Sunday, December 30, 2007

Long term plan

Mark Steyn points out a
quote from Gibbon, that
the battle of Poitier-tours
and the defeat of the muslims
was a big turningpoint in
western civilization.

[the midpoint between poitiers
& tours is shown by a thumtack,
and it is much further north than
I expected, I guess I thought the
muslims were defeated in the pyrennes
a la the "song of roland"]
From Gibbon:

“Perhaps,” wrote Edward Gibbon in The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, “the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”

Steyn then points to another quote from the daily mail:

The deeply English, deeply Christian city of Oxford, one of the homes of free thought, is now being asked to accept the Islamic call to prayer wafting from mosque loudspeakers over its spires and domes.

Which is deeply ironic, since Gibbon had assumed that we had won the war
with Islam, the 18th century sultanate was weak, the muslims of north africa
were no more than pirates. The idea that the call to prayer will echo over
his Oxford would probably have him spinning in his grave.

Now the Islamic re-reconquista is steadily capturing more territory than ever
before, but not on spearpoints of mounted knights, but by diffusion. It's interesting
to me as a student of history, and it's ironic, but it's still worrying.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Poor but happy

One of the few websites I make time to read now is Poor
but happy
, they have a great site with lots of interesting
characters. Today they had a thread on something that is
really interesting to people living in colombia...what the heck
to do with TP when the society down here says to not flush it.
(my contribution was: "Our building was built in the 60's and I've been warned repeatedly not to flush TP, but I'm going to flush it down though the heavens fall down around me.

Which I thought was pretty clever until I saw a poem from el modefoque:

'Twas the night before New Years, and there on the can
Sat a drunken, dejected, poopless old man.
The Ex-Lax had been taken hours before bed
In hopes that the turtle would rear his brown head.
Then up from the bowl there arose such a splatter!
I sprang from the seat to see what was the matter!
And what to my wondering eyes should appear
but a brown fecal flounder swimming in recycled beer.

"At last I have shit!" I screamed at the wall.
Then flush away, flush away, flush away all.
I could now settle down to a long winter's nap.
Happy new year to all, and to all a good crappy new year.

there are obviously people down here with talent, because it was only
around 15 minutes between the time when I first saw the thread and the
poem was posted. I was reading the thread and choking with laughter.
The guy in the cubical across from me probably thinks I'm a nut.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to all

Christmas in colombia has lost none of it's
religiousness, I think if you tried to say
merry xmas you'd be met with a blank stare.

Every day for the nine days before christmas
almost every house and office in the country
celebrates a Novena (ninth), where in the states
lawyers would be parachuting gleefully out of the
sky if every company was holding a religious service
for 9 days. The novena includes some kind of food,
buenelos(fried bread) with chocalate, or Natilla (pudding?),
and today my part of the company bought lunch, so we had
the traditional Lechona (pig stuffed with rice, not bad)

The novena also uses the same prayers
every year, with each verse of the prayer followed by
verses of the song "Ven VenVen", repeated enough until even
the gringos can sing along. It reminds of my catholic youth and
how my 11 year old self wouldn't be able to pick my 40 year old
self out of a linup.

Here's the Nativity scene from the office:

(called a Pesebre in spanish) I loved the two sheep in the
forground standing at the well, with looks that say,
"where's the water, how do we work a crank?"

Oh well, we're off to travel for the 4 day weekend.
Merry christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, November 30, 2007

At the bullfights in Quito

I'm in quito for work, but I escaped
from the office for a few hours to go see
La Corrida in the plaza del toros. It's a
very brutal thing to watch, but in this
age of political correctness and eliminating
all possible risks and dangers, bullfighting
is none of that.

The stadium isn't that big, smaller than a
typical basketball arena, so the bullfighting
is a lot closer than it looks on TV or on a
bugs bunny cartoon. It's far enough away
that you can pretend to not see something
if you don't want to, when they kill a bull
that isn't fighting anymore, it looks like
they stab him in the back of the neck with an
ice pick, but if you don't look closely it looks
like they are just tapping him on the top of the
head with their hand.

I took these pictures of the first bull with my cell phone, then the battery died, so I have no other pictures of the
5 other bulls that were killed. The camera really
doesn't capture the speed and grace of all the men

First, guys with pink capes that are toreador trainees,
but who function like rodeo clowns face the bull when
he is completely fresh and bravo. I'm not sure what
they are actually called, I was calling them Mareadors,
because their job is to get the bull tired and dizzy.

Each time one of them will face the bull until the bull
chases them, they run to an exit and if the bull is too
close then a different Mareador will wave his cape, the bull will change directions and chase
him instead.

