Archive - Sep 2013

Date

September 30th

Shutdown

The Republican cuckoo-birds are going to shut down the government tonight and think its a great party. This will be fine and dandy until the Medicare checks stop coming to their guillible supporters. Medicare. Social Security. Veterans benefits. All of it stops because the Republicans in the House want to repeal a law on the books as a condition for paying the bills. They are nuts. They are bad for the country. And they must be defeated. Fully and finally. 

September 29th

Aunt Olla turns 102

auntaolla102.jpg 

We held a small celebration at the new Fair Meadow Assisted Living, which is attached to the Fertile Hilton. Aunt Olla was in fine form and drank in every minute of it. Three of her schoolkids were able to come. All three are in their upper eighties. 

 

September 28th

Rainy fall day

We must have had nearly two inches of rain in the past twenty-four hours. It was one of those fall weather patterns where a bunch of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico comes north and meets a cool front from Canada. 

The rain is welcome for the long-term. 

Tomorrow, we are celebrating Aunt Olla's 102nd birthday with a small party at the new assisted living attached to the Fertile Hilton. I will have pictures and commentary sometime during the week. 

However, the big news today is that brother Joe and his bride Kae found hundreds upon hundreds of edible Shaggy Cap mushrooms in our yard. I went and got a few today, cooked them up with chicken and perslane and had a great meal. 

I am reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Read it if you can. We are being killed by processed food. The facts are incontravertible. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other problems which are prevalent in the USA but absent elsewhere are directly caused by our food supply. If you think this is nuts, go do some research. Our diets are what are making this nation fat and unhealthy, pure and simple. And our diets are planned by corporate entities who have no interest in our health. 

A handful of easy hints which are undebatable: 

•Eat grass fed beef, pork, lamb and chicken. 

•Don't ever drink pop

•Grow your own whenever possible

•Pay extra for local foods

•Pay extra for locally grown meat

Do I sound like some sort of hippie? 

Fine. 

If you buy the processed crap at the supermarket, you are basically eating petroleum mixed with corn, maybe run through a sick cow who needs antibiotics because it gets sick on an all-corn diet, a cow who, when it gets slaughtered at 18 months of age, has a liver full of abscesses from eating an unnatural diet of corn, cow blood and antibiotics. 

Our food supply is really sick, don't you doubt it for a moment. 

 

September 27th

Vancouver to home

Busy day. Awoke before dawn in Vancouver and started the liturgy of getting home. Pack. Starbucks. Check out of hotel. Rush to the airport in morning traffic. Today it was raining, in more typical Vancouver fashion. Turn in the rental car. I forgot to fill the gas, so they got me over the barrel on that one. The nice man who took the car charged me 1/2 of what they usually would for not filling before returning the car. Printing boarding passes. Security. Boarding. Flight. Get to Winnipeg. Collect baggage. Pay for parking. Weave through Winnipeg to find the Pembina Highway south. Endure the staged arrogance of border patrol. "Why Vancouver? What sort of conference was this? Why are you interested in this? Who owns this car?"  

I will have completely nostalgic memories of Vancouver. What a cozy, beautiful city. 

And, it is good to be home. 

September 26th

Whistler

Took a drive today up to Whistler, BC, 100 K north of Vancouver, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The drive was spectacular. I never realized that only 50 miles north of Vancouver there are mountain peaks with snowcover year round, even what looked to be some glaciers. Very impressive.

The road from Vancouver to Whistler is Canada 99, which in this stretch is known as the Sea-to-Sky highway. At one point, an inlet of the ocean stretches out in front of a range of snow-capped mountains. It is scenery I didn't know existed this close to the coast. 

Whistler itself is a typical ski-town in summertime. Lots of very determined 20-somethings with their toys--bikes, skateboards, hiking gear, bungee cords, the whole gamut--ready to tackle nature. It is almost comical. 

The Olympic village is very large.

I prefer the marine scenery back at sea level. 

Just outside the Vancouver harbor to the west of downtown, dozens of huge cargo ships sit waiting their turn in the harbor underneath the Lion's Gate bridge, Vancouver's equivalent of the Golden Gate. Every now and then, one toots its horn, which I think would deafen an entire small town if it were ever done from the top of the water tower. The echo goes for miles and miles. 

This is a graceful city, an unhurried city. People wait until the walk signal before crossing, even if no cars are coming. People are friendly and generally kind in a more outgoing manner than you find in Minneapolis. 

One difference: Although marijuana remains illegal in Canada, it is smoked openly on the streets of Vancouver, and there were pro-legalization advertisements on the sides of the city buses. City buses driving around festooned with huge pot leaves! 

And the world turns. 

 

Vancouver

Spending a couple of days in the wonderful city of Vancouver at a conference. 

