24 October 2014

More Shameless Self-Promotion

I've been selling stuff on eBay for a while now. I've been a member of eBay for 15 years, but originally that was just as a buyer. But along the way I accumulated a lot of clothes, shoes, watches, and other stuff, and not all of it worked out for various reasons, so about ten years ago I started selling things sporadically.

I've got another batch of items for sale, both to clear out stuff that I can't use and to bring in some fundage. At the moment most of it is shoes and sneakers in sizes 10.5 and 11; there's also a nice vintage Burberry raincoat in size 40 regular, and I've been culling my collection of watches and selling some of them. I do have some additional outerwear and other clothing items to get to, and I add an item or two every few days, so if you find any of it interesting, you may want to bookmark my items for sale page and keep checking it. (And if for any reason that link doesn't work, please get in touch and I'll figure out why.)

22 October 2014

Dubious Fashion Choice

Waiting for a subway train today at North Station, I saw a guy wearing what I would have to describe as "skinny sweatpants." Naturally I think it's bad enough that someone thinks it's okay to wear sweatpants out in public (and by "out in public" I mean "anywhere beyond one's front porch or yard"), but it's even worse that he'd chosen to wear something in public that looked like he'd swiped it from his middle-school-age brother, or possibly his girlfriend.

Didn't guys learn anything from the skinny jeans fad? You are not Mick Jagger. You have not earned the right to dress like him. And now our favorite cozy, indoor lazy pants are being subjected to the same stylistic missteps, which obviously at least one guy thinks is okay.

I'm blaming the designers for this one. They've been meddling with our sweats; I've noticed a recent boomlet of sweatpant offerings from various fashionable brands and labels, with accompanyingly inflated prices. Todd Snyder's collaboration with Champion: $118. (I will admit I like the contrast waistband on those, but...) Acne: $220! (Wow, zippered pockets.) Club Monaco: $389!! (At least they're cashmere. Yup, cashmere sweatpants.) Band of Outsiders: $575!!! (A mostly wool/cotton blend, with cargo pockets. When you put it that way, who could resist?) Even damn Gap sweats are $50 $40. (Anyone who pays full retail for any item at Gap deserves to be ripped off.)

I have two or three of pairs of sweatpants that I wear around the house when it's cold. I'm sure I didn't pay over $12 for any of them, and they aren't crappy polyester blends either. I either got them in cheap stores like Old Navy or I found them on clearance in other, moderately priced stores.

The worst part of when designers get hold of a simple, utilitarian, everyday item isn't the obscene markup itself, it's that there are people who see such an item and think "I need to have a pair of those." And when someone drops $200 on a pair of sweatpants, he thinks he needs to wear them everywhere to justify the expense. What's the next step, designerified thermal underwear?

21 October 2014

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Normally I get our air conditioners out and stored away for the winter by early October, but the temperatures hadn't been that cold, and I had a feeling the warm weather wasn't finished yet. It seemed like each week we were having a couple of days with temps peaking at around 72, and then last week we had a five-day run of that, with Wednesday approaching 80 and oppressive humidity for almost the entire time.

We ended up running the AC Wednesday, overnight, and Thursday, which was the day it rained buckets and felt tropical. But then, as is typical, Sunday night and Monday morning we had an abrupt cooldown, with a low around 35 yesterday morning, so I figured it was finally time to put away the AC units.

It's supposed to rain again for much of this week and I was kind of busy yesterday. It's supposed to rain for much of this week but today was mostly dry, so I decided I'd rather get the units out now, otherwise I'd have to wait for them to dry out again. Back in June I purchased a hand truck to make this task easier, but today I learned its limitations.

I had previously borrowed a hand truck with air-filled tires and had intended to purchase one like it, but I ended up opting to save a few dollars by getting one with solid rubber tires. That wasn't such a big deal when pulling the hand truck up the steps from the basement to outside (all the houses around here have both internal and external basement access), but going down the steps was a different story.

