Reviews

Big Buck Hunting: Papertrophy

Touch of Modern is a fickle mistress.

If you’ve never been, please check out that link above. They market lots of different products that have a “modern” appeal. Stuff like house decor, watches and other clothing are popular on the site. Sometimes they have a particularly adventurous dildo for sale. It’s really a mixed bag. The one thing you’ll notice is they have fantastic photographers. Every product looks like something that I absolutely must have. It’s a wonderful site to browse around and look for your newest addition.

The products themselves…well, I’ve had different experiences.

The first thing you should know is their shipping lead times are often extravagantly long. It might take 6 weeks for them to start shipping your product. It’s like we’re ordering off the sears catalog. The reason for this is Touch of Modern tends to feature crowdsourced or otherwise underfunded businesses: the company’s wait for ToMo’s deal to be over, and then start producing whatever number is needed. This reduces their upfront cost. But in the age of the internet, this can be a bit unnerving. I can happily say that I’ve never not received an item. But I’ve been disappointed in the quality before.

See, Touch of Modern is also not a bargain basement site. Many of their items are particularly expensive. I spent $90 dollars on some cityscape art, shown here:

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Only to receive 2 rolled up posters. It’s not that they didn’t describe what I was getting, it’s just that…the photographer really sold this thing to be more than it was. It looks like I could hang it without a frame. I still like the pictures, but I wanted more.

The most interesting experience with the website was buying some more interesting wall art. I found these through a Facebook ad some months back, and thought it would be perfect for my wall.

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Now, that’s a weird thing, but it’s super interesting for a wall decoration in my apartment. The fiance and I were in love from the moment we saw it. I’m going to quote the actual description from the sales page:

“Inspired by classic animal trophies but informed by Postmodern art and origami, PAPERTROPHY is easy, eco-friendly art perfect for the home or office. Using a complex polygon structure to create minimalistic, cubic renditions of animal busts and bodies, these easy-to-assemble pieces are made in the highest-quality, FSC-approved paper”.

We were in. FSC approved paper?!? That’s a big deal. (Please note, I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds like it’s a good thing). So I spent something around $60 and ordered, and waited 4-6 weeks for them to ship. The anticipation was killing us. When I finally got the notice that the package was at the mailbox, I ran down right away.

As I think you probably know, It was not exactly as I expected.

First, I expected a box of pieces of deer-head to assemble. What I got was an envelope, inside was several pieces of construction paper, and a directions sheet with 4 steps. I was to take the pieces, and fold them in directions noted by the type of dotted line (In for just dashes, out for dots and dashes). Each edge on the deer was either a fold, or a tab + edge that I was to glue together. The edges were labeled with numbers: so the tab labeled 1 should glue to the edge labeled 1, 2 with 2, and so on. The directions said “you should start with 1 and keep going from there, but you don’t have to”. A casual glance at the numbers showed that they went well into the hundreds, so I was going to need a lot of glue. They didn’t mention what type of glue I should try to use. Elmer’s glue sticks didn’t hold at all, so I went with crazy glue applied with a brush, which worked well enough in the beginning.

So, I waited until the first Saturday I had available to piece this thing together. I spent 8-10 hours that first day, straight through, and only got about half of the thing finished. There were several rips and tears that day. I glued tabs to the wrong side a few times and had to rip and re-do, causing marks. I over-glued by accident causing stains to the paper. The next day I spent another 4 hours before I had to stop the insanity. “Easy To Assemble” means something different at Touch of Modern.

I kept the partially finished bust in my office for a few more weeks. It took a while for the sting of the sunk cost to fade enough for me to throw it away. It’s gone now, and I still consider ordering another one. It’s not a good idea at all, the thing was a huge waste of time, but I can’t get the challenge out of my head. I think papertrophy might be my Everest.

So, should you order a Papertrophy for yourself? Do you like being disappointed in yourself and the things you spend your money on?

However, I would recommend a cursory browse at Touch of Modern. Mostly because these are all affiliate links, and I’d love it if you found something there you really wanted after clicking one of them. But also because it’s a site that I enjoy browsing, even if some of the products are a bit lackluster. Those photographers really know how to do it.

Reviews

A Sock By Any Other Name: Bombas

I believe it was Lieutenant Daniel Taylor who first said “Two standing orders in this platoon. One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like gettin’ yourself killed.” Wise words.

