Sunday, September 28, 2008

What we think of all these bailouts

The bailout machine is operating at high RPMs right now and there is nothing we can do about it. It's clear that we aren't supposed to have a say in the matter. So maybe this is best.

California high school cancels football game due to fire ants

Californians can't play football because there are some fire ant mounds on the field. Hehe!
RIALTO, Calif. - They're a relentless force on the gridiron, with a stinging defense. But don't expect anyone to cheer for the Rialto High School fire ants.

Discovered by a groundskeeper last week, the venomous red pests have set up several mound-like colonies on the football and baseball fields. The Southern California school canceled a freshman football game, moved practices and called the state Department of Agriculture.

"They're from South America," said Syeda Jafri, spokeswoman for the Rialto Unified School District. "How they got here, we have no idea."

The school called in exterminators, and Jafri said the fields are expected to be clear of the unwanted guests by Friday, ready for next week's football game.

The infestation is not to be taken lightly, said Les Greenberg, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside.

"A small percentage of the population is allergic to the venom, just as with bees or wasps," Greenberg said. "This could range anywhere from a nuisance to a health threat."
Les Greenberg said this to the reporter with a straight face. And they have to call in an exterminator? Just give the groundskeeper $10 out of petty cash and send him to Home Depot for a container of Amdro. They have it stocked. Enter 92376 into the zip code field.

In other news, taxpayers are bailing out GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

JPMorgan Chase Tower

I had a meeting downtown this morning. It is a nice day so I decided to walk around after the meeting. Many buildings have a dozen or so broken windows. I walked a few blocks to the JPMorgan Chase Tower.

From the south side the damage doesn't look too bad.

Moving around to the east side and things look a bit different. When I first saw the windows falling that Saturday morning during the storm I thought it was a repeat of Alicia, with debris flying into the building. Instead, it turns out that the windows popped out in whole pieces due to the difference in pressure. This is why computers, monitors and filing cabinets were "sucked out" of the building. This will be something engineers and architects will be studying for quite some time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Goodbye WaMu

Back in early August I wrote that WaMu was going belly-up. WaMu rolled over and died today. The amazing thing is how routine this has become. If this had happened a year ago, Drudge would be flashing it in 48-point type, complete with that stupid graphic he uses. It would be the lead headline in all of the newspapers. Now? It's just another failure.

Over in CaseyWorld, Snowflake is holed up in a Salt Lake City motel room, consuming nothing but water, lemon juice and salt. He's sorta like Howard Hughes, only without money or a very interesting career. He bounced a bunch of checks, his credit cards are maxed out and the IRS is calling. Like WaMu, I think Casey's story is just about over. It's hard to laugh at this right now.

I think we need to empty our prisons of the drug addicts and fill them up again with the people that caused this enormous debacle. The people will demand it, and to cover their own hides I think the Feds are finally going to act.


Orthodontics has changed a lot since 1980. I remember metal bands, twisting wires, intense pain, followed by days of agonizing soreness. This was repeated every 4 weeks.

I was just wired up and there is no pain at all. This type of orthodontic work is done in stages, so right now my top four front teeth are wired. I was in and out of the office in 30 minutes. In 6 weeks I go back for my lower teeth. I can feel the tension, but no pain. The orthodontist said the tension is sensitive to heat. The tension will be applied continuously, and if I want to stop it I just need to swish some cold water in my mouth. He said my mouth will start feeling sore later tonight.

It should all be done in 9 months. I wish I had done this years ago.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Credit Crunch

I keep hearing about this credit crunch and how no one can get a loan. So why is it the guy at Chase I wrote about last month called me this past weekend to see if I was interested in a home equity line of credit? Out of the blue he called. Made small talk ("How did you make out during Ike? Did you lose power?"), then made his pitch. He is a nice guy whenever I go into that particular Chase branch, so I don't mind talking with him. I'm no Warren Buffet, I am just a middle-class schmuck who has 75% equity and pays his bills on time every time. In fact, I am flattered by the pitches. This has never happened to me before.

