Sunday, May 01, 2016

Detroit Schools Insolvency

Just some questions to stimulate thought about DPS and public schools in general:

1. Does anyone believe that Michigan taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for the financial mess that is DPS, just like we were for the City of Detroit?  

2. With all the other school districts reported to be in distress in the state, does anyone think that DPS is the end of this problem? Or only the beginning?

3. Does this looming crisis cause you to think that the way school districts are financed and run needs to change?  Or even more radically, should the way we organize and deliver education change?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Snyder becomes a performing clown

The water situation in Flint has devolved into a theater of the absurd, with Rick Snyder becoming the lead marionette.  And all his political enemies are pulling the strings.

In some respects, Snyder's handling of the whole problem has been inept, and yet, no one person can have complete knowledge in all areas of responsibility a governor has.  He must rely on and defer to subordinates who are either experts or more immersed in the area than he is.  So while he can be given a bit of a pass for doing what every other executive does on a daily basis, it is also his responsibility to select those subordinates carefully, lest they cause him major pain - as his selections have done in this case.

Now, in an effort to appear sympathetic, he has become pathetic.  Yesterday, in a much publicized trip to a home in Flint that had previously been tested with "near toxic levels of lead and copper" according to the TV news story I saw this morning, the governor shared a glass of water with the homeowners from their tap fitted with one of the filters the State has provided, and took home five gallons of that same tap water to drink and cook with for the next few days.  Many Flint-ites have been calling for him to do this, and mocking him for not doing it.

So, after giving in to these whiners and doing what they wanted him to do, all he has accomplished is to embolden them even further.  Now, not only do they want him to drink their water, they think he should now move to Flint.  Leading this charge is Flint's increasingly hostile mayor, Karen Weaver.  She smells blood in the water (so to speak) and she is milking this situation for all it's worth to advance her political standing with the marxist socialist racist party.

Governor Snyder, these little made for TV visits show your weakness, not your strength.  If you continue, you will not be able to do what needs to be done legislatively to address these problems as you will have become a laughingstock, not a leader.  Look Karen Weaver and her handlers squarely in the eye and tell her you are through playing their little game, and they are either in with you to fix the problems, or on the outside being obstructionist, and whichever way they choose, that is how your office will be portraying Ms. Weaver. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Unauthorized Areas Tour of USS Iowa

I thought this was pretty cool.  The blogger didn't know a lot about naval vessels, but who cares - his guide sure did. H/T Every Blade of Grass via Lagniappes Lair.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Natural Enemy of the Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

Tonight I completed what has to have been the single worst car repair I have ever attempted: replacing ball joints on my wife's vehicle - a 2002 Nissan XTerra.  I was reminded again of the natural enemy of automobiles and those who fix them:  RUST.  Exacerbated of course by all the salt we use on our roads here in MI in the wintertime.

The rust I found on this truck (and it's truly a truck - it's the SUV version of the Nissan Frontier pickup) was just incredible - in some cases impervious to the heat I applied to get rusty nuts off rusty studs, not to mention impact wrenches and breaker bars.  I ended up cutting one nut off, as it was spinning the whole ball joint in its hole.  Crazy!  It added many hours of work to this task.

I started this project on Saturday morning, and didn't finish it until about 7:30pm tonight (Thursday)  what a colossal pain!  However, it was completed successfully, and now my wife won't be embarrassed by the rusty hinge sound the old joints made when you turned the wheel or went over bumps.  Or shifted too much in your seat.  Plus it really isn't safe to keep running with worn out ball joints.  So embarrassment yes, but also safety concerns addressed.

It should also be mentioned that it took all that time just to do one side!  I bought parts to do both sides (thanks!), but I'm not doing the other side until the weather warms up - that 35 degree damp with a north wind blowing into the garage that I dealt with yesterday was nasty!  It made the concrete I was sitting on even colder!

