December 30, 2009


I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of "clustering" whereby stores or companies that offer similar services are located in close proximity (is that redundant?) to one another.

I had often thought it would be a interesting subject for a book or story, try ing to understand the economics of the whole thing.

NPR just did a story on this topic. But I think that there is much more to be said. How deep can you get in 4 minutes?

But they have a lovely phrase - the Economics of Agglomeration.

Good story about Gumbo

Gumbo: The Mysterious History - The Atlantic Food Channel

December 21, 2009

Winter in Houston

It gets cold in Houston. This morning at 5:30 the temperature in the neighborhood (according to this weather underground station) was 39 degrees! Yipes! That is cold.

Since it is so cold, we need to get dressed before we go out and walk the dog:

From Winter

The coats, sweatshirts, vests, and hats.

From Winter

Starting to get ready

From Winter

First Layer

From Winter

Pendleton Scarf

From Winter


From Winter


From Winter

Hat. Ready to go!

IAH #1, according to the daily beast

Airports From Hell - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

December 13, 2009

... and taxes

We don't often think about what will happen to ourselves after we leave this mortal coil. But for some reason over the past couple of years we have been talking about where we want our eternal resting place to be.

There is a beautiful old cemetery here in Houston called Glenwood. If you have heard about it at all, you have heard about it because that is where Howard Hughes is buried. We decide that is where we would like to be buried. Whole. As in not cremated.

We have been talking about this for several years, and Doreen finally made an appointment for us to visit there yesterday.

So at 10:00 AM last Saturday, we went to Glenwood to see what was available. Now, one may imagine that a cemetery that has been in operation for almost 150 years would be running out of space, but that is not true.

Having worked in a cemetery myself (St Mary's Cemetery in Appleton Wisconsin. Tailgunner Joe is buried there) I knew there would be spaces. There are always spaces to fit in two more plots.

But we had a nice tour of the place, and talked cemetery talk most of the time. (Do you use a vault here? Yes, that is our standard. Is it a law? No, I don't think so. How deep do you bury? Five feet or so. Us, too. We just had to get under the frost line. We usually did four feet. An on like that)

We saw several plots we liked. This one was my second choice:

From Glenwood Cemetery

and this one was my first choice:

From Glenwood Cemetery

We are going back today to take another look. I will try to get better photos of the neighbors.

Where do you get your information?

Are You Reading This on Your Phone? - The Atlantic Business Channel

December 10, 2009

Flying from Oslo to Stavanger to London

I started out in Oslo this morning. My flight was scheduled for about 8:25, and President Obama was scheduled to come in to town at almost exactly the same time. It did cause some delays (about 30 minutes) but we got out with no real problem. I didn't see Air Force One, much to my disappointment.

The cool thing was this: I was able to get onto the plane without talking to a person! You get your ticket at a kiosk, get through security (well, OK. I had to talk to security. But they were not SAS personnel) and to get on the plane, you just swipe your affinity card (Continental OnePass, in my case) in a card reader, push through a turnstile, and walk onto the plan! Very cool. Very efficient.

The Stavanger airport was not as nice. It is smaller and all manual.

Heathrow is huge, and sort of a pain in the butt.

But I am in London, waiting to fly home in the morning on CO35.

It was a good trip, but I will be glad to be home.

December 6, 2009


You can probably tell by the photos below that we had a great time in Chicago. Matthew called me several months ago and said that they were going to get tickets to The Addams Family previews in Chicago. We found a weekend that worked for all of us, and we made our reservations.

I don't like the anticipation of travel. So the week or so before the trip (especially since I will be heading to Olso tomorrow) I was sort of dreading the travel part. But this was a great weekend.

Even though Houston had snow last Friday, and Chicago is having snow this evening, we had absolutely no trouble with our flights. And since it is just a single leg, it is really easy. And since we didn't have any business meetings, it was stress free. We used miles to upgrade ourselves, so we even had plenty of room.

