31 December 2016

End of Year Reflections 2016

When I wrote a similar post last year, I said I'd check back in to see where things were; here we are on December 31st, and I don't want to make a liar of myself.

Unlike the past several years, I had plenty of work to occupy me this year. My day job demanded my full focus and attention for pretty much every minute of every workday, a marked departure from most of my prior work. I find the work quite stressful, and initially I considered not committing to the assignment, but a combination of inertia and guilt kept me in place. I made a verbal commitment to remain in the position through the end of June, and since nothing better had presented itself by that point, I kept going. By the end of July, the volume of work had increased to the point that I started working overtime hours, and regularly logged an average of 45 hours per week for the rest of the year.

I also took on additional part-time work for one of my former bosses. Initially that involved migrating several years of content from one platform to another, somewhat rote but not entirely uninteresting. I finished that project near the end of July, and within a few weeks I was being asked to copy-edit and proofread material, a task I find much more engaging. For most of the year I put in five of six hours a week on these projects, which was good for my bank balance and my resume.

Elsewhere, we said goodbye to our dog in early February, and got another dog near the end of June. I quickly fell back into the routine of walks and feedings, all of which is much easier with a younger, healthy dog. This dog's personality and quirks are still revealing themselves to us, which is a big part of the appeal of having a dog.

Otherwise, things around here were pretty normal. Like a lot of people, we are kind of ready to be done with 2016, though along with that goes apprehension about what's to come. At the same time, we are grateful that this year has brought some measure of stability back to our lives. The other day I had the thought that 2016 should be sent off by symbolically burning something, perhaps the calendar that hangs on the inside of our back door, but as renters we don't quite feel comfortable lighting something on fire, even outdoors.

So tonight we'll sit down with friends for a home-cooked dinner, and toast to our collective good fortune. Here's hoping that everyone has a fun and safe night and weekend, and that 2017 brings good things to all of us.

30 December 2016

Overheard: Global Perspective Edition

Friday afternoon, December 30th, Newbury Street: "You don't have to be European to be boring."

18 December 2016

Dark Days

Hello out there. I know it's been a while since I've surfaced. Things have been pretty busy around here, leaving me almost no time for thinking, let alone blogging. Between my two jobs, I am regularly working more than 50 hours a week, which includes some late-evening and weekend hours. Sure, it's nice to have a steady income, but it's also stressful.

It's almost Christmas, but to be honest I'd kind of barely noticed. Of course I am in the process of getting gifts for my family, but that happens largely from the chair right here in front of my computer screen, so I have not been out in stores all that much. I used to be more enthusiastic about holiday shopping when I was younger, but age does change us, whether we want to admit it or not.

We're in the midst of the shortest days of the year, when it's dark by around 4:30. This confuses the dog, who thinks that the darkness means it's time for her evening meal. She has a bed in the room where I work, so she comes in from the other room and parks herself there, keeping an eye on me to make sure I don't forget about feeding her.

We go for a walk after she's had her dinner, and I do enjoy seeing the houses in our neighborhood lit up for the holiday season. It takes some of the edge off the early sunsets, and cheers me up a bit. If I remember correctly, by the end of January the sunset happens around 5, so it won't be long before the days start getting longer again.

Anyway, there are more important things to be concerned about. Our country is about to be plunged into an experience the likes of which we have never seen. I suppose the most optimistic way to view the incoming administration is as a gigantic four-year (minimum) experiment in which all 325 million of us (or whatever the US population is these days) are the mice that are being experimented on.

The Mrs. and I have plenty of reason to be apprehensive about what's going to happen in 2017 and beyond. All of us do, whether or not we realize it. To be honest, I am somewhat less worried about what the government might do than I am about the kind of behavior that some Americans think it's okay to exhibit, as though the change in leadership has given them some sort of permission to bring to the surface their worst impulses toward their fellow citizens. This is a far bigger threat to our country's future than whoever happens to be occupying the White House, or any other elected office, or even the seats on the Supreme Court.

But we also have other things on our minds. We have to keep doing our thing, and I think it's crucial to try to maintain some sense of optimism in the face of the ignorance and blatant bigotry that's out there. I made some charitable contributions this month, simply because solicitations arrived in the mail from organizations deserving of support. We are at a point where we can think about planning a real vacation, something we have not been able to do in several years.

I hope all of you have a holiday season filled with friends, family, and happiness. And if I can close with a bit of advice for the coming year: look inward, look outward, pay attention.

03 October 2016

Overheard: Open Window Edition

I was in the kitchen last Saturday morning, making coffee and cleaning up things. The window was open, and from the upstairs neighbors' kitchen directly above (also with windows open) I heard one of the guys who moved in at the beginning of September: "What an great morning! I'm not hung over, and I feel amazing!"

01 October 2016

Greyhound Love, the Sequel

The departure of our dog left a void in our lives, but at the same time I appreciated having a break from the daily responsibilities of feeding, walking, and other assorted pet-parenting. The Mrs. was ready for another dog about two weeks after we said goodbye to London, but I insisted on taking some time for ourselves.

After about three months I felt I was ready. During that period we were able to go to New York for a long weekend without needing to worry about who would look after our dog, and how much that would cost on top of the hotel and other related expenses.

It was a pretty easy decision for us to look for another greyhound. The breed's post-retirement temperament meshes well with our own, and we knew all the specifics of caring for one. The greyhound adoption group that we had dealt with no longer operates in New England, so we started looking around online.

We visited a facility where dogs fresh from the track were kenneled and available for adoption. We found that the dogs there were so excited to go outside and walk around on the grounds that they were not especially interested in us, and we decided that we needed to find another adoption group that fosters the dogs in home settings before matching them with adopters.

Some deeper searching led us to Greyhound Options, which is based out in the middle-western part of Massachusetts but has foster dogs available in greater Boston. We were visited by a volunteer who lives in our city, and our original plan was to drive out to a facility to meet a fresh batch of dogs as they were released from vet quarantine. But the Mrs. wasn't feeling well that week, and we decided that two-plus hours of driving each way wasn't the best idea at the time.

A dog that was being fostered at that location was transferred to this area, and the group suggested we might want to meet her. They even offered to bring her to the volunteer's house so we wouldn't have to travel as far, and so on a Friday evening at the beginning of June we went to meet her. We were immediately charmed by "Jordy," who is almost entirely black with a brown undertone, and a white patch on her chest that turns to pink on her stomach; her back paws and the tip or her tail are also white. She turned four at the end of April.

We agreed to move forward with the adoption, but that name... it wouldn't do. She hadn't been called by it for very long, so it would be relatively easy to change it. My thinking was that something that sounded kind of similar would make for a smoother transition. We tried over a hundred potential names, ones that did and didn't sound like Jordy, and found nothing that we felt was a better fit than "Charlie."

