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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Seabrook Sunrise

Beautiful sunrise this morning over Clear Lake - these colors lasted only a few minutes.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Sunrise on Clear Lake

Today's Thanksgiving sunrise was nice to see, after a few days of cold and rain! It looks like a beautiful day for people to get together with family.

The past week I have felt like a fighter pilot, shooting down the enemy left and right. Only in this case, my weapon was a Windex sprayer and the enemy was a gang of fruit flies that somehow came in uninvited in some bananas. Did you know that one female fruit fly can lay 500 eggs? Insecticide doesn't seem to bother them, but Windex knocks em down and you end up accidentally (or incidentally) doing a lot of cleaning in the process!

The Internet was a source of knowledge on how to get rid of them. You get some plastic containers, put a small hole in the center of the lid, fill it with cider vinegar - and they will crawl in to get the cider and not figure out how to get out! At one point, the containers seemed to have thousands of tiny bodies floating around. Now they are mostly empty but a few hangers-on keep buzzing me. That's when I started carrying a Windex sprayer to shoot them down.

Yikes, these little guys are harder to get rid off than politicians and talk show know-it- alls buzzing around and being irritating!

But it's Thanksgiving and I'm grateful that we will be spared more TV political ads soon, and that the year was pretty good for us in Houston -- compared to many other places -- with or without fruit flies!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Afghan Solution: Build a Trans-Asia Highway with a McDonalds at Every Exit

Any President trying to “fix” Afghanistan is doomed -- by geography and culture -- unless a novel new approach is taken. Iraq is civilized compared to wild Afghanistan, where people live in hundreds of remote isolated valleys with no way to go anywhere without facing broken axles.

Kabul might as well be on the moon for these isolated people. This isolation is perfect for the bands of Taliban who can set up shop without concern that the Afghan police will ever be able to reach them. Imagine foreign troops trying to capture or kill our own rebels in America’s mountainous west and how difficult that would be.

Put a million troops on the ground if you want, but if the people don’t have jobs -- and an easy way to get from A to B -- the whole exercise is doomed to failure along with the billions spent. Farmers can’t sell to markets if they don’t have roads.

Nothing has worked since 2001 because we have had a military focus instead of a civilian development focus supported by the military. But there is a solution that could worked. It worked well in America the last century.

Solution? The only solution is to find a way for remote peoples in Afghanistan to travel and create jobs. The best way to do that is to take a page from America’s past – and create a Trans-Asia highway that cuts through Afghanistan and connects the country’s transport system together. The jobs would include everything from construction to long term jobs working in all the gas stations and McDonald’s built along the highway selling kabobs and tourist maps of Tora Bora. Farmers could then get crops other than poppies to the market.

Just see if the Taliban can possibly compete with 7-11 convenience stores and color HD TV’s! And if the Trans-Asia highway also connects to the remote badlands of Pakistan -- where Al Qaida is hiding out -- it will lose its nuclear sanctuary to Jack in the Box and WalMart with their shopper specials. Nothing could be more hideous to Osama bin Laden than men and women shopping together at the Swat Valley Macy’s.

Think about it Mr. President..

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Biggest Economic Loser? Not the U.S.

What recession?

The recession that started in 2007 ended in July or August 2009, according to Anirban Basu, the national economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors organization. He gave a speech last week with some dry humor and interesting facts that Americans should know to make them feel better about the situation.

In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, unemployment stood at 25%. We are at 10% and Mr. Basu thinks it should peak at 11% – less than half of what happened seventy years ago. (Historic fact: The only way the U.S. got out of the 25% unemployment hole was FDR’s spending on things like roads and dams (and WWII, which spurred production). Without the stimulus spending going on now, after the entire economy locked up last year, we could have had come much closer to the unemployment pain that was felt in the Great Depression.

Who is today’s biggest loser? Not the U.S. is the short answer. The U.S. economy is down only 2.7%. Russia’s and Mexico’s economies are down over 7%! Japan’s is DOWN 5%, over twice our decline.
On the other hand, China’s economy is UP 8% and India’s is UP over 5% despite the global meltdown. Even Africa is UP 2%.

The two best job sectors in the U.S. right now are education and health care – both are adding jobs.

But that doesn’t mean we are “out of the woods.” According to Mr. Basu, we need to expand in the three “E’s” to stay ahead – energy, education and exports. That means we need to develop more efficient green technologies, sell more products overseas and produce more scientists and engineers-- instead of letting 50% of our high school kids drop out.

