Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Move Before They Raise The Parking Rate

Detroit continues on its downward spiral, and the downward spiral is even reaching the parking department.

The Detroit Free Press: $45 for expired meter? Detroit's parking ticket plan sparks outrage

Tickets for an expired meter in Detroit would jump from $20 to $45 under Orr’s plan. And the $10 discount for paying tickets early would be eliminated. Violations that now trigger a $30 ticket, such as double parking and blocking a driveway, would increase to $45. If those tickets and the expired-meter tickets are paid a month late or more, fines would increase to $65.

City officials said an increase would be justified because Detroit hasn’t raised fines in more than a decade. They also said current fines are too low because it costs the city more than $30 to process a parking ticket.

So, instead of the obvious solution of increasing efficiency so it doesn't cost an outrageous $32 to process a $20 ($10 if paid early) ticket, like other cities seem able to handle, the solution is instead to just raise the ticket costs. Between that and half of the parking meters not working in the first place, it's a surefire solution to Detroit's revenue ills.

After all, raising the price of parking tickets will clearly help revitalize Detroit by making more people want to come and park and enjoy events there, right?

The change will make Detroit the third most expensive for fines, behind San Francisco at $75 and Chicago at $65 but ahead of Seattle at $44 and Philadelphia at $36. Let's face it, both Seattle and Philly have a lot more attractions than Detroit, as do San Fran and Chicago. Raising parking rates to match doesn't enhance Detroit's attractiveness.

No one ever said "If You Fine Them More To Park, They Will Come". They don't say it for good reason, no matter the wishful thinking among Detroit's officials.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Toronto Trip Report

Let's start this off with a shot of Toronto's iconic skyline:

The view from my mother-in-law's apartment is darn nice. On a clear day you can even see the lake in addition to the CN Tower.

Looking down eight stories from the balcony isn't too bad even for most acrophobes. When I pointed out that I regularly dive 80 feet down, no big deal, no problem, the family suddenly realized that 80 feet underwater isn't a small distance.

As part of this trip, we took my Mother-In-Law and ourselves went to Honest Ed's. Think a discount/dollar store that takes up an entire city block. Honest Ed's has everything from hats to mugs to prescription drugs in one place surrounded by old theater posters and pictures of stars from a bygone era. Sadly, this Toronto landmark is going to close in December 2016 so if you've never shopped for shlock until you drop, you've got a closing window of opportunity.

One of the mugs Honest Ed's had featured the closest thing Canadians get to a Gun Show these days. I saw this mug and immediately thought of Tam:

The trip also consisted of, as is usual, my on-site tech support calls for both my Mother-in-Law and my Dad in the computer and audio/visual departments. I'm working on turning Abby and Leah into my tech support minions and they were quite helpful with my Mother-In-Law for explaining how to work her new replacement TV and existing DVD player after I had it setup and working.

On a sadder note, the brutal cold winter has taken a severe toll.

My Dad and step-mom live in a nice 100-year-old house in midtown, and one day while they were away, the boiler shut down and then the water froze in the radiators and then cracked them, leading to a flood resulting in the home being stripped down to the boards and walls.

Now, mind you, they are nice 100-year-old boards with no particle board to be seen but the house is currently uninhabitable and a lot of stuff got flooded to destruction. This is extremely bad.

Also revealed was the extensive knob and tube wiring that while sure not up to code now served the house well all this time. Now that its revealed it will all have to be replaced to get up to code.

The structure of the house is still rock solid, but they're looking at a solid 6-9 months to get it restored, renovated, and up to habitable conditions, not to mention lots of expected battles with the insurance co along the way.

This also gave us accommodation issues as we normally stay with them and my Mother-In-Law's one bedroom apartment doesn't have space for 4 of us to stay there with her. There was a guest room in her apartment building that we rented which was unfortunately a big mistake in retrospect. The kids stayed on the floor in a "fort" in the apartment, while we occupied the guest room. The room was small with two single beds that if you shifted in any direction you'd fall out of bed.

Worse, the room was right by the front entrance and lobby so you heard every noise of people coming and going.

