February 23, 2009


Earlier this week my brother Matthew asked me if all the travel I do is getting old. I thought about it a while and threw out this:

There are two things I hate about travel:

1. Airplanes. They are all really uncomfortable
2. Being away from home

I wanted to add a little more to that

I have traveled a lot in the course of my 51 years. Most, of course after I left for college. Back then, the thought of travel was romantic. I wanted to see the world and experience places and things that I could not get at home.

When I was 18, I flew down to Peru to work in an iron mine. To pay for college, I worked in a coal mine in Coffeen, Illinois, and another one in Kemmerer, Wyoming. After graduating, I moved to Houston for one year, then Denver for one year, then back to Houston.

Back in Houston I had a job that needed some nominal travel. Mostly to Dallas, New Orleans, Tulsa and OKC. Day trips, occasionally longer trips. Travel was still unusual and interesting.

I finally moved overseas. This was something that I had wanted to since college. And Caracas was a great choice. I had a great two years there, and traveled all over South America and Mexico. My Spanish got to be pretty good – I had some in High School (notoriously my worst subject) and being forced to use it every day was valuable. I traveled about ½ time, maybe a little less. That was starting to get tiring. Latin American airlines were (are?) poorly run and probably dangerous. I never flew business class (and I am 6’6” and at that time probably 230#) so it was wearying.

Then I moved to Singapore for two years, and traveled non-stop. I was there for 22 months and flew back to Houston 18 times. At that time it was always a two stop trip (it is now a one stop trip) and at least 26 clock hours. Think about that – 36 days traveling. Additionally I had to fly around the region – so I was out of Singapore three weeks out of four. That was a lot of travel. The only biz travel I did was back to the US. So the flights to Beijing or Perth or Melbourne were all quite painful.

(It is with a touch of irony that I am writing this on Continental Flight 59, a Boeing 767 flying from Amsterdam to Houston in Business Class)

When I left Singapore, I stopped traveling, happily, for a short while. But since then I have indeed been traveling more. In particular since I took the board seat for a company based in Oslo, Norway.

Now, in terms of travel, they really treat me well. It is business class travel and the hotels are nice.

And the places I go for work can be interesting. But to me, it still comes back to those two things I told my brother:

There are two things I hate about travel:

1. Airplanes.
2. Being away from home

I just like to stay at home.

February 21, 2009

another view

CO 59 to Houston

Boeing 767. As i have said before, I am not fond of these planes.

On the last flight, a 21 year old girl got on the plane sobbing. she sat next to me in a middle seat. the crew got her kleenex and water, and were generally solicitous.

The the guy on the other side of her asked loudly: 'So what happened to you???' she sobbed 'my brother's ticket was cancelled, and it is all my father's fault!'

more later.

February 19, 2009

Biz Class

the great thing about business class on flights within Europe is that it is not really much more than economy.

They make upfor it by not giving you any space. Those are my knees touching the seat in front of me. And that seat is not reclined.

flight SAS 4017

gjuke viking

this is really the plane to Stavanger

not sure where that other plane was going.

the plane to Stavanger

I don't know what sort of plane it is.

in the Oslo airport

waiting for a flight to Stavanger

February 16, 2009

CO 38

there really is a plane in that photo. I this it is a 757:

non reclining seat

Sometimes I get very frustrated with CO. I have a paid for biz class seat and get the worst on in the house.

Good thing I plan on working.

CO 50 to Newark

They changed equipment on me (757 to a 737). but i have an OK seat.

i also have a couple hours in Newark.

Franklin Louisiana

My three brothers and three sisters all got together in Franklin, Louisiana for a mini-family reunion. Franklin is a town that was built around sugar plantations. There are plenty of old mansions that were built from that sugar money.

We stayed at the Fairfax House:

which was built in 1854, and recently converted to a Bed and Breakfast. It was quite nice.

Here we all are: Matt Mark, Jeannette, Me (Dan - in the back), Mel, Abbie, Chas

This is Oaklawn Manor - the former Governor of Louisiana lives there now, but it is open for tours.

Here we are taking a self portrait with the Bayou Teche (and my brother Matthew) in the background.
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Greenville, IL 1977

I worked for Consol Coal Company in their Coffeen mine as a Co-Op engineer from January 1977 to August 1977. I lived in Greenville, IL in this trailer:

It looks a lot nicer than it really is.

This is the inside. (I didn't really wear that hat too much. I bought it in Cuzco, Peru)

If you look in the background, you can see the box for a Singer Upright Vacuum Cleaner.

It didn't get too much use.

It sort of looks as if I should be cooking crack in that place.

I didn't.
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February 14, 2009

Smoke Jumpers & Falling Helicopters

I lived in Kemmerer, WY in 1979. I was working for the Kemmerer Coal Company. Kemmerer was in the middle of a huge gas boom (Geologically, it is part of the Overthrust Belt). It was also the regional headquarters for the BLM and the Forest Service. The Forest Service ran Smoke Jumpers out of Kemmerer. I got to be pretty good friends with the BLMers and the Smoke Jumpers. (They were usually kids in college, as opposed to the roughnecks, who were usually there for the duration)

Below is a photo of the jumpers, shortly before their helicopter crashed:

Here is the after picture:

Nobody got hurt.
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February 13, 2009

My First Three Cars

1966 Chevy Impala

1965 Mercedes 220S

1969 BMW 1600 (with a 2002 engine)
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February 11, 2009

Colony Oil Shale Mine in 1982

You can see the adits just over the trailers. They are sort of hard to make out, but they are the tunnels that drive into the oil shale.

