Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 2013 North American International Auto Show

My old friend Bryan Anderson was in town, so hauled him down to the auto show Friday evening because ... well, the list of entertainment options in Detroit in January is always a bit thin.

Thanks to a bit of snow and some gnarled rush-hour traffic on Friday evening we didn't actually get down to Cobo Hall until much later than we had expected to arrive. So we only had an hour and fifteen minutes before it closed up for the night. The auto show is huge, so really all we did was sprint around trying to check out as many fun cars as possible before we got thrown out. We tried to get a lot of photos of Bryan with race cars because his son likes car racing, so the whole thing sort of devolved into a sprint from race car to race car for a while. There wasn't a lot of sitting in cars, trucks got short shrift in favor of sports cars, and we didn't visit my alternative energy amigos down in the basement at all.  

Still, it was a lot of fun and we got a few cool photos, so here goes...

First, a quick stop with the Honda Indy car. We look really red in these pictures.

The only thing I wanted to look at for sure was the new 2014 Corvette Stingray that Chevrolet unveiled at this show. From the initial photos they released I didn't know if I'd like it much, but it really looked great in person. I liked it a lot more than I expected to, alas for my wallet at some date in the far-flung future.

I pretend to fiddle with the Corvette's aluminum frame. More interestingly, check out the new 2014 Covertte Stingray tacked up on the wall over my head.

2014 Corvette Stingray (with wall-gripping traction!)

Bryan and I plotting to buy new Corvettes.

Uh-oh, Monique caught us plotting.

2014 Corvette Stingray.

 Monique self-portrait in auto-show mirrored ceiling.

Bryan with Toyota race cars.

Bryan laughs as I mock him for buying the minivan so unhip that it occupies the farthest back corner of the entire auto show. (Actually, it looked like a pretty nice ride. But don't tell him I said that.)

So, this was cool. Toyota had a display that would take your picture and display it on this giant vehicle-like display.

Maserati trident.

Ferrari prancing pony.

The sweet Ferrari that comes with that prancing pony emblem.

Monique with a Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

 BMW Z4.

I try to teach Bryan how to be a proper Vanna White for the nifty BMW i8 hybrid sports concept car.

Bryan in a Smart car.

Smart concept car.

Mercedes SLS AMG.

Monique checks out the Mercedes-Benz 250 SLK. She allowed as how it might not look terrible in our driveway.

This Bentley may have a 628 hp engine and a top speed of a bazillion mph, but it doesn't have two little tea trays that fold-down from the back of the front seats. There's just a single tray between the two back-seat passengers. Does this mean I have to share my Grey Poupon with my fellow back-seat passenger? I give it an epic fail. For $328,000 I don't want to have to share my tea tray, damn it.

The new Jaguar F-Type. Not sure why, but I didn't like the look as much as I expected to, sort of the opposite of the new Corvette. I should probably test drive it and the new Corvette a few dozen times apiece to figure out where I really stand on each.

Bryan with the Cadillac race car.

Ford Mustang EcoBoost race car.

I was truly impressed with the retro look of this brand new Ford pickup truck. It really looks like something from the 1950s.

This sort of wreckage is undoubtedly the result of a terrible accident while they were setting up the displays. You'd think they'd tip it back on all four wheels and tow it off, but I reckon they must not have gotten around to it yet.

Monique and Bryan checking out the Red Bull Formula One race car.

Acura NSX concept car.

And let's see ... what else is there to say? Not much, really. Monique noticed that Lincoln had some sort of flower scent working in their display area. Which was nice I guess, but we thought the cars they had to show looked kind of bland.  I didn't get to check out the Jeeps or Dodges, which was too bad, but them's the breaks when you're running around like mad. I regret not getting down to the basement because there are usually truly interesting new technologies kicking around down there. And I wish I'd had a bit more time to look in depth at a few cars that really interested me.

But all-in-all for a 75-minute tour of the auto show we saw a lot more than I expected to see. Definitely a great diversion on a snowy Friday night in Detroit.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This n'that to kick off 2013

I've been a neglectful blogger thus far in 2013, so I reckoned I'd at least put together a little post with some updates and a bit of conversation about what the start of 2013 looks like to me.

