Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter Poem

I'd like to take some time to pander
To the hearty soul, the Michigander.
When winter comes I want to flee.
My neighbor folk are not like me.

They cheer the flurries stacked in feet,
They dream of ice and snow and sleet,
And when it seems too cold to go
They run outside and play in snow.

What is this bizarre predilection?
North by north is their direction.
Arctic cold is in their dreams.
They've lost their freaking minds it seems.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Things to work on in 2018

Wondering what I'm planning for 2018? Well, so am I. I wouldn't go so far as to call these "resolutions", but here's what I have in mind:

Taking better care of myself physically -- I made nice progress on my back and my weight last year, and I feel better for it. There's still more work to do, though. Hitting age 50 made me aware that right now I am defining the arc of my declining years. I'd like that to be as good as possible.

Mental reinvigoration -- As many of you have observed, I got pretty worn down the last few years. As I've worked my way back from that case of mental burnout I've noticed that I've gotten a bit stale. I need to learn new things this year.

More rest, more nature, more physical exercise -- I've gotten into some pretty bad habits on these fronts. I'm going to try to rebuild better habits: earlier bedtimes, more time outside, more time moving my body. Less couch potato lifestyle.

Rebuild my attention span -- more books, less media. My job does a fine job of eroding my attention span. I don't need to accelerate that erosion in my off-time, too.

Less social media, more socializing in person -- despite this post. Oh, I'm not disappearing from FB or anything like that. But the last couple of years have felt a bit isolating. Mostly I think I've let my inner introvert take charge as I became worn down and tired. I'm going to make a conscious effort to reconnect with some folks in person this year. And I'm going to make a conscious effort to check in on FB and the Twitterverse less often this year.

And that's it. This all seems reasonably do-able as I write it out. For the most part it's just a matter of shifting priorities and tamping down some bad habits. I don't expect a revolution on any of those fronts. Just improvement. We'll see how it goes.

Good luck to all of you with whatever you plan to work on in 2018!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

For Sale: 1972 MGB, Needs Work, $1,500 Firm



A friend of mine is looking for a good home for his 1972 MGB. The good news is that it runs and drives. The bad news is that it will need substantial rust repair in the very near future. This will be a project car before it's a good driver again and the low price of $1,500 firm reflects that.

Overview:

  • 1972 MGB, runs and drives but needs work.
  • One owner since 1995
  • Mileage unknown, but only 5,000 miles since engine rebuild in 1997.
  • Four-speed transmission (no overdrive).
  • Needs rust replacement of rockers, frame rails, plus some repair in  fenders and floor panels.
  • Price is $1,500 firm.


Here are the details:

The good:

  • Engine rebuilt in 1997. Has double-row timing chain and valve seats hardened for unleaded gasoline. Starts easily.
  • Mileage unknown (Speedometer/Odometer was not working when first acquired, though this has since been fixed.)
  • Only about 5,000 miles driven since 1995, but no long periods of inactivity in that time.
  • Gauges all work.
  • Includes tonneau cover, timing light, dwellmeter, original jack, stone guards for the headlights, a tool for balancing the SU carburetors, and a very well used Haynes manual.
  • Seat covers and interior in decent shape.


Improvements made since 1995

  • Engine rebuild
  • New front bumper
  • Mallory dual-point distributor
  • New starter
  • Radiator rebuilt
  • Electric fan
  • Delco alternator conversion
  • New gas tank 8-9 years ago
  • New gas tank sending unit, Spring 2017
  • New ignition switch, 2015
  • New convertible top in late 90s. Still watertight, though the windows have some fogging.
  • New trunk lock


The Bad:

