Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Movie Review - Manchester by the Sea

I haven't been to too many movies lately because Hollywood is putting out too much crap. Also, the local theater is a hang out for young thugs so it has to be a good movie for me to go see it.

 Manchester by the Sea is a small town in Massachusetts on the coast and a little north of Boston. It's not quite to Gloucester but along the way there. I'm familiar with the area as I went to college in Boston and used to scuba dive off of Cape Ann. Enough of the personal history.....

Let me be straight up about this movie - it is NOT a feel good movie. It is a movie about personal tragedy and dealing with loss. as the trailers will tell you, Casey Affleck's character is called back to his hometown to become the guardian of his 15 year old nephew. The movie uses a series of flashbacks to tell you how he came to leave home and what happened to his brother. Some may say that the acting is stilted but to me it seemed that the characters acted exactly the way I would expect real people to. Because of that, the pace is a little slow and much of the emotional interplay is done with facial expressions and body language than dialog.

While the area can be picturesque, the story takes place in winter when the scenery is bleak and trees are bare which adds a depressing note to an already sad story line. The  characters are realistic. They do not live in chrome and glass beachfront houses but in wood frame mid century cookie cutter houses furnished with second hand furniture and cheap paneling. They are clearly people stuck in the low middle class who have little hope of improving circumstances who have to deal with real problems.

I think selecting Affleck was an excellent casting choice. He fits the part well and got a Golden globe nomination for Best Actor. Michelle Williams also got a Best Supporting Actress nomination but she was only on screen for less than 10 minutes out of a 2 hour movie so I thinks that is a stretch.

If you can handle a depressing movie with a good story line and decent acting, you may want to catch this one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve

I received this bottle as a Christmas present in 2010 and planned to open it after a Republican victory in 2012. That never happened but now I get a second chance.

The Lochnagar distillery became "Royal" after a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It is located conveniently close to Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands. The distillery is owned by Diageo who also provides us with Johnnie Walker, J&B, Guiness and other fine beverages. The non-select grades of this whiskey used to be the main component of Vat 69 and they now make up the base for Johnnie Walker Blue.

This version comes in a wooden presentation box but was discontinued in 2012.

Color: Dark amber. (Coloring may have been added)
Nose: Grass, Hay, Flowery
Palate: Smooth and sweet
Finish: Lingering and warming

This whiskey looks like it might be peaty but it is not. It has a unique sweetness to it that is different for scotch. It is also a fairly expensive whiskey so if someone offers you a dram, do not turn it down.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Louisiana Weather and Signs of the Times

We woke up Sunday to a balmy 71 degrees. By 11:00 AM there had been a 20 degree drop in temperature. By sundown, the drop was 30 degrees and we had horizontal rain.

I went to Sam's last week to "make groceries" and witnessed the store crew pulling down the aisle with Christmas decoration stuff. I guess they think everyone has done their decorating. I then went to Rouse's and what did I find at the front door?........King Cakes. If it's Christmas, can Mardi Gras be far behind?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review - Onslaught

This book continues the story about the war with China. Things are going hot and Dan has been ordered to lead a task force blocking part of the South China Sea and to provide ABM coverage to Taipei. It looks like the infection has been stopped but the rapist still stalks the decks and an NCIS investigator has been put on board.

The action changes between Dan, the NCIS agent, Dan's wife, Blair, who is back in Washington and running for election and SEAL Teddy Oberg. This book has more action than the previous one but he spends a little too much time on the NCIS agent and Blair for my taste. Given current events concerning our relations with China, this story seems totally plausible and prescient. Poyer has not only done his homework about ship board systems but the political climate as well.

The book ends with several plot themes unfinished so we can expect another book in this series.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finland Independence Day

On this day in 1917 Finland declared independence from Russia. My grandparents emigrated from Finland in 1903 so they never lived in an independent Finland. Their stories may have been the source of my mothers hatred of Russia and her concern about me when I was travelling there for oilfield business in 1991.

22 years later, Finland would celebrate this day by fighting a Russian invasion of the Karelian Peninsula. This was the Winter War (Talvisota in Finnish). It was the Finns that developed the Molotov Cocktail as an anti tank weapon. It was this was that developed the worlds top sniper, Simo Hayha. It was in this war that the Finns gained a reputation as excellent ski troops. Even though they fought the Russians to a standstill, they had to give up Karelia in the treaty. And it was the Finns performance against the Russians that helped to convince Hitler to invade Russia.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Head Count

Saudi Arabia cleaved the heads off 12 murderers last month to bring their year to date total to 140. One more month to go.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review - Night School

This book is a flashback in Jack Reacher's timeline back to when he was still in the army. The time is set sometime after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before Sept 11.

