17 September 2014

Autumn Approaches

The weather around here has been quite wonderful for the past week and a half or so. No need for air conditioning, and there were a couple of nights that we had to close all the windows because it got quite chilly. I even wore jeans a couple of days, though I'm back to wearing shorts today.

Every year I look forward to the point when summer starts to fade. This year it happened earlier than I was expecting, but of course that doesn't mean we are done with warm weather. The climate isn't that linear, and it never has been. We're guaranteed to hit 80 at least a couple more times between now and Columbus Day; in fact the forecast is suggesting that will happen this Sunday.

I wish I could handle warmer weather better, but I just don't, and that isn't going to change. I accept it and I own it. Beachgoers look forward to July and August; I look forward to October and November.

15 September 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #30

This week's find comes from a friend in Kentucky. He spotted this car back in March and took these pictures; for some reason, it only just occurred to me that I could use them.
This is a Willys Station Wagon from around 1951-53. It's mechanically related to the military Jeeps of World War II, and sort of the great-grandfather of today's Jeep Cherokee and, if you want to get nitpicky about it, every other small to medium-sized SUV and crossover.
Before the war there were Willys cars and trucks; after the war those started again, and the company realized that it could use the Jeep's chassis to produce a rugged passenger vehicle, which is how this car came about.
These cars were made from 1946 to 1965, and a two-wheel-drive version was also available for those in warmer climates. I thought a four-door version had been offered at some point, but I must have been imagining it, or conflating it with the Wagoneer, which arrived in 1961 and made this smaller wagon kind of obsolete. And don't forget that the Wagoneer was produced in one form or another for about 30 years; Jeep has always been partial to simple, durable designs.

This Week in Awesome (9/14/14)

Sorry folks, busy this weekend. This week's collection is somewhat TV- and media-focused.

Vulture has been looking back at the 1994-95 TV season, which is 20 years old but in many ways seems like twice that far away. Here's a bunch of uncomfortably awkward promo spots. If you watch even a couple of these, you will feel old.

If you watch Archer, you know that Sterling Archer is a big movie fan. Someone went to the trouble to compile a playlist of all the movies mentioned in the show. (Vunify via The A.V. Club)

Another bit from Vulture: an interactive graphic tracking all the types of relationships between the various characters on Orange Is the New Black.

A tumblr collection of black-and-white photo oddities? Sure. (@Midnight)

And finally this week, Billy Eichner was a guest on Late Show, and brought one of his "Billy on the Street" games to play with Dave.

12 September 2014

All Quiet

The upstairs dog has been much quieter since Wednesday, barking only occasionally (and going totally nuts when its owner gets home). I was bracing for a long season of barking, so I am relieved and somewhat surprised. Maybe the dog is more used to being alone than I'd thought, and it was just going through the adjustment to a new home.

Meanwhile, our dog seems only barely aware that there's another canine creature in her vicinity. The only real indication I've seen so far: when we go out into the back hall on our way out for a walk, she has started turning her head and sniffing up the back stairs. I'm sure the two dogs will meet eventually, but I don't harbor any illusion that they will become playmates, because our dog has little use for other dogs beyond sniffing them.

10 September 2014


We've had some turnover upstairs: two people moved out, one stayed and his girlfriend moved in along with him. It's a three-bedroom apartment, so I don't know what two people are doing with all the extra space, not to mention spending all that money on all that extra space.

The young lady brought with her a dog. It's a pug, and while cute, like many breeds of smaller dogs it barks a lot. It barks when someone leaves or enters the building, it barks when the Mrs. pulls into the driveway, it barks when I take our dog out the back door for a walk and when I bring her back in. So fat it's been just intermittent.

Due to various things, including some work that the landlord had done after September 1st, today was the first day the dog was left alone while both people went off to do whatever it is they do. It was barking when I got up around 8:30 this morning, and it barked pretty much nonstop until around 11, when it took a breather for 10 minutes or so. I kept waiting for it to stop simply as a result of wearing itself out from the physical effects of barking so much.

After that point it was more intermittent, then I left the house shortly after 1 pm and was gone for three hours, so I don't know what happened during the afternoon. I asked our dog when I got home, but she declined to answer; dogs don't snitch on each other, I guess.

It barks in clusters, like this: "yap yap yap yap (short pause) yap." (Five-second pause.) "yap yap yap yap (short pause) yap." And yes, I noticed this; it was hard not to notice it when it was being repeated over and over and over.

There are other dogs in the neighborhood that bark a lot, including a couple that are left outside for long stretches of the day more or less year-round (which could be the reason they're doing all that barking). But they are several houses away at minimum, so their barking is more of a background noise.

It may be that the pug is still getting used to an unfamiliar place; it may be that she hasn't been left alone before (I believe that the young lady previously lived with her mother). And in another month or so it will be time to close the windows, at which point I hope it won't be quite as noticeable.

09 September 2014

Overheard: Parental Snark Edition

This afternoon I was poking around in a store and happened to be standing a few feet away from some mannequins. There were two adult figures and two smaller ones that were supposed to be their children.

As I was looking at clothing, a small child of maybe four went up to one of the child mannequins and hugged it, then looked over her shoulder and said, "Look, Mommy!" Without missing a beat, the mother replied, "Oh, you've found a new family, how nice."

Car Stuff: Sunday Cruise-In

There are a few big car shows scattered through the summer calendar, along with weekly themed events at the Museum of Transportation in Brookline, but there are also a number of less formal events, called cruise nights or cruise-ins, where owners of vintage cars gather in predesignated parking lots for a period of time. There is a list of them organized by day of the week here (light type on black background alert), and I happened to catch one on Sunday afternoon.

