30 August 2014

Difficult Wisdom

One of the hardest things I've had to learn in my whole life, in terms of discipline, is how to eat half of a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

29 August 2014

Nearly Assembled

Back in May I wrote about the MBTA's new Orange Line station adjacent to the Assembly Square Marketplace and new Assembly Row development. (Any similarity to the name of this blog is entirely coincidental.) About a month ago trains started using the new track alignment, with southbound trains passing the west side of the new station's platform, and the T was estimating a "fall" time frame for opening the station.

Earlier this week boston dot com was reporting that the station would open next Wednesday, September 3rd, but this morning I got a T-Alert email from the T saying it will open on Tuesday. To my mind it might possibly have been a better strategy to "soft open" the station during the long weekend, but I don't work for the T (and perhaps they'll do that anyway).

I can say definitively that the new station will make it much easier for those shoppers and store employees who don't drive to get to and from the complex. For many years there have been two bus routes serving it, the 90 and 92; neither runs especially frequently, and the 92 only goes there between roughly 9 am and 4 pm (the rest of the time, it terminates at Sullivan station, roughly 3/4 of a mile away).

I went over there one day a few weeks ago to check out a couple of stores, and I was fortunate to make the connection from the bus I take from my house into Wellington station to the 90 bus that goes from there through Assembly Row with about a minute to spare. If the first bus had been running late, or had to stop for another traffic light, there's a good chance I might have missed the 90, and would have had to wait 40 minutes for the next one.

Will the addition of another station to the Orange Line affect commuting time? Probably not by more than a minute or two at most. Trains have been running at reduced speeds through the area for at least a year while construction proceeded, so running at normal speed and stopping at the station will likely end up taking the same amount of time, plus I don't think there will be many people waiting to get on there in the mornings, at least not initially. (Eventually there is supposed to be 2100 units of housing added to the complex; I believe there are apartments for rent now, but I have no idea how many.)

I want to believe that the 90 and 92 routes will be adjusted so that they connect at the new station on their way through the Assembly Row property, but this is the MBTA we're talking about, so no assumptions can be made. (I'm not even sure why the 90 would need to continue going to Wellington, since it makes no additional stops between there and Assembly Row, but you can still buy a buses-only T pass, so it may be that this piece of the route exists for the benefit of those riders who only use the system's buses.)

But Assembly station itself is ready to open, and possibly ahead of schedule, so let's be fair and give credit for that.

28 August 2014

Ones That Got Away

I have an unfortunate tendency to stumble across items of clothing or footwear that I like that are no longer available in my size. Part of this is the result of not having mainstream tastes, and part is just bad timing.
These Converse sneakers are the latest example. They're part of the long-running Jack Purcell line, which reaches back to the 1930s and is one of the plainest, simplest, most classic and tasteful canvas sneakers you can buy (see also: the Vans Authentic). The "Jack" is not as well-known as its big brother the Chuck Taylor All-Star, but people who know shoes know that All-Stars are notoriously uncomfortable, and their thick rubber soles make them heavy on the feet. So for many people "Chucks" are a phase to be grown out of, and often the next step is a pair of Jack Purcells.

The standard Jack Purcell is made of canvas, but these are different: this model is part of what I suppose someone in Converse's marketing department would call an "elevated" line, rendering their classic styles in nicer materials and special colorways. This shoe is leather, and everything is monochromatic, including the "smile" on the rubber toe cap that is usually navy blue and the brand tag on the heel. These nicer models get a cork footbed, which is great for comfort. Also, Jack Purcells don't usually have gum soles, and I think they look great on this shoe.

The color is called "egret" but I call it off-white or cream; it's also available in "french roast" and navy, both with the off-white trim, but this is by far the best-looking. The standard Jack Purcell is offered in leather in white or black, but it lacks the pizazz of this version. Also, I just think off-white sneakers look better than bright white ones.

