Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let's go Dri - i - i - i - iving!

It's been a week since I brought Grippy home to Kenmore, which is where I've done most of my driving this week. We are in the "breaking in" mode which means that I've got about another 900 miles to go.

I did drive down to Green township this morning and then over to Barberton, to shop at the Price is Right Fabric store on Tuscarawas Blvd. The folks in the fabric shop were full of questions about the smart car.

How many gallons per mile?
From smart USA: The smart fortwo is designed to achieve 33 city/41 highway mpg according to 2008 EPA standards, which involves measuring mpg while taking into account real-life driving conditions such as start/stop city traffic, air-conditioning, heating etc. According to information obtained on, the smart fortwo is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid gasoline-powered vehicle in the USA today. The gas tank of the smart fortwo is 8.7 gallons.

*Fuel economy estimates were derived in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) vehicle testing procedures for model year 2008 as specified in 40 C.F.R. pts. 86 and 600 (2007). These estimates are intended for comparison between other vehicles within the same class. Individual drivers’ actual mileage will vary depending on how they drive and maintain their vehicles.

How can you fit all your groceries in that car?

The smart holds a lot more than people think it can. There are plenty of pictures online of how much stuff people can fit in a smart car. The back hatch holds up to 12 cubic feet should you fill it to the roof line, and when the passenger seat is folded down, one can have room for anything from a tuba to a bag of golf clubs or two Labrador retrievers. It can certainly hold more than a week's worth of groceries for one person and one cat.

How fast can that thing go?

After lumbering around town in a Ford Ranger truck for years, this smart car feels very zippy to me. I had it up to 70 before I knew it, first time on the freeway. Then I remembered to always observe the speed limit, especially during the car's break in period.

What's it like to drive?

In a word: FUN!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stimulating the economy with a smart purchase

Today I did my part by stimulating the economy with a purchase of a new smart car. The rep at the Smart Center in Bedford, OH said I would love driving the car and he was so right. I didn't want to stop driving it around today. I tested it in the city and the country, taking it out to Hinckley Park and Granger township to test the curves and hills on the narrow country roads.

The automated clutch takes a little bit of getting used to. I found that the lighter I was on the throttle in first to second, the better the shift. Yet out on the highway, I managed to zip up the entrance ramp and merge into traffic with no problem. Then I was going 65 before I knew it -- whoa! I could have easily gone faster if so inclined.

I took it to a few places in Montrose, checking out its parking capabilities. One should never pull a smart car all the way in to a parking place. Other drivers will attempt to pull in, because they don't see the rear of a car sticking out as they approach. A man and a woman came up to my window in the parking lot outside of Mustard Seed. Thought it might be an electric car. Nope, not yet -- a fleet of electric smarts are being tested in London this year. Maybe two or more years til they can be had here. The couple were totally struck by the car's uniqueness, and of course, cute-factor. The woman could not stop saying, "Oh how cute!" Like it's a pet or something.

Inside the showroom, the smart cars feel large and inviting. Outside, on the lot they almost look like toys compared to the rows of Mercedes in the lot next door. (in the beginning, Mercedes co-developed the smart with Swatch (watches) Group. The design elements are the result of forward thinking (ecologically and aesthetically) in approaching automotive design. Indeed the logo, a capital "C" (Compact) linked with an arrow (Forward Thinking) provides a visual manifesto, probably the shortest one ever written! The designation of an uncapitalized "smart" as brand name is playful and at the same time encourages us to be smart about everything that we make and use in our daily lives.

A smart car is exhibited in the Metropolitan museum of art. Smart enthusiasts wrap their plastic panels in skins and spray or hand-paint designs and images over the solid color plastic panels. The panels can be recycled into new panels for the smart cars of the future.

While some people view smart cars as design objects or fashion icons, I do think some smart owners have turned their cars into pets. They give them names such as "Bluebelle", "Mustard Seed" or "Bruiser" and assign them a gender. (Check out variously named vehicles at the Smart Car of America Forums, a place where the collective wisdom of smart enthusiasts is gathered and available for all.)

