Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keeping The Lights On

My employer services many mines, coal and others, with "hotshot" freight deliveries. Seems a large power plant will use up to 180 railcar loads of coal per 24 hours. Producing that coal is a huge undertaking.

This is one of the smaller mines in the Wyoming Powder River Basin.

Probably a good idea to  heed railroad crossing signals.

My #1 year around hazard.

My # 1 Winter hazard - blowing snow. During the day, the sun warms the pavement just enough to melt the blowing snow. Not enough to evaporate the moisture. Come night fall; black ice.

The secondary roads can be interesting.

A calm day in Wyoming. See the flags?

Not to complain; I get a decent check to do the work. My employer is among the best I've ever worked for.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You Call, We Haul (Ass) Returns

Back home, safe and tired.

Job involved taking a digital control component to a mine in interior British Columbia. Airline to Seattle, rent a 4 wheel drive, pick up the component, and drive some 800+ miles to deliver it. Simple job, so it seemed. Turned out, Murphy was the project manager.

Frontier had mechanical problems. After an hour, we deplaned. Another hour, they decided to put us on another aircraft. Go on board, retrieve carry on luggage, walk from the East end of DIA A Concourse to the West end,  and get on the second aircraft. That one they did get to Seattle. Cost? Four hours.

Now to pick up the component in Seattle. Sent Small Package Express, not air freight. The Small Package Express is in an obscure corner of SeaTac with intermittent staffing. Of course, the proper documentation was missing. Another two hours of phone calls, faxes, more phone calls, and more faxes finally generated the proper paperwork.

Next challenge, Canadian Customs. That took an hour. Think all those agents, including the French as first language agent, took the Sgt. Hartman school of public address.

Once over the border, it was a simple task of driving. Very good roads, snow packed but plowed and graveled. Not sand, gravel. Total of seven rock chips in the rental windshield. Low overcast for the entire trip.  Gasoline in Canada was about $4.30 per US  gallon.

Happy campers when I called the customer from the nearest town. They came to the town rather than me trying to find the mine. Worked for me!

They told me this component was failing. If it went down, the entire mine operation shut down. They immediately set off with the new component to get it installed.

Some forty years ago in college, we studied Critical Path Analysis/Critical Path Management. One sub component dealt with inventory levels of replacement parts.  Now the cost to deliver this component was nearly equal to the cost of the component itself (per shippers invoice). Why the hell not get two? The incremental cost, vs. the potential loss from shutting down the mine, is minimal. What happens if the delivered component wasn’t properly tested? Remember, Murphy is the project manager. Of course, I said nothing to the customers.

Drivers in interior British Columbia are like damn sheep. All plodding along at precisely 99 kph, mile after mile. The exceptions all seemed to be in four wheel drive pickups with a snowmobile in the back. They go like the hammers of hell.  In the entire trip,  saw not one  marked police car. The only wildlife spotted was one moose. After a few moments, he decided he didn’t need to stand in the middle of the highway and trotted off towards the shoulder of the road allowing me to proceed.

Coming back, the border crossing went smoothly. Per norm, the booth agent was surly and rude. Ah, home.

Able to have dinner in Seattle with my oldest son (which is why I took the trip in the first place).

I only fly when someone is paying me. Window seat going out, aisle seat coming back. I prefer to nap and can’t in the aisle seats. Goes something like this:

She wheels her wheelbarrow
Through streets that are narrow,
Her barrow is narrow, her hips are too wide.
So wherever she wheels it,
The neighborhood feels it,
Her girdle keeps scraping the homes on each side.

Hope all had a good Christmas day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Call, We Haul (Ass)

Call from work. Hop on an airplane tomorrow early. Out of country trip. No computer or blogging for a few days. Stay safe, all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Afgan Nation Building

The ability of American soldiers to improvise and adapt equipment to new tasks lives on.  As an example, Jolly Rancher candies and wrist rockets.

While my son was at Kandahar, the military had supplies of Jolly Rancher candies to pass out to the local children - goodwill offerings.

