Thursday, December 19, 2019

More NOLa Fail

We learned today that the Sewerage and Water Board almost pumped raw sewage in the Mississippi River when a valve failed. They were able to avert this disaster but now the valve is held open with hydraulic jacks and wooden shims. How would that affect me? The water intake for my drinking water is downstream!

Local Swamp - Final Results

Federal grants are the cocaine of politicians. With a $45 million grant pending on the approval of a toll bridge that the locals did not want, a group of state representatives and senators who do not represent the area and in the face of vocal opposition, approved construction of the bridge and the imposition of 30 years of tolls on the population. Gotta get their fix of federal bucks. Sigh!

Monday, December 16, 2019

NOLa Fail

New Orleans, never a shining star city on a hill, has been having more than it's usual share of problems lately. The ferry from Canal Street to Algiers has been out of service for a year because they cannot get USCG inspections on the new ferries. It was so bad that the Coast Guard refused to provide a punch list, instead telling them to go read the regulations.

There have been almost weekly boil water advisories as water mains fail. A recent 30" water main failure flooded streets and cars.

There was a mass shooting over Thanksgiving weekend when 10 people were shot (nobody killed ,luckily) on Canal Street. I bet you didn't hear about it on the national news because that's Bayou Classic Weekend, the football game between two rival African American universities. (The shooters were later arrested over in St. Mary Parish)

To add to the Sewerage and Water Board problems, they blew up a turbine at their main water treating plant. The concussion rattled the neighborhood and injured two employees. Details have not been forthcoming so I'm not sure if it was a natural gas turbine or one of the old (circa 1930) steam turbines. (The SWB generates their own power as most of their pumps operate on a different frequency from the Entergy grid)

And finally, the city has had to shut down their computer system due to a cyber attack.

PS: This morning the news reported an explosion and car fire in the French Quarter about 1 block from Bourbon Street. Three manhole covers were blown off and the street around the manholes was buckled.The cause was not immediately understood but now they are saying that the cause was an accumulation of methane gas from human waste. This is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, it means that the sewer and the drainage system are connected which they are not supposed to be. Second, it means that the drainage system is blocked. UPDATE - Sewage got into an Entergy electrical vault and an arc ignited the methane. Source of sewage is not known.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Head Count

173 is the new year to date total for beheadings in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after they executed 8 more last month.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Liberation of Paris

I'm a little late with this video that shows the underground bunker that was the HQ for the FFI in the final days of the German occupation.

Final Flight

If you've been to the World War II museum in New Orleans, you have seen the war birds on display in the Boeing Center. This is a time lapse video of how they were installed in their final positions.

I cannot imbed the video so the link to it is here.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Book Review - The Night Fire

"The Night Fire" is Michael Connelly's latest Bosch and Ballard mystery. Bosch's mentor from his early days has passed away and his widow gives Bosch a murder book that her husband had kept in his office. It was a cold case and it captures Bosch's imagination. While it appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, Bosch thought it look suspicious. Meanwhile Rene Ballard is called to a what appears to be an accidental death where a homeless man is killed when his portable heater causes a fire. Bosch enlists Ballard to use her LAPD connections to help with the cold case and he tries to discover the answer to why his mentor kept the murder book and Ballard defies LAPD protocol in her search for the truth about the night fire.

This story has a lot of twists and turns and will keep you engaged until the surprising finish.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Head Count

KSA beheaded 13 for murder and drugs in October bringing the year to date head count to 165.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Book Review - Bloody Genius

"Bloody Genius" is the latest Virgil Flowers mystery by John Sandford.  A well known professor and medical researcher is murdered in the library and the local police are stuck so the governor calls in Virgil to help out. A reluctant Virgil wades into the investigation but keeps hitting dead ends. The read is slow for the first 150 pages but the last 130 pages will keep you fully engaged.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Floating Hotel Fail

Nessy, on the sidebar, uncovered a fascinating story about a floating hotel that was installed in Australia and it's journey to North Korea. I suspect that this would never be done in the US because of the Jones Act. There would simply be too much liability. The Jones Act was originally intended to protect seamen but the definition of employees covered under the Jones Act has been expanded over the years so that it now includes anyone on board a floating vessel.

Go read the story here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Crane Demolition at the Hard Rock Collapse

Nothing is more fun than watching things blow up. You can imagine the excitement in New Orleans with people wanting to see the implosion of the two cranes at the Hard Rock hotel collapse. The left crane topped and actually imbedded itself in the street and is now standing like a spear in the ground. While the second crane didn't come completely down, it was planned to fall into the building but missed it's target by a few feet, everyone seems to be satisfied with the result. Some businesses in the area lost windows from the pressure wave. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel Collapse

This is a good drone video of the New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel Collapse.

The two tower cranes are both damaged and engineers do not know how to brace them as the building is not stable. There are concerns about the weather this weekend bringing wind and rain. An area around the building has been evacuated and traffic blocked.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Notre Dame Update

We finally walked by Notre Dame yesterday. The entire block is circled with an 8 foot high fence of corrugated metal topped with razor wire. They are serious about security! The playground/park behind the cathedral is now home to stacks of containers used as construction offices. The pretty garden along the river side is now storage for scaffolding. Most of the center of the building is covered in scaffolding. (The scaffolding contractor will make a fortune from this job) The flying buttresses are all supported with framing made from heavy timber. There is temporary roof over the center of the building. (If the tarp was blue it would remind me of New Orleans after Katrina.)  Word is that this will be going on for 5 years.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Climate Change in Europe

Recently a 16 year old Swede got international attention for her rants on climate change. It's understandable if you are aware of how climate change is part of everyday life in Europe.