There were perhaps a total of two dozen vehicles, and about a quarter of those were late-model Mustangs all parked together off to one side, but the rest were worth seeing. I didn't take pictures of every car, but some shots have more than one car in them.
I think this nice-looking GMC pickup is a 1970. This body, shared with Chevrolet pickups, looked especially modern when it was introduced for 1967. There was another GMC pickup of the same vintage at this event, which was surprising because they always sold in lower numbers than their Chevy cousins. (I was kind of excited to see the '65 Chevy II next to it until I saw the silly motor sticking up through the hood; I've never been much for hot rods.)
This is a 1954 Ford Crestline "Sunliner" convertible. I'm not as much of a fan of Fords as I am of other old cars, but I have always thought that the 1952-54 models were very nice-looking. The wire wheels are a nice touch. Hey, that gray Mazda in the back looks familiar. (For those of you who don't know me personally, it's ours.)
So... I've never been that good at pre-World War II cars. I know it's a Ford pickup. The bumper and grille surround match images of 1930 and '31 models I found on the web, so I'm going to go with Model A. However, the suspension has been lowered somewhat, and those wheels look like they came from an Oldsmobile 4-4-2, an interesting choice.
Here's a two for one shot: the convertible, a 1967 Oldsmobile 98, was probably my favorite of the cars I saw at this gathering. At the time these cars were just as nice as their Cadillac cousins, for people who didn't want to proclaim their prosperity quite as loudly as a Cadillac did. The deep burgundy interior looked great with the silver paint. The Corvette is a '66; I'd never seen one in this color, and I learned from PaintRef it was offered only for this one model year. I don't care for the side pipes, but otherwise this is probably my favorite generation of Corvette (though I prefer the convertible).
I was certain that this 1950 Ford had been customized, but in fact only the side pipes are add-ons; Ford offered this "Custom Deluxe Crestliner" decor package consisting of two-tone paint (yes, this was a factory color), fender skirts, and a vinyl roof covering, more than a decade before they started to become common. It turns out the package was to distract car shoppers from the fact that, unlike General Motors, they didn't yet have a two-door hardtop body style to offer. It is distracting, though no one is going to mistake it for a true hardtop. (Behind it is the other GMC pickup I mentioned, a high-trim Sierra Grande model.)
It's unfortunate this car was in the shadow of a building, but I'm still glad it was there. It's a 1975 Buick Regal, one of the midsize personal-luxury cars that sold by the hundreds of thousands in the 1970s. The Buick version is less commonly seen than its cousins, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, so it's an even better find, plus the members of the Brown Car Appreciation Society will be happy it's wearing one of the most exemplary color schemes of the period: brown paint with a tan vinyl top and interior. The VW Beetle is from the 1960s, based on the bumpers and headlights.
I don't know why I didn't take a closer picture of this 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix, a front three-quarter shot like the others I took. Maybe I just liked the appearance of it in profile. I'm pretty sure I had a Matchbox version of this car; one was definitely offered. I do think those wheels come from a later Pontiac, but they look fine on this car.
You aren't going to see a lot of 1961 Fords at any given car event, and it's even less likely that you'll come across a Galaxie Starliner hardtop, which was a variant introduced on the 1960 Ford (which had the same basic body structure) in response to the swept-roof styling and large rear window design on GM's 1959 two-door hardtops. At the same time, Ford was offering Galaxie hardtops with a more formal roof design (which I prefer) derived from its very popular Thunderbird, and curiously enough by 1962 GM's hardtops were mimicking that design. A few years later the roofs on both Ford and GM hardtops got more slanted and fastback-like again, before again getting more upright on the way to the Broughamification of the 1970s. (By the way, there's a nice 1962 Chevy Bel Air off to the left there that I meant to take a separate shot of but didn't.)
And finally we come to this sweet 1966 Chevy Impala Super Sport convertible. (Apologies for the chair.) Up close it looked like it had been repainted; even if it had managed to avoid any fading in almost 50 years, it still seemed brighter than whatever red Chevy offered that year. But otherwise it appeared original. Some people like to take "basic" models and enhance them to whatever the high-performance variant of that year was (Belvederes become Road Runners, Tempests become GTOs), and the availability of reproduction parts for everything from bucket seats to hoods with scoops to exterior badges makes this easy enough for some to be drawn in. Some do it but admit it, calling their cars "tributes" to the originals. I choose to believe that this car is original, that it left the factory as a Super Sport; something about it just gave off the right vibe.

07 September 2014

This Week in Awesome (9/6/14)

I was all set to do this last night, not sure what happened... anyway, to make up for not posting a TWiA last weekend, I have an extra-large helping this time.

Remember how when CDs came out we were told the contents would last indefinitely? Yeah, not so much. (NPR via Dappered)

When's the last time you heard or saw the word "metrosexual"? (The Awl)

Probably my favorite video of the past week. (Mashable via The A.V. Club)

Kids' meals that are definitely not for kids. (The A.V. Club; see more, including some more kid-friendly designs, here.)

Here's an interesting series of photographs by a woman who poses with strangers. (Esquire Culture Blog; more from the artist here.)

And finally this week, a topic close to the hearts of most Bostonians: which city in the US has the worst drivers? That depends on how the data is interpreted, but this argument is pretty well reasoned. Masshole pride only goes so far. (Slate via The Truth About Cars)

06 September 2014

Retro Video Unit (9/6/14)

Whoops, I knew I'd forgotten something...

Okay, I'm going to be honest: I think this video is pretty corny and lame. A lot of videos were corny and lame. But the song, well, this song just does something to me, and it has since the first time I heard it back in 1985.

It's "And We Danced" by the Philadelphia-area band The Hooters. Nothing to do with the restaurants; it's a colloquial name for a mouth organ, which you can hear in the song.

05 September 2014

A Rude Awakening from Above

I was awakened this morning at 7 by a considerable racket from upstairs. I knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier.

The landlord is proceeding with his plans to get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting in the upper apartment and refinish the wood floors underneath. Earlier this week he took out the carpeting himself, and today a crew came in to start the scraping and sanding and polishing. From the sound of it, they are also getting rid of the linoleum from the kitchen. (Our kitchen is tiled.)

The guy in charge of the work was here yesterday to look around and pick up a key, and warned me about the noise. It can't be avoided, and it will be done in four or five work days, so knowing I'm going to be awakened each weekday morning, I suppose I should try to go to sleep earlier.

03 September 2014

Poor Paw

The dog had a little mishap one night last week. As we were going out for our usual late walk, she slipped on the steps and ended up ripping out one of the nails from her back right paw. I didn't know that at the time; she was shaken up but didn't cry out or make any sort of noise, so I steadied her, made sure she could stand and walk, and we went on our way.

When we got back to the house I saw that she was leaving spots of blood on the floor, so I woke the Mrs. and she cleaned and bandaged the dog's paw. It was the start of the long weekend and we didn't know if our vet was even open on Saturday. There's a 24-hour animal hospital not far away in Woburn, but she didn't seem to be in any significant pain or distress, so we decided not to go, at least not right away.

We had the ramp made for the dog this past winter, but she only uses it to go up the steps and has shown no interest or need in using it to go down. I felt very bad about her fall, because if we had gotten her used to going down the ramp, she probably wouldn't have slipped. Given her age, it's very fortunate that she didn't break a leg. The next day we started acclimating her to going down the ramp, and she's already used to it.

Through the weekend we took care of her paw, putting a sock over the bandage and securing it with duct tape so she couldn't lick it or otherwise mess with it. We even put a plastic bag over the sock when it rained Sunday night. Our biggest concern was the possibility of an infection, so yesterday we took her in to the vet. The wound has started to heal as it should, we got some ointment to put on the paw, and the nail may or may not regrow. Ultimately the dog will be fine, which is a tremendous relief.

02 September 2014

Only 115 Days Left...

I saw this blatant and appalling example of "Christmas creep" earlier this evening at a nearby CVS:
Please bear in mind that it's barely September. I also saw Halloween candy, but that wasn't unexpected.

01 September 2014

Car Stuff: A Cluster of Saturns

It's time for another installment in my "cluster" observations. These are cars that I don't think are especially noteworthy or collectible, that merit a mention primarily because I've noticed them around in significant numbers.
General Motors created the Saturn division in the mid-1980s to try a different approach to building and selling cars. The first models went on sale as 1991 models; after GM's bankruptcy they eliminated several divisions including Saturn, and the last cars were sold as 2010 models. Today I'm focusing on the S-series, which was the first model Saturn offered. Its plastic side body panels were intended to save weight, be resistant to minor dings, and be easier to replace if necessary.
Initially Saturn was marketed as a homegrown alternative to Honda and Toyota, and for a while they were reasonably competitive. Some people were attracted to the styling, which was different enough from that of other imported small cars to be distinctive. The second-generation S-series, in particular, was attractively sleek while the Civic and Corolla were wearing rather bland styling. (The Mrs. owned a second-gen SL2 for a few years.)
GM's first big mistake with Saturn, in my opinion, was letting the second generation of the S-series stay around too long. The first generation had lasted five model years, which is more or less the standard the auto industry follows with product life cycles, but in a cost-saving measure GM opted to keep the second-gen S-series going for seven model years. As the car aged, its competitors introduced updated models.
Then, and worse, when they did finally replace the car for 2003, the new car offered none of the improvements in refinement and quality that typically come with a new generation of a car, plus its styling was exceedingly ugly. GM made other questionable decisions, like giving in to the brief trend of mounting the instrument panel in the center of the dashboard, instead of in front of the driver. Many faithful Saturn owners who had been waiting for the updated model rejected it in disappointment.
When I started taking these pictures back in the winter, I was focused on the second-generation cars like this white one and the two above it, which are approaching 20 years since their introduction. (The wagon on Franklin Street downtown was a nice find, as I always liked those.) But I also noticed a couple of first-gen cars around (the silver and teal cars at the top of the post), some of which are approaching 25 years old.
This red car is frequently parked near where we get our haircuts in Somerville. It's very similar to the one the Mrs. owned—the same rear spoiler, the same alloy wheels—other than the fact that hers was dark green.

