Long-Term Gear Review – Switch Vision Sunglasses

Switch Vision sunglasses
Rollin’ with my Switch Vision Stoke sunglasses – always.

I’m having a Switch Vision sunglasses giveaway. Check this blog post for the rules! Deadline is March 30, 2012.

Last year, Switch Vision provided a pair of Stoke sunglasses for my review more than a year ago. Since March 2011, they’ve been my go-to glasses.

My initial review praised their optics, fit, cool factor and their very innovative magnetic lens retention setup. Magnets hold the lenses in place, giving every Switch Vision model the absolute fastest, easiest way to change lenses that I’ve ever seen.

So what do I think of these Switch Vision sunglasses one year and buckets of my nasty sweat later? Well, they’re still awesome, with the lenses still giving a crystal-clear view and the frames holding up well. I only have a few observations to note:

  • A funny quirk – If you drop your Switch Vision sunglasses in the dirt (which I do, all the time!), you might notice that the magnets in the frames will pick up little magnetic bits. Not really a problem, but kind of amusing.
  • My toxic sweat has an odd affect on the lenses. It puts rainbow-colored streaks on the lenses, which affect the optical quality. A thorough wipe-down with a soft microfiber cloth erases the smudges. On the trail, that might not be feasible. If you have gloves with a strip of terrycloth, you should be OK.
  • I wouldn’t mind an adjustable or replaceable nosepiece. Sometimes, when the going gets sweaty, the glasses will slide down my schnoz. This would help for people with smaller features, too: My wife ruled the Stokes out immediately. In her triathlon bike-riding position, the fairly spacious nose piece allowed the glasses to slide right down her nose.
  • They’re still hard to find. Switch Vision needs to bang hard at REI’s door. I like Switch Vision far better than any other glasses at REI.

All said, the Stoke sunglasses are by far my favorite sunglasses. I keep the lenses clean, and the reward is a clear but less-bright view of the world. I’m a Switch Vision sunglasses fan; if I lost a pair, I’d stick with them and buy another pair immediately.

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Architecture in Japan: Tokyo Big Sight

20030727 27 July 2003 Tokyo International Exhibition Center Big Sight Odaiba Tokyo Japan
The wild, crazy, polarizing Tokyo Big Sight.
As my visit to Japan winds down, I board a Rinkai Line subway headed to the Tokyo waterfront. Things get interesting when the train breaks the surface.

Even though it’s an overcast day headed toward dusk, the Tokyo Big Sight catches my eye.

A Sci-Fi Landmark in a Sci-Fi City

As the train zips past, I have no idea what it is. But I aim my Pentax and hope for some luck. It makes me think of a collision between Jawa sandcrawlers from Star Wars. During my post-trip research, I find out it’s part of a convention center.

The Capstone Cathedral, another building that appeals to my pyramid fetish.

I love this crazy thing. It doesn’t look like anything around it. It wouldn’t look out-of-place orbiting Vulcan. Is it functional? I have no idea.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for pyramids – here in the Phoenix area, I am nuts about Tempe City Hall and the Capstone Cathedral. Give me four pyramids – upside down! – and my eyes won’t move from the thing.

I’ll admit that I had no idea of the building’s purpose. The Tokyo Big Sight could’ve been anything – telecommunications center, uber-health club, Rubik’s cube manufacturing plant, theme park, habitat for giant hamsters. I felt a twinge of disappointment that it’s a convention center, which I associate with all sorts of things un-fun.

To my eye, Tokyo is a sci-fi city. And the Tokyo Big Sight -- yes, it’s even more sci-fi than its surroundings. I had a blast looking at it, and I desperately wanted to wander around in it. If only I’d had time.

But I could tell this was also a polarizing example of  convention center architecture. I asked someone with some actual architecture knowledge beyond "It looks cool" for some thoughts. Here’s what Nichole from ArchitectureTravelWriter.com has to say about it:

My subway-eye view of the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center.

Madonna’s Cone Bra Rendered Large

Tokyo Big Sight leaves me feeling like I did when visiting contemporary buildings in China: disappointed, if not repulsed. The eight-story structure is one of several buildings within Japan’s largest convention center and contains space enough for 1,000 visitors plus a reception room. Where shall I begin to expose its flaws?

