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The Car of the Future

If I could change one thing about myself it's the way I'm the embodiment of all that is wrong with America and the human species more broadly. Don't get me wrong - my self-esteem is in the normal range, but if I could tinker with my existence it would be to make myself something other than a detestable, oozing, suppurating lesion on the body of civilization.

Time constraints prevent a full accounting of what I'm talking about here, but let's take a look at just one example: I am a self-indulgent motorist.

On weekends I engage in countryside motoring as if it's a form of exercise. Worse, during the week, despite the availability of mass transit, I almost always drive to work, a five-mile jaunt on surface streets past one bus stop after another.

Why do I drive? Power. Raw, unbridled power, at my fingertips and toetips.

My Honda Accord is an empowerment device. It gives me the option of going anywhere on the spur of the moment without heed of bus schedules or fear of Metro delays. I could just start driving, and head West, across the continent, and then veer down through Mexico, and onward to Patagonia. Having a car is like sitting in a restaurant near the door.

There's also the massive testosterone boost that comes from idling in my Honda at a stoplight next to a Mini-Cooper. I glance at the Mini-Cooper's driver with a look on my face that says, "When my Honda finishes devouring your silly car it will spit the muffler into the gutter."

Now, you might declare that global warming and energy insecurity, not to mention urban sprawl and pollution, have intensified the sin of indulging one's motoring desires. And I would not argue with that point. You're right. I am a bad man. And let us note that advertising campaign (I've seen it all over the place -- from some fossil fuel company I think) in which smiling people are seen thinking to themselves, "I will leave the car at home" or "I will take the bus more often" and whatnot. All this is good. But over the long term, if you want to develop a new transportation and energy policy, you'd probably want to err on the side of assuming that people won't change much. And it is human nature to like to be empowered.

This is, in fact, the argument of a tech guru I interviewed recently out in Seattle (more on that down the road). He believes that the inventions of the future will typically be empowering for individuals. The cellphone, for example, is an empowering device. So is the laptop that allows me to type this in a coffee shop rather than in the soulless cubicle that my superiors mistakenly believe is sufficient for an artist of my stature.

But I have an idea for the car of the future. It is probably a bad idea. At the very least it is surely not an original idea, since to my knowledge I've never had one of those. Nonetheless, let's throw it out there:

The car of the future should be transformable like the Batmobile. More specifically, it should have layers -- clip-on parts. The core should be nothing more than a fancy golf cart.

It's like when you dress your kid at 7:00 a.m., when it's 29 degrees outside, but you know it's going to get to 52 degrees, and then rain will blow in, and so on. You need the kid's clothing to be adaptable. So, too, should a car be transformable depending upon the conditions in which it will operate.

My Honda has 6 cylinders, an option I selected because I wanted the extra power when getting on the Beltway. But for getting to work I need only about, oh, 2 cylinders, max. My 5-mile commute takes about 20 to 30 minutes at rush hour, which translates to an average speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour. I just putter along.

My car seats five people, which is necessary for a 5-person family like mine. We've taken many long trips in that car, of increasing discomfort as the kids have turned into adult-sized humans who cannot endure 30 minutes crammed in the backseat without wanting to de-eyeball someone. What I really need is a car that can expand or contract from about an 8-seater to a 1-seater and then back again. The closest analog I can think of are those Winnebago-driving folks who tow a separate sedan, plus bicycles, plus a motorcycle, plus a Jet Ski, plus scuba gear, plus a hang-glider, and so on, so that they have scale-appropriate technology for each conceivable medium through which they might want to transport themselves.

Mostly what I need is a car that can lose about 90 percent of itself for whenever I want to make a run to the grocery store down the street. And when commuting I don't need a back seat or a passenger seat; I need enough room to transport one person, a laptop, and some CDs.

So I need a golf cart, in essence. I need a vehicle from Arnold Palmer Motors.

It should be a modular car that can go from 500 pounds to 2,500 pounds to 4,000 pounds, from one seat to 5 seats to 8 seats, depending on the circumstance. (You want the heavy car when going mano-a-mano with the 18-wheelers on the Beltway.)

The skimpier, golf-cartish version would be easy to park, too - you could essentially figure out a way to hang the carts on racks when they weren't in use. You could probably come up with a simple interface between carts and a mass-transit system. Drive your car right onto the Metro and then right back off at the end of the line.

Of course my cart would have flames stenciled on the side, to look snazzy.

I will suggest this to Obama.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 2, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
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*paging bc!!*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Nanobots and replicators. Just rebuild your car each time you leave the garage to the size you need. When you get back, throw the whole thing into the recycling bin.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I finally think of something to post on Kit and then there is a new one.

What if the first encounter with alien life is with a germanium based life form and they don't speak Deutsch? Is that Irony? Or am I being silly again...

Going for a walk

Posted by: omnigood | December 2, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Seattle or Bellevue? Neal Stephenson at Intellectual Ventures? Perhaps Roland Hanson at the Branding Foundry in Kirkland, perhaps Hanson more of a marketing guru? Connections to these two still point back to Gates, though.

Posted by: laloomis | December 2, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Gene Weingarten is trying to bogart the BPH:

"Michael Williamson and I will be at the University Club signing books tomorrow evening, from 5:30 to at least 7:30. This is a venue on 16th Street NW, around L Street. Books will be for sale, but you can bring those you've already purchased."

I suggest that the attendees devise some devious form of disruption.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

We could all show up with copies of the "I Can Has Cheezburger" book for him to sign...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

We have another Googlenope:

"A balloon-driven rumble"

*raised eyebrow*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Joel, Joel, Joel.

There really is a simple, elegant solution to your dilemma:

1) Trade the Accord (and I love Accords myself, so I know this won't be easy) in for a hybrid van or SUV (recommend the Toyota Highlander hybrid), for schlepping the entire family around wherever.

2) Leave the Highlander in the driveway/garage (if you have one) most days and take a bus or the Metro to work. Use the Highlander on weekends/evening trips only.

3) If you MUST drive in town to work by yourself at the heart-stopping speed of 14 mph, buy one of these: It is customizeable, you can get it in a two-seater, four-seater, or even a six-seater, use it at the gold club, and take it with you into retirement when you move to a Del Webb Sun City retirement village.

I have to think of everything around here.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 2, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Dr G once said to me, "they should invent a car for rush-hour commuting with a really easy clutch to use."

I told him, "They have... it's called an 'automatic.'"

Posted by: -TBG- | December 2, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

SCC: gold club should be golf course.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 2, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

>Mostly what I need is a car that can lose about 90 percent of itself for whenever I want to make a run to the grocery store down the street. And when commuting I don't need a back seat or a passenger seat; I need enough room to transport one person, a laptop, and some CDs.

You need a wagon and a horse. Funny, but true.

Posted by: engelmann | December 2, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Sheesh, as a Really and Truly Published Automotive Journalist I have a lot to say on this topic.

However, I'm changing locations and going to meetings today, so my Pertinent, Knowledgeable, and Insightful commentary will have to wait.

I will say that pretty much every idea Joel posits here has been tried and rejected by the marketplace.

With the exception of convertible models, of course. And even then, they go in and out of style.

More later.


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I fondly remember learning to drive with my grandparents' golf cart. Responsive, easy turning, light handling, ability to leap out in case of an impending crash, races well across vacant lots--best durn motor vehicle I ever drove. If only we could make electric-powered golf carts the transportation wave of the future. We'd be happy, perhaps a bit chilly in the winter, but mostly happy.

Posted by: schala1 | December 2, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Around here, Arnold Palmer Motors is one of the big Cadillac dealerships. Really.

Posted by: slyness | December 2, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I would suggest that an automatic transmission is fine as long as you're willing to pay the roughly 15% loss in fuel economy.

Me, I don't use slushboxes unless I can at all avoid it. But I'm kinda cheap that way.

Having said that, there are clutch technologies with centrifugal weight systems that require very little spring pressure to engage at low RPM in traffic, but to have higher effective clamping pressures at higher engine rpms, as well as newer small-diameter multi-clutch systems.

None of this stuff is new, it's just that your typical car manufacturer tries to keep production costs as low as possible, particularly on their inexpensive commuter models.

Sheesh. Gotta go.


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

George Jetson's car folds up into a briefcase. I never figured out how he was able to pick the thing up without Rosie's help, though. As far as the car freeing and empowering me, I actually feel shackled to mine. If I could find some way to fit both kids on my bike and make it to their day-cares and my job on time, I'd do it. Or if there was a bus that serviced my town, I'd do that. Lacking any other options, I guess I'm stuck with the eleven-year-old Honda CRV. What an ugly briefcase it makes. Heavy, too.

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 2, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

A little puddle-jumper for the city, the Zero Emission No Noise ZENN car:

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gomer... nice to see you!

We, too, have very bad bus service and I am only about 18 miles outside DC. To take a bus from my house to anywhere besides the Pentagon requires miles and miles of driving out of the way and making transfers. It's pretty much a case of "you can't get there from here."

Posted by: -TBG- | December 2, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the A-blog and whoever pushes the RSS feed out there (and here), my freshly uttered and even written down swear word is now a GoogleYep!

"Scurvyflarglinbluehole"! It's there! You can look it up. All I need now is a Wiki page to make it completely official.

Google's the guano, man. They got it *all* goin' on.

Posted by: martooni | December 2, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Whenever Joel starts this self-deprecation bit I always feel like a gawky teenaged girl listening to the head cheerleader complain about her hair.

Still, I understand the self-loathing that comes from uncontrollable compulsions. Not that I have any uncontrollable compulsions. All my compulsions are quite controllable. I can quit boodlin’ and making little wooden boxes and snarfin' honey-roasted peanuts any time I wish. I just don’t wish to.

And I guess when it comes to bad habits the private automobile is probably a lot better than say, you know, something like smoking cigars. Besides, a Honda is a pretty innocuous car. Far better than those over-compensating Hummers of which I have heard tell.

And let's face it. Joel is certainly not the only person who understands the sly allure of internal combustion. Part of it is the freedom of the road, part is the rush of acceleration, and part is the multi-sensory stimulation that comes from the paranoid fear that at any moment you could become involved in a massive multi-vehicular collision potentially involving the ignition of highly-combustible petrochemicals.

But that might just be me.

I mean, over the Thanksgiving holiday I drove to South Carolina and back – a total round trip of about 16 hours. Most of which involved being tailgated by various Monster Trucks at 78 MPH. It is during those moments that one thinks of an entirely new advantage to the detachable car that Joel describes. (Didn’t they show a boat like that once in an early James Bond movie? You know, the one with the pretty ladies in it? But I digress.)