I worked underground here for about a year.

This is the other side of the adit, looking out.

Here I am, testing a roof bolter.

More tests.
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Pretending to be a Coffee Plantation Owner

I actually dressed like this when I went to work. Though I usually left the hat at home. It is a cheap Panama that I bought in Ecuador.

That is on my patio
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A Venezuelan Coffee Plantation

Back in 1994 I was thinking about buying a coffee plantation in Venezuela, near San Juan de los Moros.

It sounds a lot grander than it is.

This is a picture of me in the middle of some newly planted coffee trees.
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February 9, 2009

Google Transit

This is another great Google tool:

Google Transit

Type in your address and desitination and it tells you what public transit to take! It even works in Houston!

(look here to see how I can get to my office in a bus!)

February 7, 2009

Writers and Poets Ball

Tonight Doreen and I went to the Inprint gala - Houston's Writers and Poets Ball. We went last year as well, and it is generally a pretty fun event. Three local writers read from their works (two professors from the U of H, which has a pretty good writing school, and the mayor's wife).

Then we had dinner, and then Rabih Alameddine spoke.

It was all fun.

Whenever we go to these events I hate to valet park. Not so much that I don't like to have other people drive my car (though I don't) but because I hate to wait for my car at the end of the evening.

So we parked in the street (as we are want to do) and when we were leaving Andrea White (see above) walked out with us, to her self parked car - for the same reason (Hizzoner skedaddled out earlier on his own). Andrea knows Doreen (she doesn't know me) so it was a nice stroll.

February 4, 2009

Swine and Wine

Last night we went to Feast for one of their wine dinners. This one was called "Swine and Wine". It was a five course + dessert (I guess that would make it 6 course) dinner.

I would call it a "Tasting Menu" except that tasting menus usually have small portions. In this case, the portions and the pours were quite generous. I am not very good at taking photos of food, but I have integrated some photos, and my comments, into the menu below:

‘Swine and Wine’ Dinner

Tuesday February 3 6.30pm

1st Course

Pork Rillettes

Borgo Magredo Prosecco, Italy

The pork was braised and just as tender as it could be. Combined with the little conrichons made the tart/fat/unami flavors just pop out. I could have eaten this all night long. The Prosecco when great with this dish. But I think that Prosecco goes with just about everything.

2nd Course

Roast Pork Belly with Radish and Orange Salad

Mustiguillo Mestizaje, Valencia, Spain

This was the highlight of the evening for me. There is nothing like the melting softness of pork fat married to the crispness of the crackling. The little orange slices and radishes helped tart up this extremely flavorful meal. One bite of fat, one bite of crisp, one bite of sweet, one bite of tart. The wine was very unusual - a grape I had not hear of before (a bobol) but it marched to the same drummer as this course. Good match

3rd Course

Nose, Tail and Trotter

Montepeloso Eneo Toscano, Super Tuscan, Italy

This is, of course, a nod to the "Nose to Tail" dining made famous by Fergus Henderson at the St John Bar in London. James Silk, one of the Chefs and Owners of Feast worked with Fergus in his youth. (In reality, James is not too old now). The tail was breaded and fried, the trotter was braised and (mercifully) removed from the bone, and the nose was, well, cooked. I loved the tail. You had to pick it up and eat it with your fingers. The trotter was good, and the nose was - - interesting. I did not like the texture. It was sort of like eating a nose. The flavor was good, but I could not really get over the texture. I ate about 1/2 of mine. Doreen had to cover hers up on her plate. It looked just like a pig nose. The wine was an excellent super Tuscan. I like super Tuscans. Think of them as Chiantis that don't make the legal cut to be called Chianti. And almost always for the better.

4th Course

Pork Confit Tart, Duchess Potatoes, Braised Celery with Ham

Conreria D’Scala Les Brugueres Blanc, Priorat, Spain

Now we are onto the main course. The Confit was made about 2 months ago, and left to age under a layer of fat. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it again. It was made into a tart, and the crust was also especially delicious. The duchess potatoes we might call "twice baked". Baked, mashed, baked again until a bit brown and crispy on top. Wonderful. The celery didn't really do anything for me. I am not a huge celery fan - cooked or raw. I had a bit, and let it sit. The wine was very strange, but oddly enjoyable. A white Priorat! Yes, indeed. Refresing and a nice counterpoint to the richness of the confit and spuds.

5th Course

Roasted Pork Loin with Crackling, Roasted Potatoes, Garlic Rutabaga, Brussel Sprouts and Apple Sauce

Calvet Thunevin Constance, Langedoc Roussillon, France

By this time we were all getting a little full. The roast pork was described as a typical English Sunday roast. The potatoes we nicely browned on the outside and soft in the middle. The rutabaga (sometimes called Swede) was earthy and garlicy. The brussel sprouts we crispy on the outside, and not at all overdone. Apple sauce was apple sauce. Can't complain about that. The wine was a good Langedoc which complemented the whole lot put together. Now I was really full.


Plum Duff

Château Tirecul La Gravière Les Pins, France

Finally the dessert! Oh. It was good. The crust was flaky due to the use of pork fat and beef tallow. The filling was plum. Plum Duff. The wine was a "poor man's Sauternes" Sweet and nice. A great way to end the meal. I am still full now, almost 24 hours later.

Here we are about midway through the meal:

Davis and Lisa at the end of the meal. Lisa is falling over from eating so much:
It was really good.