What makes this edifice different from those designed by the growth-spooged Chinese buildings is the symmetry (Wandering Justin’s note: Nichole is the first person to use the word “spooged” in a post at this site. Congrats!). Symmetry in architecture, around most of the world, is as natural as four walls. When applied in the East we come to recognize the importance of discipline. They either trade symmetry in favor of grandiose (read oversized) scale or reveal an obligatory attitude toward it by eschewing context. The result often translates as being unsure if you’re looking at a library, a government building, or a museum. This egregiousness disregard for rules doesn’t mean they’re shifting the paradigm of architecture. (Leave that the Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry and Netherlands-based LAM architects.) It just makes for projects that have the elegant sophistication of Madonna’s cone bra of the early 90s.

Many architects ruin projects by neglecting to relate ensure a building to its milieu. For instance, notice that this building seems to have been plopped down from the sky. The designers could have diminished that glaring problem and addressed another by altering picture-center’s composition.

Placing a few increasingly wider outdoor terraces or glass-roofed verandas upon every other story would gently lead the eye from the tall, blunt façade to aesthetically stepped levels that approach the ground and end in a landscape designer’s work.

Allow me to point out two more problems. The placement of the elevator at the picture-left entrance adds grace to the composition like a baseball bat to your face. It sadly brings to mind an elevator placement of real success: the Centre Pompidou.

The gold façade is brash. The last time brashness worked Mae West appeared on the silver screen.

From perfunctory to obligatory and brash to demonstrative, the Tokyo Big Sight convention center fails to satisfy.

Nichole L. Reber has been writing about architecture, interior design, urban planning, and sustainability for international publications since 2003.Catch her blog at ArchitectureTravelWriter. 



Travel in Japan – Tips and Ideas

If you're traveling to Japan, think about starting in Osaka. (Photo by JKT-c)

A five-day visit to Japan just isn’t enough. While I managed to squeeze a lot into my short visit, I didn’t even scratch the surface.

I enjoyed a few days in Tokyo, plus an overnight trip out to Hakone. That leaves a lot I skipped. If you want to know a few fun things about my stay, check out my Yahoo! Voices story "Six Cool Things to Expect During a Visit to Tokyo". You’ll find out that, behind the weirdness and cleanliness, you’ll be surprised by a friendly vibe rare in such large cities.

Kansai International Airport from the Air (photo by TDK)

But for now, I’m left to ponder what I’d do during a longer visit to Japan. First up, I’d think about my starting place. It doesn’t have to be Tokyo. I’d look into Osaka flights just to start off a bit further from Tokyo. And I’ll admit it – the air travel nerd in me loves the idea checking out Kansai International Airport, which is built on an artificial island.

And it’s not like Osaka is actually some small town: It’s Japan’s second-largest metro area, with plenty to do -- temples, shrines, amusement parks, museums and a ton of sports. High on my list? Sumo! I missed all the sumo action during my last abbreviated trip – and there’s no way I’ll make the same mistake.

Awesome Japanese bullet trains. (By Rdb at de.wikipedia Later versions were uploaded by Srittau at de.wikipedia)

And allow me to unshackle my inner travel geek again: I also didn’t get to use the awesome Japanese bullet train. The Korean KTX train was a revelation, and I’d like to give it a go in Japan. I could catch a bullet train in Osaka to several other cities.

I also like the architecture in Osaka. You have the usual mix of skyscrapers, but with some wild and crazy stuff like the Umeda Sky building. And as a mountain biker, I’d want to see what sort of building Shimano – which builds the majority of the bike components I’ve used over the years – calls home.

Of course, I’d still make my way from Osaka to Tokyo, but with a detour or two along the way. I might also swing further south. With a country like Japan, I can head in nearly every direction and find something interesting.

I thought about visiting Yokohama, but I couldn’t spare the time while still seeing Hakone. Next time around, I’ll carve time out for it.

If you plan to head to travel in Japan, you’re sure to find it just as interesting. But give yourself more time than I did!

This post is sponsored by Flight Centre and its experiences, highly trained experts who are dedicated to finding the best travel deal for any destination and any budget. They are widely traveled and enthusiastic about travel.

Mountain Biker’s Death Sad and Sobering

Fountain Hills, McDowell Meltdown, 2011, MBAA
This is what mountain biking should look like ...

There’s been a second fatality at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Read more in this Wandering Justin post. March 26, 2012


Sometimes, I really hate mountain biking. Like when I learned earlier this week that a fellow mountain biker died on one of my favorite trails.

