Fatal distraction.

Nothing like a little smack in the face to start your Monday off right. From a story in my alma mater, the Columbus Dispatch:

Patrick Sims was driving and typing a text message when he fatally struck a bicyclist in Colorado. Ashley Miller was doing the same when she killed a driver in Arizona. And New Yorker Bailey Goodman might have been reading or typing when she slammed into a tractor-trailer, killing herself and four passengers.

Even if you discount the final example — dead men tell no tales — that’s some sobering stuff there. People sometimes ask me why I still drive a stick shift, and I tell them, “Because you have to pay attention.” Also, it occupies your texting hand.

Ah, what a weekend. Lessons learned: Don’t eat braised lamb shanks at 10 p.m., followed by a big cup of strong coffee, if you want to sleep well that night. Also, avoid scallops the next night, unless you want to spend early Sunday morning throwing up. In between was some fine sailing with John C and his wife Mary, on their share-boat Voyageur, which is docked at Windmill Point, Grosse Pointe Park’s public marina. Windmill Point is at the very bottom of Lake St. Claire, where it funnels into the Detroit River. The current is stronger, and the freighters come a lot closer:


But you get a little skyline with your sunsets, imperfectly captured here:


Everybody looks at the sunset, but when you’re on the water, it’s always rewarding to look to the east, too, to see the dark rising out of the lake:


I don’t know if I got bad scallops or just too much fine food in too short a time. My life is so PB&J these days, it’s a shock to the system to see a white tablecloth. Maybe that’s what did it. In any case, it made for a wasted Sunday; nothing like dehydration to take it out of a gal.

So let’s skip to the bloggage:

The pros but mostly cons of mercenaries: “If I’ve got one ambition left here,” (the American officer serving in Iraq) said, “it’s to see one of those showboats fall out.” Out of the helicopter, that is:

In a style now familiar to many living beneath Baghdad’s skies, a Blackwater sharpshooter in khaki pants, with matching T-shirt and flak jacket, sat sideways on the right side of each chopper, leaning well outside the craft. With their automatic weapons gripped for battle, their feet planted on the helicopter’s metal skids, and only a slim strap securing them to the craft, the men looked as if they were self-consciously re-creating the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Blackwater defends its low-flying, ready-to-shoot posture as a powerful deterrent to attacks on American officials being moved through the capital’s streets. But that posture has become, to the company’s critics, a hallmark of its muscle-bound showiness.

…Contractors say the high profile of their armored convoys, coupled with the covert nature of the insurgents, places a premium on high mobility and rapid response — driving at high speed and in a bullying manner through city traffic and driving on the wrong side of boulevards and expressways, always ready to resort instantly, at the first hint of threat, to heavy firepower.

It is a formula fraught with potential for error. To be overtaken on Baghdad’s airport road by a private security convoy driving at 120 miles an hour, with contractors leaning out of windows or part-opened doors with leveled weapons, waving their fists in a frantic pantomime, is a heart-stopping experience even for other Westerners in armored cars with guards of their own. For ordinary Iraqis, with no weapons and no armoring, it can be pure terror.

No shit. Never mind when they open fire on a carload of civilians.

I guess the UAW didn’t learn from the Detroit newspaper strike: It’s unwise to strike an industry already on the ropes. But hey, they’ll give it a try. Maybe. This all comes with the news the state legislature has one week to get the lead out and put together a budget agreement that will keep state government running into the next fiscal year. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a UAW strike and a government shutdown at the same time?” Alan wondered this morning, a surly note in his voice. Sure. Our house has already lost 18 percent of its value since we’ve lived here; soon it’ll be like Mississippi, only with more snow.

T-minus 12 minutes to strike deadline? Better hit publish and hope for the best.

Posted at 9:53 am in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' |

14 responses to “Fatal distraction.”

  1. alex said on September 24, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I prefer a stick for the same reasons, although don’t own one currently. I learned to drive on big old GM cars with V8s and 4-barrel carburetors and was quite reckless (which is not to say wreckless) when I was young. I’m lucky to be alive today.

    When I got my first car with a stick it made me a much better driver because it required me to pay attention to how fast I was going. Never had a citation in a car with manual, and had quite a few cars with manual over the years. To any parent who has the jitters about a teen child driving, I would recommend the kid be taught to drive a manual and not be allowed to drive anything else.

    638 chars

  2. Cathy D. said on September 24, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I followed a guy down I-69 last week who had a cell phone pressed to his ear with one hand, was stretching with the other, and changing lanes in front of me to boot. I’m afraid of which appendage he was using to drive.