Then come the picadors on horseback, which seemed like the most unfair part of the
show. They are riding horses wrapped in padded armor, which looked like a giant
quilt, and the horses are blindfolded. The bull attacks the horse, attempting to gore
him with his horns, almost lifting the horse off it's feet, but the picador leans into it
and stabs the bull with a 10' long spear, the head of which has a guard so it can't go
too deep. The picador leans into it, putting all the weight of his body and the weight
of the horse into shoving the spear into the bull. After this, the bull isn't fresh anymore
their tongues are lolling, and in the case of the first bull they occasionally trip and stagger.

The picadors ride out and the toreador comes out, throws down his hat and starts the
real action. He stabs the bull with short spears or knives that have flags on them.
But he doesn't do it the easy way, which is from the side, he stabs the bull in the shoulders
over the horns, curving his body and stretching his arms so that he has the form of a "C"
holding the flags pointed straight down...then he stabs down. It all happens so fast that
even the bull can't tell what happened.

Now the bull is streaming blood from the picadore and from the flags hanging down.
The first toreador was most impressive here, he did the spearing from horseback,
and was able to curve horse and rider in a giant "C" and stab down. All the while
controlling the sideways and backwords with elegant steps. (the horse was the best
trained creature out there)

The last part the toreador takes a red cape and sword from assistants behind the wall.
He then makes the bull charge the cape, just like in every cartoon you've ever seen
(yes, the source of most of my knowledge of history and culture comes from bugs bunny)
But the toreador doesn't do what you or I would do when playing bullfight, holding the
cape at arms length as the bull (or my brother) rushes by. He attempts to let the bull
pass as close as possible, with the sharp horns almost scraping his back.

One of the last bulls was the most "bravo" or angry. He still had a lot of energy and
fight at this point and knocked down the toreador twice, cutting an 8" gash across his
back. The most impressive thing was the toreador kept fighting, facing the bull and
letting him pass even closer than before. lots of guts there.

Then the toreador attempts
to stab the bull with his sword
between the shoulder blades,
apparently it scores more points
if the sword goes in to the hilt, or if
he stabs and pulls itout and hangs
onto it without getting gored in the
process. Almost all the bulls just
kind of sit down at this point with
fatigue and pain, and the toreador
stabs him at the base of the skull
with an icepick. Only once out of the
six bulls did a matador kill
a bull with his sword, he stabbed
him at the base of the neck and the
bull fell like a ton of bricks (or a ton of bull).

After the bull is down it looks like they do a magic trick to distract the audience.
A guy wheels out a big handtruck looking cart while a group of workmen gather
around the bull, and one of them (who looks like he works as a butcher in his day
job) piths the bull with an icepick. If the bull was still alive, it's dead now. The cart
comes running out while a team of gaily decorated horses are slow marched out to the
bull. The bulls head is tied to the cart, the team of horses attached to the cart and the
dead bull is run off the field by the horses.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. I'm sure it's cruel to the
bull, but less cruel than just murdering them in cold blood for food.
At least the bull gets a chance to fight back, and some part of human
culture faces danger with elegance.

Monday, November 05, 2007

“Fatherland, Socialism or Death!”

The New york times (yes, i've gone back to reading that leftist rag) has
a fantastic article written by Tina Rosenberg on oil in Venezuela. It goes
through the problems that having large amounts of oil can cause and what
the best solution can be. The article goes through some history of oil in Venezuela
and what chavez has done to pdvsa.

What happened in the previous nationalization is a clue to what is about to happen
in venezuela during the current nationalization:

Paradoxically, nationalization brought the government less money and less control. When Venezuela’s oil was still in private hands, the government collected 80 cents of every dollar of oil exported. With nationalization the figure dropped, and by the early 1990s, the government was collecting roughly half that amount. This low return to the country’s coffers was partly a result of that age-old conflict between short- and long-term reward. Because wells run dry and machinery ages, oil companies everywhere must invest lots of money just to keep production steady, and to grow, they need even more. Without new investment, Pdvsa would lose 25 percent of its oil production every year. Its officials were convinced that Venezuela benefited more if Pdvsa’s profits went to producing more oil, not more government. “Social revenue has always overshadowed investing in the industry,” said Ramón Espinasa, who was chief economist of Pdvsa from 1992 to 1999. “But I think the priority has to be to maintain oil. If you have one dollar left, it should be invested in keeping capacity. Otherwise next time around you will not have a single dollar to distribute.”

Most laymen think that you just drill a hole in the ground and oil comes out forever,
but in reality the oil production declines with decreases in pressure, and more money has
to be spent to drill more wells and expose new formation to production, or workover the
wells that are in production or inject fluids to maintain pressure and production. Money
has to be spent to produce oil, and lots of it. Oil companies might make huge profits of
billions of dollars, but as a percentage of revenues it's not that terrific. (exxon makes $377 billion in revenue, but only $40 billion in profit, Cisco makes $40 billion in revenue but
$7 billion in profit).

