El Tour es Muy Bueno

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It’s El Tour de Tucson day and we’re housebound, at least until all but the stragglers pedal past our neighborhood. The only way out requires crossing the tour route, which’ll be blocked to car traffic for a while yet. The stragglers, who’ll be about 25 miles into their 100+ mile route as they pass our street, would probably welcome being run over, but I’m not going to be the one to do it … I’ve ridden in two of these events myself, and admire anyone who’s willing to tackle it.

The only reason I’m not at the end of our street taking photos of the lead riders as they whiz by is that when I look at my old El Tour photos (like the one to the left, from last year), they’re kind of meh. I don’t have much of an eye for sport photography. Also, too, I had an unsettling vision of Mr. B slipping out of his harness and darting into the street just as the lead peloton crests the hill.

I do, though, want to take photos at a car show three miles away, but getting there requires crossing the tour route in two more places. I wonder if the organizers realized they’d be competing with the biggest annual bicycling event in Arizona?

Later: I gave the El Tour riders two hours to get past our area and then headed out. A few stragglers were still on the route and a race marshal had me wait for a few to go by, but after that it was clear sailing to the car show, because when I got to the other route crossings all the riders had passed and the officials were packing up to go home. The car show was small but okay. I saw a few things I liked, and uploaded the photos to Flickr. You can click here to see ’em.

Not in a clicking mood? Here’s one to prove I was there:


Muscle cars, feh. Give me an old tractor any day.

I had Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, “Past Tense,” on reserve at the library. I was #200 on the wait list for the hard copy; #122 for the ebook. The library sent an email to tell me another book I reserved was in, so on my way home from the car show I stopped to check it out. There, on the New Books shelf, was a hard copy of “Past Tense.” Tell you what, I’m having a great day!

Oh, don’t know if you saw it on the news, but Lee Child, after previously approving the choice of Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher in two movies, has bowed to public opinion and now admits Cruise is “too short” for the role. Child is involved with the production of a series of new Jack Reacher movies for streaming TV, and Cruise is out. Now I’m not trying to curry favor with the Church of Scientology, but I enjoyed both movies (2012’s “Jack Reacher” and 2016’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”). Granted, Tom Cruise isn’t the same order of creature as the 6’5″ 250-pound Jack Reacher, but in the movies he conveyed the attitude.

It’s a beautiful day for El Tour riders, and anyone else who ventures out (and I hope they do). I’m so happy it’s finally fall. Our kids and grandkids will be here for Thanksgiving; we expect this perfect weather to hold through the week. We’re ready for winter, too, should we get one this year: Donna and I re-wrapped the outdoor water pipes yesterday, and later today I’m putting up a new patio thermometer to replace the one that broke when we had the house repainted.

Life is good; even better now that we have a Democratic Party congresswoman and senator to represent us in Southern Arizona. Maybe it’s time I start another letter-writing campaign to have Rush Limbaugh kicked off Armed Forces Radio!

More soon. Get out and enjoy the weather!


Air-Minded: Air Museum Update

I’m thinking about developments at Pima Air and Space Museum, where I volunteer as a docent and tram tour guide … which, of course, means it’s time for an Air-Minded Air Museum Update.

Update #1: starting on a happy note, our WWII Ilyushin IL-2 Shturmovik is coming back together. This old bird was a bruiser in it’s day: the Soviet tank-killer, the Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev of warbirds. I sometimes wonder if, late at night in the darkened restoration hangar, its red electronic eyes wink on like those of the waking Optimus Prime, disguised as a derelict 18-wheeler surrounded by hay bales in a barn. Here are two photos from last week and this: the Il-2 being towed from Area 51 (where the fuselage was assembled) to the main resto hangar; the IL-2 in the resto hangar with the wings mounted (and an A-20 Havoc in the background).

