31 August 2013

Driver's Ed

Boston drivers are notorious for their lack of patience. If someone behind us beeps when a traffic light turns green, the Mrs. typically makes a comment to herself, or me if I'm in the car.

Yesterday, though, was different. We were at a T intersection, coming up the vertical part of the T and waiting to turn left. This particular intersection is tricky, and it should probably have a traffic light, but around here things often stay uncorrected like that a long time. (How long did it take for a signal to get installed at Packard's Corner?)

Without a light, we were forced to wait until the road was clear. A car came up behind us and before long the driver beeped the horn. Then again, then again. Beep. Beep, Beep. The Mrs. leaned out her window and yelled back at the other driver, "I can't go! There are cars turning in front of me!" (Her argument was bolstered at that exact moment by a car that turned and came past both of us. She gestured at it in case the other driver somehow hadn't seen it.) "If you don't feel like waiting, feel free to go past me!"

No more beeping.

30 August 2013


I'm enjoying finding these random signs. I'll keep posting them as I find them. I spotted this one at Commonwealth Books downtown:
No nonsense, no apologies, to the point. But of course, in a better world such a sign would not be necessary.

28 August 2013

Buyback Blues

A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch a TV news report about turning in older electronic gadgets for cash. Today as I was doing some house cleaning I came across a couple of my older gadgets and decided to look them up. I like the idea that unused electronics can be reused or at least recycled instead of just being discarded.

One of the better-known sites for buying back used electronic items is Gazelle, which happens to be based locally. I went on the site to look up a smartphone, but it's not one of the brands they currently accept for trade. I looked for a different phone, but while they do take the brand, they don't take this particular model.

And so it went with an older iPod and a Palm PDA. It's sort of our modern equivalent of the old textbook buyback game from when I was in college. There may be other sites that would accept some of my items in trade, but I haven't explored further yet. I guess I tend to hold onto my electronics too long. Maybe I'll have better luck trying to sell them myself.

26 August 2013

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #3

I love that there are cars like this around my neighborhood:
The land barge above is a 1965 Chrysler 300 four-door hardtop. You know, "I got me a Chrysler, it's as big as a whale/and it's about to set sail..." This is quite possibly what they had in mind when they wrote the song.

I see a car like this sitting in a driveway and assume that someone inherited it from a grandparent. Clearly someone cares enough about it to invest in a garage for it. Maybe it wasn't in such great condition when they got it; it has definitely been repainted, because I can assure you that shade of blue is not a color Chrysler offered in '65. And those aftermarket exhaust pipes indicate that it has probably also undergone some engine modifications. Speaking of which, these things had enormous standard engines, with an even larger one available; either way, the owner is spending dearly on fuel.

I would prefer to see a car like this brought back to its original condition, but if the choice is between modified and sent to the scrap yard, I'll take modified. And this one is close enough to original that its alterations are not egregious.

25 August 2013

This Week in Awesome (8/24/13)

Whoops, pretty much forgot about this all weekend...

If you prefer your designs minimalist you should enjoy these posters, which are available to purchase. (Deadspin via Kempt)

Think about how many outfits James Bond has worn over the course of all the movies, then go have a look over here. (Laughing Squid)

How's the weather up there? (BuzzFeed)

Cats and boats? That just made my day. PB, what do you think? (Dappered Weekend Dossier)

And finally this week, it's easy to forget that any city is constantly changing and evolving. Being able to look back at how things were before helps put the past and present in perspective. The city of Boston has posted a batch of pictures showing the construction of many of the buildings around Government Center, and some of the demolition that had to occur to make way for them. (Note: some of the thumbnail images aren't loading on that page, but the full-size images appear if you click on the smaller ones.) (City of Boston archives on flickr via Universal Hub)

24 August 2013

Retro Video Unit (8/23/13)

I'd imagine everyone has seen this one, but that's no reason not to post it. "Sledgehammer" was pretty impressive technically when it premiered in 1986, and it's still a good song. (Isn't it about time for tab-collar shirts to make another comeback?)

23 August 2013

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Have you ever broken up with a website?

Until quite recently I was an avid reader of Jalopnik, a car news and enthusiast site. Their editorial approach and attitude are informative but also irreverent, and a thriving community of commenters always adds value to the stories the site posted. The rapid pace at which Jalopnik posts content meant I had to visit the site several times a day to keep up.