For weeks these have been taunting me from Converse's website, available only in men's size 7. Generally I'm glad I don't have small feet, but small sizes tend to sell in smaller numbers and it can be easier to find unusual shoe styles in such sizes. The 11.5 was available for a while, but I know how these fit and they would be too big for me. Recently scattered sizes have begun to reappear in the various colors; I don't think Converse is going to produce another full run of this shoe (which would be ideal), but just as of this morning the size 12 is again available, so I'm not giving up hope yet on finding a pair in my size.

26 August 2014

That's No Baby...

I went out to run a quick errand today, and when I got on the bus there was a woman sitting in the side-facing seats just behind the driver with a baby carriage in front of her. I happened to sit in the first forward-facing seat directly behind them. After I sat down I looked up and saw a tan-and-black pug staring at me from the carriage. (In describing it, I realize now that I should have taken a picture of it.)

It didn't exactly surprise me, since people do weird stuff all the time, but it did catch me by surprise a bit. I didn't think non-service animals were allowed on T trains and buses, but a look at their website shows that I'm wrong, though it does say it's at the discretion of the operator. I don't know if that dog gets chauffeured around in that baby carriage all the time, or if it's just used for T trips.

25 August 2014

Car Stuff: Almost Got It

Sometimes I spot old cars when we're out driving around, or when I'm on the bus. I hurry to pull out my phone, hoping to get a picture or two in time. There are times when I'm just a bit too late, or even a little too early, and sometimes other cars get in the way.
As you can see I was a bit early on this one, but if I'd taken the shot a second later, I think the red Honda would have completely blocked the black car. It's an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, either a 1976 or '77 (I'd have to have gotten a better view of the grille to tell you which). This car was in really good overall condition and the day I saw it was maybe three months ago; it think the owner may have had it out for its first drive of the season.

24 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/23/14)

More stuff than usual this week, which maybe sorta makes up for the weeks when I don't have as much as I'd like...?

Get ready for Monday's Emmys with a pint-sized take on the best drama nominees. (Mashable via TV Tattle)

The prevalence of air conditioning has unquestionably changed our lives and our society. (Salon)

I don't know how Frank Lloyd Wright felt about air conditioning, but I know his work continues to influence subsequent generations of architects. (Vulture)

If you want to find out what's going on at this website, you'll need to keep an eye on the time. (Yahoo Tech)

Few men are better at conveying wisdom than Nick Offerman, regardless of its source. (Mashable)

And finally this week, whether or not you're familiar with the group Broken Bells or even like their music, this online jukebox with 100 of their favorite albums (plus their own two) is an awesome sampler of the past half-century of pop and rock music that you can listen to—and win. (Dappered)

23 August 2014

Retro Video Unit (8/22/14)

Inspiration can arrive from unexpected sources: a couple of days ago I was walking to catch a bus to do an errand in Medford Square. I passed a house that was having its front porches rebuilt, the workmen had a radio going, and this song was playing.

Brotherhood was a pretty big album for New Order in 1986, and "Bizarre Love Triangle" got a lot of airplay on WFNX and other alternative stations, but it had been a long, long time since I'd seen this clip.

22 August 2014

Friday Afternoon Laugh

I could have saved this for the weekend, but I liked it too much: a Funny or Die skit featuring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, co-starring in the new movie The One I Love, along with Ted Danson (who also appears in the movie). And it's only a couple of minutes long.

21 August 2014

Weekend Watch

FXX began its Simpsons marathon today, all 552 episodes plus the 2007 movie running nonstop, in order, through September 1st—truly an accurate definition of a marathon, at least in the TV sense of the word.

But maybe you don't care for The Simpsons, or don't have the inclination to watch more than a few episodes, but you're still looking for something good to watch this weekend. If you have Netflix streaming, I have a suggestion for you: Happy Valley, a BBC police drama which started streaming yesterday.

