My Watch Collection

A video guide to choosing a good watch band

This weekend, I put together a video guide that will help you decide the proper watch band for you. You may not have given a lot of thought to this topic in the past, or perhaps you’ve just lived with the band or strap that your watch came with, but I think after you watch my guide, you’ll start to think differently about watch bands — about the materials they’re made of and about the quality that you’ll want.

By average YouTube video length standards, my guide is like a novel, weighing in at around 20 minutes. I wanted it to be thorough. If you haven’t got 20 minutes to spare, here’s the abridged text version.

Watch bands are made of four different materials:

  • Leather
  • Metal
  • Rubber or silicone
  • Cloth

Leather watch bands are simple, elegant, readily compatible with all skin types, but they may wear out quickly, may tear and may smell (with time). If you get a leather watch band, make sure it’s molded round, it’s stitched with strong thread (contrasting thread adds an extra element of style) and that it’s thicker at its base (where it attaches to the watch) and thinner at its ends. This makes it strong and at the same time easy to attach to and detach from the buckle.

Metal watch bands are sturdy, practical, modern and they last a long time, but they may not fit properly on your wrist, may change color (oxidize), may open readily if clasp mechanism is worn or fails, and may not be compatible with all skin types (may cause rashes). If you get a metal watch band, know that mesh bands offer a better fit than link bands and link bands will need to be adjusted to your wrist at a watch shop.

Cloth watch bands are cheap, sturdy and colorful, but they may fray, discolor, smell and may not be easy to attach and detach. Go for cloth watch bands with metal (not cloth) loops and try not to wear them too much, or they’ll discolor and get grimy, and they’ll stay grimy even if you wash them.

Rubber watch bands are cheap, sturdy, great for aquatic sports and easy to wash. Newer silicone bands are colorful. But rubber and silicone bands may discolor or form a film on the surface when exposed to chlorine and salty water, may accumulate dust and grime inbetween their ridges, and let’s face it, they’re not elegant. If you get a rubber watch band, go for simple bands with fewer or no ridges and watch out for silicone watch bands, which will literally attract dust and grime. Only wear them when working out and wash them afterward as you shower, to make sure they stay clean.

Finally, there are two mechanisms for keeping the bands closed: the buckle and the clasp. The buckle is a time-proven design, works forever but is slow to open/close. The buckle will also indent the leather band where it closes and its pin may tear through the punch hole over time, requiring the purchase of a new band. The clasp is a modern, practical design which opens and closes quickly. The clasp pins and pin holders may wear out over time, causing the clasp to open suddenly and the watch to fall from the wrist. Whichever design you choose, go for something simple that is less likely to break.

I hope this has helped you!


Storage drops below 7 cents per gigabyte

In January of 2009, I mentioned the price of storage had just dropped below 9 cents per gigabyte. I see now that 2 TB drives are selling below $150 (they’re $140), so it’s time to update my figures. At $139.99 for a 2 TB (2,000 GB) SATA hard drive, that comes out to less than 7 cents per GB. That’s a great deal, and it goes without saying that it’s the lowest price for data storage consumers have ever seen.

Updated 4/19/10: Micro Center is selling 2 TB Seagate SATA drives for $119.99. It’s an in-store special, with a one drive per household limit, but still, that makes it 6 cents per gigabyte. What can I say — expect the price to keep dropping…

On the downside, it seems hard drive manufacturers have hit a ceiling with 2 TB drives. I haven’t heard talk of 3 or 4 TB drives, or anything larger than that. Perhaps I haven’t been keeping up with storage news properly, so if you’ve heard some good news, do let me know!


Frustrated with European shopping carts

My wife recorded a video clip of me venting my frustration with European shopping carts back in February. Sorry for the rough words in the video, but I tell you, every time I go shopping and have to deal with those idiotic things, I want to get the guy that invented them, pin him to a wall and lob rotten apples at him. What simpleton makes all four wheels pivot, seriously? How can you not realize that loaded shopping carts have inertia, and cannot be steered at all when all four wheels pivot?

American shopping carts should be the standard. Only their front wheels pivot, so they’re easy to steer everywhere, especially around corners. They’re probably cheaper to make for that same reason. As for their European counterparts, they go anywhere except where you want them. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and what makes it worse is they’re everywhere in Europe. It’s like every store got together to figure out how best to frustrate and anger their customers, and decided to get these asinine carts. If that really was their intent, then they succeeded. It truly boggles the mind how they all went for the same moronic design. Didn’t any of their executives put two and two together? Don’t they use shopping carts? Don’t they know there’s something better already available?

See this video on, Vimeo or YouTube.


Hardware review: LaCie Little Disk 500GB

I needed a larger external drive to do my Time Machine backups, and the LaCie Little Disk 500GB was the best value for my money. It’s a portable drive (2.5″ form factor), it has 500GB of space, and it only cost me $100 at B&H. They’re pricing it at $124.95 now, so I guess I bought it at the right time (right before Christmas). (Amazon still has it for $100 if you want it.)

