Saturday, July 04, 2015

Sopwith Camel Restoration

I thought this was pretty interesting. From The Detroit News

"It was the space shuttle of its time," Kozura says.

Together, these authentic parts are being assembled in a suburban garage and basement in west Michigan into what Kozura says will be the finest airworthy Sopwith Camel reproduction in the United States.
And no, it doesn't look like this:
Image result for snoopy sopwith camel


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

It was a 600 yard day

Much scurrying around trying to get preparations complete to send Lauren to the National Matches this month.  I learned from my friend Aaron over at The Shekel that the Washtenaw Sportsmans Club in Ypsilanti was having a 300/600yd. practice session today which was open to the public, so we made the drive.

First, let me give a big THANK YOU to the Club and the members I met there today for taking us in, waiving the 600-yard qualifier (Lauren has shot several shorter matches, and knows the ropes) and letting her shoot for free.  This kind of support for Junior shooters is very much appreciated, and really helps to keep the shooting sports from fading away in the late, great U.S.A.  One of the guys even let Lauren borrow his cart so she didn't have to carry all her gear back to the firing line.  Everyone there was just as nice as could be, and glad to see a Junior there and doing well.

Second, if you are in the area and looking for a club for shooting sports, give them some consideration.  The facility looks to be first rate for many different shooting disciplines as well as archery.

Third, Lauren was kicking some serious backside today.  We got there too late to shoot at 300, so all we could do was 600, which was just fine with me, as there are so few 600 yard ranges available. Winds were fairly light with some gusts, moving left to right, the temperatures were comfortable in the mid 70's, and the sky was mostly cloudy so there wasn't a lot of glare to deal with either.  The range has military-style pits, so the targets were being spotted and scored there so we could see them back at the line (this wasn't a match so scores weren't being kept, but your hits were scored on the target for you to record if you liked).  She got lots of help from an experienced shooter, and he seemed pretty impressed with her shooting.  Her windage was really good, and once she got her come-ups figured out (the main reason for going today) she was knocking out 9's and 10's and a couple of X's with great regularity.

A shift in the pits capped our time there, and once again everyone was as nice as could be.  So thanks and a big thumbs up for Washtenaw Sportsmans Club!  We enjoyed our time there today!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Camp Perry Prep

My daughter is going to shoot at the National Matches at Camp Perry this year, on the Michigan Junior Team.  So we are loading ammo for her to take.  She has been away at camps the last two weeks, so I have been working on the cases she had begun prepping before she left.  I've primed 500 or so cases over the last few days, and now I've started loading them.  Here's what I did today:
That's 100 rounds.  Here's what I loaded them with:
I'm used to loading pistol rounds on my turret press and cranking out a couple hundred in an hour, but these we do single-stage and very exactingly.  It takes me a minute or so per round to throw the powder charge, carefully trickling the last tenth of a grain or so.  Seating the bullet is much faster than throwing the charge!  Those 100 rounds represent about 3 hours of work for me today, and that doesn't include clearning, sorting, depriming, resizing, trimming, and priming the cases.  And swaging the crimp out of the primer pockets of the military brass (that is a pain in the posterior!)  I'm glad Lauren helped with the prep work!

I can also say that Varget powder is Un-Obtainium right now.  None of the local shops has any, nor do any of the on-line retailers.  I even checked Jay's up in Clare (a couple of hours drive from here) and they didn't have any either.  I had a pound to start with and I'm down to about a third of a pound, and I'm shaking the trees for more to finish out her ammo loadout for Perry.  I'm hoping there will be some available at the vendor booths at the matches so we can get ready for next year!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Post Proposal 1 vote - What if it's voted down?

With most polls showing a 2-1 or 3-1 defeat for Proposal 1 in Michigan, I've been thinking about what would happen if the Proposal is actually voted down.  For those not familiar, Proposal 1 is a tax hike (sales and fuel) which ostensibly will be used to fix roads in Michigan (State roads anyway.  City, county, and Interstates not included).  All this at a cost of 2 billion dollars, not all of which will go to road repairs.  And what does go to road repairs will initially be quite small.  Plus a bunch of special-interest pork included to get Democrat votes in the legislature.

