31 October 2015

Retro Video Unit (10/30/15)

Happy Halloween! This seemed to fit the mood...

30 October 2015

Phone Quest '15

It's that time of year... when my thoughts wander to the idea of getting a new iPhone. Actually it's been an every-other-year thing, since that's what my provider and plan allowed, but I got my 5S almost two years ago. I thought my upgrade eligibility date was at the beginning of December, but that was my contract date; a few days ago I was in my phone account online and saw that I had hit my eligibility date for a new phone.

I had also considered switching to T-Mobile, because I like the way they have been pushing the mobile industry to adopt policies that are more consumer-friendly. One of these (that so far I don't think other carriers have embraced) is that music streaming does not count toward your monthly data usage. T-Mobile is also offering the new iPhone 6S for $10/month if you trade in an iPhone 5S (or just $5/month with trade-in of last year's iPhone 6) and join their payment plan/annual upgrade option. But the Mrs. has been disinclined toward getting a smartphone of any kind for a long while, and T-Mobile has only smartphones these days (and one flip-style phone), so I did not think switching would work for us.

I'm sure a lot of you know that all the big mobile carriers, spurred by T-Mobile, have been moving away from phone subsidies (how we used to get new phones, with an upfront payment) and into a somewhat more transparent approach, separating the cost of the phone from the cost of the plan. This means that more of us will be getting our phones via monthly payment options. One advantage to this method is that there is usually an option to upgrade after a certain period of time and a certain number of payments have been made, i.e. annual upgrades instead of every two years.

I read an article in last week's Personal Technology section of the New York Times comparing the payment plans of all four major phone carriers, as well as to the costs of paying full price for a new phone up front. That's what led me to look at my account online. I also learned that customers who opt into Verizon's payment-plan program get a discount on the service portion of their plan, so on a monthly basis I would be paying roughly the same amount, plus I'll be able to trade in and get the iPhone 7 when it arrives next fall. The initial cost amounts to the sales tax on the full price of the phone. (Note: even if you're a Verizon customer, your plan may be different.)

When I upgraded two years ago I was able to order the phone to pick up in one of Verizon's stores. This time that option was not offered, so it shipped to me via FedEx. Delivery was Wednesday, so I made a point of staying home because I knew I would have to sign for the package. Of course the dog still needs to go out, every couple of hours these days, and of course I missed the delivery because I was out with the dog. But the tag left by the driver indicated that I could pick up my package after 6 pm that evening at a FedEx facility in South Boston.

And of course it was raining quite hard Wednesday, but that didn't deter me. I figured out where I needed to go, way down Summer Street past the convention center and the cruise ship terminal and across the Reserved Channel. Fortunately the 7 bus passes right by, and it's a short walk from the Downtown Crossing T station to where the 7 boards on Otis St. The bus was packed, and the windows were all fogged up so I couldn't see out, but I could tell more or less where we were and managed to squeeze my way out of the bus at the correct stop.

Once I got to the FedEx facility, it took less than three minutes to get my package. If you ever need to go down there, there's plenty of parking, the people working there are pleasant, and it's open until 9 pm on weeknights. If it hadn't been pouring it would have been a piece of cake, just another errand.

27 October 2015

Car Stuff: On the Way to Work

During my summer commutes I noticed some interesting old cars, all along the route of the 86 bus between Union Square and Harvard Square, and with a bit of effort I was able to get photos of them.

The first one I spotted was nothing more than a bumper and tail lights in a driveway; I had to wait until I passed the house again to get a better look. Eventually I ended up getting off the bus in order to get better pictures.
It turned out to be an early '70s Dodge Dart two-door hardtop. This rear bumper/light design was used for model years 1971-73, but the '73 did not have vent windows so this one must be either a '71 or '72. Since I've already established that I want one of these (or its Plymouth cousin) in the Fantasy Garage, I was pretty excited to see it.

A few blocks away I spotted this parked in another driveway:
After a couple more mornings I figured out it was a Lincoln Continental, also from around the early 1970s. I needed to consult the online car brochure sites in order to pin down the exact year of this one.
It's a 1973 with a Mark IV-style grille surround added on. The '72 had the same body panels, but the bumper guards were used for '73 before larger bumpers were added the following year.