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The crew of our IL-2, the story goes, ditched it in a lake south of Leningrad in 1944. It remained in the lake, later a swamp, until the early 1990s, when it was recovered and bought by an American. The buyer may have intended to restore it, but died before any work was done. His family donated the wreckage to Pima Air and Space. When I started volunteering at PASM in early 2011, the Shturmovik wasn’t recognizable as an airplane: it consisted of several wooden crates with Cyrillic stenciling and three bent propeller blades, minus its Mikulin engine (which was on display in one of the WWII hangars).

During the decades the Il-2 was under water, its wooden parts—the empennage, tail, and wings—had rotted away, leaving only the aluminum wing box, forward fuselage, cockpit, engine compartment, engine and propeller. The museum began restoring the Shturmovik a few years ago, using blueprints to build new wings, empennage, and tail surfaces in one museum building and reassembling the metal parts in another. Today it’s once again recognizable as an airplane, but along the way—according to a friend who works in restoration—the museum began to suspect it was working with the remains of two different Shturmoviks. The wing box, apparently, did not quite mate up with the fuselage, and the restorers now think it came from another version of the Il-2. The wing box was modified to fit, but there’s a strong possibility the wing box belonging to our Il-2 is still in the swamp, along with the fuselage of a second Il-2, waiting to be recovered.

Update #2: another new addition hasn’t been seen in public since 1974. It’s a Yokosuka Ohka Model 43 K-1 Kai Wakazakura, a two-seat training version of Japan’s MXY-7 Ohka rocket-powered Kamikaze flying bomb.


The Wakazakura was crated up in Japan and shipped home by the U.S. military at the end of WWII. It was on display at a Navy museum until 1974 when it was crated up again and given to the Smithsonian, which loaned it to PASM on the condition we display it in its original condition. We had to build new wings, tail, and canopy frames for it, but the fuselage and paint are original. It’s on display now in Hangar 4.

Update #3: This one will probably be of little interest to you, but I’ve been thinking about it since being briefed yesterday, and am not yet sure where I stand on it. I’m talking about new tram tour procedures, and how they will affect the docents who lead those tours.

Until recently PASM had two gasoline-engined trams. One held 50 passengers; the other 40. We offer three tram tours daily, at 10 AM, 11:30 AM, and 1:30 PM (plus a 3 PM tour during our busy season). Depending on demand, we could drive both trams on a tour and accommodate up to 90 passengers. In October the museum replaced the old gas-engined trams with new electric ones, which are awesome … but considerably smaller. The big one carries 34, the little one 16, for a total of just 50 passengers if we double up. The museum charges $6 per passenger for these tours, so the smaller capacity is a hit to the pocketbook, and I expected them to confront that fact sooner or later.

Sooner, it turns out. They announced new policies at a tram docent meeting yesterday. Instead of driving and narrating three hour-long tours at 10, 11:30, and 1:30, we’re now to do six 45-minute tours, starting every hour (10, 11, 12, 1, 2, and 3 o’clock). Using both trams per tour, we can handle up to 50 passengers, or 300 total for the day.

What bothers me is they’re telling us the new procedures are based on feedback from museum visitors. It seems pretty obvious the new procedures are actually meant to help the museum sell as many, or more, tram seats as in the past, and I just wish they’d be up front about it. Because, honestly, if you were running the place, you’d be doing the same thing, and we’re all grownups in this room, right?

So … apart from the money aspect, how to shorten a tour of 150 outdoor display aircraft to 45 minutes? I’ve been doing the old tours in an hour or just under, talking about 80-90 aircraft (my narration had to be factually correct but otherwise was up to me). What they want us to do now is to cover 30 or so designated aircraft, and memorize a museum-approved script to go with each. In theory, cutting the tour to just 30 planes and sticking to the script, we can do the tour in 35 minutes, which leaves 10 free minutes to talk about additional aircraft of our choosing.