Jalopnik is part of a company called Gawker, which runs more than half a dozen other sites covering the media, celebrity gossip, computers and tech, sci-fi, and other topics. The design of all the sites is governed by a corporate template, which is redesigned frequently—too frequently, in my opinion.

The previous redesign resulted in a terrific look, with a wide text area and ample amounts of space between and on the sides of posts as they ran down the main page. Headlines were large and easy to read, and images were even larger. Information about the articles' authors and the categories of the stories was logically arranged and clearly presented just under the images, and it was quite attractive.

And then they broke something that didn't need fixing. Stories got crammed closer together, images shrank back to thumbnail size, the entire left third of the main page was given to a column of "top stories" links, which resulted in everything else being squeezed over to the right. Some stories have links to one or two related stories with thumbnail images, which intrudes on the text from the right side of the page and pushes it to the left. Article author and category/tag information has been shrunken down and is rendered in a gray text that now sits above stories rather than below; it's much more difficult to see against the site's light gray background. It's a complete disaster.

I've been reading and enjoying Jalopnik for at least five years, but this redesign is so dismal that I've decided to stop visiting. This isn't an easy decision; websites get redesigned all the time, but usually it's to make them better. This has the feeling of change merely for the sake of change, and even if that's not true, it still makes the site far less pleasant to view and read and, unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that it's no longer worth my time.

It's hard to disengage from something that's become a habitual part of my daily web reading, but I visit a number of other car-related sites as well, so I won't miss anything important. I will miss the specific Jalopnik tone, but I guess I'll get over that with time. This happened once before with the tech site Engadget, and I've done fine without visiting that site. And of course, there will inevitably be another Gawker redesign at some point down the road, so perhaps they will eventually undo what they did this time around.

22 August 2013

Back to the Shack

We hadn't been back to Shake Shack since it opened back in the winter, but I had definitely been thinking about going. Yesterday the Mrs. made the suggestion out of the blue, and of course I wasn't going to object.

We arrived right around 5 pm and there was no line, only a couple of people ahead of us. This is probably because it was early for dinner, the fuss had died down somewhat, and it's the time of year when many people are on vacation. The wait seemed about the same as we were leaving.

On my first visit the "house beer" brewed for Shake Shack by Brooklyn Brewing was not yet available, so I got to have that this round. It's perhaps somewhat reminiscent of Brooklyn Lager, but that's certainly not a bad thing. They also have Peak Organic Ale and a selection of bottled beers.

So if you haven't tried it yet, this is a good time to go. Don't forget to check the Custard Calendar (or just check the menu on the wall) for the special daily flavors, because you'll probably want dessert. It's frozen custard, which is kind of like a thicker, richer soft-serve (though my description isn't really doing it justice).

20 August 2013


I saw this sign at a Stop & Shop a couple of nights ago:
It's nice to know they are looking out for their customers, trying to help us remember the things we need.

19 August 2013

Car Stuff: Family History

Recently I had the opportunity to go through some old family photo albums. There are a few pictures of the cars my parents owned when I was growing up, which I brought home and scanned. These were not high-quality images to begin with, and are at least 40 years old, but at least they were kept in albums, which limits fading somewhat.

My parents got married in September 1960. For their honeymoon they drove to Florida. At the time the interstate highway system was a new endeavor, and route 95 was still either under construction or in the planning stages, so they took US 1 all the way.

Both my parents had cars at the time, but they sold both and pooled the money to buy a newer used car in hope of having a mechanically trouble-free trip. (As far as I know, they did.) This is the car they bought, a 1957 Chevrolet two-door sedan:
And that's my father, age 20, sitting on the roof while the car is parked on Daytona Beach.

I had always thought this car was a Bel Air due to its side trim, but I learned only recently from reading comments on Curbside Classic (but can't recall the specific post where I read them) that the Two-Ten, the middle model in the range that year, was available with the same trim, minus the horizontally ribbed metal panel that went inside the wedge area at the rear (Two-Tens with this side trim had the wedge area painted to match the car's roof, as seen here).

These Chevys were immensely popular cars when new, and have always been of the most popular choices for hot rodding or customizing (more so when I was growing up). Today it's probably more difficult to find an example that has been kept in original condition, though those definitely show up at car shows. There are far more interesting old cars, but few as well-known and recognizable.

18 August 2013

This Week in Awesome (8/17/13)

Today I couldn't get back to sleep after getting up to walk the dog, but I'd had only five hours of sleep before getting up to walk the dog. Does not compute...