Charlie became part of our "pack" just over three months ago. She was brought to our house on a Monday evening in June, and it took about 45 minutes after the adoption group people left for her to climb up on the couch and make herself at home. Getting to know her has been highly amusing. She's very different from London, quite a bit more doglike in many ways. Even so, she has fit right into our household and our lives, and now we couldn't imagine our life without her.

04 September 2016

Random Searches, Random Results

When you search in Google (or whichever search engine you prefer), do you ever look at what results come up when you start typing? It can be very entertaining.
Please note item five on the list, which I have marked. For it to land that high, I believe that means a significant number of people must have typed that question into a search box.

Also noteworthy: the ninth item on the list. If you have to ask, then you may not want to know the answer...

27 August 2016

A Thoughtful Response

Ooh boy, it's been a while. I'm working a lot, you see, sometimes 50 hours a week. It's challenging and draining, and at the end of the day I don't have much energy for anything beyond TV. I wish I was reappearing here with something witty or funny or just interesting, but I'm not. Well, I do find it interesting, but not in the way I prefer to use that word.

Okay, so it's been kind of a terrible year or ten for those of us who consider ourselves progressives. I'm not going to attempt to get into why our country is in the place it is; I admit to not following every nuance of politics closely enough to do that capably (my late father-in-law was exceptionally adept at it, and I wish he was still around). There's a lot of toxicity in our everyday lives, and while not all of it comes from the political arena, much of it does.

I'm sure a lot of you have heard by now of the various heinous things spewed out of the noise-hole of the governor of Maine, who clearly views the Republican candidate for president as a role model in all the wrong ways. The plain truth is that the governor is a racist asshole who is doing his part to destroy any semblance of civility left in our society.

But the reason I have emerged from my bunker/hiding place to write a post is this: the Portland Press-Herald wrote an editorial apologizing to the rest of the country for this man and his behavior. It's brilliant and candid and dead-on, and you should go read it. Unless you share the views of what's-his-name, in which case then please just go away.

17 July 2016

Geography and Convenience

We've been going to Trader Joe's since the store on Memorial Drive opened in... 1999? I'm not exactly sure when it opened, but it was quite a while ago. I even worked there for the better part of a year. There are now 18 stores in Massachusetts (plus two in southern New Hampshire and one in Rhode Island), but we've never managed to get a store closer to where we live. Sometimes we go to the TJ's on route 1 in Saugus, not because it's closer or more convenient but because it's an easier drive from our house, compared to driving through Somerville and Cambridge's always-terrible traffic.

But then a couple of months ago, it was announced that Trader Joe's would be opening a store next year in the Assembly Row complex in Somerville that is roughly two miles from our house. (Our previous residence in Somerville was technically within walking distance of Assembly Square/Row, but it was a bit treacherous to get there.) The newer buildings that were constructed a few years ago were set up for smaller retail and don't have the amount of floor space required for a grocery store, even one like TJ's that's quite a bit smaller than a modern supermarket.

But the older part of the complex, which at one time was a traditional enclosed mall and, long before that, a Ford auto assembly plant (hence the name), is composed of medium-size floor plates and currently occupied by stores like Staples, TJ Maxx/Home Goods, AC Moore, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Christmas Tree Shops. A vacancy came about due to the demise of the Sports Authority chain. I have no idea how Trader Joe's secured the space, but someone must have had someone else on speed dial because it seemed to fall into place pretty quickly after the Sports Authority liquidation and closings were announced.

We've been going to the movies at Assembly Row since the AMC theater opened there, and the popularity of the complex has brought plenty of traffic. It's all right on the surrounding roads, but within the complex itself things can get chaotic. I imagine this will only get worse when the Trader Joe's opens, but I am hoping that Somerville will allow this store to be open until 10 pm like the ones in Brookline and Cambridge (most close at 9). That would give us some flexibility in when we shop and might help us avoid some congestion.

There's also a grocery-related development happening here in Medford. The Wegmans chain, based in Rochester, NY, has been growing quite a bit over the past decade and currently has four stores in MA. They distinguish themselves from competitors by building enormous stores (100,000 square feet is not unusual) with huge prepared-food sections, a response to our culture's desire for greater convenience. Wegmans has agreed to open a store at the site of the Meadow Glen Mall on route 16, about a mile from our house (and closer than the nearest Whole Foods).

The mall was awful, mostly empty with a few tired, sad stores kept afloat by a Kohl's on one end and a Marshalls on the other. (It was used by some seniors for indoor walking, and I don't know where they will go now for their exercise.) The property owners arrived at an interesting solution: the anchor stores have remained and are open while the middle section of the mall building has been demolished, and the Wegmans is going to be built in its place. We have heard that the store will open next year, but the Wegmans website lists it as TBD.

Meanwhile we have made a couple of visits to the closest open store, in Burlington, to sample the offerings. While not life-changing, they were certainly tasty, no more expensive than comparable items one might purchase elsewhere, and the staff were uniformly very pleasant and helpful. (The chocolate-chunk cookies with pecans are worth a repeat visit.)

Again it will be interesting to see how traffic is affected; there is also a proposal for an almost 500-unit apartment complex to be built on land directly across the street from the mall property (ironically, there used to be a Shaw's supermarket there). Neighbors have protested that the housing development would be too dense for the size of the property, and the Wegmans is likely to add significantly to traffic in and out of the area.

The Wegmans was announced first, but the Trader Joe's seems more likely to open first. Either way, upon hearing of the latter the Mrs. responded, "I guess we can never move." That remains to be seen...

02 July 2016


Some events have occurred in our lives in recent months that I did not specifically discuss here, mainly because I find it difficult to devote time to blogging on my current schedule. So I'm going to take advantage of the long weekend and the brief pause in my regular activity to do a little catching up.

In February we had to say goodbye to our beloved greyhound London. She was 14 and a half, a ripe old age for a dog, and as would be expected that age brought with it a general decline in her health. For most of 2015 we were able to manage her needs, but by January nearly every aspect of her everyday life had grown very difficult. She had a hard time getting up from her bed, she needed to go out every couple of hours, she needed to be supported when squatting outside and when going up and down the ramp.

While she still enjoyed going outside and still had a good appetite for the food that the Mrs. cooked for her, she was on a lot of painkilling medication and had reached a point where she could no longer stand up by herself long enough to finish eating a meal. She was not suffering, but she was definitely struggling, and after some soul-searching and an objective assessment of the situation, we came to the conclusion that propping her up with higher doses of medication for another couple of months, or however much longer she remained with us, was not worth pursuing. We did not want her life to end in suffering, so we made a humane choice to have her euthanized.

Be assured this was a very difficult decision, one we had hoped we would not have to make. Every day I quietly wished that she might go to sleep and simply not wake up, in order to be spared any further decline, but that didn't happen. It is an inevitable part of the cycle of being a pet owner, or pet parent, or pet caretaker, and it's incredibly hard but it must be done. We have never doubted that we made the right decision, and beyond that I feel more human for having had this experience. We miss her every day.

