31 January 2014

It's Alive!

I visited the Apple store this morning, and one of the Geniuses was able to revive my iPhone. I don't know exactly what happened, and even if I'd asked I'm not sure he would have been able to tell me. The important thing is he was able to get it into restore mode and get it working, then restore my data and such from the cloud.

Since I hadn't backed up to iCloud in a while I lost some photos, but otherwise everything is back the way it was. The tech mentioned that if I use wi-fi at home (something I don't tend to do, as I'm not a big data user in general), the phone will back up automatically whenever I plug it in to charge, so that's going to be part of my regular routine now.

It's Dead, Jim

Well, shit. My iPhone's dead.

I noticed it around 6:30 this evening when I went to check the time on my phone (unusual, but I had been doing dishes and food prep in the kitchen and wasn't wearing a watch). Pushed the button, got no response. Pushed the other button, nothing. Held the button down, uh-oh.

I went to Apple's support site and got into a chat with a service rep, who walked me through some steps that might have gotten it going again (pro tip: holding down both the power and home buttons is the iPhone's version of a forced restart). That ended up getting it stuck in a loop, so I was told to connect it to iTunes for a memory wipe (I had backed up through iCloud) but that didn't work either.

Since I've had the phone only two months, it's still covered under the warranty, so I have an appointment at the Apple store later this morning to get a new one. The last thing I did earlier in the afternoon was update two apps, but I can only remember one of them (GasBuddy). One of the apps may have been the culprit, or it could have been something else. I'll probably never know for sure.

29 January 2014


Okay, the trash got cleaned up today. Our neighbor claims that he was unaware that loose trash not in a bin would not be picked up. He didn't explain why he didn't pick it up until today, but I didn't want to push it.

28 January 2014

Messy Situation

We have a bit of a situation with one of our upstairs neighbors, something we haven't encountered before. We put out the trash and recycling on Sunday nights. The trash bin is stored under our back porch where everyone can access it to deposit their stuff. The recycling bin is in the garage; it's larger than the trash bin and I only put it out when it gets full.

On Sunday night, after I'd put the trash at the curb, one of the upstairs people put out a couple of large items: a tall cardboard box maybe five feet high by two feet square, with a big wad of plastic sheeting inside; and a chair mat, like you put under a rolling office chair. The problem was that he put them next to the trash bin, and the city will not pick up any trash that is not in a bin.

I didn't have a direct email or phone contact for him, so I emailed another upstairs resident and asked her to pass along that these items would not be picked up. It was late Sunday night when I saw them, but there was time for him to deal with them on Monday morning. She told me that she had forwarded the message. He also used to live just a couple of blocks from here, so I believed he was already familiar with the city's rules.

He left at some point on Monday morning, and the items were still next to the trash bin. Of course the truck did not take them, and it was very windy that day, so the chair mat got blown into the street fairly soon afterward, where it was run over by a number of vehicles and broke into many pieces. The box was also blown around by the wind, but stayed in the general vicinity of the sidewalk in front of our house. I pushed the plastic pieces out of the middle of the street with a broom, and stacked the remaining larger pieces at the edge of the sidewalk.

The neighbor didn't come home until late Monday night but was around this morning; after he had left I checked and everything was still as it had been left. He was in and back out this afternoon, still no change. I have no intention of cleaning up these items, so I finally decided to leave a note.

I tried out several snarkier versions in my head, such as "Is there a reason why you haven't picked up your trash?" or "You're an adult and I feel like I shouldn't have to be leaving you a not about this..." or "I thought you would have dealt with this by now..." but ultimately I decided it was best to be direct and nonjudgmental: "Will you please pick up your trash from outside?" I suggested he might want to recycle the box, and if so he could put it in the garage. I signed it with "thank you."

Obviously I can't make him pick up the stuff, and I don't like being in a position where I feel I have to guilt someone, however gently, into taking responsibility for their belongings. This is obviously not a crisis, but it's unsightly, and I don't like having to live with careless people. I also feel that I have to tread carefully because I don't want to cause any sort of larger conflict, since we all have to coexist in this dwelling.

