Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

29 May 2010

Oil Spill May 29 Update: More Bad News

It's been a month and nine days since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon driling rig. The oil is still leaking just as much as ever. This is truly as bad as can be. It could not be worse. BP has tried numerous things to get the flow of oil stopped. So far none has worked. President Obama has lost his patience, reportedly grumbling to aides in a meeting that BP should, "Plug the damn hole!" Even BP CEO Tony Hayward expressed his frustration, saying that he wants to "...stop the damn leak!"

Don't we all. Damn!

HERE a basic timeline CNN put together for the day of the disaster.

For the past two days C-SPAN has been broadcasting a hearing headed up by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and held in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. A board with numerous MMS and Coast Guard investigators have been grilling a number of BP, Transocean and other contract employees who were on the rig that day. Some of the testimony has been contentious, and a lot of it has been confusing, with technical terms and oilfield jargon that even I'm not familiar with.

Mark Hafle, a Senior Drilling Engineer for BP squirmed uncomfortably under a barrage of tough questions from MMS, the Coast Guard, and an attorney for Transocean. He appeared evasive, combative and nervous, deftly dodging questions like an experienced lawyer and refusing to be pinned down on technical issues. Obviously, BP is on the defensive right now. They're trying to point the fingers of blame at Transocean.

It's becoming clear that this well gave Transocean some "trouble." BP is trying to downplay and minimize this trouble, calling it routine and nothing out of the ordinary, and going so far as to deny that they'd even heard about some of it. I think it was Ronald Reagan who gave us the term, "plausible deniability." But we shall see. Everything on a drilling rig gets documented. And BP made a big deal about their new computer system whereby they could monitor (and control) just about every aspect of the well in real time from their headquarters in Houston, Texas.

The public is becoming increasingly angry and impatient over this situation, especially with BP. They want something done, dammit! President Obama announced that the government was "taking over" this operation. Oh, that's rich. Like our government knows anything about drilling for oil. They're going to have to call an expert, somebody like, oh, BP?

It is silly to think that BP has not tapped every resource they possibly can, including asking other oil companies that do deepwater exploration (e.g. Shell) for help. Some people scoff at this idea, saying that the other oil companies wouldn't help BP on a bet. I disagree. This is such an awful mess, that I would think every oil company is offering suggestions as to how to stop this well from flowing.

The latest procedure attempt, the so-called "top kill" did not work, BP admits. The awful truth is that we may have to wait until the new rig on location drills into the well that is leaking and plugs it that way. Nobody is giving a timeline for that, but you can be sure that they're feverishly working that angle.

Meanwhile, the disaster just keeps getting worse and worse. The amount of oil that has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has surpassed that of the infamous Exxon Valdez. It continues fairly unabated. Of course, we're not really sure exactly how much oil has leaked out so far, because it is now believed that the early estimates were tremendously (and maybe intentionally) low.

The beaches all along the gulf coast have been fortuitiously spared...so far. Some tar balls have washed ashore, but no black goop. Depending on the wind, the smell of petroleum can be detected on land - or people say.

So things have not changed. This is both good and bad for us here in Pensacola, Florida.

20 May 2010

New Reason To Stay Home Monday Night

All right, remakes are typically dreadful. The "Miami Vice" remake? I rest my case. If something is a hit once, it's hard to recapture that lightning. The tv show, "Miami Vice" was very of-its-time which is to say the 1980s. The 2008 movie remake was merely a cop movie- and not a particularly great one at that.

I'm especially sensitive about people messing with icons from my childhood. Did anyone actually go see the 2008 remake of the 1960's cartoon, "Speed Racer?" Gimme a break- was it any good? Wait, I don't even want to know.

Now along comes a new "Hawaii Five-O." Oh dear. It should be called, "Hawaii Five-Oh No."

The original tv series ran from 1968 through (unbelievably) 1980! It starred the steely-eyed, square-jawed Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett, the no-nonsense head of that elite detective unit. It was uber-cool because it was set (and actually filmed!) in Hawaii. And it had the coolest opening credits ever, with a dizzying, quick-cut editing style that predated MTV by thirteen years. And it had the coolest theme song ever, recorded by The Ventures, a '60s surf-music group. Look.

