26 January 2015

Blizzard Prep

(Since I won't be going anywhere for a couple of days, I'll have plenty of time and Car Stuff will appear tomorrow.)

So the minor snowstorm we got on Saturday was kind of a distraction. We were all focused on it because the conditions made it unpredictable (snow changed to rain as temperatures increased, then back to snow after dark), and we ended up canceling plans to go to Rhode Island but I think travel would have been fine. Meanwhile, a monster storm was in the process of forming, and is now steaming our way.

The first flakes started falling around 1 pm, and three hours later nothing has accumulated. If we didn't know what was coming we'd probably be inclined to dismiss the reports. We've had a relatively snow-free winter so far; before Saturday's snow we'd had just a few dustings and I was able to clear the sidewalk and driveway with only a push broom. Also, our storms don't typically come this close together.

This one is making people nervous because there's the potential for two feet of snow, or maybe more. Those of us over a certain age have vivid memories of the Blizzard of '78, the one against which all subsequent storms are inevitably measured. We remember being stuck inside for days, waiting for plows to finally clear the streets. That storm caught people by surprise, and some part of us thinks it might happen again, so we have a tendency to get a little nutty before big storms.

Stuff starts to shut down. Stores already have signs that they won't be open Tuesday, which is just common sense. The T won't be running, and citizens are urged to stay home and off the roads, which again is common sense. You can't get stranded if you don't go out in the first place.(Update: the governor has issued a travel ban effective at midnight tonight.)

We'd been food shopping fairly recently so we didn't need much, but a quick trip to the nearby Super Stop & Shop was in order yesterday. We are not foolish enough to venture within a quarter-mile of a Market Basket when a storm is approaching, but the Stop & Shop was still as busy as I had ever seen it in nine years. I managed to find an express line with a relatively short wait. Today it's probably even busier.

I also happened to be in need of beer, which is almost as important during a blizzard as food. This afternoon I made a quick run down to the nearby Big Liquor Store, because the combination of proximity and reasonable prices made the most sense under the circumstances. They were also busy, but not like the supermarket. Beer math once again came into play, with the 18-pack costing only $1 more than the 12-pack (technically $1.30 more with the deposits). I wondered who buys the 12-packs, and the answer is probably "you should have, dummy" because I still had to carry my 18-pack and realized, too late, that it weighs 50% more than a 12-pack.

25 January 2015

Retro Video Unit (1/23/15)

I knew I'd forgotten something... the worst part is I'd already picked a video for this installment, which I don't always accomplish ahead of time. Yesterday was consumed by snow shoveling and binge-watching Transparent (which was steaming free for one day only). Well, let's move on...

I have complicated feelings about rap and hip-hop that I don't really want to get into now, but I can say unequivocally that I like the early stuff better, which brings us to this track I stumbled across a couple of weeks ago. "Going Back to Cali" by LL Cool J was featured on the soundtrack of the movie Less Than Zero and later appeared on LLCJ's third album, Walking with a Panther (1989).

For a rap song it's pretty unusual: the pacing of the rhyming is laid back, almost anti-rap, the production by Rick Rubin is characteristically stripped-down and remarkably detailed at the same time. The video suits the song well, even if it falls into the '80s music video tropes of dancing women, driving, and the use of black and white.

22 January 2015


It's been an awkward and unpleasant week here in Patriots Nation, to put it mildly. Instead of enjoying the afterglow of another AFC championship win, another trip to the Super Bowl, another chance to add to the team's impressive roster of victories and legacy of success, all of us have to suffer the embarrassment of another scandal, another accusation of improper actions. I wasn't planning on or even thinking about writing anything, but as a fan I decided my thoughts are worth as much as anyone else's.

I suppose I should be starting from a presumption of innocence, and of course when these latest allegations surfaced I wanted to believe that they were wrong, but in my gut I feel that someone knew what was going on and allowed it to happen. This is not the first time that the team's behavior has been scrutinized and criticized, and the truth is that each new instance makes it worse. Everything that the team has accomplished now gets called into question and is tarnished by association.

Even if it turns out that a lone equipment manager was acting on his own, the air of impropriety surrounding the team won't go away. I'm not a parent, but I'm sure a lot of parents are having difficult conversations with their children about what's going on and what it means. Teams should not put their fans in such a position, especially young ones.

Outside of New England a lot of people hate the Patriots and/or Tom Brady. I used to think that was silly, but even if I don't feel that way myself, I'm beginning to understand why others might. To invoke another sport analogically, it's kind of like what happened with Barry Bonds; the Patriots will always carry the stigma of all these unsavory incidents like an asterisk, even if it's only a mental one. It's indicative of a general and unfortunate trend in our society to cut corners, to bend rules or think one is above them.

I've seen scientists saying that the weather could account for the fluctuation in inflation pressure, and I want to believe that's the explanation. It's also possible that this behavior has been going on for years and that all the other NFL teams have done it too. There's a lot of missing information about who handles the game balls and what happens to them after they have been checked. It also raises the question of why there hasn't been stronger security around game balls, why teams supply balls and not the league. It's all pretty murky, but that's exactly the sort of environment that leads to situations like this.

For me, the worst part of it is knowing that the team doesn't need to resort to cheating or any sort of questionable behavior to win. Regardless of who knew about it, it's hugely disappointing that someone thought it was necessary. Of course I still want the Patriots to win another Super Bowl, and I'll still watch the game (and I'm sure the balls used for it will be very carefully monitored), but even another Lombardi trophy isn't going to alleviate the feelings of hurt and distaste this week has brought.

21 January 2015

Car Stuff Bonus: At the Auto Show

I went to the auto show again over the weekend. I went last year and didn't plan on going again this year; it isn't the sort of thing I feel like I need to attend every year, but my friend asked if I wanted to go and I thought why not?

The show draws tens of thousands of people each year, and not all of them are considering a vehicle purchase or cross-shopping in one location. There are a lot of people that, like me, just like cars. The average price of a new car is approaching $30,000, but one can get a good car for a lot less than that. Competition makes everyone try a little harder.

Plus it's admittedly fun to sit in the back seat of a $110,000 Audi (because you'd have someone driving you, duh), or to test the sound quality of various car audio systems. And there's always at least one surprise. The car that impressed both of us most was the Hyundai Genesis, a large luxury sedan that spans the $40,000-50,000 price bracket (depending on engine choice and option packages).

With its recent redesign it looks like it could be an Audi, and in fact you can get it with all-wheel-drive, just like an Audi. If you were blindfolded and put inside, and the logos and identifying markings were removed, you would most likely think you were in something German and a lot more expensive. And it has a ridiculous stereo system.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Genesis is that it isn't the top of Hyundai's lineup. I remember when the original Accent went on sale here in the mid-1980s for about $6000 (pricing was a prominent feature of its advertising). It was what we used to call a penalty box. Now three decades later there's a Hyundai, the Equus, that lists for ten times that amount.

Is anyone buying it? I don't know. It's much more of a status symbol back in Korea, Hyundai's home market, and if they can sell a few thousand of them a year in other countries it probably doesn't hurt the balance sheet very much. But as someone who has never been especially impressed with Hyundai's offerings (I don't necessarily dislike them, I just find them pretty uninspiring) I think the Genesis is the car that may end up having more of an impact.

20 January 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #34

Another 1980s Cadillac found its way in front of me, on the same day I spotted the 1971 Buick GS. It was parked near Tufts University (just a few yards from where the Green Line stop will be built, eventually) and is possibly being driven by a student. The area was busy with pedestrians and I had to work around a few of them to get these shots.
On the other hand, the Bruins plate on the front suggests this car belongs to a local. Either way, I was able to determine from looking at old brochures online that this is a 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham sedan. The design didn't change much from 1980, when it was introduced, through 1985, when a redesign replaced it, but enough small things, like grille texture and the location of the front Cadillac badge, did change from year to year that I was able to pin it down.
It's a little odd that the exterior badges have been removed, but there were a few elements that distinguished a Fleetwood from a Sedan deVille. The small lamp between the front and rear doors, the crest on the side roof panel, and the molding running from the hood back along the side under the windows are all Fleetwood features. All Cadillacs of this vintage had another side molding running about halfway down the side, above the rear wheel opening and ending behind the front wheel opening. I don't know why this car doesn't have it. The missing badges and moldings suggest that the car may have been repainted.
A couple of other interesting things to note in this shot: the Smart in front of the Cadillac provides a nice bit of contrast, which is why I didn't crop it out. Also, the bumper sticker from the long-gone local music club the Channel, which used to be on Necco Street, off Summer on the waterfront. This car outlasted that venue.