27 January 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #19

When I look back at this series, it's surprising to me how many of the cars I've found just by walking around my neighborhood and paying attention. I didn't think there were many interesting older cars around until I started looking for them.
Today's car is one that I had noticed long before I started taking photos of them, but didn't have the opportunity to photograph until I encountered it during a random walk. It's a Buick Skylark, one of the compacts designated X-bodies by General Motors that arrived for 1980 to replace the aging Chevrolet Nova and its badge-engineered cousins (Pontiac Phoenix, Oldsmobile Omega, and Skylark).
The new vehicles were front-wheel-drive, a first for GM other than the luxury Eldorado and Toronado of the 1960s. This car was 19" shorter in length than the car it replaced, but had better interior room, quite a significant accomplishment at the time for a company in the process of relearning how to design and make cars.
The X-cars were built and sold from 1980-85, and while initially successful, they were plagued with problems, though the Skylark managed to keep on selling in decent enough volume throughout its six-year production run, suggesting that they somehow managed to have fewer problems than the other X-bodies (the Chevy Citation was the worst). That might help explain how this one survived. The car's exterior styling changed very little over six model years; I can tell you from the grille that this is at least an '82, while the "Custom" badges on the rear fenders suggest that it's either an '84 or '85.
I didn't notice until I was preparing these photos that this car has wheel covers on only one side. I can't say for sure whether or not this car gets driven; I've never seen it on the roads around the neighborhood, and when I see it parked it seems to always be in the same spot. But it still has license plates, and it's still here, which is something 30 years later.

25 January 2014

This Week in Awesome (1/25/14)

It's still technically Saturday, so this is moving in the right direction...

I love the weird corners of tumblr where people just latch onto some zany idea and run wild with it. (Yahoo! Tech)

Similarly, there are sites that are rather more obsessive than zany, but those can be okay too. Give this guy credit for being thorough. (Laughing Squid)

If you have ever thought about writing a screenplay, this is worth a look. You might be surprised at some of the stuff these guys created. Splitsider)

This probably would have been better at the start of the football season, but I'll take it anyway: reimagining the NFL team logos as hipsters. (Uproxx via Dappered Weekend Dossier)

And finally this week, what happens when a menswear trade show collides with a big winter storm? You get a bunch of guys dressed to look cool, and thus in reality are woefully unprepared for severe weather. I am pretty sure these pictures were not intended to be funny, but I find them hilarious. (Four Pins via Valet)

24 January 2014

Retro Video Unit (1/24/14)

It's been very cold here again for most of this week, so I started thinking about a song that might assuage some of the chill, and "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves came to mind.

Now this is not exactly a sun-drenched video, which is a bit odd; it appears to have been shot in London on a typically foggy day. But it is an infectious song and pretty much a guaranteed mood lifter. (I've always thought "Do You Want Crying?" from the same album is a better song, but lyrically it's something of a downer.)

This song was all over the summer of 1985, which may be another reason why I've associated it mentally with warmth.

23 January 2014

Vagaries of the Canine Appetite

Right around the time we figured out that we were supposed to be giving the dog twice as much of her joint supplement daily, she started displaying a lack of interest in the previously irresistible, chewy, bacon-flavored medicine-disguised-as-treats (of which we had just purchased a new two-pound tub). This is a dog that would pick through dry kibble with her tongue, seeking out whatever worthy gems of goodness we had hidden at the bottom of the dish.

We resorted to breaking up the chews into small pieces and mixing them with her evening food. Since the food is also doused with chicken broth and plain yogurt, it tends to be consumed very quickly, scooped into her mouth via her long, spoonlike tongue. We've had a few nights over the past week where she seemed less than interested in her food overall, barely touching it and sometimes leaving it to congeal overnight, other times circling back to it around 11 pm.

A bit of strategic thinking brought us to the realization that we may have been feeding her too early, and her actual appetite may not have been matching up with her need for reassurance that her feeding was imminent. We started holding off on feeding her for 20 to 30 minutes past her usual time, and that seems to have solved the problem. Coincidentally, it seems that the chewy medicine treats are once again worthy of being eaten immediately when given in the morning.

22 January 2014

Overheard: Parental Responsibility Edition

At the auto show on Monday, the Volvo display was one of the only areas on the show floor with any seating (aside from sitting in the cars themselves). A group of cream-colored leather couches (possibly Swedish, probably not from IKEA) was arranged in a rectangle, and a couple of families were taking a break there.

As we passed by, a young boy of perhaps four jumped up from sitting alongside his parents and started walking across the seating surface of one of the sofas. I didn't see the reaction of either parent, but the mother called the child's name several times, scoldingly but with little sense of threat or consequence behind it, in a vain attempt to get him to stop.

