28 April 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #37

This week I have another contribution from Just Bud Fox, who finds these vehicles when he's out taking lunchtime walks.

This blue barge is a 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop. Technically it's considered a 1963-1/2 Galaxie 500 "Sports Hardtop" because this model with a steeply angled roofline and rear window was a midyear introduction. (At the beginning of the '63 model year, the Galaxie 500 hardtop looked like this, and that model continued selling alongside this one.)
It was curious for Ford to launch a new body style in the middle of the model year, especially since the more formal roofline from the "regular" Galaxie 500 hardtop had originated with Ford back in 1958, with the introduction of the four-passenger Thunderbird. By the next year they had already started applying the roofline to the full-size Galaxie, a new model slotted above the long-running Fairlane. (Starting in 1962 the Fairlane name was transferred to Ford's new midsize cars, but by the end of the decade it had been phased out, supplanted by Torino.)
The formal roofline would return for 1965 on the new top-of-the-line LTD, and though Ford continued to offer a full-size two-door hardtop with a sweeping roofline through 1970, by that point the LTD's perceived luxury had become a much bigger selling point than sportiness, which had been shifted to the Mustang and, to a lesser extent, the Torino GT.
The '63 Fords were pretty attractive cars, perhaps not quite as appealing to me as the '63 Chevys, but close. Notice how the designers' 1950s habit of slathering on all sorts of trim bits is still in effect here: the individual letters on the hood and trunk, the little fin things on the edges of the hood, the full-length, bi-level side trim, the vertical doodads on the rear fender, the decorative panel across the rear that echoes the grille pattern, the attempt to make the roof look like a convertible top, etc.

(Back along the wall you can glimpse the Ranchero that I've featured previously, and that oxidized red thing on the right is a Yugo, a notoriously bad import from the 1980s. It's pretty amazing to see that one has survived.)

25 April 2015

This Week in Awesome (4/25/15)

To those of you who may visit primarily to see what I post in this feature, I apologize for its absence. Maybe it's me or my web browsing habits, or maybe the internet just isn't as awesome as it used to be, but lately I'm not finding as many things that I feel compelled to share. I tend to wait until I have at least four items, which is interesting considering that for a good while I'd post five items each weekend. Anyway...

Archer fans will enjoy this clip. Archer is a show that stands up to rewatching, if for no other reason than to unpack each episode's multiple such references (and also because it's really funny). I've also found that using closed captioning can help make certain jokes, dialogue, and other story elements clearer. (Indiewire via The Verge)

This one's weird and somewhat far-fetched, but also just plausible enough to believe. (BLDG BLOG)

Vulture was kind enough to assemble this list of great car movies. I've seen more than half of them; great to see Repo Man in the top five.

And finally this whenever, those of you who watched the early years of the MTV era will likely enjoy reading about the genesis of one of the most distinctive songs from that period. (Medium)

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (4/24/15)

When I found that U2 video a few weeks back, I also found this month's concert installment. And as a bonus, it's local: U2 live at TD Garden from their 2001 Elevation tour.

24 April 2015

Everything She Needs

The Mrs. is on her way to California for a high school reunion and a visit with her sister. With me still not gainfully employed in any meaningful way (there is work, but not consistent and not full-time), it was impractical for me to accompany her. And of course the other creature in the room, literally, is our elderly dog. She is approaching 14 and, while she is still in good health for a dog of that age, she requires a lot of attention and care.

She needs a pain pill three times a day, stuffed into a blob of tuna to make it enticing enough. Lately she's been ambivalent about eating the tuna, which means it and the pill often end up having to be thrown away. (After a couple of hours inside the tuna, the pill turns to mush and can't be reused.) Fortunately the medication is inexpensive, and we finally got smart enough to ask for the largest quantity we could legally purchase from the vet at one time. Also, she graciously prefers the cheaper light tuna to the solid white kind, and the light tuna is easier to pack into blobs.

She needs to go out four times a day at roughly six to seven hour intervals (though the "last call" walk at night tends to be only about four hours after the previous one). For the past three years I've been handling all of these except the morning excursion, but for the next week I have to do that one too. The need to relieve herself tends to be most urgent in the mornings, so I have to be able to get up, get dressed, and get her out of the house quickly. Whenever we go out, she needs to be assisted and supported going down and up the ramp we had built for her last year. She has spazzed out a couple of times and ended up falling off of it, resulting in minor injuries, and holding her while she traverses the ramp is the best way to avoid any more incidents.

She gets a blend of dry dog food and cooked food, along with "toppings" of chicken broth, plain yogurt, and ricotta cheese. It takes several minutes to assemble this concoction, and she eats twice each evening, about three hours apart, in order to accommodate the slower metabolism of an older dog. She still has a good appetite but on recent occasions has not been eating much of her "first dinner" for unknown reasons. After a couple of hours have passed, she's much more obviously hungry and consumes her "second dinner" rapidly.

To hire someone to meet all these needs at the appropriate times would likely cost us at least $50 per day. In our current situation there's no way that could happen, and even so it would be a lot to ask of someone. She's our dog, and at this point in her life she needs us more than ever, so we have to make sure she gets everything she needs.

23 April 2015

Rediscovering My Shoes

With the arrival of spring I've been going through shoes that I have stored in the basement and under the bed, evaluating potential eBay sales and such. And, as has happened before, I came across a pair of shoes that I've had for a while, but haven't worn much.

One of my favorite styles of shoes to wear in non-winter weather is the four-eyelet moccasin, which is variously referred to as a blucher moc (L.L. Bean) or a camp moc. I have a pair from Bean in the traditional saddle-brown leather, but I also wanted a pair in suede. Three years ago I somehow stumbled onto the Urban Outfitters website, a store I hadn't shopped in since the 1980s. They had four-eyelet mocs in two colors of suede, made by Eastland. In fact, I wrote about them when I ordered them.

Bean also offered a suede version of its blucher for a while in its Signature line. This past fall I ordered a pair because they had been marked down, presumably for clearance since they are no longer available. But unlike their regular mocs, the Signature shoes were only offered in medium width, and they just weren't comfortable for me. The Eastland shoes are also medium width but they have a more generous fit. Even so, I haven't worn them very much since I got them.
I think it's because I was always a little uncertain about their color. It's called "acorn" on the box, and I've also seen it called "peanut." At times it looked a little too orange to me. But last week I brought up the box from my basement and took them out. The suede is only a couple of shades away from a color called "snuff" that is frequently seen on Alden shoes and is one of my favorite colors for suede footwear.

I decided that I need to make the effort to wear these more. They look good, they're reasonably comfortable, and they fit, and whatever imaginary aversion I may have had to them seems unfounded. But I have to do something about those laces. Not only do I find them unattractive, they're much too long. When I tie them the loops stick out way past the edges of the shoes. I think maybe some plain brown cotton laces will do it, or maybe I'll try something a little more colorful.

21 April 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Pilgrimage

Ah, this is a good one: on May 3, 1985, which will be 30 years ago next week (gulp...), I was fortunate enough to see R.E.M. play live at MIT. The band was doing a spring college tour in the months leading up to the release of their third album, Fables of the Reconstruction.
(For once it made sense to take the photo vertically)
The show was limited to MIT students and their guests, but one of my dorm mates had a brother who was enrolled there, and he was able to get tickets for about half a dozen of us (many of the same people I'd seen U2 with just a few weeks earlier). I remember walking across the Mass. Ave. Bridge on an incredibly beautiful spring evening to get to the show.

