New Machine

I’ll bet everyone who read the title thought I was talking about a new computer. Well, no. This time I’m talking about something else; as of today I’m the proud owner of a brand-new Diamondback HRT1100ES stepper. This is very similar to the one that broke, but there are a couple of important differences. For one thing, it’s self-powered, with an internal generator that’s used to power the console. It has always seemed silly to have a machine on which you’re supposed to perform mechanical work, which has rotating bits and magnets on the inside, and it still has to be plugged into the wall to power the console, so this is a welcome change. The other significant difference is that there’s a pulse monitor built in to the upper handles, and programs to maintain a target heart rate. This is really cool, and I plan to try exercising that way…starting tomorrow, of course.

Again, kudos to both Diamondback and Precision Fitness Equipment for their excellent customer service. Both companies deserve any good publicity my humble little site can give them.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Last night Cindy and I went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I don’t know exactly what’s “trans-Siberian” about them, but I do know that what they do is best summed up as “rock opera”. In addition to the two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, there’s a string section and various singers who come in and out. The music consists mostly of well-known musical standards – Christmas carols and orchestral pieces – done in a heavy rock style that sometimes verges on metal, accompanied a very sophisticated light show. “Joy to the World” will never be the same again. Neither will Beethoven’s fifth or ninth, though the former already sustained some damage from Hooked on Classics. The three moments that really stood out for me, though, were:

  • An excellent version of Carmina Burana
  • The longest drum solo this side of Spinal Tap (we were seriously starting to wonder if the drummer would combust).
  • A version of Pachelbel’s Canon that will change your world.

That last was particularly memorable. PC is such a musical cliche that I can’t even remember which piece it is from one hearing to the next. The TSO version not only brings it back from the near-death of total vapidity, but actually turns it into something that rocks. I would actually like to hear it again, and might buy a CD just to have it in my collection. The musical talent necessary to achieve such a reversal boggles the mind.

More Automotive Stuff

My car’s problem turned out to be the left rear bearing. Again. This is the same one that went back in February. Now, either the one I got back then was cheap junk, or there’s something else going on that causes excessive wear in that one place. The good news is that my decision not to replace both rear bearings seems to have been vindicated. That bearing is still fine, and the only effect of replacing it in February would have been additional cost.

This morning, my street was icy. Very icy. Cars were creeping along at 5mph, and they were still sliding uncontrollably into the curb. It even happened to me once, in my AWD ABS car. The interesting thing is that all of the other Lexington roads – five in all – that I take to work seemed to have been cleared and salted. That includes the one that gets about a third the traffic of my street and has no slope anywhere to speak of. The southern parts of Lexington definitely seem to get ignored by the town government sometimes.

Automotive Musings

Driving from Massachusetts to Michigan and back over the course of a weekend, even a long one, provides plenty of time to think. Much of my thinking yesterday was along the lines of “what’s that awful noise coming from my rear wheels” but I’ll probably post about that later (when I get an answer). Some of my other thoughts were of a more political/philosophical nature, so I’ll write those down instead.

Let’s say you’re in car X in the left lane (of two going in your direction) passing another car Y in the right lane at a reasonable rate. No, I’m not talking about creeping past at one mile per hour faster; I’m talking about being completely past and able to move back to the right safely in under a minute. There’s still a little bit of a gap, though, and you see a third car Z roaring up on your right at a totally unreasonable speed, obviously intending to zip into that gap with inches to spare. Now, if you’re in a conservative frame of mind you might decide to assert your right of way and also discourage such blatantly antisocial behavior by speeding up a little to close the gap – or perhaps even deliberately box Z in for a while. In a more liberal frame of mind you might decide to mitigate the effect of Z’s dangerous behavior by dropping back and making the gap wide enough so that his inevitable cutoff attempt won’t be quite so hazardous. Wait, you say, you’re neither conservative nor liberal but libertarian instead? What would a libertarian do? He’d be the guy driving Z.

Automotive safety also provides an interesting example for the laissez-fairies. When you drive unsafely, or drive an unsafe vehicle, you are not only endangering yourself. You are endangering everyone around you also, and for that you should pay them. Now, obviously, you can’t enter into a private contract with each and every one of them, as the stupider laissez-fairies often suggest should be the basis for all economic interaction. Even if there weren’t thousands of them, each with a different idea of what would constitute proper recompense for that lost safety margin, there’s not much chance to negotiate when you’re in moving vehicles with a 25mph or greater difference in speed. So how does that cost get recovered? Do you just get to keep exacting it, freeloading by imposing costs on others where collection is infeasible? Of course not. We collectively decide what that cost is, and levy taxes, fees or fines proportional to each person’s contribution to that cost. The result is a much better approximation of everyone paying the true costs for their own decisions than if the laissez-fairies had their way. A lot of the “get government off my back” rhetoric is really just “let me shift my costs to everyone around me” in thin disguise.