Reacher gets orders to report to a training class. When he arrives he finds that there are only 2 other pupils - one from the CIA and one from the FBI. He rightly suspects that the purpose of the orders was not training but some secret mission and he was right.

It seems the CIA has information that terrorists were preparing to make a major purchase. The government wants to know what they and purchasing and to stop it. Hence a select group was picked to investigate and take whatever action is necessary.

Reacher's side kick Sgt. Neagley makes a reprise as she assists Reacher in his investigation.

This book is not so much an action story as it is a mystery suspense novel as it follows Reacher and Neagley as they decipher what is being sold and by whom. The plot is tightly woven as it tells pieces of the story from the points of view of the various characters. Highly recommended and a good change of pace for Lee Child.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

PT 305 Takes to the Street

The PT boat that the WW II Museum has been restoring is complete and heading to the lake. I'm sorry I missed this.

She is operational and soon you'll be able to take a ride on her.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tidal Power

Video of the manufacture and installation of an offshore power generation system that is currently in operation. This is one of the things that Ocean Engineers do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rhode Island Wind Farm

A short video of the building of the wind farm off Block Island, RI. The boats are called Jack Up boats. The legs are extended to the sea floor and then the hull is lifted out of the water and wave action. It provides a very stable platform which is needed for the precision lifts to mate the blades to the hub. These are some of the toys Ocean Engineers play with.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Humor

News Update from of liberals escaping to Canada!

The flood of Trump-fearing American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week. The Republican presidential campaign is prompting an exodus among left-leaning Americans who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, pay taxes, and live according to the Constitution.
Canadian border residents say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, liberal arts majors, global-warming activists, and "green" energy proponents crossing their fields at night.
"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said southern Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota.   "He was cold, exhausted and hungry, and begged me for a latte and some free-range chicken.  When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"
In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields, but they just stuck their fingers in their ears and kept coming. Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals just south of the border, pack them into electric cars, and drive them across the border, where they are simply left to fend for themselves after the battery dies.
"A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Alberta border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of Perrier water, or any gemelli with shrimp and arugula. All they had was a nice little Napa Valley cabernet and some kale chips.  When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing that they fear persecution from Trump high-hairers."
Rumors are circulating about plans to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer, study the Constitution, and find jobs that actually contribute to the economy.
In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in blue-hair wigs and polyester pantsuits, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. 
"If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious," an official said.
Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage, are buying up all the Barbara Streisand CD's, and are overloading the internet while downloading jazzercise apps to their cell phones.
"I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said.  "After all, how many art-history majors does one country need?"

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kipling Speaks to Today

Norman and Saxon A.D. 1100
Rudyard Kipling"My son," said the Norman Baron, "I am dying, and you will
be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little
handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:--

"The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes
on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon

"You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your
Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole
brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained
serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise,
you will yield.

"But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs
and songs.
Don't trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale
of their own wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they are saying; let them feel
that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear 'em out if it takes
you all day.

They'll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour
of the dark.
It's the sport not the rabbits they're after (we've plenty of game
in the park).
Don't hang them or cut off their fingers. That's wasteful as well
as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-
at-arms you can find.

"Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and
funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish
Say 'we,' 'us' and 'ours' when you're talking, instead of 'you
fellows' and 'I.'
Don't ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell 'em
a lie!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Book Review - The Wrong Side of Goodbye

This is Michael Connelly's latest Bosch novel and it's a good one. Harry has been forced into retirement but is working as an unpaid reserve detective in the tine San Fernando Police Department. He also picks up the odd private detecting job.

On his private side he gets a request from a mega rich industrial mogul to hunt down a lost heir. He fathered a child but was then forced to abandon the mother by his family. And he wants it done with the utmost secrecy. Billions of dollars are at stake and that amount of money brings out the worst in those who think they may be cut out of the will.

Simultaneously, in his SFPD duties, he is hunting a serial rapist. Several of the rapes are in his cold case files but the perpetrator is still active.

Bosch bounces between these two cases leaving the reader with a cliff hanger at each chapter. This is one of the better of the Bosch series and it is well worth giving it a read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Head Count

Saudi Arabia beheaded 10 people last month. Most of them were convicted of murder although there was one druggie and one child rapist. Their year to date total now stands at 128.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review - The Girl from Venice

I usually enjoy Martin Cruz Smith, especially his Arkady Renko series. This book was the exception.

The story takes place in Venice near the end of WW II. Cenzo, a fisherman who seems to be too well educated for his occupation, discovers a girl floating in the lagoon. It seems she's a Jew and is escaping from the SS. The plot was developing too slowly and neither of the characters were interesting to me so I gave up after reading about 60 pages of a 240 page book.