From what I see, people who could get credit in 1995 can get it today. When I bought my modest crapshack I had to prove my income, show my bank accounts, plus provide tax returns and a down payment. ("Down payment? What is that?") We have now reverted to this standard, which to me is common sense, and the media calls it a "credit crunch."

No segue: The metal goes on tomorrow. I had to reschedule due to Ike. Akubi, I will keep you posted! I expect to be in extreme pain 24 hours from now.

Additional failure to segue: The first Scout pack meeting with moi in charge went off very well the other day, if anyone is interested. I thought I'd experience stage fright in front of all of these parents, but it's kinda weird: When you're so into something for so long and you are highly knowledgeable about the topic, the fear vanishes. I suspect this applies to any subject. Knowledge and preparation eliminates 90%+ of the anxiety when it comes to public speaking. It breaks my heart that the hurricane threw off the plans so much, but I hope we can pick up new kids over the next couple of weeks as schedules are reestablished. And kudos to SHAC for the billboards, which have unfortunately been blown down due to the storm.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

Found by soemdood. Your jaw will drop. Ready? Presenting... How can anyone live like this?

I see that Houston institutions of higher eating such as Whataburger and Shipley's Donuts are well represented. I am so proud that a Houstonian has created such a masterpiece! The way the cigarette butts are arranged... it's almost like performance art.

Hey Suzanne, research THIS.

My old take.

A new take from someone else.

Suzanne is now living with her parents, along with the two children. Suzanne rang up $50,000 in debt because she was counting on more withdrawals of "equity." The divorce is still pending; Her soon-to-be ex is living in one of those extended stay suites that offer free wi-fi and a hot tub. John has grown even larger, while Suzanne has packed on 30 pounds due to a steady diet of cheap junk foods, the names of which mostly end in "roni." John faces a short commute to the office since he no longer has to commute on I-10 from the Inland Empire.

The used house seller who sold them the property is now a state employee, having secured work processing forms at the DMV. It is the best job she has ever had because she cannot be fired, has medical insurance the rest of us can only dream about and she has a nice guaranteed pension in 20 years. As a bonus, she gets lots of paid holidays that people in the private sector look upon as a joke.

We're all French

From Bloomberg,
Two U.S. senators have said their government's bailouts of financial institutions make capitalist America seem more like France.

They didn't mean it as a compliment, but French lawmakers are taking it that way. "There's nothing wrong with being French," said French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
There's no point in being critical of French socialism at this point. Bashing France is so 2003. Now I want my mandatory 6 weeks of paid vacation and free medical care, thank you. We are all now French. However, I draw the line at eating horse meat, squatting over a hole and not showering every day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Day that Never Comes

It's been a few years since Metallica had a new song. It starts to get very intense about 5:30 minutes in.

Remember our troops. And I am glad that Lars re-tuned the snare drum.

When does Barry Soetoro throw Joey Hairplug under the bus?

Even Joey Hairplug agrees that Hillary Clinton should have been the VP nominee. And to be fair, she did receive more votes than Barry.

I think Barry will pull a Casey very soon. Barry and Casey are quite adept at throwing people under the bus, so what's one old political hack/plagiarist with hair plugs? Obama/Clinton '08! Barry would instantly nullify his "career women are pigs" comments and pull ahead.

Why haven't we buried the power lines?

I think it's time for the city and county to finally pass an ordinance requiring that all power lines be buried. The last major hurricane to hit Houston was Alicia in 1983. If such an ordinance had been passed then, giving the power companies a 25-year window to complete the task, we wouldn't be in this situation today.

There's no excuse. The phone lines are buried. Lots of coastal cities have buried their power lines. Is it the expense? I think the cost to bury the lines when expensed over 25 years is cheaper than having to bring in thousands of crews from out of state every time a tropical storm hits.

One week after Ike, half of Houston still does not have power. Unfortunately, the pleasant weather has been replaced by typical late September weather. Hot and humid. I bet those people who continue to swelter in their houses would like to see these ordinances passed.

California is toast

I am stunned by this story in the Sacramento Bee.
If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to issue minimum-wage checks to 200,000 state workers in less than a month, he may want to rehire any semi-retired computer programmers he terminated last week.

