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Camera Versus Mirrors: A Smackdown In Reverse


On the Big Island of Hawaii, where I occasionally winter, I rented a car that I discovered had a camera hidden somewhere in the its trunk lid or bumper. You may be surprised to learn that this camera was not a bug planted to spy on me. Even though I’m a social curiosity and thereby an interesting subject to spy on, the trunk camera was actually there so that each time I slammed the car into reverse in an attempt to introduce New England driving techniques to Hawaiians, an image what was behind me would appear on a screen located just below the radio, drawing my eyes away from the familiarity of my mirrors, where they had been trained to look for virtually all of my 35 years of driving in reverse gear.

I will admit that the camera worked in that it revealed the landscape behind me, which turned out to be the same same as what was ahead and on either side of me – a lot of lava rock.

I had this car for a little over a week, and in that time I didn’t progress at all in my ability to use the high-tech camera feature. Old dogs like me can’t learn new tricks easily, and in this case driving while looking down to where, half a century ago, my father would have been stubbing out his cigarettes made it feel like I was driving blindfolded. Each time the images popped up on the screen, I’d look for a second or two, fail to ascertain where I was on earth, then revert to using my mirrors. Ahh. That’s better!

I know that thousands of forward thinkers read my blog and reserve their mostly high praise for when they might encounter me by chance on the streets of Paris or Milan, but it wasn’t so long ago, maybe in the year 2010 or something, that I wrote a column in the Boston Globe Magazine in which I noted that my wife was curious about paying for a genetic profile, whereas I was not, wishing to be kept in the dark about the potential for my getting Alzheimer’s disease. The response to that column from acerbic commenters was swift and biting. “Science is wasted on you,” noted one.

These several years later, I’ve concluded that that particular commenter was mostly right. I regard many technological advances, including these car cameras, as of little or no use to me. Ditto Bluetooth smartphone adjuncts that can be permanently embedded into one's ear, such that you can never escape the texting and calling. 

On the other hand, if they ever develop cars that can drive me across town while I read a book, I might actually sign up for one. 

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Taxi Driver 2: The Unauthorized Sequel


I’m going to write my own sequel to Taxi Driver, in which the antihero is nothing like Travis Bickell except that he drives a taxi. We meet him when his fare, a family of four recently returning from a balmy vacation locale to face the frozen tundra, are directed to his broken down jalopy of a cab, with a plastic bag filled with recycling on the front seat and the remnants of a recent meal in the foot well. A broken bit of plastic knife is wedged into the glove box seam, used to hang a plastic bag of garbage; no working credit card reader can be found -- it's cash only; a fare meter that looks like a child's toy from the company that makes "Spy Gear" will tally the cost of the trip.

The recycling is jammed into the cavity between the two front seats and this modern day taxi driver takes his fare on the slowest cab ride in the history of cab rides. At one point, the taxi driver feigns coming to a dead stop on traffic-free Storrow Drive before exiting toward Fenway. What’s he trying to do, freak out the Dad in the front seat? For Pete's sake, man, go!

When the cabbie finally gets the family home, he throws another curve ball at them, claiming they owe “$53” when the meter shows $36.10 with extras that are just $7.50.

He gets nearly $53 anyway, including tip, because, let’s face it, these Boston cabbies get sadder and sadder each year.

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Men’s v. Mens v. Men: A Three-Headed Signage Nightmare


When I go to a public restroom, I like it to be the Men’s room. I am comfortable in the Men’s room, as it’s clearly mine (I am a man, after all), and I am assured of finding things I need there, such as urinals.

I am slightly less comfortable in a Men room. This is room looks no different inside than the Men’s room, but I seem to have no ownership of it. Where is my apostrophe? Where’s my letter S? Guys like me possess this room; don’t go taking that away from us behind our backs.

And then there’s the Mens room. This sign reminds me of my son when he was a young lad on the back of my bike, pondered big questions such as, “Dad, why don’t womens weed whack?”

Apparenly, because they're spending time learning grammar.

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Easy Global Warming Fix: Plug The Volcanos


You’re always hearing about climate scientists taking measurements of polar ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet and so forth, then wringing their hands and forecasting the end of the world in our lifetimes, blaming, of all things, we humans for global warming. I have personally swallowed that bait whole, and I can tell you now that I’ve got a wicked case of indigestion.

It occurred to me late last night, after having had a pretty strong drink, that scientists have laid blame on the wrong culprit. My question is this: have these Nobel Prize winners ever been to Hawaii?

Native Hawaiians have known for ages the power that the mighty volcano has to produce a great deal of heat. After all, we’re talking about temperatures that melt rock.

My idea is simple: put big cork-like stoppers into the tops of the world’s most active volcanos, and you’ll finally get some purchase on the problem.

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Lava: it’s hot as hell and is oozing out of the earth right now, heating up the air and changing climates right under our noses. Deal with it now and maybe we can save our way of life.

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