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2018 Dodge Durango Brings More SRT Style, Standard Features | News | Car and Driver

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June 28, 2017 at 11:37 am by | Photography by Chris Doane Automotive and the Manufacturer

In traffic, a fast-looking car is just as fast as one that actually is. Apply our proverb to the 2018 Dodge Durango GT and out comes an ordinary V-6 crossover dressed a bit like the Hemi-powered SRT, for way less money.

While the SRT’s bulging hood scoop and dual air vents won’t pump the Pentastar 3.6-liter past the stock 295-hp mark, it is the same hood that covers a 475-hp V-8. On the GT, you’ll need to order the Blacktop or Brass Monkey package to snag that hood as an additional option.

The mid-level Durango R/T with the 360-hp 5.7-liter V-8 now gets the SRT’s hood as standard equipment along with that model’s slotted front fascia, functional cold-air intake, and LED fog lights.

The new B5 Blue exterior paint, a bright, 1960s-era Dodge hue, is reserved for Durango R/T and SRT models. All Durangos see more standard equipment come aboard for 2018. The GT features leather-and-microsuede seats and a power liftgate, while the R/T gains front parking sensors. All Durango models receive a standard backup camera, a new steering wheel, and a T-shaped gear shifter to replace the rotary dial. Look for the 2018 Durango later this summer—and take extra care to spot the real SRT.




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2017 Ford Mustang Coupe and Convertible | Review

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Overview: The Ford Mustang’s face is familiar here at the Car and Driver office. We just wrapped up a 40,000-mile long-term relationship with a 2016 5.0-liter GT, and for the most part, it was a hit. This latest generation of Ford’s pony car debuted for the 2015 model year—the nameplate’s 50th anniversary—and incorporated a standard independent rear suspension, which reflected a shift toward a more capable sports car rather than a straight-line muscle machine. It has simmered nicely and will present a fresh visage as part of a mid-cycle refresh for the 2018 model year, which we’ve already seen. For 2017, this Ford continues in six forms, excluding the high-performance Shelby models.

The Mustang is offered as either a sleek fastback coupe or as a form-deleting softtop convertible, and each is available with a choice of three engines and two transmissions. The 3.7-liter V-6 makes 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four makes 310 ponies and 320 lb-ft of torque, and the 5.0-liter V-8 cranks out 435 hp and 400 lb-ft. Whereas the turbo four in the archenemy Chevrolet Camaro is its base engine, Ford flips that order, making the V-6 the starter Mustang (at least for the rest of this selling season—the V-6 will be dropped from the lineup next year). Ford offers a six-speed manual or a six-speed SelectShift automatic with any of the three engines.

Upon its introduction, the 2015 model landed on our 10Best Cars list. The Camaro and the latest Mustang Shelby GT350 have pushed these regular Mustangs off that list for the past two years, but they remain great overall packages. For this review, we drove a GT Premium with the $1795 Shaker audio-system bundle, the $2995 GT Performance pack, the $1595 leather Recaro sport seats, and the $295 backup sensors. The final MSRP was $44,775.

What’s New: Little shifted on the Mustang order sheets this year. The 2017 model year saw the deletion of the LED turn signals incorporated into the hood vents after only one year of production. Conceptually, they were a fun and cool nod to old Mustangs but proved to be mostly useless and all but invisible. Also, Ford no longer offers the 3.55:1 limited-slip rear axle with the manual gearbox on the V-6 convertible and has introduced an all-season tire as standard for 20-inch wheels. Summer tires now are optional.

Switching up its paint palette, Ford dropped Competition Orange, Guard (green), Deep Impact Blue, and Kona Blue as optional colors and added Lightning Blue, Grabber Blue, and a $495 White Platinum Tri-Coat option. Premium trim-level Mustangs painted Race Red also get a new red and black interior, the only change in the cabin for this model year.

Prices also changed. The tab on EcoBoost models went up $550, the V-6 editions increased $1040, and the 5.0 GT iterations jumped $800 (and the Shelby GT350, considered a separate entity, skyrocketed by $7050). A few option prices changed, too, including the GT Performance package increasing $500, the 3.55:1 limited-slip rear axle going up $100, and the spare wheel and tire costing $60 more. Shifting metrics resulted in a slight fuel-mileage downgrade per the EPA, lowering various Mustangs’ ratings by 1 mpg due to a change in testing methodology.

What We Like: Ford’s global-minded Mustang is a well-rounded package that encourages daily use, so long as the typical number of occupants in the cabin doesn’t exceed two. For a sports coupe, it’s easy to get into and out of, the upright seating position provides good sightlines, and it’s not overly large to the point that it’s troublesome to park. The independent rear suspension delivers a much more comfortable ride compared with the previous live-axle model. The exterior design also is a fantastic blend of retro, beauty, and aggression. The historic references such as the three bars in the headlight housing are small but significant, the long hood and wide track help give it a ready-to-pounce stance, and the fastback roof swoops down toward distinctive textured taillamps.

Styling and livability are two clear points in the Mustang’s favor over the Camaro. The latest Chevy pony car debuted a year after the Mustang—riding on underpinnings it shares with the Cadillac ATS—and beat the Ford in a comparison test. The Chevy is frankly better to drive in basically all iterations, but the Ford is no slacker and is easier to live with.

What We Don’t Like: Of the numerous Mustangs we’ve tested, one recurring complaint has been seat comfort with the optional Recaros. A few folks have found the bolsters too big, others thought the seats were too stiff, and many whined about the absence of heating and cooling functions. As expected in this type of vehicle, the rear seats aren’t suitable for adults.

And while the Mustang looks aggressive, it lacks something in the aural department. The belligerent exhaust note of the Camaro SS is a tough act to compete with, but the 5.0-liter Mustang doesn’t even come close, especially at lower revs. Higher on the tach, it does sound good, but we’d like to hear more burble, more scream, more similarity to the GT350’s spine-tingling roar. The mechanical clunking from the manual transmission models also can be annoying; the stick’s feel and feedback is great, but sometimes you may find yourself asking, “Why does it sound like that?”

Verdict: A design icon that’s comfortable commuting or grand touring, while also packing the potential for much more.

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Traveling abroad as an American and what to say about President Trump

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My husband Patrick and I in Paris last month.

NOTE: This is from a monthly column about life in Trump’s America for the Japanese publication Courrier Japon.

It was inevitable. I just hadn’t expected it to happen as soon as I landed in Edinburgh. Ten minutes into my cab ride on the way to my hotel, the driver brought up Donald Trump. “I don’t understand why Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected. She’s such a smart lady,” he said, shaking his head. “She was the brains behind Bill, you know. She would have done such a great job.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I didn’t agree that she was responsible for the former president’s accomplishments. But I shared the loss he was feeling about what might have been. I thought about apologizing for Trump, but that didn’t seem right either. No one appointed me to represent the U.S., and I didn’t vote for him. On the other hand, I was embarrassed. I thought about how Trump had congratulated Scotland for Brexit last fall even though the Scots had voted against it.

In the end, I murmured something in agreement and changed the topic.

Although I had spent over half of my life in the U.S., this was a new experience for me. The last time the U.S. had a globally disliked president was during the George W. Bush era, and I had been living in Japan. At that time, few of my friends or acquaintances had taken an interest in U.S. politics, so the only conversations about him were with other Americans. When we traveled abroad, people assumed I was from Japan. Most of the time, I didn’t bother to explain that I had spent over half my life in the U.S.

Now that I was a citizen, however, it was different this time around. We also had a president that was wreaking global havoc in an unprecedented scale. As we arrived in Scotland, new questions were emerging every day about the Trump Administration’s contacts with Russia.

I thought back to a Facebook post from last January by my friend’s mom, Lynn. As she began her trip to Ecuador, she had written, “Wearing my safety pin and ‘I’m sorry’ button.” The last part was a joke, but the safety pin was a symbol that people wore after Trump’s election to show their solidarity with marginalized groups like immigrants and women. Lynn told me that she had left behind all of her shirts with the name of her favorite football team, the Seattle Seahawks, because she didn’t want it to be obvious that she was an American.

Lynn at Machu Picchu

“The point of it was that I was so embarrassed to travel abroad as an American and have this man represent us,” Lynn told me later. She said that she and the others on her tour tried to adopt a Canadian accent, so people would think they were from Canada.

Before I read her post, it hadn’t occurred to me to think about how perceptions about the country might change overseas. Selfishly, I was glad that I wasn’t going to a country that was directly impacted by some of Trump’s hostile immigration policies. But Lynn made me more aware. As I planned my trip to Scotland and France, I wondered how U.S. politics might be seen and interpreted in Europe.

We had chosen a particularly interesting time to travel. After a short stay in Scotland, we landed in Paris, just as the country was about to vote on its next president: Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron. The entire world was watching to see if far-right candidate Le Pen got elected. After the Brexit vote and Trump’s election, the possibility of Le Pen’s win was frightening.

Perhaps because of that, the Parisians we spoke to were sympathetic with America’s plight. When I was shopping for gifts at a children’s clothing boutique, the store clerk told us how she had prayed for us Americans. “All my friends in New York said no, he wouldn’t win, but I was worried,” she said.

She added, however, that she was impressed with our Constitution. She pointed out that it was strong enough to stop Trump so far from implementing some of his scariest policies like the ban on immigration. We supposed that was true. A silver lining.

Later that evening, we had dinner with Alessandra and Frederica, Italian friends who are living in Paris. An hour before the election results were to be announced, we greeted each other with kisses. They joked that their bags were packed in case Le Pen got elected. Alessandra and Frederica were a couple, who had moved from Italy to escape harassment for being gay. In France, where gay marriage is legal, they had finally gotten engaged, but if Le Pen got elected, life could get difficult for them again.

