We have a new transportation appliance

IMG_9075It is a Hyundai Tucson and it is a dreaded SUV. it is also one of the very few cars that I’ve owned in which my relationship is passionless. Actually, when I think about it, this Hyundai is the first vehicle l have ever bought from my left brain. We ended up with the Tucson for three reasons, it is one of the few small SUVs that has a differential lock so it should be at least sort of off road capable, we rented a Hyundai on a drive to Albuquerque and it was surprisingly quiet and comfortable, and most importantly, it comes with free service for 75,000 miles – including a brake job and the 60,000 major service – and Hyundai has a 10 year 100,000 miles warranty.

My justification for buying such a practical car – if soulless, using the term very broadly – is that buying this vehicle will be like an arranged marriage in which the bride and groom learn to love each other after the marriage.  And I think it may already be happening. Yesterday, we were driving over a narrow road that had the right shoulder covered in packed snow, I stopped with the two right wheels on the snow and the two left wheels on dry pavement and floored it. The Tucson drove away quicker than I expected with no wheel spin, channeling all the power to the wheels on dry road. That is sort of astounding and it is all done electronically.

Hyundai has taken on the same philosophy as Samsung, trying to get a jump on the competition by betting the house on an emerging technology. Samsung was making cheap TVs, limping along in the world of Cathode Ray Tubes that everybody knew how to make cheaply. They got out of the CRT business and took a flier on the, then, very esoteric and expensive flat screen technology. Now they are the leading manufacturer of flat screen TVs and monitors. With Hyundai, it is the world of auto-related electronics. The car – and I’m using car in the most general sense – drives OK, but it is not outstanding; this is not a car I would take out to drive the Pacific Coast Highway for fun, but it is quiet, comfortable, and fast enough. What is outstanding are the peripherical electronics like door handles that light up when we get close to the car or a tailgate that opens automatically when we stand next to the back of the locked car. I think that it is the electronics that also control the traction.

As an aside, I was reading a couple of days ago, that smartPhones take such good pictures, not because of the lenses, but because the software is getting so good at interpreting the raw data (much like our brain interpreting raw data from the eyes). The reason the software is so effective is because the cost of development can be written off against the sale of a huge number of smartPhones. High-end digital cameras never sell at the same rate resulting in the software, used to fine tune the picture, being much cruder. We are  nearing the time when smartPhones will take better pictures than profesional grade SLRs. End aside.

Ending here seems slightly incomplete but there is not any more to say. In the meanwhile, we are planning our first big  trip…to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Hopefully, the Tucson will work perfectly.


I can’t help myself, I love Lyndon Johnson


Fifty years ago, the Smothers Brothers were the gutsiest show on television. By today’s standards, they were very mild but they were critical enough of President Lyndon Johnson that Johnson called William Paley, the head of CBS, to complain, leading to this story I heard on NPR.

On their final show, Dick read a letter he and Tom had gotten from former President Johnson. These days, President Donald Trump responds to Saturday Night Live skits with angry tweets. Back then, former President Johnson, reflecting on his treatment by the Smothers Brothers, responded by writing: ‘It is part of the price of leadership of this great and free nation to be the target of clever satirists. You have given the gift of laughter to our people. May we never grow so somber or self-important that we fail to appreciate the humor in our lives.’


Donald Trump and Michele’s theory of why we should burn coal


China has eye-burning smog everywhere. When we were in China, in 2009, I think we only saw blue sky on one day. We thought we would see blue sky when we went to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park because it was pretty much out in the boonies – Zhangjiajie is a combination of Brice Canyon and Zion National Parks except that it has wild pink azaleas, roaming monkies, and Chinese food in little kiosks along the trail – and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, but we never saw it with blue sky even after a two-day rain storm. Every day, my eyes burned and my nose ran. It was worse than when I lived in Los Angeles in the late 50s.

Because the smog is so bad in China, the pressure to reduce it is very high just like it was in Los Angeles in the 50s. Because the pollution is so visible, there is a massive lobby to get rid of sources of pollution and China has become a world leader in solar and wind power. In the US, because our sky looks so blue, the Clean-air Lobby is much weaker.

More and more we are burning Natural Gas. However, Natural Gas is still doing great damage to our environment. It is not as bad as coal – according to the Union of Concerned Scientists,  Natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) when combusted in a new, efficient natural gas power plant – but burning Natural Gas is still doing great damage to our planet. Michele thinks that we should burn coal, because, then, we would see the damage we are doing and increase our efforts to clean up.

Hillary and the Democratic Establishment are like Natural Gas, they have been undermining our Democracy and pay only minimal attention to the Environment. Trump is like coal, we really see the damage he is doing and that is mobilizing the opposition (or Resistance as San Francisco Magazine calls it). In that way, Trump may be the best thing that has happened to us.


Time to Volunteer


Donald J Trump is president of the United States of America. Even if you don’t like it, even if you are horrified, it is still true. What is also true, is that marches like The Woman’s March don’t change that and they won’t change Trump either. Bitching whether it is facebook, Twitter, a blog, or standing on a street corner,  doesn’t do anything but, temporarily, make the bitcher feel better.

I worked on the Obama campaign and went to a couple of Bernie Rallies plus I’ve complained a lot so I figured I had done all that was necessary but I was wrong. I am just beginning to understand what the Tea Party figured out years ago, that getting people in power, whose values match mine, is the only way to get the political result I want. Get involved. The easiest and fastest way to get people we want into power is in the swing districts of the House of Representatives. That is where this Trump insanity started and, if Progressives want to take back the house and end the insanity, we have to get involved. Here is a good place to start. 


Believing Is Seeing


A couple of parts in my right eye have come loose. It is a little uncomfortable but my vision is still the same so my main problem is my concern that it will get worse. Still, even though I can see as well as before, it is turning out to be a remarkable experience (not really remarkable, I guess, but remarkable to me). When the damage first happened, I saw floaties in my field of vision, pretty big floaties, that I guessed were just debris from the loosening. But now I usually don’t see the floaties, they are still there but my brain has wired around them filling in the blank spaces with information from the other eye, I think, sort of like Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop.

Except that my brain only wired around most of them, not all. While I am standing in the kitchen doing dishes, for example, and a floaty drifts down to the corner of my eye, I will be distracted by seeing the cat just at the edge of my vision field. When I turn my head and look, she is not there. In other words, when the floaty is floating around where there shouldn’t be anything, my brain sort of fills in the blank spot but when the floaty is somewhere where there might be something, my brain uses the information from the eye and makes it something reasonable, like a cat crouching down next to the dishwasher.

We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brain. The eyes just provide the necessary raw information required for the for the brain to turn it into an image. However, the required information doesn’t have to be very much information. We are incessantly trying to connect the dots, trying to make patterns out of the constant flow of information coming from our eyes. At a very basic level, our brain is overriding our lying eyes.

I suspect that when we know the answer, really know the answer, it is even easier for our brains to override those lying eyes.