Vancouver is surrounded by mountains and water, so the city fathers and mothers decided in the 1950s to build up, not out. The downtown is full of skyscrapers, a la Hong Kong, and because of the population density, the streets are lively and full of people, a la New York. Due to Canada's membership in the Commonwealth, immigration from former British colonies is relatively easy into Canada and Vancouver is a cosmopolitan mix of accents and languages. 

I am on the 31st floor of a hotel overlooking the busy harbor. All night long they load container ships. Oil tankers come in and out of the harbor. During the day, helicopters and airplanes take off from the harbor every few minutes. It is bustling. 

The conference was a one-day affair on oil and gas. I was offered a ticket, so I went. Fascinating. Various companies presented on their plans for the next few years. 

What is going on that has people buzzing is a huge new discovery of natural gas in northern Alberta which isn't so far from the Pacific coast. Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan see it as a possible source. Right now, there is no way to get the gas over the hump to the coast, but there are no fewer than six pipelines, perhaps more, in the works. When the gas gets to the Pacific, it will be lowered in temperature to -160 F, put on ships, and taken to Asia. It appears as thought $80 billion is about to be spent in the area. It is called the British Columbia LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) buildout. 

In seven hours, I got quite an education. Here are some interesting bits of trivia: 

•It costs $400,000 to use the Panama canal for one ship. 

•A Hong Kong outfit has been contracted to build a second canal through Nicaragua. 

•Australia did a huge buildout to get gas to Asia, but contrary to what you might think, Australia is farther from Japan and China than BC. That extra day-and-a-half of shipping adds enough expense to the gas to give BC gas a competitive edge. 

•The massive amounts of natural gas found in Texas have no cost-effective way to get to the Asian market. 

Many companies presented, from drillers for gas, to pipeline builders, to crane operators, to tunnel drillers, to makers of fracking chemicals. Each company president had his schtick well-organized. They are story-tellers, too. The education came in the contradictions between their stories, or in the differing philosophies of business. These were sharp cookies, the sharpest of which was Ray Smith, CEO of Bellatrix Exploration, the fastest growing company in Western Canada. He had a gold watch on his wrist the size of a donut. Before and after his speech, which was a rapid-fire, no-notes, no-holds-barred explication of his own brilliance, the woman next to me said, "I am going to buy his stock, but I won't be having him over for dinner!" 

These guys aren't interested in becoming millionaires. They are after their first billion. To get there, however, they have to be the best in their fields. 

Other discoveries: 

•Pipelines develop leaks often. Repairing them is routine. Cleaning up the contaminated soil happens every day. 

•When oil and gas are removed from three miles down the hole, the empty space fills with salt water. I never figured out if that comes from the ocean or what. But that water corrodes the pipes rapidly, requiring maintainance, more maintainance (and chemicals) as the well ages. 

•Gas and oil pumped from three miles down comes out hot. The heat causes the pipeline to expand in length one meter per kilometer. That is a lot. A huge problem for pipeline builders is allowing for that expansion. That problem is not solved, although there are many partial solutions.

•Saudi Arabian wells can produce 20,000 barrels per day without going horizontal. To replace one Saudi well as a source, we will have to drill up to 50 horizontal wells. 

•The gas and oil is in layers. Many layers. Five to seven layers. Once one layer gets figured out, that is the only one you hear about. However, as one layer dries up (in twenty years) they will simply move to the other layers. There is so much gas and oil down there, most of which isn't even being talked about yet. 

 

 

 

September 23rd

Renato

Renato Mateus, a student from Brazil who spent several months working at the nursery while living with Lance and I in the house, passed away this week two months after being burned horribly in a collision with a gas truck. Lance tells the story and shows our memories better.  

September 22nd

Are you coming with?

Here is an Atlantic article on an Upper Midwest linguistic peculiarity. 

And another, from the same series, on Sioux Falls. If you have been through Sioux Falls, I think you'll agree that it is so vigorous that it is almost getting too crowded. I avoid staying there on the way to Arizona as it is a hassle to make a left turn. 

 

September 19th

Living longer

Google is starting a new project which aims to extend our lives. These efforts are always popular. So are efforts to study people who live 110 years, such as Dan Beuttner's book Blue Zones.

What is left out of the equation every time are the very old people who are only partially fixed, the people who have new joints and a pig's valve or two but who can't function due to Alzheimer's disease. Or people who are ready to die but can't because their heart just keeps on going. Again, quality of years is just as important as quantity. 

September 17th

Kiwi PSA

New Zealand is known for their brilliant Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Here is one which brings me back, some kids with a combined Kiwi-Maori lilt to their speech. Notice how they say the word "invented." Seldom in the US of A do we get to hear an unadulterated Kiwi accent. It is gentler than the Australian twang, and a perfect expression of the Kiwi character.