As it happened, this was not the first time I had seen R.E.M. Two years earlier, The English Beat had played a show at BU that I went to with some friends, and R.E.M. was the opening act. Both bands were on the same label, and R.E.M.'s first full-length album Murmur had just been released. It was one of those shows where you know you're witnessing something special and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

20 April 2015

Car Stuff: Drive-By Cruise-In

Last summer I caught sight of this weekly cruise-night event while visiting my family, but was unable to stop to view the cars that were in attendance. I got only this one quick shot, unfortunately through the car window smeared with dog dribble:
I can identify most of these cars (no thanks to the Camry that got in the way). From the left, there's a 1967-68 Ford Mustang; a 1976-77 Chevrolet Corvette (based on the nameplate badge between the tail lights, and the lack of the larger rear window that appeared for 1978); what appears to be a pair of Chevy Nova SS's from 1970-72 (originally I thought the one on the right with the spoiler was a '68 Chevelle SS, but they look too similar); a 1964 Mercury Comet convertible that appears to be the same color as the one in this brochure image; and a 1955 Ford Fairlane.

I'm hoping to get back this summer, though this particular event takes place on Fridays, so it will depend on work schedules and whether or not the Mrs. and I can take a Friday off. And no, I have no idea if the $8.95 lobster roll is any good, but my instinct would be to avoid it.

18 April 2015

Retro Video Unit (4/17/15)

After I assembled the Spotify playlist, I added a couple of songs that I haven't yet posted here. (It was tempting to keep going and add a lot more, but I decided to hold back...)

This week's selection is one of those songs, and also one that I couldn't find a video for the first time I looked for it. That must have been a while ago, as it says it was posted to YouTube two years ago.

Fischer-Z (pronounced "zed," not "z") was an early New Wave band from London. It's likely I heard this song played on WBCN way back in 1980 when their second album was released, and like so much of the music of that era it has stayed with me even though I never owned the album. From Going Deaf for a Living, this is "So Long."

15 April 2015

A Denim Solution

After I wrote about the Levi's stitching thing recently, I was able to return them to a store (I'd ordered them online, which is why I didn't know the stitching color had been changed), where I found that many of the other shades the 505 is offered in have also had their stitching changed.

Disappointed, I returned them without exchanging for another pair. I wasn't sure what I was going to do; I thought I'd start by checking eBay for older pairs that hadn't been worn. But before I had a chance to do that, I happened to go to a Kohl's with the Mrs., who was looking for a piece of luggage small enough to take on planes.

I checked their Levi's too, but then I noticed that right next to them on the same wall were the store's house-brand jeans. The label said "regular fit" and they were clearly meant as an alternative to the 505. I had thought this particular brand was made only in "young men's" styles and washes, so I figured it was worth trying them on.

They fit exactly like 505's, and they're available in the same "dark stonewash" shade (which looks quite a bit lighter in the online image than it is in real life) that I've been buying for five years or so. (I have no interest in elaborately distressed washes or selvedge denim; the basic stuff works just fine for me.) And the best part is they have a "regular" price of $36 and are typically available for $20, which is half the cost of a pair of 505's.

I wasn't looking for these, but I'm glad I found them. I'll have to see how they hold up to wearing and washing; I'll post an update in a few months.

14 April 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #18

(Sorry this didn't happen yesterday; things were busier than I expected...)

The Fantasy Garage doesn't have any trucks. If for no other reason, it would be nice to add a truck as a runaround vehicle to acquire parts for the other FG cars as needed. Current trucks don't hold much interest for me (though if I were in that market, I'd most likely acquire a new Ram pickup), and a vintage truck is more in keeping with the overall idea of the Fantasy Garage.
Dodge A100 van (image from allpar.com)
I've always liked the "forward control" vans that GM, Ford, and Chrysler made during the 1960s (where the engine is positioned ahead of the front axle and the driver's seat is right above the axle), since those are the first vans I can remember seeing as a child, but I think I might wait before adding one of those. I'm feeling like a pickup makes more sense now. I don't think I'd want a 19509s truck because aesthetics are a consideration, and pickup trucks didn't start to get anything resembling styling until the '60s.
1963 Dodge pickup (image from Old Car Brochures)
Dodge pickups were the ugly ducklings of the period, placing function ahead of form until their 1972 redesign, and I've never been much of a fan of Ford's trucks, though I will admit that their late-1960s design was nice-looking (and my father had one for a while). I think the nicest-looking pickup design of the 1960s is GM's 1967-72 Chevrolet and GMC. (I encountered two of the GMC versions at a car show last September.)
1970 GMC pickup (my photo)
Chevy and GMC trucks have shared body panels for decades and each generation has differed only in minor styling elements like grille treatments. GMC trucks have always been priced higher than their Chevy counterparts, so they tended to have nicer trim and interiors. For this generation the GMC trucks had dual headlights while the Chevy trucks made do with single headlights, and mainly for this reason I prefer this period's GMC trucks.
1969 GMC Fenderside pickup (image by Mister Lou from deviantart.com)
One more important choice needs to be made: the type of pickup box. The more traditional exposed-fender box offered flat sides inside the bed, but by the late '60s it was being overtaken by one with flush body sides, which looked more carlike and stylish. But on older trucks, I think the older-style fendered box looks more honest and purposeful, and the ones on these trucks are especially nice-looking, with contours in the sheet metal that match those of the cab. One drawback to a "fenderside" bed is that the tail lights are housed in external pods that must be attached to the body, but this is a minor issue.

11 April 2015

Viewer's Choice

The two biggest TV shows of the past five years are The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I watch a significant amount of TV, but I don't watch either of them. Why not? Because of their subject matter, mainly. Horror and fantasy are areas that have never held much interest for me. Obviously these shows aren't only about those things, but those are the genres they are based in.

Today there's more TV available to us than ever, emanating from more sources than ever. If you're old enough, you remember what it was like when there were only the three broadcast networks: a few shows stood out, but most were just average, because there weren't any alternatives. The lack of choice meant the networks weren't under any pressure to offer better shows. People either watched one of the Big Three, or they didn't watch.

The explosion of original programming has coincided with a "golden age" of high-quality TV, and creators have more options. They can aim for a niche or for broad appeal. There is so much TV it's impossible to see all of it, which is totally okay. There are plenty of choices to satisfy the tastes of all viewers. Your only limits are your provider, your budget, and your free time.

09 April 2015

This Week's Binge

If things seem a little quieter than normal around here this week, it's because I've been submerged in an annual event that Comcast calls Watchathon. For one week, Comcast cable subscribers have free, unlimited access to all the TV shows from the premium channels like HBO and Showtime, either on-demand or online.

--> At the risk of sounding like a shill (this is not sponsored, and I have no particular affection for Comcast), it is a nice bonus if you happen to be a Comcast cable customer. For people like me who don’t have any of the premium channels, it’s an excellent way to catch up on shows you wanted to see but couldn’t.

Last year I watched the first two seasons of Veep and got into it immediately. I've already finished season three, and now I'm trying to decide how to spend the rest of my time: True Detective, Silicon Valley, The Knick… all those shows have been on for only one season, which is generally a better option for me, since there are typically only eight or 10 episodes to cover in the remaining time this week.

