Sunday, February 28, 2010

I heard there's supposed to be this big hockey game today...

There's all a flurry over the gold medal match between USA & Canada's Men's Hockey today.


With all due respect to my national pride and heritage, and with no slight to the Canadian team overall, I am not interested in this big match.

I am old enough, you see, to have lived and experienced the grudge match in men's hockey of all times : USA vs. USSR.

Not only was national pride on the line, not only was it between two arch enemies (literally!), but the calibre of players was different as well.   In those days, professional hockey players could not play on Olympic teams.   Heck, answer me this: how many Canadian Olympic players play for the Pittsburgh Penguins?  I am quite certain there are pros on the US team as well... but I haven't bothered to investigate specifics because it won't change my overall opinion.

Now, were I to split hairs, I could suggest the Soviet's fed and cared for their elite players as good (or better) than US' pros were cared for here in the states.  Doing so, however, only bolsters my position even more:  our Olympic athletes had no support from the government and got by on a few sponsors and the help of family.

And they beat the snot out of the Soviet team!

Win or lose, all Olympic athletes deserve praise, have no doubt.

But please: let's not go gung-ho should the US beat Canada, nor hang our heads in comparative shame if the Canadians win.   Yes, it's a gold medal, and the winner deserves it and all it brings.

But do not think it even comes to what happened in 1980.

Not a chance!

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health Care Summit

I had wished to expound my thoughts on the whole health care summit, but will only have time enough to list some key points:

<>·         <>The Republicans had better not demand the entire bill be scrapped and restarted.  Not today, not at this summit.  That may well be their end-game (which I support!), but they shouldn’t come out of the gates demanding such.  The media will hang that on their mantle as being the party of no.

<>·         <>The real party of no has not been the Republicans but, in fact, the Democrats.  The Democrats said no every time the Republicans offered their ideas or amendments to the bills.    Remember: it was the Democrats who said ‘We won, you lost’.   No one doubts the winning team gets to call the plays, but to suggest that automatically means no input from the other side is ridiculous.    You cannot reject EVERYTHING the minority party offers but then complain that party won’t agree to anything you offer.   Politics is compromise.

<>·         <>Already, President Obama, Vice President Biden and Sen. Reid have remarked at the amount work the Senate has done this session. Had the Republicans been totally ‘no’, nothing would have passed.  You can’t have it both ways.

<>·         <>If the Democrats, with their former Super Majority, couldn’t pass a health care bill, what’s to say it’s going to be easier now that they’ve lost seats?

I have said it before and will say it again: I will do everything in my power to prevent my family from being dependent on a government health care system.   I will work myself to death, if need be, in the cause.    This is how much I fear their proposals, and why I have been calling my representatives (and others) stressing they kill the bill.

It must not pass!

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Toyota Troubles

I had planned a post on health care legislation but this matter proves equally too big to ignore (for those who need an executive summary on my health care position: the less government interference, the better).

Yesterday we all saw the Congressional testimony of Rhonda Smith, whose Lexus apparently zoomed to over 100 MPH.    Definitely a terrifying experience, no doubt.    But I have a few questions about her testimony and the relevance of the entire proceedings.

In the interest of full disclosure:  My much-better-half drives a 2007 Toyota Highlander with 65,000 miles on it.  I drive a 2001 Toyota RAV-4, currently with 278K miles.   We also owned a 1990 Corolla which went as far as 320K miles before it was taken off the road 6 years ago.      To say I am fan of Toyota is obvious.

I get it; I get that there's a problem with drive-by-wire technology that can affect acceleration.   Fine.  It's not exactly new, and it needs to be addressed.

Another piece of full disclosure:  Back in December I was driving my third vehicle, a 1992 Chevy Blazer.  It's not a huge, honking model (for those keep score, it's an S10), but it's no lightweight either.   It, too, has high mileage, up around 176K.    To get pretty much anywhere around my neighborhood involves a drop of about 140' (giver or take) by way of anyone of a half-dozen roads.  I was climbing up one of those hills one night with my oldest.     This particular hill is about 4/5 of a mile long, from bottom to top.   Given the age and heft of the Blazer, I generally give it a fair amount of throttle to get up the hill.   Knowingly, I let off the gas pedal as I reach the top, and allow it to coast over the top of the hill.    