Talking politics over dinner with our Italian friends Frederica and Alessandra in Paris

As we anxiously waited for the election results, talk turned to politics. Neither of them had been surprised by Trump’s win because they saw the winds shift with Brexit. But they thought our electoral system was crazy. In the U.S., voters choose their state’s “electors” who actually vote for the president. Because each state is only given a fixed number of electors, a candidate could win the popular vote, but lose the election, as Clinton just did. “It’s so illogical!” said Alessandra as she obsessively checked the Internet for France’s results.

A few minutes later, she looked up and reported that Macron had won. We cheered, clinked our glasses and sighed in relief. When we sobered down a little, Frederica noted that if France had a similar system to ours, Le Pen would have won. “A 3 million vote difference (in the popular election), and Hillary still lost!” she said. We shuddered at the thought. When we returned to our rooms that night, I read Facebook posts by friends back home, expressing their thanks to the French for making the right decision.

The next morning, we watched a part of Macron’s victory parade. A gigantic French flag billowed underneath the Arc de Triomphe. I shared in the joy around me, but I was envious too. I wondered if this might have been how we would have felt had Hillary won.

A few days later, a new meme erupted on Facebook, showing a beaming Trump and a stern-looking Pope Francis standing awkwardly next to each other during the president’s visit to Vatican City. People around the world made jokes about how Pope Francis looked the way they felt about Trump.

At the time of the election, many of my friends joked about leaving the United States, but I was curious about how expats actually felt about living overseas at a time like this.

When I had lunch with my friend Nathaniel, an American philosophy professor who teaches at a university in England, he happened to mention that he was dreading having to go back and answer questions about Trump. He was back in California this past year for a fellowship at Stanford University, but he was scheduled to head back in September to resume his teaching duties.

Like many academics, my friend moves where his studies or his job takes him. In his case, he had spent significant time in Europe over the years in Germany, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. He had been overseas during the last three presidencies.

“It was fun when Clinton was president because he was very popular. Everyone also loved Obama,” He said. “But it kind of sucked when George Bush was president.”

Nat in front of Buckingham Palace for Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding

He said people “freaked out” during the Bush years, and he was often put in the position of having to explain American policies or distance himself from them. He never experienced any hostilities, but it concerned him that a friend of his had been confronted at a wine bar in Paris once.

During the presidential campaign last year, Nathaniel said he sometimes tried to diffuse the situation by trying to be witty. He would say something like, “The British are being self-destructive too but they’re doing it in a boring way. One thing you could say in Trump’s favor is that it’s pretty spectacular. The U.S. continues its dominance in political stories that’s impossible to ignore.”

He said that he hadn’t started thinking about how he would respond to the questions and comments about Trump that he would surely encounter when he got back. He predicted that he would mostly feel self-conscious, of being “in some sense a little outpost of the United States.”

On the other hand, a part of him thought he might feel relieved to be physically removed from the unpleasantness of today’s political situation.

About a week after we came back to San Francisco, new headlines broke. At the NATO summit, Trump was videotaped shoving the prime minister of Montenegro aside. Much was also made out of the fact that Macron appeared to swerve away from Trump in a meet-and-greet among world leaders. After a confrontational meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went back to Germany and told a crowd that Europe could no longer rely on others. By others, she meant mostly the U.S.

That very same day, friends from Germany came to stay with us. At dinner, they brought up Trump. Perhaps his presidency was a wake up call to Americans, who have taken democracy for granted, they said. For them, democracy was a hard-fought and hard-won result. Coming from a pair of former East Germans, their words were profound.



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A City Steeped in History

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Hostfully Host Spotlight: Andy Thoms from Emerald Quarters

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Pensacola has been labeled many things over the years: having the world’s whitest beaches, the cradle of naval aviation, the western gate to the sunshine state, America’s first settlement, and even the red snapper capital of the world. But, for Andy Thoms, Pensacola is the basis for a burgeoning full-time Airbnb and property investing career.

Who is Andy Thoms?

Andy Thoms is a full-time Airbnb host, who helps give his guests a relaxing experience in beautiful downtown Pensacola with his flagship property; a modern downtown bungalow.

“I went to school for Hotel & Restaurant Management,” Andy tells Hostfully, meaning Andy knows a thing or two about hospitality and guest experience.

Andy is now a full-time Airbnb host with 6 vacation rental properties, and a real estate investor.

Andy continues, “I have now acquired, rehabbed, and manage 6 Airbnb units. I am full time Airbnb, and have come back full circle to my degree in hospitality.”

As you will see below, Andy knows a thing or two about hosting. But more on that later.

Andy has found his passion in hosting short-term rentals, and is now seeking to bring on investors to expand his business by creating a portfolio of 100 quality rentals.

“I absolutely love the instant gratification from obtaining booking revenue and, most importantly, the positive reviews and feedback from raving fans about having great experiences.”

Andy also understands the importance of local recommendations:

“I like connecting folks to local insider information, like where to park at the beach for less crowds, where to find $3.00 dozen oysters, where to get really affordable bike rentals dropped at the door, etc.”

Pensacola is the perfect urban market for short-term rentals. Far from a major city, Pensacola boasts 50,000 residents and a long history of settlement, starting with the Spanish in the 1500’s.

As such, Pensacola is steeped in history and has a lot of offer in terms of historical tourist activities. This includes civil war tours, and the famous National Naval Aviation Museum.

Credit: Expedia

Andy also had some amazing hosting tips to share with the Hostfully community. Here are Andy’s top 5 tips for vacation rental hosts:

1. Set up a guidebook with Hostfully to give your guests mobile access to all information they need.

2. Automate guest messaging through an app, or management system like Guesty, VReasy, or OneRoofTop.

3. Finding a great cleaning crew is a MUST! Our homes are super clean, which factors into the positive reviews and experience.

4. Treat hosting as a business, not a hobby. You are in the hospitality business, not the rental home business.

5. Utilize a tool like Hostfully to provide guests with an authentic and local experience.

Great advice Andy, we couldn’t agree more! In fact, our recent industry study found that providing a better local experience was important to 87% of vacation rental professionals.

Finally, Andy has some of his favorite local hotspots to share with Hostfully.

1. Emerald Coast Segway Tours

Credit: Emerald Coast Segway Tours

A segway tour is a great way to explore and learn about the history of downtown Pensacola.

2. Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen & Taproom

Credit: Yelp — Nancy H.

Hopjacks is a very popular place downtown to grab a pizza and beer. Nothing fancy, just beer, pizza, and wings — and don’t forget to get the duck fries! They have over 100 micro-brews on tap, and a great happy hour special.

3. O’Zone Pizza Pub

Credit: Yelp — Jane S.

A popular neighborhood pizza joint frequented by the locals. Great food, great brews, and vegan options.

4. McGuire’s Irish Pub

Credit: Yelp — Kermit S.

If you are looking for one of the most popular restaurants in Pensacola, this is it! A favorite among both the local and the tourists. Go early, and plan on waiting for a table. Bring a dollar to staple to the wall, there are over $1 million!

5. Global Grill

Credit: Yelp — David G.

It is a rare treat to find a restaurant in this size city where the intelligence and craftsmanship of the chef is so keenly displayed. The restaurant is in the downtown entertainment district of Pensacola, so if there are events, the restaurant can get crowded. Make a reservation!

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Get featured on the #1 Airbnb blog on Medium and win a set of organic bedsheets from The Clean Bedroom



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Project GTI: The Game Changer

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Taking It All In

It’s taken just two years, but Project GTI is almost exactly the car I always wanted it to be.

If you caught the last update, you’ll know that the car was just about to go under the knife at Regal Autosport, and would probably expect the work to have long been finished. Of course, you would be correct. Sitting down to write this, I’ve been back on the road with the car for around 10 days, having already completed some long distance and a variety of driving with the freshly installed Integrated Engineering parts.

However, I’m going to go back to where we left off previously and go through the whole build process. Before I travelled to Regal’s workshop in Southampton, England, we had already fitted the new Integrated Engineering cold air intake and breather plate. This left four considerable jobs still to be carried out: installation of the intake manifold, K04 turbocharger system, uprated front-mount intercooler and tuning.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-75

Before we got underway, Regal spent the time to check the car over to ensure they were working with a healthy example. Some baseline power readings were made on the previous setup so we could accurately assess what gains would ultimately be made. With its stage two software, the car put down 247bhp and 250lbs/ft on Regal’s Mustang dyno with 95RON fuel (US 91 octane equivalent, but more on that later). In my experience, Mustangs are very consistent dynos and exactly what we would need when the time came to tune the car. The most important part was that we were going to be comparing like for like on the same system.

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The first part of the process to be tackled after the health check was the intake manifold. The factory intake manifolds on the 2.0-litre TSI engines are renowned for being a little bit fragile; made of plastic, they’re known to crack, leak and the runner flap system inside them to completely fail. Plus, they’re ugly as hell, so there’s that.

With it removed, we – mostly Ben at Regal – were able to inspect the condition of the valves on the intake side of the engine. TSI engines are direct injection, so no fuel is sprayed over the valves during the combustion process unlike port injection. Instead, the fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder.

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Because the factory PCV system mists unburnt fuel and oil vapours back into the intake manifold, it means that the valves can get covered in carbon deposits. We’ve removed this PCV system and is the main reason behind running the IE breather plate and catch can setup, which prevents this from happening. Still, there was around 40,000 miles worth of build-up from the previous owner.

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Luckily, they weren’t that badly coked up, but it made sense for them to be cleaned with the manifold off. Soaking them in petrol overnight made the job infinitely easier when Ben got in the next morning.

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So much so in fact, that he already had them cleaned by the time I arrived. The carbon deposits are drawn out of the valve chamber during this process.

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With the valves cleaned, he was already at the end of the process of transferring parts over from the old manifold to the new one. Because of the difference in the runners, the fuel rail mounting bracket needs to be trimmed for it to fit on the new intake. Integrated Engineering supply a diagram of this bracket, with a guide of where to trim and how much material to remove so there’s no guess work involved.

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For some reason, this part of the installation was the bit that worried me the most. I guess it’s just because you don’t (or at least I don’t) see the intake manifolds on these getting changed very often. Still, it was just another day in the office and the process was as smooth as you could hope for.

