Archive | Automobile RSS feed for this section

Meet Richard Gregory Fump–Futurist, Inventor, Humanist Extraordinaire

23 Aug

by Roger White

 

Wow, gang. I just came back from a futurist conference in San Diego, California, and I am energized—full of hope (for the first time in months) for what lies ahead for humanity and this little blue marble we call home.

 

I was invited to this gathering of futurists as a reporter, and I figured in my duties as an editor of an education magazine, I might collect some tidbits of information on trends, technology, and innovative ways of thinking that may have an impact on the education world.

 

What I found was a mind-blowing cadre of forward-thinking folks with combined, sometimes disparate-seeming interests who bring together concepts from all areas of life to forge novel, astoundingly fresh approaches to transform how we live.

 

First off, let me dispel any misconceptions. Believe me, going in I had this vague notion of just what “futurists” are and what they do. And for those of you who think like me, no, a futurist is not a guy in a Comic-Con Star Trek uniform who sits around thinking about wormholes and hoverboards. Futurists, I discovered, are people who explore possibilities and practical predictions for tomorrow based on where we are today. Sounds simple enough, but some of these folks are on to groundbreaking ideas and inventions that can be put into motion almost immediately—literally tomorrow!

 

Let me give you one amazing example. At the futurist conference, I met an inventor by the name of Richard Gregory Fump—an odd name with an even more bizarre amalgam of interests. Mr. Fump, by his own admission, is a human rights activist/automotive designer. This inspired inventor astonished conference-goers by displaying a state-of-the-art vehicle he created that can be used to defend and protect basic human rights. Sound outrageous? Read on.

 

From a distance, this thought-provoking vehicle looks like an ordinary truck. In fact, Mr. Fump proudly calls his brainchild Truck Fump. But this is no ordinary, everyday dirt hauler. Truck Fump is loaded with a cornucopia of devices, gadgets, and pioneering programs designed to keep even the most ardent civil rights activist safe and sound.

 

Just a few of Truck Fump’s features include:

 

• An automated driving system with built-in GPS and navigation, which is programmed to seek out such events as neo-Nazi/white supremacist rallies. Truck Fump, specially equipped with bulletproof glass and armored side panels, automatically positions itself between rabid neo-Nazis and those protesting against them. Truck Fump effectively thwarts neo-Nazi attempts to run down, shoot, or otherwise harm protesters observing their free-speech rights. Truck Fump is also armed with five 50-gallon canisters of Silly String, which can be fired to hold off and humiliate onrushing neo-Nazis.

 

• The bed of Truck Fump has a hidden canopy that, with a flick of a switch, can envelop the entire bed, concealing immigrants and refugees from war-torn countries attempting to escape the persecution of zealous white supremacists toting automatic weapons.

 

• The front bumper of Truck Fump, constructed of a hardened steel alloy, is shaped like a sharpened bulldozer blade, capable of punching holes in any ridiculous border walls erected by paranoid, delusional political leaders.

 

• The cab of Truck Fump is stocked with the latest in radar, shortwave, internet, and mobile communications devices, designed to pick up and record any covert communications between hostile foreign powers and those same paranoid, delusional political leaders.

 

So, my caring cohort of cosmic cadets, you can see the reasons for my guarded optimism for the times ahead. Thanks to marvelous creations like Truck Fump, progressive, thoughtful people have hope for safer, more peaceful ways to voice their opposition to the idiocy on display before us.

 

Viva Truck Fump! Say it with me, TRUCK FUMP!!

 

Roger White is a peaceful progressive freelance writer who remains flabbergasted that words such as “progressive” and “intellectual” have become dirty words in the vocabulary of today’s paranoid, delusional political leadership. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Advertisements

Huzzah for Hard Line on Hardheads with Handhelds! …Huh?

16 Sep

by Roger White

 

Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!

 

Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.

 

I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. distracted dudeRegardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!

 

Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.

 

So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:

  • WWT: Walking While Texting
  • WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
  • IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting

And, of course:

  • CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting

 

WWTYou’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?

 

Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.

 

I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved WWT2the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.

 

So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.

