31 March 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #24

There's an auto repair place on the corner diagonally opposite where I wait for the bus. There are always cars parked in their lot, some of which are for sale, while others I guess are in the process of being worked on. This car appeared in January and I thought it was being driven by one of the garage employees, but then I noticed it didn't have license plates.

I took pictures of it on a nice day mid-month when the early-season snow had melted, but I lost them in my iPhone mishap a couple of weeks later. Fortunately the car was still there, so I was able to go back and get more pictures, but by that point it was somewhat more boxed in by other cars and the shop's tow trucks, and I could not get as many good angles.
It's a 1972 Pontiac LeMans Sport convertible with some modifications. 1972 was the last year General Motors offered convertibles in its mid-size lines; convertible sales were declining, and Ford and Chrysler had already started to drop some or all of their offerings. GM held onto its full-size convertibles for a few more years, since they were more profitable. So this is definitely a rare car: according to data I found online, less than 3,500 1972 LeMans Sport convertibles were built. How many of those have survived for more than 40 years? Probably less than half of that number.

It disappoints me a bit to see such an unusual car as this get altered instead of preserved in its original form, though the changes are only cosmetic. The color appears to match up with one of three shades of blue Pontiac offered in '72, and while the stripes could be one of the other two blues, they were definitely added later. All the exterior badges have been stripped, and I think it's obvious these are not the original wheels and tires.
Then there are the bumpers, which have been painted to match the body color. The high-performance GTO offered a body-color front bumper from 1968-72, and later Pontiac made it optional on other LeMans models, but an entirely different bumper and grille assembly was used; someone tried to make this car evoke the look of a GTO from the same year without changing the existing parts (probably for financial reasons). It's aesthetically questionable, yet it does make this car look distinctive. (I'd be interested to know if they painted over the chrome or stripped the bumpers first.)

Around back the same thing was done to the rear bumper. I've seen customized GTOs with this treatment, but as far as I've been able to determine, Pontiac never offered it on any GTO or LeMans.
All '72 LeMans Sport convertibles came with bucket seats, which is nice, though you probably would have had to pay extra for a console. This car is a bit rough in spots but is solid overall, and could either be returned to its original specs, or driven as is and brought to car shows as a "restomod" due to its cosmetic alterations. Regardless, I'm glad it showed up in the repair shop lot.

30 March 2014

This Week in Awesome (3/29/14)

I didn't find as many goodies as I was hoping to this week, but I'd rather post what I have than skip another week.

The Simpsons is full of all sorts of clever stuff, some of which is hanging out subtly in the background. (Mental Floss; thanks to Dr. Hackenbush)

Time-lapse of a thunderstorm: pretty cool. (Vimeo via The Awl)

This fan-made compilation of three decades of influential movie visual effects is a fun look back. (Vimeo via Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, a parody ad from last night's Saturday Night Live with a bit more edge than is typical.

28 March 2014

Clearly Bonkers

I have a propensity to make fun of ugly clothing and shoes, but I've just seen something so bizarre I don't know what to say:
These are in fact shoes with clear (smoke gray) plastic uppers. I guess you might want to wear these if you have really attractive feet, or an amazing sock collection you want to show off? Regardless, plastic shoes are a bad idea—they don't allow for any air circulation and feet will end up getting clammy. (Why do you think Crocs have holes? It's not for appearance.)

In case you're wondering, these are available at Urban Outfitters. They retail for $80 but are currently 25% off.

Last Bus Home

Tonight the MBTA begins a year-long experiment offering extended service on Friday and Saturday nights. Service on all subway lines, the Silver Line, and select "key bus routes" (the most heavily used ones) will run for approximately 90 minutes later than normal. This is long overdue, and I hope that it turns out to be viable, by which I mean I hope enough riders take advantage of it to make it worth the added cost to the T, and they decide to make it permanent.