The massive pay cut would exhaust the state's antiquated payroll system, which is built on a Vietnam-era computer language so outdated that many college students don't even bother to learn it anymore.

Democratic state Controller John Chiang said Monday it would take at least six months to reconfigure the state's payroll system to issue blanket checks at the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour, though Schwarzenegger insists such a change should occur this month.
California taxpayers are now being held hostage by CA state employees. Court orders don't matter. Edicts from the governor don't matter. Just fabricate a tale and blame it all on COBOL. Funny how CA state employees can give themselves big pay raises in a hurry using this very same payroll system!

The beautiful state of California is SO screwed.

Update: The Instaglenn posted about this.

Barney Frank should be arrested

I saw this on Instaguy. From the New York Times, September, 2003. In one of his rare lucid moments, Bush wanted an overhaul at Fannie and Freddie due to the massive fraud and mismanagement going on thanks to Obama contributor Franklin Raines. Here's Barney:
"These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis," said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. "The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."

Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.

"I don't see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing," Mr. Watt said.
I think we should start by arresting the Top 30 who received bribes donations from Fannie and Freddie. (D) or (R), doesn't matter to me. Toss them all in jail. The whole entire lot should be brought up on charges of fraud, bribery and collusion. They have put American taxpayers on the hook for a trillion bucks. I want to see lots of powerful fatcats in orange prison attire.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A frivolous purchase

I bought an iPod touch (2nd generation) tonight. Yeah, I know I am late to the party. My excuse was that next time we lose juice I can simply go to Starbucks or wherever and still be able to get online. The real reason was I have wanted one of these for a long time. This was the first frivolous purchase I've made since... well, I can't remember. When I bought the 30GB iPod a couple years ago?

I feel guilty about it, but dang. This is the coolest thing I have ever bought. Everyone should have one of these. The mapping feature is amazing, nailing my house dead-center just by the signal from the wireless broadband router.

If you're a middle-aged fart like me and are thinking about buying one, do it. This is a very useful device, and it's an excellent compromise for people who like the iPhone's features but are reluctant to commit to those expensive 2-year contracts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Galveston on September 5

It turns out that the offshore diver I posted about yesterday is a video blogger and does some pretty decent stuff. He was working in Galveston a few days before Ike and did a nice job of capturing the typical tourist experience.

The beach where the older guy was looking for shiny trinkets with metal detectors is all gone. That large hotel just off the beach is the San Luis Resort. This is where the media people stayed during the hurricane. It is pretty safe from hurricanes since it is built on top of an old fort. In fact, you can still see the gun batteries from Seawall Boulevard. When I was a kid you could walk into the batteries.

A request to Washington

I know that my opinion doesn't matter. In exchange for all of these massive bailouts of crooked Wall Street firms, banks, insurance companies and mortgage lenders with my tax money I'd like to see prosecutions and stiff prison sentences for the managers at these companies. I want to see Angelo and Franklin working in a prison laundry for the next 25 years. Then I'd like to see all of their assets forfeited.

I don't think that's too much to ask. But I realize it will never happen. The greed has rotted through both sides of the political aisle. The crooks have been bailed out with our money and they get to keep the loot they stole.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So much for T. Boone Pickens.

Boone said oil would never trade under $100. Oops. So much for his dreams of taxpayer-subsidized windfarms that he would profit from. So much for Nancy Pelosi's dreams of a financial windfall.

Oil spiked today, but only because of the disruption due to Ike. $50 lies dead ahead.

Hurricane Ike on Galveston Bay

Footage from one of the boats that service the oil platforms out in the Gulf. Holy crap! Glad they were OK.

Snowflake thinks people want to watch him coding HTML and eating bananas and frosting his hair. The guy in this video works for Lone Start Diving. Now THAT is an interesting job, and while it is very dangerous it can be very lucrative. Casey, I know you are reading this. Why not do something interesting with your life like jOeJoE? I know it's a W-2 looser job, but isn't this better than living in a van down by the river or as a homeless bum with a laptop?

Hurricane Shitstorm has made landfall

Because I was offline for a few days I missed the landfall of the biggest financial storm recorded in decades. The dirty side of Hurricane Shitstorm is now passing overhead. Beware! The dirty side is also the quadrant where tornadoes are frequent.