The design of the drive is distinctive, and builds upon the brick design that LaCie used to their advantage in the past. The enclosure is made of glossy black plastic, and it comes with a removable top/lid, which masks a short, retractable USB cable. I’m not crazy about that top, since it doesn’t sit tightly on the enclosure, but at least it can be removed easily.

In terms of weight, the drive is as light as other portable drives — perhaps even lighter. In terms of size, it is a little longer and thicker than my 160GB WD Passport drive, whose design, although almost three years old by now, is still one of the best I’ve ever seen.

I like my little LaCie drive though. It’s fast and roomy enough for me to back up my MBP’s 250GB hard drive as often as I need. Time Machine backups complete in minutes, and then I can simply eject the drive and put it away until I want to do another backup. I am even using the carrying pouch for now, to protect the drive as it sits in my backpack during travel.

Photos used courtesy of LaCie.


Storage drops below 9 cents per gigabyte

I see that lists the Seagate 1.5TB SATA hard drive for $129.99 with free shipping. Sure, it’s an OEM drive, which means it’s not boxed, but who cares? Do you realize what this means? It means you’re paying $0.086 per terabyte gigabyte. Storage has become even cheaper — unthinkably cheap. The previous relevant price point was $100 for a 1TB drive, which meant $0.100 per gigabyte (a dime).

Seagate 1.5TB SATA Drive

A gigabyte is now cheaper than a dime! I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. I remember when a dime would get you 100MB, and I thought that was a lot. Okay, let me not kid myself: I remember when a dime would get you 1MB or less. Now you get 1GB, which is 1,000 times the storage capacity, for less than the same tiny dime. Amazing!

If you’re looking for extra storage capacity, now would be a good time. If I hadn’t already filled up my main Drobo with 1TB drives, I’d jump all over these, because they’re definitely at the right price point, especially now that they’ve been cleared for use with the Drobo once more.

Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme 1.5TB

While I’m on the subject of good deals, let me remind you of my guide to getting good deals on hard drives. I mention it because Micro Center happens to be selling the Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme 1.5TB (a triple interface external hard drive) for $149.99. This means that you’re paying $20 for the enclosure over the price of the hard drive alone.

Remember, this is a triple interface drive (USB 2.0/FW400/eSATA), and that means the enclosure is very inexpensive. Instead of buying one of those DIY enclosures that may or may not work (I’ve been there), you’ll get something that’s guaranteed to work, or you can return it.

How To

Get the Nokia N95 for $390

I’ve been amazed by the capabilities of the Nokia N95 smartphone since I first heard about it in 2007. Its price though put it sadly out of reach for me, until a couple of days ago, when I saw it at Micro Center for $389.99. This is a new, unlocked Nokia N95 V3.

If you’ve been watching the price for this phone, like me, then you know that’s at least $60-70 off the lowest price listed anywhere else, if not more. When I search the internet, I still see it listed at some places for over $580.

Of course I bought one. You might want to do the same. If you find it for a lower prices somewhere else, let me know. Keep in mind this isn’t the new N95 8GB model. This is the older N95 that runs the 3rd edition of the S60 software, also known as V3. Btw, the specs say the max size for its MicroSD memory card can only be 2GB, but mine runs fine with a 4GB card.


Seems quiet, but it's not

I’ve been helping Ligia launch her re-designed personal site over the past several days. While my own site may seem a little quiet (except for the regular Condensed Knowledge posts), I’ve been quite busy behind the scenes.

Ligia has been working on her own line of greeting cards since January. She makes them by hand, from scratch, using only sheets and strips of paper and glue as her materials. Having seen her do the work, right here beside me, I can tell you it’s painstaking, slow and hard. I fear for her eyes if she keeps going like this. All that meticulous work is bound to have an effect. It takes her about a half hour to 45 minutes to craft a single card. It’s hard to understand why it takes that long until you sit there and watch her at work. You can’t argue with the results though. They’re beautiful.

She’s really excited about the cards, and has asked for my help in setting up a little shop on her site so she can sell them. I helped her do just that, and modified her site design to allow her to post nicely-sized photos of the cards. I’m happy to say her site is pretty much done now, and yes, it’s open for business. I made the store within her WordPress install, using the existing options, without extra plugins. Simple is better in my book.

The cards are priced from $2.95 to $4.95. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that $5 for three quarters of an hour isn’t optimal pay, but this is a labor of love for her, and I support her in that. She’s not going to get rich selling the cards, but she wants to make people happy with them.

Being the enterprising little woman that she is, she’s already gone into downtown Bethesda and walked around to find stores that might pick up her cards and sell them there. (It’s more than I’ve done for my own photography, and I’m ashamed to admit that.) She found three stores that wanted to keep samples, and she’s going to find out soon whether they’ll be interested in buying first batches.

Wish her luck, and if you like one of the cards, pick it up for your special someone.