The thing is, I can imagine pushing a little button that allows me and my loved ones to zip off in a high-performance micro-car while leaving the remaining bulk of my vehicle to form a satisfyingly solid barrier with which the previously-mentioned tailgating Bubba-Mobile could then collide.

That could work.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Not exactly on kit but not off either. Writing a paper about consumption. These quotes are interesting:
The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley (p. 219) about craving :
"the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its divine Ground"

Define "divine Ground" how you wish. Isn't that a grand phase for those who are irritated, sceptical, or etc. about a Beared White Guy God?

And this from William Catton argued in Overshoot (p. 235) that practicing the "mandatory austerity" entailed by "ecological modesty" required making an end of "the widespread, deliberate badgering of people into wanting more, more, more."

BADGERING! EUREKA, that IS what advertising is.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 2, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I thought advertising was more ferreting...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm just happy our car starts in the morning.

Otherwise my day is screwed.

And then some.

Because when the car breaks, I find myself upside down with a ton or so of vehicle precariously jacked up above me as the snow falls down around me and the car while I'm bombarded with "It's All Your Fault" looks. And I hardly get to drive the damn thing. I just pay for it.

But I'm not bitter. Really. I was looking forward to replacing that "heat actuator" doohickey that's keeping the passenger compartment from getting heat. Or the brakes. I just *love* replacing brake pads in the freezing cold of my driveway -- especially when Mrs. M is yelling from the front door that my Dad is on the phone and she wants to know why I'm not done yet because she has to go to work.

I want my flying car, dangit, and I want it now.

And it better have racing stripes.

Actually, give me a mule not quite as grumpy as me and I'll be happy.

Posted by: martooni | December 2, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I sympathize with Joel's dilemma, and admire his suggestion - except that having to customize the vehicle for every occasion just sounds like too much work. I want something which will change itself according to my needs. It could be voice-activated: commuting, carpool, Boy transport, grocery shopping, recycling . . . I would say hard-wired into my brain but it could get dangerous.
What if I were commuting (single seat, storage option, 6-cylinder for highway driving) and my brain suddenly moved on to the afternoon's carpool pickup (three or four seats, much larger storage option, 6-cylinder for highway driving)? Mass confusion could ensue.

I miss mass transit. Ah, for the days of the subway and bus line. There are no such animals anywhere near where I live, not even a school bus. We can't feasibly bike anywhere either - and we still live in the city.

About that 6-cylinder. It was the only feature upon which I insisted when buying my Accord. Most of my driving, to various locations, involves serious highway time. The salesman tried to convince me that there really wasn't any difference between the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder, so I test-drove both. That extra acceleration surely made a difference on highway entry ramps, and continues to enable me to get away from tailgating trucks large and small.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 2, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom's post and the kit generally has me in cartoon-land.

Mighty Morphin' (Car)Power Rangers

and of course...

Transformers! More than meets the eye......

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 2, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

People knock mini-vans, but they are one of the most versatile vehicles ever invented. Our old mini-van had a removable back bench seat and two removable captains chairs in the middle. I've had the van configured for two, three, four, or seven passengers. Somehow I don't think that is what Joel is looking for.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Hi back TBG. I've been lurking for a spell since the littlest Gomer was born. Not too much time to waste online. Not that the boodle is a waste of time per se... maybe an extremely inefficient use of it.

The minivans these days have seats that fold into the floor. Way cooler and less of a pain in the back than lifting the things out.

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 2, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think those cute little Smart Cars look like roller skates (um, do you have that in a dishy pink, please?). Even though the mileage is supposed to be great, I'd be very, very wary of being in one of them, seeing a Metrobus or any other huge vehicle with bad brakes behind me.


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 2, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"Since God created man, and man created the Transformers, the Transformers are like a gift from God."
-Clerks 2

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - I like the idea of a self-customizing vehicle. Like, when a teenaged offspring goes on a date, such a car would have the good sense to retract the rear seat.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Of course, now we are getting dangerously close to that whole "Knight Rider" bit.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

For a five mile low speed commute, I would recommend a bicycle. You can always go get the car in about 20 minutes, if you need to. If you simply must have internal combustion, Honda and other manufacturers produce many fine small motor-scooters for $1-2K that will quickly take you from work to home -- call it the satellite parking lot.

Gomer says "If I could find some way to fit both kids on my bike and make it to their day-cares and my job on time, I'd do it."

There is a way! How much money do you have? When I was in Vienna a couple years ago, I saw that much of ancient, historic, and crowded downtown Vienna was serviced by Velo-Taxis: human-powered tricycle hybrids. A roto-molded polypropylene body with a roof, windshield, and side curtains that can be lowered in case of rain, protects a cyclist/driver and two passengers on a bench seat. It uses regenerative braking and an electric assist motor for hill-climbing, so you can keep your instantaneous speed close to your average speed. All this used to cost about 8000 euro, which was about $10K at the time. I am sure it is more, now. And you would have to pay for shipping.

Alternative 2: A Burley bike trailer. You can fit one car seat back there or two toddlers, side-by-side. The frame acts as a roll-cage in the highly-unlikely event of a roll-over accident. Costs about $500 if you also get the stroller conversion kit so that you can roll it around when you reach your destination. Makes a great two-kid stroller and has room behind the seat for storing a diaper bag or putting some groceries.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 2, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

My wife used to threaten to get me a burley stroller for our dog because the dog would whimper the whole time I was gone for a bike ride. Now the point is moot. I miss my dog, but not enough to have gotten a tow-along stroller for him.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

btw... I just wanted to say that I've encountered probably the most friendly Salavation Army Bell Ringer in the world this morning.

This young lady (30-something African American with the most beautiful smile you've ever seen) is stationed outside the Giant Eagle grocery store down the road from me and come hell or high water, she is just as chipper and pleasant as a person could be -- and making music with that bell. And I'm talking before 7:00am.

The SA hired themselves a keeper. She even got me to smile before 7:00am and pitch in a dollar I really couldn't afford to part with.

Call me sappy, but I love to see love in action (and not in the pr0n sense), especially when so many need help. I doubt that this girl's bosses read the A-blog (no offense, Joel), but if they do, I hope they'll make sure she at least has a good supply of hot coffee (I'll do what I can).

As Elvis Costello asked/demanded to know...

"What's so funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding..."

I'm off to try to be productive now, but not making any promises...

Peace out and stay warm :-)

Posted by: martooni | December 2, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Those sound like great options for some locations, ScienceTim, but dangerous for others. Of course I wouldn't consider getting on even a state highway, much less the interstates I routinely drive, on a scooter or bicycle. The street infrastructure here is not bike-friendly (not even sidewalks!) and neither are the cars and trucks. Some parts of the city are seeing an increased volume of scooters and bikes, but you have to be careful where you are. You can change quickly from "other driver" to "fair game".

As I recall Gomer's commute is in Houston. [Hi Gomer!] Unless he lives and works and his kids go to school within about a mile total, I can't imagine commuting with them on any kind of pedaled conveyance.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 2, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Power Rangers. You had to mention Power Rangers. It still hurts to say the phrase, as if the muscles in my face refuse to cooperate.

For during a dark period in the fading years of the last century, my son was obsessed with this cheesy Japanese import. (Actually, only the fight scenes were Japanese. But it was all cheesy.)

Actually, it wasn't the television program that was so bad. It was the annual roll-out of the new toy Megazord. (For the blissfully ignorant, Zords were what you called the individual fighting vehicles that combined together to form, naturally, a Megazord.)

Each year a new Megazord came out. And ownership was mandatory. The dominant characteristic of the Megazord, outside of being shiny and plastic, was the presence of about twenty bullion itty-bitty stickers that had to be positioned perfectly so as to obtain optimum joy.

And yet, it made my son happy. To this day he keeps his stash of Power Ranger toys in the basement with firm instructions that if the house should catch fire they should be rescued before anything else. Including his sister.

Further, there was a professional advantage to exposure to the concept. Once, years ago now, I was listening to a military man explain something known as the flexible fighting vehicle. It took just a few moments before I suddenly blurted out "It's a Megazord!"

Which, in my defense, it basically was. Just without quite as many little stickers.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

SCC: That should have been "Salvation" and not "Salavation". No drooling was involved.

Posted by: martooni | December 2, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse


It's better in most job hunting endeavors to wear "business dress" and to do so even if filling out an application in person.

Many companies--even supermarkets and the like--now insist that applications and resumes be filed online. My advice would be to prepare a general one of each and have someone else proof and "tweak" it for you. If there are gaps in your employment history there are ways around it--in your case you have been a "stay at home" parent to facilitate your Bean's well being.

I don't think you need to kiss anyone's "arse" per se, but don't be your most outrageous, spontaneous self--save that for us, your admiring cyberspace friends and, once you've been in a new job for a sufficient length of time you can gradually relax into the more "authentic" you once they have come to see how invaluable you are.

I've been--mostly happily--employed here in CT for the same University in two different departments for over twenty-six years. You'd be surprised how quickly it goes and how much you will come to be appreciated. The occasional irritating boss (being very polite here) is not worth losing your cool or your paycheck. I've outlasted several.

I wish you all the best. The main thing is to be persistent. If you haven't heard after a decent interval about receiving an interview,or any other response, like a rejection letter, or "position has been filled" note, it's fine to call and inquire.

By the way, the internet can be a great help in finding out info before applying. Lots of employers use automated programs in their HR application process that look for key words, action words, etc. in a preliminary screening.

I wish you all the best in "your hunt" and am adding you to my meditation chain in a new capacity. Stay positive--and don't think of it as a "chore" since you might be surprised at the new door that will open and give you a whole new perspective on life.


Posted by: CoraCollins | December 2, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

You have my sympathies, RD. While the Boy has been obsessed with Japanese anime of various sorts (and let's not talk about Pokemon, please), we were spared Power Rangers. From his infancy we referred to Power Rangers as Violent Shameless Marketing Tools. They were banned from the house, as was the execrable thirty-minute commercial masquerading as a TV show. He found plenty of other small plastic toys with which to fill the house, including ones which transform into other, larger, more violent things. Some of these would indeed make good models for our (I use the term loosely since I'm blatantly coopting Joel's idea) ever-changing vehicle.