I think I am positioned to avoid losses. I made preparations. I topped off my savings accounts and stocked-up on non-perishable no debt. I tried my best to keep hunkered down in my hidey hole. Due to Hammer #1, which whacked me upside the head in late June, I am not so sure I am positioned to survive the aftermath if cleanup and recovery efforts from Hurricane Shitstorm take a long time. Will I need to stand in line for a Federal Reserve POD?

To my Houston friends who are reading this in places like Panera Bread, if you have enough gas drive out to Katy. Everything out here (except the schools) is now open and you may be lucky enough to find a gas station that has fuel. Based upon what I saw tonight I think you have a better than even shot at finding gas with not much of a wait.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike PODs

I am back up, sort of. The land lines work for 2 minutes, then they're down again for 2 minutes. That means spotty DSL.

Talk about the PODs continues. I think there are a lot of hungry people on the east side. No gas, no power, and that 3-day window they tell people to be self-sufficient for has passed. I heard on the radio that there was a 6-mile line this afternoon for the POD in Pasadena. I think FEMA should deliver the trailers, then hand off responsibility to the city and county. Volunteers are more than willing to do the work distributing the food, and I think the local governments can do this more efficiently than the Federal government. Has anyone considered the shut-ins, the elderly and infirm who can't stand in a 6 mile line and are cooped up in their houses? Community groups and churches need to go door-to-door in the poorer neighborhoods to check up on this. Thankfully we caught a massive break by the early arrival of the first cool front of the season. Nice sleeping weather with the windows open.

Gas lines are massive. People linger in front of a gas station that has power, and if they are lucky a tanker truck pulls up. Once people see a tanker they immediately pull in line. I saw one today that stretched 8 blocks.

The damage is a lot worse than I thought. Looking closely at the roofs in my neighborhood I see whole entire sections of shingles that were peeled off. I am seeing a lot of blue roofs. This will be a very expensive cleanup.

Me? I found myself being appointed Cubmaster this past Sunday. I never thought I'd be in such a position when I started Scouting with my son 3 years ago. I told them I am not in a good mental state for such a responsibility, but they said it would be ideal because it will take my mind off the two big hammers. So I said OK, but I told them I may crap out on them.

I just wish they'd re-word this a bit. It's kinda creepy.

Hey Rob Dawg, I am down to 169, baybee. One other thing. I was supposed to get the metal installed this past Friday. I called the orthodontist's office Thursday afternoon to point out that I didn't think it would be likely that my orthodontist would be wiring me up in the midst of a hurricane. They said they hadn't cancelled any appointments for Friday. Huh? They waited until Friday morning to reschedule my appointment. Now it's set for September 25th.

(Jeez, it took me 30 minutes to post this with all of the DSL failures. That would take Casey all day.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike streaker

What better time is there to take off all of your clothes and run in front of a television news camera?

God's Salad Shooter

I mentioned the shredded leaves that cover my house. It's the same everywhere in the neighborhood. A neighbor says it looks like God had an enormous Salad Shooter.

Balinese Room, RIP

Well, this really sucks.

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A famous Texas nightclub where Frank Sinata and Bob Hope once performed is no longer — thanks to Hurricane Ike.

The 79-year-old Balinese Room — a popular dance and gambling hall that was once a major attraction in Galveston, was washed away by battering storm surge as Ike roared ashore early Saturday.

Erected on Galveston's sea wall, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

The Balinese Room survived Hurricane Carla in 1961 and Alicia in 1983. But Ike proved too much for the Texas icon as battering waves ripped the building apart.

Update: Their website is back online.

A short drive

We were very lucky. If Ike had tracked 30 miles to the west, it would have been much worse on this side of town. There is no major damage on this side of town, just a lot of uprooted trees and damaged fences. The creeks and bayous are all very high, if not flooding. Downtown is a wreck. The same thing happened during Alicia. What broke all of those windows?

It's hard to see due to the poor quality of YouTube videos, but in that last scene a guy had made some emergency patches on his roof. Roofers and fence builders will be very busy for the next few weeks.