One of the reasons I don’t buy the museum’s story about basing these new procedures on visitor feedback is the choice of aircraft to cover. Most are ones I know visitors come to see, like our former Air Force One, but a few (the British Gnat trainer and the German/French Alphajet trainer among them) are ones I have never ever heard a visitor express the slightest interest in. It’s not just me; to a man (unfortunately, at the moment we are all men) we’re scratching our heads over some of the museum’s choices.

One volunteer, a 15-year veteran, was so upset he stood up, announced his immediate retirement, and walked out of the room (it would have been a more powerful statement if he hadn’t forgotten his jacket and had to come back to get it). As for me, I told our volunteer coordinator, the young woman who introduced these new policies, that we’re getting close to the point where they ought to start paying us for what we do, given that we’re making so much money for the museum. Of course it was a pop-off remark, and I don’t expect anything of the kind, but the museum’s doing its best to turn a fun volunteer activity into actual work, and I expect we’ll lose another volunteer or two in the coming weeks. Why? Well, our busy season is just starting, and the reality of three to four tram docents (most days it’s three, some days just two) splitting up to twelve tours a day is going to sink in toot sweet.

As I said, I’m still thinking about it. I’m in … I’ll do my best to make it work, but will it still be fun? That remains to be seen. It’s a good thing I love old planes and learning new things, is all I have to say for now.


Friday Bag o’ Happiness


A friend said he detected an undercurrent of sadness in my most recent Paul’s Thing post. I intended world-weary cynicism, but if it came across as unhappiness, I’ll try to set things right with this post.

If you’re a Hash House Harrier, you might recognize the bag: it was made for me and my former Half-Mind Catalog website by noted California hasher Nut’n’Honey, the brilliant cartoonist behind Hash Boy Comics. It’s a pretty happy bag!

Speaking of happiness, my friends and motorcycle maintenance gurus Ed and Paul finished fixing my Goldwing, not merely fixing but tweaking it to as-new condition, and I can’t wait to go riding. Now that it’s cleaned up and topped off with premium as a reward for enduring the indignities Ed and Paul and I put it through, I’m pretty sure it can’t wait to go for a scoot either.

I had planned to lead a group ride to Arivaca in October but had to cancel because the maintenance we were doing on it took longer than we’d planned, so I’m thinking about rescheduling the same ride later this month.

Lookin’ good, eh?


Friends were here to visit, Bill and Terri from Newport News, stopping by in the middle of a cross-country trip, for all the world like Ricky and Lucy with their long, long trailer, which they set up in our driveway. They arrived in the afternoon and could only spend one night, so we worked in a whirlwind tour of the air museum and then caught up with old times over a dinner of venison backstrap rollmops and smoked spareribs. Bill had a long Navy career in subs and carriers, so naturally I had to brag a little about my time in fast jets, like this one:


In preparation for Bill and Terri’s visit, Donna threw the Hash House Harrier t-shirt quilt she made me over the back of the couch (they are hashers too, and they noticed it right away). Mr. B and I think it ought to stay there at least through Thanksgiving, when we’ll have more company.


I’m not sure everyone understands how voting works. I’m a little fuzzy myself, but my general understanding is that people either vote by mail or in person at the polls. In states that allow it, you can vote early by mail or in person; if you can’t vote in your state of residence because you’re overseas or whatever, you can mail in an absentee ballot; and of course you can always vote in person on election day. Vote counts often take a few days, because mail-in early and absentee ballots are counted last, and often by hand.

You’re an educated person, dear reader, and I didn’t mean to insult you. I’m talking to people like Donald Trump of Mar-a-Lago, Governor Rick Scott in Florida, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp in Georgia, all of whom are abusing the powers of the offices they hold to claim the normal counting of ballots is voter fraud, and to stop the count while the vote is going their way.

I said this on Facebook the day after the election:

Happy about taking back the House; sad about the great Dem candidates in different states who lost to particularly venal Repugs. Still a long way to go, but some very good things happened yesterday, and we should take heart. Still hanging tight in AZ over our Senate race. Go, Kyrsten!