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The reinstallation of the new manifold was as expected – no issues with fitment or fouling lines and no modifications required (save for the fuel rail bracket detailed above); it was like installing a factory part.

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With everything put back together, Ben started the car and was able to ascertain that everything was fitted properly and running correctly. This is an important part of the process during a series of upgrades, as it makes troubleshooting much easier. With everything running as it should, the engine didn’t even throw a CEL; we were now able to move onto the next phase of the upgrade..

Would Sir Like Some Boost?

With the intake installed and operating correctly, focus moved to the other side of the engine. The Mk6 GTI is factory-equipped with an IHI K03 turbocharger, which is a small but efficient unit. However, we had reached the limit of what it could achieve (at least without sending it into the stratosphere).

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Red was in good company at Regal over the course of its week-long visit, which also happened to be the run-up to Players Classic. So it was a particular busy week for the team.

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The original turbocharger came out with little fuss, asides from two very tight exhaust-side bolts. With both units on the bench beside each other, it made it much easier to see the difference between the K03 and K04.

With the K03 on the left and K04 on the right, you should notice a difference, despite my apparent inability to photograph them at the same distance. What I can tell you is that the K04 is just that little bit bigger in the places that count, allowing it to move a considerable amount of air more than the K03.

Integrated Engineering also pre-machine the housing to accept the GTI’s diverter valve in the same location as the K03, so it doesn’t have to be relocated elsewhere in the engine bay.

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It’s not a very photogenic install, as so much happens out of sight, but the installation was once again perfectly straight forward. If I remember right, Ben did mention that there’s much more room to work around the Mk6 TSI bay versus the Mk5 TFSI. They are similar chassis and engines, but I guess the packaging has improved between the evolutions. A new exhaust manifold gasket was used during the process.

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Either way, everything was buttoned up and reconnected in a surprisingly short amount of time.

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We (read: Ben) then refilled the engine with fresh 5W40 Mobil Super 3000 (I’m keen to stick with 5W40 for a while, having recently changed from 5W30) and installed a new oil filter.

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Once more, the car was started – but not before being cranked a few times to move oil through the engine and into the upright filter – and run up to temperature whilst its vitals were monitored. Every connection was double checked to ensure no leaks, and once Ben was happy the car was shut down for the night.

Another good day’s work done.

Staying Cool In Southampton

The by-product of producing more power is heat, which is the biggest killer of engines. While I might live in a very mild climate, it seemed that Mother Nature was keen to remind us that it can, on occasion, get hot on our side of the world.

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With outside temperatures of 30°C/86°F, it felt somewhat appropriate that the last item to be tackled was the intercooler.

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While not particularly difficult, it is a comprehensive installation with the whole front of the car needing to be stripped. Even at this stage, with the bumpers and lights removed, you’re still only about half way there.

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Mounted between the air-conditioning condenser and the water radiator, the factory intercooler is usually recommended to be upgraded once going beyond stage two levels of performance.

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Again, it’s only really when you see the new and old side-by-side that you can appreciate the differences.

The Integrated Engineering intercooler was designed to use every inch of space allowed in the factory mounting position, without having to modify or trim anything. It’s a perfect fit. Despite this, you can see the extra overall thickness in the intercooler compared to the stock item, which allows for 54% more core volume than factory.

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Maybe the most dramatic difference is in the end-tanks, especially with consideration for the materials used and the size. The end-tanks play their own role in helping to dissipate heat, with alloy being more effective at cooling than plastic.

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There’s also a considerable size difference on the inlet and outlet side of the intercoolers.

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But the biggest difference is the IE FDS (Flow Distribution System) setup, which distributes charge air uniformly across the inlet side of the intercooler, in comparison with others which just rely on natural air flow. As a result, IE claim that their FDS increases heat dissipation by 65% versus other intercoolers.

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Installation being the opposite of removal, Ben set about piecing the car back together for the final time.

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It’s a shame that this is about as much you can see of the new intercooler when all is said and done.

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With the provided silicon hoses attached and tightened, it was almost the end of the hardware installation.

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Working directly with Integrated Engineering in Salt Lake City, Utah, IE advised us to fit the car with a new MAP sensor prior to them remote tuning the car. From several thousand miles away.

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With this final piece installed, it was finally time to see just how much of a difference there was. Happiness, nervousness and excitement were all at the fore of my emotions at this point. This was what I was waiting for.

Gains

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The thing about living in the future, is that you don’t really realise it until it surprises you from time to time. IE had shipped over their PowerLINK which would communicate with my car – in fact, it’s now locked to my car – and play a pivotal role in the tuning process.

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The OBD2 device allows the software to be quickly and easily uploaded to the car. Some weeks before, I provided IE with my ECU details, with which they set about creating a base map for my new setup on 95RON fuel. While UK enthusiasts can avail of up to 99RON at the pump, Irish drivers can only acquire 95RON. Basically, my choice at a service station is either 95 or diesel. Nothing else.

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This obviously puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to making peak power, as 95RON is approximately equivalent to 91 Octane in the United States. However, as the car would be tuned for 95RON from the get-go, it would ensure that I’m getting the most from it while still protecting the engine at the same time.

At the end of the day, this is still my daily driver and only car, so there’s no point in making 400whp if it only lasts a week. Reliability and drivability were going to be key to this tuning session.

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With the base file uploaded to the car from IE’s server, it was time to start. After warming the car up, Ben gently brought it through the rev range, closely monitoring every detail imaginable. Once he was happy that everything was in good order, the first power run was performed.

With that first distinctive pop-pop-pop of its new hard-cut rev limiter, I waited for the car to decelerate before the first power figures popped up on screen. 320bhp with 310lbs/ft on the very first run.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-74

It just so happened that the ambient temperature wasn’t conductive to huge power numbers, but even at that, I was already ecstatic. I now owned my first 300bhp+ car.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-81

Another run was performed for logging purposes, before the car was let cool down and both Ben and Chris Stewart (that’s Mr. Regal Autosport) examined the data in front of them. They made some notes, before sending them and the logs across to Integrated Engineering, who in turn sent back a revised file. The speed at which this happened was just incredible.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-86

With the car having cooled sufficiently, the new software was installed and the data gathering process began once again.

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Another pull was done, followed by another with the car delivering consistently the same results. Temperatures were steady, despite the ferocious ambient heat.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-87

This time, the numbers increased to 330bhp and 325lbs/ft. The really, really impressive part, however, is the shape of the new power curve in comparison to the previous state of tune. For reference, the dotted lines are before and the solid lines after, with red representing horsepower and blue representing torque. That’s a staggering difference in performance and a complete change in the driving characteristics of the car.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-85

The tuning continued with both Regal and IE working to develop the perfect map for the car, which would deliver power and reliability. In particular, Regal wanted to allow some overhead in the tuning should I ever pick up bad fuel. A margin of error if you will.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-88

I got the car back that night, just to put some easy miles on it and see if any issues arose, before returning to Regal the following morning for final data logging and fine tuning.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-83

The final day was a perfect reflection of my experience since arriving in Southampton at 5:00am that Tuesday morning. With the bulk of the work done, it was just a belts and braces kind of day as every upgrade was pored over once again, the data re-examined time and time again, and the last runs on the dyno performed before the car was fully released to me.

2017 Project GTI Integrated Engineering Install Regal Autosport Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-62

At the end of the day, the car consistently delivered 321bhp and 312lbs/ft run after run after run, which is a result of +74bhp and +61lbs/ft. More so, there’s a completely different power curve, with the car making in excess of 300bhp from 5,250rpm all the way to its 7,000rpm rev limiter. At the bottom of the rev range, I’m making 250lbs/ft (which was my previous peak torque figure) from 3,000rpm. Where before, there was a good shove at the bottom, but it all fizzled out beyond 4,000rpm. I’m now carrying power all the way to the limiter.

Under normal daily driving circumstances, the car is still as docile as it always was. It’s efficient and refined, averaging 35mpg on a long run and is still the same, nice car that it always was. That hasn’t changed.

What has changed is when I decide to go a little harder on the loud pedal; the rate at which it gathers speed, coupled with the shifts from the DSG and supported with a proper soundtrack from the intake and exhaust, is breathtaking. I cannot believe it’s the same car. There’s virtually no turbo lag, and with the new power band it feels like a completely different car to drive. Previously, there was a hint of turbo-diesel to the car, a big rush at the bottom followed by the power band going off a cliff as the K03 ran out of puff. But no more.

Out of curiosity, I measured its performance – on a private road – from 60-100mph which took 5.9 seconds including a full tank of fuel, a full boot and a full back seat worth of luggage. Going by these figures, it puts it in some serious illustrious company. But at the end of the day, it is still just a Golf.

Just a rather quick one.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos
paddy@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor

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Ben Sasse on the Space between Nebraska and Neverland

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COWEN: Before we get to the questions of others, two final questions from me. When you’re hiring staffers or hiring in other capacities, such as the university, obviously, we look for people who are smart, people with good values, people who work hard. But what is it you look for in particular that maybe other employers or other senators or other people don’t think carefully enough about?

SASSE: I think the only two talents I have from a work standpoint are, I’m pretty good at sussing out when a strategic vision is missing and building a menu of choices about what strategic choices we should be making. What do we need to decide for this corporation, this small business, this not-for-profit, this college? And the second is, I’m decent at team building, and the reason for that is, I only hire people who are big cause, low ego. And that pairing is hard to find. Yeah, great to be smart, and of course, there’s a minimum threshold of how smart people need to be.

But fundamentally, what I want is people who want to be a part of a cause that’s bigger than themselves and they want to do something that matters. They’re always asking that deathbed-like question, “If I get the cancer diagnosis at 50 or in my old age at 85, when I look back at my life, will I think I spent my 30th year well?” Well, it depends on whether or not I was pulling on oars for some cause that’s bigger than me and doing it in a way that I didn’t care who got the credit.