The Grumpy Old Man Update

The second half of 2012 was a bit of a nag for me, healthwise.  My busted and disclocated finger pretty much hurt like hell right into the fall, I tweaked my back again, and then Monique and I managed to come down with *two* rotten colds right in a row during the holidays.


I have some friends and family members who've dealt with genuine life-threatening illnesses in the last year, so I'm truly grateful that none of those woes were anywhere in that neighborhood.  But I did notice that it really had an impact on my overall productivity.  Sometimes I like to think that I mostly just sloth around and don't do much, but the last six or eight months made me realize how much I usually do get done. One of the reasons you've all seen less blogging around here lately is that the blog had to take a bit of a back seat as I tried to at least take care of the minimum on other fronts.

So I'm going to try to take a bit of better care of my overall health in 2013 because it helps me to do the other things I want to do.

(On the other hand, I'm also thinking about trying to play in an old boys' rugby match in Savannah in March, so "better care of my overall health" has some challenges right from the start.  But aiming for a few old boy events each year keeps my overall motivation to stay in shape a lot higher than it would be otherwise, so it's still an overall plus.  I'll just try not to bust anything this year.)


Random acts of poetry are hereby officially reinstated at the ol' Patio Boat blog.  I had thought last year that I'd try writing and polishing a few poems and actually submitting them to some magazines, something I hadn't done in 20 years or so.  In reality I wrote very little poetry last year.  Part of that may be the aforementioned productivity decline.  But I think a big part of that was the direct result of cutting off my primary publication outlet.

The truth is that although I published a few poems in magazines way back when, I was always much more the sort of poet who would noodle around with something, show a few friends, and then move on.  So why fight it? If I write something fun or interesting, I'll post it up here.  Hopefully that'll make me a bit more likely to write something fun or interesting this year.

Otherwise on the blog? Eh, I'll post something when I have something interesting to say.  The Ol' Patio Boat blog remains what it has been pretty much from the start, a place for me to write down some thoughts and share them with those of you who are interested, mostly in the form of first-draft ramblings with dubious sentence structures.  A more commercially viable blogger would've broken this melange into four or five discrete and well-edited posts. But you all just have to put up with this.  Or not.  Nobody's forcing you.  Go watch a cat video on YouTube if you want. See if I care.

The Broadcast News Ban Grows

I want to personally thank the U.S. Congress for the monumental stupidity of the unending fiscal-cliff debacle in December. They finally got me to do what I probably should've done years ago: change the dial on my old clock-radio from our NPR news station to the classical music channel. And fortunately for my peace of mind this happened before the airwaves filled with unending details of school shootings.

I banished television news a few years ago, and I had pretty much banished radio news from the rest of my morning. The remaining holdover was waking up every morning to the headline news.  In truth, it was a pretty effective wakeup call.  Nothing will get you out of bed to turn off the radio faster than a terrible news story.

But it was also a pretty depressing way to wake up, and it was taking a toll on my psyche. I had begun to wake morning in despair about the world. Now I wake up to a random bit of symphony or concerto and generally think, "Gosh, how pretty." The downside is that it's a lot harder to actually wake up and get out of bed while lying in a warm bed and listening to lovely classical music. For now, I'll take that risk.

I've banned the radio news in the morning a few times before as part of a news ban.  This time it feels more permanent.  We shall see.

The MGB Slumbers

The Michigan roads are covered in salt during the wintertime, so my little MGB is tucked away under cover in the garage.  Salty roads are the mortal enemy of rust-prone British sports cars.  Alas, I'll have some work to do before all is ship-shape for the first Spring drive.  Here's the current list:

The lighting and wiring woes continue -- There was good progress on this front last year, but my right rear taillight went out again during my final drive of the fall.  I need to solve that.  The poor little car has two problems, really. First, many of the connections are now 37 years old and worn, dirty, or corroded. Second, many of the newer connections made by previous owners weren't done properly. Hopefully cleaning and/or replacing some of those connectors will have the lights back in business.

Sigh. I know you all continue to be shocked that my old British sports car has electrical issues, but there it is.