We arrived Friday several hours before Matt and Laurie and Amy and Sara. So we headed to The Art Institute of Chicago. One of the best museums in the world. It has a brand new wing designed by Renzo Piano.

From Chicago, December 2009

(Our local Menil Collection museum was designed by him about 20 years ago. It is beautiful, as is this new wing).

We wandered around the museum and also ate at their fancy restaurant, Terzo Piano (that is a pun). It was delicious.

From Chicago, December 2009

From Chicago, December 2009

From Chicago, December 2009

From Chicago, December 2009

From Chicago, December 2009

We then met Matt et al for drinks at their hotel. Then we made it down to the Theater for the show.

It was OK, but just about that. I will not elaborate.

The next day we made it over to the Field Museum of Natural History.

From Chicago, December 2009

We ran into a pack of Santas. I think they were out for a drink:

From Chicago, December 2009

Then we met Matt and Laurie for drinks.

From Chicago, December 2009

We ended up at the Signature Room on top of the John Hancock Building, before finding dinner at providence. I think Matt will be posting photos.

It was a great trip. We need to do this more often.

Unemployment rate by county


On the way home

We had a great trip in The City with Broad Shoulders. Brother Matt and Laurie, and their friends Amy and Sara made this very fun.

Doreen at ORD

Co 705 to IAH

Matt and Laurie at the Palmer

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Caught amidst a million Santas!

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Definately; New maps needed

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The Field Museum needs new maps!

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The Ghost and the Darkness

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Dan and Balzac

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December 5, 2009

The W Hotel, Chicago

There is an interesting thing about the W hotel in Chicago. Their card keys look substantially similar to the CTA transit cards.

As good environmentally aware citizens, yesterday we took the train in to the city from O'Hare airport. We had to buy a transit card, put some money on it, and it worked like a charm. (We won't take the train back as they are working on the tracks Sunday)

We got to our nice hotel, wandered around the city (more about that later), met Matt, Laurie, Amy, and Sara for drinks, dinner, and a show (The Addams Family. More about that later, too) and then headed back to our hotel. (We walked part of the way, and then grabbed a taxi. The hearty Northerners walked further than we did. I cannot testify to the fact that they walked all the way back to their hotel (that would have been a long walk), but I can say that they were still walking when we got into the cab.

We got back to our hotel (which was hosting a Ford Model's Christmas party. The girls, not the cars) and it was a happening place. They take security seriously here (we'll see about that) so you need to use your room key card to get the elevator to work.

But as in most hotels that use a system like that, one key will open almost all the floors.

So we were jammed into the elevator, and someone else punched "17" for us.

And when we got to our room, I realized that I did not have our room key, but our CTA card.

Very funny.

So we had to go back to the front desk and explain the situation.

Except that my name was not on the reservation as Doreen had made the arrangements. And Doreen and I have different last names. And Doreen did not bring her ID with her that evening.

The kids at the desk were very nice and friendly, and said they would get security to go up to the room with us, and we could show him her ID there.

Except that her ID was in the safe. And the safe failed when we tried to open it.

So they had to send for maintenance to open the safe.

By this time, James, from security, said he believed us and let us stay, while we waited for maintenance to come and open the safe.

I told Doreen we should have waited for the shift change (James helpfully told us he was working until 2:00 AM) and then called down and say we had been robbed, and the safe was empty.

She didn't think that was as funny as I did.

December 3, 2009

The Dogs of War

Doreen was at her book group for about two hours this evening - just enough time for me to watch The Dogs of War, the Christopher Walken movie based on the book by Fredrick Forsyth, based on the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea organized by Fredrick Forsyth.

A "guilt pleasure" movie for sure. There is not really a lot of action (more pieces from the book about the "end user certificate" and other miscellaneous arms smuggling stuff) but a lot of fun none the less.

The great thing is, with no military background whatsoever, it is very easy for me to suspend my disbelief. I do have a mining background, and have traveled quite a bit in The Tropics. They nail that part.

A worthwhile relaxing evening.