National oil companies are even worse, even the good ones are treated as jobs factories,
when I took a trip for a well in south asia, every service hand position had a national oil
company counterpart, so every meeting had 25 people in it, instead of the typical IOC
6 or 8 people in a meeting. So if Chavez is making pdvsa take out all it's cash to support
charity, production will decrease even faster than it does for average NOC's.

To me, the money quote:
As a slogan, “Negotiate a Better Royalty Rate!” doesn’t have the ring of “The Oil Is Ours!”; nationalization of natural resources can bolster a country’s psyche even if the management of those resources is a failure. The urge to nationalize is, at its core, a political one. Chávez seized Pdvsa not so it would produce more but so he could directly control the money. When governments give into this urge, they tend to be susceptible to the temptations of using oil for short-term gain.

NOC's should do what is done in the USA for collecting royalties from oil and gas.
Charge a high bonus to get rights to drill in an area in an open auction, then charge
the highest royalty the market will bear, then be fair and open about how the money
is collected and don't change the rules in the middle of the game. Oil companies are
smart, they do the calculation and if they won't make their corporate minimum profit
then they won't bid. If they will make enough profit but the reserves will be safe for
some foreseeable future than most companies will pay high royalties to stay in the game.
(I don't think exxon and cop left venezuela because of the extortionate royalties, but
because it seems more likely they'll lose the whole investment).

anyway, go read the article.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hail to bogota

It's pissing hail here again in bogota. It's not the same little graniso
like the past few times that could pass for sleet, this is thunderstorm
type hail that's dime-sized and hits the roof of the patio with a steady
plink, plank plunk noise. Unfortunately, our apartment has a glassed
in patio and several skylights that make the apartment very light and
warm when the weather is nice, but during a hail-storm sound like we're
living in the apartment below neal pert.

It's weird that in a city where it rains so much and has occasional severe
storms there seems to be no weather radar. I guess knowing that between
October and march it rains every day is a good enough weather forecast
and it's more important to have a 20 minute gossip section on the news
followed by the bikini model of the day.

Update the next day: other parts of the city saw much worse graniso, the
scenes from the news and from what my wife saw showed it covering the
ground to a few inches, and low spots filled up to several feet.

The worst was at the avenida 26 underpass where the drains were blocked
so the street filled up with 2-3 meters of graniso and water. Here's how it
looked in El tiempo.

So I was lucky the worst part fell several miles to the south and my wife was smart
enough to get off the road and go visit a friend until it stopped.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On ramp to hell

Lileks on asked for
what are the worst
on-ramps for merging
onto highways. I
immediately thought
of the one that haunted
me through my last year of
high school, which is the
on ramp to merge from
west end boulevard onto
I-10 at the same place where
I-610 and I-10 merge heading
out of new new orleans into Metairie. They've improved it now so that
there is a third lane on I-10 instead of being just 2 lanes with a 50 foot
acceleration lane. But it still sucks, you come out of a super-tight cloverleaf
that immediately curves left again and accelerates onto I-10. If you were
merging at 5:30 traffic in the acceleration lane was stopped, while traffic
on I-10 could either be stopped too or moving at 75 mph.

while you're palms were still sweaty, you had to merge again with the I-610
traffic, then cross the 17th street canal. I always looked at that canal with
fear, since the water level is higher than the surrounding houses. Growing
up I always tried to picture what would happen if it broke, but I always underestimated
what actually happened when the levee broke and let the canal and lake
ponchatrain into the city.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

El que tiene mucho, porque tiene mucho?

I'm becoming a soap opera addict here, we only get one
US network channel (cbs), the only channels we get with
non-crap programming in english are Sony and Universal.
After watching House and 2 1/2 men reruns, the only thing left
are the novelas "nuevo rico, nuevo pobre" and "monte christo"

I'm stuck watching Nuevo rico, just to find out what happens
to the lead idiot on the show, Brian. Who started out poor, now
is rich and will probably end up poor again by the end of the show.

Monte Christo I couldn't bring myself to watch, wasting two hours
per night on soap operas isn't a good idea, instead I picked up the
book 'Count of Monte Christo', that sat at my parents house for 15
years and now has traveled with us for the past 7 years.

The book was even better than I remembered, better than the movie
that came out a couple of years ago and certainly better than the novela
version that I'm avoiding to watch. It's interesting that I read it when I was
18 in high school and I clearly emphasized with the young edmond dantes, and
I thought the characters after the passage of 24 years were impossibly old.
(42 years old, that's nearly dead!) Even the shipowner Mr. Morrel was 34 yrs
old when the book started...he seemed ancient.