For sheer strength, however, let me refer you to the Ford LTD, circa 1970-72. A college boyfriend drove one to survive his Houston commute. I once had a case where one of those was driven through a brick apartment wall. Then the driver backed out and drove away. The car fared better, ultimately, than the driver did.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 2, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Drooling is just so unfairly stigmatized in our society. martooni.

Just sayin', as I get older and older.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 2, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom hit something on the head I'd wanted to get to - people are too used to automobiles being appliances, not contrivances. People don't want to jack with putting seats out, putting them in, changing tops, etc. They just want to hop in the car and go like pushing down on the toilet handle.

People don't take out the unused seats in a minivan, and when the old Nissan Pulsar was around, no one changed over from the station wagon to the coupe more than once.

Had to giggle about putting seats down in the minivan floor - you're still hauling the weight around and still using just as much gas...

I'll spec out my perfect daily-driver car later, but for the record, I have two. With a combined 370,000 mi on them. Neither was made in this century, and they both get better than 30 mpg combined.


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

We were charter Power Rangers fans. All the way back to the Amy Jo Johnson days. We dispersed the majority of the Zord fleet to various charities except for the one or two original ones that took days of hunting to find in-stock during the initial mania.

We also have a dozen or so Hess vehicles, many still mint in box. Not to mention the dozens of Beanie Babies we are holding on to as a last resort should the student loan credit markets go completely stone cold.

But if the economic situation gets that dire, we may just have to trade them for canned goods and protection from the marauding barbarian hordes.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have those new-fangled fold down seats in my Grand Caravan. I had to wrestle that thing out of the back every time, usually by myself. The little rollers on the frame were less than useless. That suburban staple still got over 20 mpg, which is really no worse than my wife's V6 sedan or my mid-size SUV, neither of which will hold myself, five Cub Scouts, and most of their camping gear.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of the better gas mileage of the standard transmission, I am very proud that I appear to have converted my husband. When we married, he did not know how to drive a stick shift. Then we moved, and he sold his car, since it was old and not worth caravanning/towing/shipping. So he had to learn how to drive my car. I can't say that the learning process was especially fun -- there were certainly swear words involved (not directed at each other, don't worry). But now he mostly wants to drive when we go places, and we're managing fine as a one car family for the time being. (We're really lucky he got a job on campus, too.) The other day, I overheard him talking about a potential future second-car purchase, and he said, yeah, I think I'll get a stick shift. It's more fun to drive.


Posted by: -bia- | December 2, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

We had to wrestle those &^%$# seats out of our old Caravan, too, and we did it plenty of times. Ditto our old Town & Country; in that one, at least the rear bench seat had wheels on it, so it was a little easier (but not much) to roll in and out.

Oddly, the old Caravan had, without question, THE very best sound system of any vehicle I've ever owned or rode in. I have no idea why: it was just the standard issue radio/cassette player. But the very first time I put the Eagles "Hell Freezes Over" tape in it, boy, it knocked your socks off.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 2, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

It was the concert hall acoustics of that caravanernous (pun only slightly intended) cargo space.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I downsized from an exte7-year old long one from a not-so-genial motors company was literally disintegrating before our eyes. I bought one of the last shorty a certain dodgy company had discontinued. No disappearing seats, no ABS, no traction control; it's a just a pretty plain car but it was 10k cheaper than the extended one with the new-fangled swing-away seats (18k vs 28k, easy choice). It can't hold the three adult and near-adult kids and the 2 big dogs for extended trips, but we don't take extended trips with the whole family anymore. Better yet, it burns less gas than the subie on the highway (9L/100km or approx 28mpg). The smaller and heavier car is however a lot more fun to drive than that cow. A fast and tight corner is inspiring in the subie, nauseating in the mom-mobile.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Boodle!

I've been having trouble getting past the WaPo front page. Am I the only one?

The back-boodling is overwhelming.

Posted by: Braguine | December 2, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

My first minivan was 1988 4 cylinder Caravan with five seats and five in the floor. Yep, it had a manual transmission and it got better than 30 mpg on the highway. I completely wore it out.

My second minivan was a 1997 6 cylinder Grand Voyager with seven seats and an automatic transmission. That was the first vehicle I ever owned with an automatic. It's slow to start but it will go fast when it has time to get up to speed. The mileage isn't good, about 18 mpg. The Elderdottir is driving it; I handed it off to her a couple of years ago and she plans to keep it till it falls apart. I replaced the transmission at 105,000 miles.

Like Ivansmom, I needed a car with some zip, so we bought the RAV-4 with the 6 cylinder engine. Nobody passes me unless I let them. It averages 22.5 mpg in the city and 26 on the road. When Cassandra and I came to the MBPH, I used cruise control and stayed at the speed limited and average right at 31 mpg. I'm smug about that.

Posted by: slyness | December 2, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I had 94 model from the same company. I believe the bench seat from the 07' is even heavier than the old one was. Or I'm getting weaker maybe. And you can't put the three-seat bench in the forward position anymore. The design is going backward.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm now too damn old to be removing those seats, SD. Fortunately, my wife's Highlander has the fold-down kind for exactly that reason (plus it's a great car, if ya need a biggish thing like that). So the design is going backward, is it? And people wonder why the car companies are in trouble.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 2, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Completely and totally off kit but I bet that dog is catching TV stations from NY state from its Montreal base.

And the Very Large Puppy (a.k.a. The Puddlemaker) wants you to know that drooling is a constitutional right.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Santa has a new ride:,0,143901.photogallery?index=3

Posted by: -jack- | December 2, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

yello - sometimes Amy Jo Johnson is all that kept me going. I wonder what happened to her? And I am afraid to find out.

Do you remember the whole spate of similar shows that came out at that time? You know, like the "VR Troopers."

Kind of puts my memories of Speed Racer to shame.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

now that's a great kit JA! ha, driving to Patagonia... I'm for that. I must admit that I am a drivaholic as well. I just love to drive and it's depressing because in other aspects I am so careful... composting, energy-saving lightbulbs etc.

As for a modular car, that's a wonderful idea but I can see that servicing the beast might be tricky... especially if you forget parts at home. And I guess a garage organized to accommodate all the parts would be tricky... most Canadians tend to use their garage as an extra room to the house rather than housing the car itself. Wonder if Americans do the same thing?

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Miss Toronto we are supposed to put the car in the garage? :-). Our garage is seasonal, used for the vehicle in winter only - in summer it is full of bikes, gardening stuff, toys etc.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 2, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't know dmd2... most garages seem far too full stuff... most of my friends can't even get the car into their garage anytime of the year. And then there is the garage/workshop for the husbands to hide out in the evenings :)

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

You would be surprised how much stuff you can store outside under tarps!

Posted by: dmd2 | December 2, 2008 7:24 PM | Report abuse

OMG... hope you are not moving to my neighbourhood anytime soon :)

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

re: Driving again... I have a bizarre admission to make... when I was living in Aussie land... I was so close to downtown BrisVegas that it didn't make sense to drive downtown but to take the train instead. I am embarrassed to admit that I drove about 10 minutes to the nearest mall and parked underground and jumped on the train to downtown. I just had to get that little 'fix' of driving each day or I would have lost my mind. Okay, I know. I need some serious counselling :)

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe in Paris, France they have a way to the future. Joel feels empowered by his laptop and the ambiance of the coffee shop. In Paris, they built a new trolley line with ambiance, for the passengers and for the neighbors, line T3:,1518,454517,00.html

The riders may not have time to blog, but they can enjoy the view.

Posted by: jworthey | December 2, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Funny Miss Toronto, tarps are safely hidden behind fence, no blight on the neighbourhood.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 2, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

*selflessly throwing self onto the 7:33 post before international press notices comment about you-know-where*

Posted by: engelmann | December 2, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

And those tarps are Canadian Tire Blue, right? See, I'm learning these things.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm still driving my Toyota Corolla. It has so many miles on it, I'm always surprise when it cranks, and really appreciative. My dad says I've gotten my money out of it so many times.

I went to visit a church member that is in the nursing home. He's not doing well. And to my surprise saw a young man I've known for years, but did not know he was in that home. It was good to see him, but he couldn't talk. He's had a stroke. Visiting the sick is not easy, but there is a need.

I'm turning in, been a long day. Night, boodle. Sweet dreams.

Mudge, you and the drooling. Martooni, hang in there, a door will open. AROC, glad to hear from you. Hope everything is good with you, and your Thanksgiving was great. Didn't get a chance to read your whole comment, just tired. It takes a lot out of you going to the nursing homes.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 2, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I dunno... are the tarps blue at Cdn Tire? ... you might be better informed than I am yello :)

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

okay, must walk the dog and get back to reading 'Enduring Patagonia'. An inspiring passage for the boodle...

'What do we bring back from through the breach? Nothing. Nothing but memories of the most powerful emotions and visions of cold, perfect places; the sound of utter silence; the howl of storm; the crack and thunder of an avalanche; the clatter and whir of rockfall; the sparkle of the stars; the full power of desire; the sweat of effort; and the taste of real fear. We have looked up at a piece of unclimbed mountain and exercised the true human power--we have imagined a future and then made it happen. But after such a set of fantastic summit moments I am left with a haunting doubt. The question tickles away at the base of my spine whenever I run through the litany of my Patagonian experience. Am I worthy of such moments, am I worthy of such astonishing beauty? And the certain d*mning answer is no.'

Posted by: MissToronto | December 2, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Sheez, If one hasn't commented for a week or so WaPo says "who you". The ten minutes later you are again allowed to comment.

I was just going to say when I bought my 2000 GMC 2500 pickup I had been driving a stick for many years and wanted another. Well the salesman said, then it will be long wait. In fact they had been instructed to discourage sales of stick shifts because GM was getting eaten up by warranty cost for replacing clutches. They claimed people no longer knew how to drive a stick and kept slipping the clutch.

I got a time job this summer at the Britt hauling trash because they couldn't find a college student that could drive the stick shift trash truck.

Posted by: bh71 | December 2, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Blue tarps (OK other colours are available but blue is common).

Posted by: dmd2 | December 2, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I will never let go of the seldom driven Miata, but am looking forward to the day when I get to live the hip urban life and walk most everywhere. Mr. F is trying to figure out the best time to get rid of his vehicle, but I think he is kidding himself about how "inexpensive" it is to keep. He rarely drove to work in Tampa (5.5 mile run or bike ride) in St. Paul he won't ever drive to work since the best parking lot would only get him a quarter mile closer than the house. The only reason I can see for him keeping his wheels is that he must be planning to drive to Patagonia.

