people. The leg openings on the Uniqlo jeans are closer to what I usually wear, and I will wear these, but probably not as much as my now-preferred Levi's 505s. I think it's in my interest to try on the Uniqlo relaxed fit at some point, but I'll probably wait until I'm in New York again.

One other note about the Uniqlo denim: the dye is very dark, and it came with a warning about rubbing off on lighter-colored upholstery and clothing. That could get to be a nuisance, and might be a deal-breaker for some people. I soaked my pair overnight in the washing machine, and it seemed to remove some of the excess dye, but I have no idea how much, or how transferable they still are.

I also bought a V-neck lambswool sweater at the everyday price of $20, which is a genuine bargain. The fabric is a nice weight—not too thick, not too thin—and the XL fits me well, as do all XL tops (shirts and sweaters) that I've bought from Uniqlo. However, the color was not what I expected; on the website it looked like a deep cobalt, but in person it's definitely navy. Getting color representation right is one of the toughest things to accomplish in e-commerce, and I think a bit of "caveat emptor" is warranted. If this was one of their $80 cashmere sweaters it would be worth it for me to pay $7 to return it, but in this case I'll probably just give it to someone else, since I don't wear navy.

I added a couple of pairs of socks and a couple of pairs of underwear to my order. This is one area where Uniqlo excels: the quality is very good and the prices are very cheap. If you're trying to get to the $100 threshold for free shipping, this would be an easy way to fill out an order.

One other note: at the moment, Uniqlo's site says they have temporarily suspended online shopping due to the storm's aftermath. Let's hope they get back to normal soon.

04 November 2012

This Week in Awesome (11/3/12)

Got together with most of my laid-off former coworkers last night, and had a really nice time catching up. I don't miss working, but I miss being around them every day.

Many TV shows, when looked at in hindsight, exhibited curious and questionable fashion choices. For a show set in space, the weirdness factor gets a lot higher. (Racked)

Here's a pre-hurricane video of New York that cleverly combines daylight and nighttime footage of the same locations. (Laughing Squid)

The Boston Business Journal did some hard-hitting and necessary research to compile this list of the ten oldest bars in Boston. I've only been to half of them. (Universal Hub)

Google's satellite images can be used for all sorts of purposes. (The Daily What)

And finally this week, an erroneous rumor about Chrysler shifting Jeep production to China (that stemmed from a story about Chrysler's desire to add supplemental Jeep production in China) led to several instances of misinformation being reported as fact, including a tweet from that Apprentice guy. He was promptly and amusingly shot down by Chrysler's VP of design. (Jalopnik)

03 November 2012

Retro Video Unit (11/2/12)

As the clock winds down to the election (and we'll finally be rid of all the political ads on TV for... what, the next three months or so?), I saw this clip and thought I'd deviate from the usual content of this feature:

02 November 2012


Today I walked through a part of the neighborhood I hadn't been by in a while, and came upon this:
This tree was at the back edge of a park where we sometimes take the dog to sniff around. Just behind the park's border fence is a house, but when it came down it went in exactly the opposite direction from the house. It also appears to have missed all the utility wires.