The air-filled tires are mounted on larger wheels and are offset a bit more from the frame, so negotiating steps either up or down is much less jarring. Banging down the steps jarred our oldest unit, one with knobs instead of a touch panel, enough to break off the on/off knob. I tried to put it back on but bouncing down the steps had also dislodged something inside, so there was nothing there for the knob to attach to. It must be still inside, but getting at it will require opening up the unit. Worst-case, we'll have to replace that unit.

I decided to defer dealing with it until next year, when it's likely I will also rectify my mistake by buying another hand truck, this time one with pneumatic tires. If anyone local can make use of a hard-tired one, I'll sell it to you cheap.

20 October 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #31

Random Sighting was supposed to appear last week, but I guess I got confused...
This is a 1987-90 Chevrolet Caprice, a car that I first spotted in my neighborhood almost a year ago. In fact, the first photo goes all the way back to April, but I had first seen the car in January and taken a few shots of it, then I had a problem with my phone and lost some pictures that I hadn't bothered to back up, so when I saw it again in April I took another pic. Then in June I saw the car on the street again and took a couple more shots.
I'm not sure why I sometimes see it on the street, then I'll pass the same spot and not see it again for months at a time. Maybe it's usually garaged, or maybe it's just visiting. It's certainly well kept and cared for. I've featured a Caprice before and other GM full-size cars from this period, but this may be the nicest one of them, or at least the top three.
This design first appeared for 1977, saw its only significant revisions for 1980, and continued through 1990 before its replacement, sometimes referred to as the "bathtub Caprice," was introduced for '91. The script badge on the trunk is causing me a bit of trouble in pinpointing the year of this one: as far as I'd always known, all of these cars had block-letter badges, so it's possible the owner switched it out for one of these, which I think came off an older (1960s or '70s) model.

I always liked these cars. It may not be exciting looking, but the lines and proportions just look right to me and, as this car demonstrates, they were pretty durable if properly cared for.

19 October 2014

This Week in Awesome (10/18/14)

I didn't forget, honest...

Robert Plant performed on The Colbert Report last week, and while I was never much of a Led Zeppelin fan while they were active, I came to appreciate their music later, and what he's doing now is pretty cool. I'd love to hear Florence Welch singing this particular song, or how about a duet?

We haven't had a time-lapse in a while, so I'm pleased it's of Boston. (Vimeo via Universal Hub)

Warren Elsmore is a clever guy who LEGOized a supercut of a bunch of movies. (The A.V. Club)

The World Series is again upon us, and the New York Times used facebook likes to create a map of how team loyalties are divided geographically.

And finally this week, some of these are kind of funny, but some of them are pretty disturbing. (@Midnight)

18 October 2014

Retro Video Unit (10/17/14)

Another Friday slipped by with me forgetting about this. Oh well, I had some stuff to do yesterday.

This one will be quick: I've posted videos by The Church before, and this is a performance clip so it isn't even really all that interesting in the ways other music videos can be, but this song has been in my head so I'm using that as an excuse to post the song "Reptile."

Hm, can't seem to find the original video as I remember it. This is a good version of the song, but the quality of the video is terrible. Apologies...


17 October 2014

Season's Donuts

Recently Boston magazine named Medford Square's Donuts with a Difference to this year's Best of Boston list. We already knew, because we've been going there for years.

This afternoon I was in the Square and decided to stop by for a snack. We'd been in a couple of weeks ago and they had a couple of seasonal flavors, maple frosted and an apple cake donut that's very similar to the blueberry cake that they already offer, except with apple instead of blueberries (duh). I'd tried both and liked them a lot, so I ordered both again and stood on the sidewalk eating them, grinning like a fool because they're so damn good.

We know donuts are not healthy, so we don't eat them that often, maybe once every couple of weeks. But if you're going to enjoy something bad for you, it might as well be at least a good rendition of that bad thing, yes?

15 October 2014

Stand-In City

I've been working my way through the CW series Arrow via Netflix. It's based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, a lesser known member of the stable that includes Batman and Superman.

Arrow premiered two years ago, and by the time I noticed last fall that its first season was available to stream on Netflix, season two had already started. Last year it got compared to ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., another comic book-based series and one that had an up-and-down first season. More than once I read that someone thought Arrow was better than S.H.I.E.L.D., and I was already watching that, so it made sense for me to investigate Arrow.