Special thanks to my Dad, who rescued me on several occasions during all this.  He was here helping me with this project every day I worked on it, sitting in that cold garage with me, bouncing ideas around and driving me to Harbor Freight, several auto parts stores, and Tractor Supply when our other car was needed elsewhere.  I couldn't have done it without him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hoping for a little consistency from the Michigan Senate

State Senator Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) has been convicted of assault and sentenced to 10 months in jail and 5 years probation for shooting up his ex-wife's car with his rifle after she caught him in a compromising situation with a female.

There is apparently some question as to whether Sen. Smith will resign or be expelled. The good Senator has offered to resign as a part of his plea deal, but the judge rejected that part of the deal because he can't enforce it.

If Senator Smith doesn't resign, it seems to me that in order to maintain the high level of moral outrage displayed over the cases of Representatives Courser and Gamrat, the Senate should immediately expel Senator Smith.

Not defending Courser and Gamrat, but the House didn't even wait for them to be tried and convicted before expelling them.  Seems like the Senate is a little behind the indignation curve on this one.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Granholm: Snyder should move to Flint

In today's Detroit News:  (full Article)
Gov. Rick Snyder should buy a Flint home with water service from a lead pipeline and take up residency in the city until all of Flint’s lead-leaching pipes are replaced, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Saturday.

“I think who’s ever going to fix this problem should move to Flint and live in one of those houses so that they can understand the urgency with which the citizens of Flint are operating, that they feel it so deeply because every single day they have to deal with water that has been poisoned,” Granholm said in a telephone interview with The Detroit News.
First of all Jenny, it was your tolerance of the corrupt leadership in Detroit and Flint that led to this crisis in the first place.  If you would have put aside party loyalty and taken Dennis Archer, Dave Bing, and Kwame Kilpatrick to task for their mismanagement of the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, Flint wouldn't have been so eager to disconnect.  It was the outrageous water rates they were paying because of all the graft and corruption that was going on in Detroit that set the stage for all of this, and that points right at you, madam ex-Governor.

So go crawl back into your leftist utopian stinkhole at UC-Berkeley where you came from.  Nobody in this state needs any advice from you.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Establishment Republicans planning ways to steal their Party's nomination

Apparently the Republican establishment in Washington is beginning to realize that Donald Trump is not going away, and his promises to upset their applecarts have a very good chance of becoming reality.  So they are plotting ways to oust Trump by parliamentary maneuvering, even if he has the requisite number of delegates to secure the Republican nomination for President.

I realize I'm just one little occasional blogger out here on the internet, and my voice doesn't carry very far, but if this were to happen, I would renounce every and all Republicans, and vote for Trump and the third party he would undoubtedly form to make his run for President.

I should note at this point that I am not a Trump supporter, I'm pretty much in the Cruz camp (with some disagreements)

For too long we conservatives have had these mealy-mouthed, platitude spewing invertebrates shoved down our throats (see McCain, John; Romney, Mitt; Dole, Robert; and yes, Bush, George W).  And we have been told that if we didn't vote for them we were really voting to elect the Democrat, and we had to be loyal.

But now, the shoe is likely to be on the other foot.  The establishment hates Trump and they hate Cruz as well, and they done their utmost to get one of theirs elected (Jeb, Kasich, Graham, Rubio, Huckabee, etc.) and they have all been rejected by the voters, and all but two have dropped out.  Those two have between them won one state primary and have less then half the delegates Trump and Cruz have earned.  So it looks like a guy the establishment doesn't like is going to be nominated, and they aren't going to support him, they aren't going to unify behind him for the sake of the party and the country, and they aren't going to vote for him.  Even though that is exactly what they have asked we conservatives to do for the last eight election cycles. 

So to all you establishment types out there who think Ryan/Boehner/McConnell/Preibus/Romney  (and I'll add Saul Anuzis for my Michigan readers) wing of the party are great guys and can put together a campaign that will drub Hillary, let me tell you something:  For too long you guys have been putting up losers against weak democrat candidates who you should have blown out of the water.  It's time for you to suck it up and support the choice of your party's voters this time around, whoever that may be.  Otherwise you will destroy whatever you think it is you have.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

First ever NASCAR post

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever posted about NASCAR, or any kind of racing for that matter, in this blog.