Now I think, holy heck he was the richest man in Marseille and he was only
34! I'm a freaking loser. All these years have passed and I didn't even spend
any time in Chateau d'if, unless you count 15 years offshore as sort of moving
french prisons. Now I just need a monk in the adjoining cell to tell me where
his 401k is hidden.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

LSU loses, Bobby wins

I was pretty disappointed last week when LSU lost to kentucky,
no national championship this year. Not all is dim in tigerland though,
Bobby Jindal won the governship yesterday. I haven't felt so hopeful
about louisiana since Buddy Roemer won back in 1987.

here's his victory speech.

"The only barrier to success in Louisiana is the willingness to work hard and follow the rules"
"We can change, we must change, we will change"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rainy taxes

It's that time of year again, after a couple of extensions I finally
have to try and figure out my taxes. Instead of a nice relaxing day
watching football and drinking beer with my faithful dog at my side,
I'm trying to remember what happened last year while hunting for
documents on the web. Most of the paper records are sitting in a
green trash bag at my parents house, or at the picayune city dump.

Note to self: keep better records next year.

My efforts aren't being helped by the steady rain that just increased
to hail, what they call here in spanish "graniso", but's probably closer
to sleet in size. Our study has a sky light with a small air gap that is precisely
designed to allow all the hail that hits the roof to bounce under the skylight
and into the study. My faithful dog is cowering in the corner while the
hail and w-2's bounce around me.
[insert cowardly dog photo here]

Oh, well, what's the worse that the irs can do to me, i'm sure they're all
bark with no bite.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

de, de da da... Go tigers!

I'm watching the LSU florida game in a hotel in quito.
The touchdown that LSU just scored is being reviewed, I'm hoping I didn't put
the Joe Jinx on them by watching this game, they were behind, but now they
appeared to have scored...
"ruling on the field is confirmed - touchdown"
Now just a minute or so to win the game, which will make up for my sadness
about the saints not knowing where the goalline is this year. I made the mistake of
watching the saints games on espn in colombia...they've lost three, so I think I am jinxing
them. After the first half of the lsu game I thought my jinx was continuing, but luckily, LSU just won!

Monday, September 10, 2007

September 11th, 2007

I thought one of the most inspiring stories from 9/11
was the story of Rick Rescorla and how he helped evacuate
2000 coworkers from the south tower. He also sang songs
to raise spirits during the evacuation, and since he was born
in Cornwall one of the songs he sang was Men of Harlech.

Men of Harlech

Men of Harlech stop your dreaming
can't you see their spear points gleaming
see their warrior pennons streaming
to this battle field

Men of Harlech stand ye steady
Let it not be ever said ye
For this battle were unready
Welshmen do not yield

From the hills rebounding
Let the war cry sounding
Summon all, the clarion call
the mighty foe surrounding

Men of Harlech on to glory
This will ever be your story
keep these stirring words before ye
Welshmen do not yield

Fight for father, sister, mother,
Each is bound to each as bother;
And with faith in one another,
We will win or die!
Tho' our mothers may be weeping,
Tho' our sisters may be keeping
watch for some who now are sleeping;
On the battlefield,

Still the trumpet's braying,
Sounds on ever saying,
Let each bowman pierce a foe,
And never stop the slaying,

Till invaders learn to fear us,
And no Saxon linger near us;
Men of Wales! our God doth hear us,
Never will we yield!

We'll not die, be conquered never
Harlech, Harlech, lives forever
Freedoms' from the greatest giver
Freedom is our good.
See how Welshmen shouting run down
from the moutains they do come down
Like a storm that strikes at sun down
boil up like a flood.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Cider house rules

The NYtimes has an article whining about the teriffic apple
crop in new york that maybe won't be picked because the
illegals that have been picking it are being caught in raids,
and the poor farmers have to verify that their employees are
in the country legally. They then mention that most pickers
begin picking fruit in the south, then move north.

This struck me as being exactly as described in the "cider house
rules", except in that book all the pickers were black. Maybe this
is a chance to wind back the clock and hire americans instead of

The price of fruit might go up, but I'd bet it wouldn't be
much. If you double the wages of someone working two days in
a farm, the worker makes twice as much but the farmer is only paying
double the amount of a few percentage points of his total cost.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So there's a gulf of mexico in mexico too?

I know it must be frustrating for Mexicans that when gringo's
talk about hurricane impacts on the gulf of mexico, they generally
are talking about the northern gulf coast.