  • The paint is a classic Earl Scheib "Porsche Red" job over the original red. Looks okay from a distance. Not so great up close.
  • The wiring is best described as suspect. At a minimum it could use substantial cleaning of the contacts and fixing/repair of some connections. A fresh start with a new wiring harness may be easiest.
  • Windshield wipers need to be hooked up.
  • Heater control valve works, though the heater itself is not currently hooked up.
  • Tires are 15 years old. They hold air, but not recommended for driving. Spare tire doesn't hold air.
  • Passenger window crank works, but it needs a bit of help getting up and down.
  • Shocks need rebuild/replacement.
  • Brakes work, but pull to the right a bit. Hoses have been replaced within the last 20 years, but the system should be inspected and may need some parts replaced or rebuit.
  • There's a bit of oil leaking from engine and rear differential, but not bad.
  • The worst item is the rust underneath. There is substantial rust in the rockers and the frame rails and they will need to be replaced. there are also some small spots of rust in the fenders, and at a minimum they will need some patching. Make no mistake. If you buy this B you will need to do some cutting and welding before you have a good, roadworthy car.


Price: $1,500 firm.

Leave a message below if you're interested and we'll sort out contact info. Thanks!


Video: It runs!



Photos:

Exterior:





Engine bay:





Interior:



Trunk, including some of the throw-ins:



And now what we call "the full disclosure photos," showing the rust.

The fenders are generally solid, but there are are a few small bubbles and holes:





Here's the worst of it, the frame rails and rockers. As you can see, they'll need complete replacement:


(What looks like a bend in the frame rail above is just an illusion from the fish-eye from my iPhone lens. Sadly, the rust is real.)



The floor pans look okay at a glance, but given the state of the rockers and rails I wouldn't be surprised if they need some work, too:


Front suspension:




Rear suspension and exhaust:





Friday, November 3, 2017

From the Joy of #IndictmentDay to Dr. Hans Zarkov Shouting a Warning over the Rocket Engines

I know I promised pretty pictures before another Trump post, but it's been a busy month on other fronts and I do have a bit to say on This Week in Trump.

Here, have a pretty picture of a sunset and we'll move on to business:



Special Counsel Bob Mueller rolled out his first indictments on Monday. That was sooner than I expected to see anything. Most of the indictments involved Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.The charges were unsurprising for anybody who has followed along and included conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading Foreign Agent Registration Act statements.

There was also a surprise baked in, the first guilty plea from a campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI to cover up the Trump campaign's interactions with Russia during the campaign. It was a plea bargain in exchange for becoming a proactive cooperating witness in the investigation, which many legal experts have interpreted to mean that he's been wearing a wire since his arrest earlier this year.

Now we're getting somewhere.

The information in the indictments and the testimony of former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page before the House Intelligence Committee makes it clear that among other things Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself before Congress when he denied any knowledge of Russian connections to the Trump campaign. Also, Trump campaign co-chair and adviser withdrew his nomination to be the USDA's chief scientist after he was tied to the indictments. The indictments also refer to as-yet unindicted coconspirators.

There's more to come.

The general sense of things is that this was an opening salvo from Mueller, an invitation to cooperate and cop a plea (Papadopoulos) to a relatively light charge, or to continue to lie and face the hammer (Manafort and Gates.) In general, I suspect that's correct.

The response from the White House has been predictable: a storm of diversion and lies, headed by an endless barrage of tweets from Trump that was only slowed by the delightful eleven minutes during which his Twitter account was deactivated by a Twitter employee on his or her last day on the job. (Truly, that was the most joyous event for #Resistance Twitter since the Night of the Covfefe.) In the midst of this week's chaos the US House Republicans unveiled their tax plan, which can best be described as The No Billionaire Left Behind Act of 2017.

Things are accelerating. Things are falling apart.

I'd still rate us as Watergate Defcon Status Two, but I can see Status One from here. I'm not quite sure when we hit Status One. It might be when Mueller starts indicting Trump family members, as now seems inevitable. Or Mueller may even drop a bill of potential impeachment charges with the US House.

