Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama Rewrites History

Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope. Barack Obama never talks about how people see him: I'm not the one making history, he said every chance he got. You are. Yet as he looked out Tuesday night through the bulletproof glass, in a park named for a Civil War general, he had to see the truth on people's faces. We are the ones we've been waiting for, he liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began.

Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own.

An election in one of the world's oldest democracies looked like the kind they hold in brand-new ones, when citizens finally come out and dance, a purple-thumb day, a velvet revolution. A hundred thousand people came out in red states to hear Obama; a hundred fifty thousand turned out in purple ones, even after all this time, when they should have been sick to death of Hope and Change. In Michigan, people put an electric fence around their yard sign to protect it. NASA astronauts on board the International Space Station sent a video message encouraging people to vote; they did, from 200 miles up. A judge in Ohio ruled that homeless people could use a park bench as their address in order to register. A couple flew home from India just to cast their ballots. Obama's Ohio volunteers knocked on a million doors on Monday alone. That night, a Florida official locked himself in the Seminole County election headquarters and slept overnight with the ballots to make sure nothing went wrong with the vote. Early-voting lines in Atlanta were 10 hours long, and still people waited, as though their vote was their most precious and personal possession at a moment when everything else seemed to be losing its value. You heard the same phrases everywhere. First time ever. In my lifetime. Whatever it takes.

When it was over, more than 120 million pulled a lever or mailed a ballot, and the system could barely accommodate the demands of Extreme Democracy. Obama won more votes than anyone else in U.S. history, the biggest Democratic victory since Lyndon Johnson crushed another Arizona Senator 44 years ago. Obama won men, which no Democrat had managed since Bill Clinton. He won 54% of Catholics, 66% of Latinos, 68% of new voters — a multicultural, multigenerational movement that shatters the old political ice pack. He let loose a deep blue wave that washed well past the coasts and the college towns, into the South through Virginia and Florida, the Mountain West with Colorado and New Mexico, into the Ohio Valley and the Midwestern battlegrounds: you could almost walk from Maine to Minnesota without getting your feet wet in a red state. After months of mapmaking all the roads to 270, Obama tore right past with ease.

A nation doesn't much need a big President in small times; it needs one when the future is spitting out monsters. We've heard so much about Obama's brand-new voters that we easily forget the others he found, the ones who hadn't voted since Vietnam or who had never dreamed they'd vote for a black man or a liberal or a Democrat, much less all three. But many Americans are living through the worst decade of their lives, and they have anger-management issues. They saw a war mismanaged, a city swallowed, now an economy held together with foreign loans and thumbtacks. It took a perfect storm of bad news to create this moment, but even the big men rarely win in a walk. Ronald Reagan didn't. John Kennedy didn't. Those with the clearest vision often have to fight the hardest for others to see things as they do. Find out more about America's President-elect in a video biography at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems still stuck in the ballot box:

Enclosee Please Find

An umbrella hanging in the hallway.

A noisy vending machine with a quick temper.

Circles drawn in a mirror with red lipstick.

Tar melting on a hot tin roof.One innocent knife.

Some shy bullets.

The moat of a former castle.

Ordinary white underwear.

A persistent fire alarm.

Toy trains emitting real puffs of smoke.

War right after it declares a truce.

A copper skillet with it own cleaning instructions.

Brightly colored canisters of embalming fluid.

8x10 pictures of a single apple ripening.

A meadow thick in a woman of flowers.

Poem first published at:
Poem copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The International Code of Signals

The International Code of Signals (INTERCO) is a signal code used by merchant and naval vessels to communicate important messages about the condition of a vessel or the wish of the ship’s captain when there are language barriers. INTERCO signals can be sent by signal flag, blinker light, Morse code, or by radio.

The First International Code was drafted in 1855 by the British Board of Trade and was published by the Board in 1857 in two parts. One part was universal and international signals and the other was British signals only. 18 separate signal flags were used to make over 70,000 possible messages. In 1889 the code was once again updated at the International Conference in Washington, D.C.

In 1927 The International Radiotelegraph Conference in Washington D. C. created a code in seven languages: English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish and in Norwegian. This new edition was completed in 1930 and was adopted by the International Radiotelegraph Conference held in Madrid in 1932 where a standing committee was also set-up to continue revising the Code.