At the beginning of June we marked ten years living in this apartment. We lived in our previous home for nearly 11 years, and I did not think we would remain here this long, but I have no regrets about it. My lengthy period of unemployment certainly got in the way of any thoughts of moving, and with the housing situation in greater Boston being what it is, living elsewhere would certainly be costing us a lot more; in the time we have been here, our rent has not increased, an extremely fortunate circumstance.

We are starting to feel that it would be nice to have a bit more space, like one more room that could be used as a dedicated office, so that we could then have a dedicated dining room. But I don't feel like my situation is stable enough yet to consider trying to find another place to live, so we will be remaining here for another year, at least. We really like our community, which is a definite asset, and if we do end up moving, we hope we can remain in this city.

20 June 2016

The Pop Paradox

Last weekend we attended a bar mitzvah; the young man is the son of a colleague and friend of the Mrs. The event was really nice, with teenagers running semi-amok and a delicious meal. A DJ was on hand to keep things festive, spinning pop hits covering the past decade or so.

A couple of things struck me about the music. I don't exactly follow pop these days, but I knew the majority of the songs, or at least the performers. But nothing was played as a nod to the adults in the room; nothing from the '80s, or even the '90s. (What the Mrs. thought was "Baby Got Back" turned out to be its sample-child, "Anaconda.")

But more notable to my mind (and ears) was a sameness to the music. Other than the occasional vocal performance, nothing really stood out. There's a similarity to how modern pop songs are constructed, even down to some of the chord changes they employ, that suggests they emanate from a factory somewhere. You hear the same structure, the same types of flourishes, the rap verse dropped in at approximately the same point.

It's not just simple nostalgia, or even the argument that the music we love and connect with as teenagers remains the most powerful and most significant to us. Divorcing myself from those sentiments, today's music just isn't as good as pop from eras past. While the roster of performers may come from more diverse cultural backgrounds, the music they are producing is not nearly as diverse as the sounds radio offered in the 1970s, or even the '80s.

05 June 2016

Hey, There

A few times over the past couple of weeks, I've wanted to post but felt like I didn't have enough to say to justify it. At the moment I'm almost ready to head off to bed, but a few thoughts are swimming around and I can probably turn them into small bits.

My work continues more or less the same, though my employer has allowed me to shift my hours so that my work day now finishes at 6 pm instead of 7. While I did like having time in the morning to accomplish certain things like paying bills, drinking coffee and eating breakfast, and catching up with my online reading, I much prefer being done earlier and having that time free in the evening. So that's something.

Outlet shopping ain't what it used to be. On Sunday of Memorial Day weekend we visited Freeport, Maine, the home of L.L. Bean. We hadn't been there for a number of years and I kind of bugged the Mrs. into going. Even though we have Bean stores around here now, it's always fun to visit the original, but aside from that it wasn't a very exciting day. I didn't see anything in the stores that interested me much; part of that is just what's available at a given time, part is that outlets serve a different function than they used to; and part is that my tastes and preferences have shifted somewhat, and I also try to think more carefully before making purchases. Truthfully, my shopping urges could have been satisfied at the Kittery outlets, which are an hour closer than Freeport.

The weather cooperated; the day before it was 96 here, but the day we went it barely managed to hit 60. We did stop for dinner at the Portsmouth Brewery, which is always a good idea; they take the food as seriously as they do their beer. And following dinner we made our way over to Annabelle's Ice Cream, which I first visited over 30 years ago. It's still in the same place, and as far as I can tell it hasn't changed at all.

27 May 2016

Word Salad: What Do You Call It?

Okay, two weeks is a long time to be absent from here, and I apologize. I admit that I've been devoting most of my free time (what there is of it) to catching up on some of the backlog of TV shows on my TiVo.

Anyway, at work we had a listing for a multi-function pocket knife, and the description of its various tools and features was a little garbled. "... knife, saw, double jagged, scissors, bottle opener, can opener, the screwdriver, file, the threading, scissors, red wine drill." The last one is my favorite—it can only be used for red wine?

15 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 3

(I'd planned on making this only two parts, but part 2 ran a little longer than I'd expected and I wanted to give this enough space.) Normally I wouldn't have much to say about the final morning of a trip like this; we'd pack up, get something to eat, and head home. But this time we had a destination, and we had to be there on time. We had tickets to the observatory at the new World Trade Center building. (Neither of us went to the top of the original, and I'll always regret not doing so.)

It's roughly a ten-minute walk from the hotel to the eastern edge of the WTC site, but the observatory entrance is on the west side of the new building, which is situated at the western edge of the site, so it took a few minutes longer to get over to it. Upon entering the building we were sent down an escalator to a security screening much like at an airport, then through a winding passageway, decorated with mementos and artifacts from the construction process, to the elevators.

As we ascended, the walls of the elevator showed a video projection representing the growth of New York City from its founding to the present day, in the space of about a minute. That's all it takes for the elevator to rise to the 102nd floor. We were ushered into a long, narrow room to watch another video, this one maybe three minutes long, hyping New York in general. Then the screens pulled away for a look outside. After a few moments they closed again, and we were briefly confused: was that it?

But then they sent us through another door and down another escalator, to where the staff hit us with a hard sell for rental of a tablet device ($15) that would provide additional information about what we'd be seeing through the windows. Ignoring them, we moved around a corner to where some other staff tried to get us to pose for and buy a photo in front of a green screen; we waved them off and finally went down one more floor to 100, to the observatory itself. (I'm sure some of you might be interested in these extras, but that's not us.)

We deliberately chose the first timed entry of the day (9 am) thinking it wouldn't be quite as crowded, and that was a good choice. We had room to move around and take plenty of pictures without having to jostle with others for window space. Here's a sample:
There's a gift shop, of course, and a cafe if you want to hang around and enjoy the view a while longer. We left after about half an hour, which was more than enough time to make our way around the entire floor. Some of the photos had glare or reflections on the glass, so I can see the value of going in the middle part of the day when the sun is higher. (You can also go at night, though that costs more.)
Leaving the building, we made our way around to the memorial area where the original buildings stood. Even if we hadn't gone to the observatory, we would have made time to visit the site for this. Hundreds of trees have been planted in rows, but of course the focal point is the two voids, which have been made into fountains, with metal panels around the edges bearing the names of the victims. It would be easy to spend a couple of hours there, just moving along the sides and reading all the names. The letters are cut out of the metal, and here and there a flower had been inserted through a name, surely left by a relative or friend. Seeing the empty spaces where those buildings stood was a deeply emotional experience, one I didn't wish to compromise by taking photos.

(For those of you who may be wondering, the 9/11 museum is separate from the observatory. We did not visit the museum; I would be willing, but I don't think the Mrs. has any inclination to do so.)