And I want people on a team who, in that Aristotelian sense, distinguish between deliberation, decision, and action, such that you have a team of people who want to fight really hard when you’re deliberating among strategic choices. You want people who really are not bashful about trying to lay out pros and cons of both their position and everybody else’s position in the room and fight really, really hard.

But then finally, when you pull the trigger and make a decision, I want people on a team who don’t remember what side they fought for because this was the decision we made. And once we made this decision, we’re going this way, and nobody’s going to get credit because it was originally their idea or get blamed because it wasn’t their idea. We want it to succeed because we’re on a team. And that big-cause, low-ego impulse, those are the people that are fun to work with, too.

COWEN: And what’s the most — final question — the most underrated part of American government?

SASSE: Just the American idea. Fundamentally, we are blessed to live in an extraordinary nation where in 1787, there was a near-miraculous stew of ideas that came together to clarify, in the drafting of the Constitution, this belief in universal human dignity. We actually believe that 320 million Americans — well, we actually believe 7.2 billion people on the globe — but our primary responsibility as a government is to these 320 million people. We believe that people are created with dignity and their rights don’t come to them from government.

It isn’t the benevolence of government that grants you the right to free speech, assembly, religion, press, protest, or redress of grievances. We believe that these rights are inalienable — that’s an unbelievable idea. Then from that, we build a government that exists to secure those rights. But government’s just a tool. The animating principle is this idea of universal human dignity, and it’s intoxicating and we don’t celebrate it enough.

Q&A

COWEN: These are the rules for questions. Just to be clear, they are my rules, they are not the senator’s rules. First, no speeches; I will cut you off. Second, no partisan questions or statements. And third, no questions on pending legislation. If you ask, we will simply pass over you again. Those are my restrictions, not the senator’s.

SASSE: I’m so glad I came.

[laughter]

SASSE: I didn’t know we got those rules, but can we get some whiskey? Let’s stay for a while.

COWEN: All the guests have those rules. I’ll also take a few questions from the iPad. I will alternate the two mics. Feel free to introduce yourself if you wish. First person here.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is, you talk a lot about the removal of millennials from the means of production. Joseph Schumpeter thought that it was going to be the cause of socialism, that young people just saw the benefits of capitalism, they didn’t see the actual production of it. Do you think that vision is coming to pass now that socialism is more popular with millennials than it’s been in generations?

SASSE: Yeah, thanks, important question. The Sanders moment obviously led a lot of people to start doing some new analysis about this, and it’s amazing. Don’t quote me on this precise stat because I’m doing it from memory here, and it’s not something I’ve cited in public before. But I have a reference to something related to it in the book, I think it’s something like 42 percent of millennials think that socialism is the most just economic system, and yet only 14 percent of millennials can identify what socialism is as an economic structure. So roughly three times as many think they’re pro-socialism as have any real idea what it means.

Some of it, of course, sounds great about egalitarian economics, and there’s lots of that that we could debate and find ourselves on a continuum, not a truly binary choice on some aspects of who owns what tools in a civilization. But some of it is just not understanding that that means prohibiting a lot of private transactions that the two individuals involved in the transaction would like to make, seemingly, not necessarily with huge externalities.

I’m not sure how closely connected that is to the experience of growing up divorced from labor, but I do think we need to recognize how unique it is to live at a time where the vast majority of our teens are growing up without having any meaningful work experience, and that has never happened before in human history.

Hunter-gatherers and farmers — again, I mean historic farming from 10,000 years ago until industrialization, not the modern high-tech ag economics of today — but historic agriculture was like being a hunter-gatherer in that you just inherited the calling of mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. You didn’t make a choice; there was no job choice.

Some people were called to the clergy and law emerged as a formal profession about 200 years ago, and there were a few traveling salesmen and some witch doctors as early medicine, but by and large, it isn’t until industrialization 150-ish years ago that you have job choice. That’s new. But it was a one-time thing. You left the farm, you moved to the city, or you graduated high school, and you went to the factory. You picked a job one time and you had it until death or retirement.

What’s happening now is, we’re going to have job change again and again and again and again for your whole life. There’s lots of things in Tyler’s book that, at a data level, he probably wants to teach me some lessons about the complacency and passivity of certain kinds of job change today.

But at the macro level, what’s happening is, we have people who are teens who have to make a job choice, and they kind of know intuitively that it’s not the one job choice forever. It’s just the first one, and we don’t know how to think about a multicareer life. We don’t have institutions and intellectual categories for thinking about that. So it creates lots of very understandable anxiety, and our policy discussions are decades behind in thinking about what needs to come next. Some of this move toward socialism might just be a security-seeking that’s an understandable response to the uncertainty of what it’s going to mean to be disrupted at 40 and 45 and 50.

COWEN: Next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Senator, you’ve been at both sides of the bridge in our logo “bridging academic ideas with policymakers.” What do we do well in building that bridge and what do we do poorly? Where can we improve?

SASSE: Well, I taught at the Lyndon Johnson Public Policy School at the University of Texas for a handful of years, and I think one of the things that policy schools, business schools, law schools are trying to do well but aren’t as good at it, as, say, med schools are, is integrate the fact that there’s both theoretical and classroom learning, and there’s experiential learning.

We haven’t figured out in most professional schools how to create apprenticeship models where you cycle through different aspects of what doing this kind of work will actually look like. There are ways that there are tighter feedback loops at a med school than there are going to be at a policy school. There are things that I don’t think we’ve thought nearly enough about ways that professional school models should diverge from traditional, theoretical, academic disciplines or humanities, for example. But I really can’t blame the policy schools for that, fundamentally, because I think the bigger problem is that we don’t know how to have a big agenda-setting conversation about what policies we should be fighting over.

I’m happy that we’re not talking about the president at all tonight — that’s not one of the purposes of our discussion. But one of the things that I find strange from a whole bunch of folks on the Left who are really critical of me is, they say, “You’re worried about declining norms and you’re worried about X, Y, and Z, and you’ve been critical of the president about this, that, or the other thing, or you’re concerned about declining public trust, but look at your voting record. You end up voting with Trump 95 percent of the time,” or whatever they say. What’s weird about that critique is, it just assumes that we’re voting on important things. And that’s not true.

[laughter]

SASSE: Right? We’re not having legislative discussions about big things. Obviously there are some on the horizon, and I’m not trying to lead us down a path of going there, but by and large, in the last four or five months, we’re having policy discussions that have a Right-to-Left continuum, but they’re about really, really small things.

We’re not having any conversation about what it looks like to have a national security strategy for the age of cyber and jihad. Getting 28 years past the end of the Cold War, and we still think about national security primarily as nation-state actors and primarily by traditional war-making means when lots of the targets of cyber attacks in the future are going to be civil society, not governmental. And a lot of the attacking entities are going to be nonstate actors, not just state actors.

We’re not having any honest discussions about the entitlement crisis. We’re not having any discussions about what it looks like to think about a world where 40- and 45- and 50-year-olds are disrupted from their jobs. So we’re not talking about big policy. We’re not talking about anything that’s 5 and 10 years future oriented.

How can we blame academics for not knowing how to help us facilitate those kinds of conversations? Because it would be stupid for academic programs in the university setting and professional schools to try to remake themselves, to come deal with the legislative small-ball issue of next Tuesday. And that’s really all we’re dealing with most of the time right now.

COWEN: A question from the iPad: Why is there so little in your book about sex? And I would add as moderator, books four and five of Rousseau’s Emile, they’re drenched in sex in an 18th-century kind of way. [laughs]

SASSE: Turned out sex was really similar in most centuries.

[laughter]

COWEN: We don’t know, do we? [laughs] Might one argue that the more one thinks and writes about sex, the more you’re led to Rousseauian conclusions that a certain kind of constraint will prove impossible, and then one is pulled away further from Ben Sasse–like conclusions.

SASSE: That’s a really fair question. I wanted to stay away from sex 100 percent, and then ultimately I couldn’t do it.

COWEN: There’s three pages in your book about sex.

SASSE: Yeah.

COWEN: And page 33 mentions it once.

[laughter]

SASSE: Right now, you’re kind of creeping me out.

[laughter]

SASSE: Again, the five constructive chapters are about self-consciously developing a work ethic. They’re about limited consumption — it’s a soft apology for stoicism. They’re about intergenerationalism. They’re about learning to travel, and they’re about becoming actually literate — not just functionally literate, but appetitively literate, habitually literate.

I think it was Twain, I can’t remember for certain, but I think it was Twain who said, “The man who chooses not to read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” And right now, we live in a society of people who are decreasingly, appetitively literate. The average American reads 19 minutes a day, and it’s age correlated. Older folks are reading quite a bit more than 19 minutes and younger folks much less than 19 minutes. I think Gutenberg is the true father of America. I think the sine qua non of America is mass literacy, which led to competitive ideas, healthy challenges to authority, a plural marketplace after the printing press, that then creates a First Amendment culture of free speech, press, assembly, etc.

So those are the five chapters. The intergenerational chapter for a while I framed as “discover the body.” What I mean by that is that kind of dependency of youth and then ultimately the dependency again of your declining years, and an awareness and honesty about mortality. So much of unhealthy utopian status projects in the world are driven by a denial of mortality. We are mortal. You are going to die. You have limited options with your life. And you want to think a lot about redeeming the time. Healthy people think about, “How can I get more of the crap out of my life, that I’m never going to look back and say, ‘Oh, I’m glad I wasted time trying to consume that frivolous fad for a time’?” No commentary on fidget spinners here.

[laughter]

COWEN: Overrated.

[laughter]

SASSE: Overrated. But if you think of the distinction between childhood and adulthood as dependency and then ultimately becoming independent. Why adolescence is a glorious gift — again, it’s a concept that’s only about two millennia old — is that we came to believe that you could hit puberty, you could become biologically an adult, and you don’t have to be fully independent immediately. You don’t have to be emotionally, morally, financially, in terms of household structure or school leaving. You don’t have to be an adult and independent all on your own immediately.