I’ve bought my shoes on Zappos.com for the past few years. I like it not only for the convenience, but the selection. As a twenty-something, I used to think sneakers were the only shoes I’d need. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown in taste. “Oh, chukka boots would be a great addition” is something I’ve said out loud. I probably buy new shoes every 2-3 months, not because I need them, but because it’s easy. I figure if I don’t like them, or they don’t fit, I can just snobbishly hand them to a FedEx driver and Zappos will happily send me another.

However, vanity is a hard vice to overcome. I choose to embrace it, instead.

I bought a pair of shoes through Zappos by the clothing company Ben Sherman early in 2016. Upon putting them on the first day and wearing them for an hour, it occurred to me that Mr. Sherman may have been born with less toes than I currently have (10). As unfortunate as that thought was, I kept on, as I was in an office and no one likes the guy that takes his shoes off at the office. In the next few hours, I’d discovered his ankles must also be a peculiar shape, as the skin on mine was being removed rather quickly. Getting home was a delight that night. I went online to start the return process…

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As I said: vanity is hard to overcome. These shoes look great. “These shoes will definitely wear in”, I said to myself.

I wore them for about a week before realized that, because those toes are made of hard rubber, there isn’t going to be any “wearing in”. I have to find another solution. “I’ll buy better socks”.

So, it’s about a year later. I, obviously still have Satan’s hooves up there, and I’ve tried a few different brands of socks I found in different parts of Amazon and Zappos. I try not to go for the socks you find in 12 packs at Target: I’m no sock plebe, and they’ve got to make these shoes wearable. I’ve found the problem with buying a nice pair of socks online is that they generally come in 2 sizes, Small, which must be for small children and leprechauns, and Large, which fit shoe sizes US 7-12. My size is US 13, so I generally have to really stretch out a 12 to make it fit. Those shoes up there kill my ankles, which makes that no good.

I found Bombas through a Facebook Ad.

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A dream come true. They have a few different options for sock purchases. The best part is their large is for US 9.5-13, which is rather compelling for a guy like me. I purchased a 6 pack of their assorted color ankle socks for $64.80, minus a first time purchasers discount, which put the total slightly under $50. 64,80 makes it over $10 per pair, which is definitely pricey for socks, but Lieutenant Dan has never steered me wrong. I waited a reasonable amount of time for ground shipping, there was a 2 day option but I opted out: I can wait on socks.

So they got here, and the next day I put them on. And for you, dear reader, I put these socks through the ringer, and wore those Ben Sherman’s all day to see how they held up. That’s something I haven’t attempted in months.

The short answer is: those shoes still kill my toes. However my heel still has all it’s skin. Achilles would love these.

The pictures on the website don’t really tell you the whole story about Bombas. They’ve built their socks with an ankle guard: a stuffed back ankle to shield your foot from rubbing shoes. They also have arch support with a beehive design, which feels nice and probably helps out people with flat arches, or shoes that don’t have that support built in. The cotton is high quality and very comfortable to wear. There is even extra toe protection as well, it felt like, but I’m not sure that anything could help those shoes. It was worth the challenge though. The socks fought valiantly, but evil won this day.

I wore the rest of the socks throughout the week in more normal shoes, and was very comfortable. In any reasonable shoes these will be fantastic. I’m very happy with my purchase. The only issue I’m a little worried about is their longevity. I put them through the laundry one time, and the bottoms started fraying a bit.

Fray after one wash
Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a reasonable picture of a used sock?

They are still perfectly wearable and comfortable, and hopefully they will hold up; only time will tell.

Another really great perk about buying from Bombas is, as you can see from the graphic above, they donate a pair of socks to the homeless for every pair of socks you buy. You might not know that for the homeless, socks are a precious commodity: they generally don’t have a way of washing clothes, so socks stay on their feet until they are completely worn out (a couple of weeks, tops), and then hopefully replaced. Obviously socks aren’t going to solve homelessness, but you can at least feel a little better that your purchase is going to a reasonable cause.

I highly recommend Bombas. Take Care Of Your Feet.

 

Reviews

The Emperor’s New Pants: Finale

I received the pants yesterday.

They’re (heavy sigh…) fantastic. They fit perfectly, they’re stretchy and comfortable, and they look great. They are fiancée approved.