For decades Boston has been mockingly referred to as "the city that always sleeps" because life and activity seemed to wind down soon after midnight, but that was due in no small part to the fact that once the clock passed midnight people had to start thinking about whether or not they would be able to make that last train or bus. (Some years back there was a half-hearted attempt to offer late-night service by running buses along the subway routes, but that was an inadequate solution.)

20 to 25 years ago I was frequently out late on weekends, going to see live music or late movies, and I know the experience of missing that last bus and having to walk 30 minutes or more to get home. There were occasions when I did not mind the walk, or even welcomed it, but those definitely did not occur during the winter months. I certainly would have appreciated being able to stay for the end of a band's set at TT the Bear's or Johnny D's, knowing that there would still be a bus coming along that I could take home.

These days I rarely go out at night, and if I do it's by car. And we have Uber now, which is great, but not everyone can afford to use such a service. When I was in college we would have been thrilled to have extended late-night service on the T, and I suspect that a lot of students will be making use of this amenity. I imagine it will also be helpful to those who work in restaurants, bars, and clubs, or even maintenance jobs, and it may prevent at least a few inebriated people from getting behind the wheel.

Extending T service has broader symbolic value as well. It indicates to those who live here already, and those who may be thinking of moving here, that the region is acknowledging that not everyone lives a 9-to-5 lifestyle, that there is life here after dark, that transit options need to be available in order to make this the sort of place where people want to live.

Civic leaders and business people like to use the phrase "world-class city" in describing Boston, and sometimes I think they are doing so aspirationally, as in "we would like to think of this as a world-class city, and we hope you will too." Viable late-night public transit, even it it's only offered on weekends, is one way to help those aspirations become reality.

26 March 2014

Eighteen More Days

It's almost that time again: Mad Men returns on April 13th with the first half of its final season. I'm not happy about the split season because it's clearly being done for monetary reasons, but it's beyond our control.

The promotional engines have been revving for a couple of weeks already, so I'm not showing you anything new; I chose to highlight these images simply because I like them.
The poster was released first, and I love the vibrant colors; the posters for all the other seasons were pretty subdued. It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that I learned that there was a different, horizontal version of it:
I saw a story on BuzzFeed that mentioned it, then a couple of hours later I saw it full-size, on the side of a T bus.

I have an 11" x 17" version of the poster for season two that I bought on eBay several years ago. I don't know why I didn't try to get any of the others, but it would be nice to assemble a complete set of them at some point.
Then came the promo photos, which were taken at Los Angeles International Airport. The Mrs. grew up in southern California and recognized this tiled wall from passing through LAX.
Matthew Weiner stated in recent interviews that people should not attempt to read too much into these images, but we've been conditioned over the past seven years to read into every aspect of the show, so it's difficult not to do so here. What I noticed right away about this shot is that Roger (John Slattery, far left) is the only one who does not have some sort of briefcase or carry-on bag. Does that mean anything? Also, Joan (Christina Hendricks) is standing next to Roger. Does that mean they end up together? We probably won't know for sure until next spring.

25 March 2014

Goodbye, Winter

I've had a snow shovel leaning against the house on the back porch all winter, so that when it snows I don't have to trudge through whatever fell to get to the garage. Over the weekend I looked at it and thought about putting it away, then decided to leave it there a bit longer, because I remember what happened on March 31st, 1997.

On Wednesday we're going to get a couple of inches of snow in greater Boston, which should close the book on this unpleasant winter. There hasn't been a serious storm in over a month; the systems have either been missing us entirely or just brushing us with dustings, but we haven't yet been able to have any sort of sustained mild temperatures.

Nevertheless I put away my lined pants and my insulated waterproof boots. I'm not going to need those things again until next winter. Opening Day at Fenway Park is a week from Friday, so spring must be here, right?

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #4

Just how large will my fantasy garage need to be? That's one of the many wonderful things about imagination: It doesn't know any boundaries, nor does it require any.