19 January 2015

This/Last Week in Awesome, Delayed Long-Weekend Edition (1/17/15-ish)

Well, I had time to do this on Saturday but obviously I didn't. Even though I'm still not on a regular work schedule, the weekends have a way of getting away from me. That's no excuse, I know. Anyway...

Not sure if these are authentically from residents of each state or more of a perception thing. I say this mainly because the MA one is less true than it used to be. (Distractify via Dappered)

Two acquired tastes that don't go together at all, but do make for a good snark tumblr. (The A.V. Club)

I like the thinking behind this, even if I suspect the reality might not be as satisfying. (Beer & Brewing; those of you who are more wine drinkers may want to check out this instead)

And finally this/last week, some excellent aerial night photography. (Vincent Laforet via Dappered)

15 January 2015

Cheap Can Be Okay

This is a pretty nice pattern for something from Old Navy, and it was cheap too—marked down to about $15. (I used the "soft flash" setting, and this pic is a pretty accurate representation of the colors, though the red and blue are both a bit darker in person.)
Buying inexpensive clothing is often a gamble. Will the fabric be too thin, or feel cheap? Will the cut be too baggy, or too slim (to save on wholesale costs)? Will the buttons fall off within two weeks? How will the details of construction compare to other clothes I already own?

In this case I was concerned about a couple of things, both of which turned out to be all right. I ordered this online and had not seen it in a store, so I didn't know how accurate the online images' color representation was. More importantly, a lot of the patterned shirts I've seen from Old Navy are not aligned to the center placket and buttonholes. This one is, or I would not have ordered it. It's easy enough to tell from online images.

It's one of those things that I've come to take for granted in clothing construction that isn't universally followed, again for cost reasons. It costs more to create such patterns, and it costs more in terms of fabric used for each garment. The collar is also cut so the pattern is centered, and sometimes you see instances of that not being the case either, like this shirt (also from Old Navy).

I thought this practice had been abandoned by all but the lowest-end manufacturers, but clearly that isn't so. I looked through my other shirts and found only one instance of it, on a short-sleeve summer shirt from Lands' End that I paid about $8 for on clearance maybe five years ago. But the original selling price on that shirt was probably around $40, and at that price I think most shoppers expect center-aligned pattern matching. Back in December I came across a shirt I really liked at Target, but it suffered from this same issue. I could not buy it because I know it would bother me every time I looked at it.

The other issue that concerned me was fit. About 80% of Old Navy's men's shirts are now described as "slim fit." The meaning of this can vary considerably depending on the brand and what other fits are offered. As it happens, I had tried on one of their shirts a few months ago in a store, specifically because I wanted to know how the fit had been changed, and a slim fit XL fits pretty much the same as most of the other shirts I currently have, regardless of what size they are or what fit they purport to have.

What I found interesting is that this XL "slim fit" is a more comfortable overall fit on me than J. Crew's XL "classic fit," which I've been buying and wearing for some time. The cut of the Old Navy shirt is just a bit more accommodating through the body, and the sleeves are just a bit shorter, enough to feel less gangly. (About 15 years ago, when the cut of J. Crew's shirts was a bit more friendly and I could buy them in size L, I used to work with a guy who turned back the cuffs of his J. Crew shirts halfway, because they were too long for his arms, whereas they were fine on mine. At the time I kind of made fun of him a little, but since I've been buying their more recent shirts I better understand what he was going through.)

This one comes out favorably in construction and details too. The fabric is a little thin, but no worse than J. Crew's "lightweight" shirts, and it's very soft. The collar is narrow, but Old Navy is just following the prevailing trend there. It has a back collar button, which is unexpected and appreciated, even if it's not strictly necessary (it's hard to imagine anyone wearing this shirt with a tie, but it could be done, though it would have to be a skinny tie). There's a center back pleat, buttons on the sleeve plackets, the bottom buttonhole is horizontal.

Overall it feels like Old Navy is definitely stepping up its game a little. Perhaps they've seen J. Crew coming downmarket into their territory with their Factory stores and wanted to meet the challenge more directly. Even at its original price of $30 I would have felt like this was a reasonably good deal, and I'm interested to see if they stick with these improvements.

14 January 2015


I've been on the T during rush hour thousands of times, packed in shoulder to shoulder with everyone else trying to get either to work or back home. I think it's a safe assumption that the people standing next to me on any given ride are also accustomed to the conditions.

And yet... and yet yesterday I got the stink-eye from someone I accidentally bumped in the shoulder. Imagine that, riding in a jammed subway car and someone unintentionally makes contact with you? Hell, I'm surprised when it doesn't happen.

13 January 2015

Car Stuff: Make-Up Pic

Oh, hi there. I was a little busier than usual the past couple of days, and this slipped off my mental to-do list. So let's just toss out another through-the-windshield shot (which, along with my cropping, explains the low resolution) from back in July, taken as we were passing the repair shop I posted about last summer.
You can see part of the blue Ford van that's always parked out front, and next to it a cranberry-colored Pontiac Fiero, an awkward little mid-engine car from the 1980s. But what caught my eye was the early 1970s Cadillac to the left of the silver Chevrolet Tahoe.

From the grille, front bumper, and headlights I can tell it's either a '71 or '72. I don't know which body style it is, but I hope it's a Fleetwood Brougham, just because it was the top of the line, more expensive, more over the top, and just more Cadillac than an "ordinary" Coupe deVille or Sedan deVille. You can see one here.

09 January 2015

Retro Video Unit (1/9/15)

There are plenty of bands I haven't featured here, but there are also bands that are worth revisiting, and X is definitely one of those. They are sort of like The Replacements in the sense that they had a small but fanatical following while they were extant, but their influence across the ensuing decades is huge.

I love the twinned vocals of Exene Cervenka and John Doe, and this song shows them off well. From the 1982 album Under the Big Black Sun, here's "The Hungry Wolf."

(Happy birthday SM!)

08 January 2015

Full but Unfulfilled

When you are lazy and you are married to someone who is also lazy, and you don't go grocery shopping regularly, it's easy to succumb to the temptation of takeout and delivery food. We've been trying to do a better job on this, but tonight delivery won.

There's a pizza-sub place in Medford that makes an excellent cheeseburger panini (panino?) that comes with two kinds of cheese, grilled mushrooms and onions, and a nice side salad. I was really in the mood for one of those, but since we've been trying not to order out as much we hadn't ordered anything from that place in a few months, and to my great disappointment they have discontinued all the panini. Damn it.

I tried to fill the void with a cheeseburger sub, but it's just not the same. For one thing, it's a larger volume of food mainly due to the roll. I can finish one, but I don't always feel so great afterward. (Old habits die hard, and stuffing myself is something I used to be really good at. Maybe some time I'll tell the Uno story...) And our cravings can be remarkably specific, so if for whatever reason you can't have the thing you want, no substitution is going provide the same enjoyment regardless of how good it is.


Using tuna to get the dog to take her pain medication has worked pretty well, though she is less inclined to take it (or anything) from our hands than she used to be. To keep things interesting and offer a little variety we picked up a few cans of Newman's Organics dog food. Forming some of that into a blob around a pill makes for quite a tempting morsel.

But man, canned dog food is still a disgusting substance, just as it was 40 years ago when feeding the dog was one of the chores I did to earn my allowance. Just as slimy, just as smelly, just as gross. Even after washing my hands I can still detect it. Oh well, we do a lot for the sake of our pets...

06 January 2015

Cozy Legs

I had to get the flannel-lined jeans out of storage today. I only need them a few times each winter, but I'm glad I have them. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold, I think long underwear makes more sense; if you're just walking to the bus stop or taking the dog out, the extra layer inside the pants does enough to block the wind and creates some additional warmth.

I thought about getting another pair, but the ones I have are fine and don't need replacing, even though I've had them for at least a decade, maybe longer. I got mine from L.L. Bean and what they are selling today is basically unchanged, except now they are offered in three fits and the pattern of the flannel changes every year or so. (This year's is rather ugly, but if you don't cuff them no one will see it.)

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a pair from Old Navy, just to see what they were like. The fit was just a little snug, though they were described as "relaxed fit." The denim was dyed a really dark blue, which seemed out of place, and there was a tag that indicated the dye could rub off on lighter-colored clothing and upholstery. Who needs that? The flannel was a red-and-black gingham pattern, which was fine, but the leg openings felt a little too narrow; there's no way they would have fit over boots.

I also have a pair of flannel-lined khakis, which I don't get as many opportunities to wear, but since it's going to stay so cold all week I may wear them just for some variety.