I used to love watching racing.  I particularly enjoyed Formula 1 and Indy-car stuff (before CART came along).  NASCAR was a distant third for me, although I always rooted for Richard Petty and Darrel Waltrip when I did watch.  I enjoyed the road courses more than the ovals, and I liked Mario Andretti and Rick Mears.

I know I'm dating myself big-time, but I loved watching Andretti duking it out with Nikki Lauda, Jody Sheckter, Gilles Villneuve, James Hunt, and a bunch of others.  Loved that black JPS Lotus.  In those days it seemed like it was a hunt for innovation to give yourself an edge over everyone else, whether it was aerodynamics. or some engine innovation that gave you more power - whatever it took to get you onto the podium or into the winners circle.

Which leads me to my real point today - what we have in racing is all about sameness.  Bodys, wings, spoilers, height, weight, width, length - everything is the same and there is no innovation.  So what we get is what we saw last weekend at the Daytona 500 - hours of staying in the draft because if you get out of it you lose about 25 positions.  So it's nose to tail lap after lap unless someone cuts a tire or gets too loose in a turn.  Then its a mad scramble to get in and out of the pits and pick up "track position".

I watched the whole race, all the while thinking "it has to get better sometime soon", but it was just a yawner.  I think I prefer the short track NASCAR races where aerodynamics take a back seat to power and skill and, well, RACING.

So give me the old days of racing, not the genericized, uniformed, sameness of today's version

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who is this guy?

I read an article today from the Daily Signal that a bunch of college students couldn't identify this man:

As a public service to my young readers, I am here to introduce you to the greatest president of this century - Ronald Reagan.  Here are a couple of examples.  They describe the state of things 30, 40, even 50 years ago, yet they sound strangely familiar today.

First, "A Time for Choosing"

Next - dealing with stupid questions: (debate vs. Walter Mondale)

And finally - his farewell address at the end of his Presidency

It will take you about an hour to go through these and get a sense of the man.  I would then encourage you to visit Youtube and watch others - like his speech at the D-Day memorial in Normandy.  Or his challenge to Gorbachev in Berlin to "tear down this wall".

A great man - certainly with flaws - but ten times the president of any of them since.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Cruz v. Carson

I don't mean to be cruel, Dr. Carson, but if you didn't realize politics was going to be a nasty business, you shouldn't have gotten in the race.

I'm not condoning what happened, but seriously - if you are whining about Ted Cruz (or one of his people) pulling a dirty trick on you, what are you going to do when Vlad Putin pulls a fast one on you?  Or the mullahs of Iran?  If you want to be President of the United States, you've got to have more emotional fortitude than what you're showing right now.  So no more of this "I'm going to get you, Ted" stuff.  If you're going to stay in the race, put on your big boy pants and get after it.  No more whining!

Hanging on by a thread

So last night everyone was out of the house except me, when I get a call from my wife:  "This car is making funny noises, and the steering wheel is vibrating.  I'm on my way home."  She was only a couple of miles away, but I could hear a very serious clunking over the phone that wasn't there the night before when I drove it.  She said she was going to pull over and call our daughter, who was at an event on the south end of town, and probably 25 minutes away, to come and get her.

Of course, I can't do anything because I don't have a vehicle to get to her, so I'm feeling pretty helpless, wondering how to get her and the car home in one piece.

Shortly after, I heard the garage door go up, and it's my wife pulling into the driveway.  I hustle out as she makes the turn, and I can see the car swaying left and right when she hits the end of the driveway.  I had her park in the driveway and got my flashlight to do a walkaround.  She told me she had driven 10 MPH from the time she hung up with me, ran every stop sign, and put as little stress on the car as possible.

So I started looking things over and everything looked normal until I got to the right front.  I could see the wheel was at a strange angle, and when I looked closer I saw that four of the five lugnuts were gone!  Holy crap, Batman!