08 April 2015

Undone by Stitching

One of the signs of getting older is developing a curmudgeonly disdain for change when it isn't strictly necessary. Part of this comes from the simple fact that by being around long enough, some things are inevitably going to change, and there's a certain percentage of those things that I will inevitably be unhappy about.

Levi's has done it to me again, meddling with something that didn't need changing. Years ago I stopped wearing their jeans because they elongated the stitching on the back pockets and I thought it looked bad. (A side benefit was that I got rid of a bunch of jeans that fit poorly and were unflattering.) Eventually the stitching was changed back to how it had looked previously, and I found that the basic 505 was the right style for me. I've been getting a pair every year or so, adding them to the rotation and getting rid of the oldest pair when it was no longer suitable for wear outside the house.

They haven't changed the fit, and they haven't changed the stitching—well, not the shape of it. But they have changed the color of it, at least on the "dark stonewash" color that I prefer. It wouldn't even be that bad, except that there are now two colors of stitching on this shade of the 505. The familiar brown-gold thread is still present, but on the pocket arcs and in a couple of other areas it's been changed to a lighter color, kind of tan or beige. If it were all that one color it might not bother me so much, but the stitching that holds the pockets to the pants is still the original color, so the lighter color is right next to it and it's impossible not to notice it. It looks terrible.

At this point in my life I'm not interested in again going through the trouble of finding another brand and style of jeans to wear. So now I have to go around to various stores that sell Levi's and see if any of them still happen to have older stock with the one-color stitching, or see if any of the other colors the jeans are offered in are an agreeable substitute.

06 April 2015

Car Stuff: No Accounting for Taste

I'd planned something else for today, but it requires some prep work and it's too late to start on it tonight, so let's return to my occasional photos of odd or unusual modern cars.
This is a recent Honda Accord that someone has put a considerable amount of effort into customizing. The result is not what I would consider appealing or tasteful, but what do I know? It's probably a safe bet the owner was one of the first to see Furious 7 this past weekend. Is this car any faster than a stock Accord? Maybe, but somehow I suspect the modifications are only cosmetic.

04 April 2015

This Week in Awesome (4/4/15)

I know I haven't been consistent with these, and as a result the stuff I do include isn't as fresh as it should be, but truthfully I just don't come across as much interesting stuff as I used to. Of course people define "interesting" differently, but the internet is mature enough that a lot of stuff feels tired or played out, and my inclination is to avoid such things. Anyway, here are some diversions...

I imagine a lot of people have already messed around with Google's Family Feud game by now, but it's still a fun way to kill a few minutes. (Boy Genius Report)

If you're the sort of person who tends to notice background details in movies and TV shows, you'll definitely appreciate this rather esoteric compendium. (The A.V. Club)

Archer wrapped up its sixth season this week, but fans of the show will want to check this out. (also The A.V. Club)

And finally this whenever, the previous generation's home video tapes may be slowly decaying into dust, but some of the most important stuff is being digitized for future civilizations to appreciate laugh at/be confused by. (@Midnight)

03 April 2015

Retro Video Unit (4/3/15)

Following the concert story from yesterday, I went looking for the oldest U2 clip I could find. Want to feel old? Have a look at this:

U2, "I Will Follow," from their 1980 debut album Boy.

02 April 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Unforgettable

This ticket is from a U2 concert at the Worcester Centrum in April of 1985, just a few weeks after the Prince show. This tour was for The Unforgettable Fire, which had been released the previous fall. It's the one and only time I saw U2 live.
I didn't win this one, I bought the tickets for myself and five of my friends. It was near the end of my final semester in college, my course work was winding down, but finals were still a few weeks away. But we still had to get out to Worcester, and with a group of six the bus didn't seem like a preferable option.

Back then, there were places around that rented out older cars for much lower rates than the big companies, and they didn't care so much how old drivers were as long as they were licensed, so one of my friends was able to rent a full-size Ford LTD that was about five years old.

Cynical types will say that the time to see U2 was on their previous tour, for the album War, when the band wasn't as popular and played the Orpheum; or their first-ever American show, which was at the Paradise; or even a couple of years later when The Joshua Tree came out. I do think that's a stronger album than The Unforgettable Fire, though I think by that point they were playing stadium shows at venues like the old Foxboro. And I do wish I'd seen them when they toured for Achtung Baby, because that is my favorite of all their albums.

But any U2 concert is still a pretty special event. We had floor seats, maybe 20 rows back, and we got to spend a couple of hours engulfed in the music. I happen to think it's one of those things everyone should experience at least once.

And if you're keeping track, this ticket cost $13.50, which was $4 less than the Prince show.

31 March 2015


So long, March. You weren't as bad as February, but you weren't great either. At least most of the snow has melted.

It's not surprising at all that such a severe winter would lead to such a cold March. Now I'm wondering what we can expect for April and May. I've put away my heavy-duty down parka and my insulated boots, but I'm keeping all my other options open for at least the next two or three weeks. It was warm enough today that I was able to wear a lighter jacket, but I still needed a hat and it was still chilly when I was waiting for the bus this afternoon, coming back from a couple of quick errands.

The transitional periods are the hardest ones to dress for, especially if you are leaving the house in the morning to go to work and not coming back until evening. Personally I would rather be a little bit cold in the early part of the day, rather than too warm later in the day. If I wear a coat or jacket, I hate if I end up having to carry it because it's too warm for it later.

By the way, it's supposed to reach the mid-60's on Friday (and rain, because we can't expect a warm day that's sunny too), but drop back to 30 by Easter morning. Dress accordingly...

30 March 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #36

The timing of a traffic light can make the difference between seeing a car and being able to get a picture or two of it. This has happened to me on at least two occasions while I was waiting for the bus on my corner.

The road the bus route runs on is a fairly major non-highway route that many people use to get through Medford to Somerville and Cambridge, which increases the odds of someone being out driving in something interesting when I happen to be waiting for the bus. When I commuted on a regular schedule I used to see a 1964 Chevrolet pass by at least once a month, but it was long before it occurred to me to start taking photos of cars.
On this particular day I had just enough time to get my phone out, so this is technically not a "full" Random Sighting, but I'm classifying it that way because it was definitely random. This is from last June, and it was more interesting to me because the car is a 1967 Pontiac LeMans and not, as I originally thought, a GTO. I wish I'd been closer, but from just these two pics I can tell this car is exceptionally well kept.
More LeMans hardtop coupes were probably made that year, but more GTOs probably survive today because of their performance-car status and higher value, so a stock LeMans is the car you're less likely to see, especially on the road and not at a car show.

28 March 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (3/27/15)

I thought about this yesterday, but it didn't enter my mind at all today until I was out walking the dog about 30 minutes ago. Sooooo... I've had Fleetwood Mac on the brain a bit lately, not least because of the impeccable, spot-on use of "The Chain" in a recent episode of The Americans (seriously, even if you haven't seen the show, take five minutes and watch the clip at the bottom of this article).

I was also thinking about the live performance of "Rhiannon" that I posted a while back from an appearance on The Midnight Special in the mid-1970s. I was hoping I'd be able to find that whole show but the Midnight clips on YouTube seem to be limited to individual songs, so I decided to look for other Fleetwood Mac concerts. This one is from 1982, in support of the album Mirage. And while you're watching, think about how unfair it is that Lindsey Buckingham has never really gotten the respect he deserves for his guitar talent.

