A Friday haiku

The week is over
It seemed so long and dreary
Let’s start the weekend!

June Mile-a-day challenge Day 23

I can’t believe I made it this far without waking up at least one morning and going, “Maybe I’ll sleep in and run later.” I’m actually proud of myself for getting this far.

Wednesday I added at 1° incline to the treadmill. The readout says that means I burned an addition 5 calories per run, if you believe in the accuracy of those things.

I did notice my cool down heartrate went up from 114 up to 124 after that first incline run. Today it was down to 119.

Something else I noticed which surprises me. I’m not feeling stiff or have any aches in my joints despite not taking any rest days.

Add in that I also walk an average of 20,000 steps each weekday, so my leg muscles, ankle, knee, and hip joints are always in use.

If you had asked me what would hapoen if I ran a mile a day for a month before I started this, I probably would have predicted some sort of overuse or stress injury. Shinsplints, for example, which had forced me to quit running almost 2t years ago.

But no, I feel pretty good. I’m contemplating keeping this up as a regular daily activity. Maybe I’ll even bump my distance up, gradually, and start July running 1-1/4 miles each day. That means I would have to get up 5 or 10 minutes earlier.

Hmm. We’ll have to think about that.

Music and running

When I first started treadmilling, I’d put on a record. A record. Yes. Some of us still call them that and for a very good reason: I still have a vinyl collection and a quality turntable — a classic, refurbished AR XA.

Anyway, when I was starting out, I could listen to one side of a vinyl record and my run would be over before the record was. Each side of a vinyl record usually has a pkaying time anywhere from 15 to 22 minutes.

Once my runs went longer, I switched to watching something on TV because otherwise you have to jump off the treadmill, lift the needle from the record, flip the record over, then tey to gently place the needle down despite shaking hands from an elevated heartrate. It just wasn’t worth it risking a scratch.

So television. I found coverage of Track and Field events were the best motivator, but unfortunately, they’re few and far between.

Since I’ve now been running just a mile each day, my treadmill time is less than 10 minutes, which means I can go back to enjoying one side of an album.

Yesterday, I put on Boston’s eponymous (I always wanted to use that word) first album and listened to side A. Today, I ran to Side B.

And I discovered something. Running to music makes the time seem to go by faster whereas watching an episode of television seems to make the run drag on and on.

I wonder why that is?

And commercials last forever!

Weigh-In Friday

I’ve managed to drop below the 200 pound wall again. I’m at 199.4 now. And my average fat went down -0.7% while my average muscle went up +0.5%.

Life’s Good = LG

We’ve been with US Cellular for almost two weeks now. So far, despite my problems with all my previous phones, my LG V20 is holding up nicely. By now, my other phones would have been starting to show signs of glitchyness trying all day to find a crappy Verizon Wireless signal here in my Faraday Cage we call a building.

But so far, the LG is working flawlessly. I always have a 4Glte signal (knock wood) and I can place phone calls from nearly anywhere inside the building. Even it’s battery lasts for most of the day. All my other phones needed to be recharged after just a few hours.

I’m not claiming the LG is the best smartphone out there, but on the US Cellular network in downtown Milwaukee, it is greater than any Verizon Wireless phone I’ve ever owned.

So glad I made that switch.

Gina update

I’ve been driving our 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge for about 2 months now. Usually, by this time with any newer car I’ve owned, the newness and novelty would have worn off. I’d become, if not jaded then bored with it.

Not this car. I’m still having a blast driving it around town. I actually look forward to driving to and from work.

I’ve read many a review on this little Fiat and the majority of them are, if not downright negative, at least less than praising. I can’t help but wonder if they’re talking about some other car. Or possibly, years of driving and reviewing dozens of cars has made those automotive journalists jaded or possibly they just don’t appreciate the fun someone can have driving a minicar; they only value cars that have peel-your-face-back acceleration along with a throaty growl.

I feel sorry for them. My Fiat still is bringing a smile to my face.

Welcome to the new dark ages

Anyone else beginning to feel triggered just seeing TheRump’s face or hearing his voice?

Anyone else feel that, “OK, things couldn’t possibly get any worse?” And then it does? How many more rights, how many more safety and environmental regulations can they dismantle?

How much more power can they give to the rich and corporations? How much further can they erode the middle class’s ability to make ends meet?

How many more lies will the American people swallow before they finally rise up and scream, “ENOUGH!”

Resist.! None of this is normal. We don’t have to accept it. The revolution must begin now

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

because this land was made for you and me, not the corporations, not the robber barons, not the elites, and definately not some ignorant, bigoted Orange Turd.

Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land

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Let’s play favorites

Do you have a favorite car? One that, over the years, you’ve consciously or even subconsciously, used as the measuring stick by which all other cars are measured?