It’s a pretty glorious thing to get this kind of 18-months to four-year greenhouse phase as you transition from dependent childhood to independent adulthood. But it’s impossible to not understand — and Rousseau obviously clearly understands — that a whole bunch of the anxiety of this moment is the fact that your body goes from being a kid to being somebody who’s able to reproduce.

You’ve got to have, not just the apron strings moment of your six-year-old, where you realize you can be away from mom for 6 or 10 or 12 hours a day and not die, but you actually have an emotional cutting of the strings with your parents that you can go from your family of origin to a family of your creation and choice and procreation. That adolescent transition stage is highly wrapped up in sexuality. And I don’t think you can think meaningfully about generations without thinking a little bit about procreation. So, even though I 100 percent wanted to avoid sex because I think we don’t have enough commonality, and I didn’t want to be drawn into culture wars anywhere in this book. Ken Burns has the great phrase that right now we have a whole lot of pluribus and very, very little unum.

[laughter]

SASSE: And if you think of what Ken Burns’s work is about: Jazz, and baseball, and Civil War, and Lewis and Clark, and the Dust Bowl, and his new project about to come out on Vietnam — one of the things that he’s trying to do is give us a common canon. He’s trying to give us some shared experiences, the things we can agree on before we get to policy fights. Because policy and legislative fights, they just aren’t big enough to form your tribe around. It’s really, really lame to think that these parties are that interesting. I want more things that we can unite around as a people before we get to meaningful and often important policy fights.

But if you’re going to think about those things we can unite around, I don’t want to get sucked right back into 1960s echoes of the culture war, and yet I didn’t feel like I could do justice to a chapter on the body and on generations without saying that sex has purposes. And there aren’t two and there aren’t ninety-two. There are basically three purposes to sex. Sex is a covenant, initiation, and renewal ceremony. Sex gives you a different kind of knowledge of someone. You form a kind of bond with someone that’s different than just a random person on the street. Sex matters. Sex is for procreation and sex is for pleasure.

There really isn’t much more to it than that. And yet those three things should be differentiated because it’s not just another contact sport. I don’t think it’s helpful to have teenagers not know that sex matters, and yet you can understand it. When you’re old and you look back on your sexuality, I bet most people are going to think it was basically reducible to those three kinds of categories. So I felt like I had to talk about it a little bit, but I wanted to duck the culture wars as much as possible.

COWEN: Next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you both for the great discussion. Senator, I loved your articulation of the big-cause, low-ego hiring criteria because I’m great friends with Charles Drummond and going to his wedding this week.

SASSE: Good stuff.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: But my simple question was, where do you source most of the material for your humorous and witty tweets?

[laughter]

SASSE: So, @BenSasse is just me. It’s my personal account — it’s not a governance thing. I have a press office; that’s @SenSasse. But @BenSasse is just me. I’m a commuting dad, so my material is really the fact that I’ve usually got a 6- or a 13- or a 15-year-old traveling with me. And we’re on the road and it feels like just our version of digital-era Huck Finn.

[laughter]

SASSE: I think I’m the only commuting dad in the Senate. We live in Nebraska, and I come here every week, Monday to Friday. Most weeks, I bring one of my three kids with me. I get home on Friday afternoon, and my wife tells me which kid annoyed her most last week, and they become my date for the next week.

[laughter]

SASSE: Most of the Twitter material is just that. And again, there’s a tiny little bit of unum, I don’t have that many twitter followers, but whatever, 160,000 or something like that, and that’s small for people who are doing something big, and I’m not yet. So I’m learning how to try to have a public conversation about stuff that I think matters, but basically my audience on Twitter is just 20 buddies of mine. It’s my college roommates and it’s my dad, and I’m just telling stories about how ridiculous it is that my six-year-old just lost a shoe in the Capitol, and we’re down a shoe today. [laughter]

SASSE: And it’s going to be rough to get through the whole day with that half an inch difference between the bottom of your foot and the other shoe when you’re only this tall. It’s going to cause some disruption.

We live out in the country and we have a lot of animals. Some are ours, and some are just around our property. And there’s that great farm debate about if you put out food, and you know that some animals are recurring, they are coming back and now you’re feeding them, do you allow your kids to name the animals? Because that’s the threshold where it becomes a pet.

I don’t want to admit that I own all these things, but we have these animals in our life, and they really do bring you carcasses all the time. It happened for years and years of my life, but I’m still surprised every day when I go outside, and there’s a new dead animal on the stoop, and there’s some dog or cat that brought it as a gift to me. That’s 30 percent of my Twitter.

[laughter]

COWEN: And how many names are there?

SASSE: We have three dogs.

COWEN: Three dogs, that’s it; so three names.

SASSE: They have names. My children sometimes speak at other animals that are around. I refuse to repeat any of those names.

[laughter]

COWEN: Next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: This school, the Schar School at Mason, this has been an unusual experience, and it brings to me the question of reform in our political system, rationality, thinking out of the box, thinking away from ideology. Given the financial cost of running for office, do you have suggestions or do you see trends that might allow us to move toward a more rational political system?

COWEN: This is the last, you’ve about three minutes, so please, as you wish. Anything else you want to add is fine too; four minutes.

SASSE: Then let’s figure out a way to save the fourth minute to say something that goes back to the shared experience of parenting because this is a really important question. I don’t really want to finish on politics, so I will try not to use up all the time, and then I’ll let Tyler give us some way to close.

I can only speak about it from my experience because I’m new to this. I have not taken an academic, analytic look at the change in candidate selection over decades. I don’t really know. I would want to consult with academics who’ve actually studied it with data. But I do think that one of the things we misunderstand about our politics — maybe I’ve two things that I think we misunderstand about our politics.

One, most of our political problems are downstream from culture, and we keep acting like we’ll be able to fix our politics with politics, and I don’t really think we can because our politics are a mess because we don’t understand where we are in economic history: this transition from industrialization to whatever the digital economy looks like, and therefore shorter and shorter average duration of jobs, and therefore a transition from villages and urban ethnic neighborhoods where there was known, dense social networks to this new thing.

We’ll produce new forms of social capital, but it might take half a century or a century, and it’s going to be really painful and disruptive as we go through this time. I think there’s a fundamental crisis of loneliness in our time that we don’t know how to think about. The average American had 3.2 friends in 1990. I mean Aristotelian friends: people that when you’re happy, they feel happy, and when you’re sad, they hurt, not because they choose it, but just because they love you. The way we parent. When my daughters or my son, when they hurt, I don’t make a choice to hurt, I just hurt. I love them.

The average American who had over 3 friends 25 years ago has about 1.8 friends today, halving in 25 years. Forty percent of Americans have no confidantes. We can’t make sense of how bad that ache hurts and how much people are projecting onto politics a hope that we could solve deep crises of the soul and of local community as neighborhoods and mediating institutions are hollowed out, and I don’t think politics can fix any of that stuff. So one thing we misunderstand is that our political problems are downstream from a cultural and an economic moment.

A second thing that we misunderstand is, I don’t think we’ve fully grappled — and I mean to say this delicately or humbly, it sounds kind of harsh, especially as we’re almost wrapping up — but I think we have a massive human capital problem in our politics. I’ve worked in 9 or 10 sectors because I’ve done a lot of crisis and turn-around stuff, and I think we don’t have the right kind of people serving right now. The vast majority of people in politics are kind and well-meaning, but you wouldn’t pick them to lead lots of institutions through times of crisis.

Right now, there’s not a lot of leadership in our politics. That’s not a commentary on any specific individual, but I think the biggest long-term thought most national politicians have right now is their own reelection moment, and that’s not long enough. We need 10- and 20- and 30-year visions for the kind of disruption that we’re going through.

COWEN: Let me toss in a new final question. Then you can tie it all up. Let’s say I am 20 years old, not married, not a parent, but I expect someday I’ll be a parent. What kind of life experience should I invest in now so I will become a good parent? You can finish what you were saying and then close on that. Takeaway advice to young people who someday want to be parents.

SASSE: Yeah. How about we talk afterwards, and I’ll give you the rest of my thought that is more directly connected to our primary selection process right now because I don’t think I’ll be able to get from that more technical answer to this synthetic helpful place to close.

[laughter]

SASSE: I think Tyler just gave me the hook is what really happened. He did it delicately, but I think he said —

COWEN: We’ll keep you much longer.

SASSE: Shut him off, turn off the mics, we’re out of here.

[laughter]

SASSE: I think that you can’t possibly become a really good parent without developing empathy. I don’t know that you have to have clear, cognitive categories to do it. There are lots and lots of people who are good parents who are empathetic who maybe couldn’t reflect on it. But since you’re asking the question for people who are advice-seeking, I think you need to self-consciously think about the cultivation of empathy.

And the travel point that you asked is another way of thinking about why it’s important to become well read. Because when you go into books, and you go to different kinds of stories, and obviously, you’ve just written a really important nonfiction book, and this this a nonfiction book, but one of the reasons why it’s critically important for our teens to read fiction is, they need to be transported to other times and places. They need to actually be able to see through the lenses of other protagonists.

One of the fundamental challenges of the moment we’re at is that we believe that the digital moment will necessarily expose us to more and more diverse things, and I think what’s actually going to happen is that we’re going to become more and more siloed. And there’s a real danger of tribalism and being able to at the moment that media is going to disintermediate. We’re not going to have big common channels anymore. We’re going to have more and more niche channels. It will be possible to surround yourself only with people who already believe what you believe.

In that world where you can create echo chambers and when advertisers and marketers and Russians are going to try to surround you with echo chambers to only believe what you already believe, it’s not going to be easy to develop empathy. It’s going to be really easy to demonize the other and come to believe that the deep problems of my soul and the deep problems of my mortality could maybe just be solved if I could vanquish those other really bad people from the field. That’s not true, and we’re going to have to, as a people, develop the maturity and the habits of empathy-creation, and that requires going other times and places both physically and in a literary sense.