There is production that is exported to the US from the oilfields offshore
Ciudad Carmen, and right now that infrastructure is in the bullseye for
a hit from Hurricane Dean. From the Oil Drum:

The Oil drum goes into great detail about what might happen,
the prevailing opinion seems to be not much, if Dean exits the
Yucatan as a Cat 1 or 2 moving 18 miles an hour and passes north
of the Cantarell field, then it won't affect much. The production will
just be stopped until all the offshore guys can get back on crew boats
and ride the choppy waters back out to the rigs and platforms.

In my opinion the worst case would be if the track shifts further south and bullseyes
the cantarell field as a cat 3. A lot of the older platforms build before
the bust in '86 could get knocked over as they seem to do in the
northern gulf coast. Since Cantarell production is already dropping
like a rock, this will only hurt mexico and keep the price of oil high.

update 22 Aug

It looks like the storm crossed the oilfields as a cat 1 moving pretty
quickly, so, probably nothing happened. For a weak storm to have a big
effect offshore it has to move slowly so that the wind has time to build
some big waves. (see hurricane juan, 1985 for an example)

Friday, August 10, 2007

1998 wasn't the hottest year ever? No way!

There are reports from the good people at and
norcalblogs that the nasa finding that 1998 was the hottest year ever wasn't true,
it was a y2k bug that caused the calculation to be wrong and it was
really 1934 that was the hottest year ever.

I know that can't be true because I started a job working outside
in may 1998, and I can tell you that it was hot. I was sweating through
coveralls until I left salt rings. At the time I was calibrating oilfield
logging tools that use radioactive sources, so on several occasions I
didn't know if I was having a heat stroke or it was just a neutron headache.
I found the only cure was to drink a twelve pack of bud light after getting
off work, so I'd get that good dehydrated/radioactive/budlight buzz.

So even though I wasn't alive back in 1934, there is no way that it was
hotter back then. if it was hotter back then, then the universe wouldn't
be rotating around me. I know that right here right now there's no other
place I'd rather be, and so everything must be at a maximum right now,
dammit, or else I'm just a mortal, and I'll croak and the world won't be destroyed
because of my consumption.

Oh well, pass a bud light would you?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Life on Mars

We're four months behind here in colombia for TV on HBO,
since we dont' have the real hbo, just hbo latino, hbo crap
and hbo crap east. They just started the Sopranos 3 weeks
ago, and they also started a new show called Life on Mars.

The main character is a police detective in Northern england
who gets hit by a car and ends up in a coma. He seems to wake
up back in 1973, he seems to be just halucinating, it's hard to tell
if it's all a dream or he's somehow time traveling.

It's cool to see the clothes, cars and science of 1973 laid out by
a person from the future. I'm glad to see that as the sopranos
ends, HBO keeps creating shows that are original and well done.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Economics, Bubba and the downfall of Chavez

There's an interesting article in the NYtimes today detailing
how Venezuela's PDVSA can't stop declining production because
they can't get enough drilling rigs after chavez declared that
all Energy Service Companies have to donate 10% of the contract's
value to social projects within Venezuela.

It's interesting because even after Chavez nationalized foreign
oil companies assets, or raised the royalty that he required the
IOC's (international oil companies) to pay, he can still get some
idiot gringo oil companies to pay to play in venezuela along with
the chinese, russians and Iranians.

He can even get most energy service companies to work in venezuela.
What he can't get are the true Bubba's, the roughnecks that run
the rigs, to bring more rigs so that more drilling can be done and
production increased. I would bet that it's not just the 10% poor tax
that is keeping the rigs away, but the fear that chavez will nationalize
the rigs once they are in Venezuela that keeps them away.

So now we're in a race against time, if the chinese can build more drilling
rigs and bring them to venezuela before Chavez gets run out of caracas
on a rail, then chavez will be there for the next 50 years and his clones
will keep going long after that. If he can't beg, borrow or steal enough rigs,
then production will keep going down and chavez will have to retire to
panama or Iran.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Protests in Bogota - Quiero la paz

There were protests in Bogota last thursday
against los FARC, triggered by los FARC
murdering 11 politicians who were hostages
for the past 5 years. I took this picture with
the cameraphone, I was trying to show the
people streaming out of the offices down
to Septima, and the toilet paper and confetti
that was streaming out of the higher floors
of the buildings.

Everyone was in white shirts and waving
white rags or flags to show los FARC that
the people want peace and no more hostage
taking. [ I wish they had chosen Colombian
flags instead, waving little white flags made
it look like the whole country was surrendering.]

It was a good effort, but I don't think protests
like this will impress los FARC. People that
can kill hostages in cold blood that they've kept for 5 years have no humanity
left to be impressed with.

