Monthly Archives: August 2007

We are Fat

Yesterday, I was busy packing for vacation and didn’t get around to planning dinner until late, so I ended up venturing down to the nearby McDonalds to grab some food. Just as I was busy ordering a salad (the irony here is this is my first McDonald’s salad) , a family troops in noisely, This was late at night, so I was shocked they were still up. They proceed to order fries, milk shakes, ice creams, burgers, the whole lot. And every one of them, from the ten year old to the mother, was clearly overweight. I mean, the one son could’t have been more than 14 and weighed close to 250 pounds. So it was no surprise to me when I opened up the paper this morning and read that obesity rates are on the rise, highlighting a report titled, “‘F’ as in Fat“:

Mississippi topped the list with the highest rate of adult obesity in the country for the third year in a row, and is the first state to reach a rate of over 30 percent (at 30.6 percent). Colorado was the leanest state again this year, however, its adult obesity rate increased over the past year (from 16.9 to 17.6 percent). Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.

The report also finds that rates of overweight children (ages 10 to 17) ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the ten states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South.

Depressing, huh?

I haven’t seen Sicko yet, but I’m sure there is a valid argument for universal healthcare. However, it does incense me to think about government money going toward obesity, which is a health risk that should be in decline, not on the rise. Healthcare is about meeting basic needs, and ensuring equal access, not solving issues that could have been prevented in the first place. Obesity is largely a choice in my mind, stemming from a lack of discipline and not from ignorance or outside factors. Even a five year old can tell you what food is healthy or not, just as those who smoke don’t deny it is unhealthy, but do so anyways as down the road we incur the costs for their lung cancer treatment. I support obesity education, and better food options in schools, and lowering rates, but at a certain point Americans have to take responsibility for its own actions. Don’t bring your kids to McDonalds and stuff them full of “food” regularly just to turn around and blame the system when obesity leads to more serious health issues.

Anyway, here is Krugman’s take on healthcare from yesterday’s New York Times:

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
August 27, 2007

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

They’d have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren’t available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

So let’s end this un-American system and make education what it should be — a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America’s education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.

O.K., in case you’re wondering, I haven’t lost my mind, I’m drawing an analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled “The Middle-Class Welfare Kid Next Door,” is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will “displace private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage.”

And Rudy Giuliani’s call for “free-market solutions, not socialist models” was about health care, not education.

But thinking about how we’d react if they said the same things about education helps dispel the fog of obfuscation right-wingers use to obscure the true nature of their position on children’s health.

The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care. It’s just a matter of historical accident that we think of access to free K-12 education as a basic right, but consider having the government pay children’s medical bills “welfare,“ with all the negative connotations that go with that term.

And conservative opposition to giving every child in this country access to health care is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.

Here’s what I mean: The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be “to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly.”

But a child who doesn’t receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn’t receive an adequate education, doesn’t have the same shot — he or she doesn’t have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.

And insurance is crucial to receiving adequate health care. President Bush may think that lacking insurance is no problem — “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room” — but the reality is that the nine million children in America who don’t have health insurance often have unmet medical or dental needs, don’t have a regular place for medical care, and frequently have to delay care because of cost.

Now, the public understands the importance of health insurance, even if Mr. Bush doesn’t. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an amazing 94 percent of the public regards the fact that many children in America lack health insurance as either a “serious” or a “very serious” problem.

So how can conservatives defend the indefensible, and oppose giving children the health care they need? By trying the old welfare queen in her Cadillac strategy (albeit without the racial innuendo that made it so effective when Reagan used it). That is, to divert public sympathy from people who really need help, they’re trying to change the subject to the supposedly undeserving recipients of government aid. Hence the emphasis on the evils of “middle-class welfare.”

Proponents of an expansion of children’s health care have, as they should, responded to this strategy with facts and figures. Congressional Budget Office estimates show that S-chip expansion would, in fact, primarily benefit those who need it most: the great majority of children receiving coverage under an expanded program would otherwise have been uninsured.