SWT

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Life in the Closed Lane, Part Deux

14 Oct

by Roger White

 

I’ve harped on the many traffic woes of this sardine-packed city before, but now with my youngest chomping at the automotive bit and with the wife and me renewing our primal fears of bodily injury to our kiddos (and yours if they’re not nimble enough to get out of the way), I figured it was time to revisit the demolition derby that is life on these Austin streets.

 Packed like sardines

There are those who put forth that a car is merely an extension of one’s personality, and I am not one to disagree. In fact, I believe placing a human being behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound mechanical contrivance actually amplifies one’s basic behavior to the extreme. If you’re a bully in your daily existence, then you become a truly monstrous a—hole in your behemoth pickup truck. If you’re the extra-careful, nervous type, this translates into that modest little Yaris attempting earnestly to stay six carlengths away from every other vehicle—even in the Target parking lot. If you’re the meditative, peaceful sort, you transmogrify into Gandhi in a ghia, waving and smiling serenely at those who curse and aim middle digits.

 

Add to this car-as-extension-of-self phenomenon the stifling overcrowding of our byways these days and you get what we are experiencing now: critical car mass. We’re not simply employing our autos to get from one point to another—no, sitting in the sedan, waiting for the light to change or the wreckage to clear, has become a way of life. We’re in our Toyotas and Hyundais so much of the time that we eat, sleep, communicate, transact business, recreate (and, yes, re-create), and conduct practically every other function of living in our cars as much as anywhere else. I hear that Honda is actually working on a driver-activated toilet for its higher-end models. No pun intended. Okay, I made that up.

 

Despite the notion of having a potty on the go, I have come to truly despise driving now. Sadly, I used to enjoy getting in the ol’ jalopy. I envied the guys who had the gleaming hot rods. Now I see these immaculately restored muscle cars, and the occasional collector on the goPorsches (usually driven by guys old enough to remember Ferdinand Porsche personally), and I puzzle over these machines with their massive motors grumbling against the walking pace of traffic. I mean, it’s a bit like owning a racehorse in Manhattan. What’s the point?

 

Anyway, from my daily stop-n-go grind I’ve concluded that there are five basic automotive personality types. And here they are, in no particular order: You’ve got your breakneck-speed, tailgating Reckless Kellys. These guys are always late for something, and you are always in their way, for heaven’s sake. Every lane that a Reckless Kelly is not in is the lane that he or she wants desperately to be in. Conversely, you have your Vehicular Vigilantes. These are the self-appointed regulators of the Reckless Kellys, and they can be just as annoying. VVs are the ones who speed up just enough to not let others in if they feel a traffic injustice has been done. Vigilantes enjoy wagging their fingers and shaking their heads correctively at other drivers. On the other end of the extreme, you have your Motorized Milquetoasts. More than three cars on the road at a time frightens MMs, and decision-making is tough for this mild-mannered sort. Keep your distance. MMs are often seen waiting for a stop sign to turn green. Clueless Cloggers used to be an obvious category; these were the very young and very old vehicular pilots. Currently, however, CCs have grown to include every one of these imbecilic drivers who insist on monitoring their mobile devices while they themselves are mobile! Lord help us. And last but least, you have thback off pleaseose temperamental types who think of themselves as Vigilantes but are in actuality a lethal and unpredictable combo of every known personality on the road. These are the most dangerous, maddeningly volatile drivers you can ever come across. They are convinced that their path and their mission are the most important, and they will compromise with no other automobile. If anyone gets in their way, these asphalt autocrats will do anything in their power to seek vengeance—to the point that they are willing to shut down the whole traffic system to get what they want.

 

These frightening folks are, of course, the Boehner Beamers. Steer clear of BBs; you’ve been warned.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Dead Cars Are Today’s Coalmine Canaries

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

You see them more and more these days: dead cars by the side of the road. Sure, the cops and the towing companies attempt due diligence, but they can’t keep up now. There are just too many croaked clunkers all over our highways and byways. I sat and thought about it the other day; you know what the proliferation of all of these deceased vehicles means, don’t you? That’s right, we’re all poor now. Well, 98.8 percent of us.

 he dead

It’s just like the canaries in the coalmine. Miners in our grandpappies’ day used canaries (those brave little birds) to make sure the air was breathable in their unbelievably dangerous underground offices. If Tweety Pie stopped singing and was suddenly on his back with his widdle feet in the air, it was time to haul out of there—the air had turned bad. Well, all those roadside stalled Chevys, puffing smoke with their widdle tires in the air—they’re today’s coalmine canaries. It ain’t good, folks. The air has turned bad.