30 August 2014

Difficult Wisdom

One of the hardest things I've had to learn in my whole life, in terms of discipline, is how to eat half of a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

29 August 2014

Nearly Assembled

Back in May I wrote about the MBTA's new Orange Line station adjacent to the Assembly Square Marketplace and new Assembly Row development. (Any similarity to the name of this blog is entirely coincidental.) About a month ago trains started using the new track alignment, with southbound trains passing the west side of the new station's platform, and the T was estimating a "fall" time frame for opening the station.

Earlier this week boston dot com was reporting that the station would open next Wednesday, September 3rd, but this morning I got a T-Alert email from the T saying it will open on Tuesday. To my mind it might possibly have been a better strategy to "soft open" the station during the long weekend, but I don't work for the T (and perhaps they'll do that anyway).

I can say definitively that the new station will make it much easier for those shoppers and store employees who don't drive to get to and from the complex. For many years there have been two bus routes serving it, the 90 and 92; neither runs especially frequently, and the 92 only goes there between roughly 9 am and 4 pm (the rest of the time, it terminates at Sullivan station, roughly 3/4 of a mile away).

I went over there one day a few weeks ago to check out a couple of stores, and I was fortunate to make the connection from the bus I take from my house into Wellington station to the 90 bus that goes from there through Assembly Row with about a minute to spare. If the first bus had been running late, or had to stop for another traffic light, there's a good chance I might have missed the 90, and would have had to wait 40 minutes for the next one.

Will the addition of another station to the Orange Line affect commuting time? Probably not by more than a minute or two at most. Trains have been running at reduced speeds through the area for at least a year while construction proceeded, so running at normal speed and stopping at the station will likely end up taking the same amount of time, plus I don't think there will be many people waiting to get on there in the mornings, at least not initially. (Eventually there is supposed to be 2100 units of housing added to the complex; I believe there are apartments for rent now, but I have no idea how many.)

I want to believe that the 90 and 92 routes will be adjusted so that they connect at the new station on their way through the Assembly Row property, but this is the MBTA we're talking about, so no assumptions can be made. (I'm not even sure why the 90 would need to continue going to Wellington, since it makes no additional stops between there and Assembly Row, but you can still buy a buses-only T pass, so it may be that this piece of the route exists for the benefit of those riders who only use the system's buses.)

But Assembly station itself is ready to open, and possibly ahead of schedule, so let's be fair and give credit for that.

28 August 2014

Ones That Got Away

I have an unfortunate tendency to stumble across items of clothing or footwear that I like that are no longer available in my size. Part of this is the result of not having mainstream tastes, and part is just bad timing.
These Converse sneakers are the latest example. They're part of the long-running Jack Purcell line, which reaches back to the 1930s and is one of the plainest, simplest, most classic and tasteful canvas sneakers you can buy (see also: the Vans Authentic). The "Jack" is not as well-known as its big brother the Chuck Taylor All-Star, but people who know shoes know that All-Stars are notoriously uncomfortable, and their thick rubber soles make them heavy on the feet. So for many people "Chucks" are a phase to be grown out of, and often the next step is a pair of Jack Purcells.

The standard Jack Purcell is made of canvas, but these are different: this model is part of what I suppose someone in Converse's marketing department would call an "elevated" line, rendering their classic styles in nicer materials and special colorways. This shoe is leather, and everything is monochromatic, including the "smile" on the rubber toe cap that is usually navy blue and the brand tag on the heel. These nicer models get a cork footbed, which is great for comfort. Also, Jack Purcells don't usually have gum soles, and I think they look great on this shoe.

The color is called "egret" but I call it off-white or cream; it's also available in "french roast" and navy, both with the off-white trim, but this is by far the best-looking. The standard Jack Purcell is offered in leather in white or black, but it lacks the pizazz of this version. Also, I just think off-white sneakers look better than bright white ones.

For weeks these have been taunting me from Converse's website, available only in men's size 7. Generally I'm glad I don't have small feet, but small sizes tend to sell in smaller numbers and it can be easier to find unusual shoe styles in such sizes. The 11.5 was available for a while, but I know how these fit and they would be too big for me. Recently scattered sizes have begun to reappear in the various colors; I don't think Converse is going to produce another full run of this shoe (which would be ideal), but just as of this morning the size 12 is again available, so I'm not giving up hope yet on finding a pair in my size.

26 August 2014

That's No Baby...

I went out to run a quick errand today, and when I got on the bus there was a woman sitting in the side-facing seats just behind the driver with a baby carriage in front of her. I happened to sit in the first forward-facing seat directly behind them. After I sat down I looked up and saw a tan-and-black pug staring at me from the carriage. (In describing it, I realize now that I should have taken a picture of it.)

It didn't exactly surprise me, since people do weird stuff all the time, but it did catch me by surprise a bit. I didn't think non-service animals were allowed on T trains and buses, but a look at their website shows that I'm wrong, though it does say it's at the discretion of the operator. I don't know if that dog gets chauffeured around in that baby carriage all the time, or if it's just used for T trips.

25 August 2014

Car Stuff: Almost Got It

Sometimes I spot old cars when we're out driving around, or when I'm on the bus. I hurry to pull out my phone, hoping to get a picture or two in time. There are times when I'm just a bit too late, or even a little too early, and sometimes other cars get in the way.
As you can see I was a bit early on this one, but if I'd taken the shot a second later, I think the red Honda would have completely blocked the black car. It's an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, either a 1976 or '77 (I'd have to have gotten a better view of the grille to tell you which). This car was in really good overall condition and the day I saw it was maybe three months ago; it think the owner may have had it out for its first drive of the season.

24 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/23/14)

More stuff than usual this week, which maybe sorta makes up for the weeks when I don't have as much as I'd like...?

Get ready for Monday's Emmys with a pint-sized take on the best drama nominees. (Mashable via TV Tattle)

The prevalence of air conditioning has unquestionably changed our lives and our society. (Salon)

I don't know how Frank Lloyd Wright felt about air conditioning, but I know his work continues to influence subsequent generations of architects. (Vulture)

If you want to find out what's going on at this website, you'll need to keep an eye on the time. (Yahoo Tech)

Few men are better at conveying wisdom than Nick Offerman, regardless of its source. (Mashable)

And finally this week, whether or not you're familiar with the group Broken Bells or even like their music, this online jukebox with 100 of their favorite albums (plus their own two) is an awesome sampler of the past half-century of pop and rock music that you can listen to—and win. (Dappered)

23 August 2014

Retro Video Unit (8/22/14)

Inspiration can arrive from unexpected sources: a couple of days ago I was walking to catch a bus to do an errand in Medford Square. I passed a house that was having its front porches rebuilt, the workmen had a radio going, and this song was playing.

Brotherhood was a pretty big album for New Order in 1986, and "Bizarre Love Triangle" got a lot of airplay on WFNX and other alternative stations, but it had been a long, long time since I'd seen this clip.

22 August 2014

Friday Afternoon Laugh

I could have saved this for the weekend, but I liked it too much: a Funny or Die skit featuring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, co-starring in the new movie The One I Love, along with Ted Danson (who also appears in the movie). And it's only a couple of minutes long.

