Thursday, February 04, 2016

Tim's Citroen

It's almost done!

Here it was in 2012.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

My next car: Acura TSX wagon

The Saab story has become a sob story. Three of the best Saab specialists in town can't figure out what's wrong with it. Repair estimates range from $3,100 to $5,000+, with no guarantees. Worse, the parts needed for said repair are nowhere to be found.

So, a new chapter. Something reliable. I'm going to get a 2014 TSX wagon tomorrow or Friday. It's white.

Eazy E in 1989, Venice Beach

High resolution moon surface shot

From that Chinese moon rover.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Iowa: Day 4 + Election Results Postscript

I wanted to beat the snow storm so I left Iowa a day early. Unfortunately, I was going to miss the caucus process Monday night.

I drove two hours to Des Moines, mostly through icy fog. I highly recommend two of the podcasts I listened to during the boring drive. The first is an interview of a journalist who has covered every Middle East war since 1973. The second is an interview of New York Times food critic Pete Wells.

I grabbed a quick lunch at this "Chinese" joint next to the airport. I had overdosed on pork during this trip but I just had to try their bacon egg roll. It was surprisingly funky, in a good way. I had imagined an entire slice of bacon wrapped inside the egg roll, but it was actually little bits peppered in the edible delivery device.

At a table next to mine was a nice older lady. We got to talking and I learned that she was going to be a Hillary precinct captain on caucus night. Despite all the vitriol and bad blood, I quickly realized that in the grand scheme of things, we are on the same side. We really need to talk to and socialize with people with different points of view. Hanging out with partisans who agree with you 100% of the time is neither productive nor healthy.

On the flight to my Vegas layover, I read a sad but uplifting article in the airline magazine(!) about a Navajo woman who delivers fresh water to reservation residents.

I had a three hour layover in Vegas and my mother took me to this authentic Chinese restaurant right next to the airport. I highly recommend it if you have a few hours to burn between connections. Having had no real vegetables for three days, I ate every green-looking thing on the table.

A final note about the trip. Somehow, my boarding passes said I got assigned to TSA Pre-Check. It was incredibly convenient. There were no lines, and I didn't have to take off my shoes or stand in that see-me-nude machine. I'm going to sign up for it. It made the airport experience infinitely better.

A final final note. I was and am conflicted. I realize that I was essentially a caucus tourist. Though my motives were sincere-- I wanted substantive change in the political process and wanted to make this country a better place for the poor and middle class-- this was essentially a vacation. I treated Iowa like an exotic destination and marveled at the foreign ways the people there lived and ate. I do not feel good about it.

Did Bernie win, lose, or draw? Officially, Hillary won 699.57 county delegates to Sanders's 697.77. The county where I worked, Black Hawk County, went for Sanders 53%-47%. The arcane rules and imperfect hand counting led to a less-than-ideal result. Six delegates-- SIX-- were determined by coin tosses. Hillary won all six.

American democracy at work, ladies and gentlemen!

Post postscript:
Among Democratic voters ages 17 to 29, Bernie won 84% to 14%.

So was it a win, lose, or draw for Bernie?

Monday, February 01, 2016

Iowa: Day 3

Day 3 was interesting.

I learned that after the Bosnian war, around 4,000 Muslims were re-located to Waterloo, Iowa. The local meat processing plant was short on skilled labor and a bunch of the refugees came from a region of livestock farmers. It was a perfect fit.

I found a Bosnian bakery that was open early on Sunday. I didn't see any unrecognizable baked goods, so I picked up this bag of Smoki. It's like Cheetos, but tastes like bland peanuts. It's made in Serbia. I also got a bottle of Cockta (because I'm 14), a Slovenian soda. It tasted like licorice.

Day 3 was a big day. Bernie was in town. The building on the left houses the Waterloo campaign headquarters. They blocked off a big parking space for his bus. The rally was conveniently set to take place at the convention center across the street. Trump will be at the same convention center on Monday.

But before the 2pm rally, I had more doors to knock. I drove 30 minutes east to Independence (population 6,000). It's the county seat of Buchanan County (population 21,000). The conditions were atrocious. I couldn't walk on the street because of traffic. I couldn't walk on the sidewalks because they were covered with ice. I knocked on 18 doors before getting back in the car to help set up for the rally. In Independence, I spotted two yard signs and they were both Bernie signs.

A couple of side notes. On the way to Independence, I got passed by this Corvette covered with a Rand Paul vinyl wrap.