 

The simple reason for this phenomenon is that our economy is barely breathing. There’s no more economic oxygen. Prices for staples such as groceries and gas are unacceptably high; cost for basic medical care is astronomical—and the whole system of for-profit care is at the very least misguided (and at worst, utterly evil); wages are stagnant; and jobs are about as scarce as an untattooed NBA player. Add to this the fact that the stock market today goes haywire anytime a terrorist sneezes in Yemen—and everyone’s retirement account is somehow inextricably tied to the market—and you have all the makings for a slippery slide right back into 1929, only perhaps worse.

he dead too 

Hence all the inert autos floundering near parkways hither and yon. It’s all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 21st-century style. People are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s all most of us can do to feed the family, pay the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Ancillary things, such as regular car maintenance, swiftly fall by the wayside when the money is just not there. And so, kaplunk. The trusty old Ford keels over because its financially strapped owner couldn’t afford to change the timing belt—which, by the way, costs approximately a cool grand including time and labor and all the extra nebulous charges your friendly fix-it shop always manages to throw in.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t really hightail it out of this particular coalmine, can we? And from all appearances, it’s a damn deep mine. In many ways, it’s downright disgusting. There truly is no middle class anymore; there are the mega-uber-wealthy, comprising less than 2 percent of the population—and there are 250 million shades of poor in these United States. The average corporate CEO income today is about $4,615 per hour; minimum wage is $7.25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

the trapMore and more of us are carrying four- and five-digit credit card balances and are using credit cards often to pay not for entertainment or the occasional luxury item but for groceries and monthly bills. In many cases, it’s unavoidable. My neighbor down the street recently posted on Facebook that her electricity bill for one month was more than $400—and her home is less than 1,900 square feet. AARP magazine noted that in 1963 a 49-ounce box of laundry detergent cost 69 cents; today, it costs $8.00. A movie ticket in 1963 was 86 cents; today, just under $10. Even adjusting for income, we’re much worse off now than we were 50 years ago. Boy, it’s getting tough to breathe in here.

 

Keep your eyes on the roadside, people. The air has surely turned bad.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

How to Unclog the Duodenum of Texas

8 May

by Roger White

Guess from whence I’m writing this installment, my kaleidoscopic cohort. In my car. That is correct. I haven’t touched the accelerator or the steering wheel in the last six minutes and nineteen seconds—traffic is this clogged—so I figured I might as well put the time to good use. Or silly use, anyway. I can now see a spider web forming from my front left hubcap down to the highway pavement. And I swear that little fuzzy monster is grinning at me. One should not be able to see spider webs and smiling arachnids on the highway.

puttputtSuch is life in Austin. I read the other day that traffic here in the duodenum of Texas ranks fourth-worst in the nation. The entire nation! Only LA, Honolulu, and San Francisco are worse. We’re more cars-trophobic than New York, Boston, and D.C. even. Get it? Cars-trophobic? I made that up, so no copying. I mean, cripes, Forbes magazine recently named our little—correction—NOT little burg as the fastest-growing city in America. It’s gotten to the point where I, your most genteel of scribes, have sunk to the point of using crude, contemporary slang that I vowed I would never employ. Alas, here goes: Trying to get from Point A to Point B in this town now officially … cough, “sucks.” Ew. I said it. I hate that verb. Kids today do not have the verbal alacrity to describe any experience, flavor, relationship, teacher, concert, class, ex-friend, or social exchange with any nuance at all because all they can say is that this or that “sucked.” This is why I hate the word. It bashes creativity. That being said, however, I again acquiesce because I, too, can conjure no other description of living in this town today. Other than it sucks. Like, man.

where am iWhy doth it sucketh, you ask? I’ll tell you. There are too many of us here. Come on, already. Stop moving here. Get this, and I quote from a local news source: “The Austin metro area added 67,230 people during the last 15-month period—4,482 people a month.” Cheese and crackers, folks, that’s 149.4 people glomming onto the city per day. I’m not sure where the .4 comes from, but for the love of Mike, somebody shut the gate.

