30 September 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #11 & 12

I've been thinking about what car should be added to the Fantasy Garage, and I think I have to rewind back into the earlier part of the 1960s. In the second installment of FG I stated that I preferred the styling of the 1962 Oldsmobile to its Cadillac cousin of the same year. But now I realize that I've unintentionally overlooked Cadillacs altogether so far, and during most of the 1950s and 1960s they were considered the pinnacle of automotive achievement and excellence. As a car lover, I need at least one Cadillac in my Fantasy Garage. But I think I want at least two.
The design for 1963-64 models is considered by many to be the best Cadillac design of the 1960s. I'm not quite ready to count myself in that group, mainly because the horizontally divided grille of 1963-64 model years, with the headlights placed in the upper half, reminds me a bit too much of the styling of the mid-to-late '50s, when the headlights were above the grille, and thus feels like a step backward. The '61-'62 front end design is more modern, but otherwise I think the '63-'64 design is quite good, particularly on the Sixty Special with its smooth sides and unique roofline. And all models of these two years benefited from the gradual shaving down of the fins, which by '64 are almost straight, mere vestiges of their outlandish 1959 peak.
The Sixty Special has one other styling element that I like, mainly because it's unusual. The rear doors have small vent windows at the back that open with the doors. This feature ran from 1961 to 1968, and was incorporated because the Sixty Special was built on a longer wheelbase, meaning its roof and rear doors were not shared with other models. They were longer, and in order for the door windows to be able to descend fully the small "quarter windows" needed to be added at the rear of the doors. This practice has been common in vehicle design for decades, but what makes this application uncommon is that the Sixty Special's doors did not have upper frames, so when the windows were open, the quarter windows "floated" out at the ends of the doors. (Note that the car in the above picture has non-stock side moldings.)
The Sixty Special was technically part of the Fleetwood subseries, as was the Eldorado. After being offered as either a convertible or hardtop coupe from 1956-60, it was convertible only from 1961-66 before becoming hardtop only from 1967-70 and then regaining the convertible for 1971-76. The early '60s Eldorado models are exquisite cars, among the most expensive Cadillacs when new and produced in small numbers: less than 1500 units each in 1961 and '62, less than 1900 each in '63 and '64.
Of these my favorite, as with the Sixty Special, is the '64. In an effort to give the Eldorado a slightly sportier look and set it apart from the "regular" Series 62 convertible, the Eldorado's rear fender skirts were deleted for this one year only (which helps to show off the optional wire wheels). The Fleetwood cars also had distinctive rear-end styling with small grilles on either side of the license plate opening, and lacked the body side moldings of other Cadillac models, having instead a wide metal decorative band along the lower body sides. These features gave them an overall appearance that was restrained and elegant, conveying quite clearly that these cars were the most desirable Cadillacs.

(Image credits, from top: Hans Tore Tangerud/Love to Accelerate; Professional Car Society; Google image search; Daniel Schmitt & Co.)

29 September 2014


Well look at that, I almost missed my own blogaversary. It's hard to believe that I started this thing eight years ago today, and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it.

Over the past couple of years I've found new avenues of interest to write about, and I'd do even more if I had more time. But bloggin' don't pay the bills, and even if I had ads on here, the revenue would be miniscule.

Regardless, I have more to say, so I'll be sticking around for a while. Thanks for visiting. As a former boss used to say, onward...

27 September 2014

This Week in Awesome (9/27/14)

I know my weekend posts have been somewhat irregular. I was kind of busy last weekend, and I also didn't have the amount of material I aim for. But now this week, including the stuff I'd found for last week, I have a ton of stuff.

