29 March 2013

Spring Dissonance

I was out looking around in a few stores yesterday, and everywhere the stores are already filled with shorts, polo shirts, all the summer stuff. I know this happens every year, but it still seems to catch me off guard each time.

We're barely able to say that winter is over, and I'm just starting to transition from my everyday cold-weather boots to ordinary shoes, and I'm able to wear some of my lighter coats and jackets for the first time since fall. I'm not ready to think about shorts, let alone look at them.

28 March 2013


Comcast is offering free viewing of premium-cable shows (Dexter, Game of Thrones, etc.) all this week through Sunday, either online or on-demand. The catch is, you have to be a Comcast subscriber to take advantage of it.

Still, I got season one of Girls from the library a couple of weeks ago, and instead of waiting months for season two (which just finished airing on HBO a couple of Sundays ago) to come out on DVD, I can watch it now.

This is a nice alternative to college basketball for people like me who have no interest in it.

27 March 2013

A Bridge Too Close?

I hastily snapped this picture today in Marshalls, where these framed pictures are for sale. I didn't do a great job of fitting the whole thing in the camera frame, but it's sufficient:
Something seems a little off about the geography here...

Assigned Tasks

In order to remain on unemployment, I have to meet certain obilgations. Three weeks ago i attended a seminar for people receiving extended benefits, and we left with a homework assignment of sorts and an appointment for a follow-up interview.

I have to maintain a log of my job search activity for each week. I also had to visit a particular website and do some very cursory research on employment trends for my general work area, and fill out a couple of brief forms.

I had to complete these things and go back for my follow-up by a certain date. The follow-ups are done on several different days of the week during specified blocks of time; you show up and sign in on a sheet, and staffers come and call people in the order they have signed in.

My interview was this morning. I arrived just after 9 and signed in; there were eight or nine people ahead of me, but there were also three or four different staffers doing the interviews, so it didn't take long. What did surprise me was that there was really no interview to speak of; the staffer looked over my paperwork to verify that I had completed the required tasks, and entered some info into my file on a computer, but that was about it. They didn't even keep the forms, and I was out of there in about 45 minutes. I guess they just want to make sure people are not totally slacking off.

26 March 2013

What A Croc

Sometimes I go looking for post ideas, and sometimes the ideas find me. Courtesy of The Awl, I learned today that the Hermès store in Manhattan sells a T-shirt made of crocodile skin, and that this garment costs a mere $91,500. (Scroll down to the comments on that article to find a link to an image from a runway show, if you must.)

And now that I have this knowledge, I'm left not quite knowing what to think about it.

I mean, I know the world of the rich is very different than the world the rest of us live in, but of all the things to potentially blow a shitpile of money on... that? There's just something awfully Eurotrash about it, you know?

24 March 2013

This Week in Awesome (3/23/13)

Didn't win the Powerball jackpot; guess I'll keep blogging for now...

Would you like to see a graphic with every one of Robert De Niro's outfits from Casino? Got that covered. By the way, the artist is local, and his work is available to purchase. (Ibraheem Youssef via The High Definite)

Speaking of graphics, there's a guy in the UK who made these two very stylish maps (also available to purchase), of American TV show locations and the birthplaces of English musicians. (James Chapman via Laughing Squid)

Sometimes it's nice to see the lyrics of a song written out; other times it isn't really necessary. (BuzzFeed)

I love these reimaginings of Quentin Tarantino's movies as paperback covers. GeekTyrant)

A hacker used an illegal botnet to create a map of internet usage. Means to an end? (The Daily What)

And finally this week, an overhead view of cities around the world, created from 3D map images. Boston is included. (Vimeo Staff Pick)

23 March 2013

Retro Video Unit (3/22/13)

I just felt like hearing this one... here's "Cities in Dust" by Siouxsie & The Banshees, from 1985.

22 March 2013

Hidden Benefit of Unemployment

I had a physical today for the first time in three years, not because I was avoiding it but because I forgot. Most interestingly, my blood pressure is very nicely low, even lower than when I went in January to get a referral to a couple of other departments. I don't know why for certain, but I'm going to attribute it to not having to commute to and from work for the past year.