26 March 2015

Economy Brushing

When did toothbrushes get so expensive? I guess I haven't needed to buy one in a while. I get one at the dentist twice a year, and I know I'm supposed to replace it after three months. I think for some reason I got two toothbrushes on my last visit, and maybe I've been using the second one longer than I'm supposed to, but it seems like I haven't purchased a toothbrush in at least a year.

I knew I needed to replace it, so when we went to Target the other night to get some household things I hit the "oral care" aisle. The basic brushes were around $4, and some were $5. There were also multi-brush store-brand packages that I didn't want.

Down near the floor, in a bin instead of hanging on pegs, I found single-pack store-brand brushes. They were kind of unattractive but had soft bristles, which is more important than appearance. They were about $1.50 each, which is what I had in mind. (I have a tendency to lock into what certain things cost 10 or 20 years ago and think it should continue to cost only that much.) They had clear handles with colored accents.

Later at home I went to open the package, and noticed on the back that the brush was made in USA. This is the sort of commodity item that I'd given up expecting to find still made domestically, and it's kind of interesting to me that the least expensive toothbrush is the one made here. I'm quite certain those $4 brushes are made in China.

24 March 2015

Trashy Matters

This winter's record snowfall posed multiple challenges, including not being able to put the trash cans out on the curb. The curb disappeared with the first blizzard in January, and while I usually attempt to keep a space cleared for a trash can or two, the volume of snow was too great and I had to abandon my standard procedure. Since the front of our house faces north, the area along the front sidewalk and curb gets the least amount of sun during the winter, so it takes much longer for the snowbanks in front to melt.

Also, before the first big storm I neglected to take the trash can out from where we store it under the back porch, and the door got blocked shut by a thick slab of ice from where melting snow drips off the roof, so we missed two weeks of trash pickup.

After I finally excavated the can, I had to put it at the end of our driveway each week, which in turn meant I would have to wait until the Mrs. had left for work. But her schedule is irregular, and I started to worry that the truck might come by before she had left. It got to where I was following her out the door on Monday mornings, rolling the can into place as soon as she'd driven away.

After several weeks of this, there has finally been enough melting so that yesterday morning there was a small space at the edge of the driveway that's wide enough to be out of the way of an entering or leaving car. And the forecast for this week has temperatures approaching 60 on Thursday, so perhaps the snow banks along the curb won't be around much longer.

23 March 2015

Car Stuff: Outside My Window

One Sunday morning last fall, I heard the distinctive idling of a large diesel engine out on the street in front of our house. I peeked outside and saw a tractor-trailer loaded with two classic cars. It's possible the driver was lost, or was checking directions, but the truck remained outside long enough for me to grab my phone and get a couple of shots.
Both cars were Mercury Capris from the early 1970s, so I kind of think they were on their way to a single destination. (It's not uncommon for vintage car purchases to come with a second parts car.) The Capri was a European model Ford, built in Germany, that was in many ways a continental interpretation of the original Mustang. (You can read a nice history of the Capri over at Curbside Classic.)
This is a car I've always liked. I knew someone in college who had owned one, but I never got to ride in it. They are somewhat scarce but not impossible to find, and definitely under the radar as far as the vintage car market is concerned. Wherever these two were going, I'm envious of the recipient.

20 March 2015

Retro Video Unit (3/20/15)

I signed up for Spotify a while back, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. The idea had occurred to me to create a playlist from all the songs I've posted since I started this feature almost four years ago. In going back through all the old posts, I discovered that there were two songs I had featured twice, and no one ever noticed, including me. That means that when I posted the video the second time, I completely didn't remember that it was one I'd used before. The brain ain't what it used to be...

Anyway, the playlist is available; if you have Spotify, search for Retro Audio Unit. I haven't quite gotten to see if there's a Blogger widget that will let me post the playlist on the blog, but at a minimum there's probably a way to link to it. (Update: link added over on the right.)

As for this week's selection (which will be added to the playlist by the time you read this), after watching the Synth Britannia documentary that I mentioned over the weekend, this seemed like a fairly obvious choice: "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League.

19 March 2015

Another Milestone

According to Blogger this is my 2,000th post. I don't usually pay much attention to the post count, but about a month ago I happened to notice it was getting close to this mark (which I guess is better than having it pass unnoticed).

The 1,000th post was about three and a half years ago. Since then life has chosen to unmoor me from my reasonably satisfying employment situation without providing a suitable replacement. There have been times I felt like giving up trying to find a new job, but I'm not going to do that, because I need to work and also because I need to win out over being dumped on by life.

Blogwise things are going all right. Over the past few months my visitor stats are up, and I was toying with the idea of implementing Google's ad program, but with the number of visitors I get in a typical week, I don't think it would yield a useful amount of income. I've also been thinking about some other types of features I might do, and some of those will be popping up, either on a trial basis or semi-regularly, in the weeks and months ahead.

When I started this thing back in '06 I did not have a clearly defined sense of what I wanted it to be, and that has turned out to be beneficial. Figuring it out as I went along was much better for me in terms of challenging myself to write frequently and regularly. Thank you to everyone who visits. Stick around, there's more to come...

Late Winter Fluctuations

So much for the thaw... it's heading down to about 15 degrees overnight, and the forecast says we're going to get a little snow Friday afternoon and evening. We've already managed to get enough snow to break the record, so anything more is just going to extend it. And, just like last Sunday, whatever snow does fall will melt right away because it's going to warm up again on Saturday.

We're in that phase of late winter where the weather bounces back and forth between more or less normal, and quick blasts of arctic air. It will definitely do this at least a couple more times between now and Easter. At least we've had enough sustained warmth and sunshine to melt ice and shrink snowbanks, making walking around a reasonable option again.

There is one drawback to the receding snow, though: there's trash everywhere. Whatever got covered during the first blizzard is just now reemerging, and today's high winds started tossing the trash around. I was sitting here at the computer this afternoon when I heard a clattering go up the driveway, then a couple of minutes later the sound went back the other way. I went out and looked around and found a flattened plastic gallon jug. I have no idea where it came from or how it found its way there; I just dropped it in our recycling bin and assumed it wouldn't be the last such find I make.

17 March 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #17

I admit that last week's alley-found Volvo was something of a stall tactic, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to feature in the Fantasy Garage this time around. I think the time has come for the FG to turn somewhat autobiographical and include a car from my early years.

For a good chunk of time we were a station wagon family. Wagons were so common as family vehicles in the 1960s and '70s that us having one made me feel like our family was a little bit more normal, because we were at least superficially like so many other families, at least in that respect. (Eventually we got a car that wasn't a wagon, but it's never been clear to me why, because it was still a full-size car. Maybe by that point my parents thought a station was no longer necessary.) There was also a Blazer and a Subaru wagon, but those didn't come along until after I went to college.
In fact, we had only three station wagons. The first was a 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air in turquoise ("Artesian turquoise" was its official GM name) with a matching interior. The seats were vinyl and were very hot in the summer. If you look at this catalog image (from Old Car Brochures) it's the car at the bottom, but the color of the car at the top (it was brighter than how it looks in this image).