We returned to the hotel to gather our things and check out. We took a cab back to retrieve the car, which was fine (let's hear it for a lower crime rate and an older vehicle). Before leaving we had one more thing to do: a stop at the Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side, a short drive from where we'd parked. Unfortunately, the guy ahead of me got the last peanut butter and blackberry jam doughnut, so I had to settle for chocolate.

11 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 2

Right, where were we? On Sunday morning of our weekend trip to New York, the Mrs. was tired from all the walking we'd been doing and wanted to get some extra sleep, so I got ready and left the room, not really knowing what I'd do but eager to get outside and enjoy a beautiful day. (We were fortunate to enjoy fantastic weather the whole time.) The hotel always has coffee available in the lobby (along with some sort of treat, like cookies or muffins) so I fixed a cup and went outside.

There is a patio-type area adjacent to the building that serves as a beer garden during warm weather. Being only April it wasn't yet operating, but the tables and benches were there, so I sat in the sun to absorb some vitamin D (with a hat on, of course) and drank my coffee. I saw a man walk by with a dog and watched them cross the street heading toward the East River, just a couple of short blocks away. I remembered reading that the city had constructed a path along the river's edge, so I got up and followed the man.

The path was full of activity, with bicyclists, joggers, and people walking dogs. I sat for a while watching people, got a smoothie from a guy in a little hut, took some photos, then walked north for a bit, to the site where South Street Seaport is being rebuilt (it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy). At that point I decided to head back toward the hotel and started walking down Water Street. When I was almost back I remembered that Century 21 was about to open (11 on Sundays), so I turned west and headed in that direction.

C21 is like a TJ Maxx on steroids, but also a somewhat nicer store environment. The store adjacent to the World Trade Center site has been remodeled and expanded, and now covers six floors (plus an annex with shoes). It sort of reminds me of an old-time full-line department store, with a substantial housewares department on the basement level. They sell a lot of discounted designer clothing, and plenty of everyday stuff too. The store had just opened so it was nearly empty, and I spent most of an hour browsing. I got a text from the Mrs. saying she was up and getting ready, so I headed back over to the hotel and found her in the lobby getting coffee.

We had a brief conversation about brunch, and decided we needed our Junior's fix. Sometimes (depending on where you are and where you want to go, and what day it is) a cab ride is easier and quicker than taking the subway, and 20 minutes later we were being seated in a booth. After eating we took the subway back to Manhattan, heading for the Cooper Hewitt Museum, but first we decided to stop in Union Square and visit the Strand Bookstore. The Mrs. got a case for her work iPhone, and I got a book on the history of pop music.

We continued uptown to the museum, and later had a very pleasant dinner with relatives at Maya, a Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side. They take the food a little more seriously than what's typical at many Mexican places, but still offer crowd-pleasing fare like tacos (mine had smoked brisket, pickled onions, and avocado).

After dinner we went over to 2nd Avenue to get a bus back downtown (that particular route stops right outside the front door of our hotel). When we got to the bus stop a bus was there, but all the passengers were getting off because the bus had been involved in a minor accident with a truck. When the next bus arrived a few minutes later, the driver waved everyone onto the bus without collecting fares. (This provided some balance to an incident earlier in the day when we were going back into the subway at Union Square. The entrance had no regular fare gates, just the vertical kind with the metal prongs. The gates took money off our Metrocards but wouldn't allow us through. Thanks, MTA!)

05 May 2016

Forms of Communication

As I have mentioned previously, my longtime friend Just Bud Fox is on tumblr, but I'm not. I don't fully understand how tumblr users communicate with each other, but they often "quote" each other's posts in order to reply to or comment on them publicly.

In response to another user's comment, "Remember the ‘90s, when getting email was fun?" JBF responded:
Come grow old with me? Some Assembly Required and I have been friends since 1985. Of that time, we lived in the same place for less than two years in the aggregate. We used to write big long letters and have periodic two hour phone calls. Then email took over. More contacts. Less content. Lately, we mostly text. We are aging through technology together. Gracefully, I hope.
I hope so, too. It feels a little weird to have known someone for that long, but also gratifying.

04 May 2016

Car Stuff: Basic Black

I saw the '72 Grand Prix again yesterday, parked in the same spot where I found it in January (which is making me wonder if its owner happens to live nearby). It was wearing its new coat of paint, so now we know what color its owner decided on:
I'll admit I was hoping for something more interesting than black, but I also have to be honest and say that huge 1970s cars tend to look good in black. The lack of its original vinyl roof or any other exterior ornamentation is giving it a sinister look (probably what the owner was going for) and making me think of that terrible '70s movie The Car.

02 May 2016

Back to New York, Part 1

When I mentioned going to New York a couple of weekends ago, I may have indicated that I would be writing something about it. So let's not let it get any further into the past before that happens...

It had been four years since I'd visited, and almost that long since the Mrs. and I had been there together, but that one was only an overnighter. After a visit in July of 2011, we'd concluded that we did not really need or want to spend time there again in the depths of summer. The Mrs. gets a day off for the Massachusetts holiday Patriots Day (commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War), so we decided to plan around that.

We drove down on Friday, making it out of the house around 8:30 am and getting onto the highway not long after, following a coffee stop. The ability to monitor traffic conditions and construction activity via smartphone app makes a big difference in car travel; we were able to avoid the seemingly perpetual construction on 95 southbound in Connecticut by switching over to the Merritt Parkway, which roughly parallels 95 a bit further inland.

Normally we go to whichever hotel we're staying at and check in so we can unload and leave our luggage, then we go and find a spot to leave the car. This can depend on where we are staying, but generally the Village and the East Village have worked out pretty well for us; we've also parked in Brooklyn. Street cleaning takes place either on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays, and often varies from one side of a street to the other, so signs must be checked carefully.

This time we had plans to meet up with a friend who was already on her way into the city from New Jersey, so the Mrs. wanted to find parking first. We wasted some time because I had her get off FDR Drive too soon, but after we got ourselves into the back and forth of the one-way streets in the East Village, we found an open space on Avenue C a few blocks from Houston St. We took our bags and walked down to Houston, where we got a cab to our hotel.

We've been to the original Bubby's in Tribeca a number of times, but they have opened a new location adjacent to the High Line elevated park and the new Whitney Museum, which was our Friday evening destination, so that's where we ate dinner Friday. Bubby's serves up comfort food and many varieties of pie. The Whitney is a multistory white box facing the Hudson River, with some of the upper floors turned at an angle. It has less character than the previous building on Madison Avenue, but I think it's trying to take a back seat to the artwork on display.

On Saturday we ventured to Staten Island via the ferry to see a former coworker of the Mrs. I'd thought she was going to meet up with us in Manhattan, but the Mrs. wanted the experience of riding the ferry and seeing what the island was like. (The answer to that is: New Jersey, because geographically it ought to be part of that state.) It also looks like a lot of the Boston area, which isn't that surprising. So, been there done that, probably don't need to go back.