My advice is to give this one a pass.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review - Escape Clause

"Escape Clause" is John Sandfords latest Virgil Flowers novel. Someone has kidnapped a mating pair of rare Amur tigers from the zoo and Virgil is assigned the case. He has very few clues to go on and is grabbing at any lead he can find. He surmises that the tigers have been taken so that their body pats can be used for Asian medicinal concoctions. The story alternates between Virgil's point of view and the point of view of the perp. Tension builds slowly as Virgil chases clues and then gets distracted by an attack on his latest gal friend.  Things escalate and the perp murders his accomplices. As the murders start to stack up Virgil has a strong suspicion who is responsible but can't get any proof.

The only weak part of the plot is that the ending is predictable but, that said, it was difficult to put this book down. It's a good read.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Voices of the RER

When I was working in Paris I commuted to an office in the suburbs on RER B. I became well aquanted with the voices of the women on this video and I learned proper pronunciation from them.

Subway Work

I am interested in large infrastructure projects and construction techniques. I also love Paris. The video below is a summary of some repair work on one of Paris' subway lines. It's in French but you can see what they are doing and the machines they use.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Head Count

Saudi Arabia added 8 more heads to their tally last month. One of these was a female convicted of murder. She was an Ethiopian house maid who slit the throat of the 6 year old daughter of her employer. Year to date head count is 118.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DMZ Rice

Bayou Renaissance Man had a recent post about Japanese rice farmers and their advertising techniques. South Korea entices farmers to work the DMZ between the north and south by giving them a tax exemption.  The rice they grow is marketed under the name "DMZ Rice". (Actually it's not grown in the DMZ but in the military exclusion zone just to the south.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Glenmorangie, The Original

This whisky is a classic example that pre-teen scotch can be very good. I found I had ignored this scotch thinking that it was too "common" But I was mistaken. The Original is their base scotch and is 10 years old. Glenmorangie is made by their famous "16 men of Tain", a fictional group of still masters. One of the unique things about Glenmorangie is that they have tallest stills in Scotland which they claim gives them a better product.

Color: Light amber
Nose Fruity, citrus
Palate: Light and clean, not harsh
Finish: Refreshing

This is a good "go to" scotch when you aren't sure what to order at a restaurant. They are sure to keep this one on the bar.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mondays Suck

I'm being a good boy and flossing my teeth on Sunday when the crown on my left incisor pops off. (That's the number 10 tooth) There was no pain involved but I had a big gap in the front of my mouth. i tried to glue it back with dental adhesive but had no joy. I called my dentist only to find that his number was disconnected. (Not surprising... he was getting a little long in the tooth, ha, ha) I located an alternate dentist and called bright and early on Monday morning to see if they could glue the crown back on. No problem, they said. We have an opening at 9:00.

I showed up at the appointed time and filled out 6 pages of medical history. They shot an xray (did you know that they have digital xrays now? The  picture shows up on a high def screen instead of a tiny film strip) Then they told me that part of the tooth had broken off in the crown. They could either glue it back and hope for the best or drill and tap the root, install a titanium peg and put on a new crown which would be a more permanent solution. A couple of hours later I had a new piece of metal in my head.

I've come to the conclusion that dentistry is closely related to mechanical engineering. The dentist took great pains to ensure the fit and clearances for my new tooth (using carbon paper to mark interferences after drilling and tapping the root and then screwing in the titanium rod.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I was forced into retirement in August when I was laid off. It was no surprise. Oil companies were cutting budgets and cancelling projects. Therefore there was no need for engineering services. Since I had no projects to charge my time to it was only a matter of time before I joined the ranks of the unemployed. And since no one wants to hire an engineer whose age matches the numbers of a famous cross country highway, I pulled the trigger on the retirement account.

And the timing is serendipitous for other reasons. The company had announced a change in management which meant the younger generation was taking over. I would have been working for a young guy that I had some history with. One of my side duties was as quality control "manager". My job was to make sure that the staff followed the quality processes that the company had instituted to be in line with ISO 9001 (If you don't know what that is, you are lucky) I had to write up this guy a couple of times for deviating from procedures for checking and record keeping. And now, in a classic example of the Peter Principle, he was going to be the department manager. Therefore, it was a good time to leave.

Here are some of the changes (mostly positive) I've noticed to my life:

  • Lowe's and Home Depot are empty during the week
  • I use a lot less gasoline
  • Traffic is light but there are a lot of old people that keep getting in my way
  • I don't need to worry about staying up late on a "school night"
  • I don'r need to get up at the crack of dawn but it's hard to reset the internal clock
  • I'm busier now than I was when I was working

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Highland Park 18 Year Old

Highland Park is the northern most distillery in Scotland. It's a whole half mile north of Scapa. As you would expect from a whiskey from the Orkney Islands, it has a strong taste of peat and the sea. Highland Park sells whisky up to 40 years old, if you can afford it (it sells for over $5,000). It is one of the few distilleries that still has a traditional malting floor where they turn each batch by hand.

