Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review - Western Star

This is Craig Johnson's latest episode of the Longmire saga. The plot flips back and forth between present day and the early days back when Walt was a new deputy.

The Western Star was the name of a steam engine that was the vehicle for a sheriffs junket where new hire  Longmire was the junior attendee. There is a murder during the train ride and Walt works at solving it. The other side of the plot in present day is Walt worrying about the parole hearing of a murderer that he put away years ago. Of course, the two stories are connected.

I won't give away the ending but I will say that it is a monster cliff hanger and I hope that Mr. Johnson doesn't get hit by a bus so he can resolve it in the next book.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review - Two Nights

Kathy Reichs has introduced a new character. It is a damaged female ex-Marine, ex-cop living in seclusion on an island who has the odd name of Sunday Night. She is hired to find the granddaughter of an elderly rich woman. The rest of the granddaughter's family was killed in a terrorist bombing and the woman is offering a bounty on the four terrorists responsible, dead or alive. This leads Sunday on a cross country chase ending at the Kentucky Derby.

The book is fast paced with short dialog sections. The writing style reminds me of Robert Parker and I see Sunday Night as a dark version of Sunny Randall. This is well worth the time and a little different from Reichs' normal genre.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Harvey and the Logistics of Recovery

So far, all of the focus has been on rescue and there has been little news about the recovery yet to come. Here are some lessons I saw after Katrina.

White Goods: This is the generic term for large appliances. They will all have to picked up and disposed of. The worst of these will be the refrigerators. Most people, when faced with a refrigerator full of rotten food, will simply duct tape the door shut and drag it to the street. It will be left to the recycler to muck it out. Before it can be crushed, all the refrigerant will need to be removed lest it pollute the air. Imagine doing that to 250,000+ refrigerators.

Cars: After Katrina, the city put out a bid to auto recyclers to collect and crush the thousands of cars that were submerged. There has to be a place to store all these cars (my estimate - 500,000) while they wait to be crushed. Most of them were stored under the elevated highway and they became a magnet for the homeless who lived in them. And before you can crush them, you need to drain the fluids and suck the refrigerant out of the air conditioning system. It is a very labor intensive operation. And I imagine someone had to keep track all the VIN numbers.

Some of the flooded cars will be cleaned up and sold in other parts of the country. Be very cautious if you plan to buy a used car in the next year.

Building Material: The clean up will generate a massive amount of sheetrock, wood scrap, Insulation, furniture and other miscellaneous building materials. These will all have to collected and carted off to a land fill. The debris from Katrina severely stressed the capacity of the local landfill, even after shredding.

The bright spot is that the recovery will generate the need for a lot of low skilled dirty jobs. After Katina, a friend of mine in California complained that all the farm workers were going to Louisiana to find work. One of the things there were doing was mucking out  an industrial freezer in the Port of New Orleans with tons of rotten chicken. My comment was that anytime they preferred to work cleaning out rotten chicken in 100 degree heat to picking apples, they weren't being paid enough.

It will also generate a demand for material for new construction. New Orleans had a very bad experience with Chinese sheetrock. Beware of cheap construction material, especially anything from China.

In New Orleans, they took the park along Westend Blvd and used it store all the trash from the storm. This was an area over 100 feet wide and a couple of miles long. The different categories of trash were stacked 50 feet high while it waited for the shredder. Houston is going to be one giant trash pile for a while.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Head Count

Murder and drugs were the cause of the death sentences for 15 people in Saudi Arabia. Their heads were lopped off in public executions. The year to date head count is now 78.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Offshore Adventures - The Ferry

I was laying a pipeline in the shallow waters of Mobile Bay. We were using conventional bucket dredges on cranes sitting on barges to dig the trench and we were storing the dredge spoil in temporary piles along the route.

When the phone rings late at night it is never good news. "We knocked out the ferry", was the message I got and I was quickly on the road.

The Mobile Bay Ferry is link between the southern sides of the bay and is quite busy in the summer. Our construction was causing him to deviate from his normal route and it was taking him a little longer per trip. The captain decided to take a short cut but, unfortunately, it was over one of our spoil piles and he didn't have the depth he needed. The ferry propulsion is from 2 thruster pods that have vertical drive shafts (like an outboard motor) but they can swivel 360 degrees. They hang below the hull and the lower section is designed to break away in the event of a collision. It functioned as advertised when the ferry ran into our spoil pile.

