I’m currently listening to an album called We Can Create (iTunes link) by Maps on heavy rotation. It’s laid back electronica with some hooky choruses. Right up my alley.

Date posted: August 28, 2009 | Filed under album of the week, shortlinks | Comments Off on Maps: We Can Create

From the NYT, After Hurricane Katrina, Doctors at New Orleans Memorial Hospital Faced Deadly Choices. What happened after the flood waters rose? These are choices I would not want to be forced to make.

Date posted: August 28, 2009 | Filed under other, shortlinks | Comments Off on Katrina, Hospitals, and Euthanasia

I drove the Scout into work today to take advantage of the cool weather and sunny skies. A group of local friends and I have bought, transported, and stripped down a roller Scout in preparation for divvying up some good parts and selling the rest to make back our money. I’ll walk away with another good windshield, two inner fenders, and assorted smaller items.

Parts Haul 2

Our home file server seems to have blown up yesterday. There are two drives installed, one of which houses our entire music collection, and it started clicking ominously yesterday morning. I ran some utilities on it and brought it back last night, but we’ll probably have to buy a replacement drive and offload files. Drat!

This is a fantastic, concise explanation of the current healthcare debate. On paper napkins. Here’s the Slideshare version:

Date posted: August 27, 2009 | Filed under general | Comments Off on Unordered List.

contrast

About the only good thing from my morning commute was this tableaux I spied while trying to merge back off I-95 within sight of the city: an puke-brown late 70’s AMC Matador (“Barcelona” edition) sharing space on a rollback with a shiny black Ferrari 360. If ever there were two opposites in sharper contrast, I’ve never seen them.

Date posted: August 25, 2009 | Filed under humor | Comments Off on Beauty and the Beast.

Anyone following along for the last couple of years knows I’ve been thinking about buying a new car for, well, the last couple of years. When last I wrote about the subject, we were considering four-door hatches along the lines of the Fit or the Matrix, in search of better gas mileage and a reasonable price tag. Since then, we’ve actually had the baby and now know how difficult it is to jockey her in and out of the car—especially since we’ve upgraded to a larger car seat.

uhmerica

So the Fit (our previous winner) was out, and we started considering the next larger size of four-door babyhaulin’ vehicles. The CR-V was an obvious candidate, so we looked at the other models in its class—the RAV-4, the Forester and the Rogue. We’re ruling out anything GM makes at the outset; my last experience with Ford was middling, and I haven’t trusted a Hyundai since 1988, when I cracked the door hinge on a one-year-old Excel by rolling down the window. (It wasn’t mine, thankfully). We ruled the Forester out after several different experiences in several different models, all of which made Jen carsick. I don’t trust Nissan anymore, even though one of the best cars I owned was a Sentra wagon; that was twenty years and one almost-bankruptcy ago, and their styling over the last ten years has left me uninspired.

So that left the Toyota and the Honda. We hit the local Carmax and walked through the SUV section until we found a row of CR-V’s in the previous body style, and, lo and behold, there sat a gunmetal gray stick!

Out on the road, the car handled exceptionally well, and I found that everything was engineered exactly the way I would want it to be. The cupholder/tray between the seats folds down out of the way perfectly, the cargo hold is wide, devoid of space-robbing, poorly fitted plastics (I’m looking at you, Chrysler) and there’s a hidden well under the deck where the mini-spare normally would go. I also liked 60/40 fold-and-tumble rear seats. It’s the rare kind of car where form follows function but still manages to be stylish and clean. I was in love.

The RAV4 we drove was also at least one body style behind, and an automatic (I don’t know if they come with manual transmissions, but I doubt it). The car itself was a 2004, and it had low miles, but it didn’t have the same put-together feel that the Honda did. It drove well, it had lots of pep, and it was shiny, but it reminded me more of a down-market Chevy than a serious contender. The plastics were simple, the doors felt thin and cheap (much like other Toyotas I’ve been in) and it lacked the polish and feel of the Honda. Sorry Toyota, if I wanted a Chevy, I’d buy one and save that other $7,000 for a new roof on my house. (Side note: In the showroom there sat a 2005 Ford Taurus with 50K on the odometer for $7,000. I found that kind of depressing).