The six-episode series is centered on Catherine Cawood, a sergeant in Yorkshire, so this isn't Prime Suspect or Luther: the main character is a patrol officer and not a detective, and the action isn't in London. (Not that those other shows are bad; it's just nice to have things changed up a bit from the standard Brit-cop procedural. Now that I think about it, DCI Banks also takes place in Yorkshire.)

British TV shows tend to be produced in much shorter seasons than American shows, which makes them perfect for a weekend binge. On the other hand, the wait for subsequent seasons often ends up being much longer, but sometimes that's the price of entertainment.

20 August 2014

Coming Around Again

Fall clothes are starting to show up, and I have noticed a couple of items going through a cyclical revival. Bomber jackets started appearing about a year ago, but now there are a lot more of them, and in a wide variety of materials (cotton, nylon, wool, suede).

I don't personally care for this style, primarily because of my realization a few years back that I prefer my outerwear with collars. I do like the uncluttered appearance of a bomber-style jacket, with only a zipper and two slash pockets for your hands. It's a nice casual look, one that has been around in various forms for many decades going back to the varsity jacket, and less fussy people than me will certainly enjoy it.

I've also noticed a couple of brands offering band-collar shirts. This is another throwback; these had a moment in the late 1970s, when I was in high school, and I had a couple of them. It's a style that tries to pop up every couple of decades; the latest versions I've seen are in oxford cloth, which strikes me as just a bit too incongruous. But that's what designers do: mine the past, remixing styles in different fabrics.

I would suggest avoiding wearing a band-collar shirt with a bomber jacket, because a collarless shirt with a collarless jacket could make one look like someone suffering from an avoidance issue or a bizarre phobia of some sort. It's the same impulse that is supposed to prevent people from wearing denim jackets with jeans, but it doesn't always function as it should.

18 August 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #10

I've been trying to add variety so that I'm not just alternating between Random Sighting and Fantasy Garage weeks, but it is time for another FG installment.

Looking back at the cars I've covered so far, it seems like I overlooked something pretty obvious. I have a late-1960s Plymouth Barracuda and a 1967-68 Mercury Cougar, but no General Motors ponycar counterpart from the same time period. I've talked about the first-generation Camaro and Firebird, and I think that one of them should be represented.

It may not come as a big surprise that I prefer the Firebird to the Camaro. Both cars are attractive and had a wide variety of engines available. The Camaro would be the more obvious choice, which is part of the reason I'd choose a Firebird. The cars shared major body panels, so many of the differences are in the details, and those are the rest of the reasons.
The Firebirds had dual headlights and a grille split by the middle of the front bumper, which I think looks better than the Camaro's front end (though hidden headlights were optional on the Camaro, which earns it back a couple of points). Likewise, the Firebird's thin horizontal tail lights, borrowed from its bigger brother the GTO, are also more attractive than the plain square-block lights on the Camaro. And there are small fake louvers stamped into the sides behind the doors; it's just a little thing, but they add another touch of visual interest to the sides of the car.

The first-gen Camaro/Firebird ran from 1967-69. The 1969 models got updated sheet metal that is not as well-liked by many people, and though it looks fine to me I do feel it isn't quite as appealing as the first two years, so I would want either a '67 or '68 Firebird. The only visual differences between the '67 and '68 cars are the addition of side marker lights and the removal of the vent windows. Really I'd be fine with either, but since this is "Fantasy" Garage I might as well go for a first-year model.
I don't even feel all that picky about whether I'd prefer a convertible or a hardtop. I do know I'd want the 326 V8 because it was a good motor and I like small V8s in general. That hood-mounted tachometer is pretty cool, so let's throw in one of those. And the color? GM had two great shades of turquoise that year, a bright one and a deep one; either of those would work, and there was a turquoise interior that matched the lighter exterior color for the full '60s color-coordinated look. Growing up, a neighbor had a '67 Camaro in a deep maroon with a parchment (off-white) interior, and I think the parchment would also look good with the turquoise.