Needless to say, things were a little tense for a while and it took several days for the ferry to get his replacement shaft.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Harvey

This is the NOAA 7 day rain totals predicted for Hurricane Harvey. I sure hope that New Orleans gets their pumps working soon. But I guess it was more important to remove statues than maintain the pumping system.

[Image of WPC QPF U.S. rainfall potential]

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Head Count

I have been remiss in keeping you up to date with the Head Count. his is probably because the KSA did not execute anybody in June due to Ramadan. Not to worry they made up for it in July by beheading 30 people - a number almost equal to their previous 5 months. Year to date total now stands at 63.

Book Review - Dawn of Infamy

I've enjoyed books by Stephen Harding before and this story about a long forgotten ship sinking on December 7, 1941 caught my attention. The story is about a small freighter carrying a load of lumber to Hawaii that was sunk within minute of the attack on Pearl Harbor and may have preceded the actual attack there. The ship sank without a trace and the crew vanished. What happened to them is one of the mysteries of the war.

Unfortunately, Harding goes into too much detail and turns what could have been in intriguing mystery into a long slog of details. He devotes the first 100 pages to a history of the vessel, it's various owners, details of the military contract under which it operated and biographies of each crew member no matter how trivial. He then describes the sinking in a few pages and follows that with the personal stories of the families who tried to recover insurance.

He ends with a series of speculations as what happened but falls back on the obvious - a crew in life boats on the open ocean have a good chance of dying from starvation and will likely be lost forever.

If you are really into the minutia of a small side issue to Pearl Harbor, you may enjoy this but I did not.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review - The Late Show

Michael Connelly has developed a new character and she is awesome. Renee Ballard is a surfer/detective who is assigned to the night shift as the result of a harassment claim. She works by night and then paddle boards and sleeps in a tent on the beach during the day. She is following two cases. One was the beating of a transgendered man and the other is a mass shooting at a night club. She has a prickly personality and most other cops don't want to work with her as she tests the edge of the envelope of the police department regulations. Think of her as Bosch with a tan and surf board.

This book reads like an instruction manual for navigating the police system in LA and it will hold you attention. Another excellent read by Michael Connelly.

Friday, August 11, 2017

New Shooter Report

Youngest grandson is entering 8th grade. He is joining NJROTC. They have a rifle team and he went yesterday for his first practice shoot. (They use air rifles but then so does the Olympics) He has never fired a rifle before except for Nerf guns. He outscored everyone else and scored a 10 ring in the offhand position. I think we have a natural.

P.S. - His great grandfather was part of the cadre at this same school back in the 40s.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review - The Fallen

Ace Atkins is back with his latest Quinn Colson novel. Quinn is back as sheriff. He has to deal with a band of bank robbers in Trump masks hitting the local banks with military precision and his sister is stirring up the local underground by trying to find 2 young girls who may be victims of human trafficking.

As you may know, Ace ghost writes the Spenser series since Robert Parker died. He was a journalist in Tampa before he started writing books in 1998.

This book is not very suspenseful but the story will keep you interested. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ozark

It's not often that I recommend a show on TV but "Ozark" is one. A Netflix production in 10 episodes, it stars Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Bateman plays an accountant who was laundering money for a drug cartel. When his partner was caught skimming and he had to talk fast to avoid being killed. His deal was to move to Lake of the Ozarks where he told the cartel boss he could easily launder millions plus pay back the money his partner stole.

But Missouri has a group of colorful characters that can be as dangerous as the cartel and he has to negotiate these people and a rogue FBI agent all while dealing with an unfaithful wife and teenage problems. It is thoroughly entertaining.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Offshore Adventures - The Sinking

It was my first project for a major oil company. I joined them after several years with other companies so I had some experience with working offshore but sometimes the unexpected happens. We were laying a pipeline in about 200 feet of water and I was on board as the project engineer. We had a spell of bad weather and had to drop the pipe and head in to shallower water where we anchored for the night. Our tug boat was tied off to us and streaming with the current. It was nice to have the luxury of a full nights sleep so I turned in and fell asleep to the rocking of the barge.

I got up the next morning and, as was my habit, took a look outside to check the weather and activity.

Something was missing.

"Where is the tug?" I asked a deckhand that was loitering on the rail. "It sank." he replied. Thinking that this was just his way of hazing the new engineer, I kept a straight face and went to the galley for coffee.