Mine had been my mom’s 1971 Super Beetle. I learned to drive with that car. It was a four-speed manual and a blast to drive.

1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle

I was a teenager and got my license in my junior year in high school. Many of my classmates, if they had their own cars, drove the muscle cars of the day, complete with jacked-up rear ends and big, wide rear tires, so they looked like funny cars (the race cars, not something to laugh at). 

They drove Pontiac GTOs or Firebirds of various vintage, Chevy Novas, Chevelles, Camaros, as well as 442s, Skylarks, Cudas, Chargers, Challengers, and so on. All tuned so those big V8s would growl and cough and rumble as they drove around John Marshall High School, squeezing tires, to show off for the girls like peacocks waving their colorful tail feathers.

They lived for cars and girls  (queue song).

And here I’d come with my mom’s Bug. There’s not much you can do to mod a Bug, especially when it’s your mom’s, but I had a friend help me install an 8-track stereo that I could just plug in, then take out when I was done. We used my home stereo’s set of book shelf speakers, which fit perfectly behind the backseat storage area of the car.

So I’d cruise around blasting tunes and to really get attention, I’d pop the clutch and lay down some rubber. I think it caught people’s attention because no one expected a Bug to squeal it’s tires. Sure, the back end would hop and I’m sure I wasn’t doing the transmission or clutch much good, but it would leave about a two or three foot long burnout.

(And if I my younger son, once he has his license, ever pops the clutch in my Fiat 500, he’s grounded for life.)

That Beetle was a fun little car to drive. It had decent excelleration and was quick enough and small enough that you could weave in and out of traffic without any problems.

And it has been my reference car ever since. Whenever I’d test drive another car, I’d mentally compare it to that one. In the end, none even came close. 

I mean, sure, I enjoyed my 1986 Dodge Datona Turbo Z. When the turbo finally kicked in and threw you back into your seat, it was a lot of fun. But otherwise, it was a heavy car, despite its small size and wasn’t very zippy in traffic because of its turbo lag. And shifting always felt clunky until it finally did go clunk.

1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z

The two Ford Escorts I had were what would be called basic transportation. One was the body style from the ’80s and the other was the sportier looking version from 1995. They were more utilitarian than fun.

And although our 1996 Pontiac Sunrise served us faithfully for nearly 15 years until it developed a hole in one of the cylinders, I wouldn’t necessarily call it fun to drive either. In fact, it seemed rather heavy, but we always felt safe in it during the winter.

So over 43 years, and at least 14 cars, the memory of that Beetle lived on… until three weeks ago when we bought the 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge.

Queue angelic choir singing “Ohhhhhh!”

Now I have a new favorite car.

Small is the new black.

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Zen and the art of driving stick

It was 1940 and Oldsmobile introduced the “Hydra-Matic,” the first automatic transmission. They sold something like 200,000 units and it was that same year the very first case of road rage was documented.

Driving automatic

Drivers of these new-fangled automatics began to suffer a disconnect between themselves and their vehicle because they found they had too much time to seethe over every single road incident and perceived wrong.

Drivers of stick, of course, were more zen-like, tranquil in their oneness with their automobile. They were absorbed in the moment, hands, feet, and mind all focused on the very act of driving, and didn’t have time to waste on frivolous external stressors.

That first incident of road rage occurred on Route 66 somewhere between Holbrook, Arizona and Williams, Arizona. 

Pepper McHilheney,  a spitball pitcher returning from a loss that had raised his ERA to an astronomical 37.3, was driving in his brand new black Olds Hydra-Matic, fuming about being tossed out of the game because he beaned the ump with a fastball after said ump had called the 90th ball that inning, when along came Biff Melonmeister, a traveling anvil salesman out of Davenport, Iowa, driving a similarly equipped Olds, but in cream, who was worrying that if he didn’t find a blacksmith soon who needed a new anvil how was he going to make his next car payment, when he inattentively cut off Pepper.

Pepper, of course, beeped and shouted, “Get your head out of you ass!” while making obscene gestures with his free right hand that, had he been driving stick, would have been otherwise occupied.

Biff, seeing the gestures, returned several of his own, because he too had a free right hand.

Soon the two were racing side-by-side down Route 66 cursing and throwing hand gestures at each other until tragically for both Olds involved, they went off the road and crashed into some shrubbery.

The two drivers extricated themselves from the bushes, gave each other the finger again, and fisticuffs ensued.

Meanwhile, Irving Potash, driving his trusty old 3-speed stick on the column two-tone Nash, went by and said, “Dudes, chill.” He then responsibly returned all his attention to driving and made it to his destination safely, on time, and with a smile on his face, proving the adage: a stick in hand is worth two birds in the bush.