Today was a perfect Ohio all-kinds-of-weather-all-day-long day. I drove it off the lot into bone-chilling temps. So I reached for the seat heater button and felt immediate warming relief. Later, winds buffeted traffic on the expressway, but the smart stayed on course easily. After spending the evening with friends, I went out to depart to find snow and slush all over everything, including my new smart. I got in and headed up a slippery hill on one of Akron's delightful old red brick-paved streets. Not a slip or slide. "Grippy," I thought.

Naturally, by the end of day one, I was calling the car "Grippy" out loud, practicing my best Stephen Colbert imitation. I tried to avoid the issue of gender. Grippy is all black on the exterior, with a hot red with black interior design. I know when the panels are switched out to red against the black tridion, the car's name will change. And once the Kinks Preservation Society bumper sticker goes on, the car will gain a gender as well. Red and black and Preservation -- Here Comes Mr Flash!

And I swore I'd never name a car! Well, I'll never fork over the money for vanity plates. Because I have to save up for a navigating system. Gotta keep stimulating that economy, you know.

Pix to come soon. What you see above is a stock photo of a black Passion with black interior.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sickly thoughts on health care

Home with the stomach flu -- ugh. I'm gaining a new appreciation for the restorative powers of BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and (dry) toast. I'm feeling a whole lot better after a day of rest and the bland diet. Enough so that I can manage to sit in front of the computer and check in with the world once again.

On the news today, I watched Obama's news conference in Canada with prime minister Stephen Harper. One interesting point -- when Harper said that the Canadian stimulus bill was very large but not approaching the size of the US stimulus package -- because Canadian health care doesn't need bailing out.

From the Orangeville Citizen:
We wonder whether he's aware of the fact that while Canada's medicare system had its beginnings in Saskatchewan under the leadership of a socialist premier who happened to be a Baptist minister, the most important step forward was agreement among the provinces that with federal financial aid they could operate their own programs that would be both universal and portable, so all Canadians can be covered even when they move to another province.

Perhaps Mr. Harper or Mr. Ignatieff might give their guest a few tips on the subject of federal-provincial relations, and even suggest he consider the idea of making universal health care a topic of a federal-state conference that would see him invite the 50 state governors to the White House for talks on jointly solving the current health care crisis.

The idea would be to have the governors agree to something similar to the U.S. Interstate Highway program devised by the Eisenhower administration half a century ago. Under that scheme, the impressive system of freeways and toll roads criss-crosses the 48 continental states with each state responsible for building and maintaining the roadways with the federal government contributing much of the costs.

Such an approach would no doubt lead to a wide variety of programs, with individual states deciding whether to offer a mix of public and private insurance options or simply to pick up the tab for those who couldn't afford the private-sector premiums.

However, if Ontario's experience is any indication, the public/private medley won't be cost effective.

Today, few Ontarians are aware of the attempt by the Conservative government of the day to give residents a choice between insurance from the private carriers and the Ontario Medical Services Insurance Plan (OMSIP). Not surprisingly, the private sector wound up with a disproportionate share of healthy Ontarians, saddling OMSIP with far too many with outstanding health problems.

The solution lay in OMSIP's replacement on Oct. 1, 1969, by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which displaced all the private carriers for everything except supplemental coverage.

It's an idea that proved successful and today is employed in all 10 provinces, the only remaining differences being whether to finance health care through premiums or taxes and whether to cover some new medical procedures when experts cannot agree as to their effectiveness.

Can the US ever wrest itself from the private carriers and the pharmaceutical companies? Will 50 million uninsured folks ever receive affordable coverage? What I really don't understand is why it is so difficult for the people in charge to understand that health insurance costs are what is killing our industries. All because some people freak out at the term "socialized medicine."

