Coping: There’s Big–And There’s Houston

Coming back to the ranch Saturday morning, where the noisiest thing heard all weekend was the air conditioning coming on, is a huge difference from Houston.

I’m not sure what to call the experience of driving back from the cruise ship terminal.  May be the best word for it is “combat driving shock.”

Houston, thanks to the boom in energy over the past few years, has ballooned up to more than 6-million people.  Departing from the docks area, we were still in the continuous band of development of Greater Houston an hour and a half later.  The spreading monster will consume Huntsville, TX shortly, I’m sure.

The city has the same overbuilt feeling to it that I first experienced driving through Los Angeles 40-some years ago.  Being from Seattle, and driving down I-5, L.A. was culture shock personified and there’s a kind threshold that takes place with a city as it passes through the 5-million mark, or so.

Not that lots of cities aren’t bigger…they are.  Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles all line up as bigger.  But something happens when a city gets to be the size of New York:  the population density is high enough that things like subways and trains coming in from the suburbs to an extreme island population core, actually makes sense.

The difference – if I can say this right – is that NYC has the feel of a well-raised loaf of bread.  High density, crusty in places, but damn entertaining.

Houston, on the other hand, while going up a bit in the central core area, is more like a pizza than a loaf…and the only other city I’ve been through in the past 10-years that has the same vibe is Sacramento.  Like Houston, it just seems to go on and on, forever.

According to this report, Chicago’s growth has been faltering – on the other of a quarter of a percent in a year in 2013.  Job creation in Chicago seems to have failed, as much as anything.  Houston by comparison claims job creation of 4.2% more jobs in the past year.

As you know, Elaine and I have been contemplating moving “out west” to get closer to our kids.  But driving through Houston at 8 AM on a Saturday has a totally Los Angeles vibe to it, complete with the grayest gray there is when the sun’s not out.

It’s a grim reminder that we “can’t go back” to the era of “right-sized cities.  The damn planet has gotten too big for that.

You’re welcome to play along as we keep tossing darts.  Eugene, Oregon is close to the kids, nice flying country yet lots to do, but without pizza-city vibe to it.  The Washington Coast towns (from Astoria, OR north are interesting, but run a bit too gray for our tastes.

Friends are having a house built in the hills north of Phoenix, but the closest airport is a 30-mile drive down the road to Deer Valley.  Plus, too close to the dissolving border for our comfort.  That ACLU 100-mile “Constitution Free Zone” is worrisome. 

You’re welcome to toss ideas in the hat.  As interesting as the Texas Outback is, being out west again has a certain calling to it.  So if you have ideas, please send ‘em along.

Drone Regulation

I keep forgetting to mention that the FAA is working toward regulation of those increasingly popular drones we’ve been reading so much about:

The FAA proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations. The FAA’s proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.
            The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds. The public will have until April 24, 2015, to comment on the proposed regulation in the Federal Register, which can be found at!docketDetail;D=FAA-2015-0150. For more information and links on the proposed rule, see the FAA’s press release page at

As a pilot, I’m not very happy with the “micro UAS category, since even with a 1/4” thick windshield, I’m pretty sure 4.4 pounds hit at 80-miles an hour would go through it.

Not that I should worry:  The FAA hasn’t been able to go with a driver’s license in place of a third class medical – and that issue has been around for at least 10-years.  No reason they shouldn’t study this decision until it become irrelevant, as well.

Reminds me of the old saying “I’m from the government and I’m here to help…”

Speaking of Which (Lighter side of things)

Grady up at the project found this one circulating out on the web as an email headlines “Gas Bill”:

A man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in NSW Australia) received a bill for his as yet unused gas line stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away.

In April he received another bill and threw that one away too.

The following month the gas company sent him a very nasty note stating that they were going to cancel his gas line if he didn’t send them $0.00 by return mail.

He called them, talked to them, and they said it was a computer error and they would take care of it.

The following month he decided that it was about time that he tried out the troublesome gas line figuring that if there was usage on the account it would put an end to this ridiculous predicament. However, when he went to use the gas, it had been cut off.

He called the gas company who apologized for the computer error once again and said that they would take care of it. The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that  payment was now overdue. Assuming that having spoken to them the previous day the latest bill was yet another mistake, he ignored it, trusting that the company would be as good as their word and sort the problem out.

The next month he got a bill for $0.00. This bill also stated that he had 10 days to pay his account or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt.

Finally, giving in, he thought he would beat the gas company at their own game and mailed them a cheque for $0.00. The computer duly processed his account and returned a statement to the effect that he now owed the gas company nothing at all.

A week later, the manager of the Mudgee branch of the Westpac Banking Corporation called our hapless friend and asked him what he was doing writing cheque for $0.00. After a lengthy explanation the bank manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had caused their cheque processing software to fail. The bank could therefore not process ANY cheques they had received from ANY of their customers that day because the cheque for $0.00 had caused the computer to crash.

The following month the man received a letter from the gas company claiming that his cheque had bounced and that he now owed them $0.00  and unless he sent a cheque by return mail they would take immediate steps to recover the debt.