While passing the Cambridge fire station just outside the Harvard Square "tunnel," I spotted something orange-ish in the parking lot:
I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't get a better shot, but I was sitting by the aisle, not the window, so I was lucky I got this. I thought it was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible until I took a closer look at the bumper and marker light, and realized it's a Buick Skylark convertible, with some sweet vintage Keystone wheels that might go back to when this car was new.

I looked for the Buick most every day I passed the fire station on the way home, but I never saw it again. The Lincoln was around for a while, but was gone by mid-September. The Dart is still in the same place.

23 October 2015

Temporarily Un-Temped

I wrapped up my temporary work assignment today. I was there for four months, which was about a month longer than I originally expected. I'll be on a temporary break while I work on lining up another assignment. I have a few random thoughts on the non-work aspects of my experience...

—The office had a business-casual dress code. This wasn't a big deal, I just was not used to it, having spent more than a decade in jobs where I could wear whatever I felt like. I quickly figured out that a very large percentage of my nicer, office-appropriate clothing was for the cooler months, and I had to scramble to ensure I had enough warm-weather stuff. Also, lighter-weight pants tend to stretch out in the waist after I've had them on for a couple of hours, making adjustments necessary, so I had to wear my belts cinched tighter than usual.

—Conversely, I had plenty of shoes that I was able to rotate through during the summer, but I'm lacking in dress-casual shoes for fall. I have boots, and I did wear those some when it got cool enough, like today. But I'm going to have to add a pair or two of shoes.

—The commuting was far more burdensome than having to wear pants and long-sleeve shirts in summer. Working at home is starting to look more appealing...

—But if I work at home, I won't get to go out and get a tasty lunch every day; I'd end up eating peanut butter and Fluff all the time.

—I used to eat salad for lunch almost every day at my previous job, but I had access to a salad bar with excellent variety. There's only one in Harvard Square that I'm aware of, in the market on the corner of Brattle and Church, and it's kind of overpriced. So I fell back into my sandwich-eating ways (Pronto in the Charles Hotel courtyard, or Al's Cafe in Holyoke Smith Center), punctuated with falafel from Sabra Grill or the tortilla salad from Felipe's. I also went to Chipotle because it was easy and fast, but not more than once every other week.

—I never made it to the food trucks over by the Science Center, because it was kind of too far: by the time I walked over there and waited for my food, I'd barely have enough time to get back to my office, never mind eat. And I didn't want to be out walking that much during the height of summer anyway.

20 October 2015

Car Stuff: Rough, Needs Work

This rough beast appeared in a driveway not too far from my house. I hadn't been over that way in a while, but I came upon it because I was coming home via the reverse of the route I've been taking to work lately.
What we have here is the carcass of a 1967 Pontiac LeMans convertible. I saw the hardtop sibling of this car last year, and posted it back in the spring. (By "sibling" I don't mean they have the same owner, just that they are both the same make and model, but different body styles.)

Actually, this car isn't as bad as it may appear. I don't see any serious rust along the bottom of the panels on this side, except maybe one or two small holes near the back. There are a few spots where the paint appears to be gone down to bare metal, which naturally rusted, and that area next to the tail light looks like a candidate for some filler compound. This is likely a project car that I happened to catch outside. I'd seen it once in the driveway with a cover, but I suspect it lives in the garage in front of it. Maybe by next spring it will have a new top...

19 October 2015

An Atypical Appellation

Today at the office, the regular front-desk person was out, and there was a fill-in person that I had not seen or met before. She was about half my age, but when I spoke to her about something, she responded and ended her sentence with "hon." I was a little surprised; after all, it is 2015, and "hon" is the sort of thing you expect to hear spoken by a sixtyish diner waitress in a 1970s movie. But it was also charming in its own way, a note of familiarity used as a way to make people feel like their requests are being heard, to put them at ease.

16 October 2015

Retro Video Unit (10/16/15)

Need to clear your head? I've got just the thing: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Good night...

One Way or Another

Now that the weather has changed, I've been taking a different route to work in the mornings. Instead of going to the bus stop right on the corner, it involves walking for several minutes through the neighborhood to get to a different bus route, then connecting in Medford Square to another bus that brings me to Davis Square, where I hop onto the Red Line for two stops.

It might not seem like a better option, but in daily practice it is much calmer and more civilized. I enjoy the walk in the morning air (the walking is the reason I didn't do this in the summer), and I don't have to fight my way onto an already-packed Orange Line train only to have to fight my way off again after only two stops. And while the first bus tends to get caught in some traffic, it's not nearly as bad as what I encountered almost every day taking the 86. Some mornings I ride to Medford Square with the Mrs., who stops there for coffee on days when she's going to one of her two office locations.