It doesn't get more awesome than that. The new "Hawaii Five-O"...or should I say the new-new "Hawaii Five-O" (I'll get to that in a moment) sticks closely to that formula. Here are the new opening credits.

To me, the new credits are fun, and bode well for the series. I love how they use the same locations in the old and the new. We see an aerial shot of an apartment building- we're closing in on the top-floor apartment. Standing there on the balcony is Steve McGarrett. For the new version, they found the exact same apartment building. Both versions zoom in on the statue of Lady Columbia at the Punchbowl Cemetary. Heh, it's almost a shot-for-shot remake. But it's only 30-seconds long! The original was 60-seconds. Let's hope they flesh that intro out and make it longer.

They must like the "Hawaii Five-O" concept over there at CBS. Eighteen years after the original show went off the air, it was tried again in 1998. In this version, (are you sitting down?) Gary Busey was to play Steve McGarrett. The show was not "picked up" as they say, perhaps because Gary Busey was to play Steve McGarrett. But CBS went so far as to shoot some opening credits, which I bring you here courtesy of the wonderful Tube of You.

They're not calling the new-new "Hawaii Five-O" a remake. Nope, it's a "reboot" of the original. And hey, I guess if they can do it with "Star Trek" they can do it with "Hawaii Five-O." We'll have to wait and see how good or bad it is. Let's hope for the best.

Here's a preview that CBS is running on their website for the new-new show coming this Fall. Want a chuckle? Watch the clip all the way to the end. Looks interesting.

I hope it's a departure from all the dark "CSI" and cop shows that already litter the airwaves. And yeah, I'm excited about it. I guess I'm a tv geek.

18 May 2010

How You Like Me Now!

So we get to Birmingham, Alabama early this morning. With the rest of the day free, I have a car reserved through Enterprise so I wasn't stuck hanging out at the airport until check-in time at the hotel. For some strange reason, at this location the smallest car available, the Toyota Yaris is, like, $77/day. But a minivan is only $50/day. Well that’s a no brainer.

I did the paperwork in the terminal and then head to the garage kiosk to pick up the car. The woman asks me if I really need the minivan or could I use an SUV? I ask why? “We have a lot of SUV’s here, but the minivans are upstairs. I’d rather not keep you waiting.”

What kind of SUV? We go look.

“Well, we have a Kia Sorento…and a…”

“SOLD!” I say, cutting her off. (If it were Basic Instructions, our little dialog balloons would overlap.)

I mentioned to her the Kia commercial with the little stuffed animals. “Ooh, I love that! It’s so cute!” she says. But then I had to explain to her who Sock Monkey is. She was familiar with it as a youngster, but didn’t know the story behind the toy put out by a company that manufactures socks.

So I grab the 2011 Sorento LX (pictured above) and, without any stuffed animals in the backseat, head out on the winding roads that lead to the nearby Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which is an incredible, awesome place with 400 motorcycles…yes, you heard me correctly, four-hundred! motorcycles on display. Damn.

And it turns out that the Sorento is pretty neat. It drives great, not like an SUV at all. The driving position is good, the suspension is tight, the steering is very responsive, and the seats are surprisingly supportive - perhaps uncomfortably so for certain…um, older…drivers who may not like to be gripped so tightly around the midsection because they don't tear around curvy backroads at incautious speeds. But I do.

One internet car-review site said this about the Sorento: “Handling isn’t sporty, but there’s no float at speed and not much roll in turns compared to other similarly tall vehicles.” Well, I don’t know what that writer’s criteria for “sporty” is, but if it doesn’t float at speed and corners flat, that seems pretty sporty to me. But what do I know?