21 August 2014

Weekend Watch

FXX began its Simpsons marathon today, all 552 episodes plus the 2007 movie running nonstop, in order, through September 1st—truly an accurate definition of a marathon, at least in the TV sense of the word.

But maybe you don't care for The Simpsons, or don't have the inclination to watch more than a few episodes, but you're still looking for something good to watch this weekend. If you have Netflix streaming, I have a suggestion for you: Happy Valley, a BBC police drama which started streaming yesterday.

The six-episode series is centered on Catherine Cawood, a sergeant in Yorkshire, so this isn't Prime Suspect or Luther: the main character is a patrol officer and not a detective, and the action isn't in London. (Not that those other shows are bad; it's just nice to have things changed up a bit from the standard Brit-cop procedural. Now that I think about it, DCI Banks also takes place in Yorkshire.)

British TV shows tend to be produced in much shorter seasons than American shows, which makes them perfect for a weekend binge. On the other hand, the wait for subsequent seasons often ends up being much longer, but sometimes that's the price of entertainment.

20 August 2014

Coming Around Again

Fall clothes are starting to show up, and I have noticed a couple of items going through a cyclical revival. Bomber jackets started appearing about a year ago, but now there are a lot more of them, and in a wide variety of materials (cotton, nylon, wool, suede).

I don't personally care for this style, primarily because of my realization a few years back that I prefer my outerwear with collars. I do like the uncluttered appearance of a bomber-style jacket, with only a zipper and two slash pockets for your hands. It's a nice casual look, one that has been around in various forms for many decades going back to the varsity jacket, and less fussy people than me will certainly enjoy it.

I've also noticed a couple of brands offering band-collar shirts. This is another throwback; these had a moment in the late 1970s, when I was in high school, and I had a couple of them. It's a style that tries to pop up every couple of decades; the latest versions I've seen are in oxford cloth, which strikes me as just a bit too incongruous. But that's what designers do: mine the past, remixing styles in different fabrics.

I would suggest avoiding wearing a band-collar shirt with a bomber jacket, because a collarless shirt with a collarless jacket could make one look like someone suffering from an avoidance issue or a bizarre phobia of some sort. It's the same impulse that is supposed to prevent people from wearing denim jackets with jeans, but it doesn't always function as it should.

18 August 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #10

I've been trying to add variety so that I'm not just alternating between Random Sighting and Fantasy Garage weeks, but it is time for another FG installment.

Looking back at the cars I've covered so far, it seems like I overlooked something pretty obvious. I have a late-1960s Plymouth Barracuda and a 1967-68 Mercury Cougar, but no General Motors ponycar counterpart from the same time period. I've talked about the first-generation Camaro and Firebird, and I think that one of them should be represented.

It may not come as a big surprise that I prefer the Firebird to the Camaro. Both cars are attractive and had a wide variety of engines available. The Camaro would be the more obvious choice, which is part of the reason I'd choose a Firebird. The cars shared major body panels, so many of the differences are in the details, and those are the rest of the reasons.
The Firebirds had dual headlights and a grille split by the middle of the front bumper, which I think looks better than the Camaro's front end (though hidden headlights were optional on the Camaro, which earns it back a couple of points). Likewise, the Firebird's thin horizontal tail lights, borrowed from its bigger brother the GTO, are also more attractive than the plain square-block lights on the Camaro. And there are small fake louvers stamped into the sides behind the doors; it's just a little thing, but they add another touch of visual interest to the sides of the car.

The first-gen Camaro/Firebird ran from 1967-69. The 1969 models got updated sheet metal that is not as well-liked by many people, and though it looks fine to me I do feel it isn't quite as appealing as the first two years, so I would want either a '67 or '68 Firebird. The only visual differences between the '67 and '68 cars are the addition of side marker lights and the removal of the vent windows. Really I'd be fine with either, but since this is "Fantasy" Garage I might as well go for a first-year model.
I don't even feel all that picky about whether I'd prefer a convertible or a hardtop. I do know I'd want the 326 V8 because it was a good motor and I like small V8s in general. That hood-mounted tachometer is pretty cool, so let's throw in one of those. And the color? GM had two great shades of turquoise that year, a bright one and a deep one; either of those would work, and there was a turquoise interior that matched the lighter exterior color for the full '60s color-coordinated look. Growing up, a neighbor had a '67 Camaro in a deep maroon with a parchment (off-white) interior, and I think the parchment would also look good with the turquoise.

(Images from Old Car Brochures)

17 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/16/14)

Busy all day yesterday and a good part of today, but better late than not at all...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has someone in charge of making sure all their clocks keep accurate time, and she's been on the job for four decades. (The Wall Street Journal via Hodinkee)

When a piece of retail property changes hands, the new occupants are not always interested in putting a lot of effort into cosmetic storefront makeovers. (reddit via Consumerist)

Consumer goods can be bland, but they can also be interesting. (Esquire UK via Valet)

And finally this week, an intriguing look back at the making of Jaws from a movie critic who visited the set during filming. (The Daily Beast)

15 August 2014

Stopped Time

Yesterday morning around 5 AM, our kitchen clock fell off the wall. We have no idea why it happened, other than the possibility that the screw it was resting on worked itself far enough out of the wall over time, due to vibration from vehicles passing by outside, that the clock finally slipped off.

What's more strange is that neither of us heard it hit the floor. The fans add white noise and if both of us were deeply enough asleep then I guess we might not hear a crash two rooms away. The Mrs. discovered the aftermath when the dog woke her to go out.

We also now know that the lens covering the clock's face was made of glass, not plastic, which seems like an odd choice for something that could potentially fall and be smashed. However, it does appear to have been a safety glass like what's used in car windows, because the broken pieces were small and not jagged like you get when you drop a drinking glass.

I cleaned up the mess and replaced the battery, which had been dislodged in the fall (which is how I knew what time it had happened), and the clock started running again just fine, as it has for the past dozen years or however long we've had it. It no longer has a lens covering the face, but so what? It's still keeping time.

13 August 2014

Birthday Dog

Today is our dog London's birthday; she's 13. We adopted her right before she turned five. She's in good health for an elderly dog, though she's had some issues over the past few months. She had a UTI which was taken care of with antibiotics. At the vet's suggestion we started giving her pain medication for arthritis in her hips. She was also a few pounds underweight, mainly because she had less of an appetite and wasn't eating her usual amount of food.
So we made some changes to her diet, starting with switching to the senior-dog version of the dry food we've been feeding her since we got her. That was already getting chicken broth added to it, but the Mrs. did some research into older dogs' nutritional needs and decided to supplement the dog food with "people food." Now her kibble gets mixed with chicken, sweet potato, rice, and broccoli that was cooked in a slow cooker, with the broth and a dollop of ricotta cheese plopped on top.

She's been eating this new regimen very enthusiastically for about three weeks now, with some tweaking of the amounts, and seems to have put back a couple of pounds (not that you'd be able to tell from the picture). I've also been adding milk to the "snack" I give her in the morning, which makes her gobble that right up most days, where before she used to ignore it all day. Overall she's perky again and seems much more like her old self. She's happy and comfortable, and that's what we want for her.

12 August 2014

Summer Shoes

In the summer I like wearing simple canvas or leather sneakers, but sometimes one needs other shoes. I like the general look of boat shoes, but one thing I don't like, that almost all of them have, is the white soles. Once in a while you'll see a pair with black or dark brown soles, but ideally I'd prefer something more neutral.
A few years back J. Crew offered these Sperry Top-Siders with three sets of eyelets instead of two (which I also prefer) and tan soles, in a very nice medium brown leather (the color shows more accurately in the picture below).
When they hit the sale section most sizes were gone. I was on a waiting list but my order was eventually canceled; months later they abruptly reappeared in my size and actually shipped after I ordered them (most J. Crew online shoppers are probably familiar with phantom orders). I haven't even worn them all that much, but that's okay because they'll stay nice-looking longer.