Photographs for sale

My photographs (a select number of them) are now up for sale through both Alamy and the PhotoShelter Collection. Here are the links:

Alamy presents you with a search page first. To see my photos without doing a search, just click on my name. PhotoShelter presents you with the photos right away.

Of course, you can still purchase any of the photographs I post here by simply contacting me via email and indicating the photo you’d like to purchase. More info on this is available on my Photos for Sale page. But for those of you that prefer a more streamlined look and an instant price quote, Alamy and the PhotoShelter Collection should do nicely.

If you should lose the links to my sites at Alamy and PhotoShelter, don’t worry, I’ve made it easy by listing them in the sidebar. Just look for this section:

Purchase my photographs

Happy shopping and many thanks!

A Guide To A Good Life

Fat clothes for fat people

This post is a bit of a rant, but it’s something that’s bothered me for some time. Now that I’m married, I’ve found that Ligia has the same problem as me. We have a really hard time finding clothes that can fit us. It seems that clothing manufacturers out there have geared all of their clothes production toward fat people. I would even go so far as to say that we (and by we I mean thinner people) are being discriminated against. (I’m grinning as I write that…)

Every time we go to a department store, we can’t find clothes our size. For example, my pant size is 30″ waist x 32″ inseam. There is no such pant size in most places. I kid you not, try finding it. My shirt size is 16-16 1/2″ neck with 34-35″ sleeves. At that size, the shirt’s waist is gigantic. Somehow, they must think only extremely fat people wear those sizes. Have a look below to see how one of those shirts fits me. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

A shirt made for fat people

Ligia took these photos. As you can see, any way you look at it, there’s a ton of extra material around the waist, and on the sleeves. That material doesn’t belong there. I’m trying my best to manage a goofy expression, and yeah, I look pretty goofy…

A shirt made for fat people

I always have to find all sorts of creative ways of tucking my shirts in my pants, and I’m fed up with it. If I want well-fitting shirts and pants, I have to pay more. I shouldn’t have to pay 40-70% more for a piece of clothing simply because clothing manufacturers think everyone’s fat. Not everyone is fat!

Ligia has it even worse. She wears XS or size 2 clothing, but most of the time, those sizes are much too large for her in adult clothes. She has to go hunting around in the children’s department to find clothes that fit her. She’s a full-grown woman, past 25 years of age. She shouldn’t have to do that just so she can dress herself. We’ve honestly tried all sorts of stores. We’ve been to more expensive stores, including specialty petite stores, and still we have a hard time finding clothes in her size at reasonable prices.

I realize the trend these days is to get fat and fatter. We Americans have it too good. We’ve all got our particular excuses, but that doesn’t excuse our nation’s collectively huge waistline, and the lack of clothes in anything but large sizes.

Some people, like us, choose to remain thin, and it seems we’ve been forgotten by mainstream clothing manufacturers. We’re a persona non grata, an unpleasant reminder of what a waistline could look like. We have to shop in children’s departments to find clothes in our sizes and to get decent prices. Is it so hard to make clothes that fit us? It wasn’t so long ago when things were different. Clothing manufacturers, remember, it takes less material to dress us…

How To

The best tomatoes are homegrown

You can go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, MOM’s, Safeway, Giant, Publix — you name it — and buy the most expensive tomatoes, but they’ll still taste just as flat as the cheapest ones you’ll find. I don’t care if they’re organic, hydroponic, vine-ripened or whatever — they still have no taste.

It’s a fact of life in America. I don’t know what our farmers do to their fruits and vegetables, but nothing tastes good when you buy it from the store. Most stuff tastes like cardboard, and if you’re lucky, it might have a semblance, a sad little ghost of the taste of the real thing. I call it the great American taste theft. It doesn’t matter if the stuff is cheap or expensive, it still tastes like crap. While I expect the cheap stuff to taste like that, I find it offensive and downright thieving to charge $3-7 dollars for a pound of tomatoes that tastes just like the ones that cost $1-2 dollars. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t gotten around much.

Our families have always grown their own vegetables, even when they lived in cities. Now that Ligia and I are on our own, and we’ve only got a terrace, we still grow a few vegetables, mostly tomatoes, every year. Let me tell you that there’s a world of difference between the tomatoes you grow at home and the ones you buy at the store. The ones over there might look better, cosmetically-speaking, but the ones you grow with your own love and care, without pesticides or fertilizers, are the ones that will blow you away every time you taste them. They may have a few blemishes, they may not be as big or pretty as the ones in the store (you know, the ones full of hormones and all sorts of crap that’s not good for you) but when you bite into one, that fragrance and taste explosion you’ll feel is proof of their pedigree.

Homegrown cherry tomatoes

Trust me, there’s no substitute. You don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t try it out. You may lose a few tomatoes to disease, but if you let them fend for themselves, and only feed them water, till the ground once in a while and prune them carefully, you’ll come to find out what I mean.

Homegrown tomatoes