I do know that without even pressing your foot all the way to the floor, the transmission holds onto each gear right until redline, which is cool if you like to hear the engine rev as you run through the gears. Tons of fun! Ah, but there’s a hitch…

I quickly find out that the reason the trans is programmed that way is because the engine has so little power. You can’t really drive the four-cylinder Sorento sedately. Unless you rev the crap out of the engine, it can’t get out of its own way. Damn. Luckily it feels and sounds good as you do rev it, not all wheezy and out-of-breath like some engines. But it gets old, taching it out all the time just to get some power out of it.

Still, I can see young couples owning the thing. It looks g
ood in the driveway, and they can pretend that they’re driving a “high-performance” SUV when they really aren’t. Then again, maybe it is more "sporty" than a Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Santa Fe. If that matters to anyone.

I wasn’t expecting an epiphany by driving it or some out-of-body experience, but since I like Kia’s commercial so much I was interested to see how the real car would be. And the whole time I was in it today, I couldn’t stop singing, “How you like me NOW!” And I wanted to go flip a jetski.

You know, it really doesn't take a whole lot to amuse me.

16 May 2010

Man Didn't Bite Dog; Plane Didn't Crash

Generally in the media, there is a saying: "When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news."

On my Yahoo home page today, in the Local News section, one of the headlines read, "Authorities: No Plane Crash In Bay." It was attributed to the Pensacola News Journal, what we call the local mullet wrapper. A plane didn't crash? Well you know, I had to click on THAT story! It read:

Emergency personnel checked out a report of plane down in Pensacola Bay this afternoon, but the report turned out to be erroneous.

The supposed downed aircraft was actually a boat, authorities said.

I see. A boat, not a plane.

What's next, PNJ, a report saying that no cars crashed on I-10 today? That nobody drowned at Pensacola Beach? Somebody ought to tell the editors at the Pensacola News Journal that it's only a news story if a plane DOES crash. When a plane doesn't crash IT'S NOT NEWS!

From reading the Comments section, one gets the impression that the PNJ might have printed a blurb about a possible plane crash based on bogus information, which would explain the "man didn't bite dog" retraction.

Woodward and Bernstein would be so proud.

These days, there is a huge rush to GET THE NEWS OUT!! It's like each media outlet feels that they get extra points for breaking stories before anyone else. We viewers/readers are left unimpressed. We really don't care who gets it first. What we care about is getting it accurate. And news organizations look pretty stupid when they rush "Breaking News!" to us that turns out to be...well...nothing.

Oh, and if you think I'm joking, read it HERE.

15 May 2010

Cars and Dreams

I’ve always loved cars; I guess you could say I’m a “car guy,” and have been, ever since I can remember. I love everything about them- especially driving them but working on them too. I read CAR AND DRIVER Magazine religiously every month, and have since 1972 when I was in high school. I especially like all of the technical innovations the manufacturers keep coming up with, and I try to keep abreast of all the new models every year.

When you’re young, you want to drive very badly, at any opportunity. You look for excuses to get behind the wheel and go someplace, even if that place is nowhere at all. Driving is enjoyable and fun.

Eventually driving becomes a chore. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point it didn’t matter if I drove anymore. Being a passenger was a relief. I was happy to let someone else do the driving. And with guys, you never have to twist their arm to take the keys.

The funny/ironic thing is that lately, I find myself actually caring less and less about cars. I’ve come to see the car as merely an appliance – something to get me from here to there. I drive an old Jeep Grand Cherokee with more than 200,000 miles on it. It’s in reasonable shape. It gets 20-22 mpg on my commute to and from work. The transmission is rebuilt, and if the engine blows-up I can have it replaced cheaply. I mean, these things are everywhere. I could afford a new car, but really, why bother? Anything new eventually gets old. And sometimes the "new" wears off very quickly.

I keep looking at the new cars, hoping that one of them will spark my interest. Oh, there are some nice ones out there, for sure. But there is just nothing that makes me go, “Maaaaaaan, I’d love to own that!” The new Mustang and/or Camaro? Shirley, you jest! Overweight caricatures of their former selves is what they are. Yeah yeah, they're better cars in every respect than the originals (and faster, too), but if I want to project that image I'll just buy one of the old ones. If I had all the money in the world, which car would I buy? I have no idea.