05 January 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #15

With the previous installment of Fantasy Garage we finally made it to the 1970s, an extremely challenging decade for America's auto manufacturers. There was a serious lack of foresight about conditions affecting the market, some willful blindness about the growing popularity of Japanese imports, and a disinclination to use existing vehicles from European divisions to fill stateside product needs that resulted in some seriously subpar cars being brought to market.

But to be fair, Detroit got some cars very right in the '70s. Ford's Mustang caught General Motors by surprise and it took them a couple of years to get their competitor cars to market, By the 1969 model year Ford was already moving the Mustang away from its sporty roots and toward something more like a mini-Thunderbird (and the portly 1971 Mustang was considered a design failure), so when it was time to develop the second generation F-body, GM wanted to assert itself with a more dramatic design.
1970 Chevrloet Camaro
By that measure alone, the 1970* Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird were successful. The design was definitely influenced by certain Ferrari models (particularly the swooping roofline), but given a distinctly American interpretation, and differentiated with characteristics of the two different brands: the Camaro got pairs of round tail lights on each side like the Corvette, while the Firebird got a new take on the horizontal tail lights it had worn since its introduction.

(*While referred to as 1970 models, the cars did not go on sale until late February due to some engineering issues; by today's convention, with a release at that point in the calendar year they would have simply been designated 1971s.)

The designs fared well until GM was forced to accommodate the federal government's bumper standards for the 1974 model year (I don't know how they got away with not adding them to the front for 1973, as was required on other cars), at which point they were given slanted noses and bulkier, less elegant tails, along with a significant weight gain. (It's easy to identify a '74 Camaro or Firebird because it has the chunky bumpers but not the wraparound rear window, which didn't appear until '75.) From there the front and rear designs got tweaked every couple of years, getting slightly less attractive each time, until 1981, the final year of the second generation.
1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula
So, which F-body gets a spot in my Fantasy Garage? Because of the bumpers, it has to be pre-1974. Beyond that, I have to go with a Firebird mainly because I've always liked the front and rear end designs a little better than the Camaro's. It's not going to be a Trans Am, because they're just too silly-looking. You could get all or nearly all of a Trans Am's performance in a less flamboyant package by choosing a Firebird Formula (I particularly like the twin hood scoops). And I'll specify a 1971, just because for that model year only Firebirds had little louvers on the front fenders that I like.

However, I never liked those "honeycomb" wheels, so I'll take mine with a set of good old Rally II wheels, like on the red Fiebird in this brochure image:
Images from Old Car Brochures (top); Tore Tangerud (middle and bottom).

04 January 2015

This Week in Awesome (1/3/15)

I didn't post anything last weekend and I don't want to start this year by repeating that, so even though it's late on Sunday night I'm giving you what I got...

There are some crazy people in this world. And sometimes they climb to places they aren't supposed to be and bring cameras. (The Roosevelts via Boy Genius Report)

What are the historical and cultural origins of clothing colors being "assigned" (pink for girls, blue for boys)? (Smithsonian magazine via Put This On)

Watch nerds can geek out to this video of a Rolex being disassembled. (Esquire Style Blog)

And finally this week, the Smithsonian has posted 40,000 images online of works from its collections, most of which have never been seen by the public. (The Verge)

03 January 2015

Overheard: Beating the Clock Edition

Yesterday we stopped at our local coffee shop in Medford Square. A mother was fixing her drink rather hurriedly while her son, roughly five (small enough to fit under the counter overhang), fidgeted while waiting for her.

She finished, grabbed his hand, and hustled him toward the exit while saying, "Come on, we gotta go before someone wants to know why I left your brother standing alone on the sidewalk."

01 January 2015


Time has a way of getting away from us, doesn't it? Not just in terms of another year gone (though that's naturally on people's minds today) but even just in small ways, like me forgetting to post anything on the final day of the year.

Truthfully, 2014 was not what I wanted or expected it to be, in countless ways large and small. And yet I reached the end of it feeling that I'd learned things (as I hope is the case with each of you):
  • I made progress in selling on eBay, not to the point where I can earn a living from it, but enough that I found a garment in a store and knew immediately that I could make money by buying and reselling it. I'm hoping to be able to repeat that at least occasionally this year.
  • A Proper Bostonian and I embarked on a joint creative project, new territory for both of us. I didn't write about it here because I didn't feel I was ready to (and still am not), but also because I still prefer to maintain some distance between my online and offline "selves" and endeavors.
  • I was reminded several times how much I miss daily interaction with my former coworkers, and how fortunate and grateful I am to have been able to spend six years with such a talented, good-humored, and generous group of people.
  • Our dog, approaching 13 and a half, needs us more than ever. Caring for her requires more effort and at times feels like a chore and a burden, but at the same time I have come to appreciate her presence in our lives more deeply, and every day that she's with us and wanting to eat, to go outside, to get a scratch behind the ear, prolongs our wonderful dog-parenting experience.
For me, there are already signs of improvement for this new year over the past few. Being slightly superstitious after five-plus decades on our planet, I'll discuss them when I feel ready. And if it can happen for me, it can happen for any of you. It's going to be a better year, so let's get at it...

30 December 2014

Processing Your Request...

Yesterday I went and poked around in Macy's downtown, something I do only a couple of times a year these days. I figured after Christmas was a good time to go and see what might be on sale.

At one point I wanted to know what the final sale price of an item would come out to, so I went in search of a price scanner. Remember the fuss about those? It was probably close to a decade ago that the state required stores to install them as a means of ensuring consumers had access to accurate price information.

I went in search of a scanner, which seemed to be less common than they once were on the main floor at Macy's. When I found one, it was stuck on the "processing your request..." screen, with no apparent way to escape from it. I walked around the floor some more and found another scanner, which was displaying some sort of error message. There was a box to click "OK" just like on a computer screen, and since I'm now accustomed to touch screens I touched it.

I didn't think the scanners were set up to respond to touch input, but this one did something and eventually displayed what looked very much like a standard Windows operating system desktop, only much smaller and with only three or four icons. None of those appeared to grant access to the magic price-scanning function, so I again moved on.

I found two other scanners displaying their version of the Windows desktop, and never did find a working scanner, so at that point I gave up and left. So much for consumer assistance...

29 December 2014

Car Stuff: Oddities

Today was supposed to have a new Fantasy Garage, but my brain is still in holiday-week mode so I'm choosing to postpone it until next week. I saw a purple Ferrari this afternoon but it passed too quickly for me to get a photo. It got me thinking about other weird and unusual cars that I've come across. I have been able to get pics of some of them, so I might as well start posting those.
I was in Medford Square on a Saturday afternoon a couple of months ago when I spotted this. It's a Toyota Yaris, which is the smallest, least expensive Toyota. It's understandable if you've never seen one, as I don't think Toyota sells a lot of them in this country compared to its other models. If you have seen one, chances are it was the four-door version, which sells better. Subcompact two-door hatchbacks are nearly extinct in the US (Hyundai has dropped the two-door Accent, which competes directly with this car), unless they are specialty models like the Mini Cooper (and even Mini has given in and started offering a four-door version of the Cooper).

I thought it was a little odd that someone would get a car with such a low starting price and then spend money on aftermarket wheels. There was a time when most cars came with wheel covers, and if you wanted your ride to look sportier you bought a set of chrome wheels for it. Today almost all cars come with alloy rims, though it seems the Yaris may be an exception to that. And after looking at this photo more closely, I think these may in fact be wheel covers, of the sort you can get at Pep Boys or Advance Auto Parts, and which would cost a lot less than alloy rims. So I stand corrected; whatever the reasons for choosing the Yaris (certainly not looks), thrift does seem to have been a factor.

27 December 2014

Retro Video Unit (12/26/14)

Well, no video of The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" has surfaced in the past year (not that I thought it would, but you never know), so I dug around and came up with a couple of other original Christmas songs by rock acts.

First, The Kinks with "Father Christmas," a typically cynical and Kinkian take on the holiday:

And for something maybe just a bit happier, though still with a tinge of melancholy, "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders (with an introduction from a British TV show):

24 December 2014

Weird Weather

We're having some strange weather for this time of year in New England. Along with steady rain the temperatures have climbed above 60 through the day and evening, and will be holding overnight and into Christmas Day.

It feels strange that it's so warm at Christmas, but by New Years Eve it will be back down to the 20s.

Merry Christmas, if that's your jam. I'll be taking a brief break from posting until we're back home, so maybe Friday night or Saturday?

23 December 2014

Today's Wish

Someday I will live in a home where, when I shave in the shower, the hot water will last for as long as I need it.