In almost everything you do in daily life in Europe, you are reminded of you carbon footprint. If you use Google Maps to find direction somewhere, you will be told how many grams of carbon you will be emitting depending upon your transportation option - car, public transportation, or walking. If you buy a train ticket, the amount of your share of carbon will be printed on the ticket. If you want to buy an apartment, it will have an energy rating which is shown on the advertising. If you want to drive a car within the periferique in Paris, you will need a special air emission sticker making it difficult for drivers from other countries to come into the city. In the news, climate change is treated like a scientific fact with no comments about the validity of the data. The term is used casually to explain every weather anomaly.

Is it any wonder that this amount of propaganda produces teenage angst?

Myself, I read that there recently 5 earthquakes within one hour in Missouri. That is much more of a concern to me.

A Little Excitement

My wife and I were walking back from the Bastille market towards the Isle of St Louis and our apartment when I hear a helicopter circling low over the area. They never fly helicopters over the city unless there is a problem. (The last time I saw it was when the police was tracking an armed bank robber on a motorcycle.) Then I see the pilot setting up to land on the very bridge that we had to walk across to get to the island - Pont Marie. Rotary wing guys hate to land anywhere that is not a certified landing pad because of the obstructions that they can run into, like light poles, but this guy did it anyway.

The gathering crowd was puzzled and curious and we found someone who spoke English and was able to see the news on his phone. Someone had attacked police officers at the Prefecture (HQ across from Notre Dame) and this operation was obviously part of the response. You will probably learn more about it on the news.

It just goes to show that you never know what you will find in Paris.

Here's a link to the story with a picture of the helicopter on the bridge.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Head Count

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, drugs and murder will make you lose your head. The KSA beheaded 17 this month, playing catch up to last month. Year to date head count is 152.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Aviation History

In case you were wondering, this is where Antoine de Sainte-Exupery was born on June 29, 1900. Aviation pioneer and author, this house is on a street in Lyon, France now named for him. He disappeared on a mission in 1944. The remains of his aircraft were found in April 2004.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Paris News

Over here I've been watching the France24 English channel and BBC. Fox News is usually not available. Obviously, you get a different twist to the news.

For example, we get Brexit news all the time, even down to a real time live feed about the UK Supreme Court deciding on the suspension of Parliament.

Another thing is, all reporters talk about global warming like it is proven fact with no attempt to provide a second opinion. Greta has been in the news almost continuously. BBC reported the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy as proof of sea level rise and they have stories about a small island off Bangladesh that is disappearing with no scientific explanation about alternatives like coastal erosion or subsidence.

We get a lot of news about Africa.  Did you know that there is ongoing strife between French speaking and English Speaking Cameroon? And I was really glad to see Mugabe finally put in the ground as we heard about his funeral every day.

And if you are interested in rugby, Japan beat Russia in the first game of the World Cup. Who da thought?

We get very little about Trump or the Democrats and I'm almost glad about that.

Interestingly, there was almost no coverage of the violence that erupted in Paris during the global warming march yesterday although 7000 French riot police shot tear gas and there were 100 arrests.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Paris News

Today, Friday the 13th, was a transportation worker strike. Most Metro and Bus lines were shut down. The workers were striking over Pres Macron's plan to consolidate the some 42 retirement plans to save money. The workers were not happy but in true French style, the one day strike was on a Friday so some people could plan a three day weekend.

In sports, the US team lost in the quarter finals of the basketball world cup. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!!! An American Team lost in America's sport????? Worse, they lost to France. Mon Dieu! And what the heck is the world cup????? Turns out there is an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) A quick look showed me that several of the players on the French team were American. I guess it's a way for young NBA players to keep in shape in the off season. I bet that didn't make the local sports for you!

And three women have come forward with claims against Jeff Epstein in France. Seems he had a swanky apartment on Ave Foch (the street where the Gestapo had their HQ) and is therefore subject to French law.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

News from Across the Pond

We are usually tuned into BBC and France 24 English channel. The news is all about Brexit and Boris Johnson. The Parliament is pushing back on the "no deal" Brexit but a deadline of Oct 31 is fast approaching.

In French news, I see that the family of a man who died during sex with a strange while on a business trip is entitled to death benefits. The court ruled that his death was a workplace accident. This sets a precedent that a person is covered by company insurance even during his personal time if he's travelling on business. You might think this is a rare event, but I can assure that it happened on a project when I was working in Seoul, South Korea. Just one of the things they don't teach you in college.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Toll Revolt Update

I posted earlier about the people of Mobile, AL revolting against the proposed toll bridge over Mobile Bay. Pushback was so bad that the ALDOT removed the project from their Transportation  Improvement Plan for 2020 - 2023 which essentially kills the project. If it's not in the plan, they can't ask for federal dollars. The story is here.

Crossing the Pond

My wife and I are getting ready for an extended trip to Paris and Lyon this month. We watched Dorian closely and at one point I had a Plan B in place when we thought it might get into the Gulf. I had a rental car and a hotel reservation and we were going to drive to Atlanta. That looks like it won't be necessary now but the Boy Scout in me said "Be Prepared".