And in the town of Independence, I drove by a used car dealership that had 36 Impalas in stock. The dealership only had 37 cars.

When I got back, the C-Span van was parked in front of the convention center. Other political celebrities I saw: Congressman Keith Ellison (shorter in person), Joe Klein of Time (ruder in person), and Joe Johns of CNN (had big feet).

Those white tables in the foreground were for the press. There were two banks of cameras. My job was to sign attendees in and hand them stickers and signs. I greeted journalists from Spain, Japan, and some random Central European country.

The media estimated attendance to be between 650 to 1,100. I would ballpark it at around 750. They were young and old. Down-and-out to upper middle class. I saw someone from every ethnic group, but the crowd was overwhelmingly white. The state, after all, is 91.3% white.

And here's the Man of the Hour. I've heard his speeches before, so I didn't learn anything new. I was just blown away by the enthusiasm of the crowd. People waited outside, two hours before the doors opened. Bernie, by the way, sounded just like Larry David doing a George Steinbrenner impersonation.

I ended the day with a late lunch/early dinner. This pork fritter sandwich was from the same place as where I got the pork tenderloin sandwich two days ago. But it wasn't as good. Note the tiny green speck of lettuce on the pork.

And here was a sign hanging next to my table.

Sadly, I am leaving a day early and so I won't be here to witness the caucus on Monday night. A huge snow storm is coming Tuesday morning. If I stay as scheduled, I am going to be stuck in Iowa for at least a day or two. I've got to go home.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Iowa: Day 2

Working on a campaign is a young person's sport. After a day of knocking on doors followed by a bit of data entry, I am beyond exhausted. When I left the campaign office at 7:30, the young people there (about 30 to 40 of them) were still as amped as could be. Then again, my food choices today were far from optimal.

Breakfasts here are a little different. They use slices of American cheese everywhere. There's a slice in that Denver omelet. I was offered a slice on top of the hash browns. I demurred. The potatoes were actually pretty good. The waitress proudly told me that she grated them fresh earlier this morning.

The diner was next door to Martin O'Malley's campaign office. It was sad to see just two guys in there, sitting on the couch, sullen and hopeless.

I knocked on 64 doors today. That was a lot of walking. It got up to 46 degrees this afternoon, which was quite balmy. After every couple of hours, I would drive to a local gas station for a bottle of water and to take a piss. I came across this 1986 VW Quantum Syncro on my way to a gas station break. That's a steep price tag.

For lunch, I tried Maid Rite loose meat sandwiches. I ordered way too much. One sandwich was enough. I also got deep fried mushrooms with ranch dressing. And that huge Pepsi. After an entire afternoon, I only drank 20% of it.

They serve the sandwich with a spoon.

I took this picture on the way back to the hotel. Tomorrow, Sanders will be here. The caucus is on Monday at 7 p.m. A huge storm that will bring 18 inches of snow is coming Tuesday morning. If it shows up early, the caucus will be chaotic.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Iowa: Day 1

Today was a long and educational day. It started with this video. David Brock runs a Clinton Super PAC and has been spreading rumors to make Sanders look bad. A generation ago, Brock was a conservative and wrote a book that destroyed the reputation of Anita Hill, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. 

It's kind of amusing to see Sanders so pissed off:

I landed last night at 11:00 in Des Moines, Iowa's capital. This morning, every TV commercial was either for or against a presidential candidate. I feel really sorry for Iowa residents. I bet they can't wait for all this to be over next week.

I then drove two hours to Waterloo. The landscape was flat and desolate. It was around 28 degrees for much of the day.

My job was to knock on the doors of Democrats and to encourage them to go caucus on Monday evening. I knocked on almost 60 doors. It took much longer than I anticipated. Based on this very small sampling, I would guess that Hillary and Sanders are tied right now.

I saw a lot of Pontiacs and Saturns. A lot.

I ended the day with a pork tenderloin sandwich, Iowa's specialty. The restaurant is a local institution. Not a single hipster or millennial was in sight and I was the only out-of-towner. I had pre-judged the clientele and assumed they were all Republicans. I was wrong. Every table was talking about Bernie. At the table next to mine, a 50 year old lady was taking her "Vietnam Vet" baseball cap-wearing father to dinner. She was reminiscing about voting for Dennis Kucinich (remember him?!)

I suspect that I'll be knocking on more doors tomorrow. On Sunday, Sanders will be holding a rally in town. I'll be there!