Probably the last Breaking Bad-related thing I will link to, but I reserve the right to change my mind. (Slate via TV Tattle)

If you're into etymology you will probably find this interesting. The only specific one I can remember from my time in school is "burnouts." (The Morning News via The Hairpin)

Are mashups the internet's most lasting contribution to our culture? Probably not, but some of them are still clever. (Laughing Squid)

I have recommended checking out Grantland in the past, and here's another reason why. (Note: probably of interest mainly to TV fans.)

And finally this week, another excellent TV-related article, definitely of interest to fans of Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire. Let the debate resume. (Oh look, I mentioned BB again after all...) (The Hollywood Reporter via TV Tattle)

17 August 2013

Closet Annex

You all know I have a lot of clothing. Our apartment has minimal closet space, so I gradually gave up on the idea of being able to keep everything in one place. I bought a pop-up closet so I could store suits and other things I don't wear often in the basement. Later I added a second one for winter coats and other out of season items.

But I bought cheap ones, and I made the mistake of overloading them. Gradually their top frames warped from the weight, one tipped over, and the other blew out its back seam. A couple of months ago I bought two replacements from The Container Store that have heavier-weight canvas exterior shells. I put them in the basement and kind of forgot about them.

With the very pleasant weather we've been having this week, it's nice and comfortable in the basement, so I decided Thursday that I had procrastinated long enough, and headed downstairs to put the things together. While doing so I also set aside some things that I no longer want, and some things I want to try to sell. I also did a little reorganization of how I was storing things.

The new pop-ups have the same sort of frames as the old ones, so I decided to pay more attention to how much I put in them so they are not overloaded. My suits and sport coats are now hanging with enough space that they won't get wrinkled. Plus, after shifting everything around, I realized that I had enough usable pieces left over from the two old ones that I was able to cobble together a third unit, which I'm using to hold all the things that are going to be sold.

The new units also came with corrugated panels for the tops and bottoms, so it's possible to store things that are in boxes, like a couple of straw hats I have. Again I wouldn't use these "shelves" for anything heavy, but it's nice to have the additional area.

It felt good to do something productive, but I still have a lot of stuff downstairs that I have to deal with.

15 August 2013

Stars & Barfs

Remember when I was talking about Bonobos? Here's something to haunt your dreams: they are also responsible for these:
Who would wear these pants, Keith Lockhart? Also, this guy might want to get his hemmed, or consider a shorter inseam.

14 August 2013

Dog Days

Yesterday was our dog's 12th birthday. We know her exact date of birth because she was a racing dog and all their biographical data is carefully maintained.
She has slowed down somewhat with age; getting down and getting up again require visibly more effort for her. We've been giving her a joint supplement for over a year, and it helps to an extent. I ordered a different kind that is intended specifically for senior dogs, and as soon as her other one is finished in a couple more days we'll start her on the new one and see if there's any additional boost.

Her appetite has also decreased slightly, causing her to lose a couple of pounds and look more bony than she did before, so we've been augmenting her food with things like scrambled eggs and banana slices. Shredded cheese always works, too.

But for her age, her health is quite good. She still enjoys getting outside and sniffing as much of the neighborhood as possible, she enjoys her daily treats, and she enjoys sleeping on the couch. We've had her for seven years, and she's having the comfortable, lazy retirement she deserves. We think we're lucky we got her.

12 August 2013

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #2

I've been grabbing pictures with my phone of old cars that I've come across, and now I have a use for them. I'll be posting them here on Mondays, though some weeks I will deviate and do something different.
I came across this relic of the 1980s in the parking lot of our local Ocean State Job Lot three or four months ago. It was the middle of the afternoon and the lot was pretty empty, but this car's owner has seemingly parked it strategically to avoid potential contact from an adjacent car door.

This is a Pontiac Safari; this basic vehicle was produced from model years 1977 to 1989, but the fact that its side says only Safari and it wears no other nameplate, such as Grand Safari, Bonneville Safari, or Parisienne Safari, indicates that it's from one of the final three years of production, 1987-89. By that point minivans had become quite popular for families that needed both passenger and cargo space. They were smaller and more efficient than older designs like this, while offering comparable interior space. Large wagons like this were fading away, but were kept in the lineup because they had long since earned back their tooling costs and any sales, even just a few thousand per year, were profitable.

