Thursday, May 29, 2014

Four Totally Unrelated Topics: Maya Angelou, I’m Lucky, Houston Proud, and Love Field Part 3

Maya Angelou:

I can’t let a blog post go by without marking the passing of a great Arkansawyer and a great American.

Maya Angelou rose from a sharecropper’s shack in deeply segregated, Jim-Crow Arkansas to become Poet Laureate of the United States.  A brilliant woman.  There will be other brilliant people, but Ms. Angelou had a unique ability to string words together exquisitely.  She was personal, personable, and had a great perspective.  (alliteration, do I get extra style points?).  Her last tweet (May 23, 2014):  “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

Rest in peace, Maya.


I’m lucky: 

I was busy feeling sorry for myself the other night (so what else is new?).  I had had a rough day at work (rougher than most), and was complaining (read:  whining) about it.  I was in the kitchen, Matt was in the living room.  Very, very quietly, he said, “You have a beautiful home and are surrounded by people who love you.  Sounds like a great day to me.”

BAM.  Right between the eyes.  I’m writing that on a post-it and putting it on my computer.


Houston Proud:

The fourth largest city in the United States of America, a city which has 3 times elected an openly-gay Mayor because she is damn good at her job, a city I’m proud to call my home, just passed the H.E.R.O.  The “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance” “…bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.” –Houston Chronicle, 2014-05-29

The measure passed 11-6 and Mayor Parker immediately signed it.  The law became effective when she did so.

Houston now joins California, New York, and other enlightened areas in banning discrimination of any form; it’s the first Texas city to do so. 

The bill had the full backing of Houston business, “Big Oil”, and other groups. 

Kudos to Houston!


Love Field, Part 3:

I had two meetings in Dallas today; thanks to “The Company Plane” (one of Southwest Airlines’ old slogans), I flew up this morning, went to my meetings, and managed to get the 3:15 back to Houston.

Love Field has undergone a metamorphosis; they’re rebuilt it as Houston rebuilt Hobby a few years back; the old Main Terminal Building is now the “entrance hall” for the beautiful new airport.

One of the features that was in the original main lobby (very futuristic for 1957) was a world map, polar view, executed in terrazzo.  As a kid, I was always completely fascinated by this map.  I still think it’s wonderful.  It was exciting, it conveyed the idea that you were “going somewhere” and that “the world is waiting”. 

Throughout the various iterations of Love Field (including the ice rink installed over it), the map has remained.  Recently, it’s been covered up with the TSA Security lines.

They’ve now roped it off and it shines in all its glory.  It made me happy at 7, and it makes me happy at 57.


I couldn’t go past the roped-off areas, but notice that the silver lines converge on Dallas…


And, just a couple of gratuitous shots:

Taking off from Houston at 6:30 am


Arriving Dallas 7:30 am


Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Keystone Pipeline

New York Times article today:

(Summary:  The woman objects to the Keystone Pipeline because it may kill some cows in Nebraska if anything goes badly wrong).

So you don't like the Keystone.  You also don't like fracking.  You don’t like refineries.  You don’t like drilling.  There’s nothing about the oil industry you DO like (except possibly the TV show “Dallas”).

I guess you prefer us to continue to have to kowtow to the Middle East for oil.  That Sultan of Brunei, he’s a real charmer (“Stone the gays”).  Then there’s the ever-so-charming Saudi Arabia, where “human rights” is a joke, where they regularly chop off body parts for minor offenses, and where people just “disappear”.  The Saudis are NOT our friends.  They are our trading partners.

If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at our great-grandparents (or great-great-grandparents, depending…).  They’re the ones who bought the Model T’s, paved the cowpaths, and took the family for a Sunday drive.  They’re the ones who wanted independence from the railroad companies’ schedules.  Main Street, USA at Disneyland and Walt Disney World is a really great fantasy, one I love to indulge.  Imagine those places with the streets covered in up to a foot of horseshit (sorry), because unlike Disney, the cities didn’t have an army of people following the horses around every minute picking up the poo.  So it wasn’t always just lovely.  Yeah, our great-grandparents wanted away from all that.

Then there are our grandparents and parents.  They fought “the Big One”, then came back and moved en-masse from the crowded cities to the Levittown-clone suburbs, so they could enjoy a better life for their kids, including nice, new houses with modern conveniences, good schools, etc.  They then ripped up the trolley car tracks and bought diesel buses because they were told, and believed, that “what’s good for GM is good for America.”

Speaking of GM, how about blaming big business for getting us here?  John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil > S.O. > Esso > Exxon), Billy Durant (GM), Walter P. Chrysler, and oh, yeah, that Henry Ford fella…They made the automobile available and accessible and everybody wanted one.  They provided the product and Americans made them all rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  All cheerfully financed, of course, by J. P. Morgan and the other wolves of Wall Street (Wall Street is the dirtiest whore in the world, second possibly only to “the City” of London).