(Images from Old Car Brochures)

17 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/16/14)

Busy all day yesterday and a good part of today, but better late than not at all...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has someone in charge of making sure all their clocks keep accurate time, and she's been on the job for four decades. (The Wall Street Journal via Hodinkee)

When a piece of retail property changes hands, the new occupants are not always interested in putting a lot of effort into cosmetic storefront makeovers. (reddit via Consumerist)

Consumer goods can be bland, but they can also be interesting. (Esquire UK via Valet)

And finally this week, an intriguing look back at the making of Jaws from a movie critic who visited the set during filming. (The Daily Beast)

15 August 2014

Stopped Time

Yesterday morning around 5 AM, our kitchen clock fell off the wall. We have no idea why it happened, other than the possibility that the screw it was resting on worked itself far enough out of the wall over time, due to vibration from vehicles passing by outside, that the clock finally slipped off.

What's more strange is that neither of us heard it hit the floor. The fans add white noise and if both of us were deeply enough asleep then I guess we might not hear a crash two rooms away. The Mrs. discovered the aftermath when the dog woke her to go out.

We also now know that the lens covering the clock's face was made of glass, not plastic, which seems like an odd choice for something that could potentially fall and be smashed. However, it does appear to have been a safety glass like what's used in car windows, because the broken pieces were small and not jagged like you get when you drop a drinking glass.

I cleaned up the mess and replaced the battery, which had been dislodged in the fall (which is how I knew what time it had happened), and the clock started running again just fine, as it has for the past dozen years or however long we've had it. It no longer has a lens covering the face, but so what? It's still keeping time.

13 August 2014

Birthday Dog

Today is our dog London's birthday; she's 13. We adopted her right before she turned five. She's in good health for an elderly dog, though she's had some issues over the past few months. She had a UTI which was taken care of with antibiotics. At the vet's suggestion we started giving her pain medication for arthritis in her hips. She was also a few pounds underweight, mainly because she had less of an appetite and wasn't eating her usual amount of food.
So we made some changes to her diet, starting with switching to the senior-dog version of the dry food we've been feeding her since we got her. That was already getting chicken broth added to it, but the Mrs. did some research into older dogs' nutritional needs and decided to supplement the dog food with "people food." Now her kibble gets mixed with chicken, sweet potato, rice, and broccoli that was cooked in a slow cooker, with the broth and a dollop of ricotta cheese plopped on top.

She's been eating this new regimen very enthusiastically for about three weeks now, with some tweaking of the amounts, and seems to have put back a couple of pounds (not that you'd be able to tell from the picture). I've also been adding milk to the "snack" I give her in the morning, which makes her gobble that right up most days, where before she used to ignore it all day. Overall she's perky again and seems much more like her old self. She's happy and comfortable, and that's what we want for her.

12 August 2014

Summer Shoes

In the summer I like wearing simple canvas or leather sneakers, but sometimes one needs other shoes. I like the general look of boat shoes, but one thing I don't like, that almost all of them have, is the white soles. Once in a while you'll see a pair with black or dark brown soles, but ideally I'd prefer something more neutral.
A few years back J. Crew offered these Sperry Top-Siders with three sets of eyelets instead of two (which I also prefer) and tan soles, in a very nice medium brown leather (the color shows more accurately in the picture below).
When they hit the sale section most sizes were gone. I was on a waiting list but my order was eventually canceled; months later they abruptly reappeared in my size and actually shipped after I ordered them (most J. Crew online shoppers are probably familiar with phantom orders). I haven't even worn them all that much, but that's okay because they'll stay nice-looking longer.

