Friday, April 17, 2009

Miscellaneous Friday

An assortment of things not necessarily warranting independent posts...

Car Lust touched on the MG Midget today. The article is not up to the usual demented standards of Car Lust - frankly, it seems like little more than a warmed-over version of a Wikipedia (spit) article - but it nevertheless reminded me of a Midget that was, as far as I can remember, the first convertible I ever rode in, about fifteen years ago. The Midget was up the usual British automotive standards of the day, but it still sold more than 200,000 examples over twenty years. That record speaks to three things: the indomitable spirit of the British, the undying appeal of the roadster, and the sagacity of P.T. Barnum.

Thankfully, I contracted a less-severe form of British roadster-itis and bought a Miata.

(For those of you who think my NA Miata is tiny, consider that at 156 inches long and 2300 pounds, it dwarfs the 137-inch, 1600-pound Midget! That car got its name for a reason.)

While we're on the subject of British cars, let me point you to Chuck Goolsbee, biodiesel brewer, Jaguar E-type owner, and classic sports car photographer extraordinaire. If you want to see magnificent photos of vintage European iron - runners, no less - look no further. The man takes beautiful pictures of beautiful cars.

***

Pirates are all over the news lately, what with Maersk Alabama and other seizures. Much has been made of the American response - I thought it was appropriate, if delayed - and what we should do about it in the future. I've seen suggestions ranging from cooperation with the Somalian government (such as it is) to working with Somalian clan leaders to putting boots on the ground.

I can't see anything good coming out of any of those options. Cooperating with a Somalian government that barely controls the capital strikes me as a way to get dragged into the unending Somalian civil war. (If you liked Baghdad, you'll love Mogadishu!) Working with Somalian clan leaders sounds like a thinly-described euphemism for bribing them not to attack merchant ships. Putting boots on the ground would only work if foreign powers took over and governed the place themselves - the same thing that ended piracy along the North African coast in the 19th century - and if you believe that's going to happen, I have a reliable MG to sell you.

I think the best solution here is maritime insurance. I don't mean the kind you get from Lloyd's of London, but the kind you get from Blackwater of Virginia. Private security. Armed guards. Piracy continues because the risk-reward equation is on their side, but in the immortal words of the outlaw Josey Wales, "Dyin's a hell of a way to make a livin'." Up the risk, reduce the piracy.

Worth a shot, anyway.

***

Much made of high-speed rail lately too, what with the president taking an interest. Now I'm all for better transportation, but there's an auto racing maxim that's just as applicable here: "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" High-speed rail is expensive, and in most places there just isn't the population density to justify the expenditure. If you're going more than about 500 miles, it's faster to fly. High-speed rail works in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, and it could probably work in certain areas with high population densities - existing services in both Northern and Southern California could be upgraded - but a nationwide high-speed rail network is just not in the cards. The country is far too big and our population density is far too low to make it work.

No single mode is the solution to our transportation problems. Rail works for commuter service and over some shorter distances. Air works for places where there isn't the population density to support rail service for long hauls. And roads will get you to places that neither rail nor air service go. An integrated, multi-modal solution is the way to go. There are no panaceas, and there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, either.

***

On the subject of spending, some of you may have noticed the Tea Party protests that have popped up lately. Conservatives are not, as I have noted in the past, especially good at protesting. But, as Glenn Reynolds points out, we're getting better at it and that may be to the detriment of the political establishment.

Not that that's a bad thing.

***

Song recommendation for you: Jamey Johnson's "In Color." Great song. Cool video. Reminds me of a conversation I once had with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Ellen when we were looking at some old pictures - we see the past in black and white, but they lived it in color. Maybe that's why I'm so fascinated by color photography from the Thirties and Forties - it's a glimpse of a world we so rarely see.

***

One of the things that bummed me out about moving to Omaha was being so far from the ocean. That still bums me out, but it's not so bad now that I've discovered Freedom Park, home of the World War II minesweeper USS Hazard, Cold War submarine USS Marlin, and other relics. I went there the other day, and while the ships aren't open yet, it was still nice to wander around and take some pictures. They say a bad day on the water is better than a good day on land, and I don't know how that applies to ships berthed on land, but it's nice to have them here anyway.