It’s now three days after the election, and Democratic Party candidates have an even larger majority in the House than the count showed on the 7th; in Arizona, the count’s still going on for Senate candidates Sinema and McSally. It takes time. But in this case time’s working out even better for Dems than I dared hope. There’s even a chance two of the great Dem candidates, Stacey Abrams in Georgia (running for governor against the same Brian Kemp mentioned earlier) and Andrew Gillum in Florida (running for governor to replace Rick Scott), might pull out wins after all. The Texas votes, sadly, have been counted, and Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz. I’m sad about that … but he’ll be back.

Overall? We did good and we have a lot to be happy about. Trump can still do a lot of damage, but we’re in a much better position now to contain him, and judging by his flop-sweat performance at yesterday’s press conference, he knows it.


Tuesday Bag o’ Fraudulent Votes

Vote-TwiceIt’s election day. But you know that. And you also know if, at the end of it, Republicans aren’t still the majority party in both houses of Congress, they’ll claim fraudulent voting. Gerrymandering and voter suppression will get ten times worse between now and the 2020 elections. Let’s hope there’s something to this talk of a blue wave.

So can we look forward to the end of political robocalls and unsolicited texts? Hmm … first thing I saw on Twitter this morning was a story about Fox News being selected to host the first candidates’ debate for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. Sigh. We’re not going to get even a minute’s break.

Trump held another of his white nationalist rallies in my home town, Cape Girardeau, last night. Local hero Rush Limbaugh was there to warm up the crowd. Sean Hannity took the stage with Trump, removing all doubt that Fox News is anything other than a state propaganda organ. I don’t doubt that a huge crowd turned out at the Show Me Center … Democrats in Southeast Missouri are as rare as double-jointed Uyghurs, and tend to keep their heads down.

Tuesday is Donna’s TV night, but I expect we’ll check election results during commercial breaks on NCIS. If I had any sense, I’d do what I did two years ago: find something else to do and not turn on the news until late in the evening, when it’s all been decided. That election day turned out to be a shocker. I hope this one will too … in the opposite way.

I had occasion to drive on to Davis-Monthan AFB yesterday. There was a traffic jam at the gate, with long lines of flatbed trucks hauling Army equipment and vehicles. They’re setting up a tent city on an open area just inside the westernmost gate, near the northern end of the flight line and close to an area occupied by the regional headquarters of the US Border Patrol. It’s not a concentration camp, as I first imagined: it’s for US troops being sent to the border. God, I hate to see the military used this way.

My usual daily news sites, Google News, Reuters, and The Guardian, are filled almost exclusively with U.S. mid-term election news and speculation, so I dropped in on the Reddit World News forum, where I saw some stories we really ought to be paying more attention to:

On to the personal side:

I have to be careful when to take Mr. B for his morning walk on Tuesdays. It’s garbage day, and he’s afraid of the truck. I check out the window first to see if our garbage bins have been emptied, then take him for his constitutional. Well, now I have to factor in the school bus as well, because he’s decided it too is scary. Trouble is, I can’t see the school bus stop from our window, so walking out the front door’s a gamble. I suppose I could time it, but that’d be too sensible.

Ed, my friend and motorcycle maintenance guru, called to say my motorcycle’s almost done and should be ready this morning. It’s been in Ed’s garage almost a month: disassembled, assembled, test ridden, disassembled again, now almost reassembled. I was able to help Ed with a lot of the work, but at some point I became more of a distraction than a help, and at Ed’s request got out of his hair so he could finish the job. I don’t resent it; actually it was a relief to get some distance from the project, which was keeping me up nights. I count myself lucky to have a friend like Ed.

From time to time I think how nice it would be to have a “townie” motorcycle, saving the Goldwing for long rides and trips. I had been imagining myself on a Triumph Bonneville, a BMW GS Adventure, or a Suzuki V-Strom, but then Harley unveiled their Livewire, and I am smitten! An electric motorcycle? Makes total sense for an in-town ride. I want!

