There are a whole slew of watch-oriented websites out there, and the majority of them feature watches that cost more than my car. But there are some that are geared towards people like me, with budgets like mine, but who want something better than what they can get at the local Walmart.
Worn & Wound reviews a lot of mid-tier watches that range from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. I like how they structure the reviews and their selection fits neatly within my aesthetic—military/diver without a lot of glitz. And, the cards used for listing their reviews clearly show the case size, which is a huge timesaver for me.
They reviewed a retro diver by a company called Baltic that I really dig; it’s both the right size and the right design for me—a 38mm case with minimal complications and just the right amount of color. I’m not a fan of watches that look like they were dipped in gold or covered with dials, and this design has just the right balance of color and utility. It’s way outside my price point but I’ll keep an eye on it. Even further outside that price point is the GMT variant, which adds a pricy Swiss movement and a date function. I really dig the split-color bezel though—the blue over orange is beautiful.
Two Broke Watch Snobs is a similar vibe—they focus on mid-tier watches, although they do sometimes venture into the land of $3K Omegas and other higher-dollar brands. They have a podcast, which sounds like it would be monumentally boring, but their written reviews are detailed and thorough.
A Blog To Watch has their reviews split into under $500 and over $500, which is handy, and the reviews are excellent. Apparently they’ve been around for a while so there’s a lot to dig into there.
I found a unique retro diver there that looks very cool even though it’s at my size limit (38mm is my sweet spot, and this is 40mm) but I’d consider it for ~$300.
Professional Watches has reviews that date back to 2013, but their site navigation is shit and the pages take forever to load. Their review section is laid out as cards but you’ve got to continually hit a “load more” button at the bottom to see anything. They split reviews into over and under $1000 and feature a wide assortment of styles, from dainty evening watches to goofy G-shock models that look like they came out of a Kirby drawing. Still, the depth is appreciated, even if I’m only interested in 5% of their articles. Looking through the high-end models is funny; there are some staggeringly elegant watches and some that look like they were barfed up from a bad steampunk novel.
Additionally, I found a good resource on cheap military watches made by Timex in the ’70’s and ’80’s; I remember a barrel of these for sale in the old H&H Surplus store in Baltimore when I was in college.
I was in DC yesterday for a work happy hour/meetup, and had a great time catching up with colleagues in person at a beer garden down the street from our office. It was around 30˚ with a slight drizzle but we were in a covered cabana with a couple of gas fireplaces, so the chill was kept at bay. I would post a picture, but the one crowd shot I took was blurred beyond recognition.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been eyeballing a large 4-drawer file cabinet in our basement filled with papers that date back to my first house. We have these huge multifunction copiers at work that can batch-scan documents; I used them to scan all of our BGE bills before COVID. I have binders filled with statements from my old investment accounts, and I figured I’d bring a couple of them into work with me and convert them all to PDFs, then use the recycling bins there to toss the paper. So I humped an entire backpack full down there on the train and fired up a machine to scan them. I got through 1/2 of the first book when I noticed that none of the emails were coming through. I futzed with the machine for a bit and then tried a different copier in another part of the building—with the same result. Somewhere they’ve messed with the network settings and the copiers can’t talk to the outside world. So I had to hump the binders all the way back home.
Meanwhile, I realized after I was sprung from quarantine that Mom’s old TV actually has a built-in client for Netflix and Prime. After running a wire to the network drop on the wall, I plugged our account information in and had it up and running in five minutes. Then I went back into the settings and shut off data sharing. Wish I’d thought of that when I was laid up, but oh well.
In my news feed today, I stumbled on an article that mentioned the 818 Market downtown closed earlier this week.
But as of Tuesday a sign on the door notified customers “818 Market is closed” and urged people to check the business’ Facebook page for updates. As of Thursday, 818 Market’s most recent Facebook post is dated Jan. 30 and invites customers to pick up a bottle of wine for championship games; there is no mention of an upcoming closure.
We’re really not surprised; the idea was a great one, and they definitely went all-out on the execution. But Jen and I have been saying the same thing since before it opened: their scope was too broad. They tried to do everything—bakery, deli, produce, groceries, booze, and a restaurant—all of it admirable. But the baked goods were mediocre, the deli, produce and groceries were twice the price of anywhere nearby, and they were a block from a much better liquor store. And worst of all, their coffee sucked.