Still have power as of 7:45 am

This neighborhood is one of the few left in Houston with power. I am astounded that it's still on. My DSL connection is spotty.

Outside, the noise is amazing. I see trees knocked down, neighbor's fences knocked over, a few broken windows, leaves are stripped off the trees. I think the maple tree I mentioned yesterday will be OK. Most of the leaves are gone now.

The rain was tremendous overnight and it's still coming. The bayou in back of my house is still within its banks, but I am not sure for how much longer. Once it gets out of its banks it is still one or two feet up to reach the level of my property, so I am not too worried about that.

Between gusts I opened the garage door briefly and poked my head outside. My house is covered with shredded leaves. It is COATED. BTW, Sparky is intact.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike Sunset

One last photo before the SHTF. Sunset tonight was stunning. This photo doesn't do it justice. The sky was purple and orange. Those narrow low clouds were racing north to south. Standing outside watching this is both exhilarating and frightening at the same time.

A lot of people are dying right now. Tens of thousands of people chose to stay in the storm surge zones. 20,000 people chose to stay on Galveston Island alone. I don't want to think of the terror they are experiencing. Why were they so pig-headed? What, if anything, could government officials (police, firemen) have said to them to convince them to leave? Telling someone they will die if they stay and then asking them for their name and social security number and then ask that they write that information on their arms so they can be identified would do it for just about anyone.

I realize that we can't (and shouldn't) drag these stupid people away from their homes in handcuffs. So what's the answer? Maybe there's not an answer. Maybe, as a free society, we just have to accept that a certain number of people are stupid and pigheaded.

Update: Very, very bad.

Update: KHOU is reporting that fires are breaking out and spreading from house to house on the west end of Galveston. The people who are still there are choosing to die in a house fire or drown.

Update: It's almost 10:00 and I still have power. According to the boob tube, power is being lost in an increasing number of Houston neighborhoods. Right now I am looking out of my study to watch that maple tree. I see that more leaves have been stripped off in the winds.

Update: 10:40, still have power. Go, Reliant!

Update: 11:30, just drank a couple brewskis with some neighbors. ParTAY. Rain bands are approaching the Astrodome area. The wind noise is now getting loud outside. Winds are blowing steady at 60 at Minute Maid Park.

Update: 11:50. From the radar loop, it looks like Ike is taunting us. Ike's just spinning offshore, not moving as of now.

Midnight: Starting to see lightning. In the distance I see and hear some transformers pop. Here are the feeds from the Houston TV stations. I am crawling into my hidey hole and going to sleep. Later.

Update: 7:45 am. I still have power! Unbelievable. The scenes outside are amazing.

Roof, meet maple tree

As of 7:00 pm I am growing alarmed by the maple tree in my front yard. The wind is picking up fast, blowing in from the north.

Yeah, I know it's not exactly exciting hurricane footage. It's just my own personal little crisis. The exciting stuff comes in a few more hours.

Update: Heh! A guy walking on Galveston's Seawall Boulevard dressed in a bear costume. WTF?

"Clown"? He's dressed in a bear costume! More bear!

Ike Wind Map

Since the Hide From The Wind site is intermittent, here is the latest forecast wind map for Harris County that you may find handy. A new one is set to be issued at 10:00 pm, but I suspect that power will be out for most of us by then.

Ike's Eye

I've never seen a hurricane eye this large. Ike's eye must be close to 100 miles wide.

Get ready to pay much higher gas prices. The Exxon refinery in Baytown and the BP refinery in Texas City will be shut down for weeks. The Exxon plant is the largest refinery in the US, the BP plant the third largest. Those of you who will be griping about rising gas prices but don't want a refinery near your city should probably be asking your elected leaders if it's a good idea to have such a large concentration of our nation's refining capacity in one location.

Update: Houston, Hide From The Wind is down. KHOU just did a story on it so their servers must be overloaded. And it will be interesting to watch this Katy weather buff's site to see how long it will be working.

Update: An image from Chronicle photographer Smiley Pool.

Needless to say, no firefighters went to put it out. These are some of the new McMansions on stilts that I've written about and photographed many times. Keep in mind that the storm surge has not arrived yet. This will all be expensive driftwood.