If I had to bet on the mechanics I'd bet that Sessions gets forced out for repeatedly perjuring himself. That gives Trump an opportunity to appoint a new Attorney General who doesn't have to recuse himself on the Russian issue. The job interview will consist of one question, "Will you fire Bob Mueller?" The first person willing to answer "Yes" to Trump in private and "No" to the Senate confirmation hearing will get the job and pull the trigger. By then the 2018 midterms will be looming and even the shameless Congressional GOP will have to convene impeachment hearings.

Or with Trump looking increasingly unhinged every day perhaps he does something truly loopy and Pence rounds up a batch of cabinet secretaries to invoke the 25th Amendment. I'd try to come up with scenarios in which Trump voluntarily resigns, but right now he's increasingly desperate to pressure the justice system to lay off, so I don't see him giving up any of the leverage he has as President.

However it happens, this ride is going to get crazier. For the most part I'm just hoping that Trump doesn't drag us into a war somewhere in an attempt to rally the base.

It's bad. It's going to get worse. We're not yet in the end-game. Things are moving quickly, so as Dr. Hans Zarkov put it in Flash Gordon, "FOR GOD'S SAKE! STRAP YOURSELVES DOWN!!!"

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Trump Grind Grinds On; Plus, the Return of Photoblogging on the Ol' Patio Boat.

Just a quick update.

Yeah, I haven't posted on Trump since July. In part because it's been a busy couple of months, but mostly it's because I think we're settled in for the long haul. I doubt there'll be anything truly newsy amidst the noise -- and oh, there's lots of noise! -- until Special Counsel Bob Mueller issues whatever it is that he's going to issue, be it a big report, indictments, etc. For now, Mueller seems settled in for the long haul with a staff full of veteran money-laundering investigators and an arrangement with the New York Attorney General that seems designed to block the potential for Presidential pardons..

In the meantime, just about everything -- personnel shuffles, Congressional squabbles, salacious details -- is just background noise. Trump is an awful, incompetent president. In a way, I guess that's good because his incompetence may keep him from accomplishing a few terrible things. But his awfulness won't seem very good if we do accidentally end up in a nuclear war with North Korea. Mostly I'm just hoping that enough competence still remains at places like the Department of Defense and FEMA to get us through whatever comes up.

So here we are, churning away at Current Watergate Defcon Status: DEFCON 2, like a mega-hurricane circling in the middle of the Atlantic, waiting for a steering current to move us along.

In the meantime, the ol' Patio Boat has been horribly devoid of fun photos of fun places. And there has been some personal fun along the way. Monique and I took a trip to Tobago with my folks. We also hauled a couple of my nieces out to Wyoming to view the eclipse with my brother Mike, his family, and my folks. And there were lots and lots of cool cars everywhere this summer.

I've finally started to organize up a few of the photos, so look for some photoblogging coming soon to the ol' Patio Boat.

In the meantime, here, have a solar eclipse:


Monday, July 24, 2017

Checking in on Trump: yup, still going about how I expected

More of a quick check-in than a real blog post here, but I had a moment to capture a few quick thoughts on how things are proceeding, so here goes. This is just a sample from the last month:

1. Trump reportedly warning special counsel Bob Mueller not to investigate Trump family finances.

2. Trump reportedly researching how to fire special counsel Bob Mueller, who has reportedly expanded his investigation to include Trump family finances.

3. Trump reportedly researching pardons, both for his family and himself.

And let's not forget Don, Jr., tweeting out that email in which he set up a meeting with a Russian attorney for the purpose of getting documents from the Russian government that were supposedly damaging to Clinton as what he was told was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Trump, Jr.,'s reply? "I love it."

Then Trump, Jr., set up the meeting, which apparently also involved Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and several genuine Russian spies.

Meanwhile, the US Senate this week is preparing to hold a vote on whether to gut Medicaid to give billionaires marginal tax cuts on investment income. The best estimates from the CBO on what they're planning have 18 to 34 million Americans losing health care insurance altogether, while most of the rest of us see sharply increased costs. The CBO also estimates that significantly upwards of 10,000 Americans will die prematurely as a result of this bill.