11 August 2014

Car Stuff: Spotted in Traffic

In addition to shooting pictures of parked cars, I've accumulated a small selection of shots I managed to get while on the road. Some of them get partly cut off (though I may use them anyway), while others show the whole car but only from one angle or side.
I took this shot on Mother's Day as we were on our way to RI (with apologies for the windshield reflection). This is on 93 southbound, just before it passes under East Milton Square. The car is a second-generation (E28) BMW 5-Series from the 1980s (1981-88, to be specific).

I thought that may have been an M5 badge on the trunk, which would have been a very rare sighting—according to Wikipedia, only 2191 were produced, and that number includes versions for Europe as well as the right-hand-drive UK version. I don't know how many of them were sent to the US, but I'd bet it's probably no more than 25% of them, since it wasn't a very well-known car yet. But all M5s had blacked-out trim around the windows and tail lights and were only available in black, plus the M5 badge had angled blue and red stripes to the left of the letter M.

Even so, spotting a "regular" 5-Series of this vintage is unusual. I've never been as excited by BMW's cars as many other people are, but I have always liked this generation of the 5-Series a lot. It's probably because back when this car was new, a BMW was still a car for serious drivers rather than the signifier of status that they have become.

09 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/9/14)

It seems like I was a bit more on top of things in general this week. It's frightening that I find this surprising. Regardless, TWiA is making its first Saturday appearance in a couple of months...

Everyone has probably seen this already, but if you haven't it should give you a chuckle.

Apple was a very different company back in the '80s. Can't imagine this happening now. (Fast Company via Boy Genius Report)

This week's crypto-techy-nerdy rabbit hole: numbers stations. (Wikipedia via The A.V. Club)

And how about a good historical-sociocultural piece? (The Atlantic via Yahoo Tech)

And finally this week, some thoughts on growing up in a time when children were not monitored so closely by parents. (Feedly via Dappered)

08 August 2014

Retro Video Unit (8/8/14)

I have a queue of videos to use, but sometimes I look at the list and feel they aren't quite right, and as I was doing that just now another song title popped into my head, so tonight it's "Don't Worry Baby" by Los Lobos.

I've seen them live a couple of times, including an acoustic set at the old Borders downtown. They are a phenomenal band and I believe they've never gotten enough credit for their talents. They absorbed decades of musical and cultural influences from the American and Mexican/Latino realms, and combined them into something completely original. Their music is the best kind of roots music.

07 August 2014

Under the Chair, Over the Carpet

I spend a lot of time at my computer. I still have a desktop setup; I don't like typing on laptops, I prefer a large screen, and I just find it more comfortable overall to use a traditional setup at my desk rather than hunch over a laptop, or sit with one on the couch as the Mrs. does.

Back in June I mentioned that I had worn a hole in the plastic chair mat where I sit, mainly from having my weight press on a certain spot. (I have to have a mat because the room is carpeted.) We went to look for a replacement, and liked the ones made of strips of bamboo wood mounted to a flexible backing. They are far more attractive than the plastic alternative, and the Mrs. had a Staples gift card so I only had to pay the difference.

Some people have said that the bamboo can get scratched depending on what kind of chair you use and what kind of wheels it has, but it's still going to be far more durable than a plastic mat and will likely still be more attractive.

Now, Staples sells two brands of these mats, their own and another that is far more expensive. But the Staples-brand mats are not online, so you have to go to a store to get one. They come in two sizes and two finishes, "natural" (which resembles hardwood flooring and goes nicely with our bookcases and my desk) and a darker, browner finish that I think is called "cherry."

06 August 2014

We Can Rebuild Him

Holy crap, we got some new channel I've never heard of added to our cable package, and they're showing reruns of The Six Million Dollar Man. That's almost as cheesetastic as T.J. Hooker.

Edit: I've had time to think about it, and watch part of an episode, and I definitely think it's better/worse than T.J. Hooker.