Speaking of friends, an old hashing buddy and his wife are coming tomorrow, making a one-day stop in the middle of a cross-country road trip. They’re towing a fifth-wheel trailer, which should fit in our driveway but if not there’s an RV camp at the air base. We plan to hit the air museum and have smoked ribs for dinner. No hash, though.

That’s enough for now. More after the election, if we live through it.


You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.


Beirut market book stall, ©2013 by George Zahm

YCRT! Announcement

Thirteen may be an inauspicious number, but it’s the number of years I’ve been writing about banned books, first for Paul’s Thing and later for Daily Kos, posting links on social media whenever I publish a new one. In that time I hoped others dedicated to combatting the suppression of books would become fans and help spread the word about YCRT!, and while never imagining for a moment I’d ever make a dime off this, I hoped exposure over time would lead to, I don’t know, maybe a chance to publish YCRT! in a print or online media outlet with a wide readership.

It hasn’t happened, and after 13 years it’s not likely to. I’m not whining; it is what it is. As of this column I’m relieving myself of the day-to-day tracking of news about book bannings, challenges, and censorship, and of producing new YCRT! columns on a regular basis. I’m still interested in banned books and will continue to read and review them, but those reviews will be folded into regular book review posts. If a news story about book banning catches my eye I’ll comment on it in a regular blog post, along with other topics.

For those of you who have enjoyed and supported YCRT! over the years, my undying thanks.

YCRT! News Roundup

An Ontario, Canada, school district has urged high school teachers not to teach “To Kill a Mockingbird.” One teacher claims the memo outlining the policy implies the board will not support them if parents or students complain about racial language in the novel, and is a de facto book ban.

Similar attempts to suppress or outlaw the teaching of “To Kill a Mockingbird” continue to pop up all across the United States. The right has seized upon this as a weapon to attack the left, accusing liberals of hypocrisy in wanting to ban books. As Wonkette points out, banning books is more the province of conservatives. Like this guy, who checks out LGBTQ books from public libraries and literally burns them.

What is it about “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” that drives rural communities wild? In the latest incident, an Emporia, Kansas high school teacher was suspended, not for teaching the book … but for considering teaching it.

Canadian school boards too discourage the teaching of controversial books, and as in the U.S. (see the item about the Kansas teacher suspended for wanting to teach “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” above), all too often the books they’re uncomfortable with deal with indigenous peoples.

Fort Myers High School in Florida notified parents that the coming-of-age novel “City of Thieves” was on a list of 10th grade reading options, giving them time to object beforehand. No one did, but after the book was assigned someone complained and a school administrator immediately caved, removing the book without review, in contradiction to school policy. Gee, the same old story, again and again.

Would-be readers of young adult books and graphic novels with LGBTQ themes are “stifled by banned book lists, principals who remove queer novels from school libraries, and parents refusing to buy them outright.” The publishing industry is beginning to take an interest in combatting this suppression.

Over the years, YCRT! has reported on many fights over books and class content in public school classrooms and libraries. Here’s a battle map, along with a summary of some of the latest conflicts between conservatives, educators, and students:

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“The problem here isn’t pornography in library databases. The problem is a group of people who believe their prudery should be public policy.”

Another day, another university preventing student journalists from reporting on subjects that make administrators and donors uncomfortable.

I sent in my Arizona election ballot by mail, voting No on Proposition 305, which would take money from public schools to fund vouchers, enabling conservative parents to enroll their kids in know-nothing charter and religious schools.

Censored but not censored enough? “Kidz Bop is an abomination because it censors language but it doesn’t censor content. I don’t need a sanitized version of ‘Despacito’ — I need 8-year-olds not to be singing ‘Despacito’ because that [song] is super dirty.” I tread lightly here because I know nothing about Kidz Bop or the kinds of songs 8-year-olds like to listen to and sing.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the US military sees the internet as a threat to the sovereignty of states, responsible for creating conflict and disruption through rapid, widespread dissemination of misinformation. In considering how to combat this, military studies see the “best mechanism for suppressing oppositional viewpoints and promoting pro-government narratives is the private sector”; i.e., technology corporations like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter, which can “determine what people see and do not see.” Good thing civilians are in charge, right?