Ike Fatigue

I wrapped up last-minute pruning on some large tree branches that I was nervous about. I was sweating like a pig and took off my shirt. Big mistake. My entire body is covered with deep scratches. It looks like I got into a fight with a bobcat.

Enjoyed one last shower for a while. I just walked around the neighborhood a few minutes ago. All of the kids are outside playing. The wind is blowing a steady 25 or so out of the east. You can definitely feel a storm coming.

I plan to eat as many non-vegan taquitos that I can for dinner. That will be the last of the frozen food. The freezer is as packed with ice as I can get it.

I am just burned out and dead-tired. I would like to take a nap so I can be awake all night in case something happens... OTOH, I think it would be better to sleep the night away in the hidey hole under the stairs. Nothing I can do in the middle of the night anyway. I just want to get this storm over with.

Like everyone else, I am stunned by the waves breaking over the Galveston seawall. It blows my mind that there are still people along the Bay and on Galveston Island planning to ride this out when the seawall is going to be topped. The police are going door-to-door, and I hear they're asking for names and social security numbers. Many of those 20,000-odd people down there will die. Stupid people, please get out while you can! I-45 is wide open, there are no traffic delays!

Sparky the Garden Gnome

I went out to buy a large pruning saw. Walmart: Closed. Home Depot: Open. They still had generators! HEB: Open. Kroger: Closed. I topped off the gas tank one last time.

The wind has picked up noticeably. All of the potential missiles have been packed up in the garage.

Readers of my old site may remember Sparky the Garden Gnome. He's still around. Sparky is full of sand, so he's gonna ride out Ike under the oak tree.

Sites I'm following right now:

KHOU live video
KTRK live video
KPRC live video
Weather Underground
The Chron's Eric Berger

Dr. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground says:
Hurricane Ike is closing in on Texas, and stands poised to become one of the most damaging hurricanes of all time.
Goodbye, Galveston. Goodbye, Port Arthur.


I went for a walk outside and we are just starting to feel the winds. I am watching KHOU right now and they are showing what's going on at the Galveston seawall. Wow! If the waves are already crashing over the western end of the island, this will be devastating to the coast. Those McMansions on stilts I've written about so many times before will be driftwood this time tomorrow. I'm hearing about a 20+ foot storm surge... the entire island, including the old section behind the seawall, will be devastated.

From the Galveston webcams that are still working, the Strand is already flooding. The storm surge is still more than 12 hours away!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How would you like to live next door to a roller coaster?

I've written about this house in Kemah many times before.

While looking at Google Maps, I just discovered that the Boardwalk Bullet was imaged.

As a typical laissez-faire Houstonian, I am not a fan of zoning. But this is absurd.

There's a good chance that roller coaster won't exist in 48 hours. If the debris damages that house, I suspect Landry's will face a hefty lawsuit. Warning: If you click on that Landry's link, be prepared for a very cheesy song. "Spend the day eating playstick"? Oh... after repeated listening, "Spend the day, eat and play stay."

Hurricane Ike preparations

Worked a typical day today. I stopped by Walmart one last time near the office for some last minute things. They still have plenty of batteries, but no propane. Driving home from work:

Westbound traffic was heavy, but typical. If TxDOT had finished the westbound lanes of the Katy Freeway by now (instead of the scheduled completion in October), I suspect there would have been no backup at all.

The evacuation has gone like clockwork. The State of Texas has clearly learned how to do this right. Of course, unlike Rita, the entire city of Houston isn't panicked and evacuating, just the people who truly need to. I will never forget that night as long as I live.

Ambulance convoy. These came speeding by at regular intervals. I assume they are moving critical care patients from UTMB Galveston inland.

Only a few people are boarding up in Katy. Good thing we've been in a mild drought lately. All of the storm water detention basins are empty. The non-descript house above: He did a great job boarding up, but that roof doesn't look so good.

Toilet water is ready to be flushed. Like most people out in the County, we live in a M.U.D. Power goes out, so goes the water for our subdivision. Most people in Houston are hooked up to the city water supply, so while they'll be sweaty and uncomfortable like us, at least they'll be able to flush at will.