Thinking my son would enjoy plinking cans, rats, etc., I sent him a strong wrist rocket.

His compound was along a street with civilians on the other side. Many of the children enjoyed throwing things at our  troops.

Soon the wrist rocket was permanently consigned to the guard tower where it was used to deliver Jolly Rancher candies to deserving youngsters. May still be there; my son left it when he rotated home.

Warms my heart that I had a small role in nation building.

School Shootings

Forwarded an email I received to several people. This is a return comment from a previous long term employer.

ya know, the only way to stop the attacks on schools is to arm every adult in the school system with a concealed weapon along with training of how to use it. The president of the U.S. trust the secret service because they are armed, we trust the police because they are armed. I bet obamas kids are being watched by adults who are armed.

Says it all; nothing for me to add. Thanks, Steve.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Back from a short visit with youngest son, the medic, and his family. Good time - needed it.

While there, was able to see two grandkids in the Elementary School CHRISTMAS show. Not a Winter Festival or other such nonsense; Christmas. Non religious, Santa and reindeer, singing, and so forth. No different from millions that have taken place over the years. Lots of fun.

One thing I did notice was someone discretely stationed at every entrance. This is a closed post - sort of an ultimate gated community. Guards at the entrance with a M4 or shotgun in condition Amber. Still, no chances  being taken. My son says this is normal; nothing new.

OPSEC is a reflex with my son. He is doing an EMT job now but is still present during operations should there be injuries. He did make a point there were no aliens or other such nonsense there; just military "stuff".
Not giving away any secrets here; this is Dugway Proving Grounds. Or, as they like to joke, Area 52.

There are some benefits to winter travel.

Weather wasn't a big problem. No matter, travel I-80 Cheyenne to Salt Lake in the winter and there will almost always be a, "Here, hold my beer" moment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Road Trip

Off for a few days to see the world's cutest grandkids. No blogging or comments unless I borrow a computer.

The above picture is of  a friend who loves his Christmas lights ranch. He is in a rural area. I think the FAA issues a Notice ot Airman every year. Not to say he overdoes it, but consider.

 For those offended by "Merry Christmas", this is for you.

And in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, and my ex's heritage, a Christmas song.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yes, I Agree With Rep. Gohmert (R) Texas

From a recent Mega Vote email.

Amending Language in Federal Law – Suspension - Vote Passed (398-1, 32 Not Voting)

In its final action of the week, the House cleared a Senate bill that would remove the pejorative “lunatic” from the United States Code. The lone House dissenter was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who insisted that lunatic should be retained, pointing to his fellow Members of Congress as living, breathing examples of the term. The bill awaits the president’s signature.

Welfare Queen Car Financing

Lots of chatter on blogs recently about welfare queens getting financed for a car. More news stories and blogs about sub prime car loans.

Much misinformation is being spread. My credentials?  Spent close to three decades in retail auto sales, and involved in thousands of car deals. Have been out now for five years. Things may have changed, but I doubt it. Very little fundamental change occurred in the time I worked in the business.