By 1961 the Code was supervised by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO). By then too, a new version included vocabulary for aviation communication and an international medical code as well as updated signals for communications between vessels and shipowners, agents, repair yards, and others in the maritime business. The Code was updated again in 1965.

Today, every signal in the INTERCO has a complete meaning and usually does not need any more than two or three signals to complete a message. Here are some examples: AC: I am abandoning my vessel. AN: I need a doctor. GM: I cannot save my vessel. IT: I am on fire. MAA: I request urgent medical advice. MAC: I request you to arrange hospital admission. MAD: I am . . . (tell how many) hours from the nearest port. You can find out more about this subject at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems that never uses a signal:

An Asylum, Brandishing A Flashlight

My life isn’t always this dull.

Sometimes I gawk at unblocked stars and
scrap the cobalt blue map until there’s
no color left to see. I read the river
in my palm and spend quality
time feeling toasted wind.
I take my heart apart
plank by plank and
examine each
one for termites. I
darn my socks then hang
my bathrobes from a tree or
maybe set the scarecrow on fire
and never write it in my diary. I stuff
my pockets with pet rocks or burrow a home
in the hollows. And when I really want to
have fun I try my luck at telling the
difference between a weather
vane and a tuning fork,
both of which I
eat at my leisure,
completely convinced
that there is no better way to fly.

Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Classic Euro Economy Cars: Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 (the "cinquecento", /, or "chin-kwe-chen-to", from the Italian word for "500") is a car produced by Fiat company of Italy between 1957 and 1975 (the Fiat 500 K alone was produced until 1977). It was designed by Dante Giacosa.

Launched as the Nuova 500, it was marketed as a cheap and practical town car. Measuring only 2.97 m (9 ft 9 in) long, and originally powered by a tiny 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the 500 redefined the term "small car" and is considered one of the first city cars. In 2007 Fiat launched a similar looking, retro-styled car, the Fiat Nuova 500, basing it on the Fiat Panda.

To meet the demands of the post-war market which called for economy cars, the Fiat 500 was rear-engined on the pattern of the Volkswagen Beetle, just like its bigger brother, the 1955 Fiat 600. Several car makers followed this now nearly vanished design at the time and were quite successful, but only the Fiat 500 was used as the template for other car makers in Europe. The firms Neckar of Germany and Steyr-Puch in Austria each made cars that were legally based on the Fiat 500. There were six main models of Fiat 500 produced by Fiat themselves. The original model was called the Nuova (1957-1960).

The Nuova had a smaller engine than all newer models, at 479 cc and producing just 13 bhp. The original model also features a roof folding all the way back to the rear of the vehicle, like that of a Citroen 2CV rather than the later roof design which only folds half way back along the roof. The Nuova is one of three models featuring "suicide doors”. There is also a stylish Sport version of the Nuova, which features a distinctive red stripe and a more powerful engine, bored out to 499.5 cc from the original 479 cc engine and with a longer stroke, thus producing an impressive 21 bhp from the same original block.

The other five models were the “D” (1960-65), the “K” or Giadiniera (1960-77), the “F” or Belina (1965-72), the “L” or Lusso (1968-72), and the “R” or Rinnovata (1972-75). Fiat previewed the all new 500 in March 2007 exactly 50 years after the first Fiat 500 was presented. The design of the new 2007 Fiat 500 is based on the 2004 Fiat Trepiuno concept. The car features a distinctive retro-look just like the Volkswagen New Beetle and BMW MINI but may well be substantially cheaper than those cars, with a starting price of €10,500. The car is 3.55 meters long and 1.65 meters wide. Top speed is 180 km/h (112 mph). The basic price is €10,500 in Italy; with options €15,000. Find out more at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here’s one of my poems that speaks Italian:

12 Stanzas In A Taxi

In her opinion, a metaphor should be categorized
by size & amount of choices on the menu. By speed
& wind velocity. Whether they are punctual on habitually
tardy. If they've ever been arrested for driving under
the influence. Missed a child-support payment. Filed
for bankruptcy. She feels it should be noted if they have
ever had a bad case of heartburn. Wet in the bed as a
child. Can read music. Chinese characters. Morse code.
Has a preference for frog legs or snails. Can speak at
least 3 different languages. Likes panoramic views. And
perhaps more important, has dived into the deep blue
sea with its headlights still on.

