Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Climate Change at Work

Al Gore, Barack Obama, NASA and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, all agree, global warming is driving climate change, which manifests itself in extreme weather. So let's see what's been going down the last few springs.

In 2012 tornado activity was uncommonly low.

In 2013 tornado activity was even lower yet.

And so far in 2014, tornadoes are down even more.

Thanks for the warnings and your prescience guys! Global warming isn't science, it's a religion, as practiced by a proselytizing, bombastic, brainwashing sect.

Sunday, April 20, 2014



The girls got out theIr egg decorating aprons last night!

Out back, the ground beneath the last remnant snow drift is being resurrected -- that slice of earth hasn't seen sun since the week before Thanksgiving.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: Club Rendezvous Goes Up In Smoke

Club Rendezvous before the fire.
While The Dells was the renowned crown jewel of the clubs in Morton Grove during the roadhouse era, Club Rendezvous was part of the supporting cast. Located east of The Dells, on the south side of Dempster, towards Marmora and Menard Avenues, Club Rendezvous was built in a converted, classic Chicago-style brick bungalow, with a frame addition slapped on to the front. 

It was an intimate setting, with limited ingress and egress, which offered drinking, dancing and dining, and held out for revelers the possibility of whatever else its name implied. The club was frequented by Northwestern University students who drove four miles west out Dempster to escape the dry environs of Evanston for raucous and celebratory nights out. There was one way in and one way out.

Our first post in this Morton Grove roadhouse series, about The Dells, involved a fire and arson and no lives lost. In this post, as will be the sadly be the case in other roadhouse stories, there were victims.  

During Prohibition, there developed north and northwest of Chicago an area known as the roadhouse district.
The center of this district is the small village of Morton Grove, population 1,974. Within its confines exist or existed most of the larger roadhouses, as well as innumerable small “neighborhood” drinking spots for the working man. The Club Rendezvous, on Dempster street east of Austin avenue, was one of the better known small dance and drink places. Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1935.
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer (Al and Rose) Cowdrey were the Club Rendezvous proprietors. On the surface it seemed that they lived a rather normal and mundane life. The Mrs. entertained her friends for tea or its substantial equivalent.
The Daily Herald, May 5, 1933.
Along the way, nevertheless, the couple's home had suffered serious fire damage. The home was repaired and the Cowdrey family moved back in to resume their tranquil domestic life.
The Daily Herald, November 10, 1933
But digging beneath the veneer of normality, the goings on at the Cowdrey residence raised more than a few questions.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Retired Life

The thing about being retired is that you don't have to be worried in the least about whether you are wasting your time or doing things that might appear weird or out of place. Without the yoke of a 9-to-5 job, or an all-consuming personal business, or a supervisor or a manager to pin you down, choices open up everywhere.

Sometimes on the way home from the golf course (nothing unusual about that for a retired guy) I will just veer off, head down to Cottonwood Road, wind around the bottom of the mountain slopes and then turn up Hyalite Canyon to the reservoir or beyond,
Hyalite Canyon scarp and cliffs.
enjoying the scenery every mile of the way, and taking in the joy of hikers, campers, fisherpeople, hunters and boaters, here and there.

Then there was last January. For a week I picked up stakes and hung out in Bismarck, North Dakota, during its coldest winter in decades. One night I ate at a Red Lobster, because, well, I never had. There were blizzard and blizzard-like conditions daily. I mean, what kind of a whacko nut travels to Bismarck in the middle of the winter except someone whose work compels it? Me! The payoff has been some extraordinary blog posts on family history, with more to come. I actually can't wait to get back to the State Historical Society of North Dakota and dig some more.

Now, I was confident the Bismarck trip would have a substantial payoff. My next journey, I really don't know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Morton Grove: Before the Baby Boom

A very popular post on this blog, Growing Up in Morton Grove, has received frequent attention from others who grew up in the northern Chicago suburb in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 

I grew up in a cape cod style house at the corner of Austin Avenue and Davis Street. Two and one-half blocks down the street was a small strip mall, where the Rexall Drug Store, a National Tea grocery store, Dahm's department store, Jean's Bakery, a Ben Franklin 5 & 10 and a dry cleaner were located. Across the parking lot from the grocery store was a record store and a diner-like restaurant. There were some medical offices in back. The stores were tiny by today's modern scale, but they were my world as a child.

One of my favorite things growing up was stopping in at the bakery for a scrumptious chocolate eclair -- the best ever, yummy. My mother would send me to buy three large butter crust bread loaves, sliced, at the bakery. I can still smell the fresh aroma to this day. I can still smell the ground coffee at the rear of the National Tea. The five and dime was a source of a piece of candy or a play thing now and again. My dad had his work shirts washed and starched at the cleaners. The record store was where we bought our first Beatle's 45s. I saved nickels to buy packets of baseball cards, stale gum included, at the drug store. 