A few years later we got another Chevy wagon, one year newer but a Caprice, which was the top trim level and a new model that year. (These were used cars, by the way.) Chevy had decided they wanted to go after the Ford Country Squire more directly, and in order to do that they needed to offer a wagon with woodgrain side trim.
After wood-bodied station wagons became too costly to produce, Ford started doing the fake-wood thing in the '50s, but other companies didn't offer their own versions until some time later. After Chevy jumped in, just about every other wagon maker brought out its own version. Ours was white like this one but the interior was blue, not red. And my recollection (which may be wrong) is that the interior was a cloth and vinyl combo, which was considered classier at the time.
In 1972 we got a 1970 Plymouth Sport Suburban. I've posted about this car before, and it's probably my favorite of all the cars we had when I was growing up. Ours was dark green with a dark- and light-green vinyl interior. Other than the color it looked just like this one, right down to the wheel covers. But ours didn't have the third seat; none of our station wagons did. We still rode in the "way back," just sitting on the hard metal floor.
The hidden headlights were my favorite feature of the Sport Suburban. The twin bulges on the hood had optional turn signal repeaters which faced back toward the driver; they're the same basic idea as the ones you see today on cars' side mirrors, except those are more for the benefit of other drivers.

So yes, I want a Sport Suburban for the Fantasy Garage, for nostalgia's sake more than anything else. The '71 was pretty much the same car, but the grille was different (it still had the hidden headlights), and Chrysler eliminated the vent windows from its full-size cars that year. But they also took away the hood bulges, so it's sort of a toss-up. I think I'd probably stick to a '70 just because it's what we had. I used to include the '72 on my wish list, but over the years I've come to like its styling less and less.

16 March 2015

Last Couple of Weeks in Awesome, Forgetfulness Edition

I'm not sure what's been happening on weekends. On weeks that I have something to share, it's always my goal to post TWiA on Saturday, but it almost never happens. And then when it gets to be Sunday night at 11:30, I don't always feel like getting into it at that point. So these are varying degrees of old, which means many of you will have seen at least some of them already...

Another delightful, spot-on parody from Sesame Street. (The Verge)

For the obsessively inclined, a miniature reproduction of Mulder and Scully's office from The X-Files. (The A.V. Club)

Okay, so I read a lot of stuff on the A.V. Club, and maybe not so much elsewhere as I used to, but there is a lot of decent writing about a range of subjects. For example, this "Primer" article on UK synth-pop is comprehensive, and led me to this worthwhile BBC documentary (also embedded at the bottom of the article) on the subject.

Also related to music (and also via the A.V. Club), a synthesizer you can use right in your web browser.

And finally this... time, a new tumblr recounting the type of inquiries one gets when one works at a media outlet. Not much content yet, but I hope there will be more. (Universal Hub)

14 March 2015

Retro Video Unit (3/13/15)

I completely forgot to post one of these last week, and no one ever calls me out on it... regardless, catching up on a small mountain of TV shows recorded over the past two to three weeks let me to this selection, "Don't Go" by Yaz(oo).

I posted "Situation" by Yaz a couple of years ago, but this song (and the album on which they both appear, Upstairs at Eric's) were minor plot points in a recent episode of FX's The Americans, which is absolutely, unequivocally one of the best goddamn shows on TV right now and you really, really should check it out.

13 March 2015

A Way Through

Yesterday morning I heard a snowblower, which I thought was strange since it's been weeks since we've received any new snow. But later in the day I found out why:
Someone took advantage of the several days of warmth to carve a passageway through from our neighbor's sidewalk to the parking lot of the adjacent business, allowing pedestrians to avoid having to walk in the street for a few additional feet. (It is pretty narrow though, and looks more like it was done with a shovel.)

11 March 2015

March Thaw

This week's warmer temperatures aren't going to last, but it has been warm enough for long enough to allow me to finally remove the last stubborn slab of ice around the perimeter of our house. This was on the side of the house away from the driveway, an area that gets very little sun during January and February (and not much in general), and the ice there was about two inches thick. But even that was no match for the thermometer climbing over 50 yesterday and today, and not dropping below freezing last night. I was also able to widen the walkway along the front of the house with minimal effort.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the melting snow is revealing previously buried items, like this:
This car belongs to the people who live in the yellow house at the left of the photo. They have at least half a dozen vehicles (and as far as I can tell, only two drivers in the household) and this old Chevy Cavalier seems to be one of the lesser-used ones, so it wasn't surprising that they let this one get buried. I wish I'd gotten a pic a couple of days earlier, when it was just starting to emerge from its snowy cocoon. Before that it appeared to be just a very large pile of snow; in fact I didn't even realize that there was a car under there.

Now, I'm off to enjoy the day on a nice long walk with the dog.

10 March 2015

Dry Feet/Wet Feet

After this crazy and challenging winter we are benefiting from a change in the overall pattern. There have been no significant storms for at least a couple of weeks, and for the past several days temperatures have been on the high side of 40. In fact, today it topped 50. As a result the snow has begun melting in earnest, resulting in puddles everywhere.

As we transition from winter to spring, waterproof footwear is very much necessary. I have a pair of Merrell Moab "trail shoes" which are basically sneakers with rugged outdoor styling. When I bought them about five years ago I decided to get the waterproof version, which turned out to be a good idea. For the past couple of winters I have been wearing them as my dog-walking shoes in all but the coldest conditions, and also sometimes when I'm out shoveling snow, depending on how much snow has fallen; this year I wore my pull-on boots a lot more, since the snow was much deeper.

Many of the storms we got this winter lasted for two or three days, so often after clearing the deep snow I had to shovel again the next day, and I would wear the Merrells. On a couple of occasions I came in from working outside and found that my socks were wet. I didn't think much about it at the time, knowing that snow could have gotten in around my ankles. But then I noticed the same thing after walking through some puddles which weren't deep enough to let water in at the ankles.

Then last week I noticed a tear at the heel of one of the Merrells, where the pull-on strap attaches inside the back. I figured I would have to replace them next winter, so I started looking around online to see what's available. I happened to be browsing the shoe section on the L.L. Bean website and saw that they carry the shoes (I think I bought mine from Zappos). Then I noticed that several reviewers claim that the waterproofing wears off after a while, which was consistent with my experience this winter. Apparently Merrell's version of waterproofing in this instance consists of some sort of treatment for the materials, but it is not permanent.

A look at the shoes on Zappos showed similar complaints from reviewers. I also noticed that Merrell now offers a Gore-Tex version of the shoe. Gore-Tex is a different, and far more effective, method of waterproofing shoes or garments, in which a membrane is bonded to the materials during construction. It's also more expensive, as the process is trademarked, patented, or whatever; companies that want to make shoes or clothing with Gore-Tex have to pay a fee to the company that invented the membrane, and that cost gets passed on to customers in higher retail prices for those items.

The Gore-Tex Moabs are $30 more than the regular "waterproof" version, which is now about $20 higher than what I paid for mine five years ago, so I'd end up spending almost 50% more to get shoes that are really, truly, and (in theory) permanently waterproof. On the other hand, I suppose five years is a decent amount of time for the lesser form of waterproofing to last, and for the Moabs to last in general. I may still end up buying a pair of the Gore-Tex Merrells, since I like them in general and they are available in wide widths, but I will definitely be looking for other options as well.

09 March 2015

Car Stuff: Brick on Bricks

Roving contributor A Proper Bostonian spotted this week's vehicle in one of the Back Bay's alleys:
Volvo built this basic design, with periodic refinement and restyling, from the late 1960s into the early 1990s. They were a common enough sight on the roads when I was growing up, but they aren't seen much anymore in this area.