A lot of automotive historians point to the middle of the 1960s as a pivot point of sorts for the American automotive industry. Many argue that beyond 1965 the Big Three started to get a little too drunk on their own success, which led to complacency and stylistic overindulgence. Others suggest that the introduction in 1965 of the Ford LTD (and soon after, Chevrolet's hasty response, the Caprice, followed in '66 by Plymouth's VIP) initiated an upward climb of mainstream, lower-priced car brands that eventually caused a commoditizing of luxury, which had the (possibly?) unintended effect of cheapening true luxury cars and led to the decade referred to by some as the Brougham Era (not meant in a complimentary way).

For me, 1965 stands out because that's the year when Plymouth, Ford, and Chevrolet all had full lineups of full-size, compact, and mid-size offerings. The compacts—the Valiant, Falcon, and Corvair—had all arrived for 1960 (and after overestimating the public's desire for innovation, Chevrolet would course-correct by adding the more conventional Chevy II/Nova for '62). Ford was the first to fill the space between compacts and full-sizes with its Fairlane, also in '62. GM graduated its Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac "senior compacts" to mid-size status for '64 and added a Chevrolet variant, and Plymouth went the opposite way for '65 by adding larger-bodied cars above a refreshed version of its '63-'64 full-size Plymouth, which was already somewhat smaller than its competition and after losing a few inches in length became the '65 mid-size.
All of this is long-winded preamble to this week's fantasy garage choice: a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Super Sport like this one, but a convertible. It's actually difficult to choose just one car out of four years' worth (1964-'67 is considered the first generation of GM intermediates) of models from four brands; I'm also very partial to the '64 Olds Cutlass, the '67 Malibu, and the '66-'67 Pontiac LeMans. (Given what I wrote at the top of this post, maybe I'll come back and add another one later.)

(Above: 1965 Buick Skylark; 1964 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser; 1964 Pontiac GTO convertible.)

So why the Malibu SS? All four of the 1964 GM A-body intermediates were attractive designs that were simply styled and had a sense of rightness to their proportions that it seemed the full-size cars were already starting to abandon in pursuit of size as a marketing tool. I just find the Chevrolet version the most appealing, and I prefer the styling details like the grille and tail lights on the '65 to the '64.

Also, as you can see from the top picture above, the SS model has clean sides with no trim other than the molding around the wheel openings and along the bottom of the body side, which I think highlights its looks to best advantage and looks nicer than the side trim on other Chevelle models. And let's be honest: an SS would be worth more, especially with the bucket seats shown below and a console.
And there's one other reason. In 1965, for that one model year only, Chevrolet offered a color choice that is one of my all-time favorites. Called Evening Orchid, it was a metallic silvery purple that was not especially popular and is thus quite obscure, and in the Chevelle line it was only available on the Malibu SS, so of course my '65 would have to be that color. (Pontiac also offered the color for '65; their version was called Iris Mist.) You can see it in the catalog image above left, though this is an illustration and not a photo so it's appearance isn't as accurate. The white interior looked especially nice with the orchid exterior, so let's add that to my imaginary car.

Here's a photo I found via Google image search:
This appears to have been taken in low sun, so the full effect of the color isn't quite coming through. Let's try one more:
Much better, and both of them have the white interior. Cool wheel covers, too.

(Image credits, from top: #1, 4, and 5 were cropped from images on Old Car Brochures; #2 and 3 are from Classic Car Catalogue; #6 is from chevellestuff.net; #7 is from chevelles.com.)

23 March 2014

This Week in Awesome (3/22/14)

Time to get back to it...