Knowing that the third season of Arrow would start airing in early October, I started watching season one in August. It took longer than I expected, but even if I'd finished it more quickly, Netflix and CW decided to delay streaming of season two until last Wednesday, the day of the season three premiere. As it happened, I finished season one and started season two over the weekend, so I still have at least a couple of weeks to go before I'm caught up. Meanwhile I'm recording the new episodes and holding them on my DVR.

The point of all this is that, while watching an episode last night, I noticed something curious. In the between-scene skyline shots of the fictitious Starling City, where Arrow lives, there were some very familiar-looking elements:
Does anything look familiar?
How about this? (Someone is supposed to be using an abandoned clock tower as a hideout, so this one was followed by a shot of a set built to appear how the inside of this might look.)
Or this?

What I thought was strange was that I'd already watched more than 25 episodes of the show, and this was the first time I could remember recognizing any shots as being of the Boston skyline. The show films in Vancouver, and I had assumed that they were using that city's skyline for the sake of simplicity. But according to IMDB, the skyline shots include footage from a number of cities including Philadelphia; Frankfurt, Germany; Boston; Tokyo; and Singapore.

That's an interesting approach, but it seems like the show would want to mix shots from different cities, instead of all the shots in an episode being of one city, as this one was. I don't know who makes such decisions in a TV production—the editors, perhaps?

Plenty of shows have been set in Boston, with production based elsewhere but using shots like these (Fringe is a recent example that comes to mind). Of course, some shows have been filmed here too (well, maybe Banacek was only partially on location). But while I don't recall seeing Boston used as a stand-in for another place, it's probably happened before.
Here's one more from Arrow, of the distinctive Zakim Bridge from the north.

14 October 2014

Unseasonably Warm

75 degrees in October: the kind of thing some people long for, and others dread. Well, maybe "dread" is too strong a word. But it is October, and it isn't supposed to be this warm and humid.

I was ready to start putting away my summer clothing and shoes/sneakers in the basement, until I saw the forecast for this week. No point in doing it yet. The air conditioners are still in too, though we haven't needed them in a month. I just figured I'd wait until I was sure the warm weather was gone for good before taking them out and storing them.

Today wasn't that bad, but it was rather sticky. I had to head downtown to take care of a couple of errands. The bus driver was one I see semi-frequently, and when I got on the bus she said, "Got the shorts back on, huh?"

Car Stuff: The Getaway

I spotted this in early August, outside Staples in the Fresh Pond Shopping Center:
There are very few Volkswagen Beetles still around here, at least compared to places like Santa Cruz or Eugene, Oregon, and surely even fewer of the existing cars are convertibles. This one appears to be from the mid-to-late 1970s, based on the bumpers and the orange turn signal sections at the top of the tail lights. That would make it a Super Beetle (and according to Wikipedia, the single tailpipe identifies it as a fuel-injected model, which means it can't be any older than a 1975).

This car was already driving away as we pulled into a parking space, and I was very lucky to get a decent shot of it.

12 October 2014

This Week in Awesome (10/11/14)

Hey, what happened to Friday's post? For that matter, what happened to Friday, and Saturday? And last weekend's theoretical TWiA? Sheesh...

Intended for last weekend: nice piece about the legacy of The Replacements and their album Let It Be. (The A.V. Club)

The Daily Show's Jessica Williams takes on sexism and street harassment.

This week's rabbit hole: a most curious video archive. (@Midnight)

I've referenced this topic several times in the past: car paint colors and the extremely boring phase we are currently in. (Consumerist)

And finally this week, this thing goes on for five minutes so you certainly don't have to watch all of it, but I will understand completely if you do.

09 October 2014

Moonrise Over Medford

I think it's pretty obvious that I took this from a moving car, but it's still pretty cool:
Maybe it's more accurate to say "moonrise over Malden," since we were heading north on the Fellsway, so I'm facing east and the road is the dividing line between the cities. But then again, the moon is technically "over" everything, right?