The number of hearings they've had on this bill thus far? Zero. In fact, nobody knows what exactly is in the thing that they're supposed to be voting on tomorrow.

This is what dying democracies look like: millions of citizens thrown to the curb solely for the benefit wealthy plutocrats who control the political process. All of it done behind closed doors.

Not very cheery, huh? Well, I never told you this was going to be a joy ride.

Right now it looks to me as if the best bet to restore the full rule of law and general sanity in Washington is Mueller's investigation. God only knows what'll happen if Trump does manage to get him fired somehow. I'd like to think that the Republican Congress finds it spine and starts conducting a genuine investigation -- maybe by just setting up Mueller and his team as their own special investigator. But they're too busy rushing their health-care bill ... or really, their lack-of-health-care bill through in secret to give me much hope that they give a damn about the rule of law.

Current Watergate Defcon Status: DEFCON 2, with the political equivalent of global thermonuclear war edging closer every day.

This is not going well.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Prime Watergate Territory: we're hip-deep in the Big Covfefe

So, not surprisingly it turns out that Trump now wants to fire the Special Counsel Bob Mueller:  Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel (New York Times, June 12, 2017)

Why? Well, this one's easy to answer:

Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say (Washington Post, June 14, 2017)

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.


Mueller Seeks to Talk to Intelligence Officials, Hinting at Inquiry of Trump (New York Times, June 15, 2017).

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, has requested interviews with three high-ranking current or former intelligence officials, the latest indication that he will investigate whether President Trump obstructed justice, a person briefed on the investigation said on Wednesday....

A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.


Trump's tweeting this morning was entirely predictable:



The bit about investigating money laundering was buried a dozen or so paragraphs deep in that New York Times story, but that's the thing that I always thought would bring down Trump.

And so here we are. I can't imagine the Congressional GOP can continue to stand by if Trump obstructs justice a second time and fires the enormously well respected former head of the FBI Bob Mueller, and presumably Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with him. Of course, I've been flat-out wrong about what the Congressional GOP can stand for.

As you can see from his Tweet's, Trump is still 100% unable to take responsibility for his own actions or learn from his mistakes. It's no surprise. This is Donald Trump as he has always been and will always be: an awful human being. I believe strongly in the infinite power of forgiveness and redemption for everybody, no matter what they've done. But the first step is to acknowledge your own sins and mistakes. Donald Trump has been incapable of this for seventy years. He isn't going to change now.

Trump is now in a trap of his own making. As they say so often and as Trump would've known if he ever read a freaking book, "It's not the crime that gets you. It's the cover-up."

I've been forecasting a long, grinding march to impeachment. But Trump might accelerate his already overdue departure from the White House if he fires Mueller. And he's not smart enough to understand why it's a bad idea, so there's a real chance it could happen.

This seems a good time to introduce the ol' Patio Boat to the Watergate Defcon scale I've tweeted about a few times over on Twitter. (For those who never saw the movie War Games, the Defcon scale is the US defense condition alert scale that goes from five (total peace) to one (global thermonuclear war). Here's what I've come up with for this:

DEFCON 5 - The Obama Presidency
DEFCON 4 - Trump inaugurated. Corruption and crimes obvious and public. Think of that as the Watergate break-in period.
DEFCON 3 - Firing FBI Director James Comey to quash the Russia investigation. Probably around the equivalent of the Saturday Night Massacre.)
DEFCON 2 - Appointment of Special Counsel Bob Mueller. In 1974 we were queuing up the Senate Hearings for this stage.
DEFCON 1 - Impeachment Hearings. Interestingly enough, Nixon himself never made it this far.

We're getting pretty deep into DEFCON 2 and the summer of '17 has only begun. I still think it's likely that we enter a long slog as Mueller builds an iron-clad case. But Trump could continue to escalate things quickly if he chooses to do so. We shall see.

In the meantime, chaos embroils Washington. The Trump disaster is growing worse by the day. So I close with words I never thought I'd utter, "The sooner we swear in Mike Pence as President of the United States, the better."