The parent company, Edrington, also produces Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark and The Macallan.

Color: Rich deep amber
Nose: Strong peat
Palate: Very smooth
Finish: Warm and satisfying

I like this whiskey a lot. I find myself grabbing the bottle and pouring a couple of fingers when  I want a relaxing moment in the evening. I think you'll like it too.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Remodeling Projects

A house that my wife and I rent out became empty and we've filling our spare time with repairs and upgrades to the property. One thing we've been wanting to do for a long time is install a tile floor in the kitchen and entry hall. We've had excellent experience with Lowe's installation contractors and booked the job through them. One reason for subcontracting was that time was of the essence and I just didn't want to spend all that time on my artificial knee.

The installation guys were obviously foreign but I didn't recognize the language. Only one of them spoke English. So I asked them where they came from. Turns out that they were Brazilian.

Brazilian! That's a long way to come to install ceramic tile. It's also a construction trade that should be able to be filled with citizens. It doesn't say much about our economy or the American work ethic when we have to import tile installers from Brazil. I assume that these guys got here on an H1B visa but I don't understand how it could be justified.

And before you blast Lowe's, they hired a large regional  interior decorating firm to do their installation and these guys worked for them.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Head Count

In what has to be a unique event, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia didn't behead a single person. Their year to date count remains at 110.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Saved by Technology

My rental property went vacant recently so I had to change the utilities into my name until it rented again. The gas and electricity I could do over the internet but I had to go in person for the water. When I got there, I had to prove that I owned the house by showing a property tax bill. Luckily, I remembered that I had taken a picture of my most recent tax bill for another reason and it was still in my phone. The clerk gave me her email and I attached the picture to an email and sent it from my Android phone. Thirty seconds later....problem fixed.... and I saved about 1 hour in wasted time going home to get the documents.

This old dog can learn new tricks.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

USS Cassin Young

If you visit "Old Ironsides" you get the bonus of a WW 2 destroyer as well: USS Cassin Young, DD 793.

Who was Cassin Young, you say? He was commander of the USS Vestal (AR 4), a repair ship that was moored inboard of the "Arizona" on Dec 7, 1941. He was blown off the deck by bombs but swam back to his ship, and in spite of taking on water from bomb damage, he moved the "Vestal" to shallow water and beached her to prevent her sinking. He was awarded the CMH for this action. He was then given command of the cruiser USS San Francisco (CA 38) but was killed at Guadalcanal.

You can only tour the decks but it's an interesting place to visit.

Friday, August 12, 2016

WW 2 Museum

I was forced into retirement in July. One of the benefits is being able to go places during the week when the crowds are small. I took one of the grandsons to the WW 2 Museum. Here are a few pics to tease you.

When I asked grandson what he wanted to see first he said, "The submarine". That's an exhibit where they simulate the last mission of the USS Tang. It is a mock up of a submarine interior. You are issued cards with crew positions and you man their station. At the end, you get to find out if you survived. Because it was early and a Tuesday, we had the whole thing to ourselves and out pick of duty stations.

And an insiders can see the PT boat by signing up at the front desk. Small groups are allowed in to the workshop area at noon.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Taxes, and More taxes

The Dems will always look for new ways to raise taxes. In New Orleans, Mary's brother Mayor Mitch wants to tax portions of houses that overhang the sidewalk. What? This is New Orleans, a city famous for its balconies and they all overhang the sidewalk and have done so for years. But now the city is eyeing them as a new source of revenue.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

You Can't Choose Family

Last Sunday the family held a party to celebrate my mother in law's 90th birthday. The usual drill is that everyone brings a dish as we could easily field a mob of 40 to 50 people. Some of my in laws are pretty good cooks so the food is good and you appreciate the time and money they spent. Others just go to the store and buy something and think they have fulfilled their obligation. And then there are the leftovers.......With the family containing LEOs and shift workers, not everyone can attend and plates are made a put aside for them. However, there is one sister in law who thinks she can bring store bought bread (literally) and then abscond with all the leftovers. We got wise to her when she took ALL of the leftovers from our Thanksgiving Day dinner last year. We went looking for turkey and realized she had taken it all. We then saw that she did the same thing at every family function. This time we started picking up early and hid the leftovers we wanted to save. She comes in and starts packing up some food and has the gall to ask if there are bigger plates (so she can take more) but by that time all the good stuff had been distributed and packed away. Gotcha.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Head Count

Saudi Arabia collected heads on 18 murderers and drug dealers last month making up for Ramadan. Their year to date total is now an even 110.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Arcin' and Sparkin'

The best show at Boston's Museum of Science is the electrical show. They have the worlds largest air insulated Van de Graaff generator and they do several free shows a day. The room is always full. The highlight of the show is when the presenter enters the Faraday Cage and lets the lightening bolts zap him.

