Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Posts from — May 2009

Tim Hortons Nation

This blog’s in hibernation mode until I get my book done, but couldn’t resist stopping in to talk about coffee and donuts…

This story on a recent survey on Canadians’ taste for Tim Hortons is interesting and is probably something that’s bound to come up in this fall’s freshman seminar “From Pucks to Parliament: Exploring Canadian Culture.”

Now, if only I could convince someone in Vermont to open a Tim Hortons, something I promise to do if I ever win the lottery.

May 28, 2009   6 Comments

If you read anything today, this might be the article you want to read

I’m so busy here keeping my head down and trying to get this book finished that I’ve avoided blogging for weeks. There are lots of things I’ve been dying to write about, including healthcare, the border, the end of the semester, and the graduation of some of my favourite students here at UVM. After reading the following article, though, I knew I had to break my silence.

I’m all for trying to put more hybrid and electric vehicles on the road and, more importantly, trying to cut down on our use of vehicles altogether. These days, I bike to work most days and try to take the bus during the winter. We’ve deliberately avoided buying a second car for our family to try to be more environmentally conscious. Despite all that, I’ve been laughing all morning at this piece from this weekend’s Sunday Times.

This review of the new Honda Insight may be one of the best car reviews ever written. That’s not to say that Jeremy Clarkson liked the Insight. Indeed, he seems to loathe everything about it.

Here’s an excerpt, but make sure to read the whole thing here:

Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.

So far, though, you have not been told what it’s like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.

So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

The biggest problem, and it’s taken me a while to work this out, because all the other problems are so vast and so cancerous, is the gearbox. For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called constantly variable transmission (CVT).

It doesn’t work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.

And the sound is worse. The Honda’s petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

So you’re sitting there with the engine screaming its head off, and your ears bleeding, and you’re doing only 23mph because that’s about the top speed, and you’re thinking things can’t get any worse, and then they do because you run over a small piece of grit.

If I were a journalism prof, this might well be required reading….

May 18, 2009   2 Comments