Having lived in the area for about 18 years, I know this road as well as any, and am aware there is a sharp turn less than a mile over the top of it.  My typical speed is about 40-45 MPH, and it wasn't until I capped the hill that I realized I was going over 50;  something definitely unusual.

I tapped the brakes and checked cruise control ... nothing happened.    I instinctively checked my mirrors and tapped the gas pedal 2x.... if anything, I was going even faster, with my speed heading over 65.

Now I wasn't going 100 MPH, let me be clear, but I do know of the sharp curve with the guard rail ahead.   I downshifted and cut ignition.  

To those who say WHOA!  You lost your power steering!   I say 'So what? It isn't as though I was about to parallel park!'   So long as I was moving, the wheels would steer with ease (and they did!).

To those who say WHOA!  You lost your power brakes!  I say 'No kidding?  but with the engine off, the transmission in low gear, I am not going to roll very far or fast!'  Had I left it in Drive the results would be the same, although being in a higher gear it would have been marginally harder to slow down.

I steered off the road and came to a halt.  My son and I looked at each other: this all happened inside of 5 seconds, and it was exhilarating.     I shifted to park and turned the ignition: the tachometer red lined, so I shut it off.   Under the hood I located the throttle assembly, rotated it into a low position and we were underway in less than 3 minutes, in low gear and going not much above an idle.     A can of GUMOUT spray the next day and all was well.    

So about Ms. Smith's testimony:

A few questions:
  • Are we to understand that nothing happened when Mrs. Smith operated the gear shift on the vehicle?  That's something that has never been reported, that Toyotas have shift-by-wire technology.  I cannot fathom how downshifting would not make a difference.  And I am stunned at the suggestion that shifting in neutral did nothing at all (although even that wasn't the best solution, it would have been better than accelerating out-of-control).   Certainly, a cursory exam of the transmission would reveal a lot.

  • This is a woman, whom based on her age, it can be assumed has driven for more than a few years.  I am not casting aspersions at her age, just making a point: she has likely driven for far more years than she's owned a Bluetooth phone, yet she was able to operate the latter without ever considering to shut off the ignition of the former!  I am not doubting she called her husband, but somehow I have a problem connecting these dots, under the circumstances she described.
  • Why?  Why was she paraded before Congress and the media?  Certainly, her testimony before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is appropriate, or even before US DOT.  But Congress?  Sorry, that's political showboating that takes advantage of a woman's undeniably harrowing experience.
  • If Toyota's aren't the only cars affected by the problems with drive-by-wire, why are they being showcased so badly?  Could it be the board of directors of General Motors (a/k/a US Congress) is looking to knock their chief rival down a few points?

Fact:  were I to purchase a new car, I would do what we've done in the past:  check Consumer Reports, and (odds are) buy a Toyota.  My confidence in the company has in no way been diminished by the recent problems, and I hope these issues are corrected soon.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The older I get the more stupid I feel...

The older I get the more stupid I feel
I don't know what's going on
Tired of trying to be strong
When I should be crying

The further I go the less distance I see
Leave behind another home
The harder I try the less people I please
The older I get the more lucid I feel
Let it go and let it come

Tired of trying to belong
When I could be flying

Sometimes lyrics strike chords in our psyches in ways that are hard to describe.  These words by Joe Jackson (listen to the song here), in particular the first line, capture my thoughts.  And with them I return from my self-imposed 2 month hiatus.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: older?  That means his birthday is now, or it has been in the last 2 months!  Sorry, that's not the case (but now you've got only 9 months left to guess).      A few long-time readers have kindly inquired where I've been and have welcomed me back to the online world - their concern was thoughtful, and appreciated.   Nothing terrible or exciting caused me to keep away, but it did keep me away.   I entertained thoughts of abandoning the blog altogether.   

That day may come, but it's not today.

So with that said, welcome back, readers, to Nobody asked me, but....   I know I want to post again, but I intend to post more thoughtful (and hopefully thought provoking) pieces.  A return to quality over quantity.   And, goodness knows, this template could use some refreshing, too!

Your comments, of course, are welcomed as always.

Tired of trying to belong
When I could be flying

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