08 October 2014

Streaming Blues

The streaming-TV site Hulu has been around for six years or so, and for a while I used it as a way to catch up on episodes I'd missed of certain shows. Generally a certain number of episodes of a show are available at a time, and if you don't keep up while a show is airing, the ability to view an entire season requires a subscription to Hulu Plus. I don't subscribe because I don't need to, and also because for your $8 a month, you still have to endure ads.

Lately I've been watching only one show via Hulu, a period drama about the scientists working on the atomic bomb project during World War II called Manhattan. The show airs on an obscure channel called WGN America that is not carried by Comcast, and WGN doesn't stream the episodes on their website, so I figured I wouldn't be able to see it. It wasn't until maybe three weeks after the show premiered during the summer that I even thought to look for it on Hulu, and didn't expect to find it but it was there (possibly because WGNA doesn't have the availability of some other channels).

New episodes are delayed three days after they originally air on WGNA before appearing on Hulu, which is no big deal (some Fox shows are delayed eight days). But my viewing experience with Hulu's streaming player has been atrocious. I've used all the TV channels' online players, and most of them work as they're supposed to. With Hulu, playback itself is fine; it's the transitions between ad blocks and show segments that's the problem.

Hulu shows blocks of ads that run between 90 and 120 seconds. When the blocks are finished the next segment of the show is supposed to play, but often nothing happens. The only way to restart the show is to refresh the browser, and then I have to watch another ad that's between 15 and 30 seconds, and then I wait to see if the show will start playing again. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't and I have to refresh two, three, or four more times, not knowing if it will work and enduring another ad each time. There are five or six ad breaks in each episode of Manhattan.

I assumed this was a nefarious ploy on the part of Hulu to subject viewers to more ads in each show they watch. Then it occurred to me to try a different browser. I already have to watch Netflix content in Safari because of some bug in Firefox that prevents proper playback, so I used Hulu in Safari and the show played flawlessly. I even got to forgo three ad breaks by watching a movie trailer, which Hulu does at random.

There are comments on Hulu from other users complaining of the same issue, so I have to think it's a browser-related bug. And there are only two episodes left in the first season of Manhattan, so I may not need to use Hulu again for a while.

06 October 2014

Car Stuff: Out from Under Cover

I've gotten better at catching cars in traffic, and I scan parking lots looking for unusual stuff parked out along the far edges. But sometimes elusive cars have to be stalked, like this one. It lives in my general area but is about 15 minutes' walk from my house. I first became aware of it while poking around on Google Street View back in the spring, but when I went to check it out in person it was parked in the driveway with a cover over it.

I checked back about a month later, and it was in the same place but still covered. I knew as the weather got nicer it would come out from hiding eventually; Google had given me evidence of that. So I waited a while longer and went back again. It was on that third try, in June, that I finally found it uncovered.
It's a 1962 Ford Thunderbird in a lovely shade of burgundy. At this point Ford was giving the T-Bird a redesigned body every three model years, but made enough small yearly changes so individual years can be distinguished. These are mainly confined to pieces of side trim, grille texture, and other such details. This body style was new for 1961, and the trim that changed is at the rear of the car and hard to see from this angle, but the grille is unique to this year. (The '63s are the easiest of this design to identify at a glance, because Ford added a character line to the sheetmetal of the front fenders and doors.)

I wish I could've spotted this car out on the street in front of its home, or in the parking lot of the Stop & Shop that's just a couple of streets over, to get some additional pictures, but I suspect the owner avoids taking this car into parking lots as much as possible. It may not have indoor storage, but it is otherwise very well looked after (though in need of some wheel covers).

04 October 2014

Retro Video Unit (10/3/14)

I thought of this yesterday, then... right out the back of the brain. To be fair, I was busy with some other stuff.

In the early years of music videos there was quite a bit of genuine artistry put forth. As the form grew and became more popular, much of that artistry was replaced by... cheese. Not literal cheese, schlock cheese. Back in the 1980s I remember thinking on occasion about how music videos of that period would be viewed by people in our current time. If nothing else, many are curious little cultural artifacts (a phrase I admit I'm guilty of overusing) like this one, "The Metro" by Berlin.