A time-lapse? Oh yes, there's a time-lapse. (Vimeo Staff Picks)

It's possible you didn't know there's a TV series about the fictional character Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the FBI consultant who, in that fictional universe, was first responsible for catching him. (This show examines their relationship before the events of those books/movies.) This article nicely explains why the show is so fascinating and compelling. (Grantland)

And for a bit of historical reading, here's a profile of a serial entrepreneur who had a significant impact on 20th-century consumer culture, but whose name you probably don't know. (The Truth About Cars)

Pop-culture lists like this one are endlessly arguable; that's what makes them fun. (Entertainment Weekly via TV Tattle)

And finally this week, a look at other aircraft that have gone missing over the last 60 years or so. (Bloomberg)

21 March 2014

Retro Video Unit (3/21/14)

How have I overlooked INXS all this time? Talk about defining an era: in the 1980s, they were MTV as much as any other band or artist. They had plenty of great songs and decent videos (and there's no reason why we can't revisit some others in the future), but my favorite song of theirs has always been, and always will be, "Don't Change" from their second US album, Shabooh Shoobah (1982).

And just for fun, here's Bruce Springsteen covering the song during a concert in Sydney, Australia (home country of INXS) just a few weeks ago:

20 March 2014

Some Thoughts on Getting Dressed

I had to get dressed for interviews on two consecutive days this week. There were a number of things that I was reminded of, or noticed for the first time:

1: In early 2002 I went to a sale at Brooks Brothers and bought a pair of black Italian-made dress shoes that look kind of like these. At the time I was working at Trader Joe's and not earning a lot, but I needed them, and this was well before Brooks's standard level of own-brand shoes rose to near $400 and the higher-level Peal shoes to north of $600. The shoes I was interested in were regularly priced around $160, and on sale were right around $110 or perhaps slightly less. Those shoes have turned out to be an incredibly solid investment: they have held up extremely well (though I haven't worn them a lot) and are probably the most comfortable dress shoes I've ever worn.

2: Unlike the shoes, I do not have a good black dress belt. I have a belt that lands in a hole that's too loose or the next hole that's too tight. I'm not sure how this happened; I have a number of belts, and I think maybe I used to have one that was better but no longer fit. I need to do something about this.

3: While getting dressed, I briefly drew a blank on how to tie my tie. After a couple of minutes of fumbling and trying to wind the fabric around in different ways, it came back to me.

4: Corollary to #3: my one tie bar has gone missing. As far as I can recall, the last time I wore it was to an event we went to in October. I've checked the pockets of my suit jackets and looked in all the other places it might have been.

5: Waiting in the reception area while people hurry about is always awkward. But as I waited, I noticed something: many workplaces have gone to a more casual dress code, and as I watched these people going back and forth, I realized that 80% of them looked rather schlubby. Women and men alike appeared to have given very little thought to their appearance when getting ready to leave the house. That's a shame. (During my interview it was expressed to me this way: "Jeans are okay; ripped jeans are not." If that's all the guidance the employees were given, it's no wonder they looked the way they did.)

6: I enjoy dressing up, but I'm still not sure how I would feel about it if I had to do it daily.

19 March 2014

On Patrol

I was just out walking the dog, and when a car turned into the block from behind us I noticed light moving at an unusual angle. When the car passed us I saw it was a police cruiser that was passing its driver's-side spotlight across the house fronts, and presumably also using it to look into the narrow spaces between the houses (in this neighborhood, houses are generally about ten feet apart). I haven't seen cops doing this before. But what about the other side of the street?

17 March 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #23

Sometimes I can walk past a car many times without it really registering in my mind. This tends to happen more with cars that were considered ordinary transportation when new and that haven't yet reached vintage status. There are plenty of older cars still in daily use, particularly in urban environments like where I live, and over the past several months I've been more attuned to spotting them.
This workhorse is a fourth-generation Honda Accord, either a 1992 or '93. It has lived on this block for several years and I'm pretty certain it's the oldest Accord in my immediate neighborhood. This design arrived for the 1990 model year and, typical for Honda styling of the period, was given a very subtle refresh for '92. (The '90-'91 tail light units were wider, reaching the license plate indentation and wrapping into it, plus the light positions were inverted, with the turn signals and backup lights on top. There were also slight differences in the lights and areas under the front bumpers.)