Honda CR-V EX (2006 Toyota RAV4 (2004) Honda Fit Sport Honda Civic
Price ~$15,000 ~$17,000 $15,765 $18,260
Engine (4cyl) 2.4L n/a 1.5L 109hp 1.8L 113hp
Transmission 5-spd man. Auto 5-spd man. 5-spd man.
MPG (avg) 23 n/a 34 31
City/Highway 21/26 n/a 33/38 22/40
IIHS offset n/a n/a Good Good
Drivetrain AWD AWD FWD FWD

Just for kicks, we checked out a Pilot to see what the next size up would be like, and were not impressed. Actually, we were turned off the minute we opened the rear hatch to see the back row of seats (they claim it fits 7) and got turned off at how useless they were and how much room they took up. That’s room I need for bikes and cat food and coolers and suitcases and presents and huge boxes and puppies and toys and playmates and second carseats, not thin metal space hogging, puke-inducing jumpseats.

Even though the CR-V had much higher mileage than the Toyota, I think it would be the best choice for our family, and I have no doubt we’d get 200,000 miles out of the engine with careful maintenance.

So for now, it remains a question of when. We’re being very conservative with our available cash, but I’m hoping to drive off the lot sometime before the snow flies (and, optimally, sooner than that, as Finn isn’t getting any smaller).

Date posted: August 21, 2009 | Filed under family, travel | 4 Comments »

Say what you like about Barney Frank; while he may share more than a little blame for our current economic crisis, he’s also hilarious. I only wish our president could speak this freely.

The idea that someone would seriously equate comprehensive health care reform with Nazi Germany is incomprehensible. I don’t understand how political debate in my country has gotten so spectacularly insipid; it’s pretty clear to me that none of these people have actually studied history or actually understand what they’re talking about.

I guess I should just admit that I don’t have much hope for the healthcare reform bill. I think there are too many organizations with too much money invested in the existing system, who will continue to pay ignorant, frightened people to make outrageous claims and spread blatantly false rumors in order to kill the legislation and keep their profit margins high. Frankly, I don’t think our country deserves the type of inexpensive, guaranteed, quality healthcare the rest of the developed world seems to enjoy.

Date posted: August 19, 2009 | Filed under humor | Comments Off on Tell It Like It Is.

This should be required reading for, well, pretty much everybody who complains about our current fiscal mess. The GOP’s Misplaced Rage. A snippet:
“Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect. They can start building some by admitting to themselves that Bush caused many of the problems they are protesting.”

Date posted: August 18, 2009 | Filed under politics, shortlinks | Comments Off on The GOP’s Misplaced Rage


Our house will soon become a gated community.

Date posted: August 17, 2009 | Filed under finn | Comments Off on Shake That Booty.

There’s forward progress on several fronts at Lockardugan Industries, much of which I’ll be keeping under wraps until the contracts are signed and the checks are cashed. As I’ve gotten older, I find I’m more superstitious about good news until long after it’s proven itself out, for fear of someone or something suddenly snatching it away from me with no advance warning. I think overall I’ve had a very lucky experience on this earth, but I’m still careful not to tempt fate, spit in the eye of karma, or bring bad juju on myself by jinxing good fortune before it arrives. At the risk of fucking things up, I’ll share the following with you:

A drink with grand

The hot, sticky weather has lifted itself from the Baltimore region, leaving a balmy 81° sunshine in its place, which demanded a ride in the beast this morning. Plans are afoot to go on a recovery mission with several Scout friends to salvage a derelict and a huge cache of parts this Sunday; there will be trailering, jacking, lifting, and towing involved, and it should be loads of fun. I will, hopefully, walk away with a clean rear bench seat, a clean windshield frame, salvageable inner fenders, and a few other assorted goodies, which makes me happy.

ice cream

In other vehicle news, we did some further research into the Cash for Clunkers program, comparing it with buying a comparable used vehicle off the lot at Carmax, and found that buying used was indeed cheaper, even factoring in a $4500 check from the gub’mint. Because I have an account with USAA (thanks, baby), we can get a great loan rate, and in addition to a chunk of money at signing, I think we can finagle a monthly payment of around $200 for a slightly used four-door 4WD baby-hauling vehicle. My new target is the CRX/RAV4-sized class, where we can fit more than a breadbasket in the cargo hold and have two (that’s right, two) children in the rear seats. Gas mileage won’t be on par with the Fit, but maybe we can get one of those as a replacement for the Saturn. Saturday afternoon, we’re planning to do some test driving to see how we like the available choices.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: August 13, 2009 | Filed under general, Scout | Comments Off on Reprieve.

A pretty car, to be sure. But I don’t know if I’d be so proud of those Lucas electronics.

Date posted: August 12, 2009 | Filed under cars, photo | Comments Off on Prince of Darkness