Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Crossing our Atlantic: a five-year summary of progress

The nice thing is that I don't even have to say what particular incident caused me to write this. It could apply to several things in my life lately. And I have a feeling you'll all have a topic of your own to which it could apply:

ME: Hey, our current course brings us pretty far north.
RESPONSE: Full steam ahead!

ME: There's a warning out about a high number of icebergs in those waters.
RESPONSE: Full steam ahead!

ME: We're starting to see some pack ice on the horizon.
RESPONSE: Full steam ahead!

ME: Holy Mother of God! You're steaming straight into an iceberg pack at night in the fog!
RESPONSE: Full steam ahead!

ME: Good Lord, we've struck a monster! We're going down!! Man the lifeboats!!! Women and children first!!!!
RESPONSE: What was that scraping noise on the bow? Please rearrange the deck chairs and tell the band to play a bit louder. It's hard to hear them over the emergency klaxon. Full steam ahead!

Preview of Coming Attractions:

JOHN: Nice airship. So, you say it's filled with hydrogen and painted with aluminum oxide rocket fuel to make it silvery and shiny?

Friday, June 26, 2015

A few thoughts on the week in politics

There's not much that's genuinely interesting in the ├╝ber-partisan landscape of America these days, but occasionally a few items do pop up that grab my attention:

1) The Supreme Court upholds Obamacare -- It's been kind of fascinating to watch purported conservatives lose their mind for the last 24 hours because the Supreme Court upheld clear legislative intent over judicial activism. The mental pirouettes are astonishing. I suppose this is mostly just more evidence that "liberal" and "conservative" no longer have meaning inside the Beltway. But even so, this one's been pretty spectacular.

     1.a.) The phrase "Pure Applesauce" from Scalia's dissent would make a great name for a band.

2) The Confederate Battle Flag -- Well, yeah, it's a clear symbol of racism, oppression, and armed insurrection that never should've been permitted anywhere near a government building. So if the governments of the South want to finally pull it back down 50 years after running it up the pole to indicate their unswerving desire for "whites only" water fountains, that's all good.

But my liberal amigos shouldn't overreach here. Keeping it in stock and readily available in pin, patch, bumper sticker, and flag form at the local Wal-Mart has a clear purpose. It lets ignorant bigots identify themselves as such, which is a handy time saver for the rest of us. I appreciate the advance warning.

3) Trump for President -- When I asked God not to let Donald Trump buy the Buffalo Bills I didn't really think to add the note, "And please tell him it's not a good idea for him to run for President, either."

Alas, here we are.

He does make a glorious standard bearer for the values of the modern GOP, but really this isn't good for anybody in politics. In a complex and dangerous era we could use genuine political thought and analysis, but instead we are awash in a Twitterverse reality show for the cable TV networks. Come to think of it, Donald Trump isn't just a glorious standard bearer for the modern GOP, he's a glorious standard bearer for the sham that passes for national politics these days.


And yet ... it's a beautiful June day outside, and Katie the Beagle wants to chase rabbits. Despite all of the above -- or perhaps because of it -- that seems more relevant to me than the passing show these days.

P.S. After posting my little rant I heard that the Supreme Court also legalized gay marriage this morning. We can now just call the legal institution "marriage." Really, a genuinely meaningful week in politics: a nice change from the usual fare.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Complicated (Beagle) Thoughts

And now the beagle haiku in which Katie the Beagle expresses her subtle, delicate, and complex thoughts regarding the small bunny rabbit who has taken to occasionally nibbling the grass in our yard:

Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!
Kill!! Kill!! Kill!! Kill!! Kill!! Kill!! Kill!! 
Kill!!! Kill!!! Kill!!! Kill!!! Kill!!! 

The Wolverine Lake Beagle Haiku Appreciation Society hopes you've enjoyed today's look at the complicated nuances that comprise one small beagle's relationship with a nearby rabbit.

Detroit AutoRama 2015: Remembering one crazy car and its creator

Last year I said that the craziest thing I saw at the 2014 AutoRama was probably this 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe created by Tom Carrigan of Vermontville, Michigan. Why was it crazy? Because he shoved a turbosupercharged V12 Allison V-1710 aircraft engine under the hood, that's why.

How big is a 1,710 cubic-inch (28.0 liters) engine? That's almost as much displacement as four big-block Corvette engines. The Allison V-1710 produces around 1,500 hp at takeoff and was the most commonly used engine for the twin-engined P-38 Lightning fighter of World War II fame.

Tom Carrigan passed away in November 2014. His family brought his car back to AutoRama this year. They've launched an effort to get it made into a Hot Wheels car:

I think it'd make a great Hot Wheels or maybe a plastic model car. This sort of hot-rod lunacy needs to be recognized.