Grabbing my floor jack and jack stands, I got the car up and on the stands to take the pressure off that wheel, and turned the last lugnut to get the tire off.  It took about one and a half turns before it came off - literally hanging by that last little bit of that last thread. 

It looked like two of the studs on the wheel hub were broken, and two more were bent and chewed up a bit.  At that point I knew I would be replacing studs on that wheel hub today.  So I went in and called my Dad, as he had an air hammer, which I knew I would need to get the old studs out and to drive the new ones in.  He agreed to come over and help me today.

Well, he showed up today not only with his air hammer, but his air compressor, which has a lot higher capacity than mine!  That was a good thing - I'm not sure if my little compressor would have been able to keep up.

Oh - and to make matters worse, it snowed about an inch by the time he got here today!  That got me to thinking.  If I could get the spare (a full sized spare, thank you God) on there with just a couple of lugnuts to traverse the 20 feet or so into my garage, it would be a whole lot more comfortable working on it. The remaining lugnuts needed to have their threads chased, but looked like they would hold up for those few feet, but neither of us had the right die to do it with so our first order of business was to go pick up a 12x1.5 die.  Threads chased, lugnut borrowed from the other wheel, spare mounted, and car pulled into the garage!  Hooray!

I'm very thankful for YouTube, and for the "Eric the Car Guy" channel in particular which I watch a lot, as I was able to watch lots of good instructional videos on how to deal with these studs, and potentially a hub and bearing job if the holes in the hub were messed up too.  I had to take of the brake caliper assembly and the brake rotor to get access to the hub. The air hammer then whacked those old studs out and pressed those new ones in like nobody's business.  Reattach brake rotor, studs line up with the holes - a good sign!  Reattach brake caliper assembly.  Take brake caliper assembly off because you put a twist in the brake line - doh!  Untwist and re-reattach brake caliper assembly.  Mount spare tire with the new lugnuts you got when you picked up the new wheel studs.  Then off for a test drive.  Everything seems to be normal.  No odd vibrations, no odd noises, no pulling the steering wheel one way or the other.  I think this one is a success!  Whew!

I still shudder to think, however, that we were only a couple of turns away from a real expensive disaster, but I think divine providence can be credited here for not only keeping that last lugnut intact, but giving my wife the presence of mind to drive as calmly and with as little stress on that wheel as possible, in order to get it home.  Very, very grateful for that intervention, Father!

Also grateful to my Dad, who helped me out with time and tools, as well as his credit card.  Thanks Dad!

For those of you wondering why I put the spare on, well, those steel lugnut threads acted like big ol' rasps on the aluminum wheel as it was flopping around, making the holes very oblong, rather than round like they are supposed to be.  So that is the next thing to deal with, but I can take my time and find a good deal on a matching wheel of those holes can't be fixed.

The other big question in our minds was - why all of a sudden did this happen?  She had driven to MSU in the morning for an interview and it seemed fine to her then.  She had driven to meet a friend for coffee last night and thought it was squirrely on the way over, but on the way home - wow, what a problem!  Was it vandals?  Overtorqued lugnuts?  Undertorqued lugnuts?  It's been two or three months since that wheel was last off, when I did a brake job, so you would think that the problem would have shown itself sooner if I didn't tighten those up well enough then.  Curious.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Flute Practice just started...

One of my favorite times of the day is when my daughter practices her flute.  Today it's times three, as her flute trio is here practicing for Solo & Ensemble Festival later this year.  Three lovely young ladies making some music together.  What a great thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spartans Win! Spartans Win!

I should know by now. I really should. It doesn't matter what the spread is, it doesn't matter how good the opponent is. None of that stuff matters at all. Mark Dantonio and his team will find a way to pull it out in the end. (That Nebraska game notwithstanding). What a great win by a great team. 

Some really petulant comments by OSU players after the game, especially Ezekiel Elliot, who basically called his coaches idiots and then said he was turning pro. 