We returned to Manhattan and headed for Midtown to do some shopping. Going to Uniqlo isn't as much of a big deal as it was back in 2007 when we first visited the Soho store (they've been offering online shopping in the US for several years and now have stores in Boston and the surrounding suburbs), but the gigantic 5th Avenue store is still something to behold and experience. Muji, another Japanese store, has several stores in Manhattan now, and the one across from the public library is also much larger than the original Soho store. It's deceptive from the street, because most of the space is on the lower level.

After satisfying our shopping urges, we hopped a bus and rode down to the East Village for dinner at Veselka, which has become one of our favorite spots. Open since the mid-1950s, Veselka is like a really good diner/neighborhood place that also happens to serve Eastern European favorites like pierogi and potato pancakes, because it was started by Ukranian immigrants. It's open all night and is lively and fun. Despite its proximity to NYU and Cooper Union, it doesn't seem to draw a large student crowd, but perhaps they don't show up until the wee hours.

After that we retreated to our hotel, and I'll resume with my Sunday morning activities...

21 April 2016

The Gift

Here I am, doing this again... it's been a rough year for musical greatness.

By now I'm sure all of you have heard that Prince died earlier today at his home/studio. The details are as yet unknown, or at least are not yet being shared with the public.

I got a text from a friend saying, "You introduced me to his music." I responded that I was only able to do that because someone else introduced me to it. In this instance, I knew who Prince was, and I had probably heard a couple of his early songs, but it wasn't until my sophomore-year RA, a law student, loaned me his copy of 1999 that my personal experience with Prince's music began.

I grew up in a household where music was on a lot. My father was a big fan of all the Motown artists, plus James Brown, Ray Charles, Sly and the Family Stone, Wilson Pickett, and many others. I knew R&B and soul before I knew any other style or genre of music. And what I loved so much about Prince was how he smashed and fused genres, while at the same time drawing a line from the R&B of the '50s through Jimi Hendrix, 1970s funk, and all kinds of rock, showing us it was all part of a larger whole.

I consider myself really fortunate that I got to see Prince live twice (both times at what used to be called the Worcester Centrum), first on the Purple Rain tour in March of 1985 (the tickets even said "wear something purple" so I wore a skinny purple tie), and then again in October of 1988, the amazing spectacle that was the tour for the album Lovesexy. I wish I could remember more than I do from those shows, but it's enough to know I was there.

He was only 57. That's sad, and also ridiculous. I mean, if anyone was going to be wheeled onto a stage somewhere in his eighties still able to turn a guitar into a flamethrower, it was going to be Prince. That's the thing; we live with the music of a great artist for decades, it becomes a part of us, and it feels like its creator is immortal. Then something happens, and the artist is gone.

But the music does convey immortality, in a way. It lives on, reminding us of all the moments where it played a part in our lives. Being a musician is complex and challenging, but it also gives a gift to the world. Music changes people, transports them, heals them. And I think we're all so lucky to benefit from those gifts, to share our world with these artists. I think it makes being alive so much better.

So let's remember Prince by celebrating what he gave us. He was a goddamn genius.

Update: a fitting tribute from Boston.

19 April 2016

Unexcused Absence

Hello there.

I know it's been awfully quiet around here lately. Life has just been hectic, as it is for many people. For a long time I had the luxury of a job that wasn't all that demanding, which allowed me time during the day to compose ramblings here. Then I was unemployed for a significant chunk of time. Now my work days are busy from start to finish, and I do some extra work at night and on weekends. It's hard enough to motivate myself to do that, so swinging by here often gets pushed aside.

We also just got back from a long weekend away, something we have not been able to do for a while. I may be able to whip up something about that in the next day or so. It was really nice to take a break from everyday life and go do stuff, see friends and family, and have some great meals.

I just want to tell you that I'm not giving up or going away, but maybe temper your expectations about the frequency of postings here. Life goes on...

10 April 2016

Word Salad: That's Not What You Meant

A listing for cell phones contained this nugget: "Photos shows condition of the photos." We assumed they meant to say "phones," and we also corrected the agreement problem.

02 April 2016

Word Salad: Not to Scale

My job continues to provide moments of amusement from the material that I'm checking. We had a listing with the title Assorted Rugs, 7" x 10". No one noticed it before it got to me. The first thing I thought was that they might be for dollhouses, but the dimensions and weight of the shipping pallet did away with that idea pretty quickly. I suppose a Spinal Tap reference would be appropriate, though.

18 March 2016

Retro Video Unit (3/18/16)

You've probably figured out by now that when it comes to music and the artists I choose to feature here, I have a fondness for the obscure. In an era when most of the past century's output of recorded music is available at our fingertips, I relish the idea that there are still bands that most people have never heard of. And I consider it (sort of) my mission to bring them to your attention.

That leads us to The Motors and "Love and Loneliness." Originally part of a scene called "pub rock" (which was something of a cross between bar band and power pop, and also birthed the likes of Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and Elvis Costello), their ambitions were much bigger and so was their music. They only released three albums between 1977 and 1980, so they missed the MTV era. I have no idea where this clip comes from, but I'm glad there is at least this opportunity to see the band performing the song.

Go big or go home, right? Unfortunately this clip cuts off both the beginning and end of the song (though the end is just a fade), so in order to get the full experience of it (and the tasty drum fill that opens the song), you can check out this audio-only clip.

Oh, and can someone please get Arcade Fire to cover this? Thanks.

15 March 2016

A New Late-Night Voice

I try to avoid getting into any political stuff in this space, mainly because there are many, many other people who understand politics better than I do and are better qualified to write about the important issues our country is struggling with. But I also haven't hidden my opinions or views, and if you've been coming around for a while you have probably noticed that I align with the more progressive side of things.

That is a preamble to: there's something I think you should watch. Former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee now has her own show on TBS, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. There must be something in the water at the building where The Daily Show is produced, because its alumni are doing some really impressive work. John Oliver's weekly half-hour HBO show Last Week Tonight typically devotes 15 to 20 minutes to a single story, doing long-form think pieces that are also very funny.

Ms. Bee is working in a vein closer to that of The Daily Show, but man, is she killing it. The show's voice grows more confident each week. Last week she examined the state of the Republican party, and... well, like I said, I just think you should watch this:

My only wish is that she might find a wider audience. No offense, TBS, but Samantha Bee is too good for you. But in the meantime, Full Frontal airs Mondays at 10:30 pm (Eastern time).

11 March 2016

Overheard: One Thing Not Necessarily Related to the Other Edition

I stepped outside a few minutes ago to put out some trash and recycling. While I was in the driveway near the back of the house, I heard a voice and saw someone passing by the front of the house, talking loudly on his phone: "I went to Harvard, I don't need to be yelled at!"