This is probably my favorite of all Accord designs (though I also have a soft spot for the second-gen four-door sedan). It's less fussy than the car it replaced, and I prefer the simplicity of its lines, the upright greenhouse with generous glass area, and its overall squarishness—everything just looks and feels harmonious and correct.
The first Accord model sold in the US was a two-door hatchback, but by the time the fourth generation arrived, the hatchback had been replaced by a coupe. (The third generation offered both body styles and the coupe proved much more popular, reflecting changes in the American car market.) This generation also added a wagon; the wagons and coupes from these years are much more rarely seen today, though I'm still hoping to spot one or both eventually.

I've noticed a couple of other Accords of this generation on this same block. I don't know if those were owned by the same person or happened to belong to others, but neither is around currently. It's possible they were being used as parts donors to keep this one going.

On the day I took the rear-end shot a small amount of snow had fallen, and the front of the car still had snow on its hood and windshield so it wasn't worth trying to get a front-end shot. When I went back later to take the side shot, the front was blocked by the pickup.

Programming Notes

If anyone is wondering, I took the weekend off from TWiA. Look for it again next weekend. Also, posts may be a bit irregular this week, as I have some some other things going on that will require a chunk of my attention.

14 March 2014

Overheard: Groovy Okay Edition

I was waiting for the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, where the northbound and southbound platforms have separate entrances, and it can be confusing to know which direction is correct if you're unfamiliar with the area. A woman passed through the fare gate, and I happened to be standing just beyond it, so she asked me "Is this for... OK Groove?"

She had an accent, and after a moment I realized that she was referring to Oak Grove and assured her that she was in the correct place.

13 March 2014

The Opposite of Anti-Hip?

Did anyone catch the article from a couple of weeks ago about this anti-fashion thing called "normcore"? (It's totally okay if you haven't heard about it, as it doesn't seem to have made it beyond the fashion and style blogs, yet. That means that six months from now, when it's already on the verge of being played out, the New York Times Style section will do a big, splashy piece on it.)

Essentially, normcore (the word originated with a group of artists who operate a "trend forecasting group") means embracing ordinariness but in a supposedly cool way, which in fashion terms means instead of dressing in of-the-moment, high-fashion stuff, choosing to dress in plain, blah, ordinary clothing. Think relaxed-fit jeans in lighter washes, pullover fleeces, those certain style of New Balance sneakers favored by tech guys.

The claim being made by people in fashion is that this normcore thing is not being done ironically, but I'm calling bullshit on that. Hipsters love it, obviously, because being a hipster is all about co-opting something that isn't trendy and thereby making it secretly trendy to a select group. But when being hip and insider means you're now wearing dad jeans and mock turtlenecks, isn't that the point where the serpent has begun to eat its own tail?

And now Esquire's style blog is trying to tell me that dressing this way is okay, but you have to get the details right? That's painfully contradictory. People who are anti-fashion fundamentally don't care about the details, which is why they dress the way they do. People who are worrying about whether the brand of fleece they are wearing is uncool enough are simply trying too hard, and that is no different from a guy who's wearing double-monk strap shoes with one buckle on each shoe left undone on purpose, or ties his tie with the back blade longer than the front.

I'm not going to criticize anyone who wants to dress this way (though I certainly wouldn't), but don't try to tell us it isn't trendy. The fact that it has cachet with, and is being talked about by, stylists and fashion insiders is the clearest indication that this is a trend, just like jeggings or multiple bracelets or too-short sport jackets.

12 March 2014


When our dog blinks, her eyes make a noise. It's the strangest damn thing. We can hear it if the room is quiet enough.

11 March 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #3

I admit that I've always been less enthusiastic about Ford products compared to those from Chrysler Corporation and General Motors. Sure, everyone loves a classic Mustang, but in car collecting and shows they are so common that they are kind of ordinary.