Even worse, this is an apartment of predominantly elderly residents. Elderly residents that thought it was a great thing to have loud conversations for hours sitting in the lobby starting at 4 am and loudly carrying on continuously until 6 am or so.

In short, in five days we had very interrupted sleep. Another downside is she has no internet service so I was out of touch most of this week except for the occasional visit to a coffee shop to feed my caffeine and wi-fi addictions simultaneously.

Yesterday, we headed over to my aunt and uncle's place for the first night of Passover and had a very nice time catching up with family and meeting our newest cousin - a cute six month old baby name Sophie.

Unfortunately, we received reports that the storm was moving in and so instead of staying another night, we jumped in the car and headed home, hitting a fair bit of the storm at the end of the trip but at least not driving through it all the way, leading to the picture from my recent post of our arrival at the house at 1:51 am this morning along with plenty of fresh global warming.

So yes, I'm rather tired at the moment. Now I'm busy catching up at work for the time I was in Toronto, and now Im having the fun of having a power outage at the office caused by the storm. What fun.

Overall, the Toronto trip was good but the lack of sleep and seeing the wrecked house were definite let-downs to a family gathering.

A Spring And A Miss . . . . .

And so, spring gave summer and autumn a miss and went straight back to winter.

There now stands quite a few inches of snow on the ground as we awoke after being exhausted from our midnight dash from Toronto homeward.

On the upside, we officially just beat the record to have the snowiest winter in the area ever with 94.8 inches of snow. So there's that.

The Detroit News: Metro Detroit breaks seasonal snowfall record

At least I can now say I made it through the snowiest, and not the second snowiest, winter in recorded history of the Detroit area. This is a good thing because saying you suffered through the second snowiest winter in recorded history is like winning the participation prize at the race - you may have showed up but you sure didn't win.

Al Gore Can Go Suck It

It was a lovely journey back home tonight from Toronto with lots of freezing rain and snow to make the drive back extra pleasant.

Global Warming my foot:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blood Moon On Taxing Tuesday

Tomorrow is April 15, otherwise UN-fondly labelled Tax Day.

So it's only right that we get some astrological signs and portents for such an inauspicious day:

The Detroit Free Press: Blood moon eclipse on April 15 first in rare lunar phenomenon

A blood moon on the day when taxpayers are asked to squeeze blood from a stone to pay for the government's insatiable need for their money.

Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

And Another Home Invasion In Detroit Stopped Dead in Its Tracks

In what is becoming quite the pattern, Detroit's home invaders are finding out that residents are fighting back quite effectively against them.

The Detroit News: Detroit homeowner shoots 2 suspects during break-in attempt; 1 dead

One person is dead and another wounded after they were shot while allegedly trying to break into a home on the city’s west side early Wednesday morning.

According to police, the incident occurred in the 19100 block of Asbury Park, in an area between Seven Mile and Cambridge.

The unidentified male homeowner fired on the pair after the suspects tried to enter after breaking a window, police said.

It's getting to be quite a noticeable trend that home invaders are coming to a bad end in Detroit.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Zen And The Need For Dive Gear Maintenance

As the ice melts, a diver's mind turns to the need for the annual inspection of their dive tanks and maintenance on the dive gear.

Tanks need to be inspected annually in order to be certified to be refilled at dive shops, and they're hydrostatically tested every five years. Luckily this was not a hydro year and all I got dinged for was the annual and the annual O2 cleaning of the tanks that allows for them to be filled with Nitrox mixes, mixes that have a higher oxygen percentage than standard air.

O2 cleaning removes any impurities or hydrocarbons from the tank and makes sure only oxygen rated parts are used. Hydrocarbons and 100% oxygen do not mix - or rather they do mix, and very violently.

After passing inspection and being cleaned, the tanks were given a new sticker and they're good to go.

Also, my regulators had their annual maintenance and the annual wear parts replacement. Regulators do have parts that wear out,and replacing the high-wear parts on an annual basis can prevent a nasty surprise when you're 100 feet below the surfaceand your regulator decides to keep flowing after you'd prefer it had stopped. Regular maintenance helps prevent nasty surprises. One surprise found was a small tear in the rubber mouthpiece of the regulator that I had not seen. It was replaced with a fresh piece before any serious failure could occur, and all is well. This is life support equipment after all. Take care of it, and it will take care of you.