Sesame Street continues to be the best thing ever, even if you aren't a kid (sometimes it's more enjoyable if you're an adult, because you get the jokes aimed at the grown-ups). (The Verge)

I have plenty of issues and gripes with tech-industry culture; this is just one of them. (Esquire Style Blog)

Here's another example of manufacturing coming back to the USA, but in a less expected product category. (Portland Press-Herald via Consumerist)

All of us have consumed at least one of the beers on this list at some point. I happen to like #8 quite a bit, but I still can't stand #2. Others I had no idea were still being made. (Esquire Food Blog)

I haven't seen True Detective yet, but I'd watch the hell out of this. (Funny or Die via The A.V. Club)

A thoughtful piece on wearing clothing with specific cultural significance. (Interrupt via Put This On)

I am in agreement with the views expressed in this article. (Business Insider via Dappered)

And finally this week, if you are interested in the technical aspects of movie making and have a couple of hours of free time, I suggest you take a look over here. (Dappered)

26 September 2014

Overheard: Not Much Imagination Edition

This evening we ate at Yak & Yeti, a fine Indian restaurant in Somerville's Ball Square. Seated next to us were two young women who appeared to be in their mid-20s. One of the two did more of the talking than the other, and their conversation ranged to travel, photography, and blogging. At one point I heard the more talkative woman say, "If I had a blog, it would just be a blog of other people's photos."

24 September 2014

More Thoughts on Getting Dressed

Back in the winter, I went on some interviews and shared some thoughts about dressing up. Over the past week or so I've been interviewing again and doing related things, and I have a few more thoughts on the subject of business dress.

I managed to lose a second tie bar; I have no idea how. I don't know how I lost the first one. I do know now that the slide-on style is easier to lose than the pinch style. Despite this, I still feel like my outfit is incomplete without a tie bar.

Even though you've gone to some effort to look good, no one is going to compliment you on your attire (though I did receive a compliment from a barista about my sun hat). If an interviewer said, "I like your tie" it would probably make me feel weird.

I used to think that having my shirt sleeves be a bit too long was a misstep, but having unintentionally worn a shirt with sleeves that were a bit too short, I now think that's worse. No one is likely to notice this other than me, but I now think it's better if a little extra shirt cuff is showing rather than my bony wrists.

I still don't care for white dress shirts. I need a bit of color between my suit and my face. You don't have to wear a white shirt to look professional and appropriate. A solid blue or pink shirt will go with almost any suit. That said, I also don't care for that really pale blue (sometimes called ice blue) that so many businessmen choose for their dress shirts; I like a blue with a bit more presence and punch, but the brighter french blues are seemingly out of style now.

It's difficult to find ties that are subdued enough but also have some color and personality. I have some very nice ties that are just a bit too bold in color, pattern, or both to be interview-appropriate. Polka dots and small-scale geometric designs are working well for me.

Previously I was concerned about not having a dressy black belt, but suspenders are a much better option—if you've had the buttons sewn into the pants.

23 September 2014


I was downtown today, and it was a pleasure to be outside on such a perfect September day. But in the financial district the smokers were out too, clustered in some places, solitary in others. I'm glad we've had enough sense to ban smoking indoors, but that means outdoor spaces are filled with smoke-emitting obstacles that must be avoided.

If it's just one person I usually hold my breath until I'm past, but for the throngs I'm forced to clamp a bandana over my face. Is it wrong to wish that our society will end up outlawing smoking altogether within a couple of decades?

22 September 2014

Car Stuff: Special K's

Back in the 1980s, the compact Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant were instrumental in Chrysler Corporation's recovery from financial catastrophe, along with the company's then-revolutionary minivans. The cars were relatively inexpensive and economical, and they were ubiquitous on the roads.
Three decades later there aren't many of them still around. Back in the spring when I visited the garage in Arlington, there was a gas station a short distance away with a Reliant parked on the side of its lot with a For Sale sign in the windshield, so of course I took a couple of pictures. The Aries and Reliant, which were known by their internal product designation, the K-cars, were sold from 1981 to 1989; this is the slightly revised version from 1985 onward, but I can't get more specific than that.
On Sunday we were headed down the Southeast Expressway when I spotted a squarish yellow car in the right lane ahead of us. I pulled out my phone and got ready to snap a picture or two before I knew what the car was. By the time we came close enough to take pics I knew it was either a Reliant or an Aries, but it wasn't until I opened this picture to crop it that I found out for certain that it was an Aries, and one from the 1981-84 years. (As you can see I didn't get it framed quite the way I wanted to, but I got most of it.)