    218 chars

  3. LA mary said on September 24, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I think at least once a day I have some huge SUV operated by a person either texting or talking on the phone coming straight at me. This morning I was sitting at a red light, and someone in a Navigator, making a left turn, nearly took off the corner of my car. More often I’m in the parking garage here heading uphill, and coming downhill is the SUV with the distracting driver, right in the middle of the lane.

    411 chars

  4. colleen said on September 24, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I CANNOT believe that texting while driving is even an issue, it is so completely moronic. It never dawned on me to even consider it.

    The “Mythbusters” guys actually did an experiment testing whether being on the cell phone or being tipsy was worse while driving, and I THINK the cell phone, if it did not win, was tied with legally drunk as being an impairment.

    And I drive a stick too.

    396 chars

  5. John said on September 24, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Cathy D., nice picture at your blog. Your age and zodiac sign match mine so we must be within days of each other!

    As for crazy drivers, I see the same here on I-95 everyday. There is a half mile stretch near my office exit that must have idiot magnets on both side since the guard rails are down every week. I always blame the Rhode Island and Massachusetts drivers going home from the casinos but I guess there are some local idiots too.

    444 chars

  6. LA mary said on September 24, 2007 at 11:11 am

    My current car is the first automatic I’ve ever owned, and when I pass it on to my kid, I’m getting another stick shift. My right hand still gets twitchy going up or down hills, wanting to downshift.

    Isn’t that stuff about Blackwater exactly how you imagined those guys to be? It’s a crappy action movie within what was supposed to be a crappy heroic war movie.

    364 chars

  7. alex said on September 24, 2007 at 11:24 am

    So much for Hollywood’s liberal bias. They gave us “Wag the Dog” during the Clinton years; imagine the war epic/action thriller they could make out of the Bush years.

    166 chars

  8. Mindy said on September 24, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    My husband’s 76-year-old uncle was was hit by a car in July while training for his umpteenth Apple Cider Century.


    The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and struck Uncle Dan head on. He endured daily surgeries for a week and finally left the hospital for a nursing home three weeks ago. The active members of his entire family choose where to share the road very cautiously if they haven’t given up their road bikes entirely. I barely know the guy and am still very upset about his accident.

    547 chars

  9. Julie Robinson said on September 24, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Nancy, your home value may be plummeting, but it could be worse; you could still be at the News-Sentinel in the good old Fort. The new press has been one disaster after the next and papers are late almost every day. Since hubby isn’t there anymore I no longer know (or care) about the nitty-gritty of it all, but I’ve heard just enough.

    338 chars

  10. nancy said on September 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    So I’ve heard about the new press. You have to figure they’ll get the kinks out eventually, but not a good start.

    I was always baffled why they needed a lavish new press, just at the dawn of the no-more-presses era, but then, you know what my opinion is worth.

    264 chars

  11. Dorothy said on September 24, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    My husband got a new truck that’s a manual transmission in June. I drive it occasionally, but even in my little Malibu, I refuse to have the phone near me when I drive. It’s in my purse in the back seat. Only when I’m with another passenger or another driver will I have the phone within reach. Just not worth it!

    317 chars

  12. brian stouder said on September 25, 2007 at 8:01 am

    You know, it might be fun to photo-shop a cell phone into Alan’s hands, in the photo with the approaching freighter (presumeably, he would be texting “omg! ttfn!”)

    163 chars

  13. alex said on September 25, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Note to Cathy, above…

    I visited your site and would have responded there except I never create new blog IDs/passwords and all that yada yada because I already have too many passwords to remember.

    Anyway, I heartily agree about the arbitrariness of place names given to new developments. The examples you cite are indeed about as tacky and phony as they get — with one big exception.

    I grew up in Cedar Canyons. I recently moved back there. Cedar Creek, Cedar Creek Township and Cedar Canyons all take their name from the first pioneer inhabitants who arrived in the 1830s, not some philistine real estate developer.

    There once were dense stands of cedar there until farmers eviscerated most of it. And as for the Canyons, while they’re not of the California variety, they are absolutely uncharacteristic of the rest of Allen County. And mostly unknown. To see them you must walk deep into the Vandolah Nature Preserve, which I suggest you do because it’s quite lovely. It looks like southern Indiana.

    It’s too bad more thought doesn’t go into naming things around here. Another prime example is Oak Something-or-Other — such a nothing name I can’t remember it even though I pass it every day — built on the site of the former Robinson Park, a nineteenth century amusement park that figures significantly in local history.

    Watersong. Eagle Creek. These are no doubt consumer focus-grouped and trademarked names/logos that can be found in numerous American cities, not just Fort Wayne.

    1509 chars

  14. brian stouder said on September 25, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Well, I live in “Tower Heights” – and it IS high ground, and we DO have a towering tower, looming over heart and hearthstone….

    128 chars