04 August 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #29

In stalking sometimes elusive vintage cars, I have learned that when I see something interesting, it's better not to procrastinate about getting pictures of it. (I'm planning a return visit to last week's featured garage to see what new stuff has rolled in.) I spotted today's specimen, parked in front of another repair garage, about five minutes after photographing the beige Matador, but I didn't want to make the Mrs. stop again, so I went back on my own a couple of days later. I was in the same area within the past two weeks and the car was gone, so I'm glad I shot it when I did.
There was no way I could miss a car painted this color, and at first I assumed that it had to be a repaint, but another quick visit to PaintRef confirmed that Monarch Yellow was indeed a factory Pontiac offering in 1972 for this car, a Grand Prix, and other models. Then again, friends of our family had a '72 Pontiac LeMans station wagon in Quezal Gold (this color), so I shouldn't have been surprised by the yellow; it was the '70s, after all. I'm not a fan of yellow in general, but it does look good with the white vinyl top and white interior.
The Grand Prix first appeared in 1962 as a specialty model of the full-size Pontiac line. Sales declined in the second half of the 1960s due to the popularity of smaller sporty cars like the Mustang and Camaro, so for the '69 model year the car was moved to the mid-size platform but given an extended wheelbase to ride on, and the longest hood ever fitted to a Pontiac. (For 1970 Chevrolet also got to build its own version of this car, the first Monte Carlo.)

This car helped bring the personal-luxury idea down from Thunderbird and Riviera territory to a more accessible price, and in the '70s this segment exploded with cars like the Grand Prix, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and the Chrysler Cordoba racking up hundreds of thousands of sales per model year.
The 1969 and '70 Grand Prixs had quad headlights, which I think look much better than these single units, which appeared with a '71 restyle and are a bit too baroque for my taste. The rear also got busier that year with an angled center section, but I couldn't get a shot of this car's back end due to how it was parked, so you can see how it looked over here. The choice of wheels is very unfortunate, but easy enough to change. I think the driver's door has been repainted; it looks a bit brighter than the rest of the car.
This car has lots of cool little details like a wraparound instrument panel, a console angled toward the driver, pop-out door handles, and rear side windows that retract horizontally instead of dropping down like most windows. Leather seats were also available, which was unusual on non-luxury brand cars at the time.

About 25 years ago I had a ride in a Grand Prix of this vintage, and it was a lot of fun. They're very cool cars, and if you're looking for something a bit unusual in a vintage car that will provide fun summer cruising (with voluminous fuel consumption), a 1969-72 GP would be an interesting choice.

03 August 2014

This Week in Awesome (8/2/14)

Ooh, two hours to spare...

This will be of interest primarily to those who were fans of the early '90s TV series Twin Peaks, but may be of interest to fans of the Muppets as well. I'll let you figure it out. (Digital Spy via TV Tattle)

Everything (probably) you ever wanted to know about the fake currency used in movies and TV shows. (Priceonomics via the A.V. Club)

If you like whiskey, you probably know that there's been a huge increase in small-batch and boutique-brand offerings over the past few years (particularly rye), but not all of it is what it seems to be. (The Daily Beast via Dappered)

And finally this week: the '80s. Some of us lived through it and had a great time; others would prefer to forget everything that happened. Los Angeles magazine has amassed a compendium of material related to the decade—music, fashion, movies, TV, art, food... It's the kind of thing you may want to bookmark and refer back to later.

01 August 2014

Hideous Shoes Unit: Clearance Edition

I was poking through the sale section of the Urban Outfitters website in the hope of finding some interesting Vans when I came across these two offerings. I think it's clear why they are on clearance: because no one would want them.
You could still get a month or two of use out of these Sperry Top-Siders in a back-to-front ombre fade design. These aren't leather but canvas, and they're marked down from $85 to $60.
These Florsheim saddle shoes (it doesn't say so, but they must be from the Duckie Brown collection) are a much more advanced style move, so you'd better have your game in order. No reviews yet? Guess you'll have to be the trailblazer. Originally $335, now only $100—that's 70% off! Only sizes 8 and 9 are left, though. Really?