20 September 2014

Retro Video Unit (9/19/14)

This is a bit outside the realm where I usually traffic, but what can I say? It's getting late, and all of a sudden my brain went, "Hey, it's September, why not go look for a clip of that Earth, Wind & Fire song?" And there it was... Not everything about the 1970s was bad, and this song proves it:

19 September 2014

Two Wheels Folded

Yesterday on the Orange Line I saw a guy with one of those folding bicycles. That struck me as a particularly good idea for dealing with bringing a bike on the subway. Even if customers aren't allowed to bring their bikes on the T during peak hours, a bicycle is still a large and awkward item to deal with maneuvering into and out of a subway car.

I have no idea how much a folding bike weighs, or how much of a cost penalty there is over a regular bicycle, but it is a smart solution in terms of the logistics of physical handling. And I suppose it's easier to deal with when you arrive at your destination as well, e.g. you could keep it in your office instead of having to lock it outside.

18 September 2014

Pondering the Riddle That Is the T

Why is it that if I'm going somewhere in no particular hurry I end up making great T connections, but if I'm on my way to an appointment and have a limited margin of error, the bus has to make every single stop between my stop and the station, where I will inevitably miss a train by one minute and have to wait more than 10 minutes for the next one?

17 September 2014

Autumn Approaches

The weather around here has been quite wonderful for the past week and a half or so. No need for air conditioning, and there were a couple of nights that we had to close all the windows because it got quite chilly. I even wore jeans a couple of days, though I'm back to wearing shorts today.

Every year I look forward to the point when summer starts to fade. This year it happened earlier than I was expecting, but of course that doesn't mean we are done with warm weather. The climate isn't that linear, and it never has been. We're guaranteed to hit 80 at least a couple more times between now and Columbus Day; in fact the forecast is suggesting that will happen this Sunday.

I wish I could handle warmer weather better, but I just don't, and that isn't going to change. I accept it and I own it. Beachgoers look forward to July and August; I look forward to October and November.

15 September 2014

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #30

This week's find comes from a friend in Kentucky. He spotted this car back in March and took these pictures; for some reason, it only just occurred to me that I could use them.
This is a Willys Station Wagon from around 1951-53. It's mechanically related to the military Jeeps of World War II, and sort of the great-grandfather of today's Jeep Cherokee and, if you want to get nitpicky about it, every other small to medium-sized SUV and crossover.
Before the war there were Willys cars and trucks; after the war those started again, and the company realized that it could use the Jeep's chassis to produce a rugged passenger vehicle, which is how this car came about.
These cars were made from 1946 to 1965, and a two-wheel-drive version was also available for those in warmer climates. I thought a four-door version had been offered at some point, but I must have been imagining it, or conflating it with the Wagoneer, which arrived in 1961 and made this smaller wagon kind of obsolete. And don't forget that the Wagoneer was produced in one form or another for about 30 years; Jeep has always been partial to simple, durable designs.

This Week in Awesome (9/14/14)

Sorry folks, busy this weekend. This week's collection is somewhat TV- and media-focused.

Vulture has been looking back at the 1994-95 TV season, which is 20 years old but in many ways seems like twice that far away. Here's a bunch of uncomfortably awkward promo spots. If you watch even a couple of these, you will feel old.

If you watch Archer, you know that Sterling Archer is a big movie fan. Someone went to the trouble to compile a playlist of all the movies mentioned in the show. (Vunify via The A.V. Club)

Another bit from Vulture: an interactive graphic tracking all the types of relationships between the various characters on Orange Is the New Black.

A tumblr collection of black-and-white photo oddities? Sure. (@Midnight)

And finally this week, Billy Eichner was a guest on Late Show, and brought one of his "Billy on the Street" games to play with Dave.

12 September 2014

All Quiet

The upstairs dog has been much quieter since Wednesday, barking only occasionally (and going totally nuts when its owner gets home). I was bracing for a long season of barking, so I am relieved and somewhat surprised. Maybe the dog is more used to being alone than I'd thought, and it was just going through the adjustment to a new home.

Meanwhile, our dog seems only barely aware that there's another canine creature in her vicinity. The only real indication I've seen so far: when we go out into the back hall on our way out for a walk, she has started turning her head and sniffing up the back stairs. I'm sure the two dogs will meet eventually, but I don't harbor any illusion that they will become playmates, because our dog has little use for other dogs beyond sniffing them.

10 September 2014


We've had some turnover upstairs: two people moved out, one stayed and his girlfriend moved in along with him. It's a three-bedroom apartment, so I don't know what two people are doing with all the extra space, not to mention spending all that money on all that extra space.