I then heard her say, perhaps to her husband, another parent, or possibly even to herself, "This is why we don't have white furniture at home." I couldn't help myself: we weren't that close, but loudly enough so that it was within the realm of possibility that the parents heard me, I said to my friend, "This is why I don't have children."

21 January 2014

Car Stuff: Miscellany

I guess I took yesterday off from the blog; I went to the auto show with a friend. I thought I'd take a bunch of pictures and make a post out of it, but even though I enjoyed the show, I ended up not feeling all that inspired. Plus there was a sizable crowd, making it difficult to get decent shots without a bunch of people in the way. But I can share a couple of pictures:
This is a Subaru Forester cut open to display its safety features, or something like that. (You can see that I still ended up with a stray arm in the shot.)
And this, well, it's pretty self-explanatory: a Mustang pool table, with working lights, probably intended to "commemorate" the 50th anniversary this spring of the original Mustang's release. I'm not sure who the audience is for it, but that's someone else's problem. (Also, note that is not the upcoming redesigned Mustang in the background, but the outgoing model; the show was rather short on just-announced redesigns.)

19 January 2014

This Week in Awesome (1/18/14)

Still trying to get this right... small steps.

In celebration of the return of Archer this past week, Uproxx put together a supercut of the self-involved superspy's best one-liners.

Here's a long but very interesting story about relief efforts for American soldiers held prisoner during World War II that included modified board game sets that included items that could be useful in an escape. (Eurogamer via Consumerist)

What if your Google searches were handled by an actual person? (CollegeHumor)

And finally this week, on the real side of things Google, an interactive timeline of popular music since 1950. (Laughing Squid)

17 January 2014

Walking Shoes

During the cold months, when it's not wet and sloppy or extremely cold I spend most of my time in Caterpillar work boots that I've had for years. They are neither insulated nor waterproof, but they are comfortable for walking and their thicker soles and ankle coverage help keep my feet from getting cold.

But every once in a while we get a week in January like the one we've just had, where it's above 40 every day and sometimes hits 50, and I don't always feel like wearing my boots. Back in the spring I got these shoes from L.L. Bean, and they have turned out to be the best walking shoes I have owned.

They are meant to look like the old-school hiking shoes that have recently come back into fashion, but functionally they are more of a general-purpose shoe. They're a bit funny-looking, but not nearly as bad as the puffy "mall-walking shoes" you tend to see older folks wearing. (I'm not ready to give in to those yet.) I also like that they are quite plain, devoid of unnecessary detailing.

Although I kind of like the tan, I went with the gray, which is more low-key. The blue laces are anything but subtle, but fortunately they came with a second pair of laces in matching gray. The blue pull tabs on the back aren't so noticeable, so I don't mind those. They aren't available in wide, which I tend to find more comfortable, but these are wide enough that it's not an issue.

I've had some foot issues over the years, including a cramp/nerve-pinch thing in my right foot that tends to manifest after I have been walking or standing for a while. It doesn't matter what shoes I am wearing, so whenever I wear new shoes during a day of walking I expect the cramp to show up. But with these shoes, no cramp. I have no idea why, but I think it may have something to do with the footbeds. When I first put them on they tend to feel a bit strange, but as soon as I start walking everything feels fine.

Bean happens to be offering 10% off all orders through next Wednesday (1/22), and these shoes are already marked down $10 from their original price, so you could get them for $63.

15 January 2014

Overheard: We've All Wondered About It Edition

While I was riding the bus today, a woman boarded with a small boy of three or possibly four. They sat a couple of seats behind me. A few minutes later I heard the boy ask his mother, "Is it going to be the same driver on the way back?"

14 January 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #18

Sometimes I seek out certain cars where they live after I've noticed them parked in the same place on different occasions; other times, those cars find me.

Back in the fall I was heading to an appointment one morning when I found this car parked across the street from the bus stop. I had passed it at least a dozen times in the car, parked several streets away, when we were driving to Medford Square. I kept meaning to go over there and take pictures of it where its owner presumably lives, but then on this particular day it was right in front of me, saving me the effort.
This is a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne, and you are forgiven if you've never heard of it. In the 1960s the top of the line Pontiac was the Bonneville, but in 1971 they added the Grand Ville at the top of the lineup. When General Motors' full-size cars got downsized for 1977, the Grand Ville was dropped and the Bonneville once again became the top-line Pontiac ride. Meanwhile up in Canada, what was called a Bonneville here was called a Parisienne, dating back to 1958 (which, coincidentally, is when the Bonneville was first introduced).
But wait, it gets more confusing: due to declining sales, the full-size Bonneville was dropped after 1981; Pontiac took what had been a mid-size LeMans, gave it a different front end, and slapped the Bonneville name on it. Almost immediately they regretted the decision, but up north they were still building the Parisienne. Since they had already given the Bonneville name to another car, they imported the Parisienne and kept its name.
For the final bit of weirdness, the Parisiennes sent here for sale in 1983 and '84 were really just Chevrolet Caprices with different grilles, tail lights, and trim. But for 1985 Pontiac went back to using the body panels that had been used on the Bonneville and Parisienne back in 1981, which differed from those on the Caprice, mainly at the rear of the car. See how this car has the gently sloping rear fenders and trunk lid? That's the older/newer version.