***

I've been reading a book lately called The Wreck of the Memphis, which is about the tsunami that struck Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on August 29, 1916, battering the city and wrecking the armored cruiser Memphis, which was there helping maintain order during one of the periodic disorders that mark the Caribbean history. The book was written by Edward L. Beach, Jr., son of the commanding officer of Memphis during the disaster. The elder Beach went on to command the battleship New York with the British Grand Fleet in 1918, while the younger Beach also became a naval officer who distinguished himself in submarines during World War II and eventually commanded the submarine Triton when in 1960 she became the first vessel to complete a submerged circumnavigation of the Earth. Both also distinguished themselves in literary pursuits. The elder Beach published the first edition of The Bluejacket's Manual, the Navy enlisted man's bible since 1902; the younger Beach wrote many books but is best known for Run Silent, Run Deep, the 1955 novel of World War II submarine life that became a 1958 movie starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.

The Navy has traditionally named its destroyers and frigates after notable naval figures. I think it would be fitting for the Navy to so honor these two men with a USS Edward L. Beach.

***

And while we're speaking of literary figures, I have lately been working on cover art for a re-release of Wake Relieved, with an eye toward an Amazon.com release and publication of the other books in the series. π is doing most of the heavy lifting on this one, because she's just that talented and I am not, but it's not the easiest process in the world. I don't have an artistic bone in my body. I could paint you great paintings, if only I could paint. I can see exactly how they should look on canvas, but they get lost somewhere between my brain and the brush. I don't know why.

Sometimes I'd like to be able to download my brain.

***

Joe Yogerst has an article called "America's Scariest Drives." I view this as a travel guide. As the Extra Milers say, "The shortest distance between two points is no fun."

***

Relations with Cuba seem to be warming. I'll believe it when I see it - things warmed up a little under Carter, too - but although I dislike a Communist dictatorship as much as the next guy, we've isolated Cuba for fifty years and they're still a Communist dictatorship. Points for consistency - in fact, I think that may be the longest America has ever stuck with one foreign policy item - but how's that working out for us? Flooding the place with tourists might be a lot easier. Plus then all the hipsters in their Ché shirts would have someplace to go where they could feel really ironic.

***

Graduating Duke point guard Greg Paulus, a standout quarterback in high school, may be headed to Michigan to play quarterback.

Are we sure this is a good idea? I mean, ask any Duke fan who suffered through his three years as the Blue Devils' starting point guard - he's got a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.54. Am I the only one who sees an interception machine of Favrean proportions here?

***

Meanwhile, John Madden, one of the all-time great football broadcasters and a Super Bowl winner as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, has retired.

***

There are wild turkeys living in Omaha, I've discovered. A few weeks ago I saw one on the grounds of my apartment complex, and last Sunday I was visiting friends when four turkeys landed in their back yard. Apparently they're fairly common, and in season. Who knew?

***

Paid off my appendix last week. That was my last medical bill - finished paying for the gall bladder a month or so ago - and it felt good to get it off the books. Bad genes are expensive.

***

And...I'm out!

2 Comments:

Blogger Anon_e_mouse said...

Joe Yogerst's article left out Teller County (Colorado) route 81, which runs south from Victor to Florence via Phantom Canyon. It's a graded dirt path that is only one narrow lane wide much of the time, and is basically all that remains of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad (built 1894, abandoned 1912 following severe flooding that wiped out much of the infrastructure). We traveled the road back in 2004; when we were negotiating one of the blind hairpin turns in our rented Dodge Caravan, hugging the cliff wall at the ridiculously high speed of six or seven miles per hour, a mini-pickup came the other way going at least fifteen mph, swinging his tail out over the edge of the canyon as he went past. Took a few minutes before my blood pressure got back to anywhere near normal :-)

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Margaret said...

Wild turkeys, eh? Sounds like Thanksgiving is at your place this year :)

12:03 PM  

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