It's interesting that the press in Colombia didn't even dispute the story
when it came out, los FARC is claiming that the hostages were killed
in a cross fire with Army troops. Since it's pretty obvious that 11 people
kept in seperate cells don't get killed at the same time due to crossfire
the official story is easy to believe. I'm sure in the US the press would have
immediately believed los FARC instead.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

happy 4th of July

Lileks has a visit to a fireworks stand up on which reminded
me of my unsuccessful stint working on a fireworks stand. One christmas
break in school I was only living off of my air national guard monthy
paycheck and GI bill ($250 total) Since school was closed my student job was closed
too, and it turns out that if you don't work they deliver no checks.

I needed some beer and food money, so I called a number on a flyer
for "do you want to make money" and it turned out to be a fireworks
stand down in Prairieville, which is about 30 minutes south of LSU and
is only otherwise famous for the titty bar 'Suthern Cumforts'.
I went down and interviewed (I don't remember if I wore a tie) and
I got the job, with $100 guarenteed plus a possible bonus if I sold well
working the two weekends before new year's eve.

Since the main determinant of success seemed to be whether you were
crusty, tattoed and smoked half a carton of marlboro reds in the box per day, I was
not successful. The crusty old carnies had no problem lying to kids,
mothers with kids, parents with grandparents holding american flags,
they would say anything to anyone to push the fireworks off the shelves.

My sales pitch ended with me telling the truth of what I thought of each
item, eg, that tank just fizzes and pops, it really doesn't do much.
apparently 20 year old catholic boys don't do well at that sort of thing...
(I'd probably sell the shit out that stuff now). The second weekend ended
and I had worked 4 - 12 hour days for total earnings of a crisp new $100 bill...
even with my shitty sales techniques I had sold at least $2k worth of
crap, I felt like I had been robbed.

What made up for my being violated was the owner let us shoot off about $5k worth of stuff before we closed down, which was certainly the best fireworks show I've ever participated
in. The cannons boomed, rockets swished and M-80's banged as we fought
our own little war, with the only witnesses being the traffic on Airline Highway
and the titty dancers from Suthern Kumforts.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bogota Traffic

I couldn't resist taking
this picture with my cell
phone. I was in the passenger
seat of a car in traffic, I looked
to the right expecting to
see some bored taxi driver,
instead there was a bored
horse pulling a trash cart,
waiting for traffic to clear.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I'm just watching the finale of Rome. What an excellent
show. The best character is obviously Titus Pullo...he's
like the Forrest Gump of olden times. When Lucius Vorenus
jumped into the Arena to save Titus Pullo I almost cheered.

The writers don't use the easy out of copying shakespeare,
instead of Cesear's funeral ("I come not to praise cesear but
to bury him"), the whole story was off camera. Marc antony
just offhandedly told the story of "Brutus gave a longwinded
speech, then I gave a speech, then the riots broke out".

To add to my Romishness, I've been wasting my spare time
playing "rome total combat" ( or something like that) on my
wife's PC. I'm playing as the Julii and I've conquered all of
Europe to Byzantium, but now the grind is so slow going
around through the middle east and africa that my wife will
probably cut me off before I conquer the world. oh well.

Well, rome is over, hopefully they'll come back with the next

Monday, May 21, 2007

Star Wars 30th anniversary

Today is the 30th anniversary of the first star wars movie.
I remember standing in a line that wrapped around Lakeside
cinema in Metairie, and we got into the theater just as the storm
troopers were blasting into the rebel ship, and from those first
few laser blasts I was mesmorized.

Adulthood never demesmerized me, the only thing that could
shake me from liking star wars was the crappy ideas in the last
3 movies. With Jar Jar and miticlorians George lucas managed
to kill off the franchise for me, by the time the last movie came
out I watched it just to see how Anakin would get barbecued
into vader.

Hopefully soon someone will remake the movies in chronological
order for adults, and edit out the crappier notions and use all the
current special effects so that the first movie doesn't look so
clunky. I'd remake it with the focus more on Darth Vader and use
ideas like the Darth Blog, or at least make the story more consistent,
not switch from the force being a mysterious field that surrounds
us to something generated by parasites in our blood.

Monday, May 14, 2007

unbearable heaviness of being

I wonder if we're doomed to repeat Vietnam over and
over. From my position it is impossible to tell if Iraq
is vietnam, if it was vietnam from the beginning or if
by repetitive framing over and over the press has framed
the square peg of iraq into the round hole of vietnam.

With hindsight it's easier to see the mistakes that were made,
the press screeches over too many civilian casualties, so
no strict control was established over 'civilians' after the
initial invasion so the country was looted to the ground.

Some idiots playing games pull naked frat pranks on prisoners,
the scream of "torture" goes up, and we end up with a catch
and release terrorist program.