If I were Urban Meyer I would tell this crybaby kid he was going to be the backup water boy next week, and he wouldn't see the field even if there were only ten guys healthy. 

Seriously, if the kid plays next week it tells me a lot about Meyer and his program. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Road Funding Impasse in Michigan Continues

The road funding battle continues in Michigan.  A group of conservative Senators is digging in their heels against the tide of tax and fee hikes already passed by the House, and which the Governor has signaled his willingness to sign.  Nolan Finley, in today's edition of The Detroit News is calling for the Governor to "break some legs" among the group resisting the bill.

I'm not writing to rip Nolan Finley this morning, as disappointing as its weak logic is.  Apparently "clinging to the pretense that a billion dollars can be found in the General Fund without wrecking Michigan. If there’s that much fat in the budget, why haven’t these lawmakers trimmed it by now?", or more succinctly "If nobody's found it yet, it must not be there".  I guess Christopher Columbus should have just given up.  Or Jonas Saulk.  Alexander Graham Belll.  Edison.  Einstein.  Fill in your own insightful person who discovered something no one thought existed.  According to Nolan Finley they should have just given up and quit.  Nolan - that's pretty weak.  And in the face of an 80-20 rejection of a similar ballot initiative last spring, it's pretty tone deaf.  Might I suggest, Nolan, that if they haven't found it in there, it's because they aren't looking?  And if they aren't looking, it's likely because they don't want to find anything, because they would then have to make some really hard choices? 

No, today I'm writing to once again to rail against the political mindset that is completely insulated from the realities of the world around them which the rest of us little people have to live in.  That reality is that we citizens are taxed and fee-ed to the breaking point.  Every new "problem" requires the extraction of more money from the citizenry.  Every new project needs "funding" from the government and it's never-ending bounty.  And if we don't fund all these things, including 1.2 BILLION NEW DOLLARS to fix the roads, then according to Nolan Finley and a lot of other political class groupthinkers, we will "wreck Michigan".

I'm here writing once again to say something no one besides these stubborn, intransigent, conservative dreamers seems to be willing to say:  NO!

It's easy to raise taxes and fees - just ask the House.  Or the Governor.  Or the President for that matter.  It's the politician's default answer to every issue.  What's hard is to look at your constituents and say "sorry we couldn't fund your dog park - we had to use that money to fix the roads".

So, no we should not fund bike paths and hiking trails before we fund our roads.  We should not fund parks, malls, housing developments, windmills, or any other fluff the State funds until the road repairs are paid for.  And not just now, but five, ten, and fifty years from now.

So, no you politicians should not just add on more taxes every time someone finds a new "crisis".  You should not hike fees to fund your little pet projects.  And don't say that isn't what this is about, because that monstrosity of a proposal the voters of this state rejected emphatically and overwhelmingly last spring was full of that *ahem* crap. And what will we find in this new bill of yours?

Instead, you should learn to do what the people of this State have to do every time you politico's dream up some new project and get your buddies to vote to increase the budget to fund it: TIGHTEN YOUR BELTS!  Go over your budgets and get rid of expenditures that aren't necessary to continue to function.  (Sorry honey, we just can't take that vacation to Cancun this year.  The roof is leaking and we need to replace it.)  Reduce expenses you can't get rid of (If we start using our wood stove more and turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees, we can save a ton on our gas bill this winter.  Then we can afford to register our cars and get our license plates this year).

Those are the things that people out here in the real world do when there are really important things to do that need to be funded.  Because we can't just go and force our employer to increase our wages 40% to cover that new roof, or give us a 20% hourly increase to pay our heat bill this winter.  We have to make do with what we already have.

So I say Bravo to you stubbornly resistant conservative Senators!  You are doing the right thing for the right reasons, and you are listening to the 80% majority of voters in this State who said NO NEW TAXES so emphatically last spring.  We certainly did understand what the politicos wanted, and we rejected it soundly.  As you should continue to do.