The young lady brought with her a dog. It's a pug, and while cute, like many breeds of smaller dogs it barks a lot. It barks when someone leaves or enters the building, it barks when the Mrs. pulls into the driveway, it barks when I take our dog out the back door for a walk and when I bring her back in. So fat it's been just intermittent.

Due to various things, including some work that the landlord had done after September 1st, today was the first day the dog was left alone while both people went off to do whatever it is they do. It was barking when I got up around 8:30 this morning, and it barked pretty much nonstop until around 11, when it took a breather for 10 minutes or so. I kept waiting for it to stop simply as a result of wearing itself out from the physical effects of barking so much.

After that point it was more intermittent, then I left the house shortly after 1 pm and was gone for three hours, so I don't know what happened during the afternoon. I asked our dog when I got home, but she declined to answer; dogs don't snitch on each other, I guess.

It barks in clusters, like this: "yap yap yap yap (short pause) yap." (Five-second pause.) "yap yap yap yap (short pause) yap." And yes, I noticed this; it was hard not to notice it when it was being repeated over and over and over.

There are other dogs in the neighborhood that bark a lot, including a couple that are left outside for long stretches of the day more or less year-round (which could be the reason they're doing all that barking). But they are several houses away at minimum, so their barking is more of a background noise.

It may be that the pug is still getting used to an unfamiliar place; it may be that she hasn't been left alone before (I believe that the young lady previously lived with her mother). And in another month or so it will be time to close the windows, at which point I hope it won't be quite as noticeable.

09 September 2014

Overheard: Parental Snark Edition

This afternoon I was poking around in a store and happened to be standing a few feet away from some mannequins. There were two adult figures and two smaller ones that were supposed to be their children.

As I was looking at clothing, a small child of maybe four went up to one of the child mannequins and hugged it, then looked over her shoulder and said, "Look, Mommy!" Without missing a beat, the mother replied, "Oh, you've found a new family, how nice."

Car Stuff: Sunday Cruise-In

There are a few big car shows scattered through the summer calendar, along with weekly themed events at the Museum of Transportation in Brookline, but there are also a number of less formal events, called cruise nights or cruise-ins, where owners of vintage cars gather in predesignated parking lots for a period of time. There is a list of them organized by day of the week here (light type on black background alert), and I happened to catch one on Sunday afternoon.