Well, that's not exactly true. I do kind of like the BMW 6-series coupe. I have to say, as good as it looks in pictures, it looks better in person. It's gorgeous. And BMW has begun painting their cars in a non-metallic, basic blue that I find very attractive.

2010 BMW 630

Brand-new, it'd run me close to $80,000, which is a little steep even on my pay. I'd probably have to get the Boss to lease me one. On the other hand, http://www.cars.com/ has some nice-looking 2008 models for about $60,000, which gets it down into the more-affordable range.

If money was truly not an issue, there is one other car I’d consider owning. The Aston-Martin Rapide. I don’t know why, but that car just speaks to me. And I know exactly what it’s saying, which is, "Bob, hop in and let's take off for New York to visit the family. We can get there without stopping." (You know how much I hate flying.)

2010 Aston Martin Rapide

At $200,000 I'll have to wait until I hit the lottery before I own a Rapide. But hey, a boy can dream, can't he?

I also have a soft spot for Corvettes of a certain vintage, particularly the ones from the early-1980’s (like the one below) when they were still muscular and swoopy, before they got all angular and wedge-y.

1982 Corvette

When we were bored kids in high school, my buddies and I would often doodle cars and motorcycles. Invariably, the cars we’d draw would end up looking like this.

Speed Racer much? Yeah, I used to watch it religiously.

But I’ll probably never buy a Corvette. For one thing, they’re not practical and you can’t really use them as “daily-drivers.” Plus, everyone would think I’m going through some sort of mid-life crisis.

The reality is that I’ll just keep driving my old Jeep until it dies. At the same time, I have an old Volkswagen Westphalia (camper bus) that I am (slowly) rebuilding. When it is done, that’ll probably be my daily driver. And in that thing, I'll be able to jump in and head for New York, and it won't matter if I need to stop or not. If I do, I'll just pull into a rest area and unfold the bed...and dream about making the trip non-stop in an Aston Martin Rapide.

09 May 2010

Oil Spill May 9th Update: Balls!

Tar balls, that is. They've found tar balls washing up on the beaches of Dauphin Island, which is a long, skinny barrier island that acts as a block to Mobile Bay. They can't prove that the tar balls are from the Deepwater Discovery spill, but they can't prove they ain't, either, so let's go with the former just to be safe. No balls have been found in Pensacola...err, on Pensacola Beach. Yet.

The oil has done...well, not much. It hasn't washed up on the beaches, and it hasn't gotten into the eddy currents and split for the Florida Keys. Some of it has washed up in Louisiana however.

It's becoming clear now that whatever happens, wherever this oil goes, it's not going to be a replay of Exxon Valdez. For one thing, this oil is different. It's not the "black gold, Texas tea" liquidy stuff that Jed Clampett struck when he was a-shootin' at some food in the opening credits of the 1960's sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies." Nor is it the thick, black, bird-coating gooey stuff that came a-gushin' outta the Exxon Valdez when the (cook? deckhand?) ran the ship aground while the Captain slept peacefully in his bunk. What's coming out of the ground at Mississippi Canyon 252 is akin to...well...babyshit. And by that I mean similar as in the color, texture and smell of the poop babies put out before they start eating solid food. Only this stuff burns. Okay, maybe no difference at all.

By the time it reaches land, this oil will already have been on the water for a couple of days. The "aromatics"...the things within the oil that burn will have already evaporated, leaving behind a mucky, unpleasant substance collected in big striated clumps. The clumps could wash up on land, as they have been already on Chandeleur Island, a long barrier island that looks like a big comma from the air. Chandeleur Island protects the marshland south of New Orleans and east of the Mississippi River.

Below is a map showing the mouth of the Mississippi River and a big red star on Chandeleur Island.

Some of the oil will disperse into a thin (too thin to burn) sheen that may drift for miles away from the main clumps. This sheen will carry a strong petroleum odor, and will coat whatever it touches.

Some of the oil will be broken down by wave action, the sun, and microbes that eat it.