There are many more anecdotes about the superiority of stick drivers to automatic, but a recent survey by the prestigious Institutus Ferretatus proves it best.

According to their study, drivers of automatics have a higher incidence of heart disease, hypertension, headaches, and are more likely to die of a heart attack, stroke, or road rage incident. Additionally, they are more hostile and impulsive compared to their stick driving counterparts.

Stick drivers on the other hand, live longer, have significantly lower stress levels, are much happier, and of course, are much more fun to be around.

Stick drivers today are known as “the seven percenters” because only about 7% of Americans drive stick. These seven percenters generally lead healthier and happier lives than the other 93% of drivers.

So next time you’re in the market for a car, consider the stick. Your heart will thank you.
#savethestick

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Meet Gina

I’ve been doing research on a new used car, because that’s what I do: I research the Hell out of everything before I buy it.

Is that an odd trait? To enjoy doing research, making comparisons, weighing the pros and cons? 

I know some people buy on the spur of the moment, sometimes making what to me seem like rash decisions.

But I have to know everything about something before I jump in. Or in my case, wade in and gradually test the waters.

It’s just how I’m wired. I think it’s the OCD aspect of my ADHD. Others with ADHD are the risk takers and make decisions immediately. It’s been said that I can’t make a decision to save my life  (which is untrue. In life and death situations the obsessive part of me shuts down and I rely on instinct).

Anyway, this was supposed to be about cars. So I narrowed my search down to two makes, Ford Mustang and Mini Cooper. These two were then narrowed down to two specific cars on the same lot, both 2007. The Mustang was a black deluxe with white hood stripes and 75,000 miles and the Mini Cooper was the S, turbo model with 84,000 miles. Same price.

I test drove both. The Mini seemed like a better driving experience, but the engine was covered with oil, which concerned me, and they had to jumpstart it because the battery needed replacement. Because of that, the radio didn’t work. But the interior was cool otherwise.

Whereas the Mustang’s interior seemed dated. And although it had a new clutch, the shifting just didn’t seem as smooth as the Mini.

So I made a chart of pros and cons. Doesn’t everyone? In the end, it turned out there were more pros for the Mini than the Mustang and surprisingly, the Mini was actually the faster of the two in the quarter mile and the Mini had a top speed nearly 20 mph faster. 

But talk maintenance costs and the Mustang wins, because Mini turbos are notoriously expensive when parts start to go and they suffer from carbon buildup that can be costly as well to clean.

So it came down to the Mustang, my childhood dream, a car that still turned heads when I test drove it, or the Mini which was fun to zip around in city traffic, would be smaller and easier to park downtown, and gets much better gas mileage.

My teenage son tried to influence me toward the Mustang. “Dad, you won’t have any street cred in a Mini.” 

Which did I choose?

Right? The 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge,  of course. 

“Wait,” you’re saying, “you never mentioned a Fiat was on your list!”

That’s because it wasn’t. The Fiat was a surprise last second entrant that we saw sitting on a lot Saturday as we went by and once I took it for a test drive, that was all she wrote. 

It’s a cute, zippy fun car to drive and its the first car, or even first inanimate objects, I’ve ever felt compelled to name.

Meet Gina, my Italian beauty:

Gina strikes a pose

“So all that talk about researching and not buying spur of the moment was just bullshit?”

Well, yes and no. I did generic research on the Fiat 500, Honda Fit, and Mazda3, among others, but using Autotrader and CarGurus, I didn’t find any specific vehicles that interested me. Not like the Mustang and Mini.

So I knew specs, Fiats got much better gas mileage than the other two, and reliability, Fiats didn’t have the mechanical woes of Mini turbos and since Fiat owns Chrysler,  the parts are Molar and more comparable to other domestic cars, like the Ford for repairability.

The Fiat 500, Gina, reminds me a lot of the first car I ever drove, my mom’s 1971 VW Superbeetle. It was stick as well and a blast to drive around town. I’ve driven many cars since then, but not one gave me the same thrills zipping in and out of traffic or the cute good looks as the bug did. Until Gina.

Gina’s two-tone leather interior

Gina is all the bug was, and more.
And both my sons like it and not a word about street cred from my teenager. In fact, he wants me to pick him up from school.

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Now I understand

I’m at the Department of Motor Vehicles with my son. He’s taking his driving road test.

As I sit here, the DMV driving examiners come in with the wannabe drivers to review the road test results.

I’m eavesdropping, of course.

One examiner is telling the wannabe driver, “OK, when I told you to make a right turn, you swung way out into the next lane before turning, then you turned wide, going into the far left lane. You should always stay in your lane and turn into the lane nearest you.