However, there are certain Ford Motor Company products that will always have strong appeal for me. One of these is the 1960s Lincoln Continental, the ones with the forward-opening rear doors known as suicide doors. As we've discussed before, American car styling went through a difficult period at the end of the 1950s, and Lincoln's cars were particularly ponderous and unattractive. (There are those who appreciate these cars more today, as this recent New York Times article attests.) Lincolns were selling poorly compared to Cadillacs, so this 1961 redesign was something of a last hope for the company.

The design originated as an alternate proposal for the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, which partly explains why the roof and glass area on the initial models looks more coupe-like, and perhaps a bit too small relative to the rest of the car's body. In fact the '61 Continental shared part of its inner body structure with the Thunderbird for financial reasons (a much more common practice now, but still common enough half a century ago). This kinship is quite evident when comparing the front end designs of the '61 Thunderbird and Continental:
(The center grille bar that sweeps down and under the headlight units on these two cars is obviously very similar.)

The Continental was made in four-door closed-roof and convertible body styles, with the same basic design lasting from 1961-69 with minor styling tweaks and revisions along the way (though some of these were subtle enough that they might not be noticeable to someone who doesn't pay much attention to car styling). Lincoln introduced a two-door hardtop coupe version in 1966 that proved to be more popular than they had expected; the convertible was dropped after 1967.

If I were to choose one car from the whole model run for my fantasy garage it would have to be one of the four-door convertibles, because the design is unique among post-World War II vehicles. (Entourage kind of ruined the coolness factor of this car, but we're going to ignore that.) And if I have to narrow it down to a specific model year, it would be the 1964.
For that year the car was redesigned and gained a few inches in wheelbase and length, along with a revision to the roof design that improved the balance of its overall appearance. (I prefer the dashboard design of the 1961-63 models, but the cleaner and more refined exterior front and rear designs of the '64 tilt my opinion in its favor.) Second place would probably go to the '66, which again had slightly revised sheetmetal and was one of the first American cars to incorporate tail lights into the rear bumper.
A couple of other notes on these cars: the leather interior was available in a choice of ten colors. Ten! (You all know how I feel about current cars' lack of interior color choices.) Cloth seats were also available, in six colors.
Also, for 1967 Ford applied the suicide-door design to a four-door version of the Thunderbird, in an attempt to move the 'bird upmarket and afford it a measure of distinction. Not everyone likes these cars, but I've always thought they were quite cool; they are probably my favorite Thunderbirds. (And check out the groovy dress on that model.)

For an excellent overview of the 1961-69 Lincolns, see this article on Curbside Classic.

(Image credits for this post, from top: #1,3, and 4 are cropped from full-page brochure images on the Old Car Brochures website; #5 is a full brochure page image from OCB; #2 is from Wikipedia.)

10 March 2014

Losing a Customer, Probably

This afternoon I ventured to my local Bed Bath & Beyond intending to buy a coffee grinder. It turned out that the model I intended to get was out of stock; I had checked the stock online over the weekend, but not today before leaving the house.

But I probably wouldn't have ended up buying it even if it was in stock, because the store price was $10 higher than the online price. This is the sort of thing that irritates the crap out of me. You can order an item online to pick up in-store, and I have done this in the past with certain items, but in this instance it didn't seem necessary. And if you do that, it's possible you wouldn't see the item on the shelf in the store, so you might not know there was a price difference.

And beyond that, we've had nearly two decades of e-commerce; isn't it time to expect that online prices and in-store prices will match? There's really no excuse at this point for this not to be so. If a website can tell me what stores have an item in stock, and lets me order it through the site to pick up at the store, then it probably means a common supply chain; what, then, is the justification for a different price on the item in the store? Taking advantage of people who don't use the internet, or are just gullible? Hoping that because people are already in the store they'll just give in and buy the item they came in for anyway? Neither of these strikes me as a strategy that will earn long-term customer loyalty.