I should let you know, dear reader, that I have lost around 15 lbs since I ordered the original pants. I’m mostly just gloating there, but also it may say a bit about the sizing. I’m not exactly the same size as I was when the original Raw Denim version arrived, and so comparing the sizes of the Rivington and Mosco jean my be a little skewed. However, I still wear my other pants, I haven’t dropped sizes otherwise, so I think the comparison still stands. The Rivington pants were cut VERY slim vs. the Mosco.

So after all that, I have new jeans. I would not wish this process on anyone, but the end result is great. Make sure you use the try-on option, even if you don’t think you need to! It’s probably the easiest way to get around this. Also, I’d spring for 2 day shipping. It’s way too long otherwise.

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Reviews

The Emperor’s New Pants: Addendum Deux

Man this story just keeps going.

After being offered yet another different set of pants, I just asked for a refund. I’d say I asked politely, but I did say that I had enough of their company’s incompetence, which I think now was pretty rude. I hope the customer service rep didn’t take it personally.

This refund was granted, and I was notified that I would see the refund on my credit card account in the next 10 days. They offered me a discount of some sort on my next order, which I politely declined and sent them a link to this blog, just so they know it’s out there. I don’t plan on ordering again, and furthermore I don’t want to complain for free stuff. I just like writing about these things, and I hope I can provide a service that people enjoy. I actually want to like these products. I’ve got some socks that I’m going to rave about next week.

Alright! It’s over! I can go buy pants somewhere else.

But then today, I get a message from “Grace, Head of Customer Experience at Mott&Bow”. Among the apologies and fluff pieces, they tell me that they shipped the pants last Wednesday. Note that I didn’t get a shipping notification, I didn’t get a message that this happened, I didn’t get anything. I look at my account, and all of my orders are Cancelled. However this email says they will be here on Friday, and there is a FedEx tracking link attached (SmartPost again…great job guys). I wanted a refund, I was granted a refund, and then somehow now I’m getting pants again. Pants are not money. Not in this economy.

Now, in my previous addendum, you may remember they said they were out of these pants. Somehow, they found a pair that same day without telling anyone. Which means, almost certainly, that they took someone else’s order and sent them to me instead, because I complained. So if you’ve come across this post because you’re wondering what happened to those pants you ordered, I’m truly sorry about everything you’re about to go through. If I could ship them directly to you I would. You might as well just do the charge back now.

This company is insufferable. I don’t even want to wear these pants on the off chance they fit well and look nice, because I don’t want anyone asking me where I bought them.

Reviews

The Emperor’s New Pants: Addendum

An Addendum (January 18th, 2017): Mott and Bow has sent me an email that, due to an inventory miscount, they do not have the jeans that I ordered. At this point, I think it’s possible that this company only has one pair of jeans that they ship to each customer. As soon as they find someone that they fit, they will promptly shutter their doors.

Reviews

The Emperor’s New Pants: Mott & Bow

I’m not what you’d call high fashion.

I wouldn’t mind being more fashionable; I have nothing against the concept. But, I lived in a beach town for many years, and wearing a blazer would get you questioned about whose funeral you attended. I knew one guy that bucked tradition and wore suits out, and he pulled it off, but he was definitely the odd man out. I’d rather blend in, just in case I need to make a quick exit. You never know when you need to not be noticed. So, jeans and t-shirts. It always works.

People dress a bit better here in Austin. Sure, it’s nowhere near New York or Western Europe, but there is some sense of hipness and style among the hipsters that does not go unnoticed among the aforementioned jeans and t-shirt guy. I sometimes yearn for that stylistic eye. I want to layer. Hats are a mystery that I’d like to solve.

Not so much that I would actually go to stores and buy clothes, however. There’s way too much that goes into that, and I’m a busy man. I’ve spent many hours walking through malls and finding small shops, just to find a pair of jeans that fit nicely and won’t fall apart. I can’t do it. How do they do it???

I found Mott and Bow (pronounced like the applesauce and the front of a boat, respectively) on one of my daily treks through posts about politics and Thanksgiving. I had been needing new jeans for a while; my fiancé has a simmering hatred for one of my three pairs of jeans that I currently wear, which she mentions every time she notices they’re on. I needed new pants, if only to replace these baggy old ones, and Mott and Bow looked ready to provide.

