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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Entrepreneurs in Space - Thanks to NASA

NASA has made a wise and impressive move - by contracting with private space companies to supply the International Space Station (ISS).

Why? Because they will us;e smaller rockets and modules that can put supplies in space for much less cost than bigger NASA rockets. This will boost America's private space development, possibly paving the way to Space Hotels and tours around the moon for space tourists --both projects that are doable with existing technology.

In fact, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences use proven, existing technology which is put together in a unique, efficient manner.

This is the type of wise decision that will help America regain lost ground and open up new technology and high tech employment vital to our future.

Good move NASA! Keep it up! We need leadership like that at GM, the White House, etc.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Week That Spans Two Years

Last week of 2008 and first of 2009 starts tomorrow. We have a job scheduled for Friday, which is the second day of 2009, a fast start to the year already.

After a short vacation after a wild, busy year, I’m going to watch “Independence Day” movie in a few minutes and relax the last night of my all too brief holiday. I hope to sneak in more break time as things grow and unfold. I am going to try to strike a good balance between work and time offline.

But in January the Texas legislature opens and I have to lead a study on our building codes (energy and hurricanes) for the League of Women Voters and so it will be a full boat right off the bat.

I’m looking forward to it. Better Times Ahead...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lanai Lookout

Photo: My next car (necessary for getting around traffic-choked Houston in near future--costs less than a BMW and can land on a dime. Operating costs are more like a motorcycle than a helicopter)

It's a foggy Christmas on the Texas coast. Can't even see the lake less than 50 feet away. It reminds me of the day spent on a ship waiting for the sea fog to clear so we could dock at Galveston.

When I heard that Mr. Obama had spent time on Hawaii's coast with his Grandmother's ashes, I understood the reason for it.

I found Lanai Lookout on Google Earth, the place where President-Elect Obama spread the ashes of his Grandmother "Tutu" in Hawaii. It's too bad she died two days before the election and didn't get to see her part of history being made.

China has announced a policy that it will be an "innovative" country. Unless we do the same, our future technology leadership will be a thing of the past. China is sitting on $1.9 trillion in foreign reserves.

In contrast, we are sitting on an additional $8.5 trillion in debt - all generated in the past year. In less than 12 months we doubled the debt it took over 200 years to create. And most of the spending has done little good.

We need a new type of leadership to pull us off the rocks. I wish the new President the best of luck on this Christmas Day. I believe he will do the innovating we need and provide the global leadership that seemed to escape Mr. Bush. Obama has assembled pragmatic centrists, which is what this country needs --we have had enough of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.

Tutu has joined Henri, a funny mutt dog much like Marley that passed away years ago and is still missed, along with his laid-back cat buddy, Louis XIV.

I think our job is to make this a better place in the time God gives us on it. Otherwise we have wasted our existence, which is a gift from God and a one-shot deal as far as we know it. If there was the Buddhist reincarnation it's unlikely we'd come back as the same person with the same perspective, so it is a one-time experience.

Eventually all of us will join Tutu and Henri, hopefully after having done much to improve lives of people on this planet.

A lot of people are worried about the recession -- I don't. I went through this during the Texas depression of the mid-80's when I went from flying Concordes to being laid off. I lost it all but I gained much self perspective from it. So will people going through this one.

We became too complacent, over consumed, over spent. I saw people on the cruise who probably weighed 300 lbs, much of it on high-fat foods. Both people and government failed to pay attention to fraud, incompetence and logic.

That is about to change. The process will make us better as a country and as a people. We need it to be leaders in the global 21st century.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Houston Needs Bayport cruise terminal

Photo: Jammed inside the Galveston Cruise terminal

I returned from my first cruise last Thursday - convinced that Galveston needs to update its cruise terminal or let the ships go to Houston's new Bayport cruise terminal.

Why? Because the Galveston facility is too small to handle the traffic - as you can see from the photo. When we returned Thursday we were six hours late due to fog - the folk waiting to board the ship had no where to park (our shipload had not yet cleared the parking lot) or to wait. Houston's new Bayport terminal is a much nicer facility.

So I spent my 50-something birthday drifting at sea, in the fog. Ummmmm. lol.

I would recommend Carnival clean up the Ecstasy's engine stack - it left a black smoke trail that spoiled the view of the crystal blue skies over the Gulf of Mexico. I have attached a short video showing the black smoke pouring from its stack at one point during the cruise.

Other than that, I'm ready for another cruise out of Houston!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Gulf (of Mexico) - Without Pirates

In the Gulf (of Mexico)

I am writing this from the Gulf of Mexico, in the middle of a 5 day budget cruise – it was one of those $250 a person deals. I have barely had a weekend off in months and had never been on a cruise, so it was the thing to do at that price.

It’s the Carnival “Ecstasy” and is one of the smallest, but nice enough for what I needed – time to sit and watch the world go by -- at 15 knots. Everything happens SLOW, which is actually nice. It’s what a vacation should be like.