11 August 2014

Car Stuff: Spotted in Traffic

In addition to shooting pictures of parked cars, I've accumulated a small selection of shots I managed to get while on the road. Some of them get partly cut off (though I may use them anyway), while others show the whole car but only from one angle or side.
I took this shot on Mother's Day as we were on our way to RI (with apologies for the windshield reflection). This is on 93 southbound, just before it passes under East Milton Square. The car is a second-generation (E28) BMW 5-Series from the 1980s (1981-88, to be specific).

I thought that may have been an M5 badge on the trunk, which would have been a very rare sighting—according to Wikipedia, only 2191 were produced, and that number includes versions for Europe as well as the right-hand-drive UK version. I don't know how many of them were sent to the US, but I'd bet it's probably no more than 25% of them, since it wasn't a very well-known car yet. But all M5s had blacked-out trim around the windows and tail lights and were only available in black, plus the M5 badge had angled blue and red stripes to the left of the letter M.

Even so, spotting a "regular" 5-Series of this vintage is unusual. I've never been as excited by BMW's cars as many other people are, but I have always liked this generation of the 5-Series a lot. It's probably because back when this car was new, a BMW was still a car for serious drivers rather than the signifier of status that they have become.

09 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/9/14)

It seems like I was a bit more on top of things in general this week. It's frightening that I find this surprising. Regardless, TWiA is making its first Saturday appearance in a couple of months...

Everyone has probably seen this already, but if you haven't it should give you a chuckle.

Apple was a very different company back in the '80s. Can't imagine this happening now. (Fast Company via Boy Genius Report)

This week's crypto-techy-nerdy rabbit hole: numbers stations. (Wikipedia via The A.V. Club)

And how about a good historical-sociocultural piece? (The Atlantic via Yahoo Tech)

And finally this week, some thoughts on growing up in a time when children were not monitored so closely by parents. (Feedly via Dappered)

08 August 2014

Retro Video Unit (8/8/14)

I have a queue of videos to use, but sometimes I look at the list and feel they aren't quite right, and as I was doing that just now another song title popped into my head, so tonight it's "Don't Worry Baby" by Los Lobos.

I've seen them live a couple of times, including an acoustic set at the old Borders downtown. They are a phenomenal band and I believe they've never gotten enough credit for their talents. They absorbed decades of musical and cultural influences from the American and Mexican/Latino realms, and combined them into something completely original. Their music is the best kind of roots music.

07 August 2014

Under the Chair, Over the Carpet

I spend a lot of time at my computer. I still have a desktop setup; I don't like typing on laptops, I prefer a large screen, and I just find it more comfortable overall to use a traditional setup at my desk rather than hunch over a laptop, or sit with one on the couch as the Mrs. does.

Back in June I mentioned that I had worn a hole in the plastic chair mat where I sit, mainly from having my weight press on a certain spot. (I have to have a mat because the room is carpeted.) We went to look for a replacement, and liked the ones made of strips of bamboo wood mounted to a flexible backing. They are far more attractive than the plastic alternative, and the Mrs. had a Staples gift card so I only had to pay the difference.

Some people have said that the bamboo can get scratched depending on what kind of chair you use and what kind of wheels it has, but it's still going to be far more durable than a plastic mat and will likely still be more attractive.

Now, Staples sells two brands of these mats, their own and another that is far more expensive. But the Staples-brand mats are not online, so you have to go to a store to get one. They come in two sizes and two finishes, "natural" (which resembles hardwood flooring and goes nicely with our bookcases and my desk) and a darker, browner finish that I think is called "cherry."

06 August 2014

We Can Rebuild Him

Holy crap, we got some new channel I've never heard of added to our cable package, and they're showing reruns of The Six Million Dollar Man. That's almost as cheesetastic as T.J. Hooker.

Edit: I've had time to think about it, and watch part of an episode, and I definitely think it's better/worse than T.J. Hooker.

04 August 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #29

In stalking sometimes elusive vintage cars, I have learned that when I see something interesting, it's better not to procrastinate about getting pictures of it. (I'm planning a return visit to last week's featured garage to see what new stuff has rolled in.) I spotted today's specimen, parked in front of another repair garage, about five minutes after photographing the beige Matador, but I didn't want to make the Mrs. stop again, so I went back on my own a couple of days later. I was in the same area within the past two weeks and the car was gone, so I'm glad I shot it when I did.
There was no way I could miss a car painted this color, and at first I assumed that it had to be a repaint, but another quick visit to PaintRef confirmed that Monarch Yellow was indeed a factory Pontiac offering in 1972 for this car, a Grand Prix, and other models. Then again, friends of our family had a '72 Pontiac LeMans station wagon in Quezal Gold (this color), so I shouldn't have been surprised by the yellow; it was the '70s, after all. I'm not a fan of yellow in general, but it does look good with the white vinyl top and white interior.
The Grand Prix first appeared in 1962 as a specialty model of the full-size Pontiac line. Sales declined in the second half of the 1960s due to the popularity of smaller sporty cars like the Mustang and Camaro, so for the '69 model year the car was moved to the mid-size platform but given an extended wheelbase to ride on, and the longest hood ever fitted to a Pontiac. (For 1970 Chevrolet also got to build its own version of this car, the first Monte Carlo.)

This car helped bring the personal-luxury idea down from Thunderbird and Riviera territory to a more accessible price, and in the '70s this segment exploded with cars like the Grand Prix, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and the Chrysler Cordoba racking up hundreds of thousands of sales per model year.
The 1969 and '70 Grand Prixs had quad headlights, which I think look much better than these single units, which appeared with a '71 restyle and are a bit too baroque for my taste. The rear also got busier that year with an angled center section, but I couldn't get a shot of this car's back end due to how it was parked, so you can see how it looked over here. The choice of wheels is very unfortunate, but easy enough to change. I think the driver's door has been repainted; it looks a bit brighter than the rest of the car.
This car has lots of cool little details like a wraparound instrument panel, a console angled toward the driver, pop-out door handles, and rear side windows that retract horizontally instead of dropping down like most windows. Leather seats were also available, which was unusual on non-luxury brand cars at the time.

About 25 years ago I had a ride in a Grand Prix of this vintage, and it was a lot of fun. They're very cool cars, and if you're looking for something a bit unusual in a vintage car that will provide fun summer cruising (with voluminous fuel consumption), a 1969-72 GP would be an interesting choice.

03 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/2/14)

Ooh, two hours to spare...

This will be of interest primarily to those who were fans of the early '90s TV series Twin Peaks, but may be of interest to fans of the Muppets as well. I'll let you figure it out. (Digital Spy via TV Tattle)

Everything (probably) you ever wanted to know about the fake currency used in movies and TV shows. (Priceonomics via the A.V. Club)

If you like whiskey, you probably know that there's been a huge increase in small-batch and boutique-brand offerings over the past few years (particularly rye), but not all of it is what it seems to be. (The Daily Beast via Dappered)

And finally this week: the '80s. Some of us lived through it and had a great time; others would prefer to forget everything that happened. Los Angeles magazine has amassed a compendium of material related to the decade—music, fashion, movies, TV, art, food... It's the kind of thing you may want to bookmark and refer back to later.