Excluding cash deals, a car dealer has one, and only one, customer. That is the lender. Loan structure is everything. The back and forth most car buyers hate is a process to get an agreement on a structure the lender will accept.  Leasing is just another way to finance  a purchase. As a sales manager, I wasn’t much interested in what you wanted. I was very interested in what you would do. Most vehicles are sold on one question, “If I could, would you”?
Car dealers make money on the front end of the deal, and on the back end of the deal.  All deals start with the invoice (new) or “book” on used. The front end is what percentage  the lender will finance of the invoice (dealers cost, not MSRP) or “book” (price guide lines, i.e., NADA, Kelley). This is the price the lender “owns” the vehicle and will pay the dealer without recourse. Once the consumer makes one to three payments, the dealer escapes any penalty if the consumer defaults. Back end is finance profit, insurance, warranties, etc. If the consumer defaults, a percentage of this is charged back to the dealer.
The lender looks at  the consumer using the four “C’s”, credit history, capacity, character and cash down payment.  Character can be, how long on the job, how long in the area, how many valid personal references, and the like. Capacity is how much the creditor makes,  less current obligations. Sometimes alimony and child  support  is considered. The lender wants to be able to attach wages in case of a default. Social security, military pensions, and public assistance cannot be attached.  Cash down, or trade equity, make structuring the deal much easier.
I have seen pensioners with stellar credit approved for loans. I’ve never seen someone on welfare get approved. Not saving it doesn’t happen; just, I’ve never seen it. Most likely,  a straw purchase of some kind.
Subprime is a world all alone. My personal view is those getting subprime loans have earned the right to pay high interest. A few have been caught up in things like major medical problems. Most have been making bad financial decisions their whole lives. For the lender, it is a high risk business with fairly low return (real, not on paper or “projected”).
The most difficult part of being a car dealer is buying inventory, not selling. The public really has only two questions;  how much down, and how much a month. If I could make those numbers work, they would buy a three wheeled go cart with a lawnmower engine. Acquiring inventory that allows structuring profitable deals is real work.
If readers believe they personally have “beaten the dealer”, well, more power to you. Kind of like beating a casino; the odds are on the house side.
One last word. To get the best deal, join a credit union. Get preapproved. Do some research. Then go shopping.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Revolvers Rule

Took the NRA Basic Pistol Course today. At the range, had the only revolver. One student wanted to shoot mine,  so I shot his highly modified and customized 1911 single action (sorry, didn’t notice the manufacturer). Had three failure to extracts.  Some of the other semi automatic shooters had problems. Stiff wind and about 22 degrees. Lots of chatter about ammo, temperature, etc.

I’ve owned my Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog Pug for about ten years. The piece is probably close to twenty five years old. It has been fed many different factory load and a few amateur reloads. Conditions have ranged from 100+ dry desert heat,  -30 degrees, and in rain. Every single time the trigger has been pulled with a live round in the cylinder, it has fired. Every time, without fail.

Active gunnies can work out the kinks in their semi autos. For the occasional shooter like me, wanting a reliable self defense piece, revolvers are best. As always, your mileage may differ.

A gunsmith added a ghost ring to help me aim with macular degeneration in my dominant eye.

Friday, December 7, 2012

WW II Vets - We Need to Remember Them

Quiet couple. He served in combat. She served on the home front. After the war, quietly lived useful and productive lives.|met:0000300|cat:0|order:9&%2F%3Fsource=dailyme

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Murder, Suicide, and Racism

Murphy’s Law has the best, and most concise, blog on the coward,  Jovan Belcher.

Now comes along sports columnist Jason Whitlock, a writer I usually admire, with his take.

First, he seems to think this puke, Belcher, is worthy of recognition by cancelling a football game. Second, he wanders off into some anti gun rant. Seems he believes young black men can’t be trusted with firearms. Ergo, no one should have one. How damn racist is that?

Where the hell is personal responsibility? Should we, as a collective society, give up things we enjoy because some in our society can’t, or won’t,  handle personal responsibility? Why the hell are we responsible, or even should try to be responsible,  for the deviant behavior of individuals?

Let me guess that if Belcher had been a 7-11 clerk, his crime would never become national news. That he happened to be an elite football player doesn’t make him less of an irresponsible, cowardly, murdering  puke.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Government Operators vs Private Industry

My “part time; supplement retirement income” fifty hour a week job (most weeks) exposes me to both private industry and government operations. The contrast is amazing.

Yesterday, delivered a mixed load to a government testing facility. The government employed contractors took nearly four hours to get the truck unloaded.  Had to bite my tongue.  It wasn’t that they lacked the proper equipment. Two different overhead cranes and several heavy duty forklifts. At one point six people were standing around discussing how to
proceed. The shipper's staff and I loaded it in twenty minutes. Spent an additional thirty minutes getting everything tied down.