There were perhaps a total of two dozen vehicles, and about a quarter of those were late-model Mustangs all parked together off to one side, but the rest were worth seeing. I didn't take pictures of every car, but some shots have more than one car in them.
I think this nice-looking GMC pickup is a 1970. This body, shared with Chevrolet pickups, looked especially modern when it was introduced for 1967. There was another GMC pickup of the same vintage at this event, which was surprising because they always sold in lower numbers than their Chevy cousins. (I was kind of excited to see the '65 Chevy II next to it until I saw the silly motor sticking up through the hood; I've never been much for hot rods.)
This is a 1954 Ford Crestline "Sunliner" convertible. I'm not as much of a fan of Fords as I am of other old cars, but I have always thought that the 1952-54 models were very nice-looking. The wire wheels are a nice touch. Hey, that gray Mazda in the back looks familiar. (For those of you who don't know me personally, it's ours.)
So... I've never been that good at pre-World War II cars. I know it's a Ford pickup. The bumper and grille surround match images of 1930 and '31 models I found on the web, so I'm going to go with Model A. However, the suspension has been lowered somewhat, and those wheels look like they came from an Oldsmobile 4-4-2, an interesting choice.
Here's a two for one shot: the convertible, a 1967 Oldsmobile 98, was probably my favorite of the cars I saw at this gathering. At the time these cars were just as nice as their Cadillac cousins, for people who didn't want to proclaim their prosperity quite as loudly as a Cadillac did. The deep burgundy interior looked great with the silver paint. The Corvette is a '66; I'd never seen one in this color, and I learned from PaintRef it was offered only for this one model year. I don't care for the side pipes, but otherwise this is probably my favorite generation of Corvette (though I prefer the convertible).
I was certain that this 1950 Ford had been customized, but in fact only the side pipes are add-ons; Ford offered this "Custom Deluxe Crestliner" decor package consisting of two-tone paint (yes, this was a factory color), fender skirts, and a vinyl roof covering, more than a decade before they started to become common. It turns out the package was to distract car shoppers from the fact that, unlike General Motors, they didn't yet have a two-door hardtop body style to offer. It is distracting, though no one is going to mistake it for a true hardtop. (Behind it is the other GMC pickup I mentioned, a high-trim Sierra Grande model.)
It's unfortunate this car was in the shadow of a building, but I'm still glad it was there. It's a 1975 Buick Regal, one of the midsize personal-luxury cars that sold by the hundreds of thousands in the 1970s. The Buick version is less commonly seen than its cousins, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, so it's an even better find, plus the members of the Brown Car Appreciation Society will be happy it's wearing one of the most exemplary color schemes of the period: brown paint with a tan vinyl top and interior. The VW Beetle is from the 1960s, based on the bumpers and headlights.
I don't know why I didn't take a closer picture of this 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix, a front three-quarter shot like the others I took. Maybe I just liked the appearance of it in profile. I'm pretty sure I had a Matchbox version of this car; one was definitely offered. I do think those wheels come from a later Pontiac, but they look fine on this car.
You aren't going to see a lot of 1961 Fords at any given car event, and it's even less likely that you'll come across a Galaxie Starliner hardtop, which was a variant introduced on the 1960 Ford (which had the same basic body structure) in response to the swept-roof styling and large rear window design on GM's 1959 two-door hardtops. At the same time, Ford was offering Galaxie hardtops with a more formal roof design (which I prefer) derived from its very popular Thunderbird, and curiously enough by 1962 GM's hardtops were mimicking that design. A few years later the roofs on both Ford and GM hardtops got more slanted and fastback-like again, before again getting more upright on the way to the Broughamification of the 1970s. (By the way, there's a nice 1962 Chevy Bel Air off to the left there that I meant to take a separate shot of but didn't.)
And finally we come to this sweet 1966 Chevy Impala Super Sport convertible. (Apologies for the chair.) Up close it looked like it had been repainted; even if it had managed to avoid any fading in almost 50 years, it still seemed brighter than whatever red Chevy offered that year. But otherwise it appeared original. Some people like to take "basic" models and enhance them to whatever the high-performance variant of that year was (Belvederes become Road Runners, Tempests become GTOs), and the availability of reproduction parts for everything from bucket seats to hoods with scoops to exterior badges makes this easy enough for some to be drawn in. Some do it but admit it, calling their cars "tributes" to the originals. I choose to believe that this car is original, that it left the factory as a Super Sport; something about it just gave off the right vibe.

07 September 2014

This Week in Awesome (9/6/14)

I was all set to do this last night, not sure what happened... anyway, to make up for not posting a TWiA last weekend, I have an extra-large helping this time.

Remember how when CDs came out we were told the contents would last indefinitely? Yeah, not so much. (NPR via Dappered)

When's the last time you heard or saw the word "metrosexual"? (The Awl)

Probably my favorite video of the past week. (Mashable via The A.V. Club)

Kids' meals that are definitely not for kids. (The A.V. Club; see more, including some more kid-friendly designs, here.)

Here's an interesting series of photographs by a woman who poses with strangers. (Esquire Culture Blog; more from the artist here.)

And finally this week, a topic close to the hearts of most Bostonians: which city in the US has the worst drivers? That depends on how the data is interpreted, but this argument is pretty well reasoned. Masshole pride only goes so far. (Slate via The Truth About Cars)

06 September 2014

Retro Video Unit (9/6/14)

Whoops, I knew I'd forgotten something...

Okay, I'm going to be honest: I think this video is pretty corny and lame. A lot of videos were corny and lame. But the song, well, this song just does something to me, and it has since the first time I heard it back in 1985.

It's "And We Danced" by the Philadelphia-area band The Hooters. Nothing to do with the restaurants; it's a colloquial name for a mouth organ melodica, which you can hear in the song.

05 September 2014

A Rude Awakening from Above

I was awakened this morning at 7 by a considerable racket from upstairs. I knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier.