08 March 2016

Car Stuff: Off Limits

I still have a few car photos on my phone that I haven't gotten around to posting. This one is from last summer, which is kind of discernible from the bright sunshine and greenery.
That's a 1960 Ford Thunderbird convertible sitting way back in that driveway. (The photo would be sharper if I hadn't had to crop out so much.) I spotted it in Somerville, not far from Union Square. It caught my eye because of the color, which I would be inclined to call turquoise but Ford chose to call "aquamarine." I couldn't quite tell what it was from where I was standing, so I got out my phone, took a shot, and zoomed in.

It appears to be in very decent, driveable condition. It's clean, there are no flat tires, and it looks like it hasn't even been in that spot for long. Maybe it will make an appearance at a car show somewhere. The second-generation Thunderbird is one of the better designs from the otherwise overwrought late 1950s period.

I was about to head back into the yard to take more pictures when I noticed a "No Trespassing" sign on the fence, and thought better of it. I prefer finding cars parked on the street or in motion, but cars parked in driveways or yards are fair game as long as I remain standing on the sidewalk, which is generally not considered a part of one's private property. If there hadn't been a sign, I probably would have ventured closer, but the place looked run-down in general and I didn't need any trouble.

02 March 2016

Word Salad: Rough Guess

From the description of a bra assortment: "Note: The size tag on the bra may be wrong. You might have to figure it for yourself." (The second sentence was deleted before the listing went live.)

29 February 2016

Laundry Solutions Unit: Smoke Gets in Your Clothes

Having purchased plenty of used clothing items over the years, from both thrift shops and eBay, I have occasionally had to deal with the problem of lingering smells. Not gross, sweaty smells, but most commonly tobacco. Sometimes all that's needed is to hang the garment outdoors (I installed a hook on my back porch for this purpose), but sometimes that isn't enough.

With many eBay sellers, they are not selling their own clothing but rather items that they have acquired to resell, so they may not know an item's history. Even if a seller states that they have a nonsmoking home, an item could arrive smelling of smoke. This happened to me a couple of months ago. I bought a flannel shirt, nothing special, for only a few dollars. In this instance I did not pay close attention to the listing regarding info about the household, so it was up to me to try to get rid of the smell.

My first step is always a normal run through the washing machine, but I avoid the dryer because it can "seal in" stains or smells, which is what I think happened to this shirt before I ever got it. Next I soaked the shirt in the washer with some Oxi-Clean, which also yielded no results. I had recently learned that Oxi-Clean now sells a more specialized odor-fighting product, Odor Blasters (I am unclear as to why it's pluralized), so I decided it was time to try it.

The product recommends using hot water, but depending on the garment that might not be a good idea. In this case I went with warm water, and since I soaked the shirt for six hours it didn't stay warm long anyway. The product itself has a fairly strong smell (I generally use unscented detergent and unscented regular Oxi-Clean), so after hanging it in my basement I needed to wait a few days for that smell to dissipate.

Once the Oxi smell had faded I could still detect a smoke smell, but it was much fainter than it had been. I decided to do one more round, and I left the shirt in the machine for longer this time, roughly a whole day. (You can opt for an overnight soak if that's more convenient.) When doing a soak with any Oxi-Clean product, I find that it tends to remain in the fabric, so I run a second rinse cycle to remove it more thoroughly. This time, when the shirt had dried and hung for several days, I couldn't detect any sort of smell except a very, very faint trace of the Oxi. A regular wash will probably get rid of that.

Occasionally I receive an item that has been washed in a very strong-smelling detergent. People do this to reinforce that a garment is clean, which is well-intentioned but unnecessary. I find most detergents have an annoying smell, which is why I prefer ones that are free of perfumes and dyes. I recently got another shirt from eBay that arrived smelling "aggressively clean." A run through the regular wash cycle did not remove the detergent smell, so I again turned to Odor Blasters. This time I soaked the shirt for only an hour, then ran the regular wash and a second rinse cycle. After drying it smelled clean, and nothing more.

Obviously the results will vary depending on the fabric and the nature of the smell, but Odor Blasters has earned its place among my laundry products.

23 February 2016

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #42

Since I am working at home I don't have to deal with a commute, which means I can get up a bit later. But I don't sleep in too long; I try to allow enough pre-work time to tidy up the kitchen, eat breakfast, and take care of any small tasks before I start my workday. I realized that with proper time management, I can probably squeeze in some early-morning blog posts.

I have definitely neglected the car category. Back in September when I was commuting to Harvard Square daily, I was looking out the window of the bus one morning as we passed the garage where I had spotted a couple of cars about a year earlier. I wasn't able to get my phone out in enough time to get any pictures, and then on at least one subsequent day I forgot to sit on the correct side of the bus, and then one day it was raining, and so on. It took a while for all the conditions to line up properly to get these shots.
The modern Dodge Challenger isn't that uncommon a sight, but examples of the original 1970-74 variety are not seen much outside of car shows. Initially I noticed the car because it was red, and tucked up against the building like this, it wasn't so easy to get good photos of it. I happened to pass this spot on weekends during this time, but the car was never around when the garage was closed, so I had to make do with these shots.
The Challenger was Dodge's version of the Plymouth Barracuda, which was Chrysler Corporation's attempt to offer a competitor to the Mustang and Camaro (and a car I have talked about before). But the Barracuda was never a strong seller, and by the time the Challenger arrived as a 1970 model, the muscle-car era was already in decline, and personal-luxury cars were the hot new category. Both Barracuda and Challenger were dropped after 1974. This appears to be a '70, and while I thought it might have been a higher-performance R/T model, it lacks the correct hood.

18 February 2016

Word Salad: So Close...

My current job involves proofreading for an e-commerce website. The product listings are prepared by the sellers, which occasionally results in some awkwardly formed constructions. Some of them are (unintentionally) amusing so I've decided to share periodically, starting with this one:

"Please note that the flat rate shipping cost is only for the 48 continuous states."

13 February 2016

Retro Video Unit (2/12/16)

It's well past time to restart this feature; I keep thinking about it, and then I either forget again, or my time gets consumed by other things, as it tends to these days. This song has been in my head for a couple of weeks, but it was only two or three days ago that I remembered that there was a video for it.

Back in 1980 I was not an ardent fan of The Who, but I certainly knew their music and liked it. I was absorbing a lot of music at the time, both older (1960s and '70s bands I was familiarizing myself with) and current (early new wave). When Pete Townshend released the solo album Empty Glass, it got a fair amount of airplay on WBCN (which was my main outlet for new music at the time), plus I had a high school friend who was an ardent Who fan, so naturally he jumped on Empty Glass.