Many deliveries are to mining operations. After the usual OSHA/Insurance/etc. driven safety procedures, the unloading goes quickly. Time is money, and they are paying a lot to get the material delivered. I’ve had them back me next to dead lined equipment and unload the truck where the cargo is needed.

Doubt you can change the mindset in many government operations. Not all, the military comes to mind. There is an old saying in private industry, “Those not fired with urgency soon will be.”  Aarg!

No, don't know intended use of  the equipment. Do know the shipper wasn't accurate as to the weight. 10,000 pounds, yeah, right. Glad I didn't encounter any roadside scale operations.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Change of Pace: Colorado Mountain Passes

Colorado has many high mountain passes that have a high pucker factor. Some are summer only, some are gravel, and some left over  from early mining days should just be blocked off; damn dangerous.

A well traveled acquaintance and I had a conversation about which are the “worst” passes. Restricted to open to year around travel, paved, in regular use 24/7/365, this is my top six that get my attention. Some passes have one side that is worse than the other and some are just hard all the way.

Douglas Pass between Fruita and Rangley. The Fruita side gets my attention as no other pass in Colorado.

Loveland Pass, US 6, is a bitch on both sides. Watch out for free range snowboarders and hazmat trucks. In general, fuel tankers can’t use the I-70 Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels. Instead, they run over Loveland as do all oversize loads.  Big, heavy trucks on narrow roads with huge drop offs should be feared.

Red Mountain Pass. Just nasty. Big drop offs and no guard rails.

Wolf Creek Pass. Forget CW McCall. This one is sharp curves, narrow road, falling rocks, and blind corners on the East Side. On the West side, a controlled fall off a cliff.

Monarch Pass, US 50. Everything Wolf Creek is without the scenery. In the summer swarms with wanna be Billy Bad Ass bikers and bikerettes who can’t ride. Pose well, if you want to take their picture.

McClure Pass.  A slick way to get from Glenwood Springs to the upper Grand Valley without going by Grand Junction. Not a high pass, but the East side is 9% grade for six mile with no letup,  and a 20 mph corner at the bottom.

On all passes, your major concerns are human powered vehicles, deer, and the occasional elk, moose, bear, or pronghorn.

Wintertime conditions changes everything. Professional truckers tell me the best regional drivers are employed by Safeway Stores. Just get behind one and be patient. If they are parked, you should follow their example.

Other will have their own list. Berthoud Pass, especially before the East side improvements. Divide to Cripple Creek. US 24 Minturn to Leadville. Copper Mountain to Leadville.  Gateway to Nucla. West side of Rabbit Ears.

Any I’ve missed?

All picture are from Google. No copyright infringement intended. If you own it, let me know, and I will remove it and/or give you credit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


WARNING: Off on one of my meandering rants.

Intriguing article in the Casper, Wyoming Star Tribune regarding Sasol Synfuels, a South African company, taking a position in the Wyoming energy field.

Companies like this plan in decades, if not centuries, so you start wondering what they see in our future.  Casper has a mature oil and gas industry infrastructure and a well trained labor force. It sits adjacent to some of the largest coal deposits in the world. This is good grade coal, mainly steam coal, and easily surface mined. In opposition, a harsh regulatory climate with little relief in sight.

My guess? They think four more years of the Lightbringer and his unicorn herders will put us in a desperate energy downward spiral and make a good climate for contrarian investing.

I’ve blogged about coal to  oil processes and coal to gas in the past.

There will be some investment opportunities spin off all this. While I’m getting to old to look at far off returns, others in my tribe are the right age, and are in the right location, to prosper. When these big companies start stomping around like elephants mating, some tasty morsels become available for the ambitious “little people”.