I felt like searching through their website was easy from a product standpoint. However, for a person that is maybe not as stylistically inclined, differentiating between the products was something of a catch. I can see that the things are slightly different colors, but I can’t really tell why those things have different names. The cuts, I get. I know what a skinny jean is, and I know that as a large man I’d better stay away. I went with the strait leg, which is a style I’ve worn before. I ordered the “Rivington”, because I liked the color. I paid 88 dollars after tax, which is a little expensive, but not the most I’ve ever paid for jeans. I feel like jeans are a thing you should spend more on, because they end up lasting a very long time.

Buying jeans online is a risky venture. You have no idea how the jeans will fit. Luckily enough, though, Mott and Bow offers a “try-on” option, where they will actually ship you 2 pairs of jeans, you try on both, and then return one for free with the sticker provided. That is a superbly cool idea. However, these pants had no sizes close to mine, so the try-on option was a no-go for me. I wanted “Rivington”! I wanted it now!

Shipping took forever. I chose the base shipping, which I found out afterwards is SurePost, meaning UPS ships to USPS and USPS delivers to your door. This ended up taking 16 days to get to me from Order to Received. That is an absurdly long time to wait to try on pants. If I would have known, I would have sprung for the 2 day shipping option, but even so…you’re sending 90-100 dollar products through the mail, Mott and/or Bow, how about we get traditional ground shipping, at least?

And then the worst news. They didn’t fit. They weren’t even close. They made me question my reality: I went and checked the sizes on other pairs of jeans I owned. Yes, I ordered the right size. For those who don’t know, men’s pant sizes are actually measurements, so I’d expect it to at least be close. It was not close. After 16 days of waiting, I had to return them.

The product seemed really solid. I would have liked those jeans. One more thing I noticed on the washing label is that these were something called “Raw Denim”. I had heard that term before, but to me it was shrouded in mystery. I read that I was supposed to hand wash these jeans. And that, my friends, is where I said “Nah”. I’m not hand washing anything, this is what machines are for.

The return process was seemingly easy. I went online, marked that I wanted to return them, and then put the sticker back on the box and dropped it off at UPS. Pretty straight forward. Mott and Bow then sent me an email a few days later, asking for a review, and I gave them the honest truth: They didn’t fit, and I wasn’t going to hand wash jeans, so I’d rather just return them. To my surprise, they replied. The nice people at Mott and Bow said they had another pair of jeans, something called a “Mosco”, that was similar to the “Rivington”, but stretchier so it should fit better, and didn’t need hand washing. I still needed jeans, and this customer service rep had just gone above and beyond. This all happened on December 13, 2016.

So I waited. And waited. Through Christmas, through New Years, I waited for these jeans to be delivered. I checked my account, still pending. I finally followed up with an email 3 weeks later. “We are very sorry, we had an issue with our processing. Your returned jeans have been received, and we should be sending out your new jeans shortly. Please take a 10 dollar credit for your next pair as our apology“. Awesome. I waited. And waited. I emailed again, a week later. No response. Wait a few more days. Today, January 16, 2017, I called. “We don’t see any problem with your account, I’m not sure why they haven’t been sent”. After threatening to do a charge back on my credit card, today they have set my jeans “Ready to ship”. If the timeline sticks, I’ll be trying on a new pair of jeans that I wanted in November sometime in February.

But hey, they gave me a 10 dollar credit on my next pair of jeans. If I order now I might have them in time for shorts weather. Maybe they sell cutoffs.

Mott and Bow has the illusion of great customer service in an online company. They have responsive CSR’s and a great save the sale technique, which should really be admired. But it seems like they have forgotten the biggest thing you can do in customer service is get your product in front of the customer in a timely manner. Without that, none of the other stuff matters. I won’t be ordering again. I wouldn’t suggest anyone else order either.

 

Reviews

Ink+Volt Planner: For the New You?

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life wasting time.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t regret any of the time I’ve spent doing nothing. I’ve loved most of my nights sitting at bars coming up with grandiose ideas of how I’m going to spend tomorrow. But most of the time, I can’t even get my car washed, let alone get a new web app off the ground. I have big dreams, but I’m too scattered to follow through with a lot of them. My car remains dirty.

So I recently decided to make a few life changes. It being the new year, you might think of this as a resolution. And, yeah, sort of. I always thought resolutions were a way to get naive people to buy gym memberships, but I’ve come to understand why they exist: it’s damn near impossible to get into any sort of routine between October and January. I’ve made it a point to try to become more productive, especially outside of my day job. I made this decision back around Thanksgiving, but getting into a real routine has proved difficult until now.