But in the late 1970s, cars like this were everywhere. I used to get a ride to school sometimes from a classmate whose father had a version of this car in pale yellow, but without the fake wood adorning the sides. This car was also available at the time as a Chevrolet Caprice, Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, or Buick Estate Wagon, and later I rode with another classmate who drove his mother's Buick version, white with the woodgrain sides and a plush red cloth interior, quite a classy ride.

The front fender of this car shows discoloration of the vinyl applique; it's possible the fender was replaced and this is from a different vehicle. The rear wheel opening also shows signs of some work, possibly body filler. But the wheel covers are nice and the dark blue looks good under all the dust; it wouldn't take too much effort to get this car cleaned up and looking sharp.

11 August 2013

This Week in Awesome (8/10/13)

We saw The To-Do List last night, which takes place in the summer of 1993 and has lots of good music from that time period... I was especially psyched to hear "I Don't Know Why I Love You" by The House of Love; look for it as a future Retro Video.

This week's time-lapse focuses on European architecture. Cool. (Vimeo Staff Picks)

I'm sure almost all of us can relate to the sentiment behind this. (Well Spent)

There have been plenty of Breaking Bad parodies floating around (the show's final eight episodes begin Sunday), but I particularly enjoyed this one. (Funny or Die via TV Tattle)

And finally this week, Nick Offerman helps you get caught up on your summer reading assignments. (Jimmy Kimmel Live)

10 August 2013

Retro Video Unit (8/9/13)

Some old songs have videos that I wasn't aware of, like this one from Toronto band Martha and the Muffins. Yes, it's "Echo Beach":

09 August 2013

Silly Monkey

I've been getting catalogs from Bonobos lately. If you don't know, Bonobos is a men's clothing brand that started up a few years ago, promising to offer better-fitting pants. I believe they have succeeded, if you are under 35 or have a very athletic build.

Since then they have expanded their product line considerably, now offering a wide selection of dress and business casual shirts, suit separates, pants in a less trim fit, jeans, outerwear, and plenty of shoes and accessories. They seem to be aiming to position themselves as a one-stop shopping solution for men who want to step up their wardrobe without expending too much effort. Okay, fine. I admit that I am somewhat turned off by this approach, but I am an exception with regard to shopping. I haven't paid much attention to what Bonobos was doing because I felt that, as with many other brands' offerings, I have aged out of the target market.

That's not all. They opened a store on Newbury Street a while ago (last year, I think), but as with all their other brick-and-mortar locations, you can't actually buy anything there. It's what they call a "guideshop," where you can try on items, get advice, and then place an order for what you want. (Isn't that what Dell did back in the "Dude" days?) I don't know, I guess it eliminates having to keep a substantial inventory on hand, but this just seems needlessly complicated to me considering you can order from their website with free shipping and free returns and try on your purchases in the comfort of your home.

They got a fair bit of style-blog coverage a couple of years back when they launched a collection of American-made jeans priced at $125. I'm sure that seems like a lot to some of you, but compared to what else was available at the time, it was a reasonably impressive effort.

(You might remember that I wrote a while back about Lands' End's American-made jeans for $95, and suggested you use one of their plentiful coupon codes; those jeans have since been marked down to an eye-opening $55, and LE is currently offering an extra 30% off one item, which would bring them to less then $40! As of now all sizes are still available in both washes.)

But back to Bonobos. (Have I mentioned that I think that's a really stupid name for a clothing line?) I got a catalog a couple of days ago. I decided to give it a quick glance before putting it into the recycling container, and found these "weekday warrior" non-iron cotton pants:
That's right, the days of the week are embroidered into the inner waistband. Five colors, five work days. (I am highly disappointed because the catalog has a group shot of all five that I wanted to show you, but I can't get my scanner to work at the moment.) I guess it's just a goof. I mean, I hope so. I really do.

By the way, these cost $98 a pair, so if you really want to outfit yourself for the whole work week with day-labeled pants from Bonobos, it will set you back just under $500, which seems pretty silly to me.

Update: after some further fiddling, my printer decided it would scan to a flash drive but still not to my desktop, but I now have the image I originally wanted to share:

08 August 2013

Sale Still in Progress

Nearly a year ago, I posted some items for sale on Style Forum, mainly some nice pieces of outerwear that had belonged to my father-in-law. These were nice items, many of which still had tags on them. My father-in-law had a thing for outerwear, even though he lived in southern California; either he was planning to pull a Grizzly Adams and live in the wilderness, or possibly he thought he might end up moving back to the east coast someday.