But the more fundamental response should be, so what?

We offer free education, and don’t worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don’t need, because that’s the only way to ensure that every child gets an education — and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.

Streets of Philadelphia

So I traveled up to Philly this weekend with a couple of friends for a birthday, which didn’t go as well as planned, but was fun nonetheless. Mostly we had travel issues, which basically resulted in us spending 12 hours in the City of Brotherly Love and 12 hours on our asses in a car (whoever thought merging I-95 into one lane for construction was a good idea, I have a few choice words for them…)

I hadn’t been to Philly since I was 10, but as we drove through the middle of the city, it all came back to me, as if I had been there so recently. I always hear from people that Philly is not a great place, that it has tons of students because of the universities but no one actually stays there after graduating, and indeed everyone I know who has lived there or moved there got out or is looking to get out. But as I spent my 12 hours there, I was intrigued. The city center was clean, the buildings downtown dynamic and well planned out. The people were young and engaging. The architecture was real interesting, intermingling townhouses from revolutionary times and modern houses. History is abundant. The city is sprawled out, and is the closest thing to New York City I have ever been to. Unlike DC, residences and storefronts lined the neighborhoods seamlessly, much like the boroughs surrounding Manhattan.

So why no love?

A quick google gave me some answers. Someone actually posed this question on Yahoo! Answers, which yielded the following answer:

“Philly is a great city. The ghettos suck, and the city is getting worse and worse (crime wise) as time goes on, but it’s got great historical crap.”

Well, if you put it that way…sounds enticing. This person should work for the tourism bureau and post this on billboards. As much as I may love it, I don’t think “historical crap” is going to be a good dealbreaker.

Seriously though, crime does seem to be a big issue, along with corruption, and an unresponsive police department. My overall impression going through Philly native’s comments is that it does nothing especially well, and that there are places out there safer, with better jobs, with more attractive real estate, with better schools. So I guess the city is great place to visit or spend a few college years, but has little to offer in the ways of encouraging people to settle down there.

But it does have cheesesteaks, which, of course, is a reason in itself to visit. So even though we were late leaving getting back to DC, we set out to experience this authentic cuisine..

Through my Philly friends I know that the two most famous and frequented cheesesteak establishments are Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks, which are both located at the corner of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. For those Rocky fans out there, there is a part where Rocky stands outside Pat’s Steaks (and indeed there is now a marker there to commerate this). The two are fierce rivals, one claiming to be the originator of the Philly steak, the other the innovator of adding cheese, and both claiming to be the best in Philly. Apparently both rake it in all the same, as during both day and night long lines are common. We decided to be fair we would split up, with three of us (inlcuding me) heading to Geno’s and the other two to Pat’s.

I watched as my friend ordered at Pat’s, which (like Geno’s) has two windows from which to place orders, one for cheesesteaks and one for fries and drinks. He asked the man, “What do I order if I want a lot of steak and a lot of cheese?” There is no inside eating area, so those that were there at 10 am eating cheesesteaks were scattered on the tables outside next to us, and I noticed several look up from their sandwiches and make a face. Guessing it could not be from their cheesesteaks, I apologized on his behalf, saying, “Yeah…we aren’t from around here.” I didn’t know this at the time, but it turns out that there is a very strict way to order cheesesteaks. Here is an explanation:

Steak orders are often given as simple commands, an ordering method the establishment prefers. Typical orders consist of two or three words per steak and it is improper to order anything but a steak at the first window. Fries and drinks are served at the second window.

The first word specifies the cheese wanted for the steak: American, Provolone, Whiz (for Cheez Whiz), Plain (for no cheese) or Pizza (steaks with cheese and pizza sauce).
 The second word indicates if the steak should be made with or without fried onions, customers often saying it as “wit” or “wit-out.”

This ordering format contradicts the posted rules, which instruct that the onion preference be made first. But typical orders are: “Whiz wit,” “American wit-out,” and not the other way around.