02 October 2014

Beer Math

Normally I buy a case of Narragansett "tallboys" about once a month, but funds are tight so I've had to look to less expensive alternatives. However, I still have standards. I can't stand PBR and I'd rather drink tap water than anything from Anheuser-Busch (and Bud's not that cheap around here anyway). I used to like Rolling Rock but since A-B bought them, I drifted away. (I seem to recall that it's kind of sweet compared to most other beers.)

I will drink Miller High Life, though I hadn't had one in probably 20 years. The first bar I frequented with any regularity in college sold bottles of Miller for $1.10 each in the mid-'80s. As long as it's cold enough, it tastes fine.

When you get into the lower-priced beers there's some strange math at work. There are standard cases, but there also things like 18-packs of 12-ounce bottles and 30-packs of 12-ounce cans. (I think the idea is that the people who buy these block-packs of beer will consume all of it with their friends within a few hours, but who really knows?) I also noticed that brands that offer 16-ounce cans tend to package them only in six-packs and not in any of these other quantities.

We have two large liquor stores in town that devote significant floor space to beer and carry many different permutations of packaging from the major brands, so I spent some time reading signs. I discovered that I could get an 18-pack of Miller for $12 plus deposit, compared to $20 plus deposit for the case of 'Gansett. But those are 16-ounce cans, which is where this gets really fuzzy. I decided I just needed to think of a single can or bottle of beer as a serving regardless of its size.

Then I went to the other big store and saw that I could get the 18-pack of Miller for $10 plus deposit, but only in bottles. After having had High Life in both cans and bottles, I think it tastes better in bottles. Canned beer doesn't taste metallic like it used to thanks to the modern advance of can lining, but something about canned Miller doesn't taste quite right. (This is not true of 'Gansett, so maybe their cans are lined with something different.)

01 October 2014

Stranger on a Train

I had an interesting encounter on the subway this afternoon. This doesn't usually happen: I typically try to avoid talking to others on public transit as much as possible, like the obviously disturbed guy I'd seen earlier who was sitting in the corner spouting some vague, rambling, quite racist stuff just loud enough to see if anyone nearby would engage with him. (No one did.)

It was just after 5 pm and the train was unsurprisingly quite crowded. I happened to be standing next to a woman with a large amount of reddish-blonde hair. It was piled up and gathered behind her head, and there was a blue ballpoint pen stuck through it. I've seen other women do this, and I find it rather charming.

I kind of couldn't resist, so when she happened to look toward me I said, "You have a pen in your hair." She smiled and responded, "I know, I put it there." I said, "I figured." She said, "I do it on purpose, so I know where it is. When I get home I take it out, and I have a cup full of them." I asked, "When you're leaving in the morning do you stick one in there?" She smiled again and said, "Yes, sometimes." And that was the end of it.

Sometimes it's unwise to initiate a conversation with a stranger, especially when there's no real justification for doing so. But other times, it adds a moment of color to an otherwise ordinary day.