We can look to history for a clue as to what the Honorable Rick Snyder will do - specifically the Bridge to Canada project from a couple of years ago which the Governor lobbied hard for, but which the Senate rejected.  Rather than accept the fact that there were major questions about the cost estimates for this bridge and working with the legislators who voted down the bill in committee, our PO'ed Governor went around the legislature and got the Canadians to foot the bill for the construction, for which he didn't need any legislative approvals.

So, what does the Governor have up his sleeve this time to get around the rejection of his plans (if that happens)?  What new plans does he have to extract more money from the overtaxed populace of Michigan?

Governor - nobody disagrees with you that the roads are bad and getting worse.  We all know things need to be fixed.  But surely you understand that people are tired of tax hikes, fee hikes, and the ever-growing size and scope of government.  You really need to get your own house in order in State government before you come looking for more money from the already highly taxed populace of Michigan.

If you do that then we will all know you are serious about dealing with the problems in this state, rather than creating new burdens that only enhance your (already soiled) legacy.  You know, sort of like what you did with Detroit when you made them get their financial house in order.  You should apply the same firmness and critical eye to State Government.  If you look hard enough you will find the money you need to get the job done without raising anyone's taxes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Proposal 1 Will Cost Average Michigan Household Up to $525 a Year in Extra Taxes

From the Michigan Capital Confidential:  (full article by Tom Gantert)

The average household in Michigan will pay as much as $525 more in taxes in 2016 if Proposal 1 is approved by voters on May 5, according to a study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The study estimated that increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent would cost a typical Michigan household $389 and the change in the fuel tax would cost between $88 and $136.
I'm a pretty typical Michigan household (family of 4), and I know I could use $525 in better ways than these blundering politicians can.  I have a kid going to college next year, and that would buy a lot of books for her, for instance.

No, I'll say it again:  The State needs to get its own financial house in order before it comes knocking at my door for more money to feed boondoggles and the failing public education system.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Gov. Moonbeam doesn't like Ted Cruz because he's falsified global warming data?

As reported in today, Gov. Jerry Brown of California went on "Meet the Press" and said he thinks Ted Cruz isn't qualified to be President because he has falsified global warming data.  From the article:
California Gov. Jerry Brown on “Meet the Press” on NBC called Cruz “absolutely unfit” to seek the high office, mostly because of his views on climate change.
“That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of scientific data,” Brown said, just hours before Cruz made his Twitter announcement. “It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”
That's pretty rich, Jerry, considering the long and storied history of falsified data from the true believers in global warming.

Hey Californians - maybe you should recall Gov. Loonbeam, as by his own standards he is not qualified to be governor.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ransomware and Michigan Road Proposal

In the IT realm where I spend my working hours, there is a class of nefarious software called "Ransomware".  It's a type of virus that infects your computer and encrypts the contents of your hard drive.  The next time you boot your computer all you get is a message stating your computer has been hijacked and you have to send money to a certain place to get the decryption key to recover your drive.

Michigan's Proposal 1, which we will be voting on in May, is similar to Ramsomware.  The State is saying that if the voters don't approve a 2 billion dollar tax hike, the State isn't going to fix the roads.

Frankly, I find this disgusting and there are a lot more like me out here who feel similarly.  Steve Gruber, at WJIM Radio, is one:  "Governor Says My Life is in Danger: Really?"