Call me crazy, but I'd gladly give up my very decent school teacher health and retirement plans if all Americans could receive the same fair plans.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

smart car football (soccer)

Forgive the lack of content around here this past week. Things are very busy and other projects have taken precedence. However, I am going to do my duty and stimulate the economy by purchasing a new car -- after Obama signs the stimulus package on Tuesday. Because then I can write off the tax on this purchase. There is some discussion on the smart Car of America forums as to whether the new car tax write off is retroactive to Nov 08.

While I tend to other matters, please enjoy this smart car football match, with England versus Germany. This was filmed for BBC's Top Gear program. Further details here:

Monday, February 09, 2009

Alas poor Oberon...

I took Obie for his final vet appointment last Friday. His life was no longer fun in any way for him. He had stopped eating, refused to take his pills and was having great difficulty getting up and down the stairs to go outside. His hair was coming out in huge chunks from all the stress and pain of shrunken muscles and arthritis in the hips. I couldn't bear watching him waste away.

When I got to the vet's I found I had to wait in line for my pet to be euthanized. A woman ahead of me began sobbing inconsolably as her cat was put down. Fortunately, I had left Obie in the truck while I went in to handle the paperwork and payments. To sit there and wait with him while that was going on would have been too much to take. So I sat alone in the lobby and silently dabbed at my own tears while the woman mourned her cat. Once she left, I went out for Obie. Carried him in and held him in my arms. He buried his head in my chest as the shot brought him down.

I felt for the vet and her staff. Euthanasia's are scheduled at the end of the day. The final final appointments. Hell of a way to end your day and to have them stacked up in a row. Life sucks when it has to end, that's for sure.

Oberon was a big dog with a Husky's coat and eyes, and a retriever's joy in fetching objects. He lived a good 15 years. The past couple of weeks brought about a rapid decline. He wasn't going to get better and the pain was only going to get worse. It's a very hard thing to go through, but I only hope that should I face that kind of death, I'll find the help I need to go beyond the pain.

I got back in my truck and headed home to pack for Cincinnati for a weekend of professional development. I left the cat in the care of the pet sitter. Got on 71 and headed all the way down past Columbus through Queen City and on into Kentucky to a hotel at the airport. A four and half hour drive. For company, I had the new Kinks box set, Picture Book. I sang along through the six CDs all the way there. I sang away the ache in my heart for Obie for most of the way. But certain songs brought tears to my eyes. Misfits, for example: "Because it's true what they say, every dog has his day."

When I found Obie 15 years ago, he was a lost puppy in the middle of traffic in East Ave. I was a first year drama teacher, too poor to buy a car, walking home from school. I spotted this scrawny dirty puppy and called him out of harm's way. He attached himself immediately to me, imprinting like a newly hatched gosling, and he has been a one woman dog for the past 15 years. Totally loyal. I am missing my shadow tonight. He's not under the computer table. He's not giving me the bizarro eye stare indicating it is time to go outside.

Obie had one white eye and one brown eye. His eyes had been deteriorating of late. Sometimes I'd find him standing vacantly staring at nothing, looking lost and bewildered. Doggie dementia, perhaps.

Above is the last portrait of Oberon with favorite squeaky toy. We had a good time together over winter break. He loved to catch and fetch his toys. We had a good long run together.
Alas poor Oberon, I knew him well...a canine of infinite joy in squeaky toys.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Stimulus This: The Arts = Jobs

I was handed a flier today with the following information on it.

The Arts = Jobs

5.7 million jobs
100,000 Nonprofit Arts Organizations
612,000 Arts Centric Businesses
4.3% of all American Businesses
$29.6 billion in Taz Revenues
$166.2 billion Total Economic Impact

Keep support for arts jobs in the economic recovery bill.