You can find several videos about how it was built on Tom Carrigan's YouTube channel.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Virgin Islands: Scuba

Sure, it's June. But here at the ol' Patio Boat blog we're still clearing out photos from this winter. Today's throwback to February? I learned to scuba dive during our trip to the Virgin Islands. Monique and I both took a crack at it during "Free Monday" at Bluebeard's Beach Club. It turned out that it wasn't Monique's cup of tea, though I took to it like a fish to ... um, well, you know.

Monique's scuba trial:

John gives it a try. Looking at me standing there in the flippers it's obvious that I'm considerably more duck-like than Monique, which may be why it appealed to me:

Since I enjoyed the trial, I decided to go for PADI Scuba Diver certification during the week. It turned out there's a lot of studying on the way to scuba certification. As study nooks go, this ain't bad:

In addition to having to work through a full textbook and written test, there was pool training.

Worse yet, there were interlopers in the deep end of the pool!

Hey, Mom, go over there to the bar and order one of those rum-chocolate drinks. We've got diving to do here.

... and that's about all the scuba diving you get to see from me. It was pretty rainy and windy the day I did my open-water dives, so I didn't bring the camera and my iPhone was tucked safely away. But the open-water dives were successful, so I am now a certified PADI Scuba Diver. Hopefully the next time I'm down there I can advance to a full open-water certification. We shall see.

Since I didn't have any photos of my open-water scuba, let's finish off this post with a few other pictures.

The Aqua Marine shack at Bluebeard's Beach Club. Everybody there was very helpful and friendly. I'd recommend them if you're thinking about giving it a try.

Here I am taking my written test. Beats the hell out of the gym I took my SATs in, that's for sure.

Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 Detroit Grand Prix: Practice and Qualifying

I got a couple tickets for the Saturday race in this year's Indy car Detroit Grand Prix. My brother Mike heard the siren call of "extra ticket" and flew out from Wyoming to watch with me. The Detroit Grand Prix is actually the "Dual in Detroit" with full Indy car races on Saturday and on Sunday, plus an assortment of other sports car racing over the weekend. One great feature of the event is "Free Friday." Admission to practice and qualifying on Friday is free and even includes free access to the paddock, where the teams all keep their equipment and work on their cars.

Since FREE is right in our price range, Mike and I went down to Belle Isle on the Friday to watch practice and qualifying. I took a boatload o'photos, as is my way:

Getting ready to go. The deluge started when we got about twenty miles from the track.

Cadillac race team. What's amazing is that all of the race teams have mobile trailers, tents, and machine shops that are well suited for enduring a monsoon. The upside of a monsoon? We had the place almost to ourselves for a while:

Sad pace car, standing in the rain.

There were a few crashes in the rain during practice, but eventually the rain stopped and the sun began to peek back out again.

Yeah, we were taking a lot of pictures.

Mike looking out at the paddock from the grandstand. After watching that round of practice we wandered out through the paddock and the infield while we waited for qualifying to start.

Mmmmn ... fresh racing tire.

The  Scuderia Corsa Ferrari GT Daytona entry ... sponsored by Ferrari of Los Angeles (aka Hollywood) and Ferrari of Silicon Valley, if you were wondering about their target market.

Something's missing from this car.

Ahhh, there's the rest of it.

More car parts strewn about the paddock.

Hmmn ... something's missing here.

Ahhh, there's the nose and tail on a stand. If I could do this with my cars it'd make them a heck of a lot easier to store for the winter.

And then they had a pickup truck race....

Mike lusting after an Aston Martin race car.

Who can blame him?

I suppose I could go this direction when it's time for my next truck.

Ah-ha! Here's the real racing action.

Mike's new Z06 Corvette. Some assembly required.

We were having so much fun we felt like big kids!

Then qualifying for the Indy cars started up.

Officer, I'd like to report a speed-limit violation on Belle Isle.

What do they look like as they buzz through the start/finish stretch? Check out the video:


Carlos Munoz.

Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Takuma Sato.

Scott Dixon.

Last week's Indianapolis 500 winner Juan-Pablo Montoya.

Sage Karam.

Stefano Coletti.

Simon Pagenaud.

After qualifying was over Mike and I wandered around a bit more and came across the post-qualifying technical inspection area:

Once the Indy cars were done qualifying the IMSA cars lined up to take their turn:

Forget the rain. It had turned into a sunny, breezy evening.

I'm not going to sort out the cars and teams for the IMSA qualifying, but they were every bit as much fun to watch as the Indy cars:

Once all the qualifying heats were done, Mike and I wandered back out into the paddock.

What does a team do after racing their car all day?

Take the car completely apart then put it back together before morning, of course!

The Team Penske garage. It's a big operation.

Here you can see that despite the rainy start to our afternoon, Mike managed to achieve the same skin color as Scott Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

Tony Kanaan's infamous Taylor Swift 1989 Tour car. Remember, auto racing is a very butch sport, despite what you may hear from other pundits.

And yes, Team Ganassi is also disassembling and reassembling their cars before the race, too.

It was a great, fun day of wandering around and watching fast cars. I can't wait to see the race tomorrow!