Monday, July 25, 2016

More USS Constitution

Here are some more photos of "Old Ironsides" in drydock.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

USS Constitution

The USS Constitution is currently in dry dock and tours are limited. All of her guns have been removed to lighten the deck load and her masts have been taken down. You cannot go below decks due to construction. I saw this barricade and sign just outside of the dry dock. Don't go swimming here or you might get shot.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Montmorency Falls is the highest waterfall in Quebec. It is 100 feet higher than Niagra. It is about 12 clicks outside Quebec City. If you emgibben the second photo, you can see a string of climbers on the cliff face to the right of the falls.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cathedral Ledge

Cathedral Ledge is a massive granite outcropping in North Conway, NH. Access to the top is easy. There is a road that leads to a parking lot and then it's a short walk to the cliff face. It's a popular rock climbing venue and there was one climber there on the day we visited. The funny thing is that he must of run into a bees nest because while he was hanging on his belay he started swatting at things and yelling. It would have been a bad situation had he been free climbing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mount Washington Cog Railway

The Mount Washington Cog Railway is one of the few cog railways in the world. It will take you to the top of Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in the Presidential Range at an elevation 6288 feet.They used to use coal fired steam engines but several years ago they succumbed to financial and environmental pressure and switched to bio diesel engines. They make their own bio diesel from waste cooking oil. The trip is faster and cleaner but somehow has lost some of the romance. The first picture is of "Old Peppersass", one of the original engines. It is built on an angle but would be level when on the slope. The others are non related steam farm equipment that they keep around for eye candy.

You see how pretty the weather is down in the valley. On top of the mountain the visibility was less than 50 feet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You Had Me at Bacon

Posting has been light because I've been on a family vacation. My wife and I took the three grandsons to the White Mountains in NH, Quebec City, Canada and Boston, Mass. I'll be posting a few things from the trip.

These are the first. Zeb's General Store in North Conway has a selection of bacon flavored products.

Doesn't it make you drool?

Head Count

It looks like executions in Saudi Arabia were postponed during the month of Ramadan. They had no executions and their year to date total remains at 92.

Monday, June 13, 2016

North Sea Waves

The video below is of the Borgholm Dolphin. It is a 274 man accommodation unit in the North Sea. It is an spread moored semi-submersible. This is an Aker H3 design hull built in 1975. In heavy seas, it is customary to slack the anchor chains to prevent dragging and to pump out ballast, giving more "air gap" for waves to pass under the deck.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ramadan Road Rage

Dubai police reported that there were 250 traffic accidents on the first day of Ramadan. Two of them were very serious. They reported that most of them happened between 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM. The root cause given was people driving badly when they were in a hurry to get their feed on at their Iftar meal.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, a group of Arab migrants burned down their asylum center because the Iranian guards didn't wake them up before dawn and they didn't get to eat before the Ramadan fast began at sunrise. (and in case you weren't aware, Arabs do NOT like Iranians, or as they call them, Persians)

Seems to me that this whole Ramadan fasting thing should be taken into tactical consideration. Will Allah (PBOH) allow you to skip the fast if you are on jihad?

Finally, Saudi Arabia is reported to be considering an income tax on expats. Since most expats choose to work in the Kingdom to avoid taxes, this would seem to be counter productive. It's the expats that make sure the trains run on time over there. I expect many squirrels will change trees if that happens and the KSA will have trouble filling key positions with people who know what they are doing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Get High

Abseiling is a procedure that uses ropes to put a workman in an otherwise inaccessible place. The video below is an abseil at Burj Kalifa, the highest building in the world. The location is on the mast at the very top of the building. The job was to seal several light fixtures located in the mast. Unlike Hollywood, there is no stunt man and no FX camera tricks. The fall is over 800 meters. You do the math.

10 minutes of work but years of preparation.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ramadan Mubarak!

Yes, it's that time of year again. Ramadan began yesterday. This means either a cessation of Radical Islamic Terrorism or an increase in the same, depending upon who you listen to. This month of charity and introspection in the Islamic calendar could go either way. Be alert and be safe.

Ramadan will end on July 5.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Head Count

Five murderers and two drug dealers had their bodies separated from their heads last month in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It appears that they have cleared out their backlog of criminals deserving of the sword and are back to single digit execution numbers. The year to date total is now 92.

In other, less lethal, the United Arab Emirates, a female American tourist was found not guilty of insulting the country and allowed to leave the country. She was arrested back in February after she had a confrontation with some locals at the airport. They can do that in countries with Sharia law.

In similar news, a former Miss Turkey was given a 14 month suspended sentence for insulting President Erdogan. You see how important that First Amendment is? When was the last time you cursed our President?

