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Showing posts from December, 2010

SNOW + MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS = STAY OUT OF MY WAY

I began driving manual transmission cars in my early twenties. Ever since, manual transmissions have been my choice. From my old Triumph Herald to my VW Bug (the original, not the recently marketed faux-Bug) to (I'm ashamed to say) an AMC Hornet Sportabout to a rickety old Toyota wagon to a series of Ford Taurus 5 speed wagons, we've always had a stick shift in the drive...until recently.

About five or six years ago, we took title first to a Caravan then a Taurus, both automatics. Understand, all of these vehicles - with the exception of the VW - were bought used. Find a good body, replace the drive trains as necessary. That's my motto. But folks...American folks...don't buy sticks any more. Ford quit putting out the manual wagon. No used sticks to be had. So we bought what we bought and drove lazy.

Then, this spring we closed down our small business and didn't need the Caravan for deliveries and therefore didn't have to support its 16 MPG motor. Ain't cars.c…

MICHAEL VICK, PROGRESSIVES, REHABILITATION, AND REDEMPTION

As the Philadelphia Eagles near qualification for the playoffs, and as the possibility of Michael Vick being named the league's MVP heightens, the blogosphere is abuzz.

I cruise Huffington Post a couple of times a day and the pheromones are flying. The consensus - unscientifically arrived at, I admit - seems to be that THE GUY KILLED DOGS, FER CHRISSAKES. There are those who nitpick at bits of the content of blogs that support Vick's apparent journey to redemption without seeming to be too judgmental. There are even those who seem supportive of Vick. But for most folks commenting about Vick on the quintessential internet meeting place for progressive thinkers, the prevailing emotion seems to be THE GUY KILLED DOGS, FER CHRISSAKES.

I have to believe that most of those folks are Progressives. Well, not Progressives, really. I call them PINOs - Progressives In Name Only. You either believe in redemption through rehabilitation or you don't. Yes, I know. Animal mutilation is a th…

THE BALTIMORE CONSORT CHRISTMAS PROGRAM 12/20/10

I'm a child of rock and roll. The Southern Woman That I Married? Not so much. She's fond of saying, "I start with Bach and work my way back." Given her druthers, it would be all Renaissance, all the time. And I've come to appreciate the delicate civility of the music.

So we're lucky to live in the Lehigh Valley, home of Larry Lipkis, one of the founding members of The Baltimore Consort. I've listened to a lot of Early Music cds, I've got a reasonably discerning ear, and I tell you that none do it better than The Consort.

We look forward to their Christmas concert every year. This year, we began to worry. We didn't see it advertised. And when we went to The Consort's website, it came up as unavailable. So I emailed Larry. "Don't worry," he said. "Trinity Church...Monday the 20th...I look forward to seeing you there."

Well, I was there. And it was wonderful. Period tunes, period instruments, a lovely soprano, played with ski…

MY NEW OLD SCOOT - HONDA ELITE CH250

Amidst all of the political and social silliness, there's nothing like putting on a helmet and gloves, getting up on two wheels, and twisting the throttle. For the past three years, that means the 150cc Chinese scooter that I call Blueberry. But Blueberry is in hospital. Her clutch blew and took an oil seal with it.

I went up on craigslist and took a look around. What to my wondering eyes should appear? A 1985 Honda Elite CH250 scooter.

I know. A 25 year old motor vehicle? Well, that's the thing about Honda's, ya see. they're bulletproof. But $625? That's way too cheap for a good running Honda scoot no matter how old. So I called.

"What's the matter with it?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing."

"So why are you selling it?'

"My dad says that I have to get it out of the garage."

Good answer. So I bought it.

It's got some problems. The panels are a bit scruffy...so I call her Scruffy. It rides OK. I've hit 70 …

WikiLeaks, Assange, Transparency, and Accountability

What was the source of dramatic tension in All the President's Men? The reporters had the basic story early on. The tension came from editor Ben Bradlee's requirement that reporters Woodward and Bernstein independently confirm the elements of the story.

What's that you say? No need to confirm the WikiLeaks documents. Well, you're right about that. They were what they were, although there have already been phony dumps if what we hear out of Pakistan is correct. But what about that tricky editing thing? If you believe, as all but the most naive and radicalized among us do, that there's a legitimate need for governments to keep some things secret, particularly as it applies to foreign affairs, then there simply MUST be a filter.

(Yes, you read me right. If you don't believe that there are legitimate secrets, you are naive, radical, and frankly downright dangerous. So you can stop right here, hack my computer, and put me and my 14 readers out of business.)

And the f…

The TSA, Body Scans, Pat Downs, and the Fourth Amendment

I'm getting old. I expect that the obvious will be recognized. How silly is that?

9/11. The Shoe Bomber. The Christmas Bomber. The Printer Bombs.

What's the common thread?

Airplanes.

What's that you say? We're always responding to the last threat? Well, they've been hijacking planes for 80 years, in January of 1969 eight planes were diverted to Cuba, Wikipedia lists 18 'notable' hijackings in the 1980s, the Underwear Bomb fizzled just about a year ago, and the Printer Bombs were discovered about a month ago. It would seem that the threat is continuing and the threat is still real.

I admit that I simply don't understand the argument against scans and pat downs. First of all, in carny parlance, ya pays yer money and ya take yer chances. When you buy your ticket, you know that you're going to have to go through security. You're worried about your privacy? Don't fly. Live in a shack in the woods. I understand that the Unibomber's bungalow is up…