So, posts for the next month or so will have a European focus and we'll check on the status of the Yellow Vests. I'll also check in on the new Musee de la Liberation - a new museum about the liberation of the city in 1945. I may also go see the largest collection of Citroen automobiles. It will be good to visit old friends and enjoy the City of Light.

Thank you, Dietrich von Choltitz, for disobeying the order to destroy the city.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Head Count

Two murderers were beheaded in Saudi Arabia last month, a low for the Kingdom. Their year to date total is now 135.

Franklin Expedition and HMS Terror

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set out in search of the northwest passage and never came back. The expedition disappeared without a trace. His ships have been found and his flagship was the subject of a recent diving expedition. Parks Canada produced a video of the dive showing how remarkably intact the ship is. The link is here as I couldn't embed the video.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

New Verb in my Vocabulary

I learned a new verb today - to storrow. "To storrow" is to drive your truck into a low overhead obstruction. The term was originated in Boston where this type of accident is common to drivers unfamiliar with the city and then try to drive box trucks on Storrow Drive. One web site has a collection of photographs from these accidents and it is amusing to see the results of driver idiocy. The link to the site is here.

I was a student in Boston for 5 years and I hated driving there. The streets are not laid out in typical block fashion and nothing meets at a right angle. Storrow Drive is a main thoroughfare that runs along the Charles River and is heavily travelled by folks heading into Boston and Cambridge. If you are heading to Boston, don't drive a large truck on Storrow Drive.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

More on Tolls

A commenter on my last post told about the State of Connecticut wanting to impose tolls on almost every road and bridge in order to generate revenue. Fuel tax revenue for state are in the decline. Louisiana went from a high of $762 million in 2006 to $589 million in 2014. The state tried to increase the gas tax by $0.16 last session taking the state from one of the lowest fuel taxes to one of the highest. It failed miserably.

There are a couple of reasons for this decrease. One is the federal governments regulation on automobile mileage. The CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) has been slowly adjusted resulting in people driving cars with higher gas mileage. The unintended consequence is that less gas purchased means less tax revenue. One of the reasons given for putting a toll on our bridge was the failure of the gas tax increase. All states are feeling this pinch and it will only get worse with electric automobiles and the Green New Deal.

Another thing that makes tolls so attractive is the technology. Gone are the days of manned booths and baskets that you toss your change into. It's done with electronic transponders and license plate readers. All they need to do is install a goal post over the highway and install some readers. There are private companies that offer to do this for free for a cut of the revenue.

And there has been talk about putting trackers on automobiles and taxing you by the miles you drive. This intrusion into your personal business should scare the crap out of you. But it is coming if the wrong people get into power.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Local Swamps Toll Revolt

While President Trump is promoting Public Private Partnerships as a way to fund infrastructure repair and replacement, the local populations are saying something different.

We have our own local issue with the plans for a new toll bridge but it seems that we are not alone. Over in Mobile there are plans for a new 6 lane toll bridge over Mobile Bay to relieve traffic jams through the existing tunnel and causeway. The toll is planned to be $6 each way. While this route is used by weekenders from Louisiana and Mississippi heading to the Flora-Bama beaches, it is also used by commuters to and from Mobile. Indeed, my grandson crossed the bay every day to go to college. The backlash is so fierce that the politicians have taken the project off of the state transportation plan which could effectively kill it.

When they were collecting public comments for our planned toll bridge, I called the toll a tax directed at the people of the parish. In their response, they corrected me that it was not a tax but a "user fee". Potato, Potaato. People are tired of the government taking money out of their pockets.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

On My "To Do" List

I need to try to get this place. I can combines wine and aviation history.

Link is here.

Local Swamp - Alligators, Oh my

Since I last checked in with a status, we (the No Tolls Bunch) have met with the Parish President, several council people, our state rep and state senator to discuss the response to the bridge proposal. I am happy to say that we must have had some influence as out Parish President, not know for having political cojones, has sent a rather direct letter stating that the Parish did not support the proposal as presented due to the tolls and their impact on the economy of the Parish. We now await the response from the DOTD.

In related news, I was always concerned that the private party of the Public Private Partnership did not have a contractors license as they are primarily a financial company even though published organization charts showed them in control of all subcontractors. I expressed this concern to the Licensing Board and expected a quick answer that all was OK because,..... but that didn't happen. Crickets were chirping. Seems like there is a little conflict in the Louisiana Statutes and the DOTD took it upon themselves to interpret them in the DOTDs favor. The issue is subtle but we all know that the law rests upon the details and as this is the very first PPP the details have not yet been tested. This went far enough to elicit a formal letter of explanation from the DOTD to the Licensing Board.

In a nutshell, one regulation says that any entity managing a construction project in any manner shall be licensed. Another regulation, written to allow "design-build" contracts, allows the project manager to use the license of a subcontractor. My opinion is that the law for these design-build contracts meant for the project to be managed by the DOTD and its staff of technical professionals. There is a third regulation dealing with Public Private Partnerships and allowing the DOTD to enter into a PPP. The DOTD feels that, even though their contract is with a non licensed private party, it's OK because it is a design-build contract. But the private party , unlike the DOTD, has no technical staff.

