One Down, One to Go

Last night the Democratic National Convention wrapped up in Denver with Barack Obama delivering his acceptance speech before more than 75,000 at Mile High Stadium.  Now officially the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, Obama’s speech capped off four days of efforts to bring the party together behind him for victory, to heal some of the divisions in a characteristically fractious political party, to define the party’s image, and define more who its candidate is.

I didn’t watch the entire convention, but did see a few of the key speeches.  Obviously the convention is largely there for show; party conventions haven’t really been where candidates are chosen for years.  But as scripted as they are, it is useful to watch at least some of it to see what the party thinks is important and how it chooses to talk about those things.

For me, there was no question going in, and really no question coming out of the convention who I will vote for this November.  Every candidate is, simply by virtue of the process, a compromise.  Barack Obama is no different, nor will John McCain be.  And while neither may be everything everyone would wish them to be, I will be watching and listening for the best chance for our nation to regain international credibility and for the restoration of civil rights and economic justice in a time when they are sorely needed.

To be fair, I will watch the Republican National Convention next week.  Now that John McCain has announced Alaska governor Sarah Palin (Any relation to Michael, I wonder?  No, probably not.) as his running mate, I suspect there will be even more attention paid to the convention than there would have been anyway.  What I will be listening for is what the Republican Party’s vision, and its nominee’s vision, are for our nation.


Car Shopping – And the Winner Is…

Now that we’ve had a chance to meet our contestants and record some initial impressions, it’s time to get closer to a decision.  So let’s run down the list and deliver the bad news:

  • Jeep Liberty – Out.  Too thirsty, cramped driver’s foot well, no more roomy than the Jeep Patriot.
  • Jeep Patriot – Out.  Too quirky, CVT, overall quality does not compare well even to other base models.
  • Ford Taurus – Out.  Too big, too frumpy (despite contemporary exterior).
  • Ford Fusion – Out.  Limited rear seat room, restrictive outward rear visibility, AWD only available with V6.
  • Ford Escape – In.  Good quality and utility, decent mileage with 4-cylinder 4WD.
  • Chevy Equinox – Out.  Too thirsty for mainly a commuter, though rear seat legroom was the absolute best of the group (even the Taurus), and good build quality.
  • Honda CR-V – In.  Legendary Honda quality and equipment even in base trim, good economy.
  • Subaru Forester – Out.  Even with the 2009 redesign it feels cheaper than it is, unusual and uncomfortable rear seat with center fold out cup holder.
  • Toyota RAV4 – Out.  Also well regarded for quality, but just too odd.

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An Idle Thought

Anyone who’s read much of my blog knows that three of my favorite things are (No, not food, food, and food!  Stop that, you!), and not necessarily in priority order; Rush, motorcycling, and food.  Now what do Neil Peart, Alton Brown, and I (sorry, no link) have in common?  Well, at least two out of three.

I don’t know whether Alton Brown is a Rush fan.  I, however, really enjoy “Good Eats” and Alton’s “Feasting on Asphalt” series on the Food Network, and I could probably be enough of a Rush fan for both of us.  And having read Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider” and other articles about his concert and motorcycle touring, the motorcycling and music dimensions would be covered.  So it was against this backdrop that one of our daughters said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you and Neil and Alton could go riding together, find or cook some really great food, and just hang out?”  This was her answer, on my behalf, to the question “if you could have dinner with any famous person, historical figure, celebrity, etc., who would it be?”

Ummm, okay.  I’m not much for this whole fantasy thing, but I’ll admit having indulged the thought in the odd moment of free time here and there.  Riding is fun, both of these guys seem to have quirky, well-developed senses of humor, and apparently enjoy authentically good food.  What could be better?

I could just as easily have included Alex Lifeson (who’s celebrating a birthday today – Happy Birthday, Alex!) in this group as well since he is not only Rush’s legendary guitarist, but a motorcyclist (and private pilot – another interest of mine!), and a gourmet cook.  I have also been coming to a whole new appreciation of “La Villa Strangiato” after watching “Rush in Rio” but couldn’t very well have Neil and Alex along without Geddy.  So we’ll do that another time, eh?

Now, where to go….?

I Can Has Cheezburger?

No.  Can’t has cheezburger.  At least not so often, or so many.  My last visit to the doctor made that painfully clear.

For what seems like nearly my entire life (so far, anyway) I have had a problem with my weight.  Not to extent some people do, but combine a slightly heavy body type, the fact that I’m tall, I work in a sedentary job, lead a largely sedentary lifestyle, enjoy cooking, and enjoy eating, it’s just not a happy result.

So, having my eyes bug out when I saw what the scale read at the doctor’s office (damn doctors office scales! they’re always off by at least thirty or forty pounds, maybe more!), I realized that I had to reverse the trend.  Everything else is fine – cholesterol (good and bad) and blood pressure (both pharmacologically aided, though, I have to add) – but my weight and exercise level are, respectively, too high, and too low.

So.  Cheezburger?  No thanks (pout).  How about a nice Slim-Fast and some fruit?  SF isn’t bad, and actually is reasonably filling.  And I also like fruit, so that’s not a problem.  I also don’t stick exclusively to that – – I’ll have another, more conventional but still lower calorie lunch on some days, and dinners, too.  But why is it the things that conspired to create this situation keep calling to me so?

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Car Shopping – Toyota RAV4 4WD

And now, please welcome our final contestant, the 2008 Toyota RAV4 4WD.  Much like Subarus, the RAV4 seems to have quite a following in northern New England (as does the CR-V, which I failed to mention), based on my completely unscientific observations.

Keeping with our more utilitarian bent, we looked at a base model four cylinder with, of course, four wheel drive.  Fit and finish on the Toyota was much more like the Honda, which is to say, generally of higher quality than the Jeeps and Subaru, but only slightly better than the Fords and Chevy.  While aesthetics are not a primary concern the RAV4, also not unlike the Honda, has a quirky – if not downright odd – appearance, especially from certain angles.  The interior is likewise a mixture of curves and angles, which would be easy enough to get used to, but still different.  A Toyota-phile might consider it “distinctive.”  One thing I noticed about the interior during our test drive was the reflection off the smooth, painted plastic of the center dash console.  Every car is likely to have certain things that catch the sun and reflect it back in your eyes, but this was particularly noticeable.

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Car Shopping – Subaru Forester 2.5X AWD

Subarus are staggeringly popular in northern New England.  They have a reputation for being rugged, reliable, and, with all wheel drive all the time, are appreciated for their winterability.

The 2009 Forester is more attractive than its predecessor; however, seeing it back-to-back with the CR-V didn’t do it any favors.  Quality of the interior seemed more like the Jeeps and less like the Ford or Honda.  The cloth seat covering material felt cheaper and more plainly finished hard plastic surfaces were evident throughout.  The rear seat incorporates a flip-out cup holder from the middle seating position.  Not only does occupying the middle position render the cup holder useless (not such a big deal), the cup holder – in its stowed position, of course – leaves the seat very uncomfortable.

Control placement, switches and gauges were good, as was outward visibility.  Performance seemed about on par with the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V though it came with Subaru’s own signature flat-four thump.  The doors gave a more tinny sound when closing them from the outside, but sound insulation muted this in the interior.

Overall, the Forester isn’t bad but seems more budget-conscious than some of the other contestants, and the rear seat issue seems likely to be a deal-breaker.

One more to go, the Toyota RAV4.