22 December 2014

Car Stuff: The '80s Called

I spotted this old clunker just a couple of weeks ago. I was over on Broadway in Somerville to get a haircut, right near where the Mrs. and I lived from 1995 to 2006. It was also snowing a little, which you can kind of tell from the photo.
The car is a Ford LTD Crown Victoria station wagon. When this generation was introduced as a 1979 model, it was still called just LTD, but by 1983 Ford had decided to use that name for its Fairmont-based midsize car, so the fullsize got the CV tag added. The revised grille also appeared for '83, so this car can't be any older than that, but I don't think they offered a non-wood-trimmed version until '84. It stayed around for at least a few model years, so it's from somewhere in the mid-1980s.

Seeing it parked in the otherwise empty convenience store parking lot, I got a vibe off it that it has been owned by the same person since new. Obviously I have no way of knowing that, but I can make up stuff to go along with these photos if I want to. Also, I cropped it less than I typically would, because I just liked how it looked in front of the triple decker.

21 December 2014

This Week in Awesome (12/20/14)

This may or may not be the last TWiA of the year. Things do tend to slow down on the internet around this point, so we'll just have to see how it goes this week...

Remember all those high-profile flops from the earlyish days of the web? Well, maybe some of them weren't such bad ideas after all. (Wired via Kempt)

Vulture presents its choices for the 20 best comedy sketches of the year.

Drone photography is now a thing, to the extent that someone has chosen the year's best drone photos. (Yahoo Tech via Dronestagram)

Did you watch the last episode of The Colbert Report and wonder who some of the folks were in the big sing-along? (There were 100.) Talking Points Memo has you covered with screen grabs and IDs.

If your smartphone gets stolen, what exactly happens to it? This is quite interesting. (Wired)

And finally this week, Darlene Love has been singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (one of my favorite Christmas songs) on David Letterman's shows since 1986. Vanity Fair talked with her and Paul Shaffer, who helped inaugurate the tradition, about how it came about and what it's been like; the article includes YouTube clips of some of her appearances over the years. And since Letterman is retiring this May, Love appeared on the Late Show Friday night to sing the song one last time. (And no offense to U2, but when I think of this song, it's always Ms. Love's voice I hear.)

19 December 2014

The Lineup

Three interpretations of the style known as the service boot:
From left, the Wolverine 1000 Mile in rust; the L.L. Bean (made by Chippewa) Katahdin Iron Works engineer boot in cordovan (color, not leather); and the Frye Arkansas in black. All of these are made in USA.

The Wolverines, with their leather soles, are probably the "dressiest" of the three; the color works in their favor for that too. The Beans are the most work boot-like, and I find it a little odd that they don't have any speed hooks. The Fryes split the difference with a welt that matches both the leather and the sole; I wore them with wool trousers and a tweed sportcoat last Friday night.

I still wear my Caterpillar work boots more than any of these, probably because they are made for walking and standing, and they are the easiest to put on and take off.

18 December 2014

Medford Christmas Decorating

Hey there... the day sort of got away from me. Have you ever sat around trying to remember the administrator password for an old Mac you no longer use? It's not a productive way to spend any portion of your day.

However, I was more successful at printing the recipients' addresses of our holiday cards on their envelopes with my current computer and printer, something I've never even attempted before this year. They came out well; the printing is where it's supposed to be on the envelopes, and the lines of type are straight. This is largely due to the new printer, which has a handy guide slot that can be adjusted to the width of any envelope. Also of note: we are actually sending cards this year, after years of neglect in this area.
So I thought I'd just toss out a couple of photos I took the other night of some of the Christmas decorations near our house. This group of four adjacent houses is on the other side of our street just west of us. All of these houses always have some outside decorations, and while I don't know if they coordinate their efforts, the "cluster effect" benefits all of them.
This garage is on the corner opposite our street where it meets the Fellsway, and it's where I took photos of the Pontiac LeMans convertible (which is still there, parked behind the tow truck, almost a year after appearing). This is the first time they've done this, so I was pleased to see it for the first time about a week ago when getting off the bus on my way home one evening. It didn't take a genius to come up with this but it's clever and festive, plus I think there's something quintessentially Boston about it.

17 December 2014

Snack Time

I saw these at the store and curiosity got the better of me. I wanted sour cream and onion but they didn't have them, so I figured I was justified in buying these.
Technically there's no bacon listed in the ingredients, only "natural flavors," and the maple is from maple sugar. What they actually taste like is barbecue chips without any spiciness—there's some sweetness and some smokiness, and that's about it. Not bad, certainly, but not exactly as advertised.

16 December 2014

More or Less

I enjoy my tech gadgets, but I'm not usually the person who has to have the thing before everyone else. When I get a new phone, I don't load up on all the extras at the phone store. I prefer to wait and see what my needs are, and maybe I'll happen to read about an interesting product that's being funded through Kickstarter (which is how I ended up with my Elevation Dock).

I've never had a car charger for my iPhone. I don't drive, and most of the time we're in the car, we aren't going more than a few miles from home, and I don't use the phone to stream music or anything like that. But lately I've noticed that using Google Maps in the car, even just to check traffic conditions, puts a heavy drain on the phone's battery, and during our last couple of overnight trips to Rhode Island my battery was below 15% by the time we got home, so I thought it might be a good idea to get a car charger.

I figured the Apple-branded charger would be overpriced and I wasn't wrong, so I started looking at some of the other accessory brands that have been making Apple-compatible products for a while. I looked through some products when I happened to be at a Staples and found that most of the car chargers they were selling were priced at $25 to $30. I didn't want to buy a no-name piece of junk, but I didn't want to spend that much if I could avoid it.

I looked through some websites and noticed that Target was offering free shipping on any order. They had a Belkin charger for $13 but it was sold out online. I could order it to pick up at a store but the one closest to us didn't have them in stock, so I chose the store in Somerville near Union Square since I could get there on my own without too much difficulty.

When I went to the store yesterday I needed to get a couple of other things, and before going to pay I happened to pass the area with iPhone accessories. I was very surprised to see that the item I ordered was priced at $34.99. I'd already paid for mine online and it was being held for me at customer service, but if I'd just decided to go to the store without looking online first, I never would have known about the lower price.

It's surprising that this far into the life of the internet and the maturity of e-commerce this kind of pricing disparity still comes up as often as it does. You should never assume that in-store prices and online prices will match, and you also can't assume that one will consistently be lower than the other.

15 December 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #33

Today's pictures come to us courtesy of my friend in Kentucky, who also spotted the Willys I featured back in September. His lunchtime walks take him past an auto repair shop that frequently has old and interesting vehicles parked outside.

Last year I featured a 1980s Chevy El Camino that belongs to a friend of a friend. The only competitor the El Camino ever had here was the Ford Ranchero, so now I've covered an entire vehicle category, the so-called car-trucks.
Ford stopped building the Ranchero in 1979, while General Motors kept making El Caminos (and a GMC version, the Caballero) until 1987. I still see El Caminos around here, but I can't remember the last time I saw a Ranchero outside of a car show, so this one is interesting because of their relative scarcity, even if it isn't in great condition.
This one is from the final 1977-79 generation, and as you can see was burdened with rather unattractive styling. I don't remember ever seeing one with these wide side moldings even when they were new, though I did find one other photo online that suggests they are factory trim pieces. Rancheros could also be ordered with wood side trim like the station wagons of the period; this was briefly offered on El Caminos during the mid-'70s (naturally).
Because these were built on the same platform as other Ford and Mercury cars, the front clips are interchangeable, and I have seen Rancheros wearing the front end of a Mercury Cougar or Ford Thunderbird from the 1977-79 model years. The Thunderbird clip is especially interesting as it had hidden headlights, but either one is an improvement.

14 December 2014

Retro Video Unit (12/12/14... ish)

We were in RI for a family event Friday night and stayed over. Today was mostly taken up by the football game and preparing my TV column for The Longfellow Bridge. So I forgot this was a video week, but I figured I might as well post one anyway...

Big Audio Dynamite is a band I should have featured a long time ago. It's the band Mick Jones formed after being told by Joe Strummer that The Clash didn't need him anymore. As it turned out, Jones was much better off being shown the door than being involved in that embarrassing final album.

With its mix of street beats and spaghetti-Western twang in both the music and the musicians' outfits, as a band BAD shouldn't have worked, and if Jones wasn't involved I don't think it would have. "The Bottom Line" was the first single from their first album. I don't understand this video at all, but I like it. Plus when's the last time you saw anyone playing a Steinberger bass?

And now I'm going to go look for their CDs on half dot com...