So what will happen if any or all of this oil reaches the beaches? I don't know. Nobody really knows. Time is our friend here. The longer the oil stays offshore, the less of an impact it will have.

All in all, it's still a horrible mess. But honestly, it's like watching a train wreck or explosion in slow motion.


The big, inverted funnel contraption they tried to lower over the well to trap the oil and pump it to the surface has so far not worked. They say it "iced-up" and they say they expected it. Funny, nobody mentioned anything like that ahead of time. Which tells us something about what they're *not* telling us, which is probably a lot.

In the "irony of ironies" department, I read in today's Pensacola News Journal that on the day of the explosion, a number of executives from BP were on the Deepwater Horizon celebrating some safety milestone or other. Oops! Bad timing, that.

Here in Pensacola, we are seeing advertisements on t.v. and in the newspaper from law firms soliciting clients interested in suing BP. It seems that people are already primed and ready to sue BP for "damages," whatever they may be. We are a litigious culture, which should come as no surprise to anyone. But in this case the salivating is just disgusting. It takes big balls to prepare a lawsuit for something that has not even happened yet.

06 May 2010

Fun TV Commercials

Okay, you know me and television commercials. I love 'em! Especially the good ones. But what is "good?" Well that's hard to say. I know what's bad. Or more correctly, I know what I don't like: the ones that compel me to change the channel as soon as they come on. For example:

Those Old Navy commercials with the talking mannequins are simply dreadful. Okay, we get it, voice-over announcers get paid less than actors whose faces appear in the commercials. The ads speak of how cheap Old Navy is, and are frankly insulting. [CLICK!]

The AT&T commercials with the annoying and unattractive actor Owen Wilson't even-less-attractive-and-more-annoying brother Luke are horrible. [CLICK!]

Those idiotic Kit-Kat commercials drive me insane. Give me a break, all right! [CLICK!]

I know what I like: cleverness. I like things that are different. I like commercials that make me want to see them over and over.

For the Super Bowl, Kia debuted a commercial for their Sorento SUV model. The spot continues to run now. It features some toy stuffed animals that have come to life. In the spot, the animals commandeer a Sorento and go off on a joyride, accompanied by a pumping, pounding tune called "How You Like Me Now" by a group called The Heavy. The long, 60-second spot is great, but the two little 30-second spots are even awesomer.

In the first, the animals go bowling. Muno (the cyclops from Nickelodean's "Yo Gabba Gabba") picks up an exploding spare - odd, considering his obvious lack of depth perception. They make snow angels, and ride one of those mechanical bulls. The monkey (Sock Monkey from Fox River Mills Inc. - they sell socks) is seen getting a "tattoo" - which is really just a sew-on patch that says, "Mom." There's a quick shot of an iPod wired into the dash - for a microsecond you can see the cover art from "The House That Dirt Built," the CD from which the soundtrack came. Clever, that.

In the second Kia spot, Sock Monkey rides the mechanical bull again, and then flips a jetski! Then the stuffed animals hit Las Vegas. We see them cruising down the strip with Muno standing up through the sunroof, arms outstretched. They enter a casino and go dancing in the disco. The robot does...the robot, naturally.

The commercials all end with the toy animals returned to their natural state, in the back seat of a Sorento, dreaming of the day when they come to life and embark on a Las Vegas road-trip adventure.

Surprisingly, the commercial has no voice-over at all. Just some text at the end that says, "Sorento - a departure from the expected" and then the Kia logo.

This particular ad campaign is done by an agency called David & Goliath, who've had the Kia account since 1999. They're fun, terrific commercials that I love to watch.

HERE is the story of the origin of the spot from a site called The Auto Channel.

Okay, next we come to a very bizarre spot for a new tv from a the electronics company, Sharp. George Takei (who we all recognize as Sulu from the original "Star Trek" tv series and movies) is describing some new image technology that's so different that our current, pathetically inferior tv's can't even display it. Okay, right, sure. The weird part comes at the end, when Sulu looks directly at the Sharp Quattron tv screen. "WHOOOOO!!" he screams, obviously impressed. Then he looks at the camera and goes, "Oh my!" in a way that leaves the viewer going, well, "Oh, my..."