Forest County, Mississippi sheriff bans all books for jail inmates except the Bible and Christian publications.

YCRT!’s focus has always been on North America, but this article about the wholesale banning and burning of books in apartheid South Africa is well worth your time.


Thursday Bag o’ Balls

Latest project: weaning myself off ibuprofen. I’ve been taking it on days I know my new knee’s going to get a workout, Tuesdays and Thursdays when I hit the gym for example, bicycling Saturdays, and Mondays, when I know I’ll be walking and on my feet all day at the air museum. Everyone says ibuprofen is bad for the kidneys (maybe the liver, don’t quote me), so I’m going to try to get along without it. I hit the gym this morning clean, sober, and ibuprofen-free: stretching and bending a little longer than usual before getting on the stationary bike, suffering sharp twinges at the top of each pedal stroke for the first few minutes, gradually loosening up.

Another year almost; yesterday, another birthday. A good one, the birthday anyway (we’ll withhold judgment on the year, since it—and the mid-term elections—is not over yet). Mr. B and I took a long walk first thing in the morning, and Donna made me a lovely breakfast. I’ve dropped a couple of pant sizes, so her present to me was a new pair of Levi’s. They fit, smaller waist and all, but they’re a young man’s cut, form-fitting and low on the butt. It’s going to be a while before I’m comfortable in them, so used to flappy old man pants I’ve become. Friends and kids and relatives sent greetings, and I made a trip to the butcher for steaks to grill for dinner.

More trick-or-treaters show up at our house every year; we almost ran out of goodies last night. The dogs watched out the window and ran barking to the door every time a new group of goblins approached, but I note it was our shy dog, Maxie, who’d venture out onto the porch to sniff every kid’s costume, while the brave one, Mr. B, would hide behind Donna, warily watching the witches and wizards from the safety of the entryway.

Speaking of the butcher, I’m heading back. I’m going to smoke a pair of ducks for Thanksgiving, and they have to be ordered beforehand. We tried duck eight years ago, and it was a great accompaniment to the traditional stuffed turkey. I’m also getting spareribs to smoke next week, when friends from Virginia are coming to visit. Crouton’s Fortress of Smoke™ is going to get a workout this month.

My friend Ed and I are waiting for one last motorcycle part (I hope it’s the last, at least for a while); with luck it’ll come today and we can put the scooter back together. It’ll be good to have it back, now that it’s riding season in the Southwest. Fingers crossed.

Is there an epidemic of drivers hitting and killing kids at school bus stops? Google News just now: yesterday a lady in Indiana killed three siblings and maimed another kid as they crossed a road to board their bus. Today a hit-and-run driver in Pennsylvania struck and killed a seven-year-old boarding a bus and is still at large. Also today: a driver in Tampa struck several people at a school bus stop, sending seven to the hospital, and the article mentions this is just one of five such incidents this week alone.

I drove buses for my local school district a few years ago when I was between other high-paying retirement gigs. In our district at least, we tried to minimize the danger kids would be exposed to. Crossing residential streets to get to the bus stop was okay, but not main roads, so wherever possible we drove into residential areas to pick up and drop off the kids. Which seems to be something the school district in Indiana should have done; the residents of the mobile home development where those kids lived have been asking the school district to move the bus stop from the main road to a point inside the development for at least three years.

Airlines, railroads, and trucking companies have a long history of not making safety improvements until there’s blood on the ground. I’m afraid the military is guilty of the same thing, so it’s no surprise school districts follow the same policy.

