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You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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Hope y’all had a Happy Fourth! The Bride and Groom imported an 8′ bouncy water slide onto their lawn, so that even on a 96 degree day all the kids had outside fun! I whipped up a pesto pasta primavera and Great Grandma Ada helped bake some mini-white-chocolate-lemon cheesecakes adorned with strawberries, blueberries and bits of broken white choco-lusciousness. Sprinkled amidst the watermelon and hot dogs were voter registration forms, just in case!

Because as we were celebrating our first Fourth with all the Grands in Nashville, the Rocker and Aunt KiKi were visiting two museums in Amsterdam, and this was his takeaway: “incredibly powerful visit to the national holocaust museum and memorial and the dutch resistance museum today on our last day in amsterdam. some sobering reminders of the dangers of fascism and what human beings are capable of. the dutch resistance museum was particularly intriguing, as it continually asks you, what would you do in the face of a rising wave of fascism? adapt and ignore, collaborate, or actively resist?”  

Could this just be the last, gasping, dying breath of racism dressed up as white nationalism? Yesterday, James Fields Jr pled “Not Guilty” in a Charlottesville courtroom to multiple federal hate crime charges. He was the Ohio man who decided he would drive his car into a group of counter-protestors at the “Unite the Right” rally last August on the Historic Downtown Mall. The very weekend we were moving from the Blue Ridge, Fields injured many and killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old young woman who believed in love and not hate.

The judge asked him if he suffered from mental illness… is that because if you’re white and run into a group of people with your car you couldn’t possibly be a terrorist? Fields said he suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and ADHD…and I nearly choked on the bile of his audacity.

That, and the news about Justice Kennedy had us all wondering when this assault on democracy might end; if we are going to resist, NOW is the time. Block a vote on filling the Supreme Court vacancy – there should be NO vote until Mr T is no longer the subject of a federal investigation! Here is what Cory Booker had to say :

“If we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a president with this ongoing investigation happening, who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation,” Booker said yesterday. “I do not believe [the Senate Judiciary Committee] should or can in good conscience consider a nominee put forward by this president until that investigation is concluded.”   http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/booker-no-supreme-court-vote-until-resolution-trump-investigation

But the best thing about this last week, to end on a high note, is that Bob and I bought a new car! As many of you know, I dread driving on the Fourth of July, because that was the holiday that found my family fractured by a drunk driver in 1949. We had just lost our father to brain cancer, and now our mother, the Flapper, and Nana were hospitalized leaving baby me in the care of their friends. I’m a nervous wreck generally in any car, but Bob’s old Acura had lived a good, long life. It was time, it was past time.

We now have so many driver-assist doo dads, I’m feeling almost comfortable driving again. So keep the faith, register young voters, and start calling your legislators again people! Get on the Booker train, it’s time to pick your torch – the one in our Lady’s hand on Liberty Island, or the Tikki torches that marched on Thomas Jefferson’s campus. Patriotism is an active noun.

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Bob’s car died the other day. Luckily, he was downtown and not on a highway, but we took it as a sign, time to give up the ghost. His Acura has served him pretty well for over 300,030 miles! Our one-car family was about to become whole again, it was time to start car shopping. Imagine that, a new car with all sorts of driver-assist doo-dads.

I have to admit, I’m getting a rush. It’s like that Handmaid said in the very first episode of the Handmaid’s Tale, their ice cream was better than sex. “Real sex.”

Oh, yes last night I finally gave in and signed up for Hulu, just to watch my favorite author’s dystopian nightmare about a land that could treat women like baby-making religious robots. I just had to watch Elizabeth Moss as Offred, after hearing about Justice Kennedy.

You see, for an old school feminist like me, all the latest SCOTUS rulings chipping away at our human rights in favor of some religious zealot’s right was a bit much. Throwing me over the edge was Kennedy’s decision yesterday to retire now,  this summer. Granted he is a Conservative, but he voted like a real “compassionate conservative.” Remember them?

Bob kept telling me not to download Hulu; “It’s going to depress you,” he said. But I subscribe to that other Kennedy motto, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wanted the thrill of something just a bit subversive, I needed the dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, it’s the middle manager in our brain that helps move electrical impulses from one neuron to another – dopamine rules that synapse, that space, that rewards our pleasure centers.