Customers who want mushrooms or peppers on their steaks submit orders as, for example, “American mushroom wit” or “mushroom American wit.” Pizza steaks will be made with Cheez Whiz unless ordered as “Pizza American” or “Pizza provolone.”

Regardless, the last word is almost always “wit” or “wit-out.” For non-standard toppings such as lettuce or tomatoes (sometimes called a steak hoagie), a common order would be “Whiz wit, with lettuce and tomato.”

The cashier often expects to be handed money as the order is placed. Customers also typically step slightly to the left after paying, since the cashier makes change while already taking the order of the next customer.

As the customers reverted their attention back to their sandwiches I saw that my friend already received his cheesesteak, signature of the quick service of Pat’s Steaks.

I headed to Geno’s to sample their cheesesteak, ordering one with “whiz” and onions.  Clearly clueless, I tried to order a drink, but was shooed over to the next window. I ordered a Pepsi, but immediately changed my mind, and told them birch beer, when they give me a look and asked if I was sure. Meanwhile, the guy yelled at me from the window I just left to pick up my cheesesteak. I guess this was part of the ambiance.

We all had cheesesteaks at this point, and settled on one of the tables outside to dig in. Two bites in, the window from Pat’s was slid open, and a man yelled at us, pointing to the Geno’s cheesesteak in mine and my friends’ hand and saying that we couln’t eat that here. Well, seeing as we could not go to Geno’s with Pat’s food or stay outside Pat’s with Geno’s, and there was no other place to eat, we were in a quandary (no wonder people are so divided over the two – a mutual location has to be agreed upon, otherwise friend’s can’t eat together!). So we literally took two steps to out left and placed all the sandwiches on top of the hood of the car, and ate them there.

How were the cheesesteaks? Delicious, but slightly disappointing. I think I was expecting something more elaborate, but in fact both are simple kiosk style venues with a uncluttered menu. Geno’s meat was cut like one would find on a gyro, in long slices, while Pat’s was chopped in smaller pieces. Both are greasy, but Geno’s a little less so. The portions were good, but not overwhelming. The verdict by consensus was that Geno’s was better, which is sacrilege to diehard fans of Pat’s, I know. But apparently it makes a difference when the food is ordered; in the morning if the meat has been laying for a bit the sandwich is less tasty, and this may have been the case. After doing some research I also discovered that Geno’s posted a xenophobic sign recently saying: “This is America: When Ordering, Speak English.” This has since been taken down, but only after six months of protests, and the owner made tshirts with the saying and still hands them out (and the sticker below remains). This apparently turned a lot of people off, and they switched to Pat’s, but since any publicity is good publicity, it actually helped Geno’s in the long run. Had I known this, maybe I wouldn’t have gone to Geno’s in the first place, but oh well…

There are other places in Philly to get cheesesteaks, and many argue that Jim’s Steaks and Steve’s Prince of Steaks are superior. And just as I tend to enjoy cheesesteaks that are a little less “fast food” tasting, I am sure varying preferences and opinions abound for what should be the considered the best cheesesteak in town. But you can’t really go wrong with Pat’s or Geno’s, the originals.

For the best cheesesteaks in your area, check out this site.

Proud to be American

Meet Miss America, South Carolina:

What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Free Reading…

Links of interest…

From Disturbed High Schooler to College Killer…

The I wonder why years…

The All-Seinfeld Team…

Harvard’s Endowment hits record…

Why the Little Leagues are a sham…

A new Frisbee sport…

Top Ten Mike Vick excuses…

The Search for James Gray…

Why liberal arts education is important…

Yes, Obama played basketball…The demands of footballer Lampard…

Why the SAT should be abolished…

New Yorker humour…

Soldiers write Op-Eds from Iraq…

Americans don’t read…

Trick free kicks…

Unfortunate Seagull…

Beckham an inspiration…

When $70 million isn’t enough…

Maria Sharapova isn’t that bad in bed, afterall…

The best fielders of all time…

What city does the most drugs?…

One ridiculous jump roper…

A Yahoo worker who can rap (sort of)…

Avoiding sleeping with Cuba Gooding, Jr,…

Accidental Villain…

When not to play frisbee…

The wonders of the Animal Kingdom…

An in-depth look at the new Nationals stadium…

A marriage proposal gone wrong…

An original Facebook interview…

Forgotten tracks of the 80s…

America to the Rescue…

How to look for a job without your boss noticing…

The greatest beatdowns in sport history…

Is  a GWU education worth it?…

How corrupt Washington operates…

President Bush’s history lesson…

Playboy launches college-only network…

‘Mystery’ from The Game offers his seduction tips…

Facebook’s ad targeting plan…

Amtrak may be improving…

Googling ‘Monopoly’…

As Europeans see us…

Back to the Future

Marty: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

Doc: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

Exciting news.  The DeLorean will be back in 2008, and all your time travel fantasies can come true (well, almost).

The DeLorean, made famous by the Back to the Future movies, will be reproduced by Stephen Wynne, who has collected enough parts to create 400 DeLoreans from scratch in his factory.  Sure, it can’t even accelerate as face as a Honda with its present motor,  and will cost $57,000 but with a few tweaks, who wouldn’t one?

The original DeLorean

(AP) In a nondescript warehouse in east Texas, mechanic and entrepreneur Stephen Wynne is bringing a rare sports car back to life. If he succeeds, he almost certainly has Michael J. Fox to thank.

A quarter century after DeLorean Motor Co. began making its glitzy, $25,000 two-seater – an operation that collapsed after two years – Wynne’s small automotive outfit plans to bring the vehicle back into limited production at a 40,000-square-foot factory in this Houston suburb.

The creation of renowned automotive engineer John DeLorean, DMC eventually made fewer than 9,000 cars, distinctive for their gull-wing doors, stainless-steel exterior and rear-engine design. An estimated 6,500 remain on the road.

Despite DMC’s flop, the car has persevered, gaining notoriety largely as the time machine Fox drove in the blockbuster 1985 movie, “Back to the Future,” and its two sequels.

The trilogy’s enduring popularity on cable TV has exposed countless viewers – and potential customers – to a souped-up version of the DeLorean.

“There isn’t a day somewhere in the world that ‘Back to the Future’ isn’t playing as a rerun,” said Wynne, president of the new, privately held DeLorean Motor Co.

Wynne formed the company in 1995, when the bulk of his business was working on original DeLoreans at a Houston garage. Still, he needed a name, and because there was nothing legally preventing him from using the original, he decided to give it a shot. He even called John DeLorean, who wished him luck.

A dozen years later, Wynne hopes to parlay the car’s celebrity – along with the world’s biggest stash of DeLorean parts and engines – into a niche production business that begins hand-making two DeLoreans a month sometime next year. They’ve just started taking orders.

Already, the Humble operation will take an existing DeLorean, strip it to the frame and rebuild it for a base price of $42,500. Wynne’s staff can rebuild one every couple of months.

The company also handles routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tuneups, and ships between 20 and 50 parts orders a day to mechanics and individual owners worldwide.

But because the original models are roughly 25 years old, finding suitable candidates to refurbish has become increasingly difficult.

So Wynne figured: Why not use the thousands of parts and hundreds of engines sitting in his massive warehouse and build the cars from scratch?

AP Photo

“Everything seems to evolve around here, and that seemed to be the next logical step,” said Wynne, a Briton who began working on DeLoreans in the 1980s in Los Angeles, becoming expert in their mechanics and equipment. He eventually expanded to suburban Houston and opted to make his base here, in part because of the lower cost of living.

Like other DeLorean mechanics at the time, Wynne bought replacement parts from an Ohio company, Kapac Co., which had acquired the original inventory when DeLorean failed. In 1997, when Kapac wanted out of the parts business, Wynne bought the supply for himself, though he declined to say how much he paid.

A decade later, he’s decided to take the company to the next level: Niche automaker.