30 September 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #11 & 12

I've been thinking about what car should be added to the Fantasy Garage, and I think I have to rewind back into the earlier part of the 1960s. In the second installment of FG I stated that I preferred the styling of the 1962 Oldsmobile to its Cadillac cousin of the same year. But now I realize that I've unintentionally overlooked Cadillacs altogether so far, and during most of the 1950s and 1960s they were considered the pinnacle of automotive achievement and excellence. As a car lover, I need at least one Cadillac in my Fantasy Garage. But I think I want at least two.
The design for 1963-64 models is considered by many to be the best Cadillac design of the 1960s. I'm not quite ready to count myself in that group, mainly because the horizontally divided grille of 1963-64 model years, with the headlights placed in the upper half, reminds me a bit too much of the styling of the mid-to-late '50s, when the headlights were above the grille, and thus feels like a step backward. The '61-'62 front end design is more modern, but otherwise I think the '63-'64 design is quite good, particularly on the Sixty Special with its smooth sides and unique roofline. And all models of these two years benefited from the gradual shaving down of the fins, which by '64 are almost straight, mere vestiges of their outlandish 1959 peak.
The Sixty Special has one other styling element that I like, mainly because it's unusual. The rear doors have small vent windows at the back that open with the doors. This feature ran from 1961 to 1968, and was incorporated because the Sixty Special was built on a longer wheelbase, meaning its roof and rear doors were not shared with other models. They were longer, and in order for the door windows to be able to descend fully the small "quarter windows" needed to be added at the rear of the doors. This practice has been common in vehicle design for decades, but what makes this application uncommon is that the Sixty Special's doors did not have upper frames, so when the windows were open, the quarter windows "floated" out at the ends of the doors. (Note that the car in the above picture has non-stock side moldings.)
The Sixty Special was technically part of the Fleetwood subseries, as was the Eldorado. After being offered as either a convertible or hardtop coupe from 1956-60, it was convertible only from 1961-66 before becoming hardtop only from 1967-70 and then regaining the convertible for 1971-76. The early '60s Eldorado models are exquisite cars, among the most expensive Cadillacs when new and produced in small numbers: less than 1500 units each in 1961 and '62, less than 1900 each in '63 and '64.
Of these my favorite, as with the Sixty Special, is the '64. In an effort to give the Eldorado a slightly sportier look and set it apart from the "regular" Series 62 convertible, the Eldorado's rear fender skirts were deleted for this one year only (which helps to show off the optional wire wheels). The Fleetwood cars also had distinctive rear-end styling with small grilles on either side of the license plate opening, and lacked the body side moldings of other Cadillac models, having instead a wide metal decorative band along the lower body sides. These features gave them an overall appearance that was restrained and elegant, conveying quite clearly that these cars were the most desirable Cadillacs.

(Image credits, from top: Hans Tore Tangerud/Love to Accelerate; Professional Car Society; Google image search; Daniel Schmitt & Co.)

29 September 2014

Eight

Well look at that, I almost missed my own blogaversary. It's hard to believe that I started this thing eight years ago today, and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it.

Over the past couple of years I've found new avenues of interest to write about, and I'd do even more if I had more time. But bloggin' don't pay the bills, and even if I had ads on here, the revenue would be miniscule.

Regardless, I have more to say, so I'll be sticking around for a while. Thanks for visiting. As a former boss used to say, onward...

27 September 2014

This Week in Awesome (9/27/14)

I know my weekend posts have been somewhat irregular. I was kind of busy last weekend, and I also didn't have the amount of material I aim for. But now this week, including the stuff I'd found for last week, I have a ton of stuff.

Sesame Street continues to be the best thing ever, even if you aren't a kid (sometimes it's more enjoyable if you're an adult, because you get the jokes aimed at the grown-ups). (The Verge)

I have plenty of issues and gripes with tech-industry culture; this is just one of them. (Esquire Style Blog)

Here's another example of manufacturing coming back to the USA, but in a less expected product category. (Portland Press-Herald via Consumerist)

All of us have consumed at least one of the beers on this list at some point. I happen to like #8 quite a bit, but I still can't stand #2. Others I had no idea were still being made. (Esquire Food Blog)

I haven't seen True Detective yet, but I'd watch the hell out of this. (Funny or Die via The A.V. Club)

A thoughtful piece on wearing clothing with specific cultural significance. (Interrupt via Put This On)

I am in agreement with the views expressed in this article. (Business Insider via Dappered)

And finally this week, if you are interested in the technical aspects of movie making and have a couple of hours of free time, I suggest you take a look over here. (Dappered)

26 September 2014

Overheard: Not Much Imagination Edition

This evening we ate at Yak & Yeti, a fine Indian restaurant in Somerville's Ball Square. Seated next to us were two young women who appeared to be in their mid-20s. One of the two did more of the talking than the other, and their conversation ranged to travel, photography, and blogging. At one point I heard the more talkative woman say, "If I had a blog, it would just be a blog of other people's photos."

24 September 2014

More Thoughts on Getting Dressed

Back in the winter, I went on some interviews and shared some thoughts about dressing up. Over the past week or so I've been interviewing again and doing related things, and I have a few more thoughts on the subject of business dress.

I managed to lose a second tie bar; I have no idea how. I don't know how I lost the first one. I do know now that the slide-on style is easier to lose than the pinch style. Despite this, I still feel like my outfit is incomplete without a tie bar.