Like ice cream.

Like subscribing to The New York Times, or Hulu.

Like buying a new car.

I guess it’s called self-care. In the midst of our current all too real reality Trumpworld show, it’s important not to let despair win. It’s important to do all we can to register new voters, and encourage them to show up this November for midterms. In TN we have until July 3rd to register in order to vote in the midterms, and it’s easy. You just fill out a form and mail it in – every library in the state has them. And I’ve deposited quite a few in our local coffee shop.

So keep your chin up and don’t even bite that hook about civility. If bakers can refuse to serve an LGBTQ couple, and pharmacists can refuse to fill an Rx to terminate a nonviable pregnancy, than We The People can throw the lying press secretary out on her tone deaf ear. Terrorists are killing reporters now, something quite common in an authoritarian state.

It’s happening faster than I ever could have imagined, so support the free press and not Trump entertainment network, where Milo Yiannopoulos can say he was “only kidding” about gunning down journalists.

Get a natural shot of dopamine folks whenever and wherever you can, before abortion becomes criminalized. We’re gonna need to get tough. Here are some badass young scientists from back in their med school days. Let’s get out the VOTE!

anatomy 101

 

 

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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846

 

 

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Shaken or Stirred? Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Two cars or one?

Nelly Bly, my Foster Mother, didn’t drive. She was fifty when they “adopted” me and so my world was limited to her care on a hill in Victory Gardens, with the occasional sojourn to a swimming pond or a grocery store with Daddy Jim. And of course mass every Sunday followed by a sundae at Zanelli’s and later dinner at Dick’s Diner.

There were no after school activities for me, no Brownie troop. I know, cry me a river. But I didn’t miss what I didn’t know about because most moms didn’t drive. I was a pretty happy kid in this Leave it to Beaver black and white world. I would get on my bike and cruise the neighborhood. I learned how to stand up to bullies, how to navigate friendships, how to avoid peeping toms who would slow down in their cars, all by myself.

Still, somehow I knew Nell wasn’t happy being isolated so far from town and later I realized she actually suffered from agorophobia. Jim had never wanted her to work, and even at such a young age I understood an essential part of the 50s female experience. You did what you were told.  A paternalistic system needs to be fed, go along to get along… Today, I see how hard it is for Great Grandpa Hudson’s generation of men to stop driving. Taking the car keys away from an octogenarian+ can be an effort in futility.

FDR promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. One car.

And for the past month Bob and I have been living with just one car. We drove my CRV to Nashville, where Bob signed up for city bikes and used Uber if I was at the Bride’s house and he’d been waiting for a plumber at ours. No problem. We walked everywhere else, the walkability score for our area is in the 90s!

Then as soon as we got back to the Blue Ridge, his Acura with a hefty 300,000+ miles on it, had to see its trusty mechanic, again. So we’ve been a one car family in the country for the past week too, surprisingly without incident. Which is to say, we schedule my car individually when we have errands, and drive everywhere else together.

When Bob was working this didn’t always work out. I was once stranded here, on 14 acres in the forest, for over a week in a snowstorm; talk about cabin fever.

But for now, we’re actually considering having only one car. It’s better for our planet and for our budget. I’m all in, but Bob’s on the fence. Either he’s really attached to that old car of his, or he’s dreaming about a sport’s car in his future?

Last night we took my solo car for a spin to see Wonder Woman. When I heard her say the Amazons had figured out what men were useful for (procreation) I laughed and reached for Bob’s hand. We all know men are better drivers, right Danica Patrick?

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The Summer Solstice as we contemplate big changes.

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I was going to write about Father’s Day. About all the great Dad episodes over the years in this family. Instead, it was becoming a list of Mommy fails:

About how I never wanted to say to my kids, “Just wait ’till your father comes home,” and then one day I did. About how I quit  teaching the Bride how to drive. After she hydroplaned her way through five trees and over the Hope Road sign in the rain, Bob gallantly picked up the pieces of my shattered psyche, and taught her how to drive.