When our soldiers die, there is a drumbeat of reporting that says
how terrible that is, so our troops are kept on safe and secure
bases while a civil war rages in the cities of Iraq.

All these things occur while time passes and life goes on.
Now people are saying the war is lost, instead of too much
micromanagement of president johnson, we have mismanagement
of president bush. It seems like vietnam has repeated again.

I would say that two things have been the same in Iraq as in vietnam,
there was no formal declaration of war voted on by the congress
in either conflict, and there was no response from the government
when the press reported on events as if they were the worst that
could happen.

Every event in the press will always be reported as if it is the worst,
just so that they can attract readers, viewers and listeners. If there is
a tropical storm hitting texas in July, then it will be reported as the
worst tropical storm to make landfall in Texas since george bush was
elected, even if it's the only one to hit in the past ten years. Because
bad events happen every day somewhere, the news
is reported as "bad things are happening everywhere", when in reality
it is "bad things are happening somewhere". This is an example of
the extreme value fallacy

War is hell. War is a dirty business, and civilian deaths, stupidity
and foolishness are some of the horsemen that always ride with war.
The lesson for the next war is that we must have an actual
declaration of war before we do anything so that various idjits
can't come out after and say they didn't vote for war, they voted
for peace with rolling airstrikes, cruise missiles and no casualties.

We can then fight the war on all fronts, on the mlitary and in the
press, and we can say that if we're going to fight we're going to
fight to win. If the press wants to go along they can, but they need
to understand that although things are bad, they aren't really the
worst that could have happened. Maybe if they would add that
fact to stories then reporting would seem more balanced.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


We had an earthquake here last night, it wasn't really
that bad but it scared the heck out of me. It started
with a poltergeist shaking of the bed, then built up gradually
over about 20 seconds until the curtains were moving, water
sloshing in the toilet bowl and the door was shaking on it's
hinges. By the time it reached that point I was up and pulling
my jeans on and looking for my wallet, then it stopped

It was scary because it seemed to be building in intensity,
and if it got worse I doubt we could make it to the
ground floor before all the buildings started to fall.
We're in a 30 year old building, so hopefully it's been
tested by previous earthquakes, and not just structurally
weakened over time.

El tiempo said it was a 6.0 but there was no damage or
injuries, so it must have been centered out in the sticks
somewhere. They said it was only felt in the taller buildings,
so if we felt it on the 5th floor, people in 25 story towers
must have been really rockin'.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Doggie picture

Here's our dog
Bianca with her
fur coat on, ready
to go outside.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Have you no shame, sir!

Christopher Hitchens has a scathing review of george
tenet's book, the kind of review that if Tenet had any shame
he wouldn't show his face in public again after this.

Tenet is one of the dickheads that is coming out now saying
Iraq was none of his fault. Hitchens skewers him with his own
words and his smiling face behind Colin Powell while Powell
presented the evidence at the UN.

I'd go even further with something that I've said before and I'll
say again, if you are in government service or the military
and someone is on a course of action that will hurt the country
the proper response is to RESIGN AND SAY SOMETHING.
Not wait 4 years then write a book that twists history and
what was thought and said back in 2003.
(here's the best hitch:)
In the post-Kuwait-war period, there was little political risk in doing what Tenet had always done and making the worst assumption about anything that Saddam Hussein might even be thinking about. (Who but an abject idiot would ever make a different assumption or grant the Baathists the smallest benefit of the least doubt?) But we forget so soon and so easily. The problem used to be the diametrically opposite one. The whole of our vaunted "intelligence" system completely refused to believe any of the warnings that Saddam Hussein was about to invade and occupy Kuwait in 1990. By the time the menace was taken seriously, the invasion itself was under way. This is why the work of Kenneth Pollack (this time titled The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) was received with such gravity when it was published in 2002. Pollack had interpreted the signals correctly in 1990—and been ignored—and was arguing that another final round with Saddam was inevitable. His book did more to persuade policy-makers in Washington than anything ever said by Ahmad Chalabi. To revisit these arguments is to be reminded that no thinking person ever felt that the danger posed by a totalitarian and aggressive Iraq was a negligible one. And now comes Tenet, the man who got everything wrong and who ran the agency that couldn't think straight, to ask us to sympathize with his moanings about "Iraq—who, me?"

A highly irritating expression in Washington has it that "hindsight is always 20-20." Would that it were so. History is not a matter of hindsight and is not, in fact, always written by the victors. In this case, a bogus history is being offered by a real loser whose hindsight is cockeyed and who had no foresight at all.