Off to backboodle and see what I missed.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 2, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Hi all... TBG here in Yoki's hotel room in D.C. enjoying lovely company and a glass of Jamesons.

Yoki? got anything to add?

Only that TBG is a delightful companion and we had a fabulous meal, eaten with our hands.

Posted by: Yoki | December 2, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Did you notice the caption above the article about the Paris tram?


BTW thanks for reminding me about Tim Egan's The Worst Hard Time. I meant to get that when it arrived in paperback, but I forgot. Now I used my 40% off coupon and got it for cheap!

If you're interested in that book, you may want to look at Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse; it's YA, written in blank verse, and it's great!

Posted by: rickoshea0 | December 2, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't the car of the future, at the very least, fly?

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Yoki's in the house! Sorry I'm going to miss you at the BPH. Enjoy the sights.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, bh71.

Some of us, on the other hand, might have a car with 194,000 mi. and still have the original clutch.


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

So maybe I should look for a job that requires driving with a stick. Not that I'm in practice.

Which brings up my infatuation with the Toyota FJ Cruiser. It's the vehicle I would have liked (but not had the money for) back when I learned driving in the woods from a St. Augustine Minorcan who'd started with a Model A.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 2, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Hi all,

Regarding Joel's kit, I remain happy with my Subaru (every third car in Colorado is one) but think American designed cars are the most comfortable.

bc, this kit was made for you.

I'm in the heart of the California capitol. Fallen leaves are everywhere...but it's December? It smells really good as I walked the streets kicking up brown leaves and peering up at hundreds of ... crows? I ended up of all places, McCormick and Scmick's.

It has been foggy and cool here...literally. There is comfort in walking into a familiar restarant when on the road.

Have I mentioned I love my new job? :-)

I am also confirming my trip to DC next week. My dad was released from the hospital yesterday. But I think better to visit him sooner than later.

Posted by: Windy3 | December 2, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I will miss seeing the real Yoki! Hey, I've been to the at with your hands restarant in DC!

Posted by: Windy3 | December 2, 2008 10:26 PM | Report abuse

SCC.. eat with your hands...

Posted by: Windy3 | December 2, 2008 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Yoki! Welcome (again) to Washington. You still up? Probably not-- it's been a long day for you, and you're probably exhausted from traveling.

Glad you and TBG had finger food, though. See you tomorrow evening.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 2, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Oy'm 'ere, Mudge! My grace is that I *think* it is two hours earlier than it really is. Meta, dude.

Reality won't hit until I need to be up the morning.

Posted by: Yoki | December 2, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse


Spent an hour and a half speccing out my car of the future, and the comment was held by the 'bot. [sound of a toilet flushing]

Joel, if you care to release it, I'd much appreciate it.

In any case, that's enough for me - goodnight, all.


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2008 11:20 PM | Report abuse

We don’t have subways here. We do have buses, small ones (about 20 passengers.) There are not a lot of them, and they don’t go to a lot of places. Our buses are very user friendly. Wave and they’ll stop anywhere along his route to let you get on.

I had to have my 1997 Suzuki Vitara’s clutch lining change 2 months ago at around 171,500 miles. I’m not sure if that’s how it is when clutch linings are changed or the mechanic didn’t do a good job or the part is lousy. It doesn’t have pickup speed after the change. I have to really step on the gas to get the car moving.

Posted by: rainforest1 | December 3, 2008 2:59 AM | Report abuse

Howdy, all. I'm back. [I just ran up from Georgia, and BOY are my legs tired!] Spent a week or so visiting family, it was fun. Since I've no chance of EVER catching up with the developments I missed, I probably won't even try.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 3, 2008 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Is it acceptable for me to hope that Windy3 was actually NOT in the heart of California's capitol when surrounded by fallen leaves? I know that they've had budget problems, but SHEESH... I'd hope that they can keep a roof on the joint.


Posted by: bobsewell | December 3, 2008 3:08 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. Hope you enjoyed your visit, Yoki. It sounds as if you have.

Well, well, it is the busy day. Time to get back to work. Will start with the radio, and end up at the church, if all goes well.

Today is my grandsons' birthday. Their mom is going to surprise them after school with a ride in their favorite automobile, and dinner afterwards. I'm going to try and reach them before they head out the door with my rendition of Happy Birthday in song. I know they're going to love that. And just maybe I can find out how old they are. I think they're either thirteen or fourteen.

I read Myerson's this morning. And check out the picture that goes with it. His op-ed piece is a must read. Interesting, very interesting. But let us get back to that picture. Can anyone explain that?

Have a great day, folks. It's still cold here, and I don't think I'm doing the walk this morning because I have to start out early. I need to get my hair cut, so I'm going to try and catch my favorite barber this morning before he gets real busy.

Mudge, Slyness, Martooni, Scotty, Yoki, and all, good morning to you.*waving*

Time to study.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 3, 2008 4:51 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle, Cassandra.

Sad news this morning: RIP, legendary folksinger Odetta, 77, after a bunch of long illnesses. She had hoped to sing at Obama's inauguration, and it was said that wish was the only thing keeping her alive. She was said to be "the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement," and indeed she was.

I saw her a couple of times at the Philly Folk Festival in the 60s, where she was a staple every year. Here she is at the Philly five years ago:

Here she is with Harry Belafonte in another famous performance:

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 3, 2008 6:24 AM | Report abuse

Morning everybody, hey Cassandra!

Another cold day in the Carolinas, we are colder in the Queen City this morning than some places in the mountains. It's always disconcerting when that happens.

Yoki, I hope you have a successful day and a good time at BPH tonight!

Posted by: slyness | December 3, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

*quick-but-heartfelt-while-surrounded-by-piles-of-last-minute-"you-can-take-care-of-this-can't-you?"-work-and-looking-forward-to-the-BPH Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Good Mornin, Boodle!
Managed to get in this morning, no problem.
Roaring into the fridid but clear sky. Woohoo.

Posted by: Braguine | December 3, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

A quick summary of what I'd composed last night for my One Car of the Future (I prefer multiple specialized cheap used vehicles over a single new one, but that's just me):

A small Mazda 3-sized 4 door wagon with a carbon fiber/kevlar tub over an aluminum backbone chassis with aluminum buklheads at each end and aluminum cage/rollover structure, Wheels are pushed all the way out to the corners for maximum space usage and handling, wheelbase of around 104-107 in. The bodywork is carbon fiber and has computer controlled active aerodynamic control surfaces working in conjunction with a piezoelectric plasticized skin to provide optimal air managment and drag, downforce and aero balance under all conditions including vairble air inets, spoilers/turning vanes/airbrakes and underbody/ground effects (not sure if I want vacuum traction assist). It'll reshape itself into a teardrop at 40 mph cruise, and into an actively controlled air-rending Formula 1 or A Mod autocross car depending on the situation.

Also, the skin will be able to display HD colors and graphics so I can make it say "Error in '12", TBG can have it say "Obama in '12," Joel can have real HV video flames, and Mudge can show the world "Battleship Potempkin."

More momentarily.


Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

My ideal car would be a small beige sedan driven by an attractive woman named Inga.

But, barring that, my ideal car would be a bis. Alas, as TBG has mentioned, the bus service in Fairfax is not what it could be.

To use the bus to get to work would require me to first hike the better part of a mile just to get to a bus stop (much of the walk sans sidewalk), and then make two transfers. (I've checked.) A 30 minute commute would become closer to 90 minutes.

Which is a shame. When I was in grad school in Seattle I took the bus from my little apartment in Green Lake to the UW every day. I used the time to read, write letters, or simply daydream.

These things are generally discouraged when driving on the beltway.

Perhaps, one day, public transportation will get the support it needs. If a nice low-emission bus were able to whisk me each morning from my neighborhood to my employer I would be delighted.

Even without Inga.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 3, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

SCC: a "bus." Sheesh. I don't know what a "bis" is, and I don't think I wanna.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 3, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Most disingenuous Gerson line of the day:

"Obama's personnel decisions have effectively ratified Bush's defense and economic approaches during the past few years."

Gotta get some of whatever the conservative pundits are smoking nowadays. It is good, good stuff.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget the fuzzy dice. My wife is going to get me some twenty-sided ones.

That's the way I roll.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

The One Car will have a computer controlled drive management system (programmed by me, natch) to manage the 250 hp 275 lb-ft tq electric drive motor system at the rear wheels (plate batteries are sandwiched under the floor of the car to keep the center of gravity low) which will go 150 miles without a recharge, and will be supplemented by an lighweight 220 hp/ 220 lb-ft tq 1.5 liter 4 valve/cyl ceramic block- and head- internal combustion engine (not sure about gasoline, diesel, or natural gas yet), with direct fuel injection, variable turbocharging, and computer-controlled variable electric valve actuation - no cams, no springs, and optimal valve timing for each combustion event for maximum efficency and power as well as reduced parasitic power loss.

The ic engine only runs when necessary, such as when the electric power runs down, when the situation demands additonal power, or the driver manually selects sport or AWD mode.

Computer controlled stability and torque control manage power delivery under normal driving conditions, though there are preset functions for the above-mentioned sport or AWD modes, which also includes a paddle-shifted manual transmission control function housed within the lightweight carbon-fiber cased gearbox. Small diameter multi-plate clutch, naturally.

There is double-A arm suspension at each corner, with electronically assisted rack and pinion steering up front, and the vehicle is stopped by ceramic brake rotors and titanium calipers, which also drive a kinetic energy recovery/electrtic rengeration system.



Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

In college, I used to ride the bus to my co-op job on weeks I had loaned my car to my girlfriend (yes, I was and am that whipped). It was the last time in my life I had the time to read The New Yorker cover to cover.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Bus service really is bad in Fairfax, isn't it RD? Back in the days of my burb-to-burb commute, I would have had to walk 5 minutes to the bus stop, 30 minute bus ride, walk to Metro, ride train, switch train, ride another train, catch bus, ride 20 minutes to commuter lot, walk 20 minutes to work. Over two hours instead of a 30 minute drive. Yuk. Good public transit is one of the advantages of working downtown.

Any of you gummint types seen these guys in your building yet?

Posted by: Raysmom | December 3, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Not sure if I want a fully active computer controlled suspension or not, though it would be nice to have it lean into a corner like a motorcycle, for active/managed yaw and roll control in conjunction with the stability and power delivery control systems (including ABS - not sure I mentioned that previously).

The interior is a synthesis of Cadillac and Audi, a place you want to spend time in. But I insist that it has none of that touch screen/single knob computer control stuff.