During one event highlighting the “Safe Roads Yes” campaign Snyder held up a chunks of what he said was from crumbling roads and bridges. “Can you imagine one of these coming through your windshield?” he said for effect.
It seems disingenuous and a bit silly at this point to be preaching doom and gloom and telling us frankly we could die- I mean how long have these people been trying to fix the roads anyway? And when they finally arrive at a $2 Billion dollar tax hike solution they lack the political courage to figure it out themselves. No, instead they send it back to the people… you know the ones that elected them to solve tough problems in the first place. At first I thought that was a good idea. Of course that was when I thought they actually intended to put the money, all of it, toward roads. That is a long way from the reality.
In fact only about $1.2 billion is actually intended to be used for roads and that won’t happen until at least 2018. The rest is why so many people despise politics and politicians because it is a pile of other spending that has exactly nothing to do with saving our lives from concrete falling out of the sky. According to the House Fiscal Agency $600 million a year would go to schools, cities, mass transit, the state’s general fund and tax breaks in the form of more earned income tax credits. With a debt far north of $75 Billion dollars it seems more likely our financial house will crash in on top of us before a stray piece of concrete gets us.
For myself, I'll say it again - Fix the problems with State Government bloat and overreach before you come for any more of *my* money.  MEDC and the Dept. of Education are two good places to eliminate if you want to find some more money.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now this is interesting: Vincent van Gogh

From the Article:
Most of us know the sordid story of the lovelorn Van Gogh sending a nasty Valentine (his ear) to a floozy he hopelessly pursued.

Yet Van Gogh’s original heartbreak didn’t come from a French prostitute, but from the church.

The frayed narrative of Van Gogh’s crummy love life and repeated rejection at the hands of les femmes, ignores his original great passion in life – the ministry of Jesus Christ (or Jezus Christus in Dutch).

Vincent was a socially progressive and idealistic young pastor who clashed with the rigid respectability of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1878. Ministering to starving miners and roughnecks, he suffered along in complete solidarity – ill-fed, dirty, cold and ugly. The church at the time didn’t much care for his scandalous empathy and abruptly cut off all support. 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Uttering Sacrilege in the land of Sparty

So here is that which is sacrilege to even think around here:  Has Tom Izzo lost his touch?

It used to be he would find diamonds in the rough and coach the crap out of them and they would respond and win conference championships and go to Final Fours with regularity. But over the last few years he seems to find head cases that won't listen to him, and his teams have been more disappointing than anything else.  They might make a tournament run and get through the first couple rounds against flawed or outclassed teams, but when the competition gets better, they wilt.

We see this pattern far too often, as in the home loss to Illinois this weekend.  Spartans play bad, guys don't perform, and at the presser afterwards Izzo tells us all how mad he is and how he's taking full responsibility and is going to coach those guys like never before.  They come out and whack their next opponent, think everything is OK now, and then lose to a team they should beat by 15.  Izzo rants at his presser again.

It used to be he might do that once a season.  Now, it seems like it's every other game.

I'm just asking the question.  Has Izzo lost his passion?  Has the game passed him by?  Or, does today's player not respond to him like his National Championship team did 15 years ago?  Is it time for new blood at the Breslin?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Late word today - Former Tigers 1B Dave Bergman dead at age 61

One of my favorite players on the 84 World Champs, first baseman Dave Bergman died today after a long battle with cancer.

I still remember the game at Tiger Stadium that year against Toronto (who also had a really great team) when Bergman came up with 2 on in the 10th inning and commenced an epic battle with Toronto reliever Roy Lee Jackson.  Bergman fouled off pitch after pitch until finally, on a 3-2 pitch, he golfed one into the right-field seats to win the game for the Tigers.  Here is that memorable at-bat:

I was managing the women's softball team at my Church that year, and a couple of my friends and I went to Houlihans at the Lansing Mall after our game to have a little dinner and watch the Tigers game.  I still remember that at-bat after all these years.  The whole place erupted when that ball went out.

Bergman wasn't the big star of the team, and he didn't have big stats, but he knew his role on the team and played it very well.  Rest in peace, Dave.  You gave us some great memories.


We have had our first big snowstorm of the year since yesterday morning, which has dumped about a foot here.  I blew 8 inches out of my driveway last night, and another 4 inches this morning.  Fortunately, I had enough gas to mix up a batch for my snowblower so I'm set for this one and probably the next one too!