Americans for the Arts
Americans for the Arts Action Fund
Arts & Business Council
Performing Arts Alliance
Chamber Music America
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ohio's senators both voted for the Coburn Amendment

I just sent an email to Senators Brown and Voinovich. Both voted for the Coburn amendment yesterday, acquiescing to Republican demands for cuts in stimulus spending. The GOP won't be happy until we are all uneducated and uncultured louts. They made a long list of projects that shouldn't be funded, including museums and theatres along with other "entertainments" such as casinos. These projects were called "wasteful" and "non-stimulative." I agree that casinos are not essential to our survival as a culture, but grouping arts and non-profit museums into that category is a disgrace:

Here's my email:
I was horrified to learn you voted for the Coburn amendment yesterday. This is the amendment that lumped funding museums and theatre along with casinos into an amendment that cuts funding to such projects.

Make no mistake -- arts and non-profit educational organizations are in just as much danger of failing as banks and automakers. Which is more essential to our human condition -- an art museum or a gas-driven pollution machine?

I do not like the way this so-called stimulus package is taking on the face of congress -- white and male oriented. Are theatres too sissy for funding? Is it okay that the Akron Art museum is cutting back hours and staff because its endowment is shrinking along with the economy?

Theatres are closing across the country. Why won't you support funding opportunities that will keep theatre workers employed?

I hope to read a substantial response from you on your web site or in the media, not just one of your canned email replies.
Contact your senators if you think museums, theatres and other cultural institutions are worthy of stimulus funds.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Give me some stimulus, please!

Sorry folks -- real life intrudes way too much these days. However, I swear to you I will continue this blog sooner rather than later. Although I've been quiet here, I have been watching the continuing petty dramas imposed by the defeated GOP. Put me in the "fed up with the bipartisan approach" category. Get Franken in the Senate and a moderate New England style GOP placeholder for New Hampshire and keep slapping down the Republican amendments and hissy fits. Just do it!.

Also, if we must have bi-partisanship, then lets demand a genuine progressive appointee in the new government for every Republican brought into the Obama White House. I weep no tears for Tom Daschle and wish that Tim Geithner could be replaced by -- oh say -- Paul Krugman. As my mum says, nobody is irreplaceable. If there is only one superduper person on the planet to fill any particular slot, then we are all doomed. If ever a cabinet post needed to be filled by a progressive, it would be that of Health and Human Services.

Still waiting for more of a hue and cry against the rip off artists extraordinaire who ran the economy into the ground and who have their obscene profts hidden in off shore accounts. Also waiting to see changes in the programming on all the Home and Style networks on television. Reality shows about going through foreclosure. A Survivor series for the unemployed job seekers. Health Care roulette -- spin the wheel to see if you earn enough for a MRI. Now into the Bonus Round to see if you can win a free prescription.

Other than that, I've been staying inside away from the cold as much as possible. Wish I could go into hibernation mode, but there is too much work on my plate and not enough time to get it all done. I'll be away for the weekend, but will take the laptop in case there is time and motivation to blog.

Until the recovery, everybody sing:

Cheap is small and not too steep
But best of all cheap is cheap
Circumstance has forced my hand
To be a cut price person in a low budget land
Times are hard but we'll all survive
I just got to learn to economize

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Here Comes Flash

More glimpses of what was performed as "Preservation, Acts One and Two" by the Kinks. These excerpts are from a 1975 Kinks concert at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, 1975. I just love the costumes and the old British music hall vibe. Is that Ray disguised as a Scared Housewife? Dave lays down some mean lead guitar in this number and looks totally hot in that spiv outfit. The chorus of Scared Housewives are

At the beginning of the clip, you can see a snow cloud of paper plates alighting on stage. An old tradition that continues to this day --fans requesting favorite Kinks songs by writing them on paper plates and tossing them on stage. (I remember two determined fans in Cleveland with a home-made banner they hung over the balcony requesting Waterloo Sunset and the utmost joy that emanated from that portion of the balcony when the request was granted at the encore.)

Flash is the attraction and allure of complete self-gratification and that tawdry glow that comes with being flush with other people's money. Flash is a Wall Street executive who made a lot of money on other people's misery and feels no regrets. He's a ponzi schemer and a hedge fund millionaire. As the song says:

There's no way that you can win,
You must obey his every whim
Or else he's going to do you in.
Here Comes Flash.

The rest of the sing along words can be found here.