A radio with real buttons and knobs, manual controls for headlights, wipers, HVAC, etc.

Now, I expect said device to get me at least 60 MPG over 150 mile+ trips, and to use no fossil fuel whatsoever on the daily commute to work. It should accelerate to 60 mph in 5 seconds or less, generate more than 1g of grip laterally, and stop from 60 mph in less than 105 ft.

It should sell for less than $15k.

And oh, yeah - it needs cupholders.


Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

bc, when that car comes on the market, I'm buying two!

Posted by: slyness | December 3, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

This is not acheerful post, but is the way I feel this morning. The bile is riding high. Forgive me for posting.

If any one thinks that the recent political stuff coming from your neighbour to the north is about the economy and what is good for the country, they are wrong. It is about the $1.95 paid by the government for every vote a party recieves in our election. Not a word of coalition was heard publically until the current government spoke about scrapping it.

I don't believe this is the time to start talking stimulus packages economically speaking. The Canadian economy is in a little better place than the US economy, but that won't last long, because of our very strong ties to what happens in your nation. 'Stimulus packages' are not going to change the simple fact that goods can be produced elsewhere for cheaper than we can produce them here. Manufacturing had deep and fundamental problems long before this current problem arose. Holding on to old products, old methods and even old jobs, isn't going to change that.

My personal experience is that sometimes you have to lose the farm to find a different way, no matter how hard it is to lose the farm. And no I don't mean the proverbial farm, I mean the literal one.

I am deeply deeply offended by anyone who finds anything to cheer about politically in Canada this morning, and deeply offended that when they had the chance and a popular will to make electoral reform happen, politicans chose not to take it. Now because they want to, they take away and play with the only voice I had and the vote I cast and make a mockery of it.

Posted by: --dr-- | December 3, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

And on a more cheerful note, I would love to be able to have someone else drive me to my work. I work right downtown, and there is a bus stop right across the street from the store.

The first problem is that no matter what way I take, for the first 30 km there is no public transit. The second is that to get to a point of reasonable public transit, I would have to drive about 15 of the thirty km through town with all its gas guzzling stops and starts.

The way I go to work now, my commute is 35 minutes mostly highway miles, with an average of two sets of lights per trip.

But, oh, if only I could commute by bus, just think of how much knitting I could do.

And, with gas prices falling, I now am paying less than 30 bucks to fill my Fit. I am looking for the day it is under 25.

Posted by: --dr-- | December 3, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Some people want better public transportation, I'd settle for just some sidewalks.

When I lived in Europe in '71-'72, women walked to the small local market and bought that day's supply of groceries--everything very, very fresh--put it in their small wicker baskets and walked home. There were no plastic hand carts supplied by the market, no plastic sacks used to package the day's purchases.

We have a major strip mall, and a market and smaller stores across the street, just 1.3 miles from us. I'd love to have the ability to shop the way I saw European women shop in Europe more than 30 years ago.

Our neighborhood has sidewlks that accommodate just a single pedestrian, but by the time one gets to the main drag or boulevard, there are no sidewalks at all, just grassy flats or grassy drainage ditches. Hardly a pedestrian-friendly city, when, with some effort, it could be.

Posted by: laloomis | December 3, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm driving the 12km (approx. 7 miles) to work most days, then Mrs D keeps on going another 15km to her place of work. I take the bus to come back and take the bus both ways when Mrs D ain't going to work at her usual place (she travels a lot). It's a 25-30 minutes bus rides most days. By car my personal best is 12min 45sec (I broke the 13min mark this once) but the usual time is 20-30 minutes.
Buses are OK but don't forget you sometimes ride standing up, other times there may be a bunch of loud youths and there is always the smelly hobo that may be seating next to you. But overall, it's a good experience, it's a great reading time.If it can comfort you dr, us residents of the Silly City are being punished for that mess. Rain, sleet, freezing rain and bizarre and regular snow have been falling in random order since that fiasco got started. Locusts are expected soon. I haven't seen boils appearing on politicos yet but my eyes are red and I've been crying for about a day.
I confess to one guilty pleasure though; reading opinion pieces from the pundits of the right, specially the ones from the West. The usual fake outrage now has a ring of authenticity that makes me giggle. I just visualize the steam coming off their ears. I'm confident a couple will blow a head gasket before this thing is over.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 3, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm driving the 12km (approx. 7 miles) to work most days, then Mrs D keeps on going another 15km to her place of work. I take the bus to come back and take the bus both ways when Mrs D ain't going to work at her usual place (she travels a lot). It's a 25-30 minutes bus rides most days. By car my personal best is 12min 45sec (I broke the 13min mark this once) but the usual time is 20-30 minutes.
Buses are OK but don't forget you sometimes ride standing up, other times there may be a bunch of loud youths and there is always the smelly hobo that may be seating next to you. But overall, it's a good experience, it's a great reading time.If it can comfort you dr, us residents of the Silly City are being punished for that mess. Rain, sleet, freezing rain and bizarre and regular snow have been falling in random order since that fiasco got started. Locusts are expected soon. I haven't seen boils appearing on politicos yet but my eyes are red and I've been crying for about a day.
I confess to one guilty pleasure though; reading opinion pieces from the pundits of the right, specially the ones from the West. The usual fake outrage now has a ring of authenticity that makes me giggle. I just visualize the steam coming off their ears. I'm confident a couple will blow a head gasket before this thing is over.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 3, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

On another note, I'd gladly ride a Ducati motorcycle on my 60-mile-each-way commute between April and November. However, many of the people in my life whose opinions I value highly consider my long-term viability more valuable than the gas money I'd save (and the fun I'd have).

And I must say, they have a good point.

Meant to add that the doors of the One Car would have kevlar-lined impact- absorbent foam pad inserts (as used on race cars).


Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

OOps. Sorry for the double post. Got an error on page message after the first. I should know better than believe the comment bot.
Yep bc, I also wish I could ride my dearly departed old cb360 to work but I've just seen too many accidents and close calls involving 2-wheelers. The person on the bike never wins the argument, notwithstanding how much in their right they were.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 3, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Nobody here but us drones, Raysmom...


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Thanks very much for your Odetta post.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

SD, you are taking my moisture and now you want my locusts too?


Scotty, warm up the fax. The grasshoppers are a coming.

Posted by: --dr-- | December 3, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I'll install the fax's funnel attachment for easy loading, dr...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

*faxing SD a couple pounds of dehydrated water in powder form. You know how to mix it up*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

A decade or so back, I came across an article that explained why it is so hard to walk anywhere from housing in the U.S. today, even when the physical range between housing and services is not too great. Residential developments are zoned residential and thus the developers are required to provide sidewalks. Developers work very hard to avoid responsibility for roadways that provide access to their new developments, however (because they cost a lot, obviously), and persuade the state to build those roads for the benefit of commerce and serving the voting population. That means they are state roads, not residential roads, and therefore no sidewalk is required by zoning regulations. The place to go to make sidewalks a reality is to lobby for changes in zoning regulations that encourage the construction of sidewalks on local roads serving residential areas, even if those roads are nominally state roads. Such a move will, of course, face massive opposition because it will create a substantial increase in the cost of road construction. "Just put in a sidewalk" is a simple statement that covers a lot of manpower. Manpower that, by the way, presently is in poor financial health and could use the stimulus. Unfortunately, the money has to come from state coffers, and state budgets are doing no better.

Sounds like time for a New New Deal, and a new WPA.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 3, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Post reports that ADP projects 250K jobs lost in private sector in November. My emails included a request from a friend for help finding a new job after losing his yesterday. He was with a tech start up that seems to be starting down--or at least didn't need my friend who I have known for quite a while.

Folks are considering jobs out of town, as well.

I know that several of us on the boodle have felt this and wish everyone the best in the upcoming winter months.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Tim, in technology, the most feared word used to start a sentence is "just."

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The main road that RD and I both live off of was a winding, two-lane road for much of my life. In the past 20 years, it has been widened to a divided, four-lane highway. When they did the last bit of widening and improvement a few years ago, they added a wide, blacktop sidewalk on one side of the road, with lots of room between it and the roadway.

It's a perfect case of "if you build it, they will come." There is not a day I've driven on that road that I haven't seen several people walking, running, strolling, dog-walking... whatever.. on that sidewalk.

Sidewalks don't have to be concrete with curbs. A simple blacktop path goes a long way to creating a more-walkable area.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 3, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

And now, for today's financial-meltdown laugh of the day...

Posted by: -TBG- | December 3, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Have them widen some shoulders and stripe in bicycle lanes while they are out there. Some busy sections of State Road 103 in EC have plenty of driveways but also carry major feeder commuter traffic with no sidewalks or shoulders at all.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I am looking forward to joining a new educational non-profit in January, named for a famous science, engineering, and science fiction writer recently deceased. I am not permitted to acknowledge the name at this point, despite my obvious hinting, but soon. Actually, this is just the latest incarnation of the group I have worked with for 9 years, now finally venturing out independently.

On the one hand, non-profits suffer greatly during such times as we have now (news of a recession is old news to us). On the other, my personal salary for doing science will remain grant-funded by the gummint. The tricky part is to get funding for the education side of things. We will see what we can do. Of course, the gummint may also start shedding obligations.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 3, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Grrrrrrrrr. I hate stories like the lead story, "Haste Could Make Waste, States Say." Go ahead and read that damn thing and tell me how many logical contradictions you can find. There are a ton of 'em. (In a way, I'm not faulting the reporters, exactly, because they are mainly just quoting various officials. Still, the thing is twisted like a licorice whip.)

Here's what it says: Obama needs to hurry up and quickly decide where to apply the stimulus package--although haste in doing so could be a problem. (Translation: hurry up, but take your time.)

It also says Obama needs to pick and chose among a laundry list of projects, and do it quickly -- although a good many of these projects are very ciomplicated and picking among them won't be easy (unspoken message: because it's complicated he should take his time making the decisions -- and hurry up about it).

It says economists say these major infrastructure stimulus projects won't help if it's a short recession. It also says economists say it won't be a short recession. I'm glad they cleared that up.

It says Obama and the country really need to have these projects implemented to help the economic crisis -- although these are major long-term projects that won't help the economic crisis in the short term.

It also says that because of the recession, government needs to spend lots of money. That's why all the state governments are cutting back on spending lots of money. There are lots of construction projects that need doing and lots of unemployed construction workers -- so the states are cancelling a lot of construction projects.