This example is from the early 1970s (I think it's a '72 based on the door handles, vent windows, grille, and bumpers) and looks well used but still roadworthy and serviceable. While highly regarded for their durability, time tends to wear out cars in New England, and most of these have probably gone to the crusher by now, which makes it even more pleasant to see this one still being used.

06 March 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Let's Go Crazy

Friday night already? I must be having too much fun, or something... anyway, here's another ticket, this one from Prince and the Revolution at the fabulous concrete Worcester Centrum in late March of 1985.
This was the year after the gigantic success of Purple Rain, both the movie and the album, and this tour was still being billed as "the Purple Rain tour." Note that the ticket says "wear something purple." In my case I was otherwise dressed in black and white, but I did wear a purple satin tie that was about an inch wide. What I'm wondering here in 2015 is, why did I already have that before I knew I was going to the concert? Well, it was the '80s—that's the only answer I got, so it'll have to do.

Prince had Sheila E as his opening act, which was pretty cool. At the end of her set, she did this thing with light-up drumsticks, and all the other lights were lowered so she was playing the drums in the dark with lighted sticks. Gimmicky, sure, but still fun.

I think I won these tickets as well, though there was no bus ride as part of the prize, so my date and I (yeah, I took a young lady to this, because that's what you do when you win Prince tickets) took the bus. Getting out to Worcester wasn't such a big deal, but finding our way from the Centrum back to the bus station in an unfamiliar city wasn't great, but other concertgoers had done the same thing, so between asking one or two people and following others (whom we could tell by their dress had also been at the show), we managed to find our way to the station, where we found that we had to wait another hour or so (maybe longer) for the bus back to Boston to arrive. I don't remember what time we got back, but I do know the T had stopped running so we took a cab back to BU.

04 March 2015


The view out the window of an MBTA bus:
The buses have acquired a bit of road dirt during the winter, as you can see.

03 March 2015


I had to go to the dentist in Brookline yesterday, and the T seems to be back to something resembling normal service. The subway and trolley lines don't have all the cars back in service yet that they should, but my trips to and from my destination did not take any longer than they otherwise would have.

Of course, I wasn't riding the commuter rail. If I had to ride a commuter train daily I think I'd be pretty disgruntled by now, especially after it was announced that it will probably take until the end of this month to restore service on the commuter lines to normal.

That seems like a long time, but I was thinking that date may have been chosen for a bit of the underpromise-and-overdeliver effect. Say the T is able to get service back to normal by St. Patrick's Day. They can then issue a press release claiming that a return to normal service was achieved two weeks ahead of plan. It's bullshit, but it's what PR is all about. It's also disingenuous and insulting to all the commuters who had to endure the commuter rail's miserable performance this winter.

The system's flaws were exposed in particularly harsh and unpleasant fashion, and even after service returns to what it's supposed to be, commuters aren't going to forget what they went through. I am very interested to see what measures Keolis (who operates the commuter trains for the MBTA) is planning and how they intend to remedy the commuter rail's problems.

02 March 2015

Car Stuff: A Winter Apparition

The weekend happened, didn't it? I was planning a TWiA but things got sort of busy on Saturday, and yesterday we were visiting my family. I'll just hold onto my selections for the coming weekend.

Meanwhile, the winter hasn't exactly presented me with abundant opportunities to take photos of old cars. I did have another near miss that I am very disappointed about: one day a few weeks back, I was out clearing snow from the end of the driveway when a Buick convertible from the early 1970s drove by. It looked very well-kept and I was surprised someone would have such a car out during the winter. I don't generally have my phone on me when I go out to shovel, and even if I'd had it, I wouldn't have been able to get it out in time to get a picture. (You can get an idea of how the car looks by browsing Google Images.)

I only got a quick look at it as it passed, but I know it was a full-size model, black with a tan top, and I saw enough of the rear bumper and lights (just different enough from previous years) to believe it was a 1973. That would mean it was a Centurion, a short-lived model (in fact, '73 was its last year) between the LeSabre and the Electra lines. There was also a LeSabre convertible in 1971 and '72 that was dropped for '73, but after the whole Centurion line was dropped, the remaining convertible became a LeSabre again for '74. Convertibles were declining in popularity in general and other car makers had already started dropping them as early as 1971, but General Motors held out through 1975 ('76 for the Cadillac Eldorado).

I'm a big fan of the full-size GM cars of 1971-76, which is not necessarily a popular sentiment. I'll qualify that by saying I tend to prefer models from the first half of the generation because they tend to be cleaner and although they are very large cars, they wear their size well. The federal bumper standards went into effect front and rear for 1974 models, and concurrent with that GM started fussing with the styling, changing rooflines, adding "formal" windows in the sides of the roof panels, making larger and more elaborate grilles, and generally messing up what had looked pretty nice before.

I am hoping that when spring finally arrives I see this car out again around Medford and can get photos of it.

28 February 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (2/27/15)

I've only done two of these, but I'm excited by what I've found so this one's going to be a bit different.

Underworld is a band that creates and performs its music using electronics (and the occasional electric guitar). I've been a big fan of their work for over two decades (asterisk: they existed in a previous incarnation as a band with the same name that used conventional instruments; that album is an obscure curiosity, but it also has its moments).

Obviously they aren't the only band that has taken this approach, but Underworld's music connects for me in ways that few other bands do. Their live shows (I've seen them twice; they don't tour often) are very immersive, visual experiences, and that comes through in this film. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, Underworld is playing at the Hollywood Bowl in June, which I imagine will be a great experience.

(Programming note: going forward, I've decided I'm going to do these concert posts on the last Friday of each month.)

26 February 2015


While digging around for my stash of old concert tickets, I found a few other things I've been holding onto for some time for no particular reason. Or maybe the reason I kept things is just because they were interesting to me at one time.
When the new Southwest Corridor portion of the Orange Line opened in 1987, the MBTA issued commemorative tokens. I found this one on the ground, either inside a station or near it, and I've had it all this time. The T hasn't used tokens of for, I don't know, seven or eight years? Whenever the system started using CharlieCards.
Regular tokens were a brassy color; these were silver-colored to make them distinctive. I know my pictures came out crappy, so one side says "opening May 1987" and the other says "Southwest Corridor Orange Line."

(I just found this article that says, among other things, that tokens could still be redeemed for CharlieCard value for years after they were no longer usable to pay fares directly; I had no idea. It also mentions that 10,000 tokens like mine were made.)

25 February 2015

We're Number Two

Boston has recorded 100 inches of snowfall this winter, almost all of it in the past month. I believe the current record is 107.6 inches in the winter of 1995-96. The difference that year was that the snow started falling pretty early in the season, and just kept falling, in more frequent but smaller storms. It was our first winter sharing our first apartment together, and our house was at the end of a dead-end street that almost never got plowed because the city classified it as a "private way" and because very few people lived on it.

The Mrs. and I kept shoveling out the area in front of the house and the piles kept getting higher as we tried to figure out where to put the snow. Eventually we started throwing it over the fence next to us, into the back yard of a house that fronted on an adjacent street. Apparently the people who lived there weren't so happy about it, but our landlord knew them and had a talk. It's not like they were using their yard in the middle of a ridiculously harsh winter, and by that point we really had nowhere else to put the snow, so things got smoothed over. The people whose driveway is behind our yard where we live now throw their snow over the fence onto our side—who cares?