The landlord is proceeding with his plans to get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting in the upper apartment and refinish the wood floors underneath. Earlier this week he took out the carpeting himself, and today a crew came in to start the scraping and sanding and polishing. From the sound of it, they are also getting rid of the linoleum from the kitchen. (Our kitchen is tiled.)

The guy in charge of the work was here yesterday to look around and pick up a key, and warned me about the noise. It can't be avoided, and it will be done in four or five work days, so knowing I'm going to be awakened each weekday morning, I suppose I should try to go to sleep earlier.

03 September 2014

Poor Paw

The dog had a little mishap one night last week. As we were going out for our usual late walk, she slipped on the steps and ended up ripping out one of the nails from her back right paw. I didn't know that at the time; she was shaken up but didn't cry out or make any sort of noise, so I steadied her, made sure she could stand and walk, and we went on our way.

When we got back to the house I saw that she was leaving spots of blood on the floor, so I woke the Mrs. and she cleaned and bandaged the dog's paw. It was the start of the long weekend and we didn't know if our vet was even open on Saturday. There's a 24-hour animal hospital not far away in Woburn, but she didn't seem to be in any significant pain or distress, so we decided not to go, at least not right away.

We had the ramp made for the dog this past winter, but she only uses it to go up the steps and has shown no interest or need in using it to go down. I felt very bad about her fall, because if we had gotten her used to going down the ramp, she probably wouldn't have slipped. Given her age, it's very fortunate that she didn't break a leg. The next day we started acclimating her to going down the ramp, and she's already used to it.

Through the weekend we took care of her paw, putting a sock over the bandage and securing it with duct tape so she couldn't lick it or otherwise mess with it. We even put a plastic bag over the sock when it rained Sunday night. Our biggest concern was the possibility of an infection, so yesterday we took her in to the vet. The wound has started to heal as it should, we got some ointment to put on the paw, and the nail may or may not regrow. Ultimately the dog will be fine, which is a tremendous relief.

02 September 2014

Only 115 Days Left...

I saw this blatant and appalling example of "Christmas creep" earlier this evening at a nearby CVS:
Please bear in mind that it's barely September. I also saw Halloween candy, but that wasn't unexpected.

01 September 2014

Car Stuff: A Cluster of Saturns

It's time for another installment in my "cluster" observations. These are cars that I don't think are especially noteworthy or collectible, that merit a mention primarily because I've noticed them around in significant numbers.
General Motors created the Saturn division in the mid-1980s to try a different approach to building and selling cars. The first models went on sale as 1991 models; after GM's bankruptcy they eliminated several divisions including Saturn, and the last cars were sold as 2010 models. Today I'm focusing on the S-series, which was the first model Saturn offered. Its plastic side body panels were intended to save weight, be resistant to minor dings, and be easier to replace if necessary.
Initially Saturn was marketed as a homegrown alternative to Honda and Toyota, and for a while they were reasonably competitive. Some people were attracted to the styling, which was different enough from that of other imported small cars to be distinctive. The second-generation S-series, in particular, was attractively sleek while the Civic and Corolla were wearing rather bland styling. (The Mrs. owned a second-gen SL2 for a few years.)
GM's first big mistake with Saturn, in my opinion, was letting the second generation of the S-series stay around too long. The first generation had lasted five model years, which is more or less the standard the auto industry follows with product life cycles, but in a cost-saving measure GM opted to keep the second-gen S-series going for seven model years. As the car aged, its competitors introduced updated models.
Then, and worse, when they did finally replace the car for 2003, the new car offered none of the improvements in refinement and quality that typically come with a new generation of a car, plus its styling was exceedingly ugly. GM made other questionable decisions, like giving in to the brief trend of mounting the instrument panel in the center of the dashboard, instead of in front of the driver. Many faithful Saturn owners who had been waiting for the updated model rejected it in disappointment.
When I started taking these pictures back in the winter, I was focused on the second-generation cars like this white one and the two above it, which are approaching 20 years since their introduction. (The wagon on Franklin Street downtown was a nice find, as I always liked those.) But I also noticed a couple of first-gen cars around (the silver and teal cars at the top of the post), some of which are approaching 25 years old.
This red car is frequently parked near where we get our haircuts in Somerville. It's very similar to the one the Mrs. owned—the same rear spoiler, the same alloy wheels—other than the fact that hers was dark green.