When we left Houston Saturday it was blustery and cold. It was beyond windy in front of the ship. The wind breaks on the deck are a necessity. We finally cruised into warmer air the second day out.
It took two days just to get to Cozumel, leaving Galveston about 4 pm Saturday and getting into Cozumel about 10 am Monday – slowed by “strong wind and current” according to the shipboard announcement. I had been to Playa del Carmen and Cancun before but had missed Cozumel in my many trips to Mexico in the last 30 years. We were one of three cruise ships at two different docks. The Carnival “Glory” was in the next berth. It looked impressive with its balcony suites –a lot more than our ship. If I do this again I want a balcony suite! It is a small balcony on the side of the ship connected to your room. They look very comfortable.

It’s an amazing mix of people onboard – all colors sizes and shapes, mostly people from Texas taking a break with family. Lots of kids, teenagers and assorted families. The vendors at the end of the dock in Coz were not too assertive and if you wanted you could rent a bike or a car to look around.

Progresso is the next stop. I discovered in Cozumel that my Verizon 8830 Blackberry World Phone does work – I was able to even check my bank account on the Internet while standing in the shopping square. Lunch was one Margarita too many. Fortunately it was a short pier walk back to the ship.

People have had a lot of stories about cruises that had gone bad due to storms, etc. But ours has been smooth. The crew hails from 53 countries.

I had never heard of Progresso, Mexico until this voyage. Will check it out today. I can either send it using my Blackberry phone as the Internet connector or via the ship wireless. The ship’s wireless is pricey - $20 for thirty minutes of Internet time.

More from the Gulf (the one without pirates) later…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SNOW in Seabrook!

Photo: Snow on Lakewood Yacht Club dock. From Hurricane IKE to SNOW in Seabrook, and it is only early December. AMAZING.

And now the sky is blue and the white stuff has disappeared. It's a "blue moon" for us to get snow. It is really odd to get it after a big hit by IKE. A guy at Rotary this morning told me that he still had a hole in the side of his house from IKE, covered with duct tape! He said he realizes now that the siding should have been higher on the priority list.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Sunrise

Photo: Sunrise Dec 8 - nice Monday treat.

I spent Sunday FLAT, recharging the batteries, watching the History Channel all day. The sky was a pretty blue but the wind had a bite to it, so it was easy to stay out of it. I couldn't even get the energy to look at the computer.

It worked. Feeling energized again.

I have been listening on satellite radio and cable the last few days on the auto situation. I drive a GM vehicle and have bought their cars nearly every time (except for the Mercedes 420 I once had). But I have to say they have grossly mismanaged the company by failing to innovate and become more fuel efficient -- while Ford is in pretty good shape.

The CEO of GM needs to go --along with seven layers of management. They need a kick in the butt to innovate so the demand for taxpayer money means oversight they never had before. Keep the Ford guys. They only wanted a line of credit - a totally reasonable request. It is the shrinking credit lines that is killing business. The same banks getting taxpayer money are arbitrarily cutting lines of credit on people who have had them for years, unnecessarily making a bad situation worse. This is nuts.

Let Chrysler go the way of the dodo bird - it was clear that their own wealthy owners won't put a dime in, so why should taxpayers? The testimony was that they can't make it as a stand alone company. No one will miss them.

In the meantime, the administration keeps forgetting to focus on the root problem - the ordinary homeowners and the foreclosures from adjustable rate mortgages and default credit swaps that played a key role in starting the global meltdown. Without cutting foreclosures, things will get worse instead of better, regardless of all the other hat tricks devised to save the day.

I like the Obama plan to spend money on real projects - repairing bridges, building and updating schools, advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. These investments will result in tangible things that will exist after the money is spent (e.g., bridges repaired before they fall into the Mississippi) -- unlike the $700 billion that went to banks and stayed there, doing nothing except allowing even healthy banks to buy other healthy banks with taxpayer money.

We went into a war without a game plan of what to do when Saddam was gone. The $700 billion is being handled in the same way - make it up as you go.

Money intended to help homeowners has gone instead to banks, AIG, Citicorp --anyone big except Detroit (and Lehman Brothers), despite the massive employment and confidence blows that would result.

We can't afford more incompetence and waste of our resources on schemes that fail to address the root problem and benefit only a few at the top. If taxpayers help GM, their CEO needs to bailout without a golden parachute. Someone with a brain needs to take over.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

On a Clear Day...

This morning's photo - black clouds form an illusion of mountains behind the Kemah bridge. For a while, the tops of the clouds formed a wave pattern, which dissipated as the sun rose.

I saw this news clip from the Ft. Bend Herald. It sounds like Ft. Bend has become some kind of "Peyton Place."

WOW. Meanwhile here in quiet Seabrook, we are having a Rotary pancake event this not-as-cold-and-windy morning. If you want sex and intrigue, you will have to hang around Ft. Bend's courthouse. (See 'Peyton Place' above).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gray and Cold

It's gray and cold today in Seabrook. Yesterday the winds were relentless, but it was mostly clear. Today it's overcast and the wind cuts through you when moving around outdoors.

