Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm gonna get racial

He's from Hazleton, Pa.  Need I say more?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

exxon valdez

Long story short...  My beloved '94 caravan threw a rod, permanently reducing its engine to scrap.  I had only two days to find a replacement vehicle, and Obamas cash for clunkers program all but eliminated the $200 sliders that used to be the mainstay of the American worker when his regular car took a shit.

There was a time when cars were like bic lighters.  When your car ran out of juice you could always find another before the sun set and if it lasted a month you were ahead of the curve.  Run it til it dies, pull the tags, and find another before the notary goes to bed.

Yesterday's $200 sliders have been replaced by $2,000 cars that make noises if you don't fasten your seat belts.  And you call this good for the economy?  I call it an extra squeeze of the collective bovine teat. 

I feel we lost the romance of the American car when we permanently lost our vintage autos in favor of a highway system full of shinny Japanese cars, with as much personality as a toaster, and a payment book that will last as long as the car.  At least the cash for clunker program took 90% of the Obama bumper stickers off the road.

Anyway, I found this beast, a '99 Ford Excursion, in a downtown back alley after looking at every car on Craig's list.  The very next day the price of gas jumped to $3.00 a gallon, but I was committed and decided to make the best of it, even though it was a Ford.  The Sierra Club gave it the Exxon Valdez award when it first came out because of it's horrendous gas mileage, but I have to admit, it's a damn good machine if you live in snow and ice country.  Winter conditions aren't an issue with three ranges of 4WD, overdrive, heat and A/C with front and rear controls, limousine tinted windows, 17" wheels, 5.4 L engine, and 4 tons curb weight on a heavy duty truck frame that can drive over a Toyota without scratching the bumper.  In this month alone it's got my ass out of jams by driving through stuff that my Jeep couldn't handle.  The only thing that irritates me, besides the gas mileage, is the four catalytic converters and four O2 sensors.  I mean, WTF is all that about?  I'll tell ya what it's about.  The only reason the two rear O2 sensors exist is to make sure you have all four cats operational so you can buy four times as many parts to keep it running.  Maybe that's why Ford is the only big American car company that didn't need a bailout. 

Ya know....  I'd give up every whistle and bell on any of these shinny pieces of high tech crap for my '68 Dodge 318 sportsman van that got 22mpg in town with NO catalytic converters, computers, or O2 sensors. But vintage cars are now as scarce as honest Washington politicians.

Thanks Barry O.

Friday, February 18, 2011

2 out of 3 aint that bad... or is it?

There's talk about dropping cursive writing from the elementary curriculum.  Reasons are people don't use it anymore.  It takes too long to learn.  It's difficult to learn.  Adults use block writing so cursive is a waste of time.  Why use cursive when you can type it, change the font and use spell check?

Maybe adults have a hard time learning new tricks but eight year olds have a learning capacity that's off the charts.  At six, a kid will rapidly absorb everything he comes in contact with as a foundation for everything he'll learn for the rest of his life.  Social skills, languages, mathematics, art, reading, communication, coloring within the lines, spacial relationships, and personality.  As anyone that's been around kids can tell you, kids are learning sponges.  There's nothing they can't absorb and they do it faster and easier than the smartest adult.  Why drop a subject that any kid can learn in a few weeks?  

Is it the inability of the student to learn or the inability of the teacher to teach?

Cursive writing isn't simply a subject that becomes less important as we approach adulthood.  It's not a dead art that's been replaced by computer keyboards.  It's much more important than that.  

It's the last crucial step in basic learning that employs a highly complex neurodevelopmental process, which involves multiple brain mechanisms.  A simultaneous integration of memory, language, motor skill and higher cognition employing various degrees of motor coordination that requires balancing, flexing, and contracting movements as well as simultaneously stimulating some muscle groups while inhibiting other muscle groups.
In order to self-monitor writing output, visual, automatic motor memory, and revisualization feedback mechanisms must be engaged.

The idea that a nine year old can learn to do that in a few weeks boggles the mind.  It REALLY blows my mind that the adults in charge of elementary school education would think it's a good idea to drop this from the curriculum in favor of something they feel is more important.

What's more important than developing a signature or reading script from the past?

The people in charge of our present educational system haven't been making the smartest decisions lately.  Ebonics was a joke.  New math was like new Coke.  There, their, and they're are now acceptably interchangeable.  I suppose to some of the dumb asses making the rules, dropping writing from the standard three R's of the educational system makes sense.

It looks like cognitive thinking isn't required anymore.... at least where learning is concerned.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

buy the ticket, take the ride

When I was younger, everyone I knew loved the scary rides at the amusement parks.  The scariest ride was always the roller coaster.  You could hear the sounds of accelerating steel wheels immediately followed by the death screams of scared shitless passengers echoing through every part of the amusement park, beckoning the fearless and fearless wannabe's to come face to face with their own mortality.

You really like this girl and you want to impress her so double dating with another couple at an amusement park sounded like a good idea.  You could ride some rides, hold hands as you walk around, and comment on all the activity.  Play your cards right and you might get laid after the sun sets.

And then, the couple you're with insists you all ride the roller coaster.  If two out of four people want to do a scary ride, and you don't want to look like a wuss to the girl you desperately want to get to second base with, you have no choice but to grow some gonads and get excited over such a great idea.   

When you pay for the ticket and get in line, there's no turning back.  That's what's running through your head as the four of you inch your way in line, surrounded by the overhead roar of an out of control train full of screaming, terrified passengers on a one way trip to hell.

The engine-less train pulls into the platform and you stare at the disheveled occupants and pray that greasy cheeseburger you just ate stays in your stomach.  Your date picks a car and within seconds the bar comes down and you're locked in place, physically over-riding the fight or flight impulse that sets in when you're about to die, and off you go with an accelerated heart rate pumping adrenalin through your blood vessels.  As the coaster makes it's slow, vertical climb, the conversation takes a serious tone as she says, "I'm really scared and excited at the same time.  What about you?"  With your eyes trained at the tracks ahead, disappearing into oblivion, you are too terrified for rational thought.  As you round the top and experience the anti-gravity of a mile high free-fall, your lizard brain takes over and triggers your adrenal glands to go into overload.  All thoughts of getting laid vanish as you hold on with all your might as you see your life pass before your eyes.

The rest of the ride is a series of ups and downs and twists and turns that pales in excitement compared to the horror of the first initial drop, but massive doses of endorphins kick in and your screams of terror morph into yells of elation and extreme joy.  You're alive and this ride is fun as hell and ya can't wait to do it again.
Double payoff as your girl gives you a different ride after the sun sets.

Ok, it's not bungee jumping off The Golden Gate, or skiing down Everest, but it can be a first near death experience, triggering a biochemical cocktail of adrenalin immediately followed by an endorphin rush so profound, that it makes immortality a reality.  The adrenalin wires you tight and sharpens your instinct for survival.  The endorphin rush is the payoff for cheating death and the feeling is equivalent to an opiate high and just as addictive.

Could your first roller coaster ride be the beginning of a life of addictive, chemically rewarded payoffs from taking big chances and cheating death?

I wonder... does the tycoon, base jumper, and hard drug user have the same goals and outcome in common?