I do see one potential disaster for the western states; water. Watch the Lightbringer’s thugs start to mess with water rights. Things will get real pear shaped real fast. Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting. Think I’m joking?  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was a water rights lawyer back in the day.  Since joining the Lightbringer’s administration, Salazar has become a weasel.  Maybe he always was a weasel; just hid it well.
Get control of the water and you have the whole region by the throat. Want a real life example? California’s San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. Can you say snail darter? Meet the Colorado pikeminow, Razorback Sucker,
Humpback Chub, and Bonytail in the Colorado River drainage. Arkansas River? Shiner and Speckled Chub. Rio Grande? Silvery Minnow. Platte, North and South? Pallid sturgeon.

For many years, a Colorado joke is, Goddamndenverwaterboard is one word. We may look back to that time as an innocent interlude.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sopwith Camel in Formation With a Spitfire

Why I love the Internet. What are our chances of seeing this live?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bullshit Squared, Flag Rank

If you have a strong stomach, go read this link.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Customer Service Fails

Guffaw In Arizona had a recent post about customer service

that brought back a not so pleasant memory.

Late 70’s found me overseeing the sales/marketing for a modular (UBC Compliant) manufacturer in Seattle.  All the units were built to order and seasonally we would have long lead times.

One day a handwritten letter was brought to my attention. In a shaky hand was written, “I regret to inform you my husband did not live long enough to see his new house…………….” Ouch!  Two weeks later we received a similar letter from a different customer that started, “Sadly, my husband has passed away while we have waited for your warranty crew to fix our new home ………….” Yikes! Oh well, shit happens.

Our biggest failure was building a LDS Chapel for an Inuit Village. The man we sent to install it went on a roaring drunk with the local LDS Bishop. That caused some very heated telephone calls.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tire Chains

Winter is upon us which means slipping and sliding down the road. Good tires and four wheel/all wheel drive may be all you will need.  There may be an occasion when you need traction chains. There is a certain social stigma for true mountain people chaining up - right up there with having to grab a saddle horn - but a man has to do what a man has to do (or a woman).

First, have right and proper chains. In  my experience  cable chains are crap. Maybe good for a couple of miles until they come off,  and useless in mud.  Along with chains have some means of inflating tires if you are not close to a gas station with an air hose.

Let out some air. If you have a tire pressure gauge let out about 5 lbs. Put your chains on the DRIVE wheels (you do know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive, don't you) hand tight. Now add 5 to 10 lbs of air. It will not hurt your tires to slightly over inflate them. This will help keep the chains tight. Loose chains can break and give you a custom body look.

Be prepared to turn off your traction control if so equipped. Traction control works by detecting wheel spin and applying momentary braking to the spinning wheel. A steep driveway, a 10 - 20 mph uphill curve  and mud in general may cause enough slippage by each drive wheel to cause you to bog down from the braking. In mud, traction control will eventually cause you to bog down.

Do I know what I'm talking about? Probably not; only had an operators license for 54 years.

Of course, if you live in the South and never leave hard surfaced roads, this is useless advice.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bitter? Me? Updated

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. As always, will display my  flag in honor of all veterans. This year, however, it will look like the above.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Trip Along Highway 160

For my friend stuck at home.  Hope others like this post. Two views of Chimney Rock in the clouds.

Wolf Creek Pass

Damn fools. Big rig would be fined $1,000 for not having chains

How the hell do you drive into  the ditch, going uphill, in a 4x4 SUV. Lucky someone with a chain stopped and pulled you out.

Total stoppage,  long enough for the heat from the idling vehicles to melt the snow on the road. Some dufas pulled a big rig over to chain up and drove over the edge of the road. Three huge wreckers were trying to pull him out. Sorry, no pictures - too dangerous to be gawking.

Chains required on the big rigs. Most drivers won't go over 20 mph with chains on. Many miles down Wolf Creek Pass until there is a wide spot to remove chains. If you are in a spam can, you do 20 mph too.

Well preserved water tank at Southfork, CO

Sangre de Christo Mountains, San Luis Valley, CO

Blanca Peak

Rio Cucharas Inn, Walsenburg, CO

These are places my friend knows and has traveled. Looks like the crisis is past and she is on the mend.
Not the best pictures; taken to tell a story.