01 August 2014

Hideous Shoes Unit: Clearance Edition

I was poking through the sale section of the Urban Outfitters website in the hope of finding some interesting Vans when I came across these two offerings. I think it's clear why they are on clearance: because no one would want them.
You could still get a month or two of use out of these Sperry Top-Siders in a back-to-front ombre fade design. These aren't leather but canvas, and they're marked down from $85 to $60.
These Florsheim saddle shoes (it doesn't say so, but they must be from the Duckie Brown collection) are a much more advanced style move, so you'd better have your game in order. No reviews yet? Guess you'll have to be the trailblazer. Originally $335, now only $100—that's 70% off! Only sizes 8 and 9 are left, though. Really?

31 July 2014

Someone's at the Door

When our doorbell rings and I'm not expecting takeout, I almost never answer the door, because it generally turns out to be either religious folks, political folks, or salespeople. I have a small advantage in that one of the windows in our living room looks directly onto the front porch and I can peek out and see whoever is standing there without them noticing me.

I figure it's easier for the caller to get no answer than for me to have to tell them I'm not interested in whatever has brought them to our door. Sometimes I wonder how successful any of these ventures are; the people hawking Verizon FIOS don't actually work for Verizon, but are subcontractors that add layers of complication to the process, and if I'm going to switch TV and internet providers I'll just go online and deal directly with the company.

Likewise, if I happened to be casting around for a new religion, would I really make that decision based on someone coming to my house? (Well, depending on my spirituality I suppose I might in fact consider it a sign of some sort.) As for political types, if it was a candidate going door to door to meet potential constituents, I might be interested in a conversation, but more typically it's just someone passing out literature that can be left for us to look at later.

29 July 2014

Car Stuff: Repair Shop Lot

I tend to be on watch for individual vehicles, but one day we were driving through Arlington and I spotted a repair shop with all sorts of old stuff parked in front of it. By the time I made my way back there on my own, at least one of the cars I'd seen that day was gone, but it was still worth the trip.
This 1977 Oldsmobile 98 sedan was parked facing a side street. It's is an interesting car to come across, as it's the first year of the greatly downsized full-size GM cars, and the improvements in efficiency with equivalent interior space were significant achievements at the time. This one is in outstanding condition and appears complete, though maybe it needs some mechanical attention. (Growing up I had a friend whose mother had one of these, in dark blue with a light blue vinyl top and matching light blue velour interior.)
This very rough Ford Econoline window van could be anywhere from a 1961 to a '67; there were no exterior changes during its run.
This Cadillac Sedan deVille, a 1966, was so big and had cars parked so close all around it that I could not get a shot with the whole car in the frame, plus it was further back into the lot and I didn't want to risk angering anyone. Behind it you can just make out the unmistakable shape of an AMC Pacer.
A 1980s Chevrolet Caprice appears to be someone's daily driver, since it has license plates and is parked on the street.
Here's a Dodge Coronet police car, either a 1975 or '76. It's still wearing official plates, which could mean it's being kept by the Boston Police Department. Behind the cruiser is a 1960s Dodge pickup.
That's a 1975 Chevrolet Malibu Classic coupe that looks like it needs only some wheel covers to hit the road.
And here's an early-'90s Ford Crown Victoria being moved, with another Caprice behind it in the lot. Seeing these cars, particularly the Olds 98, Malibu, and Coronet police car, got me wondering if any of them were in the process of being prepared for use in Black Mass, the Bulger film being shot around the area this summer. We'll have to wait until it comes out next year to find out.

28 July 2014

Last Week in Awesome (7/26/14)

You probably thought I wasn't doing it again this weekend, but I just forgot...

The New York Times has a tumblr that delves into their vast photography archives. (Cult of Mac)

Apparently some people still customize vans. (Hemmings)

I don't know how many people have wondered about the geography of Gotham City, but naturally there are maps. (Smithsonian via Transit Maps)

And finally last week, it can be a blessing and a curse: autocorrect. (Wired via Kempt)

26 July 2014

Retro Video Unit (7/25/14)

Sorry about that, yesterday was occupied by non-blog stuff.

Checking out all the new videos from Weird Al Yankovic over the past couple of weeks inevitably led to some of his older ones (and there was a good piece on Vulture last week where he talked about a bunch of them), which then led me to one of the original songs Al parodied, "Jeopardy" by the Greg Kihn Band:

23 July 2014

Grooming Garage: 3 to 5

For a long time I have maintained that there was no point in using a razor with more than three blades, so it's with some surprise that I find I'm now using five-blade razors.

It happened by accident: I ran out of blade cartridges for my Schick Hydro 3 handle. I went through my toiletry stuff to see what I might have that I could use that day, and found an unopened Hydro 5 razor that I think I'd gotten as a free bonus item in a shipment from drugstore.com. I used it and felt like it was an improvement over the three-blade version, and after two subsequent shaves I was still feeling that way. Since I had to buy more cartridges anyway it seemed like I might as well switch.

Then I found out that Schick offers a sensitive-skin version of the Hydro 5 cartridge. I guess the lotion is different or something, but for me it's even more comfortable than the regular version. The sensitive cartridges do cost a bit more than the regular ones, but for me it's worth it, and there are coupons for Schick products in the Sunday paper about once a month.

One other nice feature of both kinds of Hydro 5 cartridges that isn't offered on the Hydro 3 (or any other razor cartridge that I'm aware of) is the top part of the cartridge, the part above the blades that holds the lotion, flips back for trimming smaller areas like under my nose. The large head size was always one of my main issues with multi-blade cartridges, so that's no longer an issue.

22 July 2014

Back Seat Rider

Last week I needed to use Uber, and my ride turned out to be a previous-generation Audi A4. I have a friend who has one (actually it's an S4, the sportier version, but it's the same car) but I'd never been in the back seat of his car. A couple of months ago I used Uber and my ride was driving a previous-generation BMW 3-Series sedan, a car I'd never been in before.

Both of these cars are often bought by image-conscious people. Neither car is particularly large, but when I use UberX the front passenger seat is usually moved all the way forward to maximize rear seat room for a single passenger. I found the BMW's back seat to be much more cramped and much less comfortable overall than the Audi's. This isn't exactly a surprise, but it was interesting for me to be able to confirm it personally.

I also wonder how the newer generations of these cars compare to each other. I don't think anyone buys either car because of its rear-seat room, but even if people aren't driving for Uber, they must have passengers in their back seats sometimes.

21 July 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #9

It's time for another Fantasy Garage already? Well, recently I've written about moderately-sized personal cars like the Cougar and Barracuda, and I'd like to throw the Firebird into that discussion, but I'm going to hold off for now and swing back to something large and luxurious, because as I mentioned in my Matador article last week, that's still where the heart of the US car market was in the late 1960s (though a shift was underway).

I've already established that I have a thing for big four-door hardtops, which reached their style peak around the mid-to-late '60s before starting a slow fade from popularity. Among such cars, one of my favorites is the 1968 Chrysler 300. The "non-letter" 300 series was introduced in 1962 as a way to expand the expensive, limited production letter cars (like the 300F I started this series with) and bring some of their cachet to a broader, lower-priced lineup of models.
By 1966 the enormous 440 cubic-inch V8, the largest engine Chrysler Corporation produced, was standard on the 300 and other Chrysler models. (In later years many of these cars became engine donors for swaps into other Plymouth and Dodge models.) The 300 was the middle line, below the New Yorker but above the Newport Custom and Newport; its intent was to combine luxury with sportiness, which is part of why it appeals to me.