There was also something in it about maresy dotes and doesy dotes and little lambs eedivy, but I didn't understand that part.


Scotty, some of us gummint drones you mentioned are starting to feel a tad headachey and quesey and possibly scurvily inclined, and may have to leave work a bit early today. What do you think?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Tim, you're going to go to work for the Frank Herbert Institute of Spiceworm Technology?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The concept you are groping for, Joel, has been realized already in the "Fantasticar," the Fantastic Four's means of transport that breaks into separate pods for each. Except, I think, the Human Torch who flies himself when the car splits into modules. But the concept is sound: three or four mini-Cooper-sized cars that cleverly merge into each other.

Your other option awaits until Second Life gets better screen resolution, and you go ahead and buy floor-installed "accelerator, brake, clutch" to hook to your computer. Or maybe you'd be okay with a joystick, but I like the idea of home virtual drivers-ed for the kids. And me. I'm not enough of a gamer to install such, but if there were kids in the house I'd rather they wreck a few virtual cars than real ones.

For more fun, you could send out real flying lightweight drones, even nano-drones for expending only tiny amounts of power, and control them from your desktop. Again, you'd want the high screen resolution. Then you could really tour the countryside in style. No wind in your hair, but you could, I suppose, turn on a fan in the computer room. The dog would, granted, be unsatisfied by this sort of thing.

I wonder if you could get the drone to pick up a loaf of bread on the way back?

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 3, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

My neighborhood was developed in the late 50's/early 60's when sidewalks weren't even considered. We do have sidewalks now but they were definitely aftermarket. The City has a program to install sidewalks but it's always underfunded. Like TBG says, when they are present, they are heavily used.

I had to walk 3 and a half miles home one Christmas eve after a car breakdown and was forced to walk in the median because there was no place on either side of the road. I'm glad to say the problem on that road has been rectified.

Posted by: slyness | December 3, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Great point on fear of roadway responsibility. I would also like to see residential developers pitch in on subsidizing the mass transit in new developments (like rideon service). Sort of the Build it and they will come thought.

I have found it very nice to be on or around major arteries. I am sure that there are much wiser folks here who could boil this down, but if buses are frequently passing then it is more likely for folks to opt for the service, I would see more often smaller shuttles a better solution rather than a larger bus. Standing isn't as big a deal as speed (in my book and comments from drivers.)

An interesting case has been the Wisconsin Ave corridor south of Tenleytown. Our transit system has added more buses and more lines that cover that stretch and now buses arrive every 5 minutes or so (there must also be some law about bus bunching) ... but they make the trip. Sort of interesting that, as the ease of making it up and down Wisconsin Ave has improved, the drivers are noting a change in ridership. One driver said that the problem is that they don't have enough bus barn space to serve the subsystem on Wisconsin Ave.

I also have heard from cab drivers that they no longer avoid Wisconsin Ave like the plague and prefer the route except in extreme situations.

I feel that I and all the other folks who chose to take mass transit where possible are doing our best to improve Senior Achenbach's commute.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

A reporter in our local paper urges developers continue to be required to put sidewalks, on both sides of street, in new Charlotte developments. This is the sort of opposition this gets:

I feel for you Loomis, and other Texans. I can't remember a single sidewalk in Texas. Surely there must have been some. Somewhere.

There's a neat little area right near my house with music, food, drink, art, street parties, etc. From my house to there, 1 mile, there is not a single sidewalk until I'm about 50 feet from the zone.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 3, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, Texans found that sidewalks just encouraged young children to draw hopscotch courts in brightly colored chalk. Mature Texans loathe hopscotch.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Weird. I go to Science Daily, and they are working on similar.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 3, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

hello slyness, I think that an offshoot of improved battery technology and dangerously close to being on topic will be the greater reliance on electric scooters for around the town quick hops. The problem is that they can be dangerous for the rider, in traffic.

Local laws often keep them off bike paths. I am thinking that there should be a way to get them onto a wider path and off the road.

Scooters would also make a great home grown industry. Currently, most electric scooters are manufactured in Asia followed by Europe.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, it is beyond foolhardy to "urge" developers to do anything. You might as "urge" the tide to stop for a while. The only thing that can be done with developers is to pass tought laws requiring them -- on pain of jail -- to do the right things, whatever they may be. Developers pretty much have zero social conscience. (Speaking as someone who has covered zoning issues off and on for the better part of forty-some years.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Sure, there's chalk hopscoth art in our neighborhood, but that's the least of our transportation woes.

No sidewalks to retail areas is one, as I mentioned.

There's an old rail line from the the newest shopping center on our far north side, The Rim, to downtown, and there's been talk--and not much else--about putting rail transportation from there to downtown, really an excellent idea.

There's talk about widening another noth-south feeder highway, 281, into the downtown, but the environmental impact report for the widening has been flimsy, and there are some "unusual" political ties that contribute to the very recent environmental impact report being both flimsy and very suspect, not what taxpayers and residents want to hear about (government corruption) since the wider highway would run over the very sensitive Edwards Aquifer.

There has been plenty of talk of building transportation corridors in Texas--wide swaths that could accommodate separate lanes for trucks, others for car, and rail, but the likely builder is a European outfit and toll revenue would go to the builder and not the state of Texas--or the bulk of the revenue anyway.

I'm with what Jumper said, modular personal transportation units that could be coupled or uncoupled as need be, depending on the number of travelers or passengers, that could possibly connect to other, more distance-covering transport. We already have that here, bike racks on metro buses--ha, ha-- but when oil was sky-high, the bike racks couldn't accommodate the demand.

The way I see it, the cars of the future for us old-gummers, Joel included, will be motorized wheelchairs with parasols.

Posted by: laloomis | December 3, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Hi everyone. Very busy morning, looking forward to this afternoon. What time will people appear?

And look, bobsewell has returned! Welcome back.

Posted by: Yoki | December 3, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I don't even play a doctor on TV, 'Mudge, but it sure sounds like antiscorbutics are called for sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Russianthistle, I'd have one of those if I felt I could drive it safely. The local planning people are on board with the concept of bike lanes as well as sidewalks, but the state DOT folks haven't figured it out yet. Since NCDOT maintains the numbered highways, which are the major traffic routes through town, we're stuck.

Ironically, there is a small office/shopping area about six blocks from my house, and there are sidewalks so I could walk there. But it's completely moribund. The grocery store and the drugstore closed, the pizza place moved. The only office left in the whole complex is my dentist, and it's creepy going in there, with nobody else around.

Posted by: slyness | December 3, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, you burst yet another urban legend. Thanks.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I used to work in land development. The developers routinely shoot themselves in the foot, and of course the citizenry in general.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 3, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, you got my concern, as well. getting folks onto a safer solution such as an electric scooter would go a long way to solving our fossil fuel challenge.

We have a bike path running from the inside the beltway Maryland suburban area to the edge of downtown business district. The challenge on the trail is speed (downhill going to work in the morning from MD burbs).

Safety is a concern with bikers flying down the trail while runners, rollerbladers and walkers share the trail.

While almost anyone can easily ride "TO" work, only the very healthy can regularly ride home on the trail. Many folks will either tag a ride on a bus with the Loomis rack (Ms Loomis, those racks get a real workout around here and favored by college students.) OR, the bikes make it onto the Metro after rush hour when they are allowed onto the trains. Again, though, a bike rider faces a safety concern in the winter if they are riding the last leg from the metro station after dark.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

*Pops head up*

Still on transport, I see. I'm in favor of bike trials, pedestrian-friendly streets, and other innovative developments that were developed only 2,000 years ago in Europe.

And I'd like non-polluting flying cars that you could buzz Pluto in.

*Pops head back down*

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 3, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Hi Yoki,I wish i could make it to the bph,but i must work...sending your a virtual hug.

bc,i like your car idea,how does it handle going up a mountain in the snow?

Busy day heading out early for work,then a few well earned days off.

Have a great day everyone and have fun at the BPH!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 3, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Totally off topic but a great image of a full curl 40 foot wave with a surfer just before wipe out. The big waves are running now just below San Francisco.

Posted by: bh71 | December 3, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Great pics! thanks.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, people start showing up around 5. (Sometimes bc gets there sooner.) I may be a bit late today -- I'm gonna run over to the Weingarten book signing and see if I can cage his autograph on my Carl Hiaasen novel (already got Carl's Dave Barry's and Joel's in it).

Wanna come along? I can meet you there (at the Weingarten thing) or at M&S (where I'm valet parking at 5:01 p.m.) and we can walk over and back to M & S afterward. It's only a block or two.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

If things go as they are, I'll probably be there at 5:00 to valet park as well, may join you for the Weingarten thing, though someone needs to hold down the fort at M&S (and perhaps incidentally consume a beverage or two).

YMMV, though.

gwe, you did note that I made the One Car condition-depenent or manually-controlled All Wheel Drive with variable torque split f/r and l/r, as well as having two sources of power (if one fails somewhere in those dark WV hills, you still have one to keep you moving long enough to get somewhere safe).

Goes up snowy mountain roads like a scared goat, and will run the 1000 Lakes World Rally some February in the future. With me behind the wheel, grinning from ear to ear in a full opposite-lock four-wheel drift, trailing plumes of snow off of the tires like four unlimited hydroplanes.


Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: -tao- | December 3, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I understand that times are tight and we all gotta do what we gotta do to get a little scratch -- but if you guys are out there valet-parking, won't that make it difficult to sit down at a table with Yoki and, y'know, consume anti-scorbutics? Plus, I can't imagine bc accepting the keys to some nice ride without wanting to test it a little, put it through its paces. I really doubt that you'll earn big tips that way.

I fear I shan't be able to be in attendance. Duties call from home, and I must be there.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 3, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, you underestimate us. When we valet park, we take the money, drive the car around the corner, and just leave it anywhere. Then we run like hell back to M&S. So far, bc has the record time: 17 seconds. The man is a machine, I tell ya.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

That's cool bc,satellite radio to pick up the skins or ravens or keys games in the middle of a desert?

Mudge, after your adventure south of the border with bc earlier this year,I am not sure i let you guys valet my car or donkey for that matter.I am still laughing to this day about that....Thanks

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 3, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Yannow... do I gotta fill my 2001 Ford's gas tank and drive to DC to b-slap some sense into these people?

You've all heard my rants about putting the entire country on Medicare, because it makes sense on so many levels. But now we've got another $39B going to a cause that can't save itself because it promised too many people more benefits than it can afford to pay up. It ain't that Detroit's cars stink or aren't "green" enough, it's that they can't sell enough cars EVER to pay the healthcare bills of their current and retired workers. $39B won't even buy them a bandaid.