In that pre-MTV era, some performers were making early music videos, sometimes at the urging of their record companies. Townshend's video for "Rough Boys" showed up on late-night TV. I was also quite enamored of the Fender Telecaster (the less-flashy sibling of the Stratocaster) at the time, so seeing him play one in the video got my attention.

04 February 2016

Long Hours and '80s TV Homages

Still very busy over here, working the regular job plus trying to find at least a few hours each week for the additional work (which pays much better hourly, but is a project that will only last a couple more months at most). My main job is quite mentally exhausting, so it's been difficult to give up my free time to do the other stuff, but having the first couple of checks come in from that has been nice.

I've been trying to come up with post ideas, but at 11:30 pm my brain is generally not offering much in the way of creativity these days. However, a trailer for the upcoming seventh season of Archer surfaced this week, and it's so brilliant that I decided I needed to share it.

And if you need any further convincing (unlikely if you spent any time watching Magnum, P.I.) as to just how precise this is, the internet has graciously cooperated with a side-by-side comparison:

30 January 2016

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (1/29/16)

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything for either this feature or my biweekly one focusing on individual music videos. I'm trying to correct that in '16 and this happens to be where I've chosen to start...

As I was working yesterday I had my LCD Soundsystem albums playing in iTunes. I have the band's three studio albums, plus a "workout track" consisting of one long recording and a few other songs. Not being as up on new(er) music as I used to be, I came to the band relatively late, maybe only a couple of years before they broke up and performed their final concerts in 2011.

I've liked electronic dance music since the first such songs started trickling out of the UK back in the new wave period (though I think the argument can be made for Giorgio Moroder's Donna Summer recordings as well), and my friends know how much I like the band Underworld, but I'm pretty fussy about my electronica. So when I say that I really, really like LCD Soundsystem, it's not just lip service. James Murphy's ironic detachment is perfect for the era we're living in, and I am always intrigued by the idea of playing dance music with both synthesizers and real instruments.

The band released a movie of their final concert called Shut Up and Play the Hits. It's on Netflix, and I've seen it. I did not expect to find that on YouTube because it would be a copyright violation, but there appears to be a recording of the entire concert—more than three hours long—made by a fan. Unfortunately there's an unacceptable amount of camera movement; if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, then it's easy enough to find. I did find a concert from Brussels in 2010 and decided to post that:

Now comes word that the band is reuniting, and will be performing at festivals this year and also releasing a new album. This is exciting news, and maybe I'll even get to see them live.

25 January 2016

On the Rise

Since I was talking about music earlier today, I felt like sharing this. Her name is Jess Glynne and she is poised for big things; watch this and you'll see why:

I saw this young woman's performance last week on The Daily Show, where this clip is from. These days I don't get really moved by too much new music, but she had me hooked within the first ten seconds. If there is any justice in this world, she will be huge by summer. If you like Adele, or Florence and the Machine, you will like this.

(Edit: sorry about the autoplaying video; I have replaced it with the one form YouTube)

Checking Back In

Wow, where did that week go? They have been feeling like I'm in a tunnel lately. I emerge from the tunnel for weekends, but as I said to the Mrs. last night, it almost didn't even feel like I'd had two days off. And just like that, it's Monday morning again.

I didn't write anything about the passing of Glenn Frey last week. With apologies to him, I never felt about The Eagles the way I did about David Bowie. The Eagles were a constant presence on Top 40 FM radio during my formative years in the 1970s, so of course I knew their songs. But I never owned any of their albums, not even Hotel California. Their music was always there on the radio, like background music, and I didn't feel strongly enough about it to want to be able to play it whenever I chose. By the end of the decade I had embraced new wave, and figuratively turned my back on much of what was coming out of the Top 40 stations.

That said, 67 is quite a young age at which to go. It's also a reminder that none of us knows how much time we have. It sounds corny, but every day is a gift.

18 January 2016

Migration Issues

Where were we? Oh right, new iMac. Big screen, lots of RAM, faster wi-fi, fast hard drive. It checked all the boxes for me. Remember, too, that I am working at home (two jobs, in fact, these days), so I also saw my new hardware purchase as an investment in improved productivity.

One of the little things that makes someone like me a loyal Apple partisan (for nearly 25 years at this point) is a utility called Migration Assistant that allows you, with relative ease, to transfer everything from an old Mac to a new one. Files, photos, music, web bookmarks and passwords—all of it transposed, as if you had cloned your old computer's brain onto a new hardware host. It's a simple and relatively painless way to switch everything over when you get a new Mac.

In the old days (ten years ago), the two Macs had to be connected by a cable, and then there's a bit of trickery called Target Disk Mode (really, just holding down a particular key combination while starting up) that allows the older Mac's hard drive to appear on the desktop of the new Mac; from there it's really easy to run the Migration Assistant. Here in 2016, this can also be accomplished using wi-fi and does not require Target Disk Mode, or for the computers to be connected by a cable.
(new iMac on the right)
Or so I thought. In trying to be modern and using wi-fi, I think I opened myself up to some trouble. The migration also took a lot longer over wi-fi than I expected, something like seven hours. When it was finally finished (I had gone away to do other things), not only could I not find some of my stuff (my photos seemed to be fine), but I could not open a number of programs: Spotify, the Firefox browser, the Chrome browser. And I was getting weird error messages about them: "profile is missing," "error type 6," that sort of thing. Huh? And my Bluetooth trackpad would not connect to the new Mac, either.

Without the use of Firefox and all my bookmarks and passwords, I could not use the new iMac for my jobs, which are done almost entirely via web browser; I ended up having it sit off to the side on my desk while I spent the next several days continuing to use my old one for work. I knew a call to AppleCare was in my future, and since I imagined it could take a while, I had to wait until the next weekend to ensure I had enough time.

That didn't go so well. Apple was not interested in helping me with the Firefox problem because Firefox is not Apple software. Apple, naturally, wants its users to use Safari, but there are a number of things about the way Safari does stuff that irritate me to varying degrees, so I tend to stay away from it. They couldn't help me with Spotify either. Their suggestion in both cases was to delete and reinstall the software; that did not work in either instance.

While I was on the phone with Apple, I figured out the Bluetooth problem on my own. It's embarrassingly stupid, but we're all friends here, so I don't mind sharing. If a Bluetooth device is paired with a particular computer, and you want to use it with a different computer, you must first un-pair them so it is "discoverable" by the other computer. But then, you must also TURN OFF BLUETOOTH on the old computer so it can't interfere while you are trying to get the device to pair with the new computer. Head-smackingly simple, yet not obvious to me for more than a week.

After that small victory, I started to think about the whole migration process. And the more I thought about it, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the migration had missed a bunch of stuff; I wondered why it wasn't obvious to the AppleCare techs. I decided to delete the incomplete user profile that had been created during the migration and redo the whole thing, this time using the older method. One small hurdle: Apple had abandoned Firewire for another high-speed date transfer technology called Thunderbolt. But I'd had to obtain a Firewire-to-Thunderbolt adapter from the Apple store anyway, in order to continue using my external hard drive for backups, so I was ready to roll.