Reports of more possible attacks in India means trouble ahead. Groups who want to sabotage and create conflict are on the rise. That concern will occupy most of the President's time in the next four years, regardless of any prior agenda. Security will eventually trump economics as a concern, especially if there is another attack in the U.S.

People need to protect their weakest link - a lot of people were injured in Mumbai by flying glass, which our film would have avoided. People were forced to lie in broken glass from the bullets. Imagine how awful that would be.

I am still not convinced General Motors will truly reform itself - their lack of vision because they were protected and not forced to innovate versus the Japanese is what put them in the hole. It wasn't the financial meltdown; they had already melted down by insisting on building gas hogs instead of developing hybrid technology like the Japanese did. They didn't even try to make a hybrid SUV until it was in the bottom of the 9th inning.

This time auto executives were forced to ride to Washington instead of taking their private jets. That does not equal innovation or future success. New management is needed; people with ideas for making more efficient cars of the future instead of the past.

Change is needed across the spectrum, not just in Washington. We need new leadership in our financial institutions, banking system, auto industry, etc. We need pragmatic solutions and oversight instead of gimmicks like unsupervised default credit swaps.

It's been reported that the Bush administration was warned about the funny mortgage business as early as 2005, yet choose to do nothing about it. The whole world is now paying the price for that omission of responsibility.

We'll dig ourselves out of this mess, which matches the color of the skies and lake today, but it comes at a huge cost.

Part of the change needed will be people getting prepared for future events by protecting where they work and live. They need to protect the weakest link, the windows, because their will always be a next event, whether it is another hurricane or explosion.

While none of us can stop a future event from happening, the one thing that people do control is their defense. Don't get caught in the next one without protection. Our film provided protection for people during Hurricane IKE.

A customer told me about a couple who were in a Houston penthouse in one high rise when the winds blew in their windows. When they tried to open the door to escape into the building's hallway, the winds were so strong that they could NOT open the door! Imagine being caught in a high rise buildings (or home on the ground) with the glass flying and winds racing at 100 mph plus so that you can't even open a door to escape the glass shrapnel, winds and rain. Our film would have prevented that by keeping the windows from blowing in...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Potential of Nuclear Attack in 5 years - New Dawn, New Strategy Needed

President-Elect Obama has released a statement that there will be a "new dawn" in foreign policy. It will take a new dawn to solve the huge global issues facing us today. The bipartisan commission believes that a nuclear terrorist attack is possible within the next five (5) years.

He and Secretary of State-designate Clinton desire to engage the world, including places like Iran. We need to engage on a multiple level, not just with force of arms. It's the only way it will work.

I saw Former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin on "Morning Joe" this morning. If you can, watch the clip - it's brilliant. He clearly and concisely summed up the situation and strategy needed for success.

As he said, Pakistan is the key to resolving the pending crisis between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. Pakistan's government probably didn't know that this group was going to do what they did, but someone in Pakistan did and the government hasn't been controlling these groups that live on the Pakistan side of the Kashmir area.

Mr. Rubin confirmed what I had thought, and blogged, earlier - that the Mumbai terrorist attack sprang from the Kashmir issue. But he goes on to point out that Al Qaeda are also hanging out in the same remote Pakistan-India-Kashmir-Afghanistan area. There could be alliances and weapon trading going on between these different groups.

With Pakistan's nuclear technology, we really need the Pakistani government cleaning out these groups of rogue elements who use Pakistan's remote lands as a pirate's lair and a safe haven where they can plot attacks against places like Mumbai, killing Indians (Hindu and Muslim), Jews, 22 foreigners and 6 Americans. They will need help from us to do it. Pakistan's new democracy is very fragile. They will need to work with India, which has a long history of democracy, too.

Until the Pakistan government, which is weak, takes serious action to eliminate this Pakistan-based terrorist safe haven, potential threats to our own security will continue to increase -- as more attacks are planned there.

Our "new dawn" will take an American strategic REGIONAL diplomatic/military approach working with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan's governments on these border terrorist sanctuaries. We can't do it with armies alone. Success will require funding the building schools and roads and create jobs in these areas to eliminate the isolation and ignorance that makes these safe havens for international criminals possible.

Why? The report mentioned above is that there is a potential of a nuclear terror attack on the U.S. in the next five (5) years. If it comes, it will come from a plot hatched in this Pakistan 'no man's land' unless changes are made with our help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Photo: December 1 morning. Seabrook, TX

December 1st is a good reminder that the year is wrapping up and it will be 2009 before much else gets accomplished.

After months of work without a break, I spent Sunday afternoon flat on the sofa, watching an old Star Wars movie on a new TV I bought to help kick-start the economy (and to stop having to deal with a black rectangle that kept popping on the screen of the not-so-old TV, blocking half the screen).

Now I don't have to squint to see the thing! Go forth and spend some money America. Save some too.

But we need to get normal spending -- and loans -- going again for the sun to break through the economy.