Hey, I saw this one thing in the news...

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I just came across this TIME article by Dan Neil (from 2007), about the fifty worst cars ever, and it had me laughing out loud in between lessons today. Some samples, concerning the engine in the 1958 MGA Twin Cam:

         "It was a leaking, piston-burning, plug-fouling 
          nightmare of a motor that required absolute 
          devotion to things like ignition timing, fuel 
          octane and rpm limits, less the whole shebang 
          vomit connecting rods and oil all over the road."

the 1984 Maserati Biturbo:

         "The Biturbo was the product of a desperate, 
          under-funded company circling the drain of 
          bankruptcy, and it shows. Everything that could 
          leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the 
          regularity of the Anvil Chorus."

and the engine of the 1970 Triumph Stag:

         "...an engine that utterly refused to confine its 
         combustion to the internal side. The timing chains 
         broke, the aluminum heads warped like mad, the main 
         bearings would seize and the water pump would poop 
         the bed — ka-POW! Oh, that piston through the bonnet, 
         that is a spot of bother."

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Fossils are fine and dandy but there is something much more fascinating about ancient tools and footprints. Ironically, these things – which were not of us but, rather, made by us – hold, for me, a more deeply compelling connection to our past. Yes, I have a skeleton, but barring certain misfortunes of fate I'll never see it. I hold tools everyday and my feet regularly sink into wet, muddy grass after a storm. To me these common experiences are more binding than bones.

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2/16/09: I was reminded by this of the scene in Woody Allen's Bananas about torture-by-operetta. (It's hard to imagine Tales of Hoffman leading to a cruise missile targeting position for Bin Laden.) Hmm... Dozens of hours of continuous, loud, brain-numbing music... This article begs the question: Is it simply the dinner breaks that keeps the suicide rate from spiking during complete Ring Cycle performances?

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2/3/09: I've only been to NYC once as a tourist/kid but this was still very fun.

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A team of professional treasure hunters found the wreck of the HMS Victory, lost in 1744 with 900 sailors and a hold of gold worth a billion bucks in today's dollars.  I'm a sucker for salvage stories, like a lot of other people, I imagine, because they so viscerally bring the past back to life.  Even if the only reason they're even searching in the first place is because of the treasure, not the tragedy, it's still always two stories:  The story of the shipwreck, a horrific disaster diluted by time into mere drama, and then the needle-in-a-haystack story of the search.  Each story needs the other.  The search needs the shipwreck story to give the hours upon days of side scanning sonar tedium some humanity and relevance.  But the shipwreck story, too, has more emotional impact because of the search.  Researching, retracing and then re-sailing the doomed ship's last moments and ultimately viewing its watery grave bring it alive in a way a simple retelling could not.  There are not many places left on earth where things remain untouched for centuries but the floor of the ocean is one of them.  Barring bottom trawling fishing vessels, that is.

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