My daughter got her first experience driving in a big snow dump, and got stuck before she went 50 feet!  We dug her out and got her going again (with an assist from a neighbor and her snowblower.  She apparently made it to work, as I didn't get any other help calls from her - probably the main roads had been plowed by the time she left at 10:00.

There is enough firewood inside to last through the day, but I'll have to shovel a path to the woodpile to bring in more.  I do love my woodstove!

Now I know that anyone from the UP or Wisconsin or Minnesota would probably laugh at a 12-inch snowfall, but here in central Michigan, that's a lot.  School closings, snow emergency declarations, cancelled events - everything. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Offseason Detroit Tigers Musings

Well, pitchers and catcher report in about a month, so it's time for a little offseason baseball musing, especially since I have mostly boycotted the NFL this year and there isn't much to talk about now that college football is over (how 'bout them Spartans?) and college basketball hasn't really gotten interesting yet.

So, after getting briskly swept out of the playoffs this year, the Tigers have been reconstructing themselves a bit.  Gone are Tori Hunter, Phil Coke, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, Joba Chamberlain, and Max Scherzer (maybe).  Newcomers are Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon to the rotation, a bunch of other "guys" in the bullpen, another "guy" from Toronto in center, and Yoenis Cespedes in left.  And the returns of Jose Iglesias at shortstop and perhaps Bruce Rondon in the bullpen.

The rotation is noticeably weaker than last year at the beginning of the season, with the losses of Scherzer, Smyly, and Porcello.  Still, when you have Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and David Price as your top of the rotation, you aren't exactly fielding a Triple-A staff there.  The keys will be:
  1. Will Verlander return to some semblance of his old self?  If you get 18+ wins out of him the answer is yes.  If he's the .500 pitcher he was last year, you're in trouble.  If you are the Tigers you are hoping that his healthy, normal offseason has him in prime condition for a bounceback year.
  2. Will Sanchez stay off the DL?  If so he will probably win you 18 games.  If not, you better hope there is someone down on the farm that is farther along than you thought he was to fill in for him.
  3. Simon and Green.  If both of them win you 12-15 games you are probably OK with that.  Your big 3 are going to get you through the playoffs, but your 4 and 5 guys are going to get you *in* the playoffs by giving you a chance to win in every one of their starts.  That's what you got with Porcello, and to a lesser extent Smyly.
  4. Scherzer.  The big offseason question is "Where will he end up?"  The Tigers obviously made some of the moves they did because they didn't think he would be back in Detroit.  And realistically, a 6-year contract for a 30-year-old pitcher is crazy.  I finally saw one suggestion that made sense in the Detroit News today: 4 years, 112 million (28 mil/year).  That is Verlander money without the long-term financial risk.  Maybe throw in a 5th year mutual option at 15 or 20 just to see if he bites.  But any contract beyond 4 years on a pitcher of his age is crazy for any team, not just the Tigers.  If he comes back they can trade off some surplus pitching or move someone to the bullpen.  But if Scherzer sticks to his guns he won't be back in Detroit.  EDIT: Scherzer to Nationals for 200+ million over 7 years.  Good for him, crazy for Washington.  Wow.
Once again this area of the team will be the biggest source of heartburn for the fans.  The bullpen was in shambles for much of last year and at the start of the year it doesn't look much different.

Joe Nathan was a disaster for much of the year, and Joakim Soria was just as bad for the short time he pitched before landing on the DL for most of the second half.  These two will have to become a reliable late-inning combination for the Tigers to have any chance of defending their division title this season.  That's the bottom line.  The rest of the guys have to do their part too, but these guys blew a lot of games last year, and they both had their reputations as crunch-time pitchers take a big hit.