I started by downloading the Audible.com android app and listening to David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  I took the book recommendation from CGP Grey on YouTube. No, I’m not sponsored (Update: I got an Amazon Affiliate link later). Audible’s a nice system, though, and yes you should check it out if you haven’t. And CGP Grey seems smart. In this book, Allen talks about leading a productive and stress-free lifestyle by getting your thoughts organized. He has a specific system that I’ll be customizing for myself over the next few weeks. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you’ve got to read these plot twists in chapter 10.

I’m kidding, I haven’t finished listening yet. Routine is hard in the Fall, remember?

So, an ad came up on my social media feed for a company called Ink + Volt, selling a planner notebook for the new year. I’m not a guy that normally writes things down. I usually just try to remember everything I’ve ever thought of, which seems feasible because all those thoughts came out of the same brain I’m trying to remember them from. Or I store them in some sort of electronic message to myself to halfheartedly search for later when I’m sitting around binge watching Supernatural on Netflix for the 4th time.

However, David Allen says this is a really dumb way to live your life, and causes stress where there doesn’t need to be. I’m inclined to agree, because he’s got a helpful, but authoritative reading voice.

Anyway, back to this planner. New year, new me, lets start writing stuff down. So I go to their site, and it’s a pretty standard “startup-ish” website, with the B-roll video background, and then products. They have a newsletter, which I understand is a way to get email addresses for direct advertising, but I’m trying to imagine the person that says “yes, keep me up to date on all the advances in the notebook world”. I’m trying, because I can’t imagine that person. Are you that person? Let me know in the comments.

So the planner is $40.00 plus $6.75 Ground shipping. That is a lot to ask for what amounts to an empty book. A book this size full of stories can be bought for $10. I did it anyway, for you, dear reader. It was always for you.

Their checkout page has some things that annoy me. I’m nitpicky, because I’m a developer by trade that has made literally a million different checkout pages, and by “literally a million”, I mean nowhere near that many but still a lot. All the text boxes have CSS that turns the mouse cursor into the pointer hand. This is off-putting. I know that hand is sweet, but keep it in your buttons, boys. Also the error messages are badly aligned.

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When I went to check out what the issue was, though, I found this sweet pigeon.

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So, you know, all is well in the world.

It looks like they took some time off shipping for the holidays, so even though I ordered the week before Christmas, I was informed that I wouldn’t be getting it until after January 1st. I was okay with that, it was on the sales page before I checked out. However, someone came back early, and I got my $40 blank book sometime between Christmas and New Year’s. I have no idea how fast, because I was out of town, but that’s some damn good service.

Now, as for the planner itself. It’s very nicely put together.

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It’s got 2 of those tails for holding your place! It’s wrapped in whatever they used to make encyclopedias out of, and the paper inside is top notch for writing. The screenshots on the website really don’t do this thing justice: It’s a really nice planner. But what you really paid for was Ink+Volt’s planning style, which comes highly recommended from the CEO of Ink+Volt. The pictures on the website don’t really show what you’re getting, so I’ll give a sneak peek.

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First Page: Calendar. Always useful. Not much to say. The days are right, I checked.

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The first section gives you a chance to write down what you’re trying to achieve this year. As you can see, my theme is productivity. I have blurred out my goals so you don’t have to look at my terrible handwriting. The achievements on the left are meant for looking back: You’ll fill this out when you’ve done a thing. This has made me motivated to do things, which I think means it serves its purpose. Each month, and each week, has a similar section to this that you fill out and revisit, to try to keep the user on track with their goals.So far so good.

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Here you’ll see the weekly planning part, where it splits the week days so you can write your daily schedules. There are also note sections for each week. Also, there’s an inspiring quote for every week, which I guess is nice. It doesn’t get in the way or anything, and I imagine inspiring quotes just do it for some people. Somebody buys those office posters.

So, in the end, I’m really enjoying the few days I’ve had with this planner. I really am trying to give it a shot and see if I can organize my life a little bit better and be more efficient, and this really is an effective tool. However…$46.75 is a lot of money for something that can be replaced by loose leaf paper and a plan. I can’t say I’d recommend you buy one. If you have 50 dollars and nothing to do with it, this isn’t the worst investment you could make, and if you’re a person who really digs planners, this is a good planner.