Jen and I got to talking over coffee yesterday morning about mixtapes and 45’s and the first albums we had as our own people (not inherited from our parents or siblings). In 1984 my sister and I both got boom boxes for Christmas (the exact model I had is in the picture above), with a selection of five cassettes to listen to. My five were:
Looking back on that selection, it’s pretty solid, from an early 80’s point of view. There weren’t a lot of clunkers there—the Def Leppard album fell off on the B side pretty steeply and there was some filler on that particular Van Halen album, but everything else was tight. I played all of these constantly and then when I got my first brick of blank tapes I started taping songs off the radio. At some point I probably had 30 or so cassettes like this, where the DJ was talking over the intro to the song, it played through, and they came back in again only to cut into another song. You Kids Don’t Understand, and all of that.
But man, I miss mixtapes. I miss the time and patience it took to sit by the radio and wait for the DJ to mention he was gonna play a Who deep cut at the top of the hour, and I’d sit with my fingers over the Record button hoping it would be Baba O’Reilly because there was no way I was going to spend $12 on Who’s Next for one song. I had a whole stack of “goddammit” cassettes, a hundred dollars’ worth of store-bought albums that sucked except for that one good track, and that really sucked at a time when when I was making $7.50/hr slinging tacos. Mixtapes may have sounded shitty, but we got the music we wanted.
I haven’t brewed beer in at least two years. I was originally introduced to brewing by Brian, who got me hooked and then moved to the Eastern Shore, but I got a couple of my neighbors interested and we had a good time with it for about ten years. When COVID shut everything down, it became impossible to get a group of guys together for a brew day, which is half the fun of brewing beer.
Then, there’s the other half. Homebrewing was popularized partially for making small batches of powerful beer that isn’t commercially available; the vast majority of recipes available yield beer that’s 6-8% ABV on average, which is higher than I prefer at this point in my life. I’ve tried most of the session recipes (4.5% ABV) from my go-to vendors, but something in the yeast or the brew tends to leave me with a headache before I’ve finished my glass, and that’s not enjoyable. And then I’ve got 5 gallons of it left to finish.
Since December, I’ve scaled back on my intake of beer. At first it was to help my body recover from having a cold (and then COVID). But I’m also less tolerant of alcohol these days. I’ve long been favoring session IPA’s or summer lagers, but I hate waking up with a headache, and it seems like even the lighter beers I prefer have been biting back lately. I also have a kegerator full of single cans of heavier beers that I just don’t want to crack; a double IPA on a Wednesday with an ABV of 9.5 is guaranteed to make Thursday morning feel like hammers are falling on my head.
So I’ve been looking at the brewing equipment stacked in the corner of the basement and thinking more and more about selling it off, given that I haven’t touched it in over two years. I’ve got a kettle, a burner, three kegs, four carboys and a bin full of equipment that’s taking up space, and I think maybe the time has come to move it along to someone who can use it. I think I’d keep the kegerator setup if only to have a secondary fridge for beer, but if the IH fridge comes on line in the spring I may move beer into that and convert the kegerator back into a chest freezer.
I’m officially registered for the welding class mentioned earlier this month; from the second half of April to the end of May I’ll be running into Baltimore twice weekly to learn welding hands-on. Then I might actually feel like I know what I’m doing.
Finn had the day off on Thursday due to snow that never really collected here. Part of being in the southern section of Baltimore County is that when the northern areas are hit with snow—thirty miles north of here, at the edge of the Pennsylvania border—it means we’re shut down too. It worked out for her, though, because she had a project for science class due Friday that she’d been avoiding for weeks. After some communication with the teacher via email and phone I got a clear idea of what was due (the paper assignment got lost somewhere along the way) and Finn took the day to finish it.
Friday was a half day, so when she got back home we decided we’d get out of the house as a family and hit the thrift stores for a fun, inexpensive afternoon. There are two in our area worth going to, one in Laurel and one in Columbia, run by the same company and generally a few steps above Goodwill in terms of organization and quality. The Men’s section can often be hit or miss in places like this, and yesterday was no exception. I was looking for a couple more pairs of cheap work pants, and though the Laurel store’s racks are 40 feet long and stuffed with merchandise, I couldn’t find anything there worth buying. Finn and Jen made out a little better, and when we’d checked out there we hit the one in Columbia. Here I was more successful and found two pair of work pants, a copy of Gravity on DVD and a copy of Red Dead Redemption all for about $18. RDR is a game I heard my old boss talking about 12 years ago when it came out, and it sounded like a lot of fun then—an open-ended western with a lot of territory to explore. We’ll see how it goes.