I'm not sure what they were going for with Sulu. His character on "Star Trek" was always so calm and confident. It was only after the series ended that he became more openly, um, flamboyant. See for yourself.

Commercials are a necessary evil. For the most part, we hate 'em because for the most part, they're awful. You've got 15, 30, or 60 seconds to get your message across. Do it right and it's magic (Kia). Do it wrong and you've wasted a shitload of money and possibly alienated future customers (Old Navy). For me, commercials like Kia's and Sharp's make watching tv tolerable, even fun.

Fox River Mills

David & Goliath Productions

05 May 2010

Oil Spill May 5th Update: Watching and Waiting

A big pool of crude oil sits on the water just south and east of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Right now, it isn’t doing much. The fear of course is that the oil will wash ashore along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida gulf coasts, causing environmental damage, killing wildlife and ruining the economies of the coastal cities that depend on tourism. But this has not happened…yet.

People along the gulf coast got into a big panic at first, envisioning another Exxon Valdez-type of mess. We cannot blame them for that, considering the situation, which is most assuredly as bad as it gets. And it may happen – oil fouling our beaches. But so far it has not. And even if it does, it won’t be the goopy, thick, black crude that the Valdez was carrying. What will wash ashore here will likely be much thinner, more of a sheen in most places. A sheen that keeps coming and coming and coming. Whether it will be easier more difficult to clean up is open for debate.

This is surely a worst-case scenario for offshore drilling. In the future, whenever opponents to offshore oil exploration want to make their case, they will bring up the Deepwater Horizon accident of 2010. Oil proponents will squirm and shuffle their feet. There won’t be much they can say except that, “…Such events are very, very rare.” Yes, rare. Until they happen. Which they do. The names “Deepwater Horizon” and “Exxon Valdez” will both go down in history with similar significance.

Some people wonder why BP or even our own government isn’t doing “more” to stop the leak. Ahh, and that’s the problem: There really, truly is no quick or easy way to fix this. In fact, BP itself has admitted that they never really planned for such an event because the chances of it happening were (see above) extremely remote and it was assumed that the blowout preventers would work. So basically there was no contingency plan for a spill of this magnitude.

Interestingly, BP is piping down dispersant material to the surface, trying to reach the oil at the source as it comes out of the ground and breaking it up before it reaches the surfce. Reports seem to indicate that this is working to an extent, which is good news if true. They are also constructing a huge collection dome which will be positioned over the leaking wells and – hopefully – allow them to suck the oil up to awaiting tankers on the surface.

BP says that there are at least three sources of oil leaks, alluding perhaps to the fact that they had already drilled two wells and were working on a third when the blowout happened. But one wonders: There was at least 5,000 feet of pipe going from the rig down to the well they were working on. When the rig sank, this 5,000 feet of “tubing” (which is what they call it) is surely crumpled and mangled around the wellheads. I have not seen any clear footage from the bottom, but I wonder if this huge dome structure they’re building will even have a clear shot at covering the leaking wells? BP seems to think so or they wouldn’t even be attempting this. So we’ll see. And we wish them luck.

The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has predicted that the oil slick could flow with certain currents that could take it down through the Florida Keys and out into the Atlantic. Below is a graphic that shows the current flow in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say, this has the entire state of Florida in the gulf coast panic-mode.

You can see the loops and eddies, which may influence the direction the oil will go more than the wind might. As of today, it appears that the main portion of the slick is drifting slightly westward, toward the marshy coastline of Louisiana south of New Orleans. But nobody can be sure of what is going to happen.

The oil is going to go somewhere, eventually. It will not just disappear.
However, every day, the oil on the surface disperses naturally through wave action and evaporation. Microbes in the water will even eat some of it. Unfortunately, every day more crude oil is added to the mix. So we all hold our breath, and watch and wait to see what the spill is going to do.