11 December 2014

Funny Pages

I've been reading comic strips online for a long time now. There are a couple of sites for the companies that distribute the strips, and a site for a big-city newspaper like the Chicago Tribune covers the rest. (The Boston Globe has an online comics page, but it doesn't carry all the strips I read.)

I've noticed that the pages for individual comic strips accept comments, and this strikes me as pointless. Clearly I don't know what I'm talking about, because people leave comments on these pages. But what I find really disturbing is that these comments treat the contents of a given day's strip as though it's something that happened in real life.

Do you get what I'm saying? People read these comic strips online, then post comments about what happens in the strips AS THOUGH THEY'RE REAL. As though cartoon drawings of people—or worse, animals that can talk—are depictions of actual events. I find this deeply troubling. It's unhealthy, to say the least, and suggests difficulty in distinguishing reality from fantasy. Or maybe the real reason it bothers me is because it's a complete waste of time.

10 December 2014

Watch Wednesday (12/10/14)

In late October I sold a vintage watch on eBay for about three times what I'd paid for it back in 2003 or so, well above what I was expecting to get. I wish I had more old watches that were that valuable (a couple might be, but I don't want to sell them).

Anyway, I didn't splurge on anything (besides rent), but I'd happened to spot a watch on the Timex website that I liked, and being me I figured I could find one for less on eBay. I did, and it only took a couple of days. It was all of $25. (It's $44 on the Timex website.)
It's from their Expedition series but it struck me as a nice variation on the military-style watches that have been popular for the past five years or so. You know, like the Timexes that J. Crew used to sell for $150 (and have since lowered to a still-too-hgh $98). Then Timex came out with the Weekenders on one-piece nylon straps that you can get for about $35 at Target, and those are okay, but they aren't especially rugged and don't have a date function.

This watch is beefier. At 40 mm diameter it's a better size for my wrist, and its case has more heft to it. It just feels more sturdy. I also liked the matte finish case in a gunmetal color, a bit different from the usual silver. (This watch is also available in a matte silver case with the black dial and a white second hand, or a matte black case with a beige dial and black hands.)

I do not love yellow, so I do not love the yellow second hand, but I do like that it's a different color than the rest of the watch's markings—contrast is better, that's another reason why I didn't want the silver-case version. Timex makes other watches that use this same shape second hand in other colors, like orange and red. If I could come across one of those cheaply enough, I might consider having the hand switched out. (Yes, I do tend to get somewhat carried away with this stuff...)

Of course, I had to change the strap. It came with a two-piece version of a nylon NATO strap in olive green. (In case anyone's wondering, the beige-faced version comes on a brown strap and the silver case version on a tan strap.) It was a little long for my wrist, and didn't feel substantial enough for the watch it was on. I first tried one of the kind that looks like carbon fiber but is actually leather, but it was so stiff that even after I'd shaped it to my wrist it was too uncomfortable to wear. The strap in this photo is from a site called Crown & Buckle that sells plenty of NATO straps at pretty reasonable prices, and also carries leather straps that they make, or have made for them.

This one is a fabric that resembles canvas; I've also seen this type of fabric described as sailcloth. The back is leather, it's about 4 mm thick and is soft and sort of squishy. I think it goes well with the overall rugged appearance of the watch. I might at some point put this watch on a tan leather strap with white contrast stitching, because I think that would look good too.

(Side note: all the time I was doing this watch feature regularly, I struggled to take photos that were close enough to show the details of the watch faces and still in focus. It wasn't until a couple of months ago, when I was preparing the eBay listing for the vintage watch, that I finally realized that as long as it's in focus, an image can be made to appear larger and closer-up by cropping it, which I've done here.)

09 December 2014

Someone's in My Way... Again

Today was not a fun day to be outside around here. There was heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour, I believe. But eBay beckoned and I had to drop a package at the post office. A rather large package, in fact, so I had to employ a couple of plastic bags to protect it from getting wet.

I also had to stop at the supermarket on my way home, which was my own fault—I could have gone yesterday when I didn't have anything else going on and it was cold but not raining. I caught a bus at Wellington and figured I'd have about a 10-minute window to run into the store and get back to the bus stop for my bus.

As usual, everything was fine until I got to the checkout. There was a woman ahead of me who seemed to be having a mental block as to how to slide her debit card through the machine. In fact, she said so, just so we all knew what was happening. She went on her way, I paid for my things, took a moment to organize them in the bag I'd used to carry the package, and turned toward the exit, where I found her again in front of me, stopped, with her cart blocking the door as she leaned over to pick up some sort of flyer.

Eventually she realized someone was behind her, and looked back at me and apologized. She moved on to the outer door, where she again stopped, looked out at the rain, and said, "Oh boy, would you look at that? It's really coming down." I said, "Yes, and now I have to run across the street and try to catch the bus, so could you please step aside?" She looked confused, but I didn't stick around for any other reaction because I didn't have time, and I was done with her.

But as I hurried across the parking lot, a monologue continued in my head, as it often does: If you could just withdraw from your bubble of self-involvement for a moment and realize that you're not the only person trying to leave the store, that would be great.

08 December 2014

Car Stuff: Remember These?

Just a quick one this week from my stash of random photos: a 1998 or '99 Isuzu Trooper, still doing troop duty for one of the families in our neighborhood.
This generation's 12-year run ended in 2002, but for a while in the early to mid 1990s these were everywhere around greater Boston and eastern Massachusetts; I knew a couple of coworkers who had them. They seemed pretty rugged but Isuzu's limited resources meant they were unable to keep pace with more refined, carlike vehicles like the Ford Explorer. By the time they got this vehicle's replacement to market, no one cared anymore.

(Don't worry about the snow in the pic; this is from last winter.)

07 December 2014

This Week in Awesome (12/6/14)

TWiA didn't happen again last week, blame it on the holiday weekend I guess. I'll try to make up for it with a larger-than-usual portion of interweb stuff...

Ugly sweaters are now officially a "thing," to the point where the NFL is trying to sell team versions. As soon as something goes from hipster-ironic to a greedy attempt to cash in, it's over. (Esquire Style Blog)

Two fascinating people have a conversation, and you'll want to see it. Wasn't there a TV series like this a while back? (Filmmaker magazine via Dappered)

No time-lapse, but how about some eerie drone footage from over Chernobyl? (io9)

Oh wait, I guess there is a time-lapse after all. (Vimeo; music in the first half may not be to everyone's taste)

Since it's the Christmas season, read about how the famous Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet came about. (Yahoo via Kempt)

And finally this week, anyone who's ever worked retail will be able to relate to at least some of this, but as to the specific company being discussed, these stories are beyond appalling. I continue to wonder how they are still in business. (SB Nation via Valet)

06 December 2014

Really Big Show

I saw Interstellar tonight, in IMAX. I'm still digesting the movie, but I'll say that the last 30 minutes or so do require some pretty heavy suspension of disbelief, but that's not necessarily meant as a negative. Technically it's deeply impressive, not quite in the same league as last year's Gravity but still with plenty of striking shots and moments.

This was my first time seeing a movie at the Assembly Row IMAX theater, and I was a little underwhelmed, especially considering the ticket price ($17.50). The screen is only maybe 50% as large as the one at Jordan's in Reading, and there were a few times during the movie when the music was loud enough to obscure dialogue. Now that could just be how the movie's sound was mixed, or it could have something to do with the IMAX sound system.

I will say that the stadium seating lets you go up about four rows from the entry aisle and be vertically at the middle of the screen's height, which I find is ideal for seeing IMAX movies. And if you go to one of the earlier showings in the day it's cheaper; I think the first two shows are $12. (I just checked and for comparison, all the shows at Jordan's are $12.75.) If you can't get to Reading and you don't want to go downtown the IMAX at AMC Assembly Row is a decent option: it's T accessible, the theaters are clean, and the staff is pleasant. But with IMAX, I've found that bigger is better, plus you can get Richardson's ice cream in Reading.

04 December 2014

For Want of a Bookstore

I've gone downtown to do errands three out of four days this week. Monday I needed to go to the bank, and yesterday and today I had to drop off packages on their way to people who bought stuff I'd listed on eBay. (Being able to print the postage at home is great, no waiting in line at the post office—as long as said post office has an automated package center with the big drop bin.)

Of all the jobs I've had, I only worked downtown for a few months once, but I've spent plenty of time around there over the years. In recent years though, not so much, so sometimes when I walk around it seems like things have changed more dramatically than they perhaps seem to others who are around there more regularly.

For example, yesterday it occurred to me that since the Borders closed a few years ago, there is no general bookstore. There's the Brattle Book Shop and Commonwealth Books, but both deal in used books. It's really sad and unfortunate that the area couldn't seem to sustain a bookstore.