So how do I know this isn't a Canadian car from '81? Because it has the government-mandated center stop light, which first appeared on American cars for the 1986 model year.

As you can see, this car has been pounded on and is still going. Oxidized paint, missing trim, a vinyl top that appears to have psoriasis, a dented door, some sort of Pep Boys wheel covers—this is a true beater, and has earned the right to be called one.

13 January 2014

Last Week in Awesome (1/11/14)

Okay, this is getting a bit silly... but in my defense, I was busy most of the day Saturday, then of course I had to watch the football game. Yesterday just kind of got away from me entirely; before I knew it, it was 10:30 pm and I still hadn't done my weekly TV lineup for The Longfellow Bridge.

Michelle Dockery was game for some spoofing of both her Downton Abbey character and American cop shows, with an assist from Michael Chiklis, seemingly reincarnating Vic Mackey from The Shield. (Funny or Die)

On the eve of the release of his new album, an assessment of Bruce Springsteen's body of work in typically exhaustive Grantland fashion. (Grantland via Kempt)

Words are awesome, but sometimes the right word for expressing a certain concept or feeling doesn't exist in our native tongue. Fortunately there are words in other languages that can provide an assist. (Mental Floss via the Dappered Weekend Dossier)

And finally this week, a music nerd writes for other music nerds on "bands that were good, but blew it." (The A.V. Club via Unlikely Words)

10 January 2014

Retro Video Unit (1/10/14)

I've been up in the (YouTube) attic again, digging around for one of those rare power-pop nuggets. And I found one, all right, though in this instance it's more about the song than the video clip.

The Monroes were a San Diego band that had a moderate hit in 1982 with "What Do All the People Know?" They were on their way to what could have been a very successful run when the Japan-based label with which they had chosen to sign decided to abandon the American market, leaving the band without the ability to promote its recently released EP. (Info courtesy Wikipedia)

The entry says this happened while the band was working on ideas for a music video for this song, which means there isn't an official video. There is, however, a live appearance on The Merv Griffin Show that showcases the song pretty well:

08 January 2014

Point of View

Since I walk around with a decent camera on me most of the time, I've been attempting to make use of it beyond taking pictures of old cars. You have already seen some of these experiments, such as this Orange Line train, construction in Downtown Crossing, or these rooftop shots.

T stations are not the most photogenic locations, but waiting around for 20 to 30 minutes for a bus can be a catalyst for creativity. The other day I was standing next to a concrete pillar at Wellington when I noticed a pipe running down it, and a groove in the concrete where the sections of concrete were joined together. I leaned over and looked through the space between the pipe and the groove, and then thought to take a photo of it:
I think this would have come out better if I had a more sophisticated camera like a digital SLR, but considering that the iPhone's camera has a fixed lens I think it's all right. Also, there is a bus shelter directly across from where I was aiming, so that's the blurry thing you are seeing at the end of the groove; I think the shot may have worked better if that area was open. There are now lens attachments for smartphones that offer wide-angle and macro capabilities, and I may give them a try at some point.

07 January 2014

Last Week in Awesome (1/4/14)

Arrrgh... I had a full complement of TWiA ready to go for this past weekend, but I admit I got caught up in the NFL playoff games and before I knew it, the weekend was gone.

This one isn't of interest to me, but I bet a bunch of people would enjoy being able to play hundreds of classic console video games in a web browser. (Business Insider via Boy Genius Report)

Speaking of flashbacks, have a look at an L.L. Bean holiday catalog circa 1983. (Heavy Tweed Jacket; thanks to DC)

I suppose it was inevitable: there's a Downton Abbey LEGO set. (Vanity Fair via TV Tattle)

And finally last week, a collection of some of last year's outstanding online writing. (The Verge)

06 January 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #17

Some of the cars in my neighborhood are regularly parked in front of their owners' homes, but I'm not always on foot when I see them. This week's example is a car that I tend to pass while riding in our car or on the bus, so when I happened to walk this route one day I was ready to get these shots.
If you remember the light blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera from back in November, this is its Buick counterpart, the Century. Just about everything I wrote about that car applies to this one as well. Now I just have to spot a Chevrolet Celebrity and a Pontiac 6000...