I am still trying to decide my next move. Any contract lawyers out there?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Book Review - A Dangerous Man

Robert Crais has done it again! Joe Pike is having a peaceful day and running errands at the bank when he observes a kidnapping in broad daylight. He puts down the perps and saves the lady and he thought that was it. A few days later he gats a message from the girl that the perps had made bail and she was concerned. Then she disappeared. This led Joe and Elvis on a fast paced search for the missing that will keep you glued to the chair. Very hard to put down, the story switches between the points of view of Joe, Elvis and the bad guys. Another good story for long flights and insomniacs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gun Confiscation Hysteria

Given recent events and the typical calls from the liberals, I post this link to an older post. As with most things, you have to do the math.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Head Count

KSA added 18 heads to the count for a total now of 133. Two of those heads were from child rapists and the rest were the usual mix of druggies and murderers.

Remember this number when the libs start complaining about our own federal executions.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Local Swamp - Update

Opposing the toll bridge...…..

Engineers can be pesky critters. We are pesky because we read specifications and regulations for a living. So I read the Louisiana Statutes regarding Public Private Partnerships. It turns out that the proposing company is required by law to submit their proposal to "each local jurisdiction" and they then have 60 days to comment and "confirm that it meets the local transportation plan". This sounded to me like they needed local permission to proceed so I notified all the folks on the email list which included one of our councilpersons. He asked the parish lawyer if the proposal had been received. He could not find it so he sent an email to the Dept of Transportation lawyer asking where it was. Turns out that it had been delivered 30 days ago and our parish politicos had lost it. So now, there are 30 days left to comment and Hurricane Barely shuts everything down for another week.

This week we finally got someone to pay attention and realize that this was a chance, mandated by law, to influence the project.

Upon further reading, I noted the key word "each". So now I am checking to see if the neighboring parishes were informed and if the received a copy of the proposal. If not, we could re-set the 60 day clock.

The lesson here is that your politicians probably don't have a clue what the law says so it pays to spend some time and look into the details.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Hurricane (Barely) Barry

My 82 year old mother in law's air conditioning went out so she moved in with us to keep cool until repairs were made. Then along comes Barry and she stayed as she doesn't like to be alone in bad weather. She has stayed glued to the TV with its almost continuous coverage of the storm. The problem is that, with air time to fill, they spend time talking about all the things that COULD happen and they are scaring the crap out her. Try as I might, I cannot get her away from watching the doom and gloom. Even this morning, with the storm well west of us and going on shore, she was worried to hear that it had just been upgraded to a Cat 1 hurricane...… by 1 mph! What we are having in the burbs of New Orleans is really just a blustery, blustery day.

And I have a peeve about the reporting. They re reporting the storm surge as "above ground". That reference means absolutely nothing. They should reference "mean sea level". Then they can add the tide and storm surge to get a realistic number for the storm surge. For me, this is just another way the news reports false news and terrorizes the public to boost their ratings.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unapologetic Kickstarter Solicitation

I am putting in a link to my nephews Kickstarter campaign. He is new film student and has completed his first production. He is seeking a few dollars to pay for the entrance fees  to film competitions. The entire production was filmed in his fathers garage. My wife and I donated a few items he needed for props to make up a 90s period office. The story concerns the mailer daemon, the guy that sends back undeliverable emails. Donate if you want to.

Mailer Daemon link.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Ross Perot

Ross Perot has died. Most people will remember his failed run for president and blame him for splitting the Republican ticket. But few remember, if they even knew, about his rescue of company executives in Iran.

In 1978, two Electronic Data Services executives were arrested in Tehran for bribery. Perot decided to get his people out and he recruited a team of ex military EDS employees and hired a retired Army officer to train them to go to Iran and rescue their colleagues. This officer was "Bull" Simmons who had led the Son Tay Raid to rescue POWs in North Vietnam. Once they arrived in Tehran, nothing went as planned but the two executives were able to escape during a prison transfer and get to Turkey. The story is told in Ken Follet's book, "On Wings of Eagles."

This is an example of corporate courage and loyalty that would be hard to find today.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Tail Count

The results of the 2018-2019 Nutria bounty program are in. The State of Louisiana pays $5 for every nutria tail turned in. The state payed out $1,115,775 to 241 hunters. 78 of those hunters turned in 800 or more tails. In order to maintain interest by the hunters, they have raised the bounty to $6 per tail next season.

Before you go getting all PETA on Louisiana for killing these poor, defenseless rodents, they are responsible for a continuing problem by damaging marsh plants and destroying the wetlands. It is estimated that they damaged over 14,000 acres last year.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Local Swamp - Update

As Groucho said, "I'm not sure I want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." For better or worse, I am on the email list of the group opposing tolls on the proposed bridge. We have had a couple of meetings with our state representative and have gotten the parish council to send a letter to governor opposing the tolls. The problem as I see it is that the DOTD has decided they want to do a public private partnership and is determined to proceed. There are a couple of rabble rousers in the group and they have been quite vocal in complaining to the local politicians. They have ignored my comments regarding design and construction and focused on going back over old issues that have already been approved by the public (redoing the design basis). While governor says he won't force the bridge on an unwilling public, it has not occurred to them that their options are (1) a new bridge with tolls, or (2) keep the current bridge and deal with the traffic when it lifts for boat traffic. If they raise too much hell, they will lose federal grant money.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


No visit to southern Alabama would be complete without a visit to Bamahenge. What do you do if you are the richest man in the state? Why you build a fiberglass replica of Stonehenge and throw in a few life size dinosaurs for good measure. And do it in the middle of the woods where you have to go looking for it.