20 March 2013

Four-Wheel-Drive Luggage

I don't spend much time thinking about luggage. One reason is I don't travel that much, but also I tend to purchase a suitcase or two and use them for a long time. But I do have a tendency to be a bit behind the curve regarding features that make travel easier. My main suitcase has wheels, but it's not the "spinner" type with four wheels. I didn't think much of this until I tried rolling one around at a store, and then I understood immediately.

Two-wheeled bags are still somewhat prone to tipping over, especially if you happen to cross an uneven surface, like a curb. Also, the position of the handle causes your wrist to fatigue very quickly, because it's turned against its natural angle. (I solved that problem by getting a bag with a single extension pole with a rotating handle on top.)

As soon as you experience a four-wheel bag, you realize how much easier it is to maneuver, and the wrist-angle thing is eliminated too. I still have my two-wheel bag because it's perfectly good, but I have been contemplating getting a four-wheel spinner bag, because it would be nice to have something larger for the occasional longer trip.

One of the nicer bags I've seen, as well as one of the lightest, is from Muji, the Japanese purveyors of all sorts of interesting and useful things. Muji's only US stores are in New York and San Francisco, but they have offered online shopping for a while now. They are currently offering 30% off some of their hard-side four-wheeled suitcases: the 27-inch model that usually retails for $198 is currently $138, and the 29-inch is down from $238 to $166. These bags weigh nine and 10 pounds empty, respectively, so you don't have to worry as much about how much weight you are putting inside.

I don't know how long these are going to be discounted; there are other, similar-looking bags on the main luggage page that are not discounted, and are labeled as "new," so it looks like Muji may be clearing out the older stock, and if you're interested you should act quickly.

19 March 2013

A Few Notes

1. Okay, winter, that's about enough out of you. Time to go...

2. I've been a little busy managing my eBay auctions. Several items have already sold, though only one (that I'm aware of) as a direct result of my shameless plug the other day. In looking through my stuff, I see that I have a lot more that I can list, so I'll be adding to the list, probably a couple of items each day.

3. Dealing with that stuff, along with spending a chunk of time over the weekend trying to get caught up on Downton Abbey, caused me to forget about TWiA. I guess I'll just hold the stuff I had collected for next weekend.

4. Last night I got to go to a fancy benefit for diabetes research, courtesy of the Boston Restaurant Examiner (who was invited to cover the event, and to bring a guest). We enjoyed samples of healthier food options from nearly two dozen local restaurants and other food vendors, including some delicious desserts, and got to do some fun people-watching too.

5. See #1.

16 March 2013

Shameless Plug

If you'll allow me a moment of self-promotion...

I have written here at length about my clothing purchases. For a while I bought things somewhat indiscriminately, and as a result a percentage of those purchases didn't work out for one reason or another. Some items were bought new; others came from eBay. Over the years I have accumulated a number of items that I intended to attempt to resell at some point.

After procrastinating for years, I have finally started to list these items on eBay. If you visit here for any style-related reason, then some of my stuff may be of interest to you, provided you are size-compatible. I'm at the larger end of the clothing size range: I typically wear a 44 jacket, 36 waist pants, 10.5 or 11 shoes (depending on style and brand). For dress shirts I wear a 16 x 34 or 34/35, depending on brand.

I started with the items that I had already taken pictures of in previous half-baked attempts to get this going, and two pieces have already sold (yay!). I still have a number of things I need to photograph, including a few watches that I'm no longer wearing. All auctions are fixed price ("buy it now") and include free Priority Mail shipping, and I am accepting offers on every item. I will be adding to the selection daily, so if anything catches your eye you may want to check back periodically.

Please check out my auctions here. Thanks for your indulgence.

15 March 2013

Winter's Leftovers

It's cold out again, but I choose to believe that this winter has breathed its last upon us. Meanwhile, there are still a few space savers scattered around, though they are not being actively used at this point.

This is by far the most interesting object I saw used as a space saver in our neighborhood this winter:
No sign of its sibling, or the device to which it once belonged. How long will it sit on this curb before someone disposes of it, or reclaims it?

14 March 2013

Discounts on Boylston

Today is the opening of the Nordstrom Rack store on Boylston Street. I don't typically rush to store openings, but by coincidence I will be in the Back Bay this evening for another event, so I'll probably stop by just to have a look around.