I think this one may be a year or two newer than the Olds; they were built through the 1996 model year, and something about this car has an aura of finality about it, both in the sense that it's from near the end of the car's production run, and in the sense that its owner, whom I suspect is an older person, seems to have decided that this would the last car s/he bought.
It's certainly well kept for a car around 20 years old, which suggests that it is driven infrequently. It also looks like it has those passive seat belts that used to be installed on cars before they had been updated with air bags. (Also, I need to remember to try to get interior shots.)
I'm pretty sure there are no longer any American cars offered with a front bench seat. Now that cars like this one, and others that appealed primarily to car buyers of a certain age like the Mercury Grand Marquis, are no longer in production, I do wonder what sorts of cars those approaching retirement age are buying. I think the closest current analogue to this car may be the Toyota Camry. Reasonably sized, comfortable, economical to buy and own, bland to the point of numbness...

04 January 2014

Dog Dosage

Our dog turned 12 in August. She's been on a joint supplement for the better part of two years to help with movement. She does not have arthritis as far as we know, but she has been having a little trouble getting up the stairs when we come back from walks.

The other day we were getting ready to reorder the supplement and were comparing its ingredients to a different one that some dog owners on an email list had recommended. As I was looking over the small print on the outside of the container I noticed this: "give one tablet daily per 25 pounds of body weight."

The dog weighs around 55 pounds, but we've been giving her only one tablet per day since she started taking this particular kind back in August. Oops. The dosage on the other kind she was getting before was one per day, and it never occurred to either of us that it would be any different for these. So the replenishment order is on the way, but of course this dosage means that she will go through them in half the time. The joys of being a pet owner...

02 January 2014

Annals of Puzzling Human Behavior

I know I should no longer be surprised when I see people who are ill-dressed for the weather, but I always end up wondering what's going on with them and how they can tolerate the conditions.

It's snowing lightly here today; the brunt of the storm will be coming through later tonight, and by tomorrow we should have a foot of snow. But it's very windy today. One of my eBay items sold last night, so I had to go out this morning to bring it to the post office. I figured it was better to get it into the system today, because I'll be spending a good chunk of tomorrow clearing snow and I don't know how quickly conditions will be returning to something near normal. I promise buyers that I will generally be able to ship their purchases within one business day, so if I want positive feedback it's in my interest to get their packages out quickly.

The two post offices that are easiest to get to are in Medford Square and downtown on Milk Street. Getting to the Medford post office requires more walking when leaving my house and coming back, as the bus route I take to get there is about eight minutes' walk away. Getting downtown requires less time outside: the stop for that bus route is only a minute from our house, and the post office is just around the corner from the State T stop, so today I decided to head downtown.

After I left the post office I saw a guy walking toward me, wearing only a short-sleeve polo shirt and jeans, and some sort of light-duty hiking shoes. His shoulders were hunched and his hands were stuffed into his pockets, and he ducked into a restaurant across from the post office. I suppose he had come from one of the nearby office buildings and figured he didn't need to bundle up to go and get his lunch.

But come on, it's 25 degrees outside and the wind is blowing at around 25 miles an hour. Short sleeves? And maybe this is my own judgmental nature at work, but when I see someone underdressed in such a way in such conditions, I tend to think it makes that person look at least a bit unhinged, as though he had spontaneously decided to wander away from his treatment program.

01 January 2014

Resurrection of the Phones

Happy new year to everyone out there. You may remember a few months ago I posted a photo of sad pay phones in the Wellington T station. I was passing through the other day and noticed that things aren't so sad after all:
It appears that the phones were being installed, not removed. There's a third one hiding behind that Gronk sign; looking at it now, it's kind of in the way of passersby where it is and should be moved back next to the phone.

(Sorry for the iffy exposure, but MBTA employees have been known to exhibit selective awareness of the policy that specifically permits taking photos on T property, so when I do take them I try to do so quickly, to avoid attracting the attention of station personnel.)

And yes, this is one of the ugliest stations in the T system.