Normally I would have left the store's name out of such a story, but I was so dismayed by the occurrence that I don't care. I know marketing people have google alerts for when stuff like this gets published online, so if someone from BB&B reads this and wants to talk with me about it, swell. (Maybe they can also explain why the 20% off coupons have disappeared.)

I walked over to the adjacent Target and bought ground coffee to use while I decide which online store I'm going to order a grinder from. And as I've dug a little deeper into looking at grinders online, I've also started to have second thoughts about the particular model I was planning to buy. I'm hoping to speak to the proprietor of our local coffee shop to ask her opinion about grinders, so it may take a few days longer to make a decision and order the thing.

Olfactory Overshare

What's the female equivalent of Axe body spray? Because I'm being asphyxiated by it on the bus right now...

09 March 2014

This Week in Awesome (3/8/14)

It sure was nice out today. And even if we end up getting the storm on Wednesday that is still being talked about in vague terms, it will have been three weeks since the last storm of any significance passed through our area. We're almost there...

This week's longish and interesting read is about some techy guys who wondered if it was possible to capture the sounds of an internet hacking attack. It will make more sense if you go and read it. (The Awl)

I had heard of this condition, but only slightly. I think it would be very unfortunate to experience. (The Verge)

Speaking of music, this is quite an intriguing idea, and I am not at all surprised that James Murphy is the guy behind it. (The Wall Street Journal)

And finally this week, speaking of New York, here's a nice, in-depth, interactive look at the new 1 World Trade Center building. (Time)

08 March 2014

Retro Video Unit (3/7/14)

Apologies for forgetting about this yesterday... I don't always choose the clips ahead of time, and if I haven't found one it means I'm more likely to forget to do it on the correct day.

Anyway, I was thinking about the 1980s and that led me to R.E.M., one of the biggest bands of that decade. I had the good fortune to see them very early on, in the spring of '83 at BU's old Walter Brown Arena (since replaced by the Agganis Arena), where they were the opening act for The English Beat. Murmur had just come out, and seeing them was a genuine revelation.

Within a couple of years they were one of MTV's mid-decade darlings, producing multiple videos for the songs on the album Fables of the Reconstruction. "Can't Get There From Here" was a bit more lighthearted than some of the other songs on that album, and the video is suitably goofy.

And of course it has old cars in it, which is another reason I like it. The purplish car is a 1960 Ford Galaxie, the top of the line four-door sedan available that year. The one seen more briefly, with Bill Berry climbing out of the trunk, is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird.

06 March 2014

Coffee Prep

I forgot that when you get a new coffee maker, you're supposed to run vinegar through it first, and then a few cycles of just water to rinse and purge the vinegar residue, so I had to walk to the market and get a bottle. At least it's cheap.

Also, we regularly get those 20% coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond in our mail, but of course because I want to go there and buy the coffee grinder, there are none to be found. You can go to their website and get a printable one, after first giving them all your personal information.

04 March 2014

Ground to a Halt

My beloved Krups grind-and-brew coffee maker stopped working over the weekend. Everything was fine on Saturday; on Sunday it ground the coffee beans as usual, but when I turned on the brewing cycle nothing happened. I'm guessing this means that the heating element has given out. I wish I had the ability to repair it, but that's not the case. It lasted six years, which I suppose isn't so bad for a kitchen appliance. I've had other coffee makers that worked for much shorter periods of time. The Mrs. has a french press she used to use at work, so at least we were still able to make coffee.

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to get to replace the Krups. I briefly considered replacing the machine with one just like it, but to be honest it had become something of a pain to use. The coffee it made was delicious, but the ground coffee never got fully expelled from the grinder, so each day I had to pick up the unit and bang on the side to get all the coffee into the filter (otherwise it wouldn't be strong enough), then add the water. It also made a mess in general, spraying ground coffee dust on the counter when the lid snapped shut.

