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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hate Being Right, Right Now

On August 29th, I posted this blog.

Now we have four more years of the same misery and loss of freedoms the past four have brought.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sayonara Suzuki

Farewell Suzuki. My first serious entry in car peddling was Suzuki Somersaults‘, aka Samurai.

May 1986, construction was on it’s ass in the Pacific Northwest. I had a wife and three kids and was drawing unemployment. A requirement was to document three job interviews a week. One interview was with “Dangerous Dan” who showed me a picture of a “Japanese Jeep” his employer was going to be selling in a week. I figured, “What the hell, it will get me out of the house”,  commission only or not,  so agreed to work there.  Planned to try it until construction got going again. Came 2004 and I was still in the car business.

I’ve always tried to break situations and business down to basic numbers. At that time to keep a roof over our head, food on the table, electricity, and heat  I needed to bring in $144 a week.  I started making  $144 a day, some days, and in the following 14 months sold 368 Samurais, one at a time, at retail.

What the customer was buying was a 30 mpg new vehicle with a  three year warranty and a $100 per month payment. They didn’t love the car. Their alternatives, at the time, was Yugo and Hyundai.  The bright boys at Suzuki though they had a winner and started jacking up the price until the monthly payment was within $10 a month of real cars. I got the hell out and started selling Fords.

What killed Suzuki, and Isuzu before them, was selling shitty re badged GM products GM was having problems selling. Their only edge was a better warranty.  Over the years I’ve met many car company “suits”, both American and foreign. The only one, at the top levels, who knew his ass from his elbow,  was Peter Butterfield. At the zone sales manager level, only two I would have hired as salesmen.

My credentials?  How about a 20 year stack of W-2s.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Denver Police Department - Two Tone Deaf Cops

When you are in the public eye, you are always setting an example; good, bad, or indifferent.

Sunday A.M. I am going from Eastbound I-70 onto Pena Blvd towards DIA. Pena is four lanes and I am in the left lane.  In the mirror I see a police car coming up behind me,  fast. Move over to the right lane (with a quick look at my speedometer). He passes, and another cruiser is behind him. Both solo cars. Neither with lights or sirens on. They exit at East 56th Ave and head Eastbound towards Tower Blvd and MacDonald's.

Now it is possible they were responding to a disturbance, at 6:45 A.M.,  on Sunday, at a MacDonald's. Or, it is possible, they left the District 5 roll call, went on patrol, and stopped for breakfast. And were speeding, 10 to 15 miles over the limit, because they can. Which is arrogant, and contemptuous towards the general public.

So why do I give a shit? Damned if I know; it just pissed me off.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Retired? Hah!

Work calls. Another 1,600 mile trip. No blogging or comments for next three days.

Ballot filed yesterday.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Yard Sign Wars

Had business this morning in the Peoples Republic of Boulder, both City and County; by far the highest percentage of registered Democrats in Colorado. Escaped before the street closures for tonight's visit by the Lightbringer (how many times now?). I was very surprised to see about as many Romney signs as Obama signs.

The GOP holds the high ground, literally. On the ridges flanking US 36, the main corridor between Boulder and Denver, there are many Romney signs with letters ten to twelve feet high.

Where I live in Adams County, the affiliated registered voters are about 58% Democrat. My unscientific count of yard signs is about 70% Romney.

Yesterday I was in El Paso County (Colorado Springs) population 636,000 and Teller County (Cripple Creek), population 22,000. This is GOP country. I saw maybe four Obama signs.

Since Colorado is supposedly as swing state, think Romney has a good chance. Denver County is heavy Democrat, population 619,000. Adams, maybe Democrat, population  451,000. Surrounding Denver is Arapahoe County, leans Democrat, population 584,000, Broomfiled County, even split, population 57,000 and Jefferson, even split, population 539,000.  Statewide, the big "players" are Pueblo County, Democrat, population 159,000, Douglas County, Republican leaning, population 292,000, Larimer County, Republican leaning, population 303,000, Weld County, Republican leaning, 253,000, and Mesa County (Grand Junction), Republican, population 147,000.

Colorado has 64 counties. Most of the rural counties go GOP. This is a change from as little as 20 years ago.  The counties that were reliable Democrat are "infested" with Blue Dog Democrats.  As I've said in previous blogs, the Blue Dogs are sitting on their hands and wallets.

Why I talk about yard signs is that they are a visual sign of voter enthusiasm which translates into "worker bees" out knocking on doors and making phone calls. From what I see, the GOP is out hustling the Democrats in Colorado. Getting out the vote is key to getting elected.