And now the states want their billions, too.


Take those billions and trillions and gazillions of *our* money (which I'm sure they're just firing up the printing presses to supply) and use it to provide FREE universal healthcare for EVERYONE and watch how every business in America will benefit from healthier workers and an extra 30 to 40% magically stripped from their costs.

Sure, taxes would have to go up, but nowhere near what Blue Cross/Shield/whatever charges to tell you "no... sorry... that was a pre-existing condition so eff off".

Let the automakers use their own dang money to develop "green" cars or the cure for cancer. But take away the healthcare costs (as in nationalizing it) and we might even be competitive with Canada again (no offense) or even China.

My gawd... these people "in charge" have more trees jammed in their eyeballs than... umm... ok... lost the metaphor. But with all those trees sticking out of their eyeballs, how do they expect to see the forest, let alone keep it from burning down?

I suppose the fire truck manufacturers will want their bailout next to keep up with demand.


And I *still* feel like something the cat threw up and tried to bury.

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm gonna rant -- hold onto your wigs....

So, I sign up with Directv on Monday, they assure me that I have to be able to have a signal coming from the southeast (I face east -- not going to be a problem. Turns out when the guy comes to install it today, I find out that the signal comes from the southwest, and there's a building in the way. So I was compelled to cancel. The only thing left for me is Comcast, and I'm a little wary of that.

*expletive mutterings*

Have fun tonight at the IBPH.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 3, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Martooni -- I'm with ya all the way, brother! You are so right.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 3, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse


As always, I've got your back on your healthcare rant, BUT, somewhere out of the revenues of the "Somewhat Smaller" 3, there has to come a flow of money towards the health care costs.

Clearly, though, if we are just spinning the presses to solve our problems, then let's help the common man, while we are at it. We help him (and her) directly with health care and we marginally help industry.

I am wrapped around that proverbial axle however on whether we should provide these advantages to companies from off-shore who get a windfall benefit for plants that are in the USA.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 3, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

ftb- I just signed on to get phone, internet, and cable from AT&T. I dunno if it's available in your area, but it beats the only cable option here, and I don't have to deal with space rays beaming into my house.

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 3, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, GWE, we'd take real good care of your car. Real good. (heh heh heh)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I think all doctors should get their pay cut in half -- all except 13 on "House," who should get a handsome raise.

(13 is a person, for those who don't know. It's not thirteen doctors. It's one doctor named Thirteen. Or 13. Like Seven of Nine with a stethescope. And a killer smile.)

Most nurses should get raises, especially if they do icky stuff, like deal with doctors (except 13). Techies, too. Hospital dieticians deserve waterboarding.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Add 'Polar Bear Sexer' to the list of jobs that I am unqualified for and wouldn't want even if I were.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Can't the bears do it themselves?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Cool about Weingarten! I'll plan to be at M&S at 5:00, and will see whether the spirit moves me to join you at the signing or hold down the fort and incidentally imbibe some beverages.

Posted by: Yoki | December 3, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Mudge... the real question is whether bears do it to themselves in the woods.

And what about the Pope?

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Does he do it in the woods too? I'm so confused.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

And if so, are they like the Beatles and able to "do it in the road"?

I would bet that bears would do it anywhere, given the time, a fruit basket and some scented oils.

In fact, after having watched the animated version of "The Jungle Book" where Baloo sang his little tune about the "Bear Necessities" and proceeded to rub himself on everything that couldn't get out of his way, I might be more concerned about what bears do it *with*.

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that most papal auto-wrestling would take place behind closed doors. It might make the church look bad for its spiritual leader to be participating in outdoor pagan rituals. It would make Sunday Mass a little more interesting, though.

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 3, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

SCC: that should have read "pickanick basket" instead of "fruit basket".

All this BPH talk has me all jealous and unable to type straight.

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm already destined for Hell, I'll ask the really big question about the Pope...

Where do Dispensations come from and should I wear a hazmat suit when receiving one.

Oh man, that just did *not* come out right and I just know I'm gonna regret clicking "submit" (how ironic?!), but Hallelujah and God Save the Queen and all that...

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I had no idea that "Let's go steal some pickanick baskets, Boo-Boo" was a euphemism for an erotic ursine rendezvous. Another childhood memory shattered.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

yello... if that's the case, you probably don't want to know about "wide stances" in airport bathrooms.

Posted by: martooni | December 3, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

They have pickanick baskets in airport restrooms?

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

That article also made me realize that "hung like a polar bear" is not necessarily a compliment.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 3, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

A couple of quick things (aside from my driving and sprinting) - the American auto industry employs directly or indirectly approximately about a half-million people (granted, according to *them* - I have no good way of verifying quickly) in the US, and I don't really know how many more around the world.

Seems to me that the question - is it worth $xx Billion dollars to keep these companies afloat, to allow the workers to remain employed and with benefits (not to mention those no longer employed as union or non-union employees, as martooni mentions), or to let them evaporate, sink, or crater?

My pure guess here is that a Democratic Government that had heavy union support for the campaigns will keep the compaines going in some form for awhile.

Some might advocate letting everything collapse or scrapping certain things - Wall Street, the Housing markets, the Health Care systems, the American economy in general (and possibly the US Government, if things got bad enough) - and letting things start over and evolve from scratch, but many people are allergic to anarchy. Plus, the kids will miss YouTube and Facebook.

Now, off to the BPH.


Posted by: -bc- | December 3, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Dulles rail LIVES!!! It LIVES, I tell you!!! Mwahahahahahaha!!!!


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

And I'm off to the BPH!

*trundling out the door* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 3, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

And me too!

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 3, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I've been trying to understand what's happening in Canada, as far as the government, and have been largely unsuccessful, despite watching the CBC news. The Yarn Harlot posted a pretty good explanation that kind of makes sense to me, although it is still confusing. And of course I can't be a judge on how correct she is. Anyway, if you're at all interested:

Posted by: seasea | December 3, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Excellent primer and summary on the part of the yarn harlot. One point she doesn't mention though: Harper is raging against the separatists of the Bloc now, he wasn't so sanguine about them when they were voting his way for 18 months in the past Parliament.

I walked by the peace tower around noon, it was pretty much business as usual; no enraged citizenry with pitchforks and torches, yet.

I also walked past two bookstores and didn't enter. So I can do it. One day at a time.

I wasn't so successful in the food store. I was sent on a mission to find good cocoa. Mrs. D has grown weary of the chain store kind, the first 3 ingredients being different kinds of sugar. I found the good cocoa but also came back with 3 kinds of nougat for the Christmas stockings, bio hot chocolate, harissa, double concentrate of tomato, Hungarian paprika and other stuff...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 3, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse


Heading out the door, a little late for the BPH, but Son of G and I will be there nonetheless. Busy, busy day... again wondering when I had time to work.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 3, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

A beautiful sunset tonight with the moon,venus and jupiter still in the view.2 flocks of geese flew by but they were heading north and not south.

And not your average-type bear tbg, and Jellystone and who couldn't like boo boo bear awwwwwwwwww.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 3, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

While his ideas sound fun, more practical advice falls in with some of the ideas already given. What we need is extensive high speed rail (roads are just going to continue to get more congested anyway, etc.), some sort of car sharing service if you need a big vehicle (who wants to pay for an SUV or van and insurance if you don't use it that much?) and a small car or scooter for everyday. Must say I love the horse and cart idea though.

Posted by: officespace4031 | December 3, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

It's shrinkage, Yellojkt. Think of all the swimming in cold water they do.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 3, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

seasea, see if this helps, our system of government is based on the ruling party having the "confidence" of the house, should the house loose confidence and have enough seats they may vote to defeat the government.
In that case there are two options, seek to have Parliament dissolved but the Governor General or should there be a workable situation where the opposition parties can form a coalition government - ask them to form the government. A situation that exists in many countries around the world i.e. Isreal, in the past Australia, and currently Germany and I believe New Zealand.

The last government here to form a coalition was in Ontario a Liberal/NDP arrangement that set in place a specific agenda and terms.

There were articles and copies of letters today from our PM when he proposed a similar arrangement should the government of Paul Martin be defeated, and another agreement between a former leader of the Alliance and the Bloc.

Such is life in a parliamentary democracy.

The issue here was real, the opposition parties already had their major funding sources removed (companies and union) the 1.95 although not fair is a big deal

Wrong time to make the change, in an economic crisis is failed to do anything to help the thousands of people losing jobs in my province.

So yes I am happy, an arrogant swine is paying the piper.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 3, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Florida is rather big on requiring sidewalks everywhere, and they seem to have to meet Americans With Disabilities Act criteria. A recent repaving in town resulted in a bright orange bumpy pavement panel at the beginning of each crosswalk. I think part of the reasoning is that if there's no sidewalks, there will be homeless/disabled people wandering the traffic lanes. In the past, they were probably fair game, but no longer.

My new kitchen cabinets will be installed tomorrow, finally. Some were bought as far back as June.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 3, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

seasea, just read Yarnharlots post and it is indeed a good summary (although elections are now every four years - a fixed date brough in by our current PM and then promptly broken by said PM). I should state my bias I feel for Harper a similar contempt many feel for Bush.

An explanation concerning proroguing parliament - an option for Harper but one I find distasteful at this point particularly when used to avoid a vote of non-confidence.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 3, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, sd and dmd. Every bit helps. It's been a wild political year. Maybe Yoki is explaining all this at the BPH!

Posted by: seasea | December 3, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

I hope not, seasea. BPHs are so much more fun with random silliness and again with the hugs from Mo.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 3, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

And another offering of absurdity - Seattle Christmas tree ornament banned from the White House:
Kind of an interesting article about art and politics from my very own Congressional district. I make no judgement on the appropriateness of mixing all this.

Posted by: seasea | December 3, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Whew, that Yarn Harlot post explains it all quite clearly. I still have one question, is Dion the best the Liberals can do for a leader?

Barely time to boodle skim lately but want to wish Martooni good luck with the job search, applaud DotC for getting those cabinets installed, wish everybody easy walking on great sidewalks, and bid you all fondue.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 3, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I didn't realize that the Washington Post outed the Seattle Christmas ornament:

frosti, maybe you can explain what's going on in the MN Senate recount. I haven't had time to read about that.

Must be a festive BPH...