That's exactly what George Barber, the milk billionaire of Alabama, did. He commissioned Mark Cline to build this roadside attraction in Elberta, AL.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Head Count

Had a brief vacay at the red neck Riveria and now I'm back. The area of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama provides the majority of the tax revenue for the state. Tourism is very important there. The area is also becoming increasingly gentrified. Orange Beach has several award winning chefs and is becoming a foodie destination.

But back to decapitation......Saudi Arabia beheaded a couple of druggies and several murderers adding 8 to their count. Year to date total is now 115.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

TBT - Back to Sakhalin

After our first visit and the presentation of the proposal, the decision was made to keep a representative on the island to maintain the brand name. Back in 1991 there was no easy way to get into the former Soviet Union. We flew into Frankfurt where we could catch a Lufthansa flight to Moscow. Then we had to take an Aeroflot flight to Sakhalin. While in the business class lounge in Frankfurt, we stocked up on free snacks and small canned drinks as we knew they would be scarce in Russia. The Aeroflot flight was am IL 76, the Russian jumbo jet. All aircraft were designed to be used for troop transport and the seats we had were simple canvas which were about as comfortable as you can imagine. We had to stop for fuel on the way so we put down above the arctic circle. I think it was Dudinka. The temperature in early December was -40 (F or C, it makes no difference) and we had to deplane and walk to the terminal. The ground was covered in ice and my colleague and I decided to run and slide on the ice. We stopped after about two times because the cold air was burning our lungs.

Our objective in Sakhalin was to keep the brand name in front of the public so we carried a large amount of items with the company logo. We found that most people appreciated pens, office supplies and other giveaways. They simply were not available in the FSU. We also scouted the area for logistics and construction capabilities of the locals. We even did a couple of TV interviews. The local station was happy to interview the western oil people but you had to bring your own video tape and "donate" it to them.

One day we scouted out an abandoned ski slope and hotel above the city. Our idea was to use it as an overnight hotel and office for the construction. We were inundated with people wanting to work with the new oil folks. We had offers of free land for our plant location. We even had one offer of the use of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier for use in housing construction crews. It was difficult to tell which offers were legitimate and which were bogus but we listened to them all.

We were joined in the hotel by the folks from competing oil companies and we all gravitated together in camaraderie. We gave mutual support where we could and socialized in the evenings.

After the incident with a broken tooth, our medical department gave us small first aid kits which included hypodermic needles and prescription pain killers. The pain killers came in handy when one of the other oil guys had a toothache and I was able to share my codeine with him.

One night we were gathered in a room having a few beers when the phone rang. The guy answered it and then handed the phone to me. My wife was on the phone. She had heard on the news that Russia was running out of jet fuel and was worried that I would be able to get home. My son figured out to call the marine operator who then placed a radio call to the marine operator on Sakhalin who patched the call to the hotel who knew I was not in my room and connected the call. I think they were spying on us just a little.

When I was due to leave I showed up at the airport and was told I hadn't reconfirmed my reservation and I could not board. We started to complain with the theme that if they wanted western business they had to operate differently. The pilot overheard us and asked what was going on. When he was told he asked how many people wanted to go. We told him one. He looked at the agent and told him to let me board. Another indication of the paramilitary organization of the Russian air industry.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

TBT - Hiroshima

My first real job out of school was working for an offshore drilling contractor who was building a new drilling rig in Japan. I was hired to go to the shipyard and be one of the inspectors and owners reps. The rig was being built at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in Hiroshima.

I arrived there in early July, 1975 and settled in to my new surroundings. Therefore, I was in Hiroshima on the 30th anniversary of August 6, 1945. In Japan, they have the Obon festival which honors dead ancestors. In Hiroshima, they hold in on Aug 6.

Hiroshima means "Seven Islands". The city is literally made up if separate islands on a river delta. Peace Park is near the center of the city and one main branch of the river flows past it. The families would make paper lanterns which they lit with a candle and then floated them down the river. The sight of thousands of paper lanterns floating down stream was an astounding thing to see.

As I walked around, I noticed that I was the only foreigner, or gaijin, around. I didn't feel threatened although I did get a few dirty looks from some of the older folks. I also noticed that a policemen was always near by. I was never sure if he was there to watch me or protect me.

I lived there almost 2 years. When meeting people for the first time their question to me was "Iwakuni?" Iwakuni was the location of a Marine Air Base about 10 miles south. When I responded that I was an engineer at Mitsubishi they visibly relaxed. Towards the end of my expat stay the local baseball team, the Hiroshima Carps, hired a couple of American players. I was always being asked if I was "Hopkins". I could have had a lot of free drinks, but I didn't take advantage.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Chernobyl Pictures

One of my side bar people posted a link to this site. It is a collection of photographs taken inside the exclusion zone. Fascinating viewing for those who enjoy ghost towns. Go to Chernobyl Gallery.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

TBT - Russia (con't)

So we arrived in Yusno Sakhalinsk, the capital city of Sakhalin Island. Ithad been part of Japan prior to WW 2. We arrived at the hotel and checked into rooms that I describe as one step above camping and that cost $200/night. There were no credit cards in Russia, so we all carried about $9000 in cash in money belts to be able to pay for our visit. As long as we didn't carry  more than $10,000 we didn't have to declare it.