But as has happened in other cities, Downtown Crossing is seeing an influx of residential units in both new construction and redevelopment of existing buildings. In a few years there will be at least a couple thousand people living in the area, and perhaps then it will make sense for the return of a bookstore as an amenity residents will want.

02 December 2014

Grocery Checkout Gauntlet

This afternoon I made a quick run to the market. We have two Stop & Shops to choose from; one is smaller but a little closer, so when it's nice out I'll usually walk to that one. But since it was cold I decided to catch the bus down to the bigger one. If I know what I need and I'm getting only a few things I can usually get my stuff and get out of the store in time to catch the same bus as it's coming back on the northbound run of the route, after it goes into Wellington and comes back out again.

That did happen today, but I barely made it. As I was waiting for the bus to pull over so I could get off, the bus driver said to me, "you made good time." I replied, "It mostly depends on what happens when I get to the register." That's where things get iffy.

There always seems to be someone ahead of me who's buying only three or four items, but for whatever reason their checkout takes multiple minutes. Or I get stuck behind one of the few dozen people who still clings to paying for groceries by check. Or the cashier has too much cash in the drawer and has to make a drop to a manager. Or, as happened today, after the checkout I got stuck behind a cluster of people lugging grocery carts, in no hurry to get to the exit, and without enough room for me to go around them.

I know I'm impatient, but it's 35 minutes between buses, and sometimes when I've bought groceries, I just don't feel like walking home with them. I try to be considerate of other people's time, but the reverse never seems to happen.

01 December 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #14

Even though the American car companies offered compact cars starting with the 1960 models, and filled in the gap with midsize cars a few years later, the carmakers held onto the idea that their full-size cars defined and represented them well into the 1970s. And while the large cars were often the standard-bearers for styling and design trends, even before the first oil crisis in 1973 plenty of people did not need or want a full-size car.

For many buyers midsize models often represented a sweet spot in terms of exterior size and interior room: not too much of the former, not too little of the latter. The midsize models of the mid-to-late 1960s were roughly the same size in overall length and weight, and were equipped with engines of roughly the same or greater size and power output, as the standard cars of 10 to 15 years earlier. (It would have been interesting to see how the American car market developed if full-size cars hadn't kept getting bigger well into the 1970s, but that's a tangent I'll leave for another time.)

As the 1960s rolled into the 1970s, the bloat of full-size models began to afflict midsize cars as well. By 1974, when the federal government required all new cars to have bumpers capable of withstanding a 5-mph impact, the length of a midsize car ranged from about 206" (for a Chevrolet Malibu two-door) to 215" (for a Ford Torino four-door), during a period when two-door and four-door body styles were typically built on different wheelbase lengths; people bought four-door cars because their back seats were roomier. (For comparison purposes, current midsize cars like a 2015 Honda Accord or Ford Fusion typically land at about 190-192 inches in overall length.)

But before that happened, midsize cars were still fairly sensibly sized and attractive. The convertibles and sporty two-door models like the Pontiac GTO and Dodge Coronet R/T tend to get the most attention from collectors, but today I'm going to express my appreciation and enthusiasm for a plain-Jane four-door sedan. Why? Watching TV shows like Adam-12 while growing up may have something to do with it, where it seemed like all the patrol cars were Plymouth Satellites or Dodge Coronets (later, when the LAPD inexplicably switched to AMC Matadors, the show did as well).
My particular choice is going to seem an odd one to a lot of people. I like all of the 1968-70 Satellites and Coronets (like the one I featured earlier this year), but what I'd choose for my fantasy garage is a 1970 Dodge Coronet 500 four-door sedan. For unexplainable reasons I love its scowling face, and I have since I first saw one in the parking lot of my elementary school in the early 1970s. The 500 was the highest trim level available for a Coronet in 1970, and I figure it would be more interesting to have one of those than a plain base model that would look like an old detective's car.

It's not too surprising that the internet isn't exactly bursting with images of these cars, but it is a little disappointing. Curbside Classic did a writeup on a '69 Coronet 440 sedan a couple of years back with a few good pictures of the car in question, but there isn't much else that would be useful here, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

28 November 2014

Retro Video Unit (11/28/14)

For some reason I was in the mood for something from 1979 tonight. This is from 1981 but it's close enough... The Cars, "Since You're Gone."

26 November 2014

November Sunset

I happened to look out the kitchen window (which faces roughly west) yesterday afternoon and saw the sky looking like this, so I grabbed my phone and went out on the back porch to get some shots of it.
The actual sunset looked much more pink-to-red to my eyes, so when all the images came out with more of a range of color I was surprised but not disappointed.

25 November 2014


Since before we moved to this house eight years ago, the upstairs apartment has been occupied by various unrelated single adults, some of whom moved on when their relationship status changed. This summer two of the three left, and the girlfriend of the third moved in. There were furniture purchases and other expected domestications.

Then about ten days ago I started noticing bits of holiday-related decoration appearing. There's a small window in the front wall of the house, about head-high, that lets light into the stairway going up to the second floor apartment. Vinyl lettering saying "Merry Christmas" showed up on that window, affixed to the inside. A couple of days later there was a package on the front porch addressed to the female upstairs resident. It was a doormat, and because it was wrapped in clear plastic I could see that it said "Wipe your merry feet." Indeed.

I grew up in a house where Christmas decorating was embraced enthusiastically, and I have friends who are equally merry, but I'm not used to seeing it so close by, or so early in the season. The majority of people in the neighborhood who do decorate seem to have an unspoken understanding that visible exterior decorations are not supposed to appear until after the Thanksgiving meal has been consumed.

On Sunday I went outside to get the paper and found that the window in the door leading to upstairs had been covered by a piece of holiday wrapping paper. It blocks the light that comes in through that small window and makes the vestibule dark, but at night when their stairway light is turned on it makes the paper glow warmly.

Last night when I took the dog out, I saw that a couple of rows of blinking lights had been strung on the second-floor porch railing. They were arranged in a straight line running around all three sides of the railing about halfway up it. There were white lights and blue lights (thankfully not those LED ones that emit a weird, artificial-looking light) but they weren't mixed together, and they'd been set up to blink in seemingly random patterns.

It struck me as something of a half-hearted effort, but perhaps it's only phase one in a larger light-show plan. It's still two days before Thanksgiving, so there's plenty of time for who knows what else to appear.

24 November 2014

Car Stuff: Bye Week

This is supposed to be a Fantasy Garage week, but I'm just too tired to start digging into that now. And since it's a holiday week anyway, I'm just going to go with this through-the-windshield shot I snagged at a traffic light near our house at dusk back in early September.
It's a Lincoln Town Car from the 1975-79 generation. I wish I'd been able to get a clearer shot, but I had only a few seconds so I'm lucky I got anything. It's interesting that there seem to be a lot of older Cadillacs around, at least ones from the 1980s, but by comparison I see far fewer older Lincolns. Maybe I'll cross paths with this car again and then I can do a fuller Random Sighting post on it.

23 November 2014

This Week in Awesome (11/22/14)

25 degrees yesterday morning, 65 (or possibly higher) tomorrow. Gotta love New England...

Have you ever seen a car chase in a movie and recognized the locations where it took place? (Motorpunk via Hemmings blog)

The caption says it all: Christmas just got weird. (The Chive via The Clearly Dope)

The song used in this video has been out for about eight months, but somehow I wasn't aware of it until I saw this. Obviously these people were not dancing to this song in the source clips, but whatever they were dancing to, it's still a strange sight. (Tastefully Offensive via The A.V. Club)

And finally this week, I try to avoid getting into political stuff, but this rather perfectly encapsulates the fundamental problem with the arguments against immigration policy. (Esquire)

22 November 2014

The Comfy Chairs

Went to the movies tonight (Big Hero 6—seems like I end up seeing more kids' movies than adults' movies lately) and experienced the overstuffed, reclining seats at the AMC Assembly Row theater. I have mixed feelings about them. There's the obvious danger of falling asleep; I didn't, but it's easy to imagine it happening if one was tired.

Also, my legs started to get crampy about halfway through the movie. I don't know if it's just because they were horizontal instead of vertical (being supported by the lower portion of the seat that unfolds as it reclines) or if it was a circulation thing, like what can happen on long plane flights. Overall I think I prefer the seats a bit further back in the theaters that are still thickly padded but don't recline.

20 November 2014

Feeding Patterns

We've been feeding the dog "human food" (chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, and spinach) mixed in with her kibble for a few months now, with definite success. She has gained back almost three pounds and is much more enthusiastic about her daily meals.