And also this week, the courts in Dubai sentenced American businessman Zack Shahin of financial impropriety and sentenced him to 15 years. He was CEO of the development company Deyaar. He was first arrested back in 2008. He was let out on bail and tried to flee the Emirates but was caught and was extradited.  Being a foreign business executive there can be a dangerous job.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Night Manager

Jonathan Pine is an Afghanistan war veteran who is hiding from the world as the night manager of a swanky Cairo hotel. He gets into a relationship with the girlfriend of a local mobster. She then tells him about a pending arms deal her boyfriend is working on and Jonathan leaks that information to an old friend of his back in the UK. The leak costs the girl her life and Jonathan leaves town ending up as night manager in another hotel in the Swiss alps. Who should appear at this hotel but the British industrialist who brokered the arms deal in Cairo. Johnathan seeks revenge and so starts the plan for an obscure British intelligence agency to recruit Jonathan as an undercover agent.

This is a 6 part series presented by AMC and is based on a John Le Carre novel (He even has a bit part). The lead is played by Tom Hiddleston who some of you may recognize as Loki from the Thor movies. This part gives him an opportunity to show off his acting ability. Hugh Laurie (remember "House"?) plays the evil industrialist. It is suspenseful and will hold your attention for the entire run. Stream it at your own peril.

Book Review - So Close to Home

"So Close to Home" is the story of the intersection of the lives of an American family and the first German submarines to enter the Gulf of Mexico. In May, 1942, the Downs family was on the steamer Heredia on their way to New Orleans from South America where Ray, the father, worked for United Fruit Company. What they didn't know was the U 506 and U 507 had entered the Gulf of Mexico looking for easy prey.

This is the story of the Downs family and their survival after the sinking of the Heredia. It is also the story of U boats 506 and 507, their captains and by extension, submarine warfare in WW II. The author, Michael Tougias, has made a niche writing survival at sea stories. (The movie , "The Finest Hours", is based on one of his books) and he does it well. If you enjoy naval history, sea survival stories, or submarines, I think you will enjoy this book.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Shredding It

Peter posted a video of some experiments in Finland involving household objects and a hydraulic press. That inspired me to post the videos below of things being destroyed by a shredding machine. The machine manufacturer, SSI, posts weekly videos of the things they shred. Here's one....

And there's a follow up to the story.....

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cooper's Colors

Murphy describes his recent application of the Jeff Cooper color awareness system. I always carry when crossing the Big Muddy into Orleans Parish and, while I try to keep to Yellow, it usually isn't too long before I am forced to go to Orange.

One December, me, my wife and the three grands were catching a pre Christmas lunch on Canal Street. They don't realize it, but I take up an over watch position in the rear of the group. As they are walking and talking I see a couple of "youts" cycling on the sidewalk. And they are looping back and forth among the pedestrians. Orange Alert! When we got to the restaurant I asked them if they had seen these kids on bikes. No, they had not. I was sure those kids were looking for a fast purse snatch and scoot. That's why I do what I do. Oldest grand and wife get it. They know not to walk on my right. hand side and that I will be tail end charlie and that I will stand at the rear of the car until all are safely inside.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day and Crawfish

The family tradition is to have a crawfish boil on Mother's Day. When you have a family as large as my wife's, that's the only way to feed all those people. My brother in law hosts it as he has the burners and the boiling pots. When the crawfish are done, he fires up a kettle of oil and fries fresh caught fish. It's a good day and everyone gets their fill. In all, four generations sat down to peel and eat and then the grand kids took the great grand kids to the pool and they all splashed to their hearts content.

We eat a lot of crawfish in Louisiana. LSU Ag center will tell you that we consume over 110 million pounds of the little critters. That's a lot of mud bugs.


If I say "Netflix and political intrigue", you would think "House of Cards. If I say "Netflix and  family thriller", you would think "Bloodline". You would think that with those credentials that Netflix would know how to pick a series that makes you want to stay up late and stream it all. Unfortunately, "Marseille" is not that series.

In "Marseille", Gerard Depardieu plays an aging mayor who wants to revitalize the city by refurbishing the harbor and adding a casino. He has been grooming his deputy mayor for 20 years and hopes to retire after turning the project over to him. As you could guess, the deputy mayor turns on his mentor and votes with the opposition. And it was at this point that I lost interest.

"Marseille" is a French production and Netflix has dubbed it in English and done a poor job of it. The voice overs lack any emotion. Perhaps its because the lines they are reading sound as if they should be in dialog balloons in a graphic novel. Besides, we all know that Depardieu can speak English and seeing his mouth move and hearing a strangers voice is disconcerting.