We all had jet lag so we headed out to explore the town. Before long we smelled a familiar We followed it to a brewery where some people were lined up with containers. Provide a container and they would fill it with beer. The brewery had a small room where we drank green beer and ate sausages.

Most of our time was taken up with visits to "schmooze" the local politicos and then revise our proposal to include whatever extra they wanted to include in the proposal. They wanted everything - roads, schools, medical facilities. They had rich western oil companies and they were determined to maximize what they could get. Such is the nature of  "scope creep".

We found out that the local facilities were dismal. We learned that medical care was minimal. One of the Corporate VPs, head of the medical department, broke a tooth when eating some mystery meat at the restaurant. He had to suffer until he got home. People were so poor, that military men would sell parts of the uniforms and insignia for dollars. Department store shelves were empty. All the result of 70 years of central planning. Russia was seen as a developed country but back then they were just emerging from the third world in reality.

One night, our project leader was invited to a night out with local businessmen and politicos. He didn't want to go alone so he volunteered me to go along. Turns out, it was a night at the sauna followed by vodka shots and sausage. It was a room full of middle aged men in togas doing shooters. But it's what one has to do to build relationships. We staggered back to the hotel.

Book Review - Midnight in Chernobyl

Watching the HBO series made me want to know more and this seemed to be one of the more recent summaries of the disaster. The author goes into tremendous detail about the accident and the response by the government. However, that detail does not result in a boring read. Indeed, you get an insight into the design and operation of nuclear reactors as well as a peek at the Soviet system prior to collapse. Highly recommended reading for those with a scientific bent and interest in the accident.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Head Count

Saudi Arabia beheaded two criminals last month bringing their year to date total to 107.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Swamp - Local Edition

I live in a parish with a population of about 23,000. About 20% of that population lives below the poverty level. There is only one road in or out of the parish. The route in has a 2 lane tunnel under the Gulf Intercoastal Water Way. The way out has a 2 lane lift bridge. Somehow, the Louisiana Dept of Transportation and Development (DOTD) decided we needed a high rise bridge to eliminate traffic delays when marine traffic caused the bridge to lift and to eliminate maintenance costs on the leaky tunnel.

They went through an extensive process to evaluate options and gather public input. We were told that budgets were tight, therefore, the DOTD was going to offer this project as a Public Private Partnership (P3) and that the private entity would recover their investment by charging tolls to cross the new bridge. But don't worry, tolls will be as low as possible for the minimum amount of time.

They pre qualified 3 bidders and sent out the RFP. Then, 2 of the potential bidders declined to bid leaving them with only a single bidder. The DOTD has determined that this single bid is viable and will proceed with that consortium of contractors.

There was a public meeting this week to introduce the toll amounts. We were told that tolls for residents would be $0.45 each way and that tolls would remain in effect for 30 years. Tolls would be increased by $0.01 per year plus being adjusted by the CPI. When the politicos heard the resistance from the public, they countered with the veiled threat that if we didn't want the bridge, there were plenty of other places that could use the money.

P3 contracts have a mixed history of success. Many P3 deals cost the public more than repaying a bond. Several examples can be found with a quick Google search. This the first one that Louisiana has done so I don't have much optimism about its success. I have had 40 years as a project manager in the oil industry, If I went to my management with only a single bid and 2 bidders who declined, I would be told in no uncertain terms to do it over.

 Unfortunately, it's too late to stop this piece of crap. BOHICA.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

TBT - Russia

I've been watching the new HBO show "Chernobyl" and it brought back some memories.

Back in 1990, the Russians had opened a bidding round on offshore leases off Sakhalin Island. I was working for Mobil Oil at the time and the company decided they needed to put in a proposal. They formed the proposal team in early July with the proposal due in September.

We scrambled and had the proposal done on time and Mobil decided we all needed to go to Sakhalin Island and meet with the heads of the government departments for our respective disciplines. Back then, there was no easy way to get to Russia.

Our route was to fly to Frankfurt and then connect to a Lufthansa flight to Moscow. After a night in Moscow, Mobil had arranged a special charter to take us from Moscow to Yusno-Sakhalinsk. We were told that the plane they had charted was the same aircraft they used to ferry their astronauts. The purser on the flight showed us a card that certified that he had served with the helicopter crews that dumped concrete on the reactor at Chernobyl, hence the memory jog.

We had to stop in Khabarovsk for fuel. As we taxied to the refueling point, we passed a long row of Tu-154s that were obviously being used for spare parts. When we got off the plane, we noticed that the tires were almost bald, and this was on one of their most important aircraft.

It was our first indication that the Russian military back before the fall of the USSR was not as strong as we were led to believe.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Review - First Wave: The D Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War 2

This is the latest book by Alex Kershaw. I usually like this author as he focuses his book on either a single individual or military engagement and he covers it in detail. However, in this book he has opted to try to cover a wide range of actions and participants. The result is that you have a series of short anecdotes with very little information about how they fit into the bigger picture. At times, it reads like the script from "The Longest Day".