Another reason, probably the main one, is because it's one of the only four-door hardtops I'm aware of that came with standard bucket seats and an optional console at a time when four-door cars almost exclusively came with bench seats. (I believe this setup was also available on the Buick Wildcat, very much a GM counterpart to the 300, but it may be the only other one I know of; I've always been somewhat surprised that Pontiac didn't try offering a four-door hardtop version of the Grand Prix during the '60s.)
So why would I specifically choose a '68 300 (or "Three Hundred," as it appeared on the side of the car)? The final model years of 1969-'71 are nearly as appealing with their "fuselage" styling, and I'd probably be just as happy with one of those, but as is often the case, it's in the details. The body panels are identical to those of the '67, but the front end gained hidden headlights (always a bonus for me) with a red-trimmed grille dividing bar, and horizontal tail lights which I prefer to the vertical ones on the '67.

The sides of the car are fairly plain, but if you view the front end of the car from above it's heavily sculpted, with bladelike fender ends and a center peak; these are the sort of body details that started to get sanded away shortly afterward as car companies looked to reduce their engineering, design, and assembly costs. To me this car represents that period of transition at Chrysler and stands as a reminder of everything that had led up to it.

(Images from Old Car Brochures, as usual.)

20 July 2014

This Week in Awesome (7/19/14)

Right, let's take care of this weekend thing...

The Awkward Family Photos, um, family has grown since I last checked in. Of course, the original site is always worth a look, but maybe not after you've eaten.

Did you know some of the drones that regular folks can buy come equipped with cameras? (Yahoo Tech via Dronestagram & National Geographic)

And finally this week, a couple of articles about one of my favorite childhood toys: die-cast cars. (Hemmings blog; The Truth About Cars)

Too Quiet

Oh hi. So yeah, things were a little quiet and sparse around here the past few days. Life happens, you know? I'll be back later with TWiA.

17 July 2014

Facing Front

Look what I finally found backed into its driveway: the neighbor's red 1968 Camaro.
This car arrives each spring, presumably from storage, but is never, ever parked on the street (perfectly understandable) and is almost always pulled into the driveway front end first. Now it's been parked in this spot for a couple of days, which has me wondering if it's in need of repair.

It's also worth noting that this is not a Super Sport or Rally Sport model, but just a "basic" Camaro. The wheels and tires are not standard, and I have no idea what sort of engine is motivating it, but it's still nice to see an old muscle/pony car with a mostly original appearance.

15 July 2014


Yesterday the city installed a new utility pole adjacent to our driveway, next to the old one. Today the bucket trucks were back along with a blocked street and a police officer to guide motorists around the block. The officer told me yesterday that the utility companies needed to come to switch over the wires.

A little after 10 am the doorbell rang, and I figured it was related to the work. A worker was on the porch and informed me that the power would be shut off in about 20 minutes so the wire carrying electricity could be moved to the new pole, which could take up to 90 minutes. I hurriedly finished my breakfast so I would not have to open the refrigerator while the power was off, and shut off the air conditioners and my computer.

It took a while longer than the estimate before the shutoff occurred. I sat in the coolest room and read the newspaper and a book. It didn't get as warm inside as I'd expected, and power came back on after only about an hour. Fortunately it was not nearly as much of an inconvenience as it might have been on a day as humid as this one was.

14 July 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #28

Cars keep appearing for me to feature in this series. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of a car in passing and make my way back, hoping it's still there. So far I've had about 50% success in those situations. A couple of months ago we were driving down Mystic Avenue in Medford and I spotted something old and beige sitting in an empty lot. A month or so later we were in the same area and the car was still there, so the Mrs. kindly turned around and went back so I could get these pictures.
American Motors Corporation was formed in 1954 when the companies that made the Nash and Hudson brand cars merged. Within three years both those makes were dead and the company focused on Nash's compact Rambler, expanding the brand to a line of compact and midsize cars as a deliberate strategy against the excesses of most other American carmakers in the late 1950s. During the mid- to late 1960s the Rambler name was gradually replaced by AMC as each model line was redesigned.

During this period AMC made respectable efforts to market cars that matched other companies' offerings. For 1968 the Javelin was introduced as a competitor to the Mustang, Camaro/Firebird, and Barracuda. For 1970 they fielded the Hornet, an attractive compact alternative to the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant, Chevrolet Nova, and Ford's new Maverick. Later that year, a shortened variant of the Hornet became the infamous Gremlin.
But in the early 1970s, the heart of the American car market was still (for the time being) large and midsized cars, which brings us to this 1973 AMC Matador sedan. Why it's been left in the corner of this property, which is going to be the future new home of a Volkswagen dealer moving from about half a mile down the street, we can only speculate. I'm not sure what used to be on this piece of land, but maybe this car had been stored there and had to be moved so a building could be demolished.

The Matador began as the AMC Rebel, which replaced the Rambler Classic for 1967. It was a very attractive car, but for 1970 the Rebel got a questionable restyle that, at least in the case of the four-door sedan, looked like the back half of a different car had been grafted to a Rebel's front half. (Compare it to this brochure pic of a '68 Rebel and you'll see what I mean.) For reasons I don't understand, the station wagons retained the rear doors that had also been used on the '67-'69 Rebel sedans, and thus ended up remaining the best-looking Matador model for the rest of its production run. (Here's a '74 Matador wagon to illustrate my point.)
For more reasons I don't understand (which is a phrase that comes up frequently when discussing AMC), the 1970 Rebel became the 1971 Matador with some minor changes to the front end that made it vaguely less disjointed-looking. It would have made far more sense to rename the car for '70 along with the redesign, but it didn't happen that way. The Matador would see one more restyling for '74 (mainly to meet the federal bumper requirements) and would hang around through the '78 model year before finally being taken out behind the barn and put out of its misery.

AMC had almost as many lives as a cat, but there was no happy ending, except for Jeep, which AMC had purchased in 1970. Chrysler Corporation, a company that also knew a few things about second and third acts, purchased all of AMC's stock in 1987 for the bargain-basement price of $1.5 billion, mainly to obtain the Jeep brand and products, which worked out pretty well for Chrysler.

13 July 2014

This Week in Awesome (7/12/14)

Well, the sun hasn't gone down yet... it was a busier than normal weekend.

The YouTube channel Music Vault has thousands of concert performances available to watch. (Boy Genius Report)

Vintage Boston subway maps are always worth looking at. (Transit Maps)

Ever see a poster for a movie and feel like it looks really familiar? You're not wrong. (Mentorless via The A.V. Club)

And finally this week, an interesting article on the state of crossword puzzles in the age of apps. (The Atlantic)

11 July 2014

Retro Video Unit (7/11/14)

I heard this while ordering food this afternoon, and sometimes that's how they get chosen, nothing more to it: Echo and the Bunnymen, "Lips Like Sugar."

(Housekeeping edit: how do people feel about this new default size for YouTube videos?)

10 July 2014

New Clothing Shouldn't Smell Weird

I just realized I never relayed this weird incident: I've been trying not to buy things, but a couple of months ago I found something I've been after for a long time: a dark gray chambray shirt that's not a work shirt but styled like a casual shirt with a button-down collar and a single pocket. It was at Old Navy and was only $16, so I bought it online, along with another item from Gap.

When the shirt arrived, I immediately noticed it had a weird smell, not necessarily a bad smell, but something you shouldn't smell from a new garment. It was a chemical smell, or possibly petroleum-based; I could never pin it down definitively. The Mrs. said to her it smelled like mildew, but my nose wasn't getting that, and there was no visible evidence to support either conclusion. I ran it through the wash and hung it up to dry. I went downstairs the next day to get it, and the smell was still there, so a couple of days later I washed it again with no change.

I left it hanging in the basement for a while and periodically checked it, but the smell remained. I thought perhaps our scent-free detergent was not strong enough to eradicate the smell, so a couple of weeks later I took a walk to a nearby laundromat and bought a single-load package of Tide from the vending machine. Tide's scent is so strong I figured it could take care of anything. Same process, same result: as the Tide smell faded away, I could tell the original smell was still there, though it did seem like it may have been a little less noticeable.

