Thursday, July 30, 2015


I wonder if we ever get 'outraged' any more.  We say we do, but its gone by the next day.  Perhaps a week, but not usually.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


At what point will Firefox, or any of its colleagues,  allow the URL font to be increased, so that some of me can actually read the damn thing without cutting/pasting it into a Word document and then expanding the hell out of it?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Amendment

Because who cares how many people die, right?   

I-93 Musings

Random thoughts while trudging through the traffic on I93 near Boston --

There are 'executive limo services' that take a normal delivery van (the model that I know of its Sprinter, but there could be others), gut it, and put in interior accouterments like those found in an executive jet -- hyper-comfortable chairs, refrigerator, internet access, flat screen TV, all of that.  The idea is for people to be able to be cosseted and coddled without alerting the plebs that a grossly overpaid corporate bigwig is transiting the area.  Well, of course, I am as offended by this lavishness as any other plebe (though the older I get, the less I consider it to be lavish and the more I think of it as 'well, that’s nice').  So when I am trying to get somewhere -- almost *anywhere* --  in Boston, and it’s too damn hot to walk, and too damn crowded to drive, I think *executive tour shuttle'.  I'd pay handsomely for one to come whispering up (electric, of course!) and coddle/cosset me from here to there. 

Sirius XM radio is very nice, but a) it really should have the option to invoke overseas feeds (for example, Le Monde, from France), and b) since it’s hard to read the ‘channel’ indicator, particularly when you are driving, it should have the ability to ‘speak’ the channel when you change it. Surely this is possible?

GPS should have the ability to change how much lead time you want when it announces an upcoming change – and if there are two changes in quick succession, it should just alert you that its doing a reroute because it can’t say the directions fast enough. Other than by going to blipspeak  mode, of course.

Mike's Pastry in Boston is nice, but it would be even better if the clerks didn't have a Yeah, we know, best cannoli in Boston, got it, whaddya want? attitude.

Thursday, July 23, 2015



Any video that starts with someone saying Hey guys...or So anyway... has to be really good for me to continue watching it.



I've been away from home for less than a week, and already I'm thinking I'm ready to be home now.

When we left, I thought well, this will be better, because I know the language and I know the currency.  But having been in Boston, where I used to live (well, Quincy), I find myself wondering if that's true in any but the most precise definitions.  Driving around the area, I am as astounded as any country yokel by the number and density of the buildings.  It's just so incredibly crowded!  (And going to get more so; apparently local builders are taking a leaf from New York City and planning a 'pencil skyscraper'; it will be as tall, or taller, than the surrounding buildings, but only 60 feet wide, so as to be squeezed into an available parcel of land).

We're at the Marriott Copley Place hotel.  It's nice enough, with lots of faux marble and chandeliers made, I think, of plastic, but its nothing truly amazing.  Except the elevators - to summon one, you hit a touch pad on the wall of the elevator bank to indicate the desired floor, and it lights to tell you which of several elevators to take. I guess that limits the amount of stop-and-go for each elevator. I was not happy to learn that the parking is not free - at this rate? I suppose, for Boston, its not considered expensive - and the wifi, particularly at night, is very slow.  But they do offer to sell you the opportunity to go faster. Yuck. Do a search for Marriott and WiFi and be reminded that Marriott is the company that said No, we aren't limiting your access to personal hot-spot wifi, and we'll never do it again.

The weather is -- well, I would say unseasonably warm, but I wonder if thats the case any more.  Certainly it's as warm as I remember it being in August - sultry, and a little sticky.  I think fondly of when I used to live here, and would take the T up into the city, spending the cool morning and part of the afternoon, just walking around.  Now, that seems to be beyond me -- a combination of being 40 years older, fatter, and more susceptible to fatigue -- and I miss it.

I wonder how close I am to saying thats it, I'm just staying home.  Or taking a chartered bus trip. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

PIR, Conclusion

The top of the line sedan for Toyota is their Avalon, which looks and feels a lot like the bottom of the line Lexus.

We found one that was built in October of last year, so it's last year's model.  It was purchased this year and driven for two months, accumulating just over four thousand miles, before being sold to a car auction.  Where it sat for four months before being purchased by the dealership where our Prius and Venza came from.

We were naturally suspicious.  Four thousand miles, two months, and they sell it?  What's wrong with this car?

According to Carfax, nothing. They promise that if there is anything wrong, and they didn't cover it, they'll buy the car back.

According to Toyota,  it is a certified used car, meaning they ran through a multiple step inspection, and found nothing wrong with it.  It's still got two years of it's original new-car warranty, and then it has their used-car warranty to kick in after that.

It hasn't got every single gizmo Toyota puts on cars.  It hasn't got automatic wipers that come on when it rains.  It hasn't got adaptive cruise control (which slows you if you get dangerously close to another car).  And the original owner's manuals are missing, though the main one is available online as a PDF. I think that's about it.

It does have auto headlights, fog lights,  autodim heated mirrors with integral turn signals, heated seats, backup sonar, backup camera, side view cross traffic warning, blind spot warning, AM/FM/XM radio with USB and MP3 jacks, three 12V sockets, leather wrapped steering wheel, a drive mode called Sport which should really be called Very Fast, and a few other things.

So we bought it. 