Poem first published at:
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And music blog:
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Classic Euro Economy Cars: Austin Mini

The Mini is a small car that was produced by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The most popular British-made car ever, it was superseded by the New MINI, which was launched in April 2001. The original is considered an icon of the 1960s, and its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout (that allowed 80% of the area of the car's floor span to be used for passengers and luggage) influenced a generation of car-makers. The vehicle is in some ways considered the British equivalent to its German contemporary, the Volkswagen Beetle, which enjoyed similar popularity in North America.

This distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis. It was manufactured at the Longbridge and Cowley plants in the United Kingdom, the Victoria Park / Zetland British Motor Corporation (Australia) factory in Sydney, Australia, and later also in Spain (Authi), Belgium, Chile, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. The Mini Mark I had three major UK updates: the Mark II, the Clubman and the Mark III. Within these was a series of variations including an estate car, a pick-up truck, a van, and the Mini Moke— a jeep-like buggy. The Mini Cooper and Cooper "S" were sportier versions that were successful as rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times. Minis were marketed under the Austin and Morris names until Mini became a marquee in its own right in 1969.

Designed as project ADO15 (Austin Drawing Office project number 15), the Mini came about because of a fuel shortage. In 1956, as a result of the Suez Crisis which reduced oil supplies, the United Kingdom saw the re-introduction of petrol (gasoline) rationing. Sales of large cars slumped, and there was a boom in the market for so called Bubble cars, which were mainly German in origin.

The production version of the Mini was demonstrated to the press in April 1959, and by August several thousand cars had been produced ready for the first sales. The name Mini was first used domestically by BMC for Austin's version in 1961, when the Austin Seven was remaketed as the Austin Mini, somewhat to the surprise of the Sharps Commercials car company (later known as Bond Cars Ltd) who had been using the name Minicar for their three-wheeled vehicles since 1949. Slow at the outset, Mark I sales strengthened across most of the model lines in the 1960s, and production totaled 1,190,000.

The Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper debuted in 1961. The original 848 cc engine from the Morris Mini-Minor was increased to 997 cc, boosting power from 34 bhp to 55 bhp (25 to 41 kW). The car featured a racing-tuned engine, twin SU carburetors, a closer-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes, uncommon at the time in a small car. One thousand units of this version were commissioned by management, intended for and designed to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rally racing. The 997 cc engine was replaced by a shorter stroke 998 cc unit in 1964. The Mini would become the only car in history to be placed in the top three on the Monte Carlo Rally for six consecutive years. Find out more at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here’s one of my poems that speaks Olde English:

Ignoring The Super-Crazy-Ultra-Wide


If I had my rathers I'd prefer a steamy attic
with a razor's edge view. The wooden beams
would have nothing left to say & the winter
isolation would be pilfered in the prettier way.
There would be no mirrors & the stylize fuzz
might be mistaken for dust bunnies. O yeah,
& the old trunk in the corner would become
extremely talkative after a few drinks but most
of all would be well-known for its slick handling
of a deck of cards.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Classic Euro Economy Cars: Saab 92

In 1945, at the end of WW II, Saab, a firm that until then had made planes for the Swedish air force, had to branch out. The designers thought of a Swedish car for Swedes in much the same sense as Citroën thought of the Deux Chevaux for the French peasant, and with more luck and intuition than money for development, devised a vehicle that slotted neatly below Volvo's smallest car. In the code numbers for their planes they had reached 91; the code number for their first car was, therefore, 92.

Designer Sixten Sason's "Project Small Car" - how unromantic Swedes can be - was to have front-wheel drive, leaving an uncluttered cabin with a flat floor for five passengers and luggage. Construction was to be chassis-less, monocoque, and on aerodynamic aircraft principles, the parts tough, reliable and cheap.

Full-scale production began on 12 December 1949, the model year 1950 car - 700 of which were made. The 1951 model year Saab 92 was identical in every respect except that German VDO instruments now replaced the American Stewart-Warner components. Philipsons, Sweden's largest automotive distributor, reportedly had a waiting list of between 15,000 and 35,000 people for the Saab 92. They also had the exclusive distribution rights as they had guaranteed to take 8,000 units in the first four years. More importantly to Saab, Philipsons had given a large advance that made it possible for Saab to start production of the 92. Saab manufactured 1,246 cars in 1950 - all of them green - and production increased by more than 2,000 units a year. The target of 8,000 cars in the first four years was exceeded by 1,000.