The good thing is that it didn't cost me any more than my monthly Netflix streaming subscription to watch it. My advice is, watch it if you want but don't get your expectations up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book Review - Extreme Prey

Lucas has left BCI and is into an early retirement. And, if he admits it to himself, he's bored. Bored, that is, until he receives a phone call from the governor asking his help in a confidential matter. It's presidential primary season and the governor is running. He's smart enough to know that he can't win the nomination but he's hoping for a VP slot. The problem is that he has a hunch that someone is planning to take the lead candidate, and his best chance at VP,  out of the running and he wants Lucas to check it out and see if his concern is valid, and if so, identify them before the candidates all go to the Iowa State Fair. Lucas has to work without a badge or legal cover which means he has to pull in favors.

I won't give away any spoilers but the governor's request sets off a whirlwind investigation that leaves the reader with difficult choices: Stay awake and keep reading or get a good nights sleep. This is definitely one of the best of the "Prey" series. A good read for a long weekend at the beach or 10 hours on a plane.

Engineer vs Doctor

From the joke folder......

An Engineer was unemployed for a long time. He could not find a job so he opened a medical clinic and puts a sign up outside:
“Get your treatment for $500, if not treated get back $1,000.”

One Doctor thinks this is a good opportunity to earn $1,000 and goes to his clinic. 
Doctor: “I have lost taste in my mouth.”

Engineer: “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”

Doctor: “This is Gasoline!” 
Engineer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your taste back. That will be $500.”

The Doctor gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days later to recover his money. Doctor: “I have lost my memory, I cannot remember anything.”

Engineer: “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”

Doctor: “But that is Gasoline!” 
Engineer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your memory back. That will be $500.”

The Doctor leaves angrily and comes back after several more days. Doctor: “My eyesight has become weak.”

Engineer: “Well, I don’t have any medicine for this. Take this $1,000.”

Doctor: “But this is $500…”

Engineer: “Congratulations! You got your vision back! That will be $500.”

Monday, May 2, 2016

Head Count

Evidently Obama's visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia put them a little off in their efforts to separate heads from bodies. They only managed to behead 6 people last month. Their year to date total is now 85.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

PT 305

For several years now, the World War II Museum has been restoring a PT boat. It is now complete and they have raised the funds to move it to Lake Pontchartrain where the public will able to ride it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Old Habits

The video below explains an experiment taking place in London. It's a long established tradition that when on an escalator if you want to stand still, you stay to the right but it you want to walk up, you go on the left. The people who walk are usually in a hurry and resent it if there is someone standing their way. But they are finding that the escalator can carry more people if people stand next to each other and ride instead of walking. The video explains it.

I wish them luck in changing the habits of millions of Tube riders.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Occasionally I stumble across a TV show that I think is deserving of acclaim but did not show up on the radar of the American media. Fortitude is such a show. One reason may be is that it was produced by the Brits, namely, Sky Atlantic. But I found it to be a well written and intriguing murder mystery, sci fi, horror series. It can now be streamed on Amazon Prime.

Fortitude is a town of less than 1000 people and the only habitation on the Norwegian island of Svarlbard. The inhabitants are a mix of Russian miners, international arctic researchers and a motley mix of people making up the support staff of police, hotel managers and teachers for the 4 or 5 children that live there. As you can expect, it is a bleak, cold and isolated environment. In reality, the town of Reydafjordur, Iceland on the east coast of the island substitutes for the Norwegian town. It is also a town where everyone, including children, carries a high powered rifle for protection against polar bears. The show includes stars such as Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon and Sophie Grabol who was in the original version of The Killing.

It starts when Michael Gambon, who plays an alcoholic photographer, sees a man being attacked by a polar bear and shoots, missing the bear but hitting the man. The scene cuts away and we see two of the towns children finding the remains of a woolly mammoth. At the same time, a new scientist is arriving and we learn that he is studying aberrant behavior in apex predators.

In a short time you become aware that something is not quite right in the town. One of the children who found the mammoth becomes ill. The chief scientist for the research station is murdered. You know that these plot lines will somehow intersect but the writers keep you guessing until the last episode.

I was pleased to see that they didn't use the story line to promote an agenda of Industry - bad, Nature - good. And while they could have done so several times, they didn't use any nudity.The show kept me hooked and I was happy that I could stream the episodes as fast as I wanted. The good news is that there will be a second season and I can't wait to see what they do.

Monday, April 11, 2016

News from the Emirates

The Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National, reports that an American woman went on trial for insulting the country and its leadership. She was jailed in February and will be sentenced in May. That's about 3 months for doing something - cursing the country and it's leader - that we do almost daily. Do not take the 1st Amendment for granted. Saying something as simple as "I hate this F'n place and the stupid people that run it" can land you behind bars in the liberal, westernized United Arab Emirates. You see, it's against the law to insult the sheikh, and since the sheikh is responsible for everything, insulting anything is an insult against the sheikh.