I’m not defending the oil industry; it’s as dirty as business gets.  Well, not as dirty as the banks/bankers/financiers, but almost.

Regardless of how we got here, we’re here NOW.

Look, kids:  There is no alternate source of energy.  Trust me, the oil companies are making huge research investments, because if there IS an alternative energy source, they want to be out in front of it.  We have built this current infrastructure of ours over a century.  How are we going to replace every gas station, every pipeline, and every car if an alternative energy solution DOES show up?  Who's going to pay for it if we do? 

There's not going to be anything different in alternate energy for at least the next 50 years.

Canada is going to sell that oil.  They're either going to ship it to Houston, where it'll be refined and sold, or they'll ship it to their Pacific Coast, where China will be delighted to buy it.  We might as well have it come here.

If you think there aren't pipelines all over the place now--think again.  They're literally EVERYWHERE.  The average age of a petroleum-related pipeline in the United States is 62.  With all the technology we now have, this will be the safest pipeline ever built.

Everyone who wants to whine about the petroleum-based economy we now have, cool.  Please get out of your cars at once (don't know how you plan to get around, but that is your problem).  Also rid your home of any petroleum-based products (everything plastic).  Don’t think your completely plastic-lined Pious (Prius) is making you more environmentally friendly—the batteries in those things, as of now, are chock-full of poisonous material that must be “safely disposed of” (how?  by burying it…kind of like nuclear waste, that you also don’t like).

One more little thing:  National Security.  It’s that much more oil if we ever need it, if we’re threatened.  Plus, really:  wouldn’t it be nice to be free of the tyranny of the Middle East?  They can go back to killing each other with reckless abandon, and we can get on with our western lives. 

I like my car.  I like my freedom.  I could go everywhere on the bus—but I don’t WANT to.  That means that periodically, I have to pull up to my “friendly” neighborhood gas station and “fill’er up”.

Build the damn pipeline. 




Things I failed to mention in the above rant:

  • JOBS for Americans:  Surveying and prepping the land.  Building the pipeline.  Operating the pipeline.  Maintaining the pipeline.  Refining the oil.  Loading and shipping the refined product. 
  • TAX REVENUE for America:  Just think of all the Federal, State, and Local tax revenue that’s going to generate.  Shame to leave it on the table.
  • (from a friend in the O&G business):  Increasing population and demand for oil.  World population expected to increase by 20% in 20 years, most of it in developing countries (China, for example) which are consuming it by great gulps.  This equates to a 40% increase in energy demand.  We’ve got to have the oil from somewhere.
  • Extrapolation from above:  It’s the old supply/demand curve.  We’re players on the world stage whether anyone wants that or not (nobody asked you, nobody asked me.  You want to live in the United States, that’s part of the price).  If world demand goes up 40% and world supply stays stagnant, increases marginally, or decreases, what happens to price?  More people wanting fewer items = price increases.  Economics 101, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 1975, thank you very much.  So, if you’re paying $3.50 a gallon now, enjoy it, because $10 a gallon (or more) is coming unless we tap all our available sources.  That’s a crippling blow to our economy.
  • Ethanol:  far from being “environmentally friendly”, ethanol is a bane to mankind for an amazing variety of reasons:  1.  It causes cars to use fuel less efficiently, thus reducing mpg, thus increasing gasoline use.  2.  It takes food from the food supply (most of the corn used for ethanol is used in livestock production, i.e., it’s fed to the pigs and cattle.  Supply and demand; with ethanol demand up, corn demand up, supply constant, price increases to ranchers/pig farmers, which goes right down the chain to us.  3.  Brazil is happily bulldozing the world’s greatest rainforest (doing immeasurable and irreparable damage to the global environment) to make fields to raise corn to make into ethanol.  Ethanol is possibly one of the greatest frauds ever perpetuated.  It is NOT environmentally friendly, any more than Pious batteries (hint to Pious and other battery-powered car owners:  the Honda Civic gets almost the same mileage on regular gas, with a standard internal combustion engine).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

For All of You Complaining

About Southwest's "Cattle Car" boarding process, I offer the following:

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to MegaMerged Airlines Flight 0 to Nowhere.  We'd like to begin boarding with our First Class passengers through the Priority Portal on the left.  We'd also at this time like to welcome our Gold, Silver, Platinum, Diamond, Emerald, and Ruby passengers, as well as our Aardvark Skymiler OncePass Primere passengers, our Aadmirals SkyeClube Ultra Premium Elite passengers, and the holders of our Super Aadvantageous UberFabulous Golden Platinum Aall-Aaccess Visa card, all please board via the Priority Portal.  If we have any pre-board passengers, they may also board at this time."

(Now that 3/4 of the plane is boarded) "Boarding Group One, please board at the STANDARD (sneers) Portal (to the right of, and identical to, the Priority Portal).

This is better than "Group A, Group B, and Group C" in what way exactly???

A = All the Way to the Front
B = Back of the Bus, Please
C = Center Seat Only, Chump