When I was a school bus driver, having a kid injured or killed on my watch was the thing that kept me up nights. It wouldn’t have mattered whose fault it was, whether it was a drunk or distracted driver blowing past my extended stop sign and flashing red lights, or a lightning bolt out of nowhere … I’d still have felt responsible. I can’t imagine what the school bus drivers from this week’s carnage are going through, never mind the families of the children who have been killed or maimed. The drivers? Their lives are ruined, and that’s only right. I don’t give a fart in hell why they were distracted. It was their fucking job to pay attention behind the wheel. And the hit-and-runner? There is no punishment severe enough for that.

Damn, I could use some cheering up now. This always helps:

That’s the haps at Paul’s Thing. More soon.


Sunday Bag o’ Tricks & Treats

IMG_7117I don’t pretend to know what’s going to happen in the November mid-term elections. Change depends on Democrats and progressives turning out to vote. We know Trump’s base is motivated and eager to keep Republicans in power. We can overwhelm them easily … but not if we stay home. I mailed in an early ballot; I hope you too have already voted, or plan to on Election Day.

Speaking of the base, aka the deplorables (thank you, Hillary Clinton, for that insightful and accurate contribution to our political vocabulary), I have to wonder: when we were children, learning the values that would guide our adult lives, were a third of our schoolmates secretly thinking things like “screw bravery and standing up for what’s right, I’m going to be a sniveling coward when I grow up,” or “it’s always better to lie than tell the truth”? Probably not, but somewhere along the way they changed. There’s no getting them back; they live in the Upside Down now. The difference today is that they have a fellow deplorable in the White House.

The 30% have always been with us, and they’ve always been willing to resort to violence. In the wake of last week’s Florida mail bomber and yesterday’s synagogue killings in Pittsburgh, fears are growing of a dark new Trump-fostered trend toward racial, political, and religious violence. There’s nothing new about this kind of violence. Whether it’s on the increase remains to be seen. It’s certainly true that Trump encourages it, and as of yesterday has threatened to amp up the hate.

When we lived in Honolulu, I went out on a small rental sailboat with my brother-in-law John and a friend who’d just earned his sailing certificate. We were five miles off Waikiki when the clamps holding the rudder to the stern of the boat came off. The seas were three to five feet and our little boat, now uncontrollable, began to swirl about in circles. We quickly took down the sail to keep the wind from capsizing us, and after failing to find the emergency radio that should have been aboard but wasn’t, we found a sea anchor to trail behind us, holding the boat relatively steady. Eventually we located the Very pistol (thank goodness whoever had taken the radio hadn’t taken that too). We shot off a flare and a good samaritan in a powerboat motored out to us and towed us in to the Ala Moana Yacht Club.

I don’t have a high opinion of presidents in general, but I didn’t appreciate the importance of the leadership they provide until Trump took office and there wasn’t any. Since January 2017, the country has been without a rudder, swirling uncontrollably, reacting to every wave and current that hits it. Who’s in charge? Not the market. Not Congress. Not anybody that I can see. Taking back Congress next month can act as a sea anchor, holding us steady in the water until 2020, when we can elect a real president to start steering the boat again.

Ed, my friend and motorcycle maintenance guru, has long wanted to replace the steering head bearings, anti-dive valve, and throttle cables on my Honda Goldwing, so earlier this month I rode it over to his garage. I had a free day before leaving on a trip back east but we didn’t get everything done, mainly because the throttle cables I ordered hadn’t yet arrived, so I left it at his place. Ed took the bike apart while I was gone; when I got back we installed the cables, replaced the forks, and finished putting everything back together. I rode it home … only to turn around and ride it back, because it had a slight weave it didn’t have before. Ed test rode it and identified the problem right away. That’s fixed now, but there were some other things he didn’t like and the long and short of it is it’s still up on the stand in his garage. More parts are coming and later this week we should have everything sorted out, but I had to drop out of a group motorcycle ride I’d planned to lead today.

Here’s my poor Honda at the height (depth?) of the project: fairings, panels, and windscreen removed; front wheel, forks, and handlebars off; electrics disconnected; fuel tank lifted in order to get to parts underneath; gosh knows what else. At one point we even had to drain and remove one of the radiators to get to the bottom end of the throttle cables.