Anyway, it now feels like we have turned the corner on this difficult and memorable winter. I've been able to remove the two-inch coating of ice from the sidewalk in front and a good portion of the walkways around the rest of the house. The sun has been doing some of the work for me. Temperatures have been managing to rise above 32 degrees here and there.

At the same time, there's a lingering feeling of unfinished business. As A Proper Bostonian put it to me, it feels like we need one more storm to put us over the top for the snowfall total, to secure that number one position, because after enduring all of this it will be something of a letdown if we don't. And as much as I want this winter to be over, I think I agree with her. But I haven't had to commute in any of this mess, and I haven't even ventured outside of Medford in the past couple of weeks unless I was in a car.

Update 2/26: I had written that the official snowfall measurement for 1995-96 was 107.9 inches but I subsequently found that it is 107.6, so I have corrected the number above. Also, according to Harvey Leonard during tonight's weather on WCVB, Boston has now recorded 102 inches of snow this winter, which means we are less than six inches away from breaking that record...

24 February 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault

Last week my friend Just Bud Fox (supplier of some of the photos for Random Sightings) posted a photo of a ticket from a Replacements concert we went to back in 1987. This pleased me greatly, and then it gave me the idea to do the same. I have a stash of tickets from most of the concerts I attended during the 1980s and '90s, and I think it would be amusing (if only for me and a few other people) to post some of them.
I'll inaugurate this (semi-recurring?) feature with the oldest ticket currently in my possession, from a Police concert in August of 1983. This was after Synchronicity had come out and hit big, and The Police played a stadium tour; this show was at Sullivan Stadium (later called Foxboro Stadium), which some of you may remember as the home of the Patriots before Gillette Stadium was built.

Being a big outdoor show, it was a triple bill, with A Flock of Seagulls and The Fixx appearing (in that order) before The Police took the stage. (Other parts of the tour got different opening acts, as I recall.) Also, I won the tickets from the radio station WBRU, which at the time was Providence's only real option for hearing anything approaching alternative music. The prize also included a bus ride from the radio station to the concert and back, which was probably worth more than the ticket price, as any of you who have been to a concert (or a Patriots game) at Gillette will know.

23 February 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #35

You've seen my neighbor's 1968 Camaro before, but this is a different one that I spotted on a day trip to Rhode Island back in July.
This one was an SS with a non-stock hood, though the stripes were a factory option. Not many of these cars were left in their original condition, but I'd rather see a car on the road and being enjoyed than fret over its originality.
We were on our way to get ice cream when I spotted this car in a gas station across the street, and waited until it was leaving to take these shots.
The resolution isn't great because I was kind of far away, and then I cropped the pics, but they look better than I thought they would.

21 February 2015

Retro Video Unit (2/20/15)

Sometimes I choose songs to post here just because they are obscure, like today. I'd never seen a video for this song, but remembering it was enough. Lone Justice had a brief moment in the mid-1980s; I think they may have been on the same label as Los Lobos and the Blasters, and they have some of that same sort of rockabilly energy, but clearly they had other influences.

"Ways to Be Wicked" is certainly better known of their songs, but I just prefer this one: "I Found Love."

19 February 2015

Snow Update

Last weekend's snow put us in third place for the most snow in one winter, and only six-tenths of an inch behind second place. We've had a few flurries fall Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, so I think it's likely that this winter has moved into second place for snowfall, and it's not over yet. (I just confirmed that this has in fact occurred. For the record, we're less than a foot away from moving into first place.)
So I thought I'd once again look at the snow accumulation around our house. Here's the by-now familiar view of our back yard, and the five-foot high wooden fence at the back has now completely disappeared. I'm a little surprised that the neighbor behind us has not cleared that garage roof yet.
Here's the path across the back of the house. You can see that I gave up on the idea of keeping the entire area in front of the garage door clear. As long as it's accessible it doesn't need to be cleared completely.
Here's the same path looking in the opposite direction. The dog and I have to navigate this several times a day.
Here are the mounds in front of the house, which keep growing along with the plowed-up drifts to the left, by the street. Note the wall of snow directly ahead, past the yellow house; there is supposed to be an opening there to allow pedestrians to pass along without going into the street, but the business owner decided not to bother this year.
And just for laughs, this is a bus stop I was at yesterday. There used to be a Shaw's supermarket here but it closed about a year ago and now this stop gets very little use, but my bank happens to be across the parking lot. When I took this picture I was standing on several feet of snow where a path had been made from the parking lot to the street. Most stops have been cleared better than this one, but venturing out without waterproof, insulated footwear is still a bad idea.

18 February 2015

Promo Poses

In case you haven't heard, the final half-season of Mad Men begins on April 5tth. As they do each year, AMC released a new batch of promotional photos. They're all pretty great (you can see them all here), but this one's my favorite:
I've always felt that the stories of the women on the show were at least as important as Don's story, if not more so, considering the time period. But also, let's be honest, they're all stunningly beautiful.
This is my runner-up, mainly because of the relationship between Don and Peggy and how it evolved through the course of the show. It's also nice to see them smiling together, even if it's a staged photo.

17 February 2015

Snow Assists

T he latest storm left about 16 inches of snow in my area over the weekend (the official measurement in Boston was higher). I tend to wait until the storms are winding down before I head outside to start shoveling. As I was in the kitchen drinking coffee and looking out the window, watching the snow fly sideways in huge wind gusts, I heard the motor of a snowblower.

Our next-door neighbor has been helping us out by clearing all or part of the snow deposited at the end of the driveway by passing plows, so I assumed he was at it again, but then the sound grew louder. He was coming up the driveway with the blower, which I thought was strange until I remembered the dryer vent in his house's basement faces our driveway; I dug it out after the first big storm, but it had gotten covered again by a drift caused by the latest storm's high winds.

He pushed the blower straight into the drift until he reached the vent, then backed up and continued up our driveway toward our garage, then turned the corner at the back of the house and came across toward our back steps. He didn't quite get all the way there because there was another very large drift, but he did enough to save me a bunch of effort when I did get outside to shovel.

A couple of hours later I had cleared everything except the big pile at the end of the driveway; the neighbor had cut a path straight through but the rest of it remained. I started working on it, figuring I had at least another hour's work ahead of me. It was still very windy and was getting even colder, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish.

Since I was stepping out into the street frequently I was keeping a close eye on oncoming traffic. I had been working for 15 or 20 minutes when from a couple of blocks away I spotted what looked like a piece of heavy equipment approaching. As it got closer I saw that it was a Bobcat, and I thought to myself, buddy, you sure could make my life a lot easier right now. As I stood watching the vehicle slowed down, then angled in toward my driveway. The driver lowered the bucket and picked up a big scoop of snow, then drove forward a little and dumped it on the big bank formed by weeks of plows passing by.

He then backed up, turned toward the driveway, and came forward, lowering the bucket and then backing up again, using it to pull the snow into the street, then scooped up another pile of snow and dumped that too. He repeated this once more as I stood grinning and waving, then went on his way, leaving just some loose snow that I was able to clear away in about ten minutes. I have no idea whohe was, but I am extremely grateful for the assist.

16 February 2015

Car Stuff: Trying to Blend In

I was going to take today off from blogging, but decided to post one of my random single shots. I posted an Oldsmobile Eighty Eight Royale of this approximate vintage before, but it was a two-door.
This street passes the repair shop where I've found a few other cars, and you can just see the edge of it at the right of the photo. I don't know if this car was there to be repaired or if it just happened to be parked there on a day about nine months ago when I passed by on my way to get groceries. It sort of looks like it's trying to sit inconspicuously between the older Acura and the Nissan.

