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The 2008 Toyota Prius.

Yesterday I went over to the Coeur D'Alene Casino to buy cigarettes to
avoid the 225 percent above retail tax they put on smokes in Washington
State. It is usually a boring trip. And this one was more boring than
normal due to it being Sunday and the return buses running later than
most days.

But one interesting thing did happen. The casino there gives away one
new car every year. In the past it has usually been some hot little
sports car. But yesterday I found out that this year they are giving
away two cars — both Toyota combined fueled vehicles. First Prize is
a Camry hybrid; Second Prize is a Prius.

In order to win either of the cars you have to join the Coyote Rewards
Club there at the casino. Then, as you gamble, you build up points that
can be translated to tickets in the car give away.

Since I don't gamble I'm not in line to win either of the cars. But it
didn't make any difference. I was excited anyway. Casinos seem to be
places that feed on our bad habits. At Coeur D'Alene you can buy cigarettes
in the gift shop and smoke them virtually anywhere in the casino. You
can hit the bar and drink booze until you can barely walk (although I've
never personally tried it). And if you want, you can gamble away next
month's mortgage payment or your child's future college tuition.

I don't know if the casino would be a good acid test or not, but it
seems to me that when a place like a casino starts pushing energy
efficient vehicles — even as a draw — that things just might be
turning around in this culture with regard to attitudes. Gas prices
alone really don't explain why a casino would decide to give away a
Prius instead of a SUV — if you win it free, who cares what type of
gas mileage it gets. So even though I won't win the cars, I felt like
I won something anyway, I felt like our whole culture has won something.
As the old saying goes: An optimist is frequently disappointed; a
pessimist is sometimes delightfully surprised.

It would be tough to think of anybody who wouldn't like driving these
wonderful Samurai lineage green cars. They didn't have the Camry on
display, but they did have the Prius. It was candy-apple red, what
Toyota calls Barcelona Metallic Red. It was drop-dead gorgeous. And
making it even sweeter, it gets 48 MPG City.

And incidently, even though this may be old news to some, our good
Opera friend Allan over in Aarhus has just gotten himelf a really
cool bio-diesel vehicle, which you can check out here.