But maybe that’s the point? When we’ve had it up to here with the mundane, daily life of children, housekeeping, cooking, laundry, driving, pet care and generalized nursing duties. like picking bees out of the Rocker’s clothes, well a good Dad knows when to step into the fray. The 50s are gone and Father Doesn’t Always Know Best, but it would behoove him to know how…

To calm a frightened child at night

To cook a meal, or pick one up

To do the dishes

To help his child learn to ride a bike, and drive a car

To tutor/help with homework, including advanced math and science projects

To encourage critical and creative thinking

To not mix colors and whites in the laundry

To ease the passing of an old dog over that rainbow bridge

To remind his wife that everything will be alright, again and again, and that she has a partner in all this

And to stick around until that time when it’s just the two of them again, and they can lean on each other

A Good Husband and Father will bend with the wind, above all he must not be rigid and set in his ways. He will put his family first, ahead of his career. He will protect them at all costs. And even if he was hit as a child, he will never hit his children or break their spirits. He would never use words or discipline to humiliate them. And if his Father left, or he never knew him for some reason, this Father will be doubly determined to never abandon his family, he will ride out the storm of life. He will be like that Israeli fruit, the Sabra; an Israeli born citizen named after a prickly pear – tough and treacherous on the outside, but soft and tender on the inside.

I remember dancing with my Foster Father, or really standing on his feet while he twirled me around the kitchen. There was a dogwood tree outside the window, and he would whistle a tune and sometimes play the spoons! I remember playing gin rummy with him almost every night, for pennies. I remember his little presents for me every day when he returned home from work at Picatinny Arsenal – a flower, a pretty rock, or a colored pencil. Ada always said he was a hard act to follow and she was right.

Fatherhood today can be a challenge, a paradox. But when it’s done well, the outcome is pure love. When your children yell, “Watch Daddy, watch me,” all they need is to know that you love to watch them: climb trees; play an instrument;, swim without swimmies; or ride a bike. All they need is your presence. So sleep late all you Dads out there, put down your devices, and then remember to play and have fun tomorrow! Oh and Bob, your second and third Grand Daddy acts are priceless!IMG_1753

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Driveway before the rain

Driveway before the rain

Sometimes we get the juiciest bits of information as an aside. Most journalists know this, we get the agenda to the meeting, but it’s in the stuff we hear in the hallway where we will sometimes find the true story. Or at least, an alternate story. This is why I will always and forever love secretaries; (whoops, the Bride called here) insert – because they knew where the bodies were buried!

Take for instance the latest edition of “This American Life” with Ira Glass. The Bride and Groom happened to hear him speak at the Ryman over the weekend, and coincidentally I caught his latest show in the car. Normally  I’ll catch up with Ira on his older podcasts while driving to Nashville, rarely am I listening live stream. But there I was, left listening the other night in my driveway to “Except for That One Thing!” #518

I was hooked right away. A young couple buy their first home in New England – Check! Bob and I bought our first home in Windsor, MA. They were trying to furnish it by going to auctions, because of course there were no real furniture stores or malls – Check! She got carried away with raising her paddle and put them into debt. I used to go to estate sales and get so frustrated because dealers would outbid me and then try to sell to me afterwards, making a slight profit. What happens next, when she finds the perfect dining room table on eBay, will surprise and delight you. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/518/except-for-that-one-thing

And this is what Glass does so well with radio. We are better able to identify with someone we cannot see.  Judgement is suspended. Their story becomes our story. He manages to find that edge, where reality and humor can border on tragedy, that middle place where we find ourselves most days.

The place between arcane and insane.

Yesterday, I was visiting with my Richmond cousins and was almost trapped in the mud luge also known as my 1,000+ ft driveway when I returned home at twilight. Tires were spinning and my CRV was churning a mighty brown spray. Just a few short days ago Bob and I had sprinkled salt and sand down our steepest hill after the plow had scooped up most of the gravel and snow. I had just heard about my MIL’s weekend travails, cousins and friends sliding off her snow and ice-packed driveway sideways into the woods. A comedy of errors. And as I sit in my aviary listening to the slow and steady drip of snow melting off the roof, I thought of a new episode for This American Life –  “Life is a Driveway.” https://soundcloud.com/tadpoles-shouldnt-drive/rascal-flatts-life-is-a-highway

This is how Ms Bean feels about winter

This is how Ms Bean feels about winter

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