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Why High-Octane Gas Costs So Much More than Regular | News | Car and Driver

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There’s a gas station by the Orlando airport charging $4.50 per gallon, or more than double what regular 87 octane costs in Florida, probably because it’s close to the rental-car return. But while competition pushes these extreme prices to the fringe, drivers refueling with premium gas are seemingly gouged in every state. If you fill up with 91 or 93 octane, you’ve no doubt grumbled, “How the hell is high-test 50 cents extra?”

That’s the average national spread of retail prices between a gallon of regular and premium gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In all states, what was once a modest upcharge over regular—roughly 10 cents for mid-grade, another 10 cents for premium—has become an all-out surge. As gas prices tumbled over the past three years, the premium-fuel premium skyrocketed from 35 cents per gallon in 2013 to 47 cents in 2015 and reached 50 cents in late 2016. According to the latest data from AAA (which tracks fuel prices daily instead of the EIA’s weekly), premium costs $2.80 per gallon on average, or 60 cents more than regular. In 2000, the spread was 18 cents.

According to the EIA, there’s no Big Oil collusion to blame. Rather, it’s a confluence of market, industry, and regulatory factors that affect everyone, not just those in luxury cars. In August 2016, premium gasoline reached a 12 percent share of all U.S. gasoline sales, a level not seen in 13 years. AAA said the demand for premium gas is due to more car owners “treating themselves” as pump prices drop. That’s true, up to a point. About 80 percent of all registered vehicles run fine on regular, according to AAA, and in a given year some 16.5 million people mistakenly believe premium gas will improve their aging hoopties or “clean out” engine deposits. But another factor driving demand is that more stringent fuel-economy standards have put downsized and turbocharged engines in more and more new cars. And most, if not all, of those engines, whether in a Mini Cooper or a Nissan Juke, require premium for the best power and mileage.

The refining industry hasn’t been able to keep up. Greater domestic production of light crude oil has led to a surplus of naphtha, a lower-octane feedstock. When refiners convert naphtha into reformate, a high-octane component produced in a separate catalytic process, they’ve taken advantage of the naphtha surplus to produce more reformate. But these greater volumes of reformate are lower in octane than smaller volumes, the EIA says, and with the plastics industry turning away from naphtha, refiners have more of an incentive to blend the lower-octane stock into their gasoline. In turn, refiners haven’t increased their octane production with overall gasoline production. In 2016, refiners dedicated 30 percent of their total capacity to octane production, a three-point dip from 2007.

Regulatory changes have contributed to our octane woes. The latest Tier 3 standards enacted this year have cut gasoline sulfur levels to 10 parts per million, which mirrors the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 requirement for ultra-low-sulfur diesel. This results in a “slight loss” in octane, according to the EIA, at an additional cost that “likely also influenced the growing spread between regular and premium gasoline.” But as that spread grew in 2014, the EPA released an analysis of low-sulfur costs on the refining industry and concluded that any increase in gas prices would be “less than a penny per gallon” and that drivers would be “unlikely to notice a difference in fuel prices at the pump due to Tier 3.” At an EIA conference this week, the agency cited Tier 3 regulations as contributing to a “looming octane shortage.” The two agencies might want to get together for a chat.

Additional caps on benzene, a large proportion of reformate, presents another challenge to octane production. What about ethanol, the plant-based renewable blended into every tankful? At 115 octane, ethanol is already blended into gasoline at 10 percent, but refiners can’t push any further. Automakers, engine manufacturers, AAA, and the American Petroleum Institute have all lobbied against E15, a 15 percent blend, claiming it would lead to premature component failures. Without dumping more ethanol—or other octane boosters like lead and MTBE, which were outlawed for road use in 1996 and 2006, respectively—refiners have experienced an “octane shortage that required refiners and blenders to acquire more expensive sources of octane,” the EIA said.

This isn’t to assume your local station isn’t also padding its profits when premium gas shoots up in price. But before you gripe about paying 25 percent more for premium, know the forces working against you before the first drop hits your tank.



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2017.06.15 Colombia Mission- Day 5

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Today was much chiller than the days before. We only had fewer than 10 surgeries, and that gave us a total of 60 in 4 days. For some reason the hospital wanted us to use another OR on the other side, so we had to move all of our supplies yesterday. What’s inconvenient was that we only had 1 OR today. There were always 2 surgeries going on at the same time in 1 OR, so it was super crowded. It was better if the other volunteers and I helped outside the OR. In the afternoon, there really wasn’t much for us to do because the number of people in the OR has reached its capacity. So I went around the town with three other people. We hadn’t even had time to see the town!

After we got back to the hospital, several people came down to say good bye to me. Alejandro’s family came. We took a picture together. They asked if we could keep in touch. Of course. Then, Nestor David’s mother came to give me a pair of earrings. I was so touched that I cried. It was a gift that contained so much meaning.

We packed up and officially left the hospital at around 7pm. There was a closing ceremony in the resort. Beto and Ahalia and two other representatives of the Rotary Club said thank you and gave out some recognitions.

We had a party. People sang and danced and drank and ate. It was fun, but I didn’t know how I felt. I wasn’t really in the mood to party. Yes I did sing and dance and drink and eat, but I was just trying to do what everyone else was doing, so I wouldn’t look anti-social or weird. After all these exhausting days, I just wanted to chill in my room, recover from the exhaustion, and spend some time digesting what I’ve experienced. I went back to my room, but Bella was there with a bunch of other people. Oh well sure, so I left and went back. I wondered when I could really have a good night sleep for more than at least 6 hours because we had to leave early tomorrow for Bucaramanga, and again the day after tomorrow for Bogota.



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fulfilling my father’s final wish

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5.19.17

New York City

My father passed away on April 1st, 2017 at 2:09 PM in his apartment in Tribeca, New York City after a 7-year struggle with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). He was 78 years old. Our only solace at that moment was the thought of him joining my mother in the afterlife. Today, my husband and I travel to India to scatter half of his ashes in the Himalayan foothills. Weeks ago, my brother submerged the other half at Triveni Sangam, a confluence of three holy rivers: Ganga, Yamuna, and the invisible Saraswati.

In an email from my father dated February 23, 2008 (46 days after my mom passed away), he wrote,

My temporary body that is known as Dinesh but consists of water, air, earth, ether and fire should be cremated as per Sanatan Dharma scriptures. The ashes should be divided in two parts (two pots) to be given to Amit and Monica. Amit and Monica should submerge the ashes into river that is closest and convenient to their residence or in river Yamuna at Yamunotri (which means birthplace of Yamuna). Ultimately all two sets of ashes will flow into the ocean and meet there. My soul is eternal and will take another body with my mind, intellect and ego or achieve Moksha.

It has been said that the holy Yamuna River originates in Yamnotri, but then disappears and reappears further south where it flows slow and wide. So perhaps Yamnotri is more of a mythical origin than the actual one as I’m sure that the water flows from the Himalays from an infinite number of sources into all the great rivers of India. Yamnotri is also a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and has a bright yellow temple nestled in the mountains, rewarded after a 5K uphill trek up.

My dad wasn’t the most overtly religious man, but he occasionally did and said things that made me wonder. Like for example this email, where he references Moksha, which means one with God — a state in which the cycle of birth and death ceases to continue. During our last Diwali, we had a small celebration with a candle and Ganpati statue, to which he bowed solemnly the best he could given his disease.

But my mother was very religious, so our being so is to pay tribute to her. And my mom’s name — Yamuna, named from the Holy River, brings us full circle. The reason we now head there, via Iceland then through Russia, to Dehra Dun via Delhi, and then north by car to a few miles from the border with China.

It has been 9-years since I’ve been to India. My last trip was to scatter my mom’s ashes in 2008 — a trip I took with my father and brother. It was a heartbreaking time, as my mother’s untimely demise occurred suddenly and shockingly and just days after her retirement, and the young age of 63. The trip was emotionally grueling and physically taxing. We didn’t have mom to remind us to eat and sleep. We fulfilled our duty but with such a great difficulty.

This picture is of my brother and me sitting on the banks of the Yamuna River in a photograph taken by my father in 2008 after we submerged my mother’s ashes during a Hindu ritual on a rickety boat similar to the ones photographed here. At the time, I was puzzled (even irked) at dad for taking these pictures, but now I revere the images. They are from him. Which begs the question — will I take photos of Yamnotri as I scatter my father’s ashes? To this I say yes, at least initially. Partly because he did this (thus giving me license) but also because its important to remember. I brought his point-and-click camera (or as he called it, camero) to do just that.

And now I’m heading back once again, to the birthplace of my parents. And to the final resting place of the remains of their physical bodies. Two lifetimes have come and gone…how could it be? How could they just be gone? I have so many questions that I hope to explore while there. Indians are much more accepting of the birth and death cycle. Can I connect with my parents? Will I understand why they were taken away? Or perhaps do inquiries like these take me further from the Indian way of acceptance. In a book I am currently reading “The Orphaned Adult,” the author (Alexander Levy) writes about western society’s dismissal, avoidance, and denial of death.

When parents have children, it is with the hope that they pass away first. The opposite scenario is a cruel nightmare that an unlucky minority has to endure. I should be thankful that my parents never had to experience losing a child — something I thought about occasionally, wondering how things could go worse for my dad. A morbid line of thinking. So the question then goes…if we have children with this eventuality — that we will die during their lifetime — how do we help them prepare for the inevitable? When my mother passed away, I didn’t know such a thing was possible. With my father, I prepared myself for years, but still find it cruel and unfair. My brother referred to us as orphans. Is it so?