But roughly every 10 days or so she disdains her meal, even though she acts like she wants it. She pokes and nibbles at it for a few moments, then walks away. She'll usually come back to it a bit later and do the same thing again without really consuming any substantial amount of it. We have no idea why. We know she's hungry, and we know she likes what we're feeding her.

We tend to project our thoughts onto our pets because they can't express themselves to us in a way we can understand, so I find myself thinking things like: she's refusing to eat on purpose just to be difficult. Her unpredictability is what's perplexing to us because dogs tend to prefer very regular feeding patterns. But it is possible there are times when she just doesn't feel like eating, and given her advanced age that's probably what's happening. I also know that a couple of hours from now she'll be hungry, and will expect me to prepare her a fresh meal.

18 November 2014

Mailing Things

What is it that people do at the post office that takes so long? I waited in line for seven minutes today to drop off a package that already had postage on it. When I got in line only one of three windows had a clerk. A second appeared but was busy for some time with people who had already been to the window once and had been told to come back when they had completed paperwork.

A third guy was floating around in the back, then stepped forward to ask if anyone was waiting to pick up a package. Two people came forward and he helped them, then he asked again, said,"Well, I've done my duty," and disappeared.

This post office has slots for dropping off mail but they are narrow. My package was small but still too large to fit in the slot. I asked and learned that if a package is small enough and weighs less than 13 ounces, it can be dropped in a mailbox. That might have saved me a trip, though today I had to go to Medford Square anyway. Still, it's worth knowing about for possible future use.

As for knowing the weight, I recently acquired a scale, the kind people use to weigh food portions. It can measure up to 11 pounds, which is more than enough for my shipping needs.

17 November 2014

Car Stuff: Retro Rod

I spotted this restomod as we passed a gas station one day about six months ago and was able to get my phone up quickly enough to snap this one shot.
It's a 1955 Chevrolet, and normally I'd have cropped the image much closer to the car, but it's not super-sharp, probably because we were still moving, and looked blurry when cropped. Plus I think it looks better with some of the surroundings giving it context.

I thought this was a "sedan delivery," a rare body style that was basically a station wagon with a flat load floor behind the front seat and no side windows. But when I looked at this picture on my computer, I think the black paint is intended to disguise very dark tinted windows, and that this is in fact a two-door station wagon that the owner wants people to think is a sedan delivery. I wouldn't say it's wrong to do this, but why not just show off the car you have? It's still a '55 Chevy two-door wagon, a rare item on any day.

15 November 2014

This Week in Awesome (11/15/14)

It was a full, busy day, but damn it, I'm getting this up tonight...

Even with the current plethora of security features, there has always been something fascinating about the concept of counterfeiting currency. (GQ)

I tend to notice stuff in the background in movies, or at least I try to. (The Verge)

If there's anything to take away from this, it ought to be: do your own thing, don't follow the herd. (Washington Post via Esquire Style blog)

This is a thought exercise with no real purpose but some interesting results. (Nerdist)

And finally this week, for some time I've been enjoying looking back at a period in the area's history I was only around for the last few years of via Dirty Old Boston, which I first found as a blog on boston dot com. The brain trust at bdc did away with all the "community" blogs including DOB about eight months ago, but fortunately there's also a facebook page (which you don't have to belong to fb to view). The proprietor, Jim Botticelli, was compiling material for a book that was published earlier this month, so now there's a website for the book that also has a blog and an online store. Jim was interviewed this week on WBUR's "Radio Boston" and you can listen to the interview here.

Retro Video Unit (11/14/14)

I posted a clip from The Jam once before, about two and a half years ago, so I think it's okay to revisit them at this point. They were one of the most interesting UK bands of the new wave era: they had style, they had a distinctive sound, and there were only three members (okay, yeah, The Police were also a trio).

"In the City," the title song from their first album, encapsulates everything you need to know about the band. Singer/guitarist Paul Weller has had a varied and fairly prolific solo career, but keeps a relatively low profile.

13 November 2014

Coffee Break

I was thinking about coffee this morning, as mine was brewing. I don't think there are any other food items that I consume every single day. There's also beer, but there are occasional days when I don't drink a beer with my evening meal.

I was first introduced to coffee when I was around five, when my mother added a little to my milk. But I didn't start drinking it with any regularity until near the end of high school. That's also around the time I started visiting Dunkin' Donuts, which is when I discovered what half and half was. Cream was never used in our household, and I guess I had never noticed it in the grocery store either. If you haven't done a direct comparison, coffee with milk tastes markedly different from coffee with cream. (I don't use sugar, it's just more unnecessary calories and I think it ruins the taste of the coffee.)

In college my roommate had a coffee maker, and when I lived alone as a senior I acquired my first one. I couldn't even count how many of them I've had since, but it's probably at least a dozen. I remember a roommate in a house a couple of years out of college having one of the earliest Braun models that used the cone-shaped filters. I was struck by the thought that had gone into the various elements of the design. Of course I wanted one for myself and I did get one, eventually, but it was a few years later.

Around that same time I tried to develop a taste for drinking coffee black because it seemed like a cool thing to do. Aside from the harshness (which cream does an excellent job of mellowing) and the stomach discomfort, I found that with black coffee there was a very small window between "too hot" and "too cold" and I always ended up missing it, so that experiment was short-lived.

It's funny how some people never make coffee at home, and their only relationship to it is through their office or a coffee shop. I guess it goes along with trying to eat breakfast but I've always wanted the ability to have coffee before leaving the house. But there were times when that wasn't always the most convenient option.

In the mid-1980s I worked at the Harvard Coop, back when it was still an independent store that sold things like records, housewares, and non-university-logo clothing. I always worked Saturdays, and the bus I took to work during the week either didn't run on Saturdays or didn't run as frequently, meaning I would have had to get up significantly earlier (unthinkable in one's early 20s) or take a different route.

This also happened to be during the period when the Mass. Ave. bridge was being rebuilt, and as with the Longfellow Bridge now, there were traffic restrictions. The 1 bus had to be rerouted, and the alternate route took it through Kenmore Square, past BU's main campus, and across the BU bridge to Memorial Drive and eventually back to Mass. Ave.

Where I lived at the time, the 57 bus stopped right in front of our house, so on Saturday mornings I'd take that bus down into Kenmore, go into the old Dunkin' that used to be there (back when they still had counter service), get the recently-introduced Big One (20 ounces, which I think corresponds to their current large) for around $1.25, cross the square, and wait for the next 1 bus to come through.

Amazingly, the timing always seemed to work out perfectly, even during the winter. I think there was only one time when I had to forego the coffee and make the bus connection in front of Marsh Chapel in order to get to work on time. And getting that Saturday coffee was something of a treat, a reward for having to get up and go to work while others were sleeping in.

11 November 2014

Welcome to Your Nightmare

All right, so TWiA didn't happen again this past weekend. The timing would have been much better, since this thing only started banging around the web on Friday. Saving it until next weekend seems like it would be pointless, so for those of you who haven't encountered it already, Adult Swim slipped something extra weird into its already pretty weird late-night lineup.

It's called "Too Many Cooks." It starts out as sort of a spoof on a broad genre of 1980s and '90s sitcoms, and then it just, well... if any of you have seen Adam Scott's homages to '80s TV opening credit sequences, which also aired on Adult Swim under the banner of The Greatest Event in Television History, then you could argue that "Too Many Cooks" is kind of like if David Lynch made a GETH.

But it's more than that, too. I don't want to spoil it so I won't say anything else. You'll have to decide for yourself whether it's worth the 11 minutes of your time. If you do watch it, you may then want to read this interview with its creator (a veteran of other Adult Swim shows). And a lot more has been written about this bizarre but fascinating short: BuzzFeed, Salon, even Vanity Fair and The New Yorker weighed in on it.