It’s our own fault, really. Austin is so artsy-craftsy. Everybody and their therapist is an oh-so-sincere musician with a new folk song coming out about riding the backroads to Babylon or somesuch; we have organic food fairs every weekend that feature gluten-free honey-caressed love veggies that have been hand-raised by Buddhist hippies who live in a house made of dirt; everyone young and old runs and bikes by the lake—even the fat people; Robert Plant shops for groceries south of downtown, even though nobody recognizes him anymore because he apparently looks like Marty Feldmanmarty er robert now. Plus there’s a god-forsaken concert or charity run or awareness walk or some civic-minded, hug-inducing love-in wherein they block off every street in or around downtown—every goddamn week! It, uh… well, it sucks.

So, my clarion call to you, my fellow dwellers of the duodenum, is to, um, suckify the city its own self. If people are coming here by the droves because we’re so weird and wonderful, then the only way to reverse the trend is to unweird ourselves. You, over there in the hipster jeans with holes in just the right places, put down the guitar. That’s it, don that gray shirt and apply for that assembly line job at the pliers factory. You there, the lazily grinning hippies selling arugula out of your van. Take a shower—separately, please—put on some real underwear, and drive to Phoenix. You see, we have to tone down the originality and show some real, authentic normalness. Drabness even.

While researching the absolute worst cities in America, I read on more than a few sites that Stockton, California, ranks as a shining example of, er, genuine suckitude. Take a look (and I quote from the internet, so it’s gotta be legit): “In July 2012, Stockton became the largest city ever to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Also in 2012, the city was ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2013, Stockton was ranked as the third-most illiterate city in the U.S., with less than 17 percent of adults holding a college degree.”

Ah ha! Citizens of Duodenum-ville, rise up! And dumb down! Engage in some petty thievery. Kick a tourist or two in the groin. City planners, dabble in a little malfeasance. Cook a book yea stocktonor three. Mr. Mayor, get caught with a city secretary in a Bangkok hotel. Then, and only then, will we stem the tide of people crowding into our fair hamlet. In short, to prevent this city from sucking so badly, we must make it suck somewhat. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here, watching that little smirking spider make a home in my hubcap. Man, this sucks.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Our Winter Trip–to the Tune of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

7 Jan

by Roger White

 

Come andHere We Go listen to a story ’bout a man named Rog,

For their winter getaway got the car out the garage,

Packed the family up and drove to Santa Fe,

But here’s some weird stuff that happened on the way.

 

’Bout five in the morning just outside Fredericksburg,

With temperature readings like an Arctic iceberg,

Steering got squirrelly and a tire went POP,

Two hundred bucks later we leave the tire shop.

 

We Is NowhereOn I-10 past Sonora I decide to take a snooze,

Wifey’s at the wheel, what have I got to lose?

I wake and we’re smack in the middle of nowhere,

Fifty miles from a town with no gas to spare.

 

Fort Stockton’s now roughly thirty miles away,

With the “Empty” light on we both begin to pray,

Then out of nowhere an Exxon comes in sight,

We laugh and we cry and soon forget our plight.

 

Up 285 into old New Mexico,

Night begins to fall and the wind begins to blow,

There in the darkened road with no time to stop,

We almost run over a New Mexico cop.

 Stop in the Lame of the Naw

Fuzz, that is. Black uniform. Gun and all.

 

Well, the next thing ya know we’re into Santa Fe,

Wife and I relax while the girls go out to play,

We realize we’re now about a thousand in the hole,

For Christmas, we figure, we’ll give the girls coal.

 

Anthracite, that is. Black fuel. Fossilized carbon.

 Everybody loves Coal

Heading back to Texas we drive all day and night,

With fast food in our bellies the car sure smells a might,

We all begin to wonder why this far we did roam,

Next year we figure it’s best to just stay home.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.