The Rack stores for me are a hit/miss proposition; the only things I've ever bought there are shoe trees, which are generally an excellent deal at around $13 a pair (and sometimes on sale for less). But as is true with all discount shopping, luck and timing can result in good deals. I have seen high-quality shoes from brands like Allen Edmonds that I would have bought if they were my size. I've seen excellent values on clearance suits from brands like Hickey Freeman and Burberry. They have a good selection of reasonably-priced dress shirts and ties if you find yourself in need of such on short notice.

Also, while nothing will ever replace the original Filene's Basement, it's good to see an empty storefront get filled, and once again offer an alternative to the Marshalls across the street.

13 March 2013


Hey, guess what's opening a week from today? The new Shake Shack in Chestnut Hill! Which is great, but obviously we're going to need one that's easier to get to, like downtown or Back Bay.

12 March 2013

A Pledge to Make Something Better

Hoodies aren't really my thing. I have a couple that I wear mainly around the house or for walking the dog, depending on the weather. But I do care about how and where things are made, and I believe that clothing shouldn't wear out after a year or two of normal use and wear.

If your interests are so aligned, you may want to check out this Kickstarter project offering a 100% American-made hoodie backed with a 10-year guarantee. The amount you need to pledge to get one is $89, which might seem steep, but consider this: the famous gray hoodie that Bill Belichick sports on the sideline costs $75 at the Patriots Pro Shop, and you can be certain those aren't made in the USA. (Plus, you have to cut off the sleeves yourself.)

The people behind this have already raised eight times the funding they were asking for, so you can be confident that the project will go forward. If they were offering a pullover version, I'd be a lot more tempted to get one.

11 March 2013

Four Weeks to Go

Check out the official poster for the upcoming sixth season of Mad Men:
(You can see a larger version here.)

Did Don just pass himself? Could that be Peggy over his left shoulder, in the hat? Whose hand is he holding?

By the way, this poster was hand-drawn by a 75-year-old English illustrator who worked in advertising during the era the show depicts.

10 March 2013

This Week in Awesome (3/9/13)

I know we've been doing this for several years now, but it still feels very strange to switch to Daylight Saving Time so early in the year. For those of you who don't like the lack of sun in the winter months, today's sunset will be at 6:45 pm in Boston.

This appeals to me on multiple levels: a greyhound named after a Patriots player is tearing it up down in Palm Beach. (The Roosevelts)

Sometimes movie and TV show creators make up products (like the Morley cigarettes in The X-Files). And sometimes these made-up brands end up being celebrated in unusual ways. (Laughing Squid)

Really retro: there was a time when charge account holders at department stores were issued "coins" marked with their account numbers. (Shopping Days in Retro Boston)

And for a corresponding bit of retro-futurism: looking back at past visions of what the future would be like is always interesting. Here's a bit of corporate propaganda produced by General Motors for the 1964 World's Fair. (LS)

And finally this week, National Geographic has started a blog to showcase images from their vast photo archive. (The Verge)

08 March 2013

Retro Video Unit (3/8/13)

This is one of those installments where the video isn't anything much (keep in mind it predates MTV), but it's just a song I always liked. This one is definitely obscure, a band from Australia called The Angels, who were known outside their home country as Angel City.

It took me a really long time to track this one down, partly because of the name confusion, and partly because I couldn't recall the name of the song. But I did finally figure it out—it's called "No Secrets."

07 March 2013

Brews You Can Use

Related to the previous post: those of you in my general geographic area may want to stop by the Kappy's Liquors in Medford this Saturday. They're hosting a local craft brew tasting from 2 to 5 pm.

Participants include Cambridge Brewing, Somerville Brewing, Night Shift, Idle Hands, Pretty Things, and others.

06 March 2013

Welcome to Castle Guinness

It must be getting close to St. Patrick's Day:
Also while at the liquor store, I noticed that Rolling Rock now comes in tallboy cans. Seems like a desperate grab for some of the PBR crowd.

Trying to Buy Locally

I like to support small and local businesses as much as I can, but it isn't always easy, or even possible.