I had used only about half of the Tide, so I ran more water in the washing machine, added the detergent, and let the shirt soak for several hours before running another wash cycle. When I hung it up all I could smell was Tide. I stayed away from it for a couple of days, but by then the Tide had faded away again, and there was no change in the shirt's smell. I reasoned that it had to be a component of the dye, or some other aspect of the production process.

This was much more effort than I had ever had to make to remove a smell from clothing, and I decided I had done enough. As much as I wanted to keep the shirt, I had no choice but to return it. Curiously, it had disappeared from the Old Navy site around the time my order arrived, so I was unable to return it for an exchange. At the store a clerk checked the inventory and found two in the same size, but in New York state somewhere. It wasn't worth it to me to pursue another one. I think I just wasn't meant to have that particular shirt, and so the search continues...

Monday, 7/14: After I got a comment on this post, I realized that I had left out part of the story. Two people suggested soaking the shirt in a baking soda and water mixture, so after all the washings did not help, I did soak the shirt, but unfortunately that effort did not help either.

08 July 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #8

In my previous Fantasy Garage post I touched on the enormous success of the Mustang as it related to the Mercury Cougar. I've never found Mustangs all that exciting and probably wouldn't want to own one, but I do find some of the Mustang's competition appealing. It took GM more than two years after the introduction of the Mustang to get its response, the Camaro and Firebird, to market, but in the spring of 1964 Chrysler had a small, sporty car on sale a few weeks before the debut of the Mustang.

The Plymouth Barracuda wasn't nearly as successful as the Mustang, largely because from the waist down it was still a lowly compact Valiant; a fastback roofline with a large, curved rear window were the only visual differences between it and a Valiant two-door hardtop. It was still a good move, but compared to a Mustang it wasn't going to excite anyone. (I was looking for sales figures but couldn't find them readily.)
Both the Valiant and Barracuda were redesigned for 1967, and Plymouth wisely gave the Barracuda its own sheet metal, though one look at the dashboard made it clear it was still Valiant-based. Also new for '67 were coupe and convertible body styles along with the fastback, just like Mustang offered. Consequently, Valiant lost its hardtop and convertible models, while its Dodge cousin the Dart retained them; for '70, Dodge got the Challenger, its own variant of the Barracuda, and a year later Plymouth regained a Valiant hardtop, the Scamp.

Most people are into the beefier and more muscle-oriented 1970-74 Barracudas, but I'm not most people; I'd much rather have a 1967-'69 model, in particular a convertible. The '67-'69 styling is much more appealing to me. It's clean and trim, with none of the bloat that was coming to define the entire industry by the early 1970s.
I spotted this one in traffic a couple of months ago while we were out on a nice Sunday in the spring, but it was partially blocked by other vehicles so not much of it is visible. From the rear styling I think it's a '67. (Those wheels and side moldings are not original.)

Several of Chrysler's big V8 engines were available (some only in special packages), but I'd prefer my hypothetical car to have the plain old 318, which for '68 replaced the 273 as the smallest V8 available. It's capable of providing more than enough power for a car of this size without the penalty of horrific gas mileage. Whether for a modestly trimmed Barracuda intended for everyday driving when new or for present-day weekend cruising, the 318 would be a much more sensible engine choice.
Identifying the specific model year is tricky, as the grille and tail light changes were very minor, so the easiest thing to do, as noted previously, is look for side marker lights, or the lack of them. Small, round side marker lights? It's a '68. Rectangular ones? '69. None? '67.

One other cool note: in '69 Dodge and Plymouth offered an appearance package on certain models, including the Barracuda coupe, called Mod Top, which featured vinyl tops in floral patterns and matching fabric on the seats and door panels. These are quite rare but very groovy-looking.

(Top image from Wikipedia; bottom from The Truth About Cars.)

07 July 2014


My brain is still in holiday-weekend mode.
We had a bit of serious weather around here this evening (no damage or anything).
I'm immersed in a good book.

All of which are alternate ways of saying: there will be a new Car Stuff entry, but I won't get to it until tomorrow.

06 July 2014

This Week in Awesome (7/5/14)

This is another one that kind of stretches back to last week, but I hadn't found enough interesting stuff yet...

I don't know if anyone will care enough to follow these rules, but I like that someone made the effort to express them. (Wired)

I've often wondered how the American accent diverged from the British accent, but the answer was not what I was expecting. (Live Science via Dappered)

I managed to miss the whole Trapper Keeper thing, but regardless of your age, you can now get a facsimile of one to cover your tablet. (Esquire Style Blog)

The US Geological Survey created an online map exploration tool that's pretty neat. (boston dot com)

And finally this week, another map, but this one is of an imaginary land known as "where all movies take place." (Electric Literature via The A.V. Club)

03 July 2014

Awareness Is Important

I don't want to bum anyone out as we head into a long holiday weekend, but sometimes serious things need to be considered. As so often happens online, I was looking at something that led me to something else, which is how I became aware of a smartphone app called Cruelty Cutter. Scan a product's bar code and the app tells you whether or not the company tests on animals.

I admit this is a concern that has not been on my radar. I try to be aware of companies' ethical policies and environmental records, but I hadn't given any thought to animal testing, and as a dog owner I definitely should be. We rescued a dog that was raced, but thousands of other dogs suffer more unpleasant conditions for the benefit of corporate profits.

The app's web page has a graphic showing over 60 companies that do test on animals. Unsurprisingly, some of the largest consumer-product companies in the world are listed; chances are there's something in your house that was tested on animals. There are a couple of surprises here: I always thought of Neutrogena as a company with higher principles. And I certainly raised an eyebrow at Iams, a PET FOOD company, but then I learned it's part of Procter & Gamble, which made it less surprising.

Naturally this prompted a review of the products we buy and use. We have Arm & Hammer laundry detergent and toothpaste, and Lysol cleaning products; I use Old Spice antiperspirant and shower soap and Listerine breath strips. In some cases I buy the generic equivalent of a product (Target's mouthwash is less than half the price of Listerine), but I don't yet know if it's cruelty-free or not. Sometimes generics are manufactured in the same factories as the branded products using the same ingredients.

With most of these products, we can make or already have made a substitution. The main issue from a consumer point of view is that in most cases it ends up costing more. Target carries Seventh Generation products at much better prices than Whole Foods or anywhere else I've seen them. A few months ago we decided to try 7G's dish soap because we had a coupon. It lasts just as long and works just as well as whatever we were buying before, so we have continued to buy it. Trader Joe's now has its own-brand equivalent to Tom's toothpaste that is cheaper.

We have a large quantity of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent because it's frequently on sale; recently, by using a coupon during a sale at Stop & Shop, I was able to get two bottles of it for $1. But there will come a point when we need to buy more, and there are options: Seventh Generation and Method, though both of those are more costly. Costco's Kirkland line is much more economical, but I'll need to check it with the app.

I also need to find substitutes for my soap and antiperspirant. For a long time Tom's offered only deodorants, but now they have an antiperspirant, and it's available unscented, so I will be trying that soon. I've bought Target's shower soap many times, but again I will need to check it with the app. Zest is another possibility. Oh, and there's also the Listerine breath strips, which I find much more convenient to carry than mints. There are generic equivalents, but they taste terrible.

There are a couple of important takeaways here: marketing is both pervasive and insidious, and companies are not going to make consumers aware of information that they would rather we not know; it's up to us to find out. I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty about the products you buy and use, but I sincerely hope you will give this issue some thought.

Addendum: I should note that the Cruelty Cutter app is $2.99, but purchasing it helps fund the not-for-profit Beagle Freedom Project.