Tuesday, August 17, 2004

think you’re safer in an suv? think again ...

NYT0816autovSUV.chart.jpegAccording to an article in the New York Times, SUVs are becoming even more unsafe than cars, rather than closing that safety gap. In Safety Gap Grows Wider Between S.U.V.'s and Cars, the decrease in SUV safety is mainly attributed to SUVs' tendency to roll over.
"The traffic safety agency reported last week that there were 16.42 deaths of S.U.V. occupants in accidents last year for every 100,000 registered S.U.V.'s. The figure for passenger cars was 14.85 deaths for each 100,000 registered; pickups were slightly higher than cars at 15.17 deaths per 100,000, while vans were lowest at 11.2 occupant deaths for every 100,000 registered."

"Rollover risk, though, is only one part of the safety picture. In crashes between vehicles, heavier vehicles tend to perform better than lighter ones, which is one reason that the smallest cars tend to have the highest occupant-fatality rates. The ways that people who own different types of vehicles tend to drive them is also a factor, especially in the case of sports cars.

"But weight is not a simple proxy for safety. In a federal crash study this year, large passenger cars and station wagons, averaging about 3,600 pounds unloaded, were found to have a death rate of 3.3 for each billion miles traveled; they were second only to minivans, which had a rate of 2.76.

"Ranked third safest after the large-car category were the largest, tanklike sport utility vehicles, which weigh in at an average of 5,100 pounds unloaded; their death rate was 3.79 for every billion miles. Midsize cars, averaging just over 3,000 pounds unloaded, had a 5.26 fatality rate; midsize S.U.V.'s, by far the most popular type, with an average weight over 4,000 pounds, had a death rate of 6.73 in the study."

So it's those mid-range SUVs, the ones taking over the roads and driven mainly by people who don't know how to drive them, that are the deadliest vehicles on the road today. Interesting in light of how many people rationalize buying them by claiming their kids are safer in them.

One of the stupidest things I've read lately was Eartha Kitt's response to her recent accident, covered first and best in WestportNow.com. Her Range Rover flipped over when a Mercedes struck her right rear bumper in a low-speed accident in a Westport intersection. She said the SUV saved her life due to its sturdy construction. Apparently, she didn't bother to think about the fact that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't have landed upside down in the middle of road if she'd been driving anything but an SUV.

At the very least, insurance rates for SUVs should double. And I don't see why it can't be mandatory that people who drive SUVs be required to take a driving course designed specifically for handling vehicles with high centers of gravity -- they are NOT cars and they do require extra training to operate them safely. If a driver can't pass the course, no SUV driving permit. Bet it would save a few thousand lives per year.

So, mommies and daddies who claim they want to keep their kiddies safe, go get a minivan. Those are the safest vehicles. Otherwise, just quit with the BS and admit that you drive an SUV because you're a trend sheep.

MORE: Find out how your vehcle rates by checking out the NHTSA test results. Go here for information in general about vehicle safety ratings.
posted by lee on 08/17/04 at 09:15 AM
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Thursday, August 19, 2004

reagan limns the case against bush

Esquire, somewhere in there amid the soft porn, the inane drivel, the smelly ads, and the (seemingly) thousand pages of pretty pouting men in silly clothing (Cosmo for gay men?), manages to find a little space for interesting articles every once in a while. Ghosts of Esquire's faded excellence. The current issue features The Case Against George W. Bush by Ron Reagan. There are a couple of other decent articles this month, but this one stands out.

Whatever you might think of Reagan (the son), you have to give him credit: he's a good writer. Every time I've read his stuff, or watched an interview with him, he's been articulate, logical, and well-informed. He makes his case. I admit he's preaching to the choir here, but the article is worth reading and, even more, worth thinking about.

[Here's a hint for those of you who can't read Esquire's piss-poor attempt at web design: click the Print icon, and it will pop up a page where you can do a View > Text Size > Largest in your browser. That makes it legible.]
"Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

"None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the countrynearly one third of us by some estimatesחcontinues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.

"Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush."
posted by lee on 08/19/04 at 08:21 AM
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Saturday, August 21, 2004

getting ready

We're headed for Michigan tomorrow. Taking care of odds and ends today, packing, waiting for Ben, who will be going with us again this year. A lot of details to take care of before we go -- we don't know if we're going to be able to set up a broadband connection where we're going, so had to take care downloads and uploads and assorted things just in case ...

Naturally, since we needed to do a lot of online and computer work, there were violent thunderstorms this afternoon. So I spent a good part of the afternoon with a quivering mass of jelly in the shape of a golden retriever wrapped around my legs. Made it hard to pack.