The handmade cars will feature about 80 percent original parts. The other 20 percent will be new, supplier-made parts from companies such Valeo SA and the Bosch Group, said DeLorean vice president James Espey.

The one limiting factor is the doors. The company has enough for about 500 cars, though it’s important to keep some in stock for repairs and such. Beyond that, Espey said, the company is studying its options.

Enhancements to the new cars will include an improved stainless-steel frame, a stronger but lighter fiberglass underbody and electronics upgraded from the disastrous systems in the early DeLoreans. A peppier engine – the original cars’ 135 horsepower was a downer for performance enthusiasts – will be available as an option.

“After working on these cars practically every day for 25 years, we’ve identified most of the issues and replaced them,” Wynne said. “If there’s a better part available, we’ll use it. If there’s a better way to install it, we’ll do it.”

The base price of a new DeLorean is expected to be $57,500 – roughly the same price a 1981 DeLorean would have cost in today’s dollars. The company will sell the cars from its shop in Humble and affiliate shops in Bonita Springs, Fla., Crystal Lake, Ill., Bellevue, Wash., and Orange County, Calif. DMC also has a shop in the Netherlands for European owners.

DeLorean was the antithesis of the buttoned-down auto executive of his day, sporting designer suits, dating models and moving in celebrity circles. While at GM in the 1960s, he created what some consider the first “muscle car,” putting a V-8 engine into a Pontiac Tempest and calling it the GTO.

“You have to understand it’s a car that never got to its full development because it was gone before it really hit its prime,” Baker said. “And you have to realize it’s 25 years old. But understanding that, it’s fun to drive and very comfortable.”

Unfortunately, DeLorean simply couldn’t sell enough of the cars to sustain the business. The company folded in 1983, a year after DeLorean was busted in a drug trafficking sting and accused of conspiring to sell $24 million worth of cocaine to salvage the venture. He used an entrapment defense to win acquittal, but legal entanglements plagued him for years to come. He died in 2005 at age 80.

DC Education

I totally missed the boat on getting word out for this, but…

Congratulations to Jason Crawford, a classmate of mine at Georgetown who ran a spirited campaign for a seat on the DC Board of Education, although he did not prevail.  I can only imagine how hard it is to get a campaign going so quickly, so I think the 22% he garnered is impressive.  I know he will continue to be a strong advocate for improving our school system, and I am sure he will be a force for change…

Here is his website, and his press statement:

Dear friends and supporters,

As many of you may have already learned by now, we have heard the results, and unfortunately we did not win.

We earmed about 22% of the vote, and considering that I was a write-in candidate, I think that is a pretty strong showing. I was especially glad to see that we actually won a couple of the precincts and did best in the areas where the schools have struggled most. Maria and I spent a lot of time talking with families in neighborhoods we felt were the most neglected, and hearing stories from parents about how they felt the system neglected their children’s special needs only fueled our determination to see this important campaign through.

I always knew it was a long shot for us to win this, but I felt this would be a unique opportunity to work with the DC Board of Education during a time of such critical importance and rapid change. I am proud of us for giving this a good run. We went from being below the radar to having radio and newspaper interviews across the city. Despite the media coverage, we were unable to reach a wide enough audience to announce our candidacy. In the end, not enough people knew about our campaign to write us in.

While I may have lost this first battle to work alongside the Board of Education, I still remain as passionate as ever to improve the DC schools system. On Monday morning, the school year begins, and I will work hard for my students and their parents, ensuring that they get the education they deserve. Yet I refuse to be limited by just the students in my classroom. I plan to contact Mary Lord, and I will be involved as a citizen-advocate! If you too want to stay involved with these issues, then I encourage you to contact me and together we can fight for a better DC Public Schools system.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who helped out with the campaign. Without the help of friends contacting newspapers and handing out fliers, we would not have gotten as far as we did! Thank you for all your support and encouragement. It meant so much to me, and makes me believe that with a little more time, we could win this election next time around!

Sincerely,

Jason Crawford

Metro the World

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