One name that is always thrown around when talking about the Tigers bullpen is Bruce Rondon.  He has that 100 mph fastball that blows hitters away, but he has been hurt for most of his big-league career.  He is coming back from Tommy John surgery this year, and that puts a significant question mark on his ability to pitch at all for starters, at least at the start of the year.  After that the questions becomes "how effective will he be?"  Anything he gives will be a bonus.

Most everyone else in the bullpen is a collection of guys you say "who?" when someone tells you their name.  The team has been collecting relievers over the winter, and they'll all get a chance to sort themselves out in Florida.  Don't think there's much bullpen help in the minors right now.

Position Players
The first player you think of in this category for the Tigers is always Miguel Cabrera.  And this year there is another major surgery in his offseason, this time for fractures in his ankle.  As I write this in mid-January he is just getting out of the walking boot, and hasn't even started off-season workouts.  This doesn't bode well for his return to anything like his usual form anytime soon.  Still, even a hobbled Cabrera put up numbers that any other player would give his eyeteeth for, so if his ankle is strong enough to play he should put up at least those kind of numbers again.  Look for him to platoon with Victor Martinez a lot early on, just to keep him from overdoing it and not being available for crunch time in August and September.

And since we just mentioned him, let's talk about the second most feared hitter on the team, Victor Martinez.  If ever a guy deserved a big contract at age 35 it's VMart.  The guy just flat-out produces at the plate, and is a leader in the clubhouse.  If he stays healthy, there's no reason to think he won't continue to produce excellent numbers for the length of that contract.  Stay healthy, Victor!

Then there's the other Martinez - J.D.  All you can say is you hope he wasn't a one-year flash in the pan.  He'll be playing right field this year, pretty much full-time.  If he keeps hitting, he will be the biggest steal for the Tigers this side of Carlos Guillen. If not, Steven Moya is waiting in the wings at Toledo.

Center Field will probably a platoon of newcomer Anthony Gose and the surprising Rajai Davis.  Davis exceeded expectations last year and was a good guy to have when the Tigers traded Austin Jackson away.  He filled in decently in left and center field, and gave them a boost on the bases.  Gose is a .236 hitter in 2 years of part-time duty in Toronto, about 500 at-bats.  Hard to get a read on him, but he is supposedly very fast - an asset in the spacious outfield of Comerica Park.

Left field will be patrolled by one of the big acquisitions of the off-season, Yoenis Cespedes - he of the highlight reel arm and somewhat underwhelming offense (.263 career hitter).  We'll see what happens with him too - hope he was worth parting with Rick Porcello to get.

Others:  Ian Kinsler needs to have a better second half this year - he faded noticeably last year.  Seemed to be an improvement over Omar Infante defensively.  Jose Iglesias - who knows what we'll get.  Supposed to be a defensive wizard, but his hitting work so far has not been respected, even though his average is respectable.  Again, we'll see.  Hope he stays healthy this year.  Nick Castellanos, it is pretty much agreed, has to improve defensively.  He has been getting a pass after transitioning back to third base after a couple of seasons working in left field to try and get him to the bigs.  He was a prized prospect, and showed some promise at the plate as well.  Reports are he has lost some weight and has been working on his speed and first step this offseason.  If so, that is a good thing.  They need him to carry his weight over there at the hot corner.

Big concern for Alex Avila at catcher.  The man has taken a beating back there, and it shows in his offensive output.  Defensively there aren't many better, but Alex, you have to think of your future self.  You're going to be in a home drooling on yourself if you don't get out soon.  If this new mask you're working with doesn't help, you need to retire.  The Tigers need to use whoever their backup is more than they have in the past, just to minimize Avila's exposure to the concussions and keep his legs fresh.  Perhaps that will bring his average up from the .220 or so he has hit the last three or four years.