Update: Some seriously good news. The NWS says the first cool front of the season will arrive Monday. This is great! Being without power is far better without the massive humidity and 95 degree highs typical of a Texas Gulf Coast summer. I'll take a high of 85 and dry air anytime. A high of 85 and a low of 65 with dry air? That's Chamber of Commerce weather. Once Ike is past, summer will be over for us. Yippee!

Doug: "I dare you to do a real estate bike ride while Ike comes through." Heh!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

City of Houston Hurricane Wind Data

The city of Houston has a helpful page of estimated wind speeds for Hurricane Ike, broken down by zip code. It also shows peak wind gusts during prior storms in each zip. They just need to update it. The new data set was to be up at 4:00, and now it's almost 8:00 and it hasn't been updated.

I went to Walmart this morning before work to get the usual. The store had very few shoppers. Water, batteries, canned foods out the wazoo. Even tonight as I drove by HEB and Walmart I didn't see any big crowds. The Rita fiasco has caused people to take Massive Focused Inaction.

Time is ticking fast. In less than 48 hours things will be getting really nasty. If those people in the coastal zones need to get out, the order needs to be sent pretty quick.

I will say I think the state and local governments have been pretty efficient. As I drove home tonight I saw that all of the detention basins have been completely drained in advance of the coming floods. And if you're curious, the National Guard has set up a massive staging area at Tully Stadium off Dairy Ashford. You will be seeing hundreds of National Guardsmen driving around in Hummers beginning tomorrow night.

Here are my local weather conditions if you're interested in watching what happens over the next few days. And here's a Katy weathergeek with local conditions that I'll be watching until the power goes out sometime late Friday night.

Update: Ike took another jog to the north, the "worst case" scenario.

Meanhile, the freeways are all running green. Doesn't look like many people along the coast are leaving. I think this is a bad mistake. I also heard something on the radio tonight that made me think about those thick steel storm stutters I saw in Galveston a week or so ago. Did you know that during Hurricane Carla (the Dan Rather hurricane), The Strand was deeply under water? As of tonight, Ike looks like he'll be Carla II.

The only Ike bonus: I can ride the Sam for free the next few days.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ike could be mean

My spidey senses are giving me a bad feeling about Ike. This could be the one that Joe Bastardi failed to guesscast.

Houstonians have been remarkably complacent today. They don't want to repeat the Rita experience. This morning we heard the path was gonna take Ike into Corpus. People relaxed. A few hours ago the line squiggled up the coast. Over at the Weather Underground,
There is a significant chance that Ike will be the worst hurricane to hit Texas in over 40 years. The latest run of the HWRF and GFDL models paint a realistic worst-case scenario for Texas. These models bring Ike to the coast as a Category 4 hurricane (which I give a 20% probability of happening). The HWRF predicts a 170-mile stretch of coast will receive hurricane force winds of 74 mph or greater. A 100-mile stretch of coast will receive winds of Category 3 strength and higher, 115 mph. Hurricane force winds will push inland up to 50 miles, along a 50-mile wide region where the eyewall makes landfall. A 100-mile stretch of Texas coast will receive a storm surge of 10-15 feet, with bays just to the right of where the eye makes landfall receiving a 20-25 foot storm surge. This is what Hurricane Carla of 1961 did to Texas. Carla was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds at landfall, and drove a 10 foot or higher storm surge to a 180-mile stretch of Texas coast. A maximum storm surge of 22 feet was recorded at Port Lavaca, Texas. Despite the fact that the center of Carla hit over 120 miles southwest of Houston, the hurricane drove a 15-foot storm surge into the bays along the south side of the city.
Big difference now is there are a couple hundred thousand houses down there along Galveston Bay. Not to mention a large chunk of the nation's refining capacity and the main NASA facility. This will not be a pleasant weekend for any of us. Ready for days or even weeks with no air conditioning?

We're not leaving. We are 60 miles inland. The kids and I can hole up under the stairs if the winds get too bad. Once the storm has passed and if we're too miserable, then we'll go to the relatives in Louisiana. They just had their power restored a few days ago after Gustav, and they are 200 miles inland from the Gulf. I will not get stuck in a massive traffic jam again.