At first I thought I might take the minimalist approach and get a Chemex pot, which is basically a manual "pour-over" version of a drip coffee maker. It's a beautiful object to look at, plus it's relatively inexpensive (around $40), and there's also a version with a handle. You still have to boil water, but otherwise it's much less fussy than a french press. But then I noticed that the Chemex pots require a special type of filter that costs $8 for a package of 100, which is four times what I pay for cone filters at Trader Joe's or Market Basket. It might seem silly to fret about that, but cost of use has to be considered. Sorry, Chemex.

A Chemex would also require getting a separate coffee grinder, which I'm fine with, since I'm far too entrenched in the pleasure of drinking coffee made from freshly ground beans to revert to buying pre-ground coffee, but those little cylindrical blade grinders that cost $20 are terrible; a burr grinder, which uses plates to crush the beans, is the way to go, and they are large enough that you can grind a larger quantity of coffee beans at one time if you wish. I can grind beans two or three times a week and store the ground coffee in an airtight container.

So I decided I would find a decent drip coffee maker and a decent burr grinder. I still want a coffee maker that uses cone filters, which is harder to find than the kind that uses basket-shaped filters. I settled on a Melitta unit with a thermal carafe, made by Hamilton Beach, because it had good user reviews and because it was available through my credit card reward program by using points I had already accrued. (The Krups was also obtained with gift cards which I exchanged reward points for.) It's already on the way and will arrive Wednesday.

I looked at a lot of grinders, and I noticed that a lot of the negative reviews were from people who said they couldn't get a grind fine enough for espresso. I sympathize with them, but I'm only interested in regular coffee that's going in a drip machine, so I actually want a coarser grind. If you filter out those reviews, the picture can be quite different. I asked a friend what grinder he uses, and it turns out he has the one I was thinking of getting. It's by Cuisinart and is nothing fancy (it's not too difficult to spend more than $100 on a grinder alone), but it will do the job and I can purchase one in a store nearby.

03 March 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #22

There are still a number of street-parked finds from my neighborhood that I have not yet posted, so let's have a look at a mid-1980s large American car.
This is another Oldsmobile, a 1989 Eighty Eight (formerly Delta 88) Royale. But it's a Royale without cheese, because it's not the nicer Brougham model. This car is the direct successor to random sighting #16 (the first year for this design was '86), and it's nice to be able to see the evolution of a car from one generation to the next.
I'm able to peg the year on this one because of small things like the badges on the rear fenders and the tail lights, which had amber turn signal lenses in their top halves in the preceding years, and for '90 the car got a different front-end treatment.
It looks about the way you would expect a 25-year-old car that lives in New England and parks on the street to look. Most of these were owned by older folks, who were probably inclined to coddle them, so either this one was passed down to a family member, purchased by someone outside the family, or simply owned by someone who wasn't interested in cosseting a vehicle. But it has still managed to hang onto 75% of its wheel covers and pass an inspection.

These are actually nice cars, pleasant to drive with a nice ride and one of General Motors's better engines of this era, all of which may explain why this one is still on the road in beater service.

02 March 2014

This Week in Awesome (3/1/14)

I'm dealing with a coffee maker crisis here, so bear with me...

This will disturb some and offend others. I mainly think it's just interesting to look at. (The Hairpin)

This email exchange is worth the couple of minutes it will take to read, especially if you work in any sort of field where you may get asked to make a contribution on spec. (Tickld via Dappered)

I've seen this before, and I may have even posted about it before, but I did not realize it was a project still in progress. If you live in southern California you can see this at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Vimeo Staff Picks)

And finally this week, I don't know if any of you visit the website The Verge, but they publish a lot of interesting stuff that goes beyond just tech news. This week there was a story about a mysterious old book that people have been attempting to decipher for 100 years or so, and also a very worthy piece about net neutrality. If you don't understand net neutrality or don't think it's important, you need to read it. If you do get it and know it's important, you also need to read it.