5.20.17

Delhi, Dehradun, & Musoorie

State of Uttarakhand

India

We swayed side to side in the backseat of a small white taxi as the driver, Mr. Raman, took sharp turns left and right to climb the road etched on the side of the mountain. It was late at night and my eyes spanned the valley below, sprawling with the lights from the city of Dehradun set against the pitch-black sky. Mr. Raman remarked, “Diwali View” a reference to the festival of lights. And my mind went to my father who visited North India with my mom in 1967 for their honeymoon — specifically in Kashmir (now contested territory with Pakistan) roughly 8-hours north by car. India has changed so much since then and even since I visited here as a child in the 80’s. Back then, access to consumer goods was extremely limited, but now you can get almost anything. Sarees have become Lacoste. Ketchup pizza has become pizza hut. I think mom and dad would enjoy the new India very much, but my hunch is that they would prefer “simple and sober” (opposite of flashy and modern). They left India in the 1960’s, so to them — that period exemplifies what is Indian and the current post-globalization India is westernized and therefore, less authentic — not “Indian”. I can’t help but believe this too, as I am my parent’s daughter and also because my experience in the new India is nascent. My dad ultimately lived in the US longer than he did India and many of his world beliefs were informed by this fact. Or perhaps the other way around — he pursued a life in the west as a result of values: growth, exploration, autonomy, financial stability, some religion (but not too much), some community (but secondary to nuclear family)…the ability to jump in a car and drive to mountains. Memories fill my mind of our road trips from Houston to the Southwest. Traveling in our grey Buick Century and a car-top carrier filled with sleeping bags and a tent in a non-stop trip to the likes of Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks, and Lake Powell. And now, solely based on his request, I see the Himalayan foothills in the distance from the porch of my hotel in Musoorie. He brought me back to the mountains.

Being in India without my parents is an odd feeling, as the vast majority of my trips here were with them. I passively followed as they haggled with taxi drivers in Hindi or Gujarati, found safe restaurants for “hygienic” and “pure-veg” eating, and navigated the chaos of the streets. The purpose of childhood family trips was to spend time with extended family and to learn what it means to be Indian through their lifestyle. I only appreciated much later how my typical Gujarati family’s puritan, merchant-class life was only one slice of this vast country filled with farmers and warriors; families much more rich and certainly more poor; those who were more erudite and artsy; and those who liked to party — the only parties we had were pani puree parties (and boy were those tasty).

But perhaps more unsettling is not just that I’m here without my parents, but rather that I’m here without the possibility of my parents — because they no longer exist in the physical form that I have known for over four decades — a fact that I’m still grappling with. It’s difficult to not have the regret that I didn’t travel this country with them, pull them away from family pani puree parties and explore nooks and crannies that they didn’t know in spite of being Indian. But I’m just now figuring all this out and it’s too late. While in Musoorie, B and I walked wandered through a Tibetan Buddhist refugee community today called Happy Valley, which was the first home to the Dalai Lama in India.

My father’s younger brother often pays tribute to my father for being responsible for the success of so many because he pushed our family to immigrate. This is part of a value system that I described but at the same time, my father — at least while I knew him — was risk averse in many ways: he didn’t invest money aggressively, move from the modest house we grew up in, exchange a stable job for a more risky but fulfilling one, or spend time in developing countries (outside of India).

A few years after the onset of his illness, when my dad was just settling into a wheelchair, he became fixated on the idea to travel to India and asked my relatives perpetually for months. I thought — perhaps, if I hired multiple caretakers to take him– we could pull it off. But even pre-PSP when my father visited Mumbai, he would tie a handkerchief on his face to prevent breathing polluted air. Today, as B and I explored the Library and Gandhi Chowk in Musoorie, we played frogger with cars, bicycle rickshaws, and cows. One foot on the street and the other in a rocky unsteady ditch, we shared the road with the backdrop of incessant honking with cars just inches away as the passed us. This is not the India in which my father could have navigated in a wheel chair with his West African aide. It also puzzled me why he was so adamant about going. He once remarked that “everyone is now dead” in India, presumably speaking of his parents (his father died when he was 12 years old then mother sometime much later in life, though he didn’t visibly mourn except for select moments when he wanted to pray on her behalf when we visited temples). He also grew up with his maternal aunts and uncles (as part of an agreement of marriage, my grandfather had to take in my grandmother’s substantially younger siblings as well — these were my father’s contemporaries and they grew up together). And at the time, my mother had passed as well. So yes — Indians accept death as part of the birth/death cycle and perhaps they mourn silently, but they also see death as a signal of their own mortality. Or so I deduct based on my father’s perspectives.

5.22.17

Kharsali Village

Janiki Chaddi — city near Yamnotri

State of Uttarakhand

India

We woke up at 5AM after a mere 2-hours of sleep to embark on our journey through the mountains to Yamnotri. The car ride was typical India — a single lane road but two-way traffic with no painted lines, carved out of the side of a mountain, a severe drop-off, and no guardrail to speak of. Our car made blind turns while swerving around busses, vans, and motorcyclists in both directions — alerting on-comers by blowing the horn. The mountains were lined with green trees and shrubs, reminiscent of Peru and at times, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco though those were brown from olive trees. The road (called Yamnotri Road) followed the path of the river — clear water flowing swiftly over a rocky terrain while meandering through the valley, and surrounded by farms on terraces built into the mountains. There were innumerable towns that lined the highway, hosting colorful buildings and tea-stalls and Maggie shops, catering to the thousands who traveled these roads between May and June. We winded through the towns, honking at foot traffic of people, cows, and horses. We passed many school children in uniforms and tightly braided hair, many with light colored eyes and strikingly beautiful features common in northern Indians. The views became more spectacular as the hours passed and ultimately, in the distance — we saw enormous, snow capped towering mountains over the clouds. The Garhwal Himalayas. At last, our 6-hour journey came to an end and we arrived at Kharsali Village — a neighborhood on a hill adjacent to Janki Chatti, the town where the Yamuna River begins. We were told that this neighborhood consisted mainly of Brahmin priests, their families, and the working class who serve them. Just beyond the town are three large green mountains, the last of which hosts the famous Yamnotri Temple, the destination of a 5K uphill pilgrimage that thousands embark upon each summer, mainly by grandmotherly women who ride on the back of horses or carried by four-men. And just beyond, a few miles away as the crow flies, is China.

As we entered this neighborhood, our little car struggled up the unpaved, muddy path while Manoj changed gears, often reversing and reattempted hills with a quiet tenacity. We asked laborers who were working on the road for the way and ultimately, arrived at the Shiv Shakti Eco Resort, a rickety 2-story metal building painted mauve, with a grandfatherly fellow and two young boys waving us in. We asked for Neeraj — the gentlemen who we’ve been communicating with for days and helping us plan our stay and impending ceremony on the riverbanks. When grandfather told us that Neeraj wouldn’t be back until nightfall so we should just relax, I became worried. We sat with the boys, sipped the perfectly made chai made with yak milk, and wondered what to do as the skies started rumbling above. From the hotel lawn, we could see majestic mountains in layers. The green ones in the foreground and white capped ones standing guard behind — as if they were the end of the world.

I summoned my father’s spirit and I decided that we figure this out on our own. We geared up, grabbed my dad’s backpack carrying a taped cardboard box holding the rosewood urn, which in turn held a tied plastic bag holding the half of the ashes that once formed the physical body I used to know as my dad. It also held a small brightly colored Ganesh made of glass I had purchased in New York as well as a screwdriver that I obsessed over back home, knowing I would need the right head at the right time since my brother altered me that the urn was screwed shut.

We took the older boy with us (named Hritik, 16-years old) and walked toward the river with passages from the Gita and our small Ganesh. As we walked we used broken Hindi, bits of Gujarati, English and hand gestures to signal to the kid that we need a Hindu Priest. When B used the word, “pandit” it seemed to ring a bell. Hritik led us to a tent hosting what looked to be holy men sitting around a table. Then he emerged — a sneaker-wearing 30-something year old half smiling man — Arvinda Prasad, our pandit. We struggled to explain to him what we wanted so I broke down and told him in Gujarati…mari pitru murigay…mara passe ashes che…mane ceremony kerwuche Yamuna River per… We were in luck as he understood bits of English and Gujarati. He told us to wait and 2-minute later he reappeared with a flat metal dish containing the requisite ingredients: a small brightly colored yellow shall, two red bangles, yellow and white powders, a bit of rice, a dia, and incense. We walked down a muddy path toward the riverbank. Wearing the backpack, I slipped once but regained footing quickly. The pandit told us that the ashes of his grandparents’ and many others were scattered at this very spot. Everything started to fall into place. We went to the riverside — where a shallow, rocky, and rapidly moving Yamuna River flowed down south-bound from the mountain and set up there.

We asked Hritik to video the ceremony on B’s iphone, which I felt conflicted about but ultimately decided to do. As mentioned before, my father photographed the day we scattered my mom’s ashes, so I had license. And I know that seeing the footage later would give me peace as my memory only holds on to strange things. Death and dying remains a shocking and taboo topic. Sharing this with the right person could open the subject up for discussion. What do they plan to do when their parent dies? Do they know what their parents’ wishes are? We were so lucky to have everything spelled out for my father, but most do not.

Prasad explained to us that yellow and white are important colors and our parents photos in the home should have that hue (the sepia pictures we see in families home came to mind immediately). He recited Sanskrit scriptures from The Bhagwad Gita as we conducted rituals using river water, rice, and yellow powder. We put a tikka on the small Ganesh Statue that I brought, drank a palm full of the river water, and ultimately, while reciting my father’s name, threw the ashes into the rapidly flowing river. He loosened rocks below for the ashes that were trapped, and they slowly disappeared into the swirling water. He gave us red markings on our foreheads and the ceremony was complete. We set the dish with the yellow shawl and the box that held dad’s ashes into the water and it tumbled down with the rapids. He asked to confirm, “Did you eat?” meaning — did you drink the river water, to which I said yes. Finally, he asked me to describe my father so he can pick a stone to match. So I told him, “mentally strong” — he picked a glistening, dense, perfectly formed black stone and we placed it among other stones in an indentation in the wall of the Riverbank. We prayed to Shiva, represented by a larger stone in the forefront adorned with colored powders. We took some of the powder, created a line on Prasad’s forehead, and then climbed back up the muddy path.