I'd be in jail for life if they could arrest me for cursing the president.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

USS Thresher (SSN 593)

On this day in 1963, the USS Thresher was lost during sea trials off the coast of New Hampshire. Go read my earlier post and take a moment to remember those lost in the submarine service.

Monday, April 4, 2016

French Humor

On April 1st, RATP, the Paris company that runs the Metro pulls a little April Fools Joke. This video shows what they did.

Here is a list of the stations and the names they were changed to.

1. Line 11, Pyrénées became Alpes
2. Line 2, Alexandre Dumas was changed to Les Trois Mousquetaires
3. Line 11, Télégraphe became #Tweet
4. RER A, Joinville-le-Pont transformed into Joinville-le-Pont Pon ! Pon ! paying homage to a song of the 50´s
5. Line 4, Château d’Eau altered into Château de sable (sand castle); in reference to Paris Plage (or Paris beach which is done in summer).
6. Line 7, Cadet changed to Rousselle which is a reference to a popular child´s tune (too complicated to explain further).
7. Line 7, Crimée became Châtiment in reference to a novel from Fiodor Dostoïevski.
8. Line 2, Monceau changed to Ma pelle or from ¨my bucket¨ to ¨my shovel¨
9. Line 6, Saint-Jacques altered to Coquille in reference to scallops.
10. Line 2, Anvers, sign inverted. Phonetically the same word as envers or inverted.
11. Line 3, Parmentier became Pomme de Terre (potatoes). Antoine Parmentier, after whom the station was named, was an early promoter for the consumption of potatoes.
12. Line 3, Opéra slightly varied to Apéro, short for apéritif or a before dinner drink.
13. Line 3, Quatre septembre changed to 1er avril or the normal 4th of September to April 1st.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Head Count

Saudi Arabia rid the world of another 15 murderers in March raising their year to date bounty to 79. They may be looking for ways to chop off even more heads as there is a move afoot to make homosexuality a capital offense. Yes, Islam is a religion of peace....just not for everybody.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Words Have Meanings

We were again pushing the deadline to get a design package out the door and I was monitoring our designers to make sure they were on track and had no distractions. Our young Process Engineer walks in and announces, "I have some changes that need to be made."

He was totally surprised when the grenade went off in his face!

Eventually he was able to explain that what he really had were some minor corrections and he was allowed to depart with his head intact. I bet next time he will choose his words more carefully.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Random Thoughts

From an old email......

  • I changed my car horn to gunshot sounds.   People get out of the way much faster now. 
  • Gone are the days when girls used to cook like their mothers. Now they drink like their fathers.
  • I didn't make it to the gym today.  That makes five years in a row.
  • I decided to change calling the bathroom "the John" and renamed it "the Jim". I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.
  • Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven't met yet.
  • Old age is coming at a really bad time. 
  • When I was a child I thought “Nap Time” was a punishment. Now, as a grownup, it feels like a small vacation.
  • The biggest lie I tell myself is, "I don't need to write that down, I'll remember it."
  • I don't have gray hair; I have "wisdom highlights." I'm just very wise.
  • If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would've put them on my knees.
  • Why do I have to press one for English when you're just gonna transfer me to someone I can't understand anyway?
  • Of course I talk to myself; sometimes I need expert advice.
  • At my age "Getting lucky" means walking into a room and remembering what I came in there for. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Deanston 12 Year Old

The Deanston Distillery is located on the River Teith in the highlands. The building was erected in 1785 as a cotton mill but was converted to its present use in 1965. The 12 year old single malt is aged in bourbon barrels and is "un chill filtered". Chill filtering is a process where the whiskey is chilled to freezing temperatures and then filtered to remove various molecules that solidify at those temperatures. It is done primarily as a cosmetic measure to prevent the whiskey from becoming cloudy when ice is added. But who adds ice to good whiskey?? And many argue that chill filtering removes elements of taste and aroma. Who am I to argue with that?

Color: Rich amber
Nose: hay, barley
Palate: Very smooth and pleasing to the tongue
Finish: Provides a lingering warmth

This is a very drinkable whiskey suitable for both new and experienced whiskey lovers. It is another example that age does not necessarily mean a better whiskey as this can hold its own against many older products.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Re Qual

Saturday morning was spent in class and the range in order to submit my renewal for my concealed carry permit. The local gun shop has a good system where they provide a notary and a fingerprint guy for first timers so that you can get all the paper work done at once. None of that was required for renewals so after a couple of hours lecture on safety and a re-education on the concealed carry laws, I went to the range to demonstrate my "proficiency" with the weapon (my .38 S&W Airweight). All I can say is that all rounds fired hit the back stop. But that's OK. I don't use it for long range sniping. Now I'm good for another 5 years.