The local media has not seen fit to cover the death of Ron Cadiente, 61: I heard about it on Facebook and MTBR.com. Details are sketchy. All I know is that he was a properly equipped veteran rider. It’s unclear if his death was caused by a crash, or if his crash was caused by cardiac arrest while on the Long Loop of the Competitive Track at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

These are the moments that suck the energy out of mountain biking. I can’t count the number of times I’ve ridden this trail. And now someone lost a life on it.

This is a shadow that follows me every time I ride. I hate admitting this, but it’s as honest as I can be. My number-one task on every ride is -- come home in one piece. I often roll into a stretch of trail, give my brakes a quick tap – knowing full well I could go faster and do it better. But I know that quick feathering of my brake levers makes it more likely that I’ll walk back in my door.

The same unease hits me when my wife rides. I just want her to come back happy and safe.

How and why do we ride like this? Hell, how do we live like this, while the potential of changing our lives for the worse chases us every mile of the way?

I can’t explain it fully. It’s part of mountain biking, and it’s part of living. Risk is everywhere. Eliminate that risk, and I guess you eliminate everything that’s interesting in life.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much to Ron’s family. To them, I can only say this: I wish it hadn’t happened, and it’s not supposed to be like this.

To those of us who still ride: Come home safe. For yourself, and for all those who care for you.

UPDATE (Feb. 14)

A member of the MTBR forum posted information about services for Ron, which he found on the Bunker Mortuary website. And condolences to his daughter Brooke and son Brett, who posted very kind messages thanking the mountain bike community for its support. It’s impossible to not think really well of Ron and those who survive him when you see the goodness and dignity in their words.

Name: Ronald Roy Cadiente

Date: April 15th, 1950 – February 11th, 2012

Cadiente, Ronald, 61, died in a mountain bike accident February 11, 2012. He is survived by his wife Pamela, children Garron (Sharon) Cadiente, Brett Cadiente, Maren (Jimmy) Bloomer, Brooke Cadiente, Paige (Sterling) Stahle, 13 grandchildren and brothers Herb Davis, Carlos Cadiente and Rick Cadiente. A kind and loving husband, father and grandfather he was devoted to his family whom he loved unconditionally and enjoyed being involved their lives. He was passionate about the work he did as a software salesman and valued the relationships he made. He was honest, hardworking, sincere, and compassionate. Ron was a baseball coach, avid hiker, mountain biker, University of Arizona graduate and family man who was as generous in his relationships as he was genuine. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served a mission in southern California and served in a variety of church leadership positions, including Bishop, all of which he loved. He was an influence for good in every aspect of his life. He is missed and loved by many, especially his family. Viewing is February 16th from 6-8 PM at Bunker’s Garden Chapel, 33 North Centennial Way, Mesa AZ 85201. Funeral is February 17th, 11 AM with viewing one hour prior at the LDS Church, 1430 N Grand Street, Mesa AZ 85201.

6:00PM to 8:00PM on Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at Bunker’s Garden Chapel
10:00AM to 10:45AM on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at LDS Lehi Stake Center

11:00AM at LDS Lehi Stake Center on Friday, February 17th, 2012

Asian Airports – Random Photo Fun

The A380 - one of many widebodies nesting at any given Asian airport.

Asia airports – there’s nothing like them. They link cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong. They crackle with commerce and pulsate with cultural experiences in the making.

This is Incheon International Airport, and you see the Korean Air Airbus A380. Regardless of how you feel about the A380 – and boy, does it polarize!- it is an emblem of Asian airports. These airports are not the domain of the single-aisle, workaday Honda Civics of the Sky that dominate the taxiways at American airports.

Nope. Even the so-called "domestic" airports here have 747s come calling. There are too many people to move, too far. This is a job for the widebody, the heavy. The sheer scope of these aircraft, and so many of them, adds something to an airport visit.

Hating airports is now just short of a varsity sport in America. I get it. Honestly. We have the Transportation Security Agent and its radiation-emitting full body scanners (aka Nude-O-Scopes). We pack onto small planes and disembark to see the same chain stores before we even leave the terminal. Onboard, you generally get starved and dehydrated into a cranky mass of semi-intelligent tissue. The airports themselves bark at us with loud TVs and announcements – and starve us of any intellectual stimulation.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Asian airports are the proof.