The second migration, with the two iMacs connected via cable and employing Target Disk Mode, took under three hours (less than half the time of the first one) and was completely successful, right down to my desktop picture (Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks). It's very satisfying to be able to resolve these things oneself, which is another reason I have been a Mac user for so long. And while I don't think there will be any other Mac migrations in my near future (I'm hoping to be able to get close to a decade's use from this new one), if one does happen to come about, I know I won't be using wi-fi.

16 January 2016

Car Stuff: Base Coat

Last Friday morning I was seized with the urge for an egg, cheese, and bacon breakfast sandwich. When I last worked full-time outside my home (not this past summer, but back a few years ago) I got one every Friday morning. I alternated between bacon and sausage, because I think to get the exact same thing each and every week is just a little too boring of a routine.

Fortunately there's a little diner joint within walking distance. I tend to forget about it, but a month or so ago I was on my way back home from an early-morning medical appointment and stopped for some sustenance. It was then that I discovered they also have bagels, and pretty good ones at that. I don't know if they make them; I neglected to ask, but they have the "everything" variety that I prefer, and they have bacon and scallion cream cheese, so that day I ended up getting both the breakfast sandwich and a bagel for "second breakfast," and last Friday I did the same thing.
On my way back home I saw a car I'd featured a while back, this 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was parked on a side street behind a bank, but without its distinctive yellow paint. The primer is presumably in preparation for a repaint. I knew it was the same vehicle due to those strange, unfortunate wheels. (Surely there must be a set of Rally II's on eBay?) It has also lost its vinyl roof, but perhaps that's also going to be replaced.

I am looking forward to seeing this car around again after its repaint has been completed. I don't even care if it gets redone in the same color, I'm just glad to see someone putting effort into caring for it.

13 January 2016

New Hardware

Over the past several months, we've been making some hardware upgrades here at SAR Studios (a wholly owned subsidiary of Chaos Productions Ltd.*), in order to serve you ourselves better. I've been fortunate that I have not had to deal with any significant computer issues, as some of my friends have. But as time passes, even solid equipment can become obsolete.

For most of last year I was hounded by my cable company (whose name rhymes with Bombast) about my cable modem, which was at least a decade old. I was warned repeatedly that my modem had reached "end of life" status. What that meant, exactly, was not clear; it still worked, but there was an ominous suggestion that there would come a time when the company might no longer support it. I had chosen to purchase the modem in order to avoid an indefinite monthly fee, so it was up to me to acquire a replacement.

I'd happened to read an article on The Wirecutter (a useful and highly recommended site) on this very topic, and based on their advice I decided to purchase what was basically a several-generations-newer version of what I had. The going price at the time was around $90, but in September I was able to purchase a refurbished model for $50, which was more in line with what I wanted to spend.

The next step was my wireless router, which I'd had at least as long as the cable modem, or maybe even longer. All the devices we're using on our wireless network are capable of faster speeds than the router could provide, so a couple of months later I found another deal on an Apple AirPort base station (what Apple insists on calling its routers). Replacing a router in an existing home network is a bit further beyond the level of tech stuff than what I'm used to, so I invoked the assistance of my old college friend Dr. Hackenbush, who resides far from here in a land of pickup trucks and guns. Through the miracle of FaceTime he was able to guide me through the process (thanks again, Dr. H!), and I had the network cruising along again in a couple of hours.

That left my computer, an iMac with a 24" screen. It dated to 2008, and it had been my work computer until I left my job in 2012 (don't worry, we were allowed to take them with us as a "parting gift" of sorts). One of the first improvements one can make to an older computer is to add RAM. The iMac had 4 gigabytes of RAM out of a possible 6; why it wasn't built to allow expansion up to 8 is a question only Apple can answer, but it did not seem worth it to add only 2 more gigs.

New iMacs and Mac minis no longer have the option to add RAM after you've purchased the computer; you have to buy what you think you'll need, or risk having programs run more and more slowly years down the road. Of course, Apple charges a premium for this: to double the RAM in a new Mac from 8 gb to 16 adds $200. I found a new, unsold 2013 iMac, the last model with user-upgradeable RAM, that also had the latest, fastest wi-fi standard that my new router supports, along with a faster-spinning hard drive and the larger 27" screen size I wanted. That ended up being my Christmas present to myself. Doubling the RAM and installing it myself was $45 instead of $200.

Next time, I'll tell you about what happens when you move from an older Mac to a newer one, or rather, what's supposed to happen.

(*Those of you who have known me the longest will likely recall the genesis of the Chaos brand; no slight is meant to any other readers, and perhaps I'll go into some details and dig into the "archives" at some point.)

11 January 2016

Early Influence

I woke up to the news that David Bowie had left us over the weekend. Part of the surprise comes from not knowing he was ill (he was always intensely private, for which I respected him) and part because his latest album had just been released on Friday, which was also his birthday. I tended to think of him as a perennial, a rock star who managed to age with grace and dignity and who used that longevity to inform his songwriting. I admit I have not always followed Bowie's career closely, but I have always been aware and appreciative of his work.

There have been other musician deaths that hit me particularly hard (Joe Strummer comes immediately to mind), but Bowie's significance in my life was due to another reason. My interest in music developed early, thanks to my father's albums: Motown, soul, R&B. There was music playing in our house a lot, and the sense of it is one of my earliest memories (though I realize it's not a memory of a specific person, thing, or event).

My first music purchases were 45s. The first album I bought with my own money was a Partridge Family LP. There were a couple more of those, and a John Denver album. But the first rock album I ever bought, at age 11, was Bowie's ChangesOne, a hits collection that came out in 1975. For me there has always been tremendous significance in that choice. It was informed, as was almost every other music purchase I made at the time, by what I heard on the radio. (The 1970s was truly a golden era for Top-40 FM radio, with a variety reflecting the sales charts.)

David Bowie's music showed me, for the first time, that there could be deeper meaning in a song beyond the melody and lyrics. I'm sure I didn't understand everything that was being conveyed in those songs at the time, but that album was the experience that taught me how music could make you feel. And that's really the whole point of it, right?

Some time back I read an article about him, and his wife Iman was quoted as saying that he liked walking around in New York, where they lived, because he typically went unrecognized. After that I used to fantasize that I might encounter him on one of our visits to the city. I wouldn't make a big deal about it, I'd just smile and nod in his direction as we passed on a sidewalk. It would have been tempting to talk to him and tell him what his music meant to me, but I think verbalizing it would have diminished its significance. Thank you, David, for all the doors your music opened to me.

04 January 2016

The Year's First Conundrum

What the hell are "squad goals"? Perhaps it's time for me to disengage from pop culture a bit more...