Picking up my gear I found a problem. The Phantom hi-pressure hose, the hose that connects from the left tank valve to the pressure gauge developed a leak and had to be replaced. This hose, made of braided Kevlar rather than rubber is nice because its a lot more flexible than the ol' rubber hose and makes for a very flexible pressure gauge that's easy to get to and swing around the arm and stage tanks for easy reading. This is the first Phantom hose I've had that has failed, if this happens again, I'm going back to the standard rubber hose as those have never failed me.

With the hose broken, the hose gave an evil hiss of escaping air and when closing the valve from the tank, the air would leave through the hose and the pressure gauge it was attached too then looked like this:

Now, a high pressure hose leak is not something to panic about if you're underwater as the air escapes quite slowly through it and you have tons of time to deal with the issue, unlike a low pressure hose where it comes gushing out when it bursts, and even when an LP hose goes, you still shouldn't panic but instead work your options namely calling the dive and making a slow ascent if you're on a single tank, or closing the valve to that tank if you're on doubles and calling the dive accordingly. Still, it's not something you want to deal with before you even get in the water, so it needed to be replaced.

After replacement, it would hold pressure and the gauge gave a much happier reading:

Regular preventative maintenance for life support equipment, whether its dive gear or guns or anything else your life may depend on makes a lot of sense.

Don't wait until you need it to think that you really should have had been maintaining it properly.

Oh, and for those who are curious, here's a humorous video demonstrating the difference in failures of a high-pressure and a low-pressure SCUBA hose underwater.

After all, as the text accompanying the video says:

"If you want to kill a scuba diver, should you cut the high pressure hose, or the regulator hose?

You don't want a scuba accident to go wrong - this video will show you the best hose to cut!":

Monday, April 07, 2014

Crime and Taxes

Just finished and filed my taxes. After hours of getting all the information in accurately, we ended up owing and paying more this year even though we earned less, which is always a real pleasure.

Meanwhile in Detroit, a couple Detroiters are caught doing some crime with taxes.

The Detroit Free Press: Detroit mom, son get prison for filing false tax returns

A mother and son were sentenced to federal prison Thursday for bilking the government of more than $1 million by filing hundreds of false tax returns, including some for dead people.

Valerie Butler, 48, of Detroit was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Her son Garry Young Jr., 25, also of Detroit, was sentenced to serve a year and a day.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn also ordered them to pay nearly $1.1 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Butler and Young pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to obtain payment of a claim against the U.S. government.

According to court records, the scam started in 2009 when Butler and Young conspired to file 299 false returns that generated refunds of more than $1 million, which they deposited into bank accounts they controlled. Butler and Young tried to hide their involvement by failing to sign the returns as preparers.

No records as to whether they also voted for the dead people as well as filing their taxes.

That they only got eighteen months and 366 days respectively for bilking the government of over a million dollars, not to mention impersonating taxpayers while doing so means they got off rather lightly.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Your Sunday Walmart Ammo Report

The sun is shining, the snow is melting, it's getting warmer, so this means the opening of USPSA match season in Michigan and more range trips are in the near future. Range trips where I'm not thigh-deep in snow, and I'm looking forward to the change.

So on heading to Walmart, I had a chance to browse the shelves and hopefully pickup some needed ammo for restocking.

Unfortunately, both .22 LR and 9mm were completely out of stock, and tend to be so whenever I drop in to look for some.

There was however a decent quantity of 40 S&W in both 180 and 165 grain in 50 round boxes but no 100 round value packs.

Also present was a very sizable amount of 45 ACP, and a variety of 5.56 mm from cases of Turkish made (ZQ1) 62 grain to some Winchester 55 grain in boxes of 20. There was also some 7.62x39 and .357 about as well as the same few boxes of .270 that seem to have stayed in the same place for awhile now.

So I bought a few boxes of the 165 grain 40 S&W to feed my M&P 40 full-size and compact and went on my way.

9mm and .22 are both still hard to come by around here.