We are an example of the green tech revolution. My company’s sales increased over 500% from last year. I attribute that to it being a “green” energy saving/security technology (and a lot of marketing too). The trend looks good for next year, 2010, because saving energy is the key to our future and pays for itself over time. So is adding security to minimize damages from future storms or from break-ins.

Mr. Basu says that residential construction is accelerating in much of the U.S. (including here in Houston where home prices actually rose slightly in 2009, as it did in a few select markets). The first-time buyer tax credit is helping keep the housing market from falling, and a lot of jobs with it.

So, don’t feel bad – the economy is much worse if you are living in Russia, Mexico or Japan.

But China is still on a roll, producing those engineers and building a solar array that covers 25 square miles of Mongolia! It is building wind turbines. It is going to kick out butt if we just stay glued to the TV watching sports. We are producing “reality” shows that have nothing to do with reality and won’t give us the skills and technology needed to keep us in the lead in the 21st Century.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Water on the Moon...Will Obama Be a JFK With a Space Vision, or not?

NASA has discovered that the MOON has water - that makes a BIG difference since the cost of transporting water into space is prohibitive. Now we can have crews that use existing water on the moon for everything from drinking to hydrogen and oxygen.

Now the question is whether President Obama has the JFK vision or not. For a measly $3 billion/year (when we are spending over $700 billion on one stimulus package that blacktops roads but little else), NASA could get American back on the moon by 2020. JFK got us from test tubes to micro-circuits with his vision. Without it, we'd still be using computers the size of rooms.

We'll see if Obama has the JFK touch or not. If he has real vision, then this is a no-brainer decision. We have spent $10 billion a MONTH on places like Iraq that generate ZERO technology advances for our future. It is the Chinese and even the Europeans who are pushing ahead in space --without us.

Our future relies on pushing the space age technology frontier. We won't do that with GM cars that guzzle gas and are poorly made. We won't do it without a manned mission to the moon and beyond.

Now it is up to President Obama to do a real JFK "vision thing" and get us to a leadership position on the next high ground - in space. If you agree, let your voice be heard - or the era of American technical leadership is OVER.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beware Windows 7: Very Fragile and Frequent Crashes. Seagulls and Mondays

After finally getting my 2-month old computer not to crash after loading the new Windows 7, last night I downloaded the latest Microsoft “Critical update” – after which my computer went into a series of death crashes until I removed the “critical” update.

In the two weeks I've had it, Windows is proving to be a very fragile program that seems not to know anything about Vista drivers. Instead of adopting them it just falls apart every time it encounters a program that worked just fine on Vista.

Beware buying this program until they fix some stuff. These guys do programming like the Pentagon do weapons systems – slow, ponderous and often so complex that they break down in the field when you need it the most.

I now see why people live on the water even though it has its dangers (like hurricanes). After dealing with Micros__t software(you can fill in the blanks with your own letters), it is so relaxing to go out on the balcony, sip coffee and watch the wildlife. This morning two squirrels were providing a funny show of rejected love. Monday morning it was a flock of seagulls having a swirling argument – bumping into each other and carrying on. Apparently even seagulls don’t like Monday mornings.

I hope to post this before my computer crashes again. If we are going to be No. 1 in the world we are going to have to make products better and our people smarter. I went into Fry’s for a TV tuner and everyone in there was clueless about the technology and how it worked. I encounter that often.

Don’t we TRAIN people to do their jobs anymore? From the Fortune 500 down to the entrepreneurs, we are going to have to do a lot better – or else lose our economic advantages as global competitors with trained people that know what they are doing eat our lunch. I bought a flag for today's Veteran's Day, a nice $20 one with a wood pole I found at Wal Mart. When I opened it, there was no way to insure the flag didn't slip off the pole! If I hang it the flag will blow off. Duh. So I have nothing to hang on Vet's Day.

Last thought for the day: It would be a good thing if the whole world needs to do some traveling to see how other people live. That would wake up a lot of people who have never been out of their town.

Now if I can post this before my computer crashes...LOL.

Monday, November 09, 2009

IDA - One of only 4 November Hurricanes

Here's IDA - only the 4th hurricane to form in November in our history.

IDA's formation this late in the year, after a quiet Atlantic season, is not a good sign, considering the destruction big storms can cause, as we found out in IKE last year.