At this point, the man decided to file a debt harassment claim against the gas company. It took him nearly two hours to convince the clerks at the local courthouse that he was not joking. They subsequently helped him in the drafting of statements which were considered substantive evidence of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced to endure during this debacle.

The matter was heard in the Magistrate’s Court in Mudgee and the outcome was this:

The gas company was ordered to:
[1] Immediately rectify their computerised accounts system or Show cause, within 10 days, why the matter should not be referred to a higher court for consideration under Company Law.
[2] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by the man.
[3] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by all the Westpac clients whose cheques had been bounced on the day our friend’s had been processed.
[4] Pay the claimant’s court costs; and
[5] Pay the claimant a total of $1500 per month for the 5 month period March to July inclusive as compensation for the aggravation they had caused their client to suffer.

And all this over $0.00.   Who employs these idiots?

The same people who collect taxes, or course.

Who NOT to Vote For

With the “news” that Hillary is planning to “announce” her bid for the White House next month, it has occurred to me that I’ve been looking at this process of finding who to vote for in 2016, all wrong.

Instead of looking for who to vote FOR it is a lot easier to figure out who to vote AGAINST.

Joining the Aristocracy’s Yet-Another-Clinton, as well as the Aristocrat’s “other” choice (Not-Another-Bush!) we can now safely add Scott Walker to the list because of his reported support of sending more people to jail where they can be exploited for profit of the American prison industry.

Not like we need another sock-puppet branding people for life.  According to one source:

Since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world. Although prison populations are increasing in some parts of the world, the natural rate of incarceration for countries comparable to the United States tends to stay around 100 prisoners per 100,000 population. The U.S. rate is 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or about 1.6 million prisoners in 2010, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

But that’s NOT the whole picture.  Here lately, Seychelles (islands off India) has a higher rate of 868 inmates per 100,000 of population.  We’re #2 now, although I’m sure Walker would be able to fix that.

Meantime, despite the imagery of people manacled to workstations building cell phones, China is either 124th or 172nd in incarceration rates, depending on how you define China.

Point is, after looking at his track record, Scott Walker is off my list of possible “people I could vote for.”  Since “None of the Above” doesn’t appear, the grind to 2016 promises to be a sordid mess, just like past elections of the past 40-years.

The last President I could get excited about voting for was assassinated when I was still in junior high school and there hasn’t been comparable since. 

We’re left with a hulk, a shell of a democracy; a country that has monetized prisons, exported its technologies and future to China and India, rotted its money with the burden of excess debt and crippled borders to permit an ongoing invasion. Nor is it acceptable to be offered another member of the political aristocracy.

These are simple benchmarks to measure, but unpopular policies to resolve, for there is more money than voters bidding for the outcome.  For now, time is on the public’s side.

That’s why this morning I’ve started this “Who Not to Vote For” list with the great fear deep in the gut that come election time, there won’t be anyone left worthy of the public trust. 

My list won’t be yours, but do give it a try.

Write when you break-even


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George Ure
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19 thoughts on “Coping: There’s Big–And There’s Houston”

  1. New location; what about Bellingham Wa? Pulp mill has closed so it smells better than it did.

  2. On Scott Walker: do you not recall the phone conversation that was “wiretapped” between him and one of the Koch brothers? he is a crony capitalist stooge and thus ineligible IMO

    • The Koch brothers are the root of all evil is the start of every lib’s sentences. It’s old and played move on. Scott walker knows the government screws up everything they touch, so privatization of prisons by definition is better. Scott is the man, we need him now. He is the opposite of Barry the great, so if history repeats he wins.

  3. I’ve been living in Houston for almost 30 years and it has grown tremendously. I live on the West side of town and from my neighborhood to Hwy. 6 (that’s 2.2 miles) takes 15 minutes in the morning. Overall, by the time I get to work, near Galleria area (45 minutes on average, to 1 hour on worst days), my day is already ruined!!! I’m trying to convince my employer to allow me to work from home 3 days a week. That would be a God sent and would actually be a win-win for both of us. But, considering I’m just a temp and right now can’t get a “permanent” position because the O&G industry is in the dumps, my chances are very small. As far as Houston is concerned, there are many opportunities here and the city has quite a bit to offer to some but I have always found it very boring, too big, and the summer weather horrible.

  4. internet control.. if government runs the internet for content etc.. then would that mean that sites like this one and drudge etc etc.. would have to submit the information they share to government so they can make sure no subversive content is shared?

  5. what would I do if I won the lottery…. I gave that some soul searching thought and figured the first thing on my agenda would to switch parties and become a republican…

  6. Morning George. Voting or who not to vote for? Our family votes for “The Lessor of the Weasels.”

  7. Maybe if the truth came out about the Kennedy’s, about 911, about Pearl Harbor, about the Gulf of Tonkin, about UFO’s,,,,, America could be restored to what it was meant to be. Never mind, how naive of me.
    Totally Disgusted.

  8. Gas bill. That exact thing happened to my friend in Topanga Canyon. He got repeated bills for $0.00, got a cut-off notice and sent a check for $0.00. That was the end of that episode for him and his next bill showed a credit for the most recent payment of – $0.00. He also got back the cancelled check.