Our first stop in the Holiday Inn in Richfield, Ohio. I realized that the directions and reservation number were only in my email, so when I could turn on the computer again, I printed everything out. Twitch, of course, had to supervise the printer -- he is the weirdest cat:


It's getting ominous-looking again, so I'm glad I managed to get the Expression Engine upgrade installed (with good tech support -- there's always something) so I don't have to worry about it later -- one more to-do list item checked off. I'll get to the backup disks I need to burn later on this evening.

I am so excited about getting away -- I can't wait to see my parents. We really need the break. What's ironic, though, is that our gloriously abundant clematis is on the verge of blooming, so we'll miss it! (It's late this year.) It'll be something pretty for our house sitter to look at. Maybe she'll take some pictures for me. And she can harvest the tomatoes, which are also very late. I probably won't even get one of them this year.

And of course, since we wanted to take a vacation, even though it's been scheduled for months, everybody suddenly wants stuff done now. So it'll be a working vacation. Fortunately, only one project is urgent. Good thing we like what we do.
posted by lee on 08/21/04 at 02:14 PM
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Sunday, August 29, 2004

week one (went by too fast)

We set off last Sunday about three hours past the time we planned to leave. Which was ok -- we had a guaranteed reservation at the Holiday Inn in Richfield, Ohio, so it didn't matter what time we got there. We'd had unexpected company the evening before so we were a bit behind in packing.

Twitch, of course, was all set:

twitch all packed up
ok, i'm ready, let's go already

We headed up to Danbury to catch I-84 -- there was no way we were going through Westchester County or New Jersey. The trip was fine and uneventful except for a a construction tie-up about ten miles east of Youngstown, Ohio, which set us back by more than an hour. We were listening to Eragon, a book about dragons and magic. We had junk and soda and it was a peaceful trip.

Ben, Ginger, and Twitch sharing the back seat

We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Richfield about 9:30, hungry and tired. Of course, the restaurant in the hotel closed at ten, so we had to seek out a restaurant. Settled on Wendy's at some truck stop, where the food was awful and the service even worse. Though this hotel advertised high-speed Internet access, what they don't tell you is that you get this only in the business center and not in your room. They didn't lie, exactly, but we were less than thrilled about this. This was not one of the better Holiday Inns and it's unlikely that we'll stay there again.

After breakfast (a mediocre meal at the hotel, though the coffee was good), we headed for Oscoda. Except for an accident that tied things up on Rt. 23 just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was smooth sailing all the way up. We made it pretty fast: just 6.5 hours from Richfield to Oscoda.

It was so great to see Mom and Dad, finally!

We headed to town to pick up a couple of things we needed, and Ben asked if we could stop at Three Mile Beach on the way back:

Ben at Three Mile Beach, August 23, 2004


noisy but pretty fireworksOne night, Ben brought out his fireworks. Ginger turned into a basket case while he set them off, but they were pretty to watch. Setting off fireworks makes me really nervous, but Papa Jim and Mamie were supervising. Ginger got so upset she jumped into the car when I went to get something and we couldn't get her out of it without dragging her -- I guess she feels safe there.

Stanley and Twitch pretty much staked a permanent spot on the porch. Twitch is in kitty heaven -- on the porch, he's ALMOST outside. Lots of hummingbirds to watch, and toads and other little creatures safe from his clutches.

Stanley and Twitch on the porch

The air here is so clean it amazes me. When it's not clouded up, the night sky is so spectacular it makes you never want to turn on an outside light again. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to see the Northern Lights this trip.

We've spent a great deal of time at the beach. The sand part of the beach has shrunk a lot; Dad says it's been declared a wetlands so there's nothing to be done about it. Pity, as it wasn't a wetland a couple of years ago and it probably won't be a wetland in a couple of years. But it's still beautiful and relatively few people use it. There's a sand bar not far off shore, which makes it a very safe stretch for the kiddies. The water is nice -- not cold enough to give you a heart attack, but nice and brisk. And clean.

I think Stanley's been dreaming about doing this again:

don't make me think. or even move.

Ben and Ginger love the beach. Ginger runs to the door if we even say the word "beach."

Ginger and Ben out there

dog and boy running

I'm not sure, but I think Ben was pretending to be, um, flotsam.

Ben pretending he's flotsam

Ginger kept her eye on Ben all the time, except when she was chasing her new football. She loved jumping around with him.

Ginger watching Ben

Ben had to fly back to Massachusetts today, alas. It's so quiet without him here, and Ginger is moping because her boy is gone. We miss him too. Now we just have to remember to bring his smoke bombs home with us -- the ones he got at the Dam Store without realizing that he couldn't even put them in his checked luggage!

Off to Bingo -- maybe I'll win tonight.
posted by lee on 08/29/04 at 01:01 PM
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