While she was in school, I did some long-delayed adulting. First I made an appointment to get my eyes checked for a new prescription. This yearly-exam shit is a racket that’s really beginning to piss me off; I’ve been thinking I should buy a couple pairs of glasses and skip the exam for the same number of years, as my distance prescription hasn’t changed in thirty years. But the next pair of glasses I get will be progressives for reading now that Warby Parker is covered under my insurance plan.
Then I made a dentist appointment. I haven’t had my teeth checked since before the ‘Rona, and it’s long overdue. I’d also like to price out the cost for getting them straightened: both my upper and lower jaw have done some serious remodeling in the last ten years and I’d like to get things back in line. I think we’re nearing the end of Finley’s braces payments, so maybe I could try Invisalign or one of the other services.
Today’s forecast called for snow starting in the early afternoon, going until early Monday morning. It’s currently 29˚ with the wind howling outside our windows. I worked on an editing project for WRI for most of the day through Zoom, where two editors shared their screens with me and we made real-time edits to 3+ hours of a 4-camera shoot virtually. I have to thank whoever is responsible for the technological advances that made it possible for me to avoid driving to DC in this weather to sit in an editing bay until the weather got truly miserable for the drive home.
Working on the bus this summer with Brian, I realized pretty quickly that my welding “skills” are terrible. If I’m going to get any better at welding, either for the Scout or for working on projects with him, I need to learn how to do it properly. There’s a Fundamentals of Welding class taught at a welding supply and distributor here in Baltimore. This isn’t a 2-hour teaser; it’s twelve 3-hour sessions in April and May that goes through the basic principles, teaches gas-tungsten, gas-metal and shielded metal arc welding, plasma cutting, weld inspection, and basic metallurgy. It’s exactly what I need to learn what I don’t know, practice what I should, and be prepared for whatever trouble we get ourselves into with Brian’s next project. I don’t think we’re going back to full-time office work anytime soon, so I don’t think a Tuesday/Thursday evening class should be a problem.
The first day I noticed symptoms of COVID was Thursday the 30th, right before New Year’s. I took the first OTC test on Sunday the 2nd, and I had my PCR on Wednesday the 5th, making it official. The CDC’s redundant, confusing, and overcomplicated quarantine guidelines specify keeping separate for 10 days after the first symptoms appear. I’ve been stuck in this fucking room for nine days now, and it’s been fourteen days since the first symptoms. I’m coming out tomorrow.
One thing to be thankful for is my Mom’s old TV, which I dragged home after we replaced it with a better one at Thanksgiving. It works, but the backlight died at some point so there’s a blue cast across most of the picture. Right before I sealed myself in this room I brought it up and stuck it on the dresser, figuring I’d need some kind of entertainment. I only get local channels, so I was able to watch football on the weekends, and crappy reruns for the rest of the week. So I’ve had my fill of CSI:Miami, CSI:NY, CHiPS, and most comfortingly, Emergency! (We used to watch Emergency! as kids with Mom and Dad before bedtime).
Jen has been taking excellent care of the invalid in the bedroom this whole time, and I’ve tried to be as easy on her as possible. She’s been doing double duty dealing with Finn home from school and Being A Teenager and our dopey dog, who can’t understand why I haven’t come out of this room. I don’t know who will be more excited for me to leave this room, Jen or Hazel.
In a Slack chat before Christmas, my colleague mentioned that her Dad restores and sells antique fountain pens. We talked about how awesome that was, and the fact that he’d replaced the furniture in her childhood bedroom with an industrial lathe so that he can manufacture new parts for them; I spent the next five minutes swooning over the pictures of the refurbished lathe and some of the pens on his website.
She surprised me with a small package right after Christmas from her Dad, containing two beautiful matching Esterbrook pens: a fountain pen and a mechanical pencil. They feel wonderful in my hand. The lead in the pencil is thick and smooth and is the exact opposite of everything I hate about mechanical pencils; it actually feels like a pen instead of dragging a wire across sandpaper. I can’t wait to put some ink in the pen and try it out.
I’m currently down to ~986 broken links on the site; in my spare time I’ve been cleaning things up, and I feel like I’m finally turning the corner. There are now a TON of outgoing links that point to the Wayback Archive; I’m going to have to make another donation to them this year. The Verge wrote about link rot last year, citing a study that used the New York Times as a test case; since 1996, over a quarter of the links within a 550,000-article test study were broken. As the articles got older, predictably the number went up: 72% of the links from 1998 were dead. Another thing I wasn’t aware of is an underground economy where people can pay to have broken links redirect to their sites; I guess any traffic is good traffic?