I suspect that he wanted to cash in on the 75th anniversary of D Day and the result is not up to is usual product.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


President Trump is going to fly immigrants to other parts of the country to ease the overcrowding at the borders. And we have cries of anguish from the libs that they cannot handle the extra burden in their neighborhood. Liberals: Do as they say, not as they do.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Jalapeno Poppers

My wife came up with this as we wanted to bring a snack dish to the Mother's Day crawfish boil. It makes about 100 poppers.

Cut about 50 jalapeno peppers in half the long way leaving the stem on one side. Take out the seeds.

Fry up about 1 lb of chorizo and one pack of Jimmy Dean sausage draining off the oil.

Chop up about 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, chives and 1/2 cup cilantro very finely.

Mix veg, herbs, sausage, 2 lbs of low fat cream cheese and 4 cups shredded cheese.

Cut 2 lbs of bacon in half.

Stuff the peppers with the sausage mixture and wrap it with the bacon. Bake at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes. It's best to bake them on a rack so that the bacon fat drains away.Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Side Hustle Fail

It seems that Uber drivers are calling for a strike today in advance of Uber's 90 billion dollar IPO. Huh. I alway thought Uber was something you did for extra money in your spare time but from reading some of the stories in the media you would think that it was a full time job. Indeed, some drivers said they purchased new automobiles in order to drive for Uber. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Uber drivers started their gig voluntarily and there is no one keeping them chained behind the wheel. If they are not happy, they are free to turn off the app.

In looking at the app this morning, I found 7 cars available near me in the burbs of NOLa.

If you followed the Uber story, when they first open in a city, there is usually push back from the taxi companies. After a period of time, some sort of accommodation is reached and taxis and Uber co-exist. Now, you see the taxi unions sensing a large group of potential members and they are pushing to organize the Uber drivers. Like most things, follow the money.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Head Count

In what had to be the most people beheaded in a single month, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia executed 60 people. This brings their year to date total to 105.

For the first time, we see a charge of treason for one but for 37 of those beheaded, all in one day, were for charges of terrorism. The Sun in the UK claims that some of those executed were for minor offenses that we in the US would consider simple freedom of speech and right to assemble. However, it's good to remember that in some countries, it is illegal to speak negatively about the royal family or participate in a protest. At least one of those beheaded was for a minor offense (texting about an anti government protest) that was committed when he was a minor and they held him in jail until he was old enough to execute. Eleven of the 37 were alleged to have been spying for Iran. Five of the 37 were gay. The headless body of one of those executed was crucified and his head displayed on a pike.

This story seems to have been kept on the down low by the media except in Europe. And this is supposed to be a "moderate" Islamic state.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review - Neon Prey

Lucas Davenport is back with fellow US Marshals Bob and Rae tracking down a serial killer hit man and cannibal from Louisiana to Las Vegas. As with most of John Sandford's novels, this one pulls you in and keeps you intrigued. The action flips between Lucas and his crew and the cannibal, who has hooked up with a gang of home invasion robbers in Las Angeles. Reading about both groups almost simultaneously hooks you to see what happens next and the banter between the marshals adds humor.

If you start this book, be prepared to binge it.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Green Auto Maintenance

My daily drive is a 2003 Expedition  with a 5.4 liter V8 that I bought from my son in 2006. It was the family school bus until I got it and then it became a true SUV with the emphasis on utility. I have no problem in loading the back with potted plants or bags of pine mulch. It stays dirty most of the time. It is the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned and now has 150,000 miles, most of it with only basic maintenance. Repairs have been few and the cost of them is much lower than a monthly car note. While it has a few quirks (the door switch is out giving me a door ajar warning, the rear air con control door flops around, and the disk changer is tango uniform) I plan to keep it as long as I can. The air con is weak so every spring I give it a can of freon. This year I got a can, hooked up the hose and......nothing. I went back to the auto parts store and they told me that new freon cans were self sealing and the old hoses would not work as they could not pierce the seal. There was an adapter, but they were all sold out. One of the counter guys offered to let me use his if I charged the system in the store parking lot. Deal done and a good example of customer service. I'm not sure what drove the change unless it was environmental concerns, or a desire to force every mechanic to buy a new gadget.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Memories of Notre Dame

I was truly shocked and saddened to watch Notre Dame burn. Those who follow me know that I spend several weeks a year in Paris having fallen in love with the city after working there for about 1 year. In one trip there I stayed on Isle St Louis and my daily walk to and from the train station took me past Notre Dame. I would marvel that my daily commute took me past such history.

 In another trip, my sons family stayed with us for a couple of weeks. On the first night they spent in Paris we walked back along the Seine after dinner. My oldest grandson (then 17) was looking at stuff within the near field when I told him to look up and to the right. He looked up and saw the front of Notre Dame shining in spotlights and his jaw fell open in awe. He says that that was his "I'm really in Paris" moment.

On our last trip to Paris we again stayed on the island and the view out of our front window was the back of Notre Dame and its spire.

France rebuilt the cathedral at Reims after WW 1 and I am sure they will rebuild "Our Lady".

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Joe Biden Meets Saul Alinsky

One of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals is "Make them live up to their own rules". I think Creepy Joe is finding that he is now on the receiving end of this rule and some of it seems to be coming from the far left of his own party.