15 February 2015

This Week in Awesome (2/14/15)

Another big snowstorm, another three hours of shoveling. But at least the sun is out and it has stopped snowing, so I probably won't have to re-shovel tomorrow. But the wind is nasty, and it's going to be extremely cold for the next couple of nights.

The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy ranked the nine sports championships that Boston's teams have achieved in the 21st century.

John Oliver and Last Week Tonight aired a "tribute" to the demise of Radio Shack.

This week's oddly complementary mashup: the comic strip Cathy and the words of Louis CK.

And finally this week, one of those true stories that it so much stranger and more interesting than anything you could possibly make up. (The Guardian)

13 February 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (2/13/15)

This week's concert: The Pretenders playing at the Rockpalast festival in Germany in 1981.

These guys have always been one of my favorite bands, and I always tend to think of them this way, this lineup, these songs. I got to see them at the Orpheum in Boston in early '82 (postponed from the previous October due to the drummer injuring his hand) and it was an awesome show.

12 February 2015

A Helping Paw

Let's talk about something other than snow for a minute. (Or at least not directly about snow.) We've got a couple of days before the next storm, right?

Our poor elderly dog has been struggling this winter. She's not quite as sure on her legs as she used to be even when the ground is dry, so the snow and ice have been causing her to slip and making her nervous. It's also been very cold, which makes it uncomfortable for her to walk more than a short distance (and to squat when necessary).

A few years back we got some bootie things for her, but they never stayed on properly. They had velcro straps that went around her ankles, but her legs were still too skinny and they always fell off. I was looking for another option and found something sort of like a sock with a rubber bottom. Supposedly they were suitable for outdoor use but I had doubts.

Then I found another product called Pawz. They are natural rubber dog boots that are reusable and disposable. They are available in several different sizes, so you first have to figure out what size will fit your dog's paws. They stretch, so they fit over the paw but hold snugly around the ankles. So far they have stayed on when put on with no trouble.

They are admittedly awkward to put on (we're trying to do it while the dog is lying down), and it's one more thing to deal with when getting ready to go out, but they are making a difference. They give the dog some traction as well as a layer of insulation from snow, ice, and cold ground. She seemed to understand why we were making her wear these things and wanted to stay out longer, which was a good sign.

Pawz come a dozen to a package, so if one does manage to slip off, or one of the dog's nails pokes through, it's no big deal. They are available at pet stores large and small (check the website for the store locator). Oh, and they're made in the USA. If you have to walk a dog this winter, you may find Pawz helpful.

11 February 2015

Snow Pics

I had intended to include pictures in yesterday's post, but didn't get around to taking any until today. Those of you who are around regularly can compare these to the ones I've posted over the past couple of weeks.
Here's the backyard shot I have taken and posted twice before. The snow cover is between four and five feet deep, from windblown drifting and (closer to the foreground) where I threw it after shoveling. (Fence? What fence?)
Here is the path that is the result of that shoveling. The back porch is about five feet off the ground. (Please disregard the grill cover, it belongs to the folks who live upstairs.)
This is the accumulation from digging out the front of the house over and over. The tops of those piles are now higher than the level of the front porch, and about a foot below the bottom of the front window, which is seven feet off the ground.

10 February 2015

Snow Madness

After a deceptively mild start, this has turned out to be a hellish winter. The snow keeps falling, and falling, and falling. My arms are sore from shoveling, roads have been slippery, there's nowhere to put the mountains of snow. Our entire back yard has a snow pack that's now five feet high.

Things got so bad that the MBTA had to shut down all rail service Monday evening, and trains did not run all day today either. When trains are running, there aren't enough of them because snow is messing with the motors. The transit authority has been struggling to keep the above-ground rail lines clear. I've been lucky that I have not had to get anywhere by T since last week.

I know that people who live in places like Chicago and Minneapolis are laughing at us. We all know winters are worse in the Midwest. (Why do you think we don't live there?) It's not that we can't handle winter, but this much winter in such a short span of time has our region overwhelmed. (I blame Just Bud Fox, who kept saying he wanted it to snow, and doesn't even live in New England.)

The official snowfall measurement in Boston is now over 77 inches for the winter, and almost all of that has fallen within the past three weeks. This winter has already cracked the top 10 recorded snowfall amounts, and there's more on the way: a storm starting Thursday evening, and another Saturday night into Sunday.

Normally I'm all right with winter and I don't look forward to spring that much, but this winter has already overstayed its welcome. The question now is, how far into April will we have to get before all this snow finally melts? Until then, I wish to hibernate.

09 February 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #16

This was supposed to appear last week, but I had snow fatigue and just couldn't get myself in the mood to do it. I spent some of the extra time thinking about what car I wanted to feature next. I went back over the cars I've already written about and, inspired in part by my entry on small wagons, decided on a Plymouth Valiant.

The Valiant was the practical, economical, boring compact bought by frugal people who were not interested in frills. It was the antithesis of where the auto industry was going in the early 1970s, but that's part of its appeal. The early Valiants (1960-62) were pretty weird looking, definitely an acquired taste. The second generation (1963-66) was much better looking, plain and simple but still attractive. The third generation (1967-76) was the best looking one, which is part of the reason it lasted so long. (Economics and the changing car market played a large part as well.)
1970 Plymouth Duster (Old Car Brochures)
Back in FG #8 I talked about how the Barracuda was created from the Valiant. By 1970 it got its own body designation, growing in size along with its competition. That left an opening in Plymouth's lineup for a smaller, less expensive sporty car, which led to the introduction of the Duster, a coupe again based on the Valiant that proved to be very popular. I like Dusters, and I knew people who had them in high school, but I don't feel strongly enough about them to want to include one in the Fantasy Garage.

There's also the question of why I wouldn't want a Dodge Dart instead of a Valiant. Darts were built on a longer wheelbase and were generally better equipped and had nicer trim. Honestly, it's kind of a coin flip; I'd be perfectly happy with a Dart, but I guess I lean toward Valiants just because they are slightly more humble.
So then, which one? My first instinct was to go with a four-door sedan, inspired in part by the car from the old movie Duel (which, if you haven't seen it, is worth the time; it's a 1971 TV movie directed by Steven Spielberg). But I decided on a Scamp, which was a two-door hardtop added to the Valiant line for 1971 due mainly to the success of its cousin the Dart Swinger. These were just cute names for a nicer trim level intended to attract customers who might otherwise choose a larger car. They had more standard features and nicer interiors, and that cool concave rear window. I think bucket seats were also available, which would be a nice choice.

(Story on a '72 Scamp with lots of photos at Curbside Classic.)

08 February 2015

Retro Video Unit (2/6/15)

Eh, what can I say? It was a rough week...

So this is another one I've had on the list for a long time: "Alive and Kicking" by Simple Minds. They had quite a run of singles for a while there in the '80s, and I've always thought this was one of their best. The video is most notable for the scenery, with the band perched on a cliff somewhere.

I saw them live once, they opened for U2 on the Unforgettable Fire tour at the Worcester Centrum, and their set was nearly as good as U2's.

But whenever I think of Simple Minds, I end up wondering whatever happened to them. So many '80s bands have reunited or come out of hiatus or retirement or whatever, but they just kind of had their moment and that was it.