    Now what would have happened if he’d gone to pay it in person?

  9. the advantages of a cruise are you get to miss some of this
    in which i would like to see a video of george doing a take off and a landing in the airplane – i have used the flight simulator plenty of times and tried climbing a mountain with a plane that wasnt powerful enough to climb but to crash and i also love the fact that i can put it into hyper drive and leave the san diego calif, and arrive in norfolk ,va in a matter of seconds ,,, it seems they have actually put the real truth reality into these games

  10. Just a thought George; and you did mention it, that is to say you might be looking for a place to land, when TSHF. You probably have the best place already on hand. That is to say if it has it’s own water well, off grid electricity, (that is if you were to have to downsize your living standard a bit), fertile soil to grow food on, and last but not least neighbors close enough if you needed a helping hand. My second choice would be Phoenix, the reason being, it’s going to depopulate in a big hurry when gasoline hits $5 to $8 dollars a gal. or more. What Phoenix, or what I call the “Valley of the sum” has available to it sufficient water supply for something on the order of 50K population, and hydro electricity for that said population. The only negative I see for Phoenix is the Air Force installations that could draw a “BOOMER” if we ever got into a “HOT” confrontation with someone. Hopefully your “OUTBACK” place now isn’t all that close to a big target.

    Anyway, if it were my choice I would stay right where I am.
    ps: i hope I can get past you captcha

  11. I can tell you right now it’s bright and sunny and in the fifties here on the North Beach of Grays Harbor County. There’s something to be said about living in a poor, mostly rural county with sparse population and large diverse geographical area. Local governments can’t afford a big bureaucracy to harrass you.There are alot of gray days, but this winter (Dec.-Feb.) is now on record as the mildest. Sunny deserted beaches. No worries about running out of fresah water.We’re loving this global warming here. Your old teacher, Ed Landon lived here in Moclips (died about 3 years ago at 99. You can land your plane on the beach at Copalis.

  12. Back in my farmin days Grandpa would hang around with a bunch of old farts in town sitting out front of an old empty building next to the post office. There was a old hand painted sign that said “Free advice given on any subject.” and it was rumored there was always a jug just inside the door. One of the old farts was named Mo and I think his given name was Earl. He would get a new pair of bib overhauls every Christmas and wear them everyday. He just sat there and whittled or just stared off into space never sayin a word. One day I was sent to pick up Grandpa and when I got there they were discussing the current state of the country. This would be the late 60’s. Suddenly Mo just took a breath and said “Theres too damn many people. Probably oughten to thin em out.”

    Getting ready to retire myself. I think ol Mo had something there.

  13. You really do not want anywhere in WA as we have one of the most tax happy Governors and also Seattle Democrats run the State so the rest of us do not have a chance to stop any of the loonies from taxing us into the poor house, Right now they want to raise the gas tax up 12 cents to fund the Newest disaster the Seattle tunnel and start Tolling roads on several of our highways

  14. Good description of Sacramento (my hometown). Goes on forever. No way to easily cross the metro area w/o going out of your way. Public transit that stops running at 9pm.

  15. Being an Aussie in Qld AUS I couldn’t help read your funny anecdote about the guy from Mudgee and the local gas company.
    True or not it is believable as anybody in this country or yours would know. Great indicator of how as Voltaire put it “common sense is by no means common” .
    Seems the western world especially left wing politics in your country and mine ergo Democrats and our Labor Party this lack of practical approaches to real world issues is rife.
    In Aus like yours we have a general shift of wealth from the big middle class here to the genuine wealthy where they aren’t encumbered by heavy debt.
    The big transnational corporations in both our countries hide their profits via “transfer pricing” in our case and no doubt ring around the rosey accounting in yours. Isn’t the Balance Sheet and P & L the devices that are the blind hiding the truth?
    Off topic I know but I wished to vent.
    I have always admired the USA and it’s wonderful citizens. I was in middle / primary school here when your country inspired me with your Apollo and 69 landings just because you felt like it. Now nearly 50 yrs still NO other country can do it. You’re all amazing.
    Now it seems many voters there have lost their faith in the USA and what it represents both historically and in the future. Professional advocates, nefarious pressure groups (on a way bigger scale than here in Aus) are polluting your nations system and are beginning to have a big impact here too.
    Many here in Aus are conscious of 1942 Coral Sea efforts of the US and the subsequent placing of US troops here, The blood and treasure that was lost by you is noted by many but like all history time dims memory and importance. Your citizens like ours only think in sound bites and believe the propaganda that’s why sites like yours are important to get folks to think outside the square. To question the conventional wisdom and spin. The truth is way weird and scary. Glad you’re still kickin George. Remember you Yanks the world is full of big cemeteries of folks who thought they could beat you.

  16. About the “no vote list”: Don’t know who I am going to vote for. I hate the idea of voting for either of two major parties. We will most likely just get the same old pig with a different color lipstick. However, if I do find myself giving in, I recently heard that of all the possible Repukelican candidates, Ted Cruz is the only one not in favor of illegal border jumper amnesty. I’m all for regulated and legal immigration. I am not for rewarding criminals.

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