At a price of five thousand dollars less than its new car price.


Three nice things about taking a vacation in the US --

- we're pretty fluent in the language
- we're pretty comfortable with the local money
- anything we don't want to lug, we can just toss in the back of the van.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jade Helm

I think that the people who suspect that Jade Helm is an exercise intended to capture guns from people in the southwest are all loonies.

Then again, I was at least a little suspicious that Cheney was planning to overthrow the government and have himself and his puppet remain in power for several more years.  Seems silly now, but at the time.... I really didn't trust him.  Still don't, in fact.

So after Jade Helm is over, I am sure that the wingnuts of Texas will say See?  Because we was on alert, they couldn't do it!  Couldn't take our guns, our wimmen, our precious bodily fluids! We won!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dealership People

One of the side effects of looking for a car is that I've met a couple of car dealership people lately.  For years, I felt that all of them were the classic 'used car dealer', not to be trusted.  I've learned that while its possible some of them are still like that, most of them seem decent and honest. (Which perhaps is like the old joke: Sincerity is the most important thing.  If you can fake that, you've got it made.)  But even with that, one of them really impressed me.

The dealer at Ford had a trainee, a woman who was in her late twenties, just learning the ropes. She seemed bright, and we got to talking while my wife talked to the guy who was her boss.  I found out that she spoke French, badly, and it turned out that this was because she had lived in New Orleans for several years.  She had told me that she had a twelve year old daughter, so I said something about how perhaps her daughter had learned to speak French a bit, too.  Oh no, she said.  My daughter speaks French fluently.  I had her in a French immersion school for several years.  She'll be able to travel easily in France, I said.  Now all she needs is a knowledge of cheese and wine to fit right in.  She then rattled off four or five cheeses, saying that she missed being able to eat them, but they weren't imported to the US.  Is it one of those things where the US thinks they aren't aged/pasteurized enough?  I asked.  No, its just that the French like them so much, they export very little.  Unlike their wine, I suggested, and she said True, they export a lot -- we're probably their biggest market.  At least, we were when I was getting my wine importers licence.  You import wines?  Used to, she replied, for about two years.  But then I moved to Pennsylvania, with its archaic liquor laws, so I had to find something else to do. Why did you move here, I asked.  She smiled.  My daughter was accepted to the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.  I know them.  Despite their yokel-sounding name, they're very, very good.

Amazing who you can find at a dealership....

Friday, July 10, 2015


We have a phrase in our family for problems that others would be delighted to have: Problems of the Idle Rich.  We have one of them right now.

We would like to give our daughter our 7 year old Prius, for use at college during her final year, and with luck for time after that.  However, we need two cars, because my wife takes a car to her job at school. Now we could just say Suck it up, either live without a car when she is at work, or bring her over/bring her back, if you need a car that day.  That's a possibility.  Not delightful, but possible.

But since life is just easier with two cars, we're looking.

We've said for years The next car is going to have some luxury in it. What's funny about that is that my second car did have luxury in it, though we didn't think of it that way -- it was a Buick Skylark with velour seats.  Very comfortable.  And afterwards we got a Buick Regal, also with very comfortable seats, and nice amenities.  But then we went to being socially responsible, which meant getting the Prius, which as a second car is not bad at all.  But for long distance drives, not desirable.  And most def not a comfortable car.   And now, since we might be about to lose it, we've poked around, and mulled things over, and came up with two possibilities --

1 - a new Ford Fusion.  I have to say, when my wife suggested it, I thought Are you kidding me?  Where in the Ford brochure of cars is their definition of luxury, because their idea of luxury isn't MY idea.  But we looked at it, and I was pleasantly surprised.  For a mid-sized four door sedan, it handled well, with decent looks, and lots of gadgets, including some that the more expensive cars didn't have, especially in the safety arena.  So - hmmm....     I was thinking Yeah, maybe this will be the one...until this morning, when -

2- a 2013 Lexus 350 became known to us.  This car was gorgeous.  It looked great, it handled great -- on the test drive, my wife had to punch it around a guy exiting his driveway, and the car just went --  and it had about 90% of the gadgets that the Fusion had.  Most of that 10%, I didn't really care about, like collision sensors and backup sensors and lane-change warnings -- nice to have, certainly, but I've lived without them so far, and I don't feel the need.  A couple, like their customizable seat/steering wheel /outside mirrors positioning, as well as the dealers optional (and free) loan of a relatively new car any time yours is being serviced -- and if you want, they will bring the loaner to you, and return your car at end of day -- those are nice.  But most of all, the Lexus has that plush feeling.  I sat in it and thought Oh man, this is nice.

So we're trying to decide.  The Fusion, which has useful gadgets like a voice command GPS, and a tire inflator tool, and a backup obstruction sensor,  all of that?    Or the Lexus, with most of the gadgets of the Fusion, plus that delightful feel?

Or should we just replace it with a newer Prius? Which, oh by the way, costs about 90% of what either of the others would, has excellent mileage, and is not nearly as comfortable as either?

PIR, baby.  PIR.

Monday, July 06, 2015


You know that I am really enjoying a book when I can't bring myself to read it while eating, because the eating is taking too much attention away from the reading.

Thank you for Book Two, Walter Jon Williams.....