And there I saw four very wet and bedraggled looking guys that had been the tug boat crew.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Project Creep

Most managers know project creep. I am dealing with it now. It started when our 34 year old electric, downdraft cook top died. Dead short in the electrical system. Of course there was no way a current cook top was going to drop into the same space. That lead to the decision to pull the base cabinet and replace it with a gas range. Problem is there was no gas line or a vent hood.

We ended up having to run a dedicated circuit for the vent hood. Luckily, we were able to use an existing air conditioning fir down to put the vent piping in next to the air con duct. Luck number 2 was being able to use the old chase for the downdraft vent for the new gas feed. The house was pretty crazy for a few days while workmen cut and banged away to bring in the new hook ups while we waited for delivery of the new range. My big concern was getting it into the kitchen as we needed to make two 90 degree turns around the center island to get it into place. I made a cardboard cut out of the range and made several dry runs with my paper doll cut out testing how it could make the turns.

Short story is that, although the delivery guys were inexperienced, my contractor arrived with some moving dollys and we successfully negotiated the turns to get it in place.

Now this work, triggered by a necessity, is leading to a kitchen remodel including new cabinet doors and counter tops.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

PT 305

The PT 305 is afloat near Lakefront Airport (KNEW). She has been named "USS Sudden Jerk". This was the name given to her by her plank owner crew after she had a jolt during a docking maneuver. She is available for deck tours and for rides if you are a recent lottery winner. This is the only operational combat veteran PT boat. She is credited with sinking 2 German lighter barges in the Mediterranean. The deck tour lasts 45 minutes and gives a detailed description of her operation and weapons systems.

About 20% of her is original. She was rebuilt over a period 10 years to her original design specs and construction techniques. She survived because the Navy brought European Theater PT boats back to the US in preparation for sending them to the Pacific. After the war she was a tour boat and an oyster dragger.


The wheel is an original wheel. Andrew Higgins, who built these boats, gave it to a friend from his surplus stock after the war and he displayed it on his mantle for years. As soon as he died, his wife, who hated it, donated it to the museum


Points for anyone who can identify this instrument.


It was tight quarters for her crew of 11.


Torpedo launch was roll off, not from a launcher. Deck rails are a modern safety requirement and not part of the original kit.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review - Dragon Teeth

Michael Crichton fans may rejoice over this novel......or not. This is a manuscript that was discovered after his death and has recently been published. In typical Crichton style, he mixes reality and science with fiction.The plot concerns a young Yale student  who goes to the west with an expedition to look for dinosaur bones in 1876. This was a period that was called the "bone wars" because of the rivalry between fossil hunters and our character is in the middle of it. The problem is that this book lacks the typical suspense one sees in a Crichton novel. The writing style is more typical of Robert Parker in his western novels. The pace is slow and while our protagonists meets with danger and various real characters of the era, there is no sense of suspense. I suspect Crichton fans will be disappointed.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Rows and Rows of Racing Cars

The Cite de l'Automobile has a section of nothing but race cars. They range from the early days to recent F1 cars. All of these cars have a history and have won races while driven by famous drivers. 






Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kilchoman Machir Bay

My wife and I were in one of our favorite Paris restaurants and were expecting the arrival of our 20 year old grandson the next day. We were texting with him and learned that his flight out of NOLa was delayed and he would have 20 minutes to make the connection in Atlanta. We were therefore a little stressed and I wanted something a little stronger. Our waiter brought me a glass of Kilchoman.

Kilchoman (pronounced Kil-ho-man) is the first distillery to be build on Islay in 125 years. It is also one of the smallest distilleries. It is based on a farm where it grows it's own barley and also practices floor malting. As it was built in 2005, their scotch has not had time to mature as long as other established distilleries. They offer 10 different scotches where the key difference is the type of barrel they are aged in.

Color: Pale
Nose: Peaty
Palate: Slight burn on the tongue, thin
Finish: Warm

The scotches from this distillery have won several awards but after looking up some pricing I think they are over rated and over priced. They need more time in the barrel to mature. It may take another 5 to 10 years before they have a scotch I would like to drink.