“When I told you to make a lane change, you only used your mirrors to check for cars. You need to look over your shoulder to check for cars. The mirror is just a tiny picture and leaves a big blind spot.”

This is something I had just told my son the day before, to check over your shoulder when you make turns and lane changes. He said, he had the mirrors set up so he didn’t have to turn his head. I then said, the examiner is going to check to make sure you’re looking over your shoulder. My son, of course, didn’t seem to think I knew what I was talking about. So when the examiner said that, he gave me a “Oh, OK, you were right,” smile.

The examiner continued, “When I had you make a Y turn, you didn’t use your turn signal. Nor did you signal when I had you pull over to the side of the curb. And you didn’t signal when you pulled out into traffic.”

This is the kind of driver the DMV passes today.

This is the kind of driver the DMV passes today.

And there were several other mistakes the examiner counted off. My son and I sat there waiting to hear the examiner give the driver the bad news, that he had failed.

Instead, the examiner said, “Congratuations. Did you want to get your license today?”

Of course, I was dumbstruck.

And I hate to be one to say, “I told you so,” but “I told you so.” Bad drivers today aren’t my imagination, they are a reality and the examiners are the ones responsible for letting them get on to the road.

Oh, and my son? He got an almost perfect score. The examiner said he could have ridden with my son all afternoon.

Well, sure, because all those other drivers you are passing probably scare the crap out of you.

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Bad drivers are everywhere

There was a time when drivers knew the rules of the road, when they were courteous (for the most part), and when public schools educated future drivers.

But today? Road rage is the norm, but more than that, stupidity is everywhere.

At one time, the residential streets in Milwaukee were all uncontrolled. They didn’t have Stop signs or Yield signs. Drivers understood that when you drove through a neighborhood, you slowed at every intersection and looked both ways before continuing through. If another car was coming, you were courteous and followed the rules of the road that the driver on the right had the right of way.

Today? Every street now has either a Stop sign or a Yield sign. Why? Because of driver stupidity. Too many drivers were racing through neighborhoods thinking no signs meant unlimited, unchecked speeding. Many side streets now have Speed Humps and even roundabouts to slow these idiotic drivers.

At one time, crosswalks were understood to be a safe haven for pedestrians. You could step out into a crosswalk at any intersection and the cars would stop or at least slow down enough that the pedestrian could skip out of their way. School zones were sacred. People actually watched out for children.

Today? Drivers are so inattentive they’ve had to create a whole new color for Pedestrian Crossing signs! Once, there were three colors, green, red, and yellow. Now they have had to add these odd neon yellow-green signs.

Because today's drivers can't see yellow, they created this color.

Because today’s drivers can’t see yellow, they created this color.

But even these aren’t enough for today’s drivers who are so self-absorbed they can’t be bothered with anything that goes on outside of their vehicles. That includes traffic signs, pedestrians, other cars, trees, and even buildings. Nothing is safe from them.

Don’t believe me? Many traffic signs near schools or hospitals now have flashing lights around them just to jar you into paying attention! Flashing lights around Stop signs, around Pedestrian Crossing signs. It’s pathetic.

Seriously? Today's drivers suck so badly they need flashing Stop signs?

Seriously? Today’s drivers suck so badly they need flashing Stop signs?

Is this because there are no longer any public school driving classes? Is this because its too easy to get a driver’s license these days? Is this because people just no longer give a damn about anything but themselves? It’s probably a combination of these things.

Drivers today are terrible. You. All of you. Yes, even you going, “He can’t be talking about me,” because I am. I am pointing my finger at every single one of you drivers. You’re all dangerous behind the wheel. None of you know how to drive any more, none of you care about the rules of the road. You roll through Stop signs. You drive through Yellow lights. Hell, many of you drive through Red lights. You cut off semis on the highway. You change lanes without signaling. When you make a right turn, instead of pulling all the way into the right lane to get out of they way of other traffic, you make yourselves as much of a nuisance as possible by turning wide into middle lane of traffic, probably so we know you’re making a turn. “Look at me! I’m an ass!”

And the majority of you can’t even parallel park. Seriously? And car makers know this and have come up with cars that can park for you. They have rearview cameras so you don’t run over small children. Auto makers are working on cars that will help drivers avoid hitting things, like other cars, poles, shopping carts, and motorcycles. Personally, I won’t feel safe on the road until they start making cars that can completely drive themselves, then every last one of you can climb inside, shut yourselves in, and text, drink and eat, talk on the phone, do your make-up, shave, read a book, or finish dressing to your heart’s content while the car does the driving keeping the rest of us safe from your stupidity.

And yes, I’ve seen drivers doing each and every one of those activities while driving.

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