Wednesday, January 20, 2010


1. Massachusetts
Well, the circle's complete. For the third consecutive time since I moved here, Massachusetts elected the empty suit over the girl. Granted, it couldn't have been easy to get worked up over Kerry Healey or Martha Coakley, although it didn't take much for Shannon O'Brien to look like a candidate against Mitt Romney, despite the best efforts of the press. (In 2006, I voted for Grace Ross, the Green candidate, who wiped the floor with both Healey and Deval Patrick in the debates--the libertarian kook was more compelling than either of them too--but in addition to being a third party candidate, she was worse than a normal woman, an open lesbian who eschewed pantsuits.) When I first signed the papers on the new place, the local media was in the middle of crucifying acting governor (never spoken without the adjective) Jane Swift for being a new mommy and governor at the same time. Maybe it's a series of coincidences, but electorally, it looks like the Bay State continues to wrestle with some daddy issues or something.

Refreshingly, and on top of the generic right-wing blather, our new guy (did I call it or what?) is a climate change "skeptic." (It's part of the Obama agenda, says this guiding intellectual light.) I wonder what his views on evolution might be? He's also the pro-war, pro-secuirty candidate [and as of his speech this morning, the man who will protect our Medicare] who's against government spending. He's the independent candidate unbeholden to special interests who somehow bankrolled an immense, well-produced ad buy in the last two weeks of the campaign. At least I'll have something to complain about and amuse myself with for the next six years. My best hope now is that he turns out to be yet another Republican closet case. At least get us some entertainment value.

2. Aphorism
War and peace, revolution and stability, misery and abundance, human assets and liquidity---all merely macroeconomic functions?

He was probably baiting me, but I responded. Here's how I wish I had phrased it:

Human behavior is described by macroeconomics, it is not governed by it. Social sciences, describing war and peace, politics, etc., are also descriptions of group human behavior. It's not surprising that they sometimes bump into one another.

3. Ivory tower silage?
Was I just singing their praises? I like working with grad students well enough: they're generally pretty motivated, and smart, and will work long hours doing the more boring, repetitive sorts of scientific tasks. But on the other hand, it's easy to get in a situation where they run in circles, and where inexperience leads them to unproductivity or to surprising conclusions. Very often, grad students do need to be led, and there's something to be said for wily veterans after all.

Although as with any other employees, it's great to get a good one (my advisor must have been as disappointed as my boss is now).

4. Hyundai
Mom's Subaru went off to auction on Monday. We would have sported the (at least) $3500 repair bill if we had liked the car better--turns out the exhaust noise wasn't so much a leak as an obstructed catalytic converter, which was building up some backpressure. The exhaust and the head gasket problem may well have been related (which is why you should maintain your cars, kids), although I can't guess which was chicken and which egg.

We replaced it with a Hyundai, whose all-wheel drive is some rpm-based power-rationing thing with, basically, automatic transmissions on each front/rear wheel pair. AWD was something we shopped for, but this version is far inferior to the Subaru drive mechanism, even if it gets the vehicle through the snow eventually. With the weather, we've had plenty of opportunity to compare this week both versions. On the other hand, it's comfortable, with some luxury features that please my wife, and Korean cars, despite serious improvements in the last 20 years, don't yet suffer the reputation of value that leads to the inflated prices of Japanese models. (How far we've come, eh?) Maybe that's how the American automotive industry catches up again, by manufacturing good bargains. I see some irony that the only car we had that really lasted was a Ford...built by Kia.


switters said...

On a related note, Birmingham just elected the darker of 2 extremely white negroes. Again. I don't care if it's racist: What Birmingham needs is a white mayor, like in the good ole days of separate and unequal. Probably won't affect me for much longer (hint, wink, nudge -- knocking on wood).

Click & Clack almost invariably recommend Subarus as often and as loudly as they possibly can. But I think you did good going with the Hyundai. Most people in the know agree that it's the best bang for the buck.

District 9, pretty good.
Angels And Demons, surprisingly entertaining, unsurprisingly frail, surprisingly funny, sometimes intentionally. Didn't hurt that I'm a huge Ewan McGregor fan.

I have heat (sort of) and hot water, after 2 weeks without running water, during record breaking low temps down here. I think somebody owes me an apology (no, not you).

And no, realtor lady Sandra has not heard from the bank/mortgage company, but she's in touch.

Hope you guys are healthy and warm up there.

(I need to install a sump pump this weekend. Can't wait!)

Keifus said...

The dealer told me that Subaru's horrible, whistling doors are an intentional design feature, something to manage collision energy, but I'm suspicious. And the seats were spectacularly uncomfortable too, which I think can only be accounted by a failure to understand the ever-spreading American ass. But other than that, it was okay, and the AWD was super. Oh, and the $2500 head gasket. That sucked too.

I'd read the book, and I forgot how totally stupid the premise and the chase business was. I wish they dwelled on the art shots more too. (And did I detect a Jewish accent on one of those old cardinals?) But it is what it is, and did more or less what it could. I'm glad that playing Obi Wan didn't sink Ewan McGregor's career--he was pretty good in this one.

Dude, with any luck the tape and chewing gum holding your plumbing together will last just long enough.

artandsoul said...

Speaking of Obi Wan ... Massachusetts was my last hope. What the hell? It wasn't weird enough that you elected a Republican Governor from Utah, but now this guy?

What're you guys trying to do, become Florida?? You'll have to do better with the weather, but you're getting right up there with the yahooiest politicians.


p.s. I hated the whistling door of my Outback. Don't even start with the "intentional design" feature. That is a crock.

twif said...

i don't know about this "whistling door" thing, but i love the hell out of my forester. maybe it was just a problem on the outback?

hyundais are good cars to though.

Keifus said...

Dunno, mine was a legacy. It didn't have a frame going around the whole window and it didn't take long before the seal failed somewhere, and I'd spend half the drive making minute adjustments to hopefully minimizae the noise.

Liking hte Hyundai for the first week. (For all I can tell--it's my wife's car.)

Schmutzie said...

I'm about to embark on the car buying adventure. God I hate the car buying adventure.

(today's word verification word...'Joying.")

Keifus said...

They always say renting is a good way to start. (I guess that's true if you like driving around in non-descript American sedans.)

My Dad loves his PT Cruiser, fwiw. Has had it for awhile now. (Enough to forgive Chrysler? Not hardly.)

Schmutzie said...

I'm leaning towards the PT Cruiser K. That bad boy did great on the Grand Canyon trip. Excellent in the snow, good mileage, nice storage. I was eyeballing the rear compartment and trying to figure out if I could use it as a makeshift sleeping area. Back seats forward, maybe a little diagonal action. Sure if would be cramped, but not bad in a pinch.

(ver word: Monte)

Keifus said...

Pretty sure the old man has done this, or at least has intentionally kept that option. (He doesn't do the camping music festivals as often as he used to, so I am not 100% sure.) I believe he yanked teh back seat to make room, or did some other modification. I can ask him next time I talk to him if you want.

Keifus said...

Hey Michael, he says it can be done, but it's pretty cramped. The back seats come right out, though.

He points to these things to the sleeping-inclined.

Schmutzie said...

That's what I thought, thanks and thank your dad for the info. Seats out, foam mattress down, lay diagonally, and do the fetal curl, and I'm good to go. Nice Mopar attachment. Thinking more of a severe weather camping refuge, or an I just can't drive any further last ditch. If I bought that Mopar tent, my Kelty would never forgive me.

(ver word: is that?)

ania said...

Hello, World!

Cheryl K. Washington said...

Nice post