Morton Grove map of 1930s roadhouses.
This serene scene of youthful innocence had not always been so, however. The exact northwest corner of Dempster Street  and Austin Avenue in Morton Grove, Illinois where the shopping center was located, had once been home to a roadhouse, speakeasy and gangland haunt known as The Dells. Think Al Capone, his mobster contemporaries, cronies and henchmen and you got it. From time to time, I'll be writing on The Dells and others of the goings on during the 1920s and 30s up and down Dempster Street and south down to Lincoln Avenue.  

For this first post, let's whet our appetite by reprising a report on the The Dells' ignominious end.

Freeport Journal Standard, October.8 1934



Chicago, Oct. 8.--(AP)--Four men, armed with sub-machine guns today kidnapped the watchman at the Dells roadhouse in suburban Morton Grove, spread gasoline throughout the main floor and set fire to the place. Firemen form surrounding suburbs were unable to check the flames. 
The Dells for many years was one of Chicago's most widely known roadhouses. It was from the Dells that John Factor, wealthy speculator, was kidnapped. Roger Touhy and several members of his gang are now serving terms in the state prison at Joliet for the kidnapping. The resort was closed early this summer when State's Attorney Thomas J. Courtney ordered its liquor license held up. 
Paul Ott, watchman, told police that the four men drove up to the roadhouse in an automobile, forced their way in and made him a prisoner. Although he was bound and blindfolded, Ott said he could tell from their conversation that the men covered the floors with gasoline. 
The "torches" then drove him about a mile to Lincoln avenue, Morton Grove, and then threw him from the car, Ott said. 
Despite the efforts of fire departments from Evanston, Morton Grove, Niles Center, Park Ridge, Glenview and Northbrook, the roadhouse, valued at $75,000, was destroyed.

There are many stories to be told. Let the telling begin.

Five of the boys had the presence of mind to pose for this photo as The Dells burns to the ground, October 7, 1934.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snow Removal: Opening the Parks

It's April and we are trying to catch up with spring here in Montana, clearing away the snow.

They are working to open up the roads into Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. That requires really big rotary plows.

Yellowstone NP employee removes snow and ice jam from rotary plow, NPS Photo.

The feds use the rotary driven snow throwers to dig through really deep snow.

Clearing snow from the Yellowstone Loop Road, along Lake Yellowstone, NPS Photo.
The snow plowing, wedging and throwing dudes got their very own video.

Here is the Yellowstone story.

YELLOWSTONE LAKE, Wyo. — Spring is finally coming to this snowbound high country, but don’t assume that it’s a gentle transition from winter.
The roar of straining diesel engines is deafening, vibrating bystanders’ chests. Linked by what seem to be insignificant strands of green synthetic rope, two 20-ton bulldozers pull a 27-ton road grader with a plow. The strain can at times be so great that the 4-inch diameter rope is stretched to only an inch-and-a-half thick. It takes this extensive effort, and much more, to break the snow’s firm grasp on Yellowstone National Park’s remote mountain roads. 
Lance Tyson grins as he watches the work, his large grease-stained hands grasped together as he leans through the window of his mechanic’s truck. The smell of diesel exhaust hanging in the air. 
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he says. “There’s no tourists, nobody bothers us, and the buffalo and elk calves are being born.”
Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/yellowstone-plow-crews-labor-to-open-park-for-spring-visitors/article_2d67ea8b-3bb8-5f41-a008-e8791341c9d1.html#ixzz2z1ATYRxn

Meanwhile, below Yellowstone they are clearing the approach road to Yellowstone's southern entrance through Grand Teton National Park.

Crews are clearing snow from roads and highways in Grand Teton National Park, NPS photo.

It is a step-by-step process.
Grand Teton National Park road crews cut through the deep snowpack on the Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake parking area and Signal Mountain Lodge—a distance of 15 miles— and completed this portion of the annual spring plowing on Friday, April 4. The Teton Park Road has now melted down to pavement and is currently open to non-motorized recreation such as walking, roller-blading, and biking. 
However, road crews are still in the process of clearing the Jenny Lake scenic loop road, as well as other auxiliary roads and wayside areas, according to a statement released by the park’s public affairs office.
The biggest challenge is up north at Glacier National Park, the where the first order of business is to bring in heavy duty excavators to clear away avalanches.
A "steam" shovel carves into avalanche debris near Red Rock April 10 on Glacier Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road. Courtesy of Glacier National Park.

Here is the Glacier National Park story,
A rumbling fleet of snowplows and excavators began the daunting task of clearing a path along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday, forging through a winter’s worth of snow and heralding springtime in Northwest Montana.
On their first day of work, plow crews on Glacier’s west side encountered a familiar obstacle – the 25-foot deep avalanche at Red Rock, the first of many colossal drifts along the 50-mile-long feat of engineering.
The road is plowed through winter up to Lake McDonald lodge, and once plow crews clear the section of road between the lodge and the vehicle gates at Avalanche Campground, cyclists and hikers can enjoy access to the road without having to worry about vehicles.
“Once they get through (the avalanche at Red Rock) they have to clear the Avalanche Campground before we open the gateway for hiker-biker season,” park spokesperson Denise Germann said.
On the east side of the park, crews are working to clear the Many Glacier area, Germann said, and park officials will begin updating the website so visitors can follow the plowing progress.
“They are finding lots of snow. There is definitely lots of snow everywhere and bigger drifts than normal,” she said.
Brian Domonkos, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said snowpack levels measured on Flattop Mountain, elevation 6,300 feet, measured 51 inches of snow water equivalent – or the amount of water in the snowpack – which, as of April 11, was 119 percent above the median.
Wintery weather persists in Glacier Park’s high country, and on Logan Pass, park officials measured record winds of 139 mph. Germann said they did not yet know whether the winds caused damage.
“We had record winds but no damage that we are aware of, but we can’t know for sure until we get into the higher country,” she said.
The 139 mile per hour winds were just last week. Going to the Sun Road will not be cleared and opened end-to-end before June 20th. Glacier got over a foot of snow last night