I didn't get any responses initially, and kind of stopped thinking about it. Nearly two months later a guy contacted me with interest in two of the coats. Since he happened to be local, we arranged a time for him to come by the house and try them on. We worked out a deal for buying both items, and he went home happy.

A few days ago, someone else contacted me with an offer for one of the remaining items. By now I had really forgotten about it, but I had removed the others from the listing when they sold, so I knew that anything he was asking about was still available. He came over this evening and bought the coat.

There are still a few items left, including a vintage Burberry single-breasted trench coat and a vintage cashmere topcoat that I wore in college (that needs a little attention from a good tailor). Take a look at the listing, and if you're interested in anything get in touch.

07 August 2013

You Can Say That on Cable

Stephen Colbert gives a demonstration (with a little help from Hugh Laurie) of why broadcast TV networks want to be freed from content restrictions.

(Edit: sorry about the autoplay business, let's try this instead.)

05 August 2013

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #1

I should have realized a long time ago that it was a good idea to include car stuff here. The car show posts and last week's celebration of the '61 Chrysler station wagon finally got it through to me.

As it happens, I have some pictures I've collected on my phone of interesting cars I have come across in various places, so that's where I'm going to start. I may also intersperse those with other content depending on how I'm feeling on a given Monday. All right then...
That's a 1965 Ford Falcon Futura convertible that I spotted on a street in Winthrop, MA last summer. The back bumper has clearly had more than incidental contact with a solid object, but otherwise the car looks pretty good for going on 50 years old.

Ford introduced the compact Falcon for the 1960 model year, right around the time General Motors was bringing out the Cheverolet Corvair and Chrysler was debuting the Valiant (which would soon become the Plymouth Valiant). By the time this car came out, all of the "Big Three" would also have intermediate-size models—bigger than the compacts, smaller than their full-size cars.

Ford also found huge success with the Mustang, which was a humble Falcon under the skin, just dressed up in nicer threads. The Mustang was so popular that people lost interest in the sportier Falcon models like this one. When the Falcon was redesigned for '66, it came only as a two-door or four-door sedan or a station wagon. The same thing happened with the redesign of the '67 Valiant (hardtops and convertibles wore their own sheet metal and became Barracudas) and the '68 Chevy Nova (the Camaro had come out in '67), and both the Valiant and Nova did away with their wagons as well.

Still, this is a nice-looking car, its mechanicals are dead simple, it would be a blast to run around in for the summer, and it shares a lot of parts with its Mustang sibling, for which there are all kinds of reproduction parts available. If you were looking for a way into vintage car ownership, a car like this would be a far less painful (and less expensive) way to start compared to many other choices (like, um a '61 Chrysler Town & Country?).

04 August 2013

This Week in Awesome (8/3/13)

Shark Week has arrived, as well as the runup to the final Breaking Bad episodes, so something for everyone coming up this week, more or less...

A trailer for a fake movie based on a cartoon that aired on MTV in the '90s. Got it? It's basically an excuse for Aubrey Plaza to bring to life an animated character to which she has an uncanny resemblance.(College Humor)

Speaking of MTV, they just marked their 32nd birthday, and boston dot com was nice enough to remind us of the first 15 videos they played back in 1981 (most people know what the first was, but I didn't know any of the others).

Do you like maps? I like maps. I even like maps of things that never got built. (Wired via Universal Hub; the blog from which that material came is here, if you're interested in more)

Speaking of Breaking Bad, someone went to a great deal of trouble to create this (admittedly very condensed) recap of what's happened on the show. (Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, I don't usually go in for this sort of thing, but these kids are amazing. (The Hairpin; more here)

02 August 2013

Fan Fail

Have you ever heard the thing about reversing the direction of your ceiling fan? You are supposed to run it counterclockwise in warm weather to facilitate cooling.

I was having an email conversation with APB about air conditioning and fans, and she mentioned this. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, at least not in our apartment. We have one ceiling fan, in the kitchen. I use a stand fan next to the AC unit in the room adjoining the kitchen to try to move some of the cooler air into the kitchen.

I tried running the ceiling fan along with it, but it made the kitchen warmer. And out of curiosity, I switched the fan back to clockwise and tried it again. It also caused the kitchen to get warmer, but not as quickly as when it was going counterclockwise. If the room was larger, or if the opening between the rooms was wider, I think the results might be different.