The overdrive/wiper and turn-signal switches, plus the horn -- My overdrive switch slowly began failing last year, and is pretty much kaput. This makes me sad because the overdrive is a positive boon whenever I top 50 mph. To fix it, I'll need to take apart a bit of the steering column, which means that it might be an opportunity to also fix or replace my turn-signal switch (which doesn't turn off after the turn) and maybe even figure out how to make the regular horn button in the middle of the steering wheel work again.  I love my A-OOGA horn, but it's not always convenient when large trucks bear down on me and I need to make a loud and joyous sound **NOW**.

The hole in the driver's seat -- Somehow last summer I tore a small hole in the leather seat. I tried covering it over with duct tape and managed to make it into a larger hole.

This is why I can't have nice things.

It needs fixing, and I'll probably need to find somebody who knows what she's doing, which means that I'll probably do best to take the seat out of the car and haul it over to Bev's Canvas Covers, which did a bang-up job replacing the zippers on my tonneau cover and did a great job on the seats for my neighbor's pontoon boat.  Removing the seat to get its upholstery fixed has has another benefit. It would make it easier to work on the steering-wheel console, and it would probably also make it easier to ...

Install the shoulder belts -- The MGB currently just has lap belts. I did buy a new pair to install last summer, before I got distracted by the broken finger and the broken fuel pump and the electrical woes.  The MGB is a relatively safe car for a tiny mid-70s convertible, but replacing those lap belts for actual shoulder harnesses is an important upgrade that would make me feel better about hauling people around in it.

Put it all together and it's a good-sized project list that I'd be more inclined to tackle if my garage wasn't 25 degrees. (Note to self: add "Build heated, insulated garage with more room" to the list of vital MGB repairs.)

All of this during the winter when I can't drive anyway makes me start to look at other cars and dream that they don't have their own list of issues -- as in, "Oooh, look at this pretty Jaguar convertible on eBay. The ad says everything works!" -- but really I'll be happy again with the FUN MG as soon as its warm enough to get back to work on it, which should be soon enough.

Alas, thanks to the ever-increasing pace of global warming, old British sports cars are an increasingly weather-appropriate choice in Michigan!


I'm focusing on village issues in 2013. Now that we've put the worst of the financial hardships behind us (Knock on wood!) we're in a good place to work in making Wolverine Lake the best community it can be. Besides, current national and state politics just make me despair for democracy and our republic. (Thus the aforementioned news ban!)

One of the things I've had some interest in doing is digging into some real statistical analysis of redistricting and the gerrymander.  But that has begun to feel a bit to me like doing a tree count in the midst of a forest fire.

I could rant at length, and I'm sure I'll come back to write more about this eventually (fair warning!) but in the meantime let me pass along four things I've been thinking about that would help to restore some sanity to our badly broken political process. Each is worthy of a long post and discussion of its own, but I wanted to write them down somewhere before I turn my back in disgust, and the end of this long, rambling blog post to kick off the new year is as good a place as any:

1) Abolish the Electoral College -- This one's such an easy constitutional amendment that even a non-lawyer like me can write it: "The President and Vice-President shall be elected by a direct vote of the qualified voters."

2) Eliminate the Gerrymander -- I'm sure there's a good way to word the requirement. But what it means is that legislative districts should be drawn by non-partisan commissions to maximize compactness and to follow permanent political boundaries to the greatest extent possible.

3) Open primaries -- Primaries shall not be restricted to partisan races. They shall be open to all qualified candidates. The general election will consist of a runoff between the top two vote-getters in the primary.

4) Eliminate term-limits for the legislature -- This really only applies to Michigan or other states that have enacted legislative term limits.  It might not be quite as useful as the first three, but the unending spectacle of an amateur hour in Lansing that's generally run by lobbyists has made me firmly believe that term limits for our legislature were a mistake.

And that's it.  I'm out of lunchtime to write this post, and I'm sure I'm out of readers of this post by the time I'm typing this sentence. So if you doggedly made it to this paragraph let me just say, "Have a great 2013!"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bah, humbeagle!

Holiday hubbub
Disturbs the beagle's deep rut.
January! Ahhh.