The second bus runs through Davis and on to Harvard, but it tends to get bogged down on the stretch of Mass. Ave. between Porter and Harvard. The T has acknowledged this by having buses on this route alternate during the morning rush between running all the way to Harvard and going only as far as Davis. The buses are clearly marked; they say "DAVIS SQ" instead of "HARVARD VIA DAVIS" and they are indicated on the route's schedule.

But of course, people don't pay attention. This morning I boarded the bus and sat down. A couple of people got on behind me, then a woman got on and asked the driver a question about getting to a specific destination. He told her the bus was going only as far as Davis. Another woman sitting near the front jumped up and said, in a minor panic, "Wait, what?" He explained again that the bus did not go to Harvard Square, but connected with the Red Line at Davis. Her face cycled through a couple of expressions before she decided this was acceptable, said "Okay, whatever," to no one in particular, and sat down again.

15 October 2015

Such a Waste

I just found, on the floor under my desk, a piece of bacon that fell out of my sandwich yesterday. That's a damn shame, right there, a waste of perfectly good bacon...

13 October 2015

Cheerful Mornings

So yeah, quiet around here lately. I was sort of busy doing stuff over the weekend, but not so busy that I didn't have time for a post, I just sort of forgot. I can offer this:
It came from a web store affiliated with the writer Warren Ellis. The Mrs. accidentally broke my Strand Books mug, and I decided to replace it with this. If you think you'd like one of your own, you can find it over here.

08 October 2015


This morning I came out of the subway and was walking toward my office. I am generally on the lookout for people moving more slowly so that I can move around them. Ahead of me I noticed a woman with her head down and her right arm bent up at the elbow, in the now-common posture of someone looking at a smartphone while walking.

I moved to my right, and as I came up behind her I saw that she was not looking at her phone, but in fact was deeply engaged with written material on an old-fashioned clipboard. I was pleasantly surprised and a little amused.

06 October 2015

Car Stuff: You, in the Back...

A few weeks ago, on the bus on my way to work one morning, I caught a glimpse of something parked in the back lot of an auto place in Somerville's Union Square. By the time it had registered we had already gone past it, so on my way home that evening I made sure to sit where I could see the lot. It was metallic orange and I was pretty sure it was from the 1970s, but it was a little too far away for me to get a clear sense of what car it might be.

The next morning I looked again, and I was pretty sure it was a Ford Granada. I haven't seen one of those, parked or on the road, in more than 20 years, so it would be an interesting find. Next time I was able, I took a photo as we were passing by. By zooming I could discern the car, but it wasn't a Granada.
It's a Buick Regal, quite possibly the one that I featured back in June. Maybe it needs work, or maybe its owner works here. It hasn't moved and is there every day, including today.

(And speaking of old or unusual cars, that Saab 9-5 wagon looks pretty good in red. What happened to Saab is a shame, and I'm still hopeful that the company might be able to start making cars again.)

04 October 2015

Welcome to October

I wanted to post this on Friday, but I just didn't get to it. However, there are still 27 days left in October after today, so I'm going for it.
I broke out the Chippewa/L.L. Bean boots Friday, along with a pair of heavier-weight khakis and (not shown) my Filson coat. It looks like there's going to be a bit of a warm-up this coming week, though not quite as much as had been predicted earlier: as of now, it's going to get to the upper 60s on Tuesday and touch 70 on Wednesday, but the mornings are still going to be brisk. This is fine with me, though my true preference is for it to be like Friday was, cool enough that some form of outerwear is required.

02 October 2015

Retro Video Unit (10/2/15)

It's late and I don't have the energy or mental capacity to write anything coherent, let alone eloquent, but I've had this one in my back pocket for a while: "Rock Box" by Run-DMC.

To me, this is the spirit of hip-hop, and I think it's gone today. There are some very talented performers, but there's nothing in the music that I can connect with or relate to. I'll hear a song and like the backing track until the rapping starts, and then I'm done with it.

There's a homegrown quality to this video that I find really endearing. All the music videos are so elaborate now, I can just imagine a record company's reaction if a group submitting this as their promotional clip. (I don't know what's up with the Prof. Irwin Corey crap at the beginning; just ignore it.)

What was it about the '80s? I'm so glad I'm old enough to have lived through it...