If climate change is changing the game, it could be that we end up extending our hurricane season. Right now it starts June 1 and ends November 1. IDA will hit on November 10.

It may be just a 90 mile an hour rainmaker, but it should be a warning that storms are developing faster and later - and our buildings are not built to "Shelter in Place" from wind-borne debris.

The 2004 "Project Safe Windows" found that once a high-wind event causes debris to breach a window, it is "game over" for the roof and structural integrity of the building...

We may have to change our hurricane season another month or so if this strange event becomes more common in the years ahead.

IDA already shows that the hotter planet is spinning off heat (via hurricanes, typhoon and cyclones worldwide) that are larger and lasting much later in the year. Wind changes are delaying Artic ice.

People are still rebuilding after IKE..

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Here Comes IDA -A hurricane in the Gulf is like a bullet passing you by

They think IDA will reform as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico - as early as tomorrow.

It could be a harbinger of what is coming next year. Where it goes is anybody's guess, but when a hurricane enters the Gulf, it is like a bullet passing you by. You may not be hit by it -- but that doesn't mean it isn't shooting at us!

It is very strange to have such a late season storm, especially following a “dead” hurricane season in the Atlantic (although the Pacific was both active and deadly). IDA went from a depression to a hurricane in about a day – another strange anomaly.

You would think that with a dead storm season that no storm would form this late --unless IDA is an early harbinger of next year’s storm season… I read another article which said strong south winds kept ice from forming in the Arctic much later than usual, leaving open water instead of a frozen icecap.

Pay attention. Despite a busy year, I would say 95% or more of the houses and buildings in our area do not have hurricane protection, even after IKE.

Windows remain the weakest link - and with 24 hour storms spouting out of thin (hot) air like IDA, you can't count on much warning in the future before you have to "Shelter in Place"...Better to have the protection in place 24/7 before that day arrives.

If not next week, it could be next season. That is only 8 months away...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ft. Hood tragedy - Was it a personal or political act?

Ft. Hood has over 80,000 s.f. of our security film installed, yet that security precaution didn't keep a domestic terrorist from opening fire on fellow soldiers. This is a tragedy in multiple ways.

Ft. Hood has been leading the nation in the number of suicides from repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan while most Americans go about their normal life. Combat stress is taking its toll after three and four deployments. Perhaps the silver lining will be that more attention will be paid to combat stress and screen out those who become unhinged.

Someone should have seen this coming -- this guy was sending out signals that all was not well with his head.

But lumping all Muslims together for the act of one on the fringe is not the answer - do we blame all white people when someone like Tim McVeigh sets off a truck bomb in Oklahoma City? Do we blame the entire race for the acts of a serial killer? Muslim organizations quickly condemned this crime, as they should.

It's a tragedy however you look at it. Our prayers are with the families of those killed or wounded yesterday.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Doesn't IDA know Hurricane season is Over?

Doesn't Hurricane IDA know that hurricane season is supposed to be over?

Apparently not. In a season when not a single hurricane entered the Gulf, there is a chance that IDA will stay alive after hitting Nicaragua -- and get into the Gulf of Mexico. Keep your eye on it just in case. The tracks are all over the place, so who knows where it will go.

This should be a reminder that we won't get another break next hurricane season like we did this one. We are as close to the coast as we were a year ago (actually about 10 feet closer) and that these killers are an annual event.

Prepare now...or pay a bigger price later. Tax credits for hurricane film installations end on December 31...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Found: Stimulus Money for the Little Guy (me)


This was one of the days it wasn't raining when we put hurricane film on a new Chase bank on Long Island, NY.

I am proof positive that the stimulus money is trickling down to us ordinary folks, since I am about as unconnected politically as they come. lol.

The Blackberry helped a lot also - just punch in a request and you can find the nearest food (something we did a lot) or the nearest Home Depot or UPS store, which we also needed.

When my Storm crashed after I loaded Windows 7 we were lucky and had a backup. My chief installer had just bought the same phone, so we were able to use it for navigation (to/from the airport), etc. even when mine had the "white screen of death" that they had never encountered at Verizon before.

It was stimulating weather and even the New Yorkers warmed up with the weather by the end of the job. They were really nice people and it was a pleasant week. I finally got to see the Atlantic on the last day before flying out. It was only 1/2 mile from the bank!
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