Even though you've gone to some effort to look good, no one is going to compliment you on your attire (though I did receive a compliment from a barista about my sun hat). If an interviewer said, "I like your tie" it would probably make me feel weird.

I used to think that having my shirt sleeves be a bit too long was a misstep, but having unintentionally worn a shirt with sleeves that were a bit too short, I now think that's worse. No one is likely to notice this other than me, but I now think it's better if a little extra shirt cuff is showing rather than my bony wrists.

I still don't care for white dress shirts. I need a bit of color between my suit and my face. You don't have to wear a white shirt to look professional and appropriate. A solid blue or pink shirt will go with almost any suit. That said, I also don't care for that really pale blue (sometimes called ice blue) that so many businessmen choose for their dress shirts; I like a blue with a bit more presence and punch, but the brighter french blues are seemingly out of style now.

It's difficult to find ties that are subdued enough but also have some color and personality. I have some very nice ties that are just a bit too bold in color, pattern, or both to be interview-appropriate. Polka dots and small-scale geometric designs are working well for me.

Previously I was concerned about not having a dressy black belt, but suspenders are a much better option—if you've had the buttons sewn into the pants.

23 September 2014

Puffs

I was downtown today, and it was a pleasure to be outside on such a perfect September day. But in the financial district the smokers were out too, clustered in some places, solitary in others. I'm glad we've had enough sense to ban smoking indoors, but that means outdoor spaces are filled with smoke-emitting obstacles that must be avoided.

If it's just one person I usually hold my breath until I'm past, but for the throngs I'm forced to clamp a bandana over my face. Is it wrong to wish that our society will end up outlawing smoking altogether within a couple of decades?

22 September 2014

Car Stuff: Special K's

Back in the 1980s, the compact Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant were instrumental in Chrysler Corporation's recovery from financial catastrophe, along with the company's then-revolutionary minivans. The cars were relatively inexpensive and economical, and they were ubiquitous on the roads.
Three decades later there aren't many of them still around. Back in the spring when I visited the garage in Arlington, there was a gas station a short distance away with a Reliant parked on the side of its lot with a For Sale sign in the windshield, so of course I took a couple of pictures. The Aries and Reliant, which were known by their internal product designation, the K-cars, were sold from 1981 to 1989; this is the slightly revised version from 1985 onward, but I can't get more specific than that.
On Sunday we were headed down the Southeast Expressway when I spotted a squarish yellow car in the right lane ahead of us. I pulled out my phone and got ready to snap a picture or two before I knew what the car was. By the time we came close enough to take pics I knew it was either a Reliant or an Aries, but it wasn't until I opened this picture to crop it that I found out for certain that it was an Aries, and one from the 1981-84 years. (As you can see I didn't get it framed quite the way I wanted to, but I got most of it.)

20 September 2014

Retro Video Unit (9/19/14)

This is a bit outside the realm where I usually traffic, but what can I say? It's getting late, and all of a sudden my brain went, "Hey, it's September, why not go look for a clip of that Earth, Wind & Fire song?" And there it was... Not everything about the 1970s was bad, and this song proves it:


19 September 2014

Two Wheels Folded

Yesterday on the Orange Line I saw a guy with one of those folding bicycles. That struck me as a particularly good idea for dealing with bringing a bike on the subway. Even if customers aren't allowed to bring their bikes on the T during peak hours, a bicycle is still a large and awkward item to deal with maneuvering into and out of a subway car.

I have no idea how much a folding bike weighs, or how much of a cost penalty there is over a regular bicycle, but it is a smart solution in terms of the logistics of physical handling. And I suppose it's easier to deal with when you arrive at your destination as well, e.g. you could keep it in your office instead of having to lock it outside.

18 September 2014

Pondering the Riddle That Is the T

Why is it that if I'm going somewhere in no particular hurry I end up making great T connections, but if I'm on my way to an appointment and have a limited margin of error, the bus has to make every single stop between my stop and the station, where I will inevitably miss a train by one minute and have to wait more than 10 minutes for the next one?

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

Yappy

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 melodica, 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.