10 November 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #32

Back in September I found myself in Arlington Center one day, looking for some used paperbacks at the used bookstore The Book Rack. I was unsuccessful, and on my way home I got stuck in a gap between buses on Boston Avenue in the vicinity of Tufts, so I decided to walk to where I could get a different bus. It turned out to be a fortuitous circumstance because I found three cars worth photographing during that walk, two of which I'm sharing today.
Along Boston Ave. there's an auto repair place, and those tend to be good places to spot interesting older cars. In fact, we had passed this place in the car and I'd caught a glimpse of this car, but didn't expect it to be there again several weeks later, but it was, which suggests to me that it may belong to one of the employees.
It's a 1971 Buick Skylark Gran Sport (GS), which was Buick's counterpart to its corporate cousins the Chevrolet Chevelle SS, Pontiac GTO, and Oldsmobile 4-4-2. The different models shared many mechanical components but had their own styling, interiors, and instrument panel designs. Back in '71 silver wasn't the ubiquitous color it is today, so this is an interesting sighting for that reason too. (Buick called this shade "platinum mist.") As with the '72 LeMans convertible near my house that I wrote about back in late March, production of '71 GS models was pretty low. The GS was available as either a hardtop like this or a convertible, each with three engine choices: a 350-cubic-inch V8, a 455-cubic-inch V8, or a higher-tune 'Stage 1" version of the 455. There was also a GSX package which added a spoiler and black striping on the hood and sides, so we know this isn't a GSX.
These iPhone pics don't have the resolution for me to be able to tell what the fender badge under the GS says, but it doesn't look like the Stage 1 badges I found online, so it's probably either 350 or 455. The production numbers on those were 5986 and 1481, respectively. I apologize for how the right edge of this got cut off; I was trying to avoid getting the car next to it in this shot. Once I realized what was parked next to the GS I took a separate pic of it, plus you can see it in the first two pics above.
The bonus car, which is surely owned by a senior citizen, is a Chrysler Imperial, which was made only from 1990-93. The Imperial name has a long and complicated history as part of Chrysler, starting in 1926. In its most significant period, from 1955-75, it was a separate brand, meant to sit at the top of Chrysler's brand hierarchy as a competitor to Cadillac and Lincoln. This car, however, was merely a New Yorker Fifth Avenue with different front and rear ends and a plusher interior.

07 November 2014

Printer Postcript

As a follow-up to last night's post about printers, I now have three old, decommissioned printers packed away in their boxes in the basement. The space they are taking up isn't crucial but could be used to store other things. I was pondering what to do with them and remembered that A Proper Bostonian told me a couple of years ago that Best Buy accepts electronic items for recycling at no cost, even if you didn't buy the item from them.

The information is fairly accessible on their website: at the top of the page under Services there is a link for Recycle Your Old Products. There are some restrictions, which vary by state. Here in Massachusetts you can recycle up to three computer items per household per day. We will be sending our old printers on to their next lives this weekend.

However you feel about Best Buy as a corporate entity, this is an extremely useful and environmentally beneficial service and they are to be commended for offering it. Most electronic products contain a high percentage of components that can be reused or made into other things, but the materials need to be directed to the proper facilities for this to happen. Keeping old junk out of landfills benefits all of us in the long run.

06 November 2014

Print Queue

I haven't had good luck with printers. I've had several over the past decade, and they seem to start getting problematic after only a couple of years. We had various issues with them that I don't even remember now, mainly ink issues and printing issues, and spending too much on ink.

In 2007 I bought a Mac mini that came with a free printer of my choice up to $100 valu, so I picked up a Canon inkjet. The frequency with which we had to buy replacement ink, and its cost, left us very unsatisfied. Kodak had come out with a line of inkjet printers that had significantly lower ink replacement costs, so we decided to get one of those. I bought that printer in 2010.

That printer really seemed to blow through ink too, and I didn't even use it that much. Eventually I read a story on Consumerist that said leaving a printer on standby rather than turning its power completely off would save ink, and the Mrs. pointed out that I could use the "draft" setting for print quality, something I hadn't even thought about. But this printer, too, became problematic, particularly after I upgraded my Mac to the latest version of the operating system a few weeks ago.

When I sell an item on eBay, I can purchase and print a postage label at home, and then just drop the package at a post office. But twice within a few weeks I purchased the label and was unable to print it. eBay lets sellers void a purchased label, but the refund takes 15 days for the postal service to process! When I sell an item I need to be able to reliably print a label so I can get the package out as quickly as possible. We decided we needed to replace the printer again.

This time I went to the library and spent half an hour going through the past year's issues of Consumer Reports to see which printer models they had tested and which ones they thought were a decent buy. I also looked at replacement costs for ink cartridges for the three major inkjet printer brands: HP, Epson, and Canon. Among CR's recommendations was an HP printer called the Envy 4500. The Envy models are sleeker than average, which appealed to my aesthetic sense. HP's ink costs are reasonable ($36 at Staples for a combo pack of black and color ink) and most retailers were selling it for about $80.

There was also a slightly nicer model with the same specs plus a two-tone black and silver finish and a larger color touch screen instead of a simpler LCD. That model was selling at most places for $100, but there was a Staples coupon in last Sunday's paper for 15% off one item, and being able to go to a nearby store and get one right away was preferable to having to wait for one to arrive from ordering online.

So we ended up with the Envy 5530. If you want to spend a little less you can get the 4500, which will perform the same. I've sold two items on eBay this week and the printer has done its job. It was easy to set up, it's quieter than our last one, and it prints more quickly. I'm hoping this one will last a little longer than two or three years.

05 November 2014

Overheard: Threat Assessment Edition

This afternoon I listened to a guy sitting behind me on the T have a phone conversation with his significant other that went generally along these lines: "You do not have ebola... how do I know? Because there are no confirmed cases of it in the state, or in any of the neighboring states... have you been in contact with anyone from West Africa? No, you haven't... you probably have the flu. If you're really that uneasy about it, go see your doctor... babe, I work in a hospital, it's my job to know these things... you are kind of a hypochondriac... you get sick a lot... it's not possible, you just don't have it..." and so on.

04 November 2014

The Voice

I hear my own voice talking to me inside my head frequently, but it rarely has anything useful to say...

03 November 2014

Car Stuff: Back to the '70s

I love street scenes, especially ones with lots of vintage cars on view. I grew up in Rhode Island and used to go on shopping trips "downcity" with my grandmother; by 1979 or so I was venturing into downtown Providence by myself on the bus to shop for clothes and records.

Conveniently, several images from the city of Providence's online photo gallery showed up on the Hemmings blog on Friday. I went to the city's website to see what else they had. It seems like these are all from no later than 1977 or so; it's hard to say exactly, but I don't think I see any cars newer than that year.
This shot is looking south on Dorrance Street (possibly from the old train station), with the western edge of Kennedy Plaza at the left and City Hall at the right. The white Mercedes S-class coming into the bottom of the frame is a bit of a surprise, but they were starting to make inroads into the market by the mid-'70s.
Looking at more or less the same spot but from down at street level, there's the Haven Brothers diner truck about to pull into its regular spot adjacent to City Hall. Food truck, old-school style. The blue car at the left is around a '73 Oldsmobile Delta 88; the black one is a Mercury Monarch, one of the newest cars I can spot in any of these pics.
From the same spot, a pivot to the right gives us this view looking west down Washington Street. The edge of City Hall is at the left, and just beyond the right edge of the frame is the Biltmore Hotel, which is still around. A Pinto! A Checker cab! Look at all those VW Beetles!
Back to the first photo, but the photographer moved a block south and turned back around looking north across the intersection of Dorrance and Westminster Streets. You can see that the building at the left in the top photo is the same one the camera is facing here. Check out that granny's pedestrian move. That old Plymouth is a bit unusual, even for this point in time. Behind it, going the other way, the black car looks to be a Chevy Monza, which came out in '75. And there's an old green RIPTA bus on the right.
Here the photographer has crossed Dorrance and turned around to look west down Westminster, which at the time was a pedestrian street closed to vehicle traffic for several blocks (and I'm pretty sure they stole the idea for that from Washington Street in Downtown Crossing). It makes sense that Old Stone Bank would have had a branch across the street from its competitor Hospital Trust. (Trivia: I spent the summer between high school and college working for Old Stone as a mail clerk in their operations center. They licensed Fred Flintstone to use as their mascot in commercials, and their ATM card was called Ready Freddy.)

Those two station wagons cruising past are basically the same car: the silver one is a 1972 or '73 Ford Gran Torino. The red one is a 1977 Mercury Cougar, which had previously been called the Montego and was made as a Cougar for one year only.
This photo is from a couple of blocks further south, along Pine Street looking across a parking lot (since replaced by a parking garage) at the Weybosset Street entrance to The Arcade, a National Historic Landmark building built in 1828. Behind it, and looming over downtown, is the old Industrial National Bank building, which many Rhode Islanders refer to as "the Superman building" because of its resemblance to the building used for the Daily Planet in the old Superman TV show. (Sadly, it now sits vacant and unused.) The green car is a first-generation VW Scirocco, extremely scarce now.
I realize there are no cars in this photo, which is at a point further west on the Westminster Street pedestrian mall. I included it because of the stores. Shepard's department store went bankrupt in 1974, but the building still stands (as does the clock) and today it houses the University of Rhode Island's continuing education department. Chess King! It's embarrassing to think about it now, but I did shop there for a while. And further back, with the red facade, is B. Dalton Bookseller, which eventually became part of Waldenbooks.