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1:11 am EST        33°F (1°C) near Brooklyn, IA

Calendar of Updates

I've been quite busy in the ten days since I updated this last with a number of things. I spent most of last weekend and Monday waiting around to get my truck's regular 30,000-mile service done — the one where mechanics change the oil, check all the other under-hood fluids, grease every fitting they can find and the fifth wheel plate too, adjust anything that needs adjustments made, and generally inspect any working part of the truck to within an inch of its life. It's kind of a pain to sit for two days because the shop is backed up, but it's an absolute necessity; I'd rather have the shop find something and fix it than have it go on the road. Not only that, but the truck tends to start burning more oil after roughly 22,000 since the last oil change, and I have to buy a few gallons to keep it topped off in the last several thousand miles before it goes in.

After that, it was up to Pennsylvania, and now I'm working on an almost 1200-miler to Iowa. If nothing changes in the next 24 hours, it looks like I'll be heading for Virginia next.

I'm considering the purchase of some kind of mapping software in the near future. Obviously, truck-specific features would be great to have, but I can say I've gotten along without them for two-plus years now. Then again, should a program exist that has a thorough database of great truck enemies like low bridges and weight restrictions, it would certainly be worth the $150-$200 I'm looking to spend. The problem I've run into is that a lot of the so-called "trucking" programs include capabilities more suited to an owner-operator or a fleet operation, not a company driver like myself. I don't need things like profit-per-mile calculators, fuel optimization (basically, a daily online survey of truck stops along your route that tells you where the fuel is the cheapest), and fuel tax calculators (the company buys all the fuel, tells me where to get it, and pays all the requisite state fuel taxes on it). All I really need is routing information, and as I said above maybe some low-clearance or truck-restricted road information, and that would do just fine for me. In addition to those capabilities, I'd also be interested in having topographical information, mostly because that is an interest of mine. I've looked at a 3-D topographical program; it runs $100, but it looks pretty interesting. Anyway, if anybody reads this anymore, and has some decent suggestions to offer, e-mail me and let me know what you think.

I've been working recently on reading a few books I bought the last time I was home in early February. My current read is The Trouble with Islam by Canadian journalist Irshad Manji; I am two-thirds of the way through it and am finding it utterly fascinating. She talks about her own childhood experiences attending a madrassa (Islamic religious school) in her native British Columbia; her take on the Koran; the current state of affairs in the Muslim world, and quite a bit of interesting history of both Islam itself and the Arabian peninsula; and her ideas for changing Islam into a coherent force for good in the world, rather than a disorganized and often misused religious apparatus. I'm really not in the business of reviewing books, but when a book makes me think like this one has, I tell you it's a pretty damn good read.

In addition to The Trouble with Islam, I have also been reading The Emerging Democratic Majority by political scientists Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, and Tales from Michigan Stadium by "Blue" radio voice and former offensive lineman Jim Brandstatter. It's kind of fun in a way to read all the stories you didn't know about a place you've been so many times, and that's why I bought Tales from Michigan Stadium. As for the other book, I sure hope those two authors are right … it's going to be so crucially important to re-defeat Bush this November. Kiss your civil liberties, your freedoms, fairness, and the principles of constitutionality goodbye if he actually gets elected this time. Seriously, anybody who wants to amend the Constitution to make a minority group legally inferior should not only not be president, but should be taken behind the woodshed and beaten. Didn't we teach the (mostly Southern evangelical) crowd pushing this amendment a lesson in 1865? How quickly they forget …

I'll have quite a bit more to say on that topic in the future, but I have to hit the hay for the night.