As for the bench, who knows?  Right now it looks like Don Kelly, Andrew Romine, and Hernan Perez are the potential extra infielders on the major league roster.  Tyler Collins is probably the extra outfielder.  There are a couple of other guys on the 40-man roster that they are probably protecting for the future, but the only one we might see this year is Steven Moya.  These guys will all be fighting it out for a roster spot.  Kelly can play everywhere but has a light stick and little power.  Romine and Perez play both middle infield spots, and if you can play those you can probably play third as well, but neither of them have been known to take a turn in the OF.  Collins is a guy that made the team out of spring training last year, but was sent down to Toledo so he could play instead of sit.

Edit:  Don Kelly is apparently a free agent, although the ESPN roster site I was looking at didn't show him as one, and he has reportedly signed with the Marlins, so count Kelly out of the mix.

The Central Division has gotten a lot tougher over the offseason.  Chicago and Cleveland have made marked improvements, especially in their pitching staffs.  And of course, Kansas City went to the World Series in 2014, but have lost several key players to free agency and may not be at the same level this year.  They still have some talent there, certainly.  In the long run, having a tougher Central Division may make whoever wins it a better team for the playoffs next fall.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

NYPD Police Officer Funeral Today

I was at a small family gathering today with a bunch of relatives I don't get to see very often (and some who, because of their age, I may never see again).  At the restaurant there were a few TV's hanging in corners, and one of them had CNN coverage of the funeral of one of the NYPD officers assassinated this past week.  I was trying to keep my head in the conversations at the table rather than watching the TV, when I caught sight of Shotgun Joe Biden speaking there, shortly followed by Red Bill DiBlasio, the marxist mayor of NYC and chief apologist for the assassin. 

I was very surprised that these two men, who have done more to promote racial disharmony over the last few years than anyone this side of the Sharpton/Jackson syndicate, were even allowed into the building, let alone given a microphone.

I feel very sorry for the wife and family of this slain officer.  They, and their loved one, deserved better than these two clowns at this ceremony. 

I noted that many officers from departments other than NYPD continued turning their backs in disgust on DiBlasio.  Good for them.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Gubenatorial La-La Land

I read with interest the articles in the papers yesterday reporting on Governor Snyder (RINO-MI) and his assertion that the driving public is clamoring for his new 1.2 Billion dollar gas tax hike.

Well Gov. Snyder, here is at least one Michigan voter who is most emphatically NOT clamoring for your latest tax increase.  You have consistently hiked taxes and fees on all kinds of things over the last four years, but you haven't done one thing to decrease the size and scope of state government over those four years.  More agencies, more projects, the bridge to nowhere, on and on the list goes.  Big Government Rick has never seen a state program he didn't want to expand.

Now, before my readers think I am a complete left-wing loon (which would be silly since left-wing loons *like* big government) I am not going to launch into some anti-capitalist, anti-business screed criticizing his business tax cuts.  That was necessary and needed to be done, and all you hand-wringers out there who think it unfair need to understand what the real engine of the economy is, and it isn't an ever-expanding government full of social programs.

I do, however, expect the Governor to understand (and not violate) basic laws of economics, one of which is "you can't tax your way to prosperity".  He seems to have not gotten the memo on that one.

Look, I'm as frustrated by the state of Michigan roads as the next guy, but laying another tax hike on the backs of already stretched Michiganders is not the way to fix the problem.  If you want to re-allocate how some tax monies are distributed - go for it.  Certainly downsize departments and stop or delay non-imperative projects within those departments and redirect that money toward roads.  There are a host of things you could do without raising taxes one penny, and you have majorities in both houses to get it implemented.

Yes, you would have all kinds of special interests whining and complaining about how the world would end if we don't build that bike trail from Iron Mountain to Escanaba, but don't you think it would be a real feather in your cap if you could say at the end of the day that you got those billions of dollars to fix the roads without raising taxes?  If you do indeed have aspirations to national office, that would be a huge card to play, wouldn't it?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Alan Trammell returning to Tigers

Just read this in the paper. Returning as Special Assistant to the GM. 

There aren't many players who embody what being a Detroit Tiger means, but Tram is one of them. I couldn't be happier for him to be back with this organization. Good on the Tigers for picking him up.