After wandering through the Pundit’s neighborhood and climbing trough a many-hundred year old temple, we took a side path to another Yamuna River tributary source coming from a different set of mountains. We touched the water, took a long gaze, and walked back in to town. Gazed again upon the site of visarjan and wandered about to look for marigolds. Found none, so had tea and chevda, and listened to the Ramayana being played via loudspeakers throughout the town. After wandering back, we managed to get much-needed rest and a nourishing dinner of local vegetables (one of which was a cross between broccoli rabe and spinach). The night was freezing so we doubled our quilts and finally slept — not deeply but sufficiently. When in far-off places, my mind wanders to the known. I am on a New York City subway when the 4 AM alarm rings. Our journey continues, though the important work is done.

Day 5

5.22.17

Dehradun Airport

State of Uttarakhand

India

Sheer exhaustion. Our 8-hour journey by jeep commenced at 5:45AM in freezing cold mountain weather. Our trip entailed 5-hours of extreme-mountain driving to Musoorie, 1-hour getting through Gandhi Chowk traffic, bumper-to-bumper switchbacks to Dehradun, and then traversing the hectic and hot city to the airport (which is much closer to Rishikesh than Dehradun in actuality). With each leg, I removed a layer of clothing and toward the end, put my hair up in a clip and switched sneakers for sandals. I thought of my father — how he would have no problem with this arduous trek, have no need for water or nourishment, and no complaints. We unwind and recharge in the Dehradun airport as we wait for our flight to Delhi, where we have a 2-hour layover, then another flight to Mumbai — the city of my father’s youth. He loved the mountains, but was really mainly a Bombay boy…

5.25.17

Colaba

Mumbai

State of Maharastra

My complicated relationship with India throughout my life has come to a turning point and we are getting along much better. I sit in my posh hotel suite just after a breakfast buffet of fruits (washed in purified water), fresh watermelon juice, masala dosa, and chai while reflecting upon my time in Mumbai. And the past. This is the city in which my dad grew up and certain names and places bring back memories with him: Flora Fountain, Nariman Point, Gateway of India, and Victoria Terminus Station — to name a few. The old, somewhat crumbling architecture of proper Mumbai is still intact, interlaced with towering new architecture (most notably the ostentatious Ambani building), cricket fields (the game is as revered as Bollywood here), and innumerable banks (many, many banks). Most families, like my father’s, have moved to the suburbs making the area feel like remnants of better times, catering now to a strange mix of banks and tourist spots. Also unlike before, the streets are clean without litter, taxis have replaced rickshaws, and western stores are throughout (at one point, while bank hopping, we duck into a Starbucks and transported back home). The Gateway of India still stands proudly surrounded by visitors looking upon its majestic height and design, as I did many times on previous trips to India. It may symbolize British occupation (they both entered India and left through this arch — somewhat symbolically), but to me — I think of family vacations to India as a child.

Meeting with relatives was both heartwarming and left me with a sense of tremendous belonging. In India, blood is thicker than water and my family welcomed us, cooked for us, and asked us to stay in better touch. When I asked about their family members about the afterlife — they didn’t theorize or wax philosophically. They answered very matter of factly. Some believe that my parents are now with God (or in the feet of Srinagi). Some said that our human lives are our last lives prior to moksha. Some believe that we just don’t know and should leave it at that. One cousin told me that I should focus on the living, not the dead. And another that I my grieving my parents is because I don’t have bigger problems to think about. And another older aunt/uncle of B’s told us that they do in fact, believe in reincarnation. They went on to say that those with abruptly shortened lives (like when children pass away) are here for unfinished business. And that we interact with lost contacts in their new form, all none-the-wiser. The diversity of opinions on the topic is somewhat surprising. There is no “Indian answer” and at least for my family, who are very practical people, there’s no point in obsessing over it. There is no answer here, but perhaps a lesson nonetheless.

5.28.17

Air India Flight

Somewhere over Canada

When we met him at an event in NYC last year, Salman Rushdie told us that people are calling it “Bombay” again, but from my short experience — “Mumbai” has stuck, at least among the majority who live here. India’s relationship with its past is complicated — just like any of us could say. During our last few days in Mumbai, we shuttled around town in ubers, rickshaws, and autos — to banks, restaurants, shopping centers, points of memory, and family members homes. We shared meals with families, caught up with now much older children of my cousins, and spent some time with some family that I haven’t been in touch with at all on my dad’s side. I felt close to my parents — partly because I saw them in my relatives. I also felt quite busy and overwhelmed…and at times, just too fatigued from heat. This busy exhaustion can deprive the mind from time and space to water. The blanket of sadness lifted. Or perhaps it was my all-too-practical family — who told me: just move on (no explanation required), focus on the people who are alive, be more in touch with God (through daily seva/prayers), and stay in touch with them more. All good advice. But nobody told me to grieve, as I want to and to take my time doing it — that’s more of an American sentiment. I start to plan my coming days, and a sadness kicks in. That I’m moving on without my parents. I know they would want me to, but I feel bad doing it without them. I may return to this rollercoaster of grieving very soon. Alas, I will just have to let it take its course.

Mom and dad, wherever you are, I love you…



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Tips For Travelling in London by Physically Disabled Persons

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London offers numerous attractions for the physically handicapped traveller. If you know the ways to make the trip manageable, London becomes one of the most enjoyable places to tour with a handicap. Know about the following tips that would help you to move about the city in a wheelchair and would help you to enjoy your London trip immensely.

With lots of help at hand, London is quite an easy and nice place to be visited by persons with disability or difficulties in moving. With just a little bit of pre-planning, you can make your trip to London with any sort of handicap, highly memorable. Most of the tourist destinations are provided with special facilities for the movement of wheelchairs. Special provisions are made everywhere for easy access to tickets and reservation counters for disabled persons. London pays a lot of attention to the endeavour of constantly improving its amenities for the disabled, so that your visit to the city is the least hampered due to your disability. Park Lane Hotel, a luxury hotel in the Park Lane area has full accessibility for disabled.

Get Tickets in Advance to Visit the Parliament

The Parliament House in London welcomes all visitors cordially and is always on the lookout of betterment of facilities to enable easy accessibility. There are special service providers who help people with hearing problems go through the procedures in the Parliament. The parliament actively tries out ways and means to promote equality in access.

The Parliament also has an elaborate video on “How to Access The Houses of Parliament”, that has options of sub-titles, as well as supplemented by sign language for helping the visually and hearing impaired persons.

While getting into the Parliament, you will have to go through a good amount of security checking. The guards at the gate are all quite aware of how to handle disabled persons. All the tours around the Parliament House are easily accessible to wheel chairs. Those moving with large motor — fitted wheel-chairs, can access the various separately maintained viewing points by moving along alternative routes. Wheelchairs can be booked in advance. So can the entry tickets, so that you need not stand in queue and feel uncomfortable.

Taking a Walking Tour in the Neighbourhood of the Westminster Abbey

Anyone with impaired mobility or problems with sight and hearing can have equal access and special facilities at the Abbey. You can be helped around by the Abbey Marshals, i.e. the men in red gowns and also by the honorary stewards, whose assistance is available at Sunday services only.

There are a few places in the Abbey that cannot be accessed by wheel-chairs. Admission, however, to mobility — restricted visitors and their companions is free of cost. It is advised for wheel — chaired visitors to take the North Door entrance as that gate has a small ramp. You can also access a wheel-chair from inside the Abbey.

For visually — impaired visitors, the Abbey authorities allow a Touch Tour in Braille or large print. The services of a volunteer guide are recommended. For visitors with hearing problems, there is also a hearing lop system to facilitate them.

Take a Boat Tour on the Thames River

This can be a high point in your tour — a relaxing cruise across the River Thames, with superb views of the city. The landmarks that can be viewed in the cruise include St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare Globe, The HMS Belfast and so on.

Persons with hindrances in mobility, can have their wheel chairs driven down the boat docks along ramps. Then the chairs can be made to move easily into the boats with the help of flat access ways.

The other facilities offered in the accessible boat cruises include:

· Accessible toilets and restrooms inside the boats

· A total of 1 hour 15 minutes of boat ride along the river, touching some of the most attractive tourist spots in the city.

· There is unobstructed viewing facilities for the disabled on the upper dock

· Recorded commentary giving you details about the sights around.

Allocating Enough Time at the British Museum

The British Museum authorities offer all sorts of amenities for the physically disabled tourists. The entrances to the Museum have self — operable lifts that can be used by wheel — chair users. Most of the galleries and almost every quarter of the museum are fully accessible to the mobility impaired. You can get a complete idea of the location of the lifts all around the buildings from the maps that are clearly visible.

Outside the Museum, you can avail of disabled parking areas, which are of course, limited in number. You can book your space well in advance. There are a number of accessible toilets and rest rooms inside the Museum, that can help the wheel chair users. Wheel chairs are available for borrowing at every entrance of the Museum. However, you are advised to bring a companion, as such assistance cannot be provided by the Museum authorities. Such companions can be admitted free of cost.

For visually impaired visitors, guide dogs are allowed. The disabled visitors are allowed concessions for entry into the galleries. Even some shows and exhibitions that are paying, have free open time for disabled tourists.

Choose your Hotel Neighbourhood Carefully

Travellers moving in wheel chairs find it quite difficult to find fully accessible hotel accommodations. Moreover, it is also difficult to know about the neighbourhood facilities available. It is advised that before your trip, get full information about the following prior to making your reservations:

· Check whether the hotel provides facilities for roll — in shower in the hotel rooms that provide grab bars and wider bathroom doors.

· Montcalm Hotel London is a boutique hotel that provides fully accessible amenities.

· The neighbourhood of the hotel has fully accessible facilities that would allow the disabled to move freely.

You can also look into the Emergency Accessibility Assistance guides for everything that might go wrong while you are touring London on wheel chair. You must be well informed yourself about all accessibility related details of the hotel you are staying in and the places you are going to visit to avoid any danger.



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