The season is short but incredibly sweet. Come one, come all, and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tick-Tock-Tick-Tock --- Keystone XL

Now, thanks to the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America, the Keystone XL pipeline remains in limbo, years after it should have gotten whole-hearted support. We have a president who fails to comprehend the importance of energy to a prosperous economy, and the key role that energy independence plays in our national security. 

I was in Bismarck, North Dakota this past January. Believe me, there is no global warming up there dude.  It's about time the double talking lawyer in the White House gets off his rear and makes a move that is good for America. A decisive majority of  both houses of Congress agrees. The Keystone XL is swell.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Common Core

I have three children in public schools -- two in middle school and one in elementary. Next year we will hit a trifecta. We will have one student at Bozeman High School, a second at Sacajawea Middle School and a third at Longfellow Elementary. They are three different kids. There is no standard and little commonality among them.  But don't tell that to the progressives and bureaucrats who have grabbed the reins of control in our public education system.

In my family's life, the centrally administered, top down programs of Common Core, Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind are not abstractions, but central definers of how our children's lives proceed in school every day. It's not a pretty picture.  

This weekend I noticed a Wall Street Journal Op Ed written by Peggy Noonan on Jeb Bush's presidential aspirations, which for the life of me I can't understand, because the fellow has nothing to offer this country other than more of the same, albeit with a dose of integrity that is sadly missing from today's White House.

Noonan took Bush to task for his support of federal education standards, and expressed the frustration that I feel towards the sound bite education philosophy more clearly than I ever could.

A year ago I attended a meeting in which Jeb spoke of his support for the core to conservative education policy intellectuals. When told the subject of the meeting, I was confused: He's for Common Core or against it? For it? Really? In what abstract universe are conservative intellectuals operating? Federal standards for what should be taught in the classroom would immediately be received with skepticism by parents who, year after year now, have seen their children turned into test-taking monkeys. They are taught to the test, and the tests seem to exist so that school systems can claim achievement. What used to be called the joy of learning gets crowded out. Moreover, some parents, maybe a lot, would assume any new education scheme would be administered by the education establishment, meaning a lot of Lois Lerners—apparatchiks, ideologues, politicos. Federal programs like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind always mean well, but maybe the answer to our education woes won't come from the federal level.
Peggy added her personal story.
Parenthetically I note that conversations with public-school teachers the past few years have reminded me how lucky I was, in high school in the 1960s, not to be surrounded by people who insisted I excel. They let us choose our own speed. I don't remember being hounded by tests, which was lucky because I didn't do my homework or test well. But I felt free to spend all my time reading good books and pondering things. I didn't always attend school, but I did experience the joy of learning. The indifference of the educational establishment was a great gift to me. It allowed me to get an education.
Peggy Noonan, who is one of the most thoughtful, articulate, knowledgeable and influential individuals of her generation, would not be Peggy Noonan if she was sliced and diced by the cookie cutter system churning away in public schools today.

At the front end of the scale we have a second grader who could not speak a word intelligibly to anyone outside her family when she started first grade. There is nothing about Common Core, Race to the Top or No Child Left Behind that helped or is helping our youngest to learn and grow. Do you think that repeatedly being told your daughter tested zero on useless tests told us or her anything of value, when she didn't have the verbal skills to respond?  

The only way to help her learn is to accept who and where she is and move from there. Ultimately she is making it, and will make it, not because of the system, but because she has parents who have been willing to pay for supplementing and promoting her education outside of public schools and have fought school administrators to the mat when they use the system to pigeon hole her using meaningless data. And she had a teacher who understood. We will let nothing and no one get in the way of our child's education. Sadly we are among the few.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ice Free Arctic?

Chief climate change fear monger, Al Gore, told us the Arctic would be ice free by 2013.

His supporting cast, the global warming climatologist fear mongers, to keep their story alive and distract us, told us uncommonly cold winter in the central and eastern United States was due to cold weather shifting from the west leaving warmth behind -- affecting Alaska in particular.

So what happened to the sea ice this year off the Alaskan coasts, now that we are beyond the date of no return in a winter season where Alaska roasted?  The maximum Arctic ice extent (white below) was about as near normal (the amber lines) as you can get with only slight deviations near Alaska, much more than compensated for by additional sea ice off the eastern Canadian coast. 

The polar bears can sleep soundly another year -- Al Gore and the grubby scientists looking for government grants, I would hope not.