The cost of production was critical to Saab at the time and only 17% of the cost of the 92 was from imported materials. Hence the Henry Ford principle of any colour you like as long as it's… green in Saab's case! It has been said that the reason that the first Saabs were available in this colour only was that they had a surplus of green paint left over from their wartime aircraft production. Substantiated or not, it's an interesting story.

A two-cylinder, two-stroke 764cc 25hp thermo siphon water-cooled engine powered the Saab 92. The maximum speed was around 105km/h. The 92 had three gears, the first being unsynchronised. In 1953 the Saab 92 was replaced by the 92B, although that designation was never used in any advertising in its first year of its production. Find out more about this classic car at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here’s one of my poems that can speak Swedish:

“Skip #73” Sonnet

I have my reasons. For instance, the ability
to iron creases out of a fan for one. To find
a chaos theory appealing for another. To be
a vehicle on the road to salvation. Untied
shoelaces. Overturned chairs. The buoy left
out in a frigid ocean. An obdurate spider. A
redeemed sheep. The quack of a ravenous
duck. "X" that does not mark the spot. Pastry
already stale. No shortage of hummingbirds.
Lead feathers. Tarred toast. Clouds that have
not yet learned how to clot. Defiant caterpillars.
Edible snails. The sun & moon oblivious to
indifference. No pet rocks. Beauty when it's
accidental. Fruit that purposely lacks seeds.
And of course, a steadfast belief in the notion
of "why".

tutoring blog:
And music blog:
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Classic Euro Economy Cars: VW Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle,officially known as the type 1, is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. Although the names "Beetle" and "Bug" were quickly adopted by the public, it was not until August 1967 that VW itself began using the name Beetle in marketing materials in the US.

In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known only as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300 or 1500, which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe; the numbers denoted the vehicle's engine size in cubic centimeters. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world (production continued in Mexico until 2003), VW introduced the "New Beetle” (built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform) which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original.

Its peculiar styling, underpowered motor, rough ride, and high noise levels compared to modern vehicles might have made it a market failure. In its day, though, it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, and ultimately the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design (a record that will not take long to be beaten by its younger "cousin" the Type-2 Bus or Kombi, which is still in production in Brazil, with the same basic characteristics of the first series).

It remained a top seller in the US, even as rear-wheel drive conventional subcompacts were refined, and eventually replaced by front-wheel drive models. The Beetle car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair, and subcompact cars such as the Ford pinto and Chevrolet Vega. In the international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Beetle came fourth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroen DS.

Starting in 1931, Ferdinand Porsche and Zundapp developed the "Auto für Jedermann" (car for the everyman). This was the first time the name "Volkswagen” was used. Porsche already preferred the flat-4 cylinder engine, but Zündapp used a watercooled 5-cylinder radial engine. In 1932, three prototypes were running. All of those cars were lost during the war, the last in a bombing raid over Stuttgart in 1945. Much of the Beetle's design was inspired by the advanced Tatra cars of Hans Ledwinka, particularly the T97, which also had a streamlined body and a rear-mounted 4 cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine.

In occupied Germany, the Allies followed the Morgenthau plan and the industries Germany was to be allowed to retain were set up. German car production was set at a maximum of 10% of the 1936 car production numbers. The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory.

The factory's re-opening was largely accredited to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst (1916–2000). The first 1,785 Beetles were made in a factory near Wolfsburg in 1945. By 1973, total production was over 16 million, and by 1992, there had been over 21 million produced. By 2003 Beetle annual production had fallen to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. On July 30, 2003, the final original VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) was produced at Puebla, Mexico, some 65 years after its original launch, and an unprecedented 58-year production run since 1945, the year VW recognizes as the first year of non-Nazi funded production. Find out more at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here’s one of my poems that speaks German:

A Bobby Pin & An Electric Socket

Sometimes pleasure rises up like a brand-new sun. But more often,
things pan out in the abridged version. The search-boat never
comes close to spotting the pearl necklace. The stitches
that hold together our lives unravel due to shoddy
workmanship. Whatever was once in the kitty
has now been doled-out to an over-paid
maid who only dusts the mantle
every second Friday. The
peace plan is crumpled
beyond any reasonable
recognition. The absurd
attaches itself in the air
like Spanish moss while
the marks a prisoner makes
counts the days. Or, a storm rocks
the ship out of the beam of the lighthouse.
Most only listen to music that can move. And
while all this is happening, Dracula's two pointed
teeth write sentimental inscriptions on some sleeping neck.