We need a new code of conduct for the military and government
service. "I swear, on my honor, that if I don't agree with government
policy I'll resign and go public, not sitting on my GS-25 paycheck
while working on a book deal. If I don't say something when it
could do some good, I agree to keep my stupid puckered face
shut for all time."

Thursday, April 26, 2007


The power is out here in colombia around the country. In our
building we're on a generator, so I didn't notice. It went
down while I was giving a presentation, and the audience included
the client's CEO. Maybe the power outage was an attempt by god
to give me an escape route..."sorry, no powerpoint without
power, hehehe."

Unfortunately the almighty's help was stopped by a good UPS
and the building generator, the lights didn't even blip and I
swallowed the biley taste and gave a half-hearted presentation.
Nice try god, but next time smite the projector.

I hope the power comes on soon, there's no reason for it to come
on. Maybe the guerillas blew up a pylon, or 200. Who knows.
Here we're dependant on the government and the only thing we have to drink
in the house is wine, rum and whiskey. No bottled water to speak

In the states it's stupid to depend on the government. Here
I'm criminally negligent. In New orleans people complained about
no help after 3 days, here in colombia the rats will be playing
peanuckle with my finger bones long before government help would
arrive after a katrina sized disaster.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Globalization, not so good for the home team

There's a great article in The Nation that discusses free trade
as a losing game for the USA, and how the government needs to do
something about it. (here's an exerpt that summarizes what I
think, but go read the whole thing)

Americans can choose to blame China or disloyal multinationals, but the problem is grounded in US politics. The solution can be found only in Washington. China and other developing nations are pursuing national self-interest and doing what the system allows. In a way, so are the US multinationals. "I want to stress it's a system problem," Gomory says. "The directors are doing the job they're sworn to do. It's a system that says the companies have to have a sole focus on maximizing profit."

Gomory's proposed solution would change two big things (and many lesser ones). First, the US government must intervene unilaterally to cap the nation's swollen trade deficit and force it to shrink until balanced trade is achieved with our trading partners. The mechanics for doing this are allowed under WTO rules, though the emergency action has never been invoked by a wealthy nation, much less the global system's putative leader. Capping US trade deficits would have wrenching consequences at home and abroad but could force other nations to consider reforms in how the trading system now functions. That could include international rights for workers, which Gomory favors.

Whenever you find yourself in an argument with a liberal or
a canadian about globalization, they'll usually start calling senior
managers at global companies evil, and senior managers are just
out to oppress poor people to become richer. As if all the people
we know are 'good', but once a manager rises to a certain level in
an organization a chip is inserted (or a modification of the
management chip that makes new managers spout the party
line and limit vacation days) that suddenly makes them evil
and take on a ratbert zombie stare.

Some people are assholes and only want become rich, but
99.9999% of the people in the world are only trying to get
ahead using the rules that are already setup in the world.
So a ceo who gets paid based on maxmizing shareholder
value or boosting profits generally can't come out and say he's
going to do something that reduces profits, unless there is a
compelling story that will show his company will come out better
in the end. In fact, if a CEO does something that hurts his company
or shareholders, he runs the risk of doing the enron shuffle into jail.

Since we are nothing but moist robots, much like the
Game of Life simulation, if you setup the rules of the simulation
and press play,
(the rules are)
- maximize profits
- workers are cheaper outside the USA
- there is no penalty for making something outside the USA, bringing it
in and keeping the profits.

the simulaiton will churn and you'll add jobs to poor countries and we'll
lose jobs in the usa. Which might be morally ok, but eventually we'll
have no more good jobs to lose and all that we'll have are debts and
bunch of lawyers. We should rethink free trade, there are countries
who deserve to be able to suckle at the nipples of the USA gravy
train (India, Colombia) and there are counties that should be sucking
high priced store bought formula until they change the way the
operate some more (China, Venezuela). We need some solutions
that protect some jobs without leading to our companies producing
1977 caprice classics.

Ralph Gomery's ideas from the article are:

Gomory's proposed solution would change two big things (and many lesser ones). First, the US government must intervene unilaterally to cap the nation's swollen trade deficit and force it to shrink until balanced trade is achieved with our trading partners. The mechanics for doing this are allowed under WTO rules, though the emergency action has never been invoked by a wealthy nation, much less the global system's putative leader. Capping US trade deficits would have wrenching consequences at home and abroad but could force other nations to consider reforms in how the trading system now functions. That could include international rights for workers, which Gomory favors.

Second, government must impose national policy direction on the behavior of US multinationals, directly influencing their investment decisions. Gomory thinks this can be done most effectively through the tax code. A reformed corporate income tax would penalize those firms that keep moving high-wage jobs and value-added production offshore while rewarding those that are investing in redeveloping the home country's economy.

sounds reasonable to me.