Head Count

Seven druggies and 2 murderers had their heads removed last month in Saudi Arabia. The year to date total is now up to 45.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Yellow Vests - Week 20

Taking a look at Paris traffic on Google Maps today it looks like the lower Champs, from Grand Palais to the Tuileries is closed. The riverside expressway on the right bank from the Trocadero to Tuileries is closed and the area around the Trocadero and across the bridge to the Eiffel is closed. In other words, if you were a tourist today, you could not go to most of the popular tourist sites.

My wife tracks apartments for sale and rent in Paris and she has seen a marked drop in price since January. Now heading into its 6th month, this protest over the French president's new green deal has to be hurting tourism in Paris.

And as we head into an election season, keep the lesson of the Yellow Vests in mind.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Yellow Vests- Week 19

President Macron has essentially declared martial law and deployed the army to protect the streets of major French cities. While it is common to see soldiers at tourist and transportation sites, they have been deployed to protect government building under the French anti terrorism statutes.

If you look at the traffic function on Google maps, you will see that major streets are closed for their entire length. Basically, draw an "X" through Paris and it is closed. The entire length of the Champs is closed. The streets that circle the Tuilleries are closed as well as the river side expressway on the right bank. The N/S street that passes the Catacombs, goes by Luxumborg and the St Michael Fountain, crosses Isle de la Cite and on up to Gare du Nord and the 10th Arr. is closed.

This is not going to end well.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Yellow Vests - Week 17

17 weeks and still at it although the numbers are down. The press tends to focus on Paris but there are demonstrations all over the country and plans to go to CDG. My wife tracks cavaton apartment rental rates and they are down through August, which is when Europe goes on vacation. The UN has called for an investigation of police violence and their use of crowd dispersing rubber ball grenades. If you want to gauge the extent of the protests, on Saturday morning pull up Paris on Google maps and activate the traffic function. You will be able to see the road closures due to the marches.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Head Count

Saudi Arabia added to their active start by beheading 15 for murder and drugs. Year to date total is 36.

In other news.....have a Happy Mardi Gras.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Yellow Vests - Week 13

Another Saturday of escalating violence. Looks like marchers headed down the Champs to the Assembly National building. Police reacted with tear gas and rubber bullet grenades. A protester lost a finger when he picked one up and it detonated in his had. These grenades are made for crowd control using flash bang effect and rubber projectiles. They shoot rubber balls out to a maximum effective radius of 50 feet. Some also contain CS for a triple kick. They have a 1.5 second fuse that separates the metallic fuse and safety pin portion and then it detonates 0.5 seconds later. There is no time to pick it up and throw it back.

The Dems who are supporting AOC and her stupid new Green Deal need to watch some international news. These protests started over France's New Green Deal when President Macron increased the tax on diesel fuel on a populace that was already fed up with high taxes. Venezuela is in near revolt because of years of socialist policies. California's high speed rail project is mired in cost overruns and is probably 15 years away  from completion, if ever.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sweet Revenge

The ratings are in and Superbowl LIII was the least watch Superbowl of all time. In New Orleans, where we had a special animosity for that game, viewership was half of what it was last year.Instead, we had a party in the French Quarter.

I hope that Roger Goodell doesn't have to visit New Orleans in the future. If he does, he probably should not eat out in public.

Monday, February 4, 2019


Cadenhead is Scotland's oldest independent bottler having been started in Aberdeen in 1842. They don't distill whiskey themselves but buy casks from distilleries and either blend them or sell as small batch single cask whiskeys. This particular whiskey was an 11 year old small batch cask strength distilled at Bunnahabhain.

Palate: Fairly peaty and a little harsh initially
Nose: Sweet
Color: Very pale
Finish: Long and warming

While this was not one of my favorites I recognize it as a unique whiskey due to its limited production. Indeed , some of the independent bottlers can supply whiskey from distilleries that are now closed. Some bottlers keep their suppliers a secret. Their cost can be at the high end of your whiskey budget, but if you know what you like and do a little research, you could find a one of a kind dram.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Yellow Vests - Week 12

The Yellow Vests had their 12 week of continuous protests on Saturday. The focus of the protest was against police violence. The police - a dedicated team that specializes in riot control - uses non-lethal projectiles called "flash-balls". Last week, a protest leader lost an eye to one of these weapons.

Flash-Ball is the brand name of a non lethal system manufactured by the French company Verney Carron. The produce a range of projectiles and launchers. Their full scope of supply can be seen on on their website - follow this link to see it.

The French courts uphold the use of flash-balls although they have been banned in several other European countries.

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia started the year off with a bang by removing the heads of 21 criminals for the crimes of drugs and murder.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Wireless Blues

The wireless card in my laptop went Tango Uniform and I had to get a new one. Unfortunately, I'm running an old laptop and it took some time to find one. Back now and looking for a new 'puter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Yellow Vests - Week 8

The yellow vest protest continued after Christmas. While the violence in Paris gets all the attention, there are non-violent protests all over France. The latest move by the yellow vests is to cause a run on the banks by having their members withdraw their money from their bank accounts. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
Dior has changed the date of their mens fashion show from a Saturday, when most of the protests take place, to a Friday.
And in other news, a street artist has painted a mural depicting Liberty leading the yellow vest modeled after the famous Delacroix painting.

I don't think this movement is going to go away anytime soon and President Macron seems to have no idea how to deal with them. And our new congress critter talk about 70% tax rates.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Head Count

Saudi Arabia put another 12 druggies and murderers to the sword last month bringing their 2018 total head count to 139.