Last week I needed a 22 millimeter wide watch strap. It's not the most common size (those would be 18 and 20 mm) but enough larger watches take them that they aren't that unusual either. I went to the Watch Hospital downtown on Bromfield Street. The spinning rack on the counter contained only the 18 and 20 straps, so when I was asked if I needed help, I said I was looking for a 22. The woman behind the counter said, "We don't have much," reached behind her, and placed a single strap in front of me.

I thought I might have misunderstood her. "This is all you have?" I asked, just to make sure. She said yes. I said thanks and left. I went home and ordered what I needed from an eBay seller I'd purchased from before, Holben's. They're out in Washington, but my order managed to get across the country to me, via first class mail, in two days. (They are currently closed, but I recommend them enthusiastically.)

Then I needed a blue refill for my Pentel EnerGel pen. I had to be downtown again today, so I stopped in at Bromfield Pen, down the block from the Watch Hospital. They don't carry the refills I needed. I walked over to Staples, where I bought the pen last summer. I found a rack with refills for many different brands of pens. I was starting to think they carried everything except what I needed, but then I found them down by the floor, and in two-packs, which is quite sensible.

04 March 2013

This Week in Awesome (3/2/13)

Busy day, busy weekend (for us, anyway). But wait, what's that coming over the horizon? TWiA...

Check out this video of an art installation made up of hundreds of clocks. (Laughing Squid)

If you visit Albuquerque, you're going to want to see some of the locations used in Breaking Bad. (Uproxx)

This month's Vanity Fair has a good read on the making of Pulp Fiction.

And finally this week, what happens when you buy a cake pan to make a specific sort of naughty cake (think bachelorette party), then decide you want to get some additional use out of it? (Consumerist)

02 March 2013

Buffalo Plaid

A while ago I was scouting eBay for a wool buffalo-plaid "lumberjack shirt," the kind of thing you can use for layering in winter or as a light jacket in spring. The shirts originated with hunters and other outdoorsy people but became popular for everyday wear; Woolrich has been making them for decades.

(Did you know that hunters prefer wool clothing because, unlike synthetic outerwear, it doesn't make noise when moving?)

I couldn't find a shirt that was in good enough condition for a reasonable enough price, so after a while I stopped looking, but I kept the search I'd set up in my saved eBay searches. This fall, J. Crew had a red-and-black buffalo plaid wool shirt in its Wallace & Barnes line. I thought it might be a nice thing to have, and I got a couple of gift cards for Christmas. The shirt went on sale right after Christmas and had an extra discount stacked on top of it, but as is often the case with J. Crew sales, my size was gone almost immediately.

My customer service contact was unable to locate one of the shirts in my size. Weirdly, a couple of weeks later the shirt went back to full price (when something gets marked down at J. Crew, it tends to stay in the sale section until it's gone). Miraculously, all the sizes were back in stock too, but at full price that wasn't helpful to me.

I decided to revisit my eBay search and see if I could find a shirt that way. It took about a month, but I was successful. Since it was sunny and kind of nice yesterday, I hung it outside to air out, something I do with any item I purchase secondhand. I bought a simple hook at the hardware store and screwed it into one of the porch support pillars, so air can circulate all around a garment:
This shirt isn't new, but it's in excellent condition. There are no moth holes, no snags, no tears, no stains or other weirdness. It was well cared for, and, I suspect, worn very little.

Part of the fun with stuff like this is trying to figure out how old it is. It's made in USA, which means it's probably at least 20 years old, but the dark blue "sheep" tag suggests it's older than that, at least from the '80s. (Does anybody remember the Woolrich store on Boylston Street?) There are only six buttons down the front, which makes me think it's from the '70s.

Woolrich sells these shirts for $119 now. They have seven buttons and the pockets are pattern-matched instead of biased like these, but they've also added an ugly light blue cotton lining in the collar, something that has no place on a shirt like this. And they're made in China. (So's the J. Crew shirt, for that matter.)

I paid one-fourth of that for something that is practically new, and will likely last as long as I do. If you want to try to find something similar on eBay, you should also search for other brands like Filson, L.L. Bean, Pendleton, Johnson's Woolen Mills. Or you could structure a search the way I did: casual shirts, 100% wool or wool blend, long sleeve, button front, and then narrow by your preferred size(s) and color(s).