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There’s not a bit of free space inside the guts of these machines … every cubic centimeter is occupied by valves, electronic controls, pipes and hydraulic lines, sensors, relays, and thick bundles of wires. You have to take parts off in a particular order to get a screwdriver or wrench in there, and a hand? Good luck! It’s surgical, and most intimidating.

Between wrenching sessions in Ed’s garage, I’ve been restoring our back yard and patio to order now the painting’s done, getting reacquainted with Anytime Fitness, riding the bicycle, working at the air museum, and catching up with blogging.

I left our Kindle on a plane in Las Vegas. I filed a lost item report with Southwest, but after getting five “sorry, we can’t find it” emails over five days, broke down and ordered a replacement from Amazon, at the same time deactivating the lost one. Naturally SWA wrote the very next day, telling me they’d found it … but wanted more than twenty bucks to mail it back to me; even more for express shipping. Well, I guess they can keep my old one, which shouldn’t work anyway now that Amazon bricked it.

In an uncanny coincidence, I picked up our Nook to take to the gym two mornings ago and discovered it no longer works. It won’t open, and I can’t reboot it. It’s the one model they made where the user couldn’t replace the battery; I’d have to mail it to Barnes & Noble to have it fixed, and I bet that would cost more than it’s worth, especially since we have Nook apps on our iPad and iPhones and can still read the ebooks we own.

It’s almost Halloween, my birthday, but the money I was going to spend on myself this year … probably next year as well … went toward motorcycle parts and a replacement Kindle.

Our neighbors, the Griswolds (not their real name), go all-in for holidays, Halloween most definitely included, and this year put up both an inflatable Darth Vader and a Minion holding a jack o’lantern. Here are the dogs checking them out this morning: everything’s cool when you’re on mom’s lap all safe in the car, but I guarantee the first time I walk Mr. B up the Griswold’s street and a breeze lifts Darth Vader’s cape he’ll jump right out of his skin.


It’s good to be home and blogging again. It’ll be even gooder if we take Congress back in a couple of weeks. Dare I get my hopes up? Vote, damnit!


2018 Tucson Classics Car Show Photoblog

IMG_3906I post photos from the Tucson Classics Car Show every October. Looking back at older posts, I see most are simply titled “Car Show Photoblog.” Which makes it hard to tell car shows and years apart, since I also post photos of two other annual car shows, the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale and the Collector Car Show on the golf course at Tubac. I’ll try to do better on titles, starting with this post.

This year’s Tucson Classics Car Show was held, as always, on the grounds of the Gregory School in Tucson. Every year the show seems more crowded. Now I have a touch of crowd agoraphobia anyway, but I can suck it up when I have to. It is irritating, though, when people keep wandering into my viewfinder, blocking the objects of my desire.

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Worst are the clumps of old coots who insist on standing right in front of this or that car while swapping long stories about the days when they drove similar ones … look, Nostalgia Man, every swinging dick in his 70s drove a 1950s car back in the day.

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Except for thoughts like that, which I keep to myself, I’m polite and patient. Eventually the rubberneckers will move on and I’ll get my photo. Others are not, like one guy who was actually barking at the lookie-loos: “Can you move? Trying to get a photo here.” Jostling and shoving is not a problem, as it is at Barrett-Jackson … but it’s getting there. For room to breathe, the car show at Tubac is my favorite; Gregory School is second, B-J is utterly hellish (so bad I actually skipped it last January).

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Over the years I’ve lost interest in identifying cars I shoot at these shows, unless they’re of particular interest to me. So the photos here, and in the main collection on Flickr, are unlabeled. Hardcore types will know what they’re looking at anyway. I don’t need to know the specific year and model of a car, or the horsepower and displacement of an engine. I appreciate the art of these beautiful old automobiles; that’s enough for me.