PS. He made the flight.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review - Little White Lies

I have said before that Ace Atkins is very good at emulating Robert Parker's writing style and this book is a great example. Spenser is hired to find a con man that stole several hundred thousand dollars from his fiance. The search leads him into a web of murder, gun running and evangelist preachers. Hawk is back and plays a prominent role in the investigation. if I say anything more about the story, I would be giving away some of the plot twists. Get it and read for yourself.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year Old

Balvenie is a Speyside distillery that prides itself on its hand crafting. For example, they turn the malt by hand. The 12 year old is one of their lower grades from their wide range of about 20 whiskys, some as old as 50 years old. This whiskey is aged in 2 types of barrels. It spends at least 12 years in American oak bourbon casks and is then transferred to Spanish oak sherry casks for another 9 months. The result is a very smooth and drinkable whiskey at a reasonable price.

Color: Medium amber
Nose: Sweet with sherry notes
Palate: Smooth and mellow
Finish: Long and warming

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beheaded 8 criminals during May. It was split 50/50 between murderers and drug charges and brings their year to date total to 33.

The month of June should be another low count as Ramadan has started and Islams likes to show mercy during this period.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Les Fleurs de la Memoire

This Memorial Day it seems appropriate to tell you about an organization in France that honors those who rest in the American Cemetery in Normandy. French citizens volunteer to put flowers on the grave of an adopted soldier. They commit to do this at least once per year and they hand down that obligation to their descendants. You can read about the organization here.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mystery Motorcycle

The Cite de l'Automobile has a section of childrens pedal cars known as The Jammet Collection. Included in the exhibit was this motorcycle. It appears to be a gas engine motorcycle but it's child size. It's listed as a 1955 Harley Davidson but the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee(I contacted them) does not have any information that H-D manufactured any toy sized motorcycles. Anybody know what it might be?


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Artist's Car

Paul Arzens (1903 - 1990) was a French artist with a passion for automobiles. He designed the two cars below. The "Whale" had a large trunk and he carried his art supplies in it when going to location. The "Egg" was his design for an electric compact car. He gained some notoriety for his designs of locomotives for the French rail company SNCF.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review - Golden Prey

This is the 27th in the "Prey" series.Lucas Davenport is now a US Marshall although the service is not quite sure where he fits and is a little upset that he was appointed to the position. He is on the hunt for a fugitive that is known for large scale robberies that include indiscriminate killings. In the latest, he has ripped off a large sum of money from a drug deal killing everyone in the process, including a child. The Marshalls want him but the drug dealers are after him as well. They have hired a contract killer and a torturer to find him. These two commit a series of brutal murders to gain information and seem to be one step ahead of Lucas.

This book has non stop action and introduces two new characters to team up with Lucas. Highly recommended and one of the best of the series.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Two Mercs

First we present the classic gull wing.


And this one may not be so familiar. Hitler had a contest to design the "people car". We all know that Ferdinand Porsche won that contest and gave us the VW. This was the Mercedes offering.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cite de l'Automobile

Cite de l'Automobile is the largest car museum in the world with over 400 vehicles on display. It is located in the town of Mulhouse near the Swiss border. It was started by Fritz Schlumpf who made, and lost, a fortune in the wool industry after WW 2. His passion was car collecting. He had a 40 man shop that reconditioned his cars. His hobby was too much of a drain on his business and he was in financial trouble. His private collection was unknown until striking workers broke into the building in 1977 and found the cars. He had to liquidate his collection to pay off his debts. France now owns the cars. This collection has the largest number of Bugattis in one location.

I tried to take pictures of some unique cars that included the description. 





This is a rear view of the Tatra. It had a rear mounted air cooled 3 liter V8. Because of it's aerodynamics, it got almost 19 mpg.







Friday, May 19, 2017

Bugatti - Type 57

Under the sheet metal view. 710 Type 57s were produced from 1934 to 1940. The sheet metal covering the frame was changed to produce several variants. This example was at the Cite des Automobile as part of the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse, France. A twin OHC straight 8 engine produced 135 HP giving it a top speed of 95 MPH.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Le Bourget - Post WW2 Military

This area has military aircraft from post WW 2. Plane spotters may see some familiar profiles. I was struck with the T6. evidently the French air force used them for spotting.






Friday, May 12, 2017

Alfa Romeo


15th and 16th Century German Firearms

Note the carved ivory powder flasks and inlay work. Guns were pretty then.





These are in the Musee de Beaux Arts in Dijon, France.

For the Sparkies

This is Ampere's apartment on Rue Monge.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017