Posted by: seasea | December 3, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Unrelated to anything else today, the University of Chicago Press has released Joel Berger's "The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World". From the blurb:
"At dawn on a brutally cold January morning, Joel Berger crouched in the icy grandeur of the Teton Range. It had been three years since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone after a sixty-year absence, and members of a wolf pack were approaching a herd of elk. To Berger’s utter shock, the elk ignored the wolves as they went in for the kill. The brutal attack that followed—swift and bloody—led Berger to hypothesize that after only six decades, the elk had forgotten to fear a species that had survived by eating them for hundreds of millennia..."

Wolves did indeed shake things up in the Yellowstone area.

Annie Proulx has written about a predaceous Wyoming plant (mentioned in the Other Newspaper's hundred best books); I'd pay attention to the wolves first.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 3, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

MN recount-with 97,58% of ballots recounted Franken is up by 11,170. However, four counties just started the recount process today so things should narrow back to a 100-200 vote lead for either Franken or Coleman. They have challenged a total of 6,326 ballots with about an even number of challenges from each candidate.

The state canvassing board meets on the 16th and will rule on the challenges. Still in dispute are rejected absentee ballots. Franken wants the board to look at them and determine if the local election judges were correct, Coleman says you can't recount ballots that weren't counted in the first place so they should not be reviewed. This is likely to end up in court no matter what the canvassing board decides to do.

Some "irregularities" have been noted but resolved without threats of lawsuits from the candidates- ballots left in an election worker's car (counted), a "late count" from an overwhelmingly pro-Franken area (officials forgot to call their totals in to the county, they counted), ballots found stuck in a voting machine (counted, and the Sec'y of State is more upset about it than either campaign).

With luck the canvassing board will be able to certify a winner and the defeated candidate will not drag us through a court battle. But at this point I'm not willing to bet either Franken or Coleman would bow out gracefully.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 3, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Why, hello, Boodle. You guys still up? Keeping the home fires burning for us, were you?

No, Yoki was most surely NOT explaining how wild a political year it was to the BPH. More than that I cannot say. But oh the laughter, and the camaraderie. And I believe some wine may have been consumed. How much wine, you might ask. Discretion prevents me from answering (though I have all the corks in my pocket). Just let me say..."multiple."

I left about 10:20 -- and bc, Tina, Pete, mo and Yoki were still there. )Don, Scotty and Brag had already left.)

I'm not sure a full, frank and candid report will be forthcoming tomorrow (or ever), so don't get your hopes up too high.

It may have been one for the record books, though. More I cannot say.

I have to go to bed now.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 3, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Heh heh.


Heh heh heh.

*really big yawn*

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 3, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

One for the record books? I hope everybody went home with their own thongs, Mudge.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 3, 2008 11:57 PM | Report abuse

I haven't been reading much of the news lately. I caught a couple of comments in the boodle about some political rumbling in Ottowa, and checked it out this evening via a link on the front page. I went to the Star site and checked out this editorial, and I think that I get it. Canadians elect representatives to the House of Commons. There is a Prime Minister who may or may not belong to the Party that ends up with a majority of seats. The PM governs with the majority, if a member of the latter, or attempts to form a coalition if he/she is a member of the minority party. If this fails, the HOC has the constitutional right to call for a vote of no confidence and, if the vote succeeds, show the PM the door. I'm not sure what happens after this, but this article makes a good case that PM Harper's position that the HOC is violating the Canadian constitution is untenable. Sounds logical to me.

Posted by: -jack- | December 3, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

I think I can speak for all of us when I say I'm still wearing my own thong, Wilbrod.

Such a good time was had. Scotty and I held down the fort until other boodlers appeared, one by one.

brag is amazing, you already know curmudgeon is amazing and I can't imagine why he's rambling on about wine...

Don was there! Such a pure pleasure to make his acqaintance. *Grover waves to Don*

bc is a fine gentleman, and a good friend. TBG was present and accounted for, as was SonofG (such a lovely young man and a good person).

I go home very happy to have spent time with friends real and imagined.

Posted by: Yoki | December 4, 2008 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Much relieved to hear that, Yoki.

I hope to meet some of the new BPHers when I show up in town over the holidays. (Post New-year BPH possible?)

As regards wine, I believe Mudge meant he had a corkin' good time and is now in a Keats mood:

O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

(Keats, Ode to a Nightingale).

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 4, 2008 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Never gets the rhyme scheme right.
Tries, fails.
Chuckles, retires.

G'night, y'all!

Posted by: bobsewell | December 4, 2008 4:31 AM | Report abuse

Morning patrol turning around and going back to bed.

Too many hours on too little sleep for too many people, but the installation is done and signed-off on.

Posted by: -dbG- | December 4, 2008 4:35 AM | Report abuse


Ratz!! Fratz!!! Matz!!!

Long post just eaten for "lack of sign-in"...

And it included me dancing!

*mumble-grumble-off-to-Dawn-Patrol Grover motions*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 4, 2008 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Would that have been a Snoopy dance? Combined with Grover waves, perhaps?

Posted by: yellojkt | December 4, 2008 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all glad such a good time was had at the BPH, Yoki is fantastic company so I a not surprised.

No Frosti Dion is not the best the Liberals could do, that said the other major candidates to take over for him in May also have some baggage - as does the party itself.

As someone with a University degree is exactly this sort of political,legal and media situation I must say I have been captivated by the news the last week on many different levels. It may not be pretty, but it is interesting. Yes I am a dork! :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | December 4, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

A short summary of our Governor General's options today. Includes a few interesting polls on what Canadians think - like many subjects we are all over the map.

One former GG has come out and said Michelle Jean should deny the request to prorogue.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 4, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

As I wanted to say earlier:

Mega-kudos to Yoki for manning the BPH battlements and warding off the where-did-all-these-people-come-from-is-there-a-convention-or-something crowds. The Shark Wrangling outfit couldn't have hurt.

'Mudge had WHAT in his pocket??? Oh, waitaminit...

'Twas wonderful to see Don from I-270 oot an aboot, and TBG and SoG were fashionably late. ;-) mo was her inimitiable hugging self, and was polite enough to avert her eyes as I performed a little "white guy not drunk enough (or at all)" dancing. bc, on the other hand...

And I must admit failure -- I missed my opportunity to get a pic of the Tres Suit Jacket Amigos. *SIGH*

And EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! This will affect a few Boodlers, I do believe... :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 4, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone.

Another one of those sunrises where if you listen carefully you can hear the angels sing. A band of green sky giving way to a glowing cloudscape of blue and pink. When illuminated in this way, the clouds remind me of a roiling ocean. I wish I could get out of my car and surf those brightly colored waves.

But that must wait until another day. I fear, for now, I have too much to do.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 4, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. Cassandra, up and at 'em, friend, we need your benizon.

I find the 4th of the month is auspicious, good things happen on this mark.

dmd, the best of political theatre indeed!

Posted by: Yoki | December 4, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Along with everything else, Canada is a place of traditions. things may not be law, but they are tradition, and so we go along, generally behaving as if a thing is law.

The Governor General is the only person who can make the decision to call an election or to call for another party or coalition of parties to form a government. The Prime Minister doesn't have the right. He can only ask, and she technically decides. Tradition says she does what the PM asks.

Thus this is not just a parlimentary kerfuffle, it is a constitutional problem, and no matter how it goes, its going to change things big time.

Posted by: --dr-- | December 4, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

As always, Scotty has the best BPH report.

And RD_Padouk wins my personal "Post of the Day (Descriptive Power category)" award.

Posted by: Yoki | December 4, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Well except for the time the GG denied King his dissolution of government and asked Meighan to form a coalition government.

Proroguing parliament is used to end a session when the work is done, not to avoid political instability. Tradition again.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 4, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Too many comments and kits, lists of things to do for the holiday a mile long and more than busy at work as I get up to speed on all the new tasks I’ve been learning. I don’t even have time to lurk from work anymore. I feel very disconnected from the boodle, the news and life in general. But I am here in spirit. Glad everyone had fun last night and also glad that I have a good mind picture of the place and the people.

I am trying to finish ‘A Team of Rivals’ as I have been reading it on and off since last spring. Am also trying not to relate it too much to Obama and his cabinet picks. Have a great day everyone.

Posted by: badsneakers | December 4, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Also tradition for the leader to accept that they have lost confidence in the house and call for election or the opposition party to take over (see Frank Miller Ontario 1985)

Posted by: dmd2 | December 4, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

OMG... Just heard Ozzy Ozbourne turned 60 yesterday.

I thought he got to stop the clock when he signed that whole "Prince of Darkness" deal. Love his latest TV commercials, too, 'specially the text messaging one. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 4, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I ment to thank RD for the sunrise post, sunlight is rare here this time of year, overcast the majority of the time. RD's post was a virtual sunrise and greatly appreciated.

Apologies to all I have an unexpected day off, obviosly I need to put my energy to better use :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | December 4, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all,

Not much dawn left, but it appears to be another cold, crisp, sunny day. I would love to join you all for another BPH after Christmas, when time slows a bit. So much to read about the Canadian government, provided by so many boodlers to the North, thanks!

Before this topic fades away for a new one, must say that I am impressed with the sensibility of Joel's current car, and the pleasant countryside week-end driving.

Also, interesting opinions of boodlers on cars of the past/future. I've always been an advocate for straight shift, it was hard to find one when I bought my volvo wagon in 1986, don't know how difficult it is now. But that car is still going, well over 230,000 miles on it, original trasmission. One of my sons uses it to go up and down the road to Harrisonburg, he loves the 30 mph gas mileage..., doesn't mind driving the rusty kleenex box designed "trublu".

Posted by: VintageLady | December 4, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle!
Great BPH last night. The even't is well covered by Mudge, Yoki and Snuke who took the incriminating visuals.

Made the mistake of checking emails when back in my writing cave. Aaaargghh it was like shoveling guano against the tide.

However, looks like my new book stands a chance of getting published.

Posted by: Braguine | December 4, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

That's great news, Brag, about your latest book.

Yes, RD's message was a beauty, gives me that virtual wiff of saltwater and singing tides we miss here in the red clay 'burbs.

Posted by: VintageLady | December 4, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Paging Tom Clancy!!!

(and perhaps one or two Boodlers with more than passing interest in the item at the bottom)


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 4, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Only have time for a drive-by, but wanted say thanks to everyone at the BPH last night, present in person and in spirit.

A BPH always leaves me feeling -- restored.

Enjoy the day, all.


Posted by: -bc- | December 4, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

A new kit. Laid back and easy.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 4, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

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