Be sure to top off your tank tomorrow before heading in to work!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fine French Food

As found by my pal OldLyme. Yeah, I know it's in Québec. First time I was in Québec I was 14 and riding a bike from Montreal to Québec City with a YMCA youth group. I remember some French Canadian guy swinging a small dog around on its chain in the air, yelling at the poor creature. The dog lived. I hope that asshole experienced karma.

I saw the movie Grease in Québec City with this YMCA group. Very interesting experience. It wasn't dubbed, but it was subtitled, and the Canadian girls squealed whenever Ravolta appeared. Outside of Québec City, Québec is a lot like Michigan, except you can't understand what people are saying.

So I didn't care much for Québec City. I did like Montreal. I was 14 and from a boring suburb and I had free reign to explore Montreal's weird rubber-tired subway system. Plus, La Ronde was there and all of the girls in that YMCA youth group were cute. It can't get much better when you're 14.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What is it?

I had never heard of this widget until tonight. Now I am fascinated by it and want one. I am curious to see if anyone knows what it is.

Update: That was fast. Telescopemerc nailed it. This is the innards of a CURTA calculator. We're so used to powerful electronic devices that I find extremely intricate mechanical devices like the CURTA far more interesting. This was posted on Dvorak earlier today.

Houston Real Estate Road Kill

They're still building them, but it doesn't look like anyone's buying.

Update: Someone sent me an e-mail about the dying opossum. What could I do? I guess if I had thick leather gloves I could have picked it up and put it in the shade somewhere.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Got Koi?

As seen by Swamplot. This house built in 1948 features a koi pond. I am not impressed with the interior staging, but I will say the outdoor landscaping is beautiful. In fact, the landscaping is the best part of of property. What the current owner has done outside is gorgeous. Go look at the gallery.

When I was young and single I rode my bike many times through this neighborhood after riding the Ho Chi Minh trail to see the Beer Can House. 15 years ago it was a dodgy neighborhood. I am not so sure a koi pond means that a very old house is worth $619k in a neighborhood that can easily transition back to its former state. Even with the nice plants and koi pond.

Update: It just occurred to me. Do these people eat flowers for dinner?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Compare and contrast

Update: If you are one of the many Democrats who are afraid of Palin, I encourage you to act as this brave anonymous poster did.
This is not a normal family, but a selfish, dysfunction (sic), trailer-trash mess.
Please demand that your favorite Democrat politician say that to the television cameras. We all know that Joe "he's the first articulate clean black candidate" Biden will wind up calling her trailer trash, but I think it would really help out the Democrats if more of them did this.

Update 2: More Whoopi! Ms. Goldberg compares Palin to a Nazi and says she wants to "succeed" from the US. Intelligent Hollywood people: Please continue weighing in on Sarah Palin!

Update 3: "Us" magazine loses a lot of paid subscribers:
Us Weekly, which unlike People and OK!, chose a rather caustic cover line (“Babies, Lies and Scandal”) is said to have lost thousands of subscribers in just the first 24 hours following the printing of the issue.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


While helping my son with his math homework last night I noticed a spelling error on the worksheet.

OK, so we all make occasional spelling mistakes. Except that my son's math teacher didn't make a mistake, she misspelled the word again. My son's math teacher doesn't know how to spell the word "written"!

This is a basic, common word. It's not like she was writing something difficult like locatious loquatious loquacious. How the hell can a teacher not know how to spell "written"? And this is an "Exemplary" school!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Russia is dying

This is the Russia you have heard about but don't see.

I can understand why Putin is so popular with the Russian masses. He says the right things. He promises a return to the glory days of Empire. It doesn't matter that he won't and can't deliver on these promises.

The corruption is astonishing. A handful of oil oligarchs reap billions from state oil deposits and purchase megayachts and castles in England. They bankroll Putin and his machine.

Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.

With the upcoming collapse in oil prices, what will Putin do to hold Russian society together? Putin's Georgian adventure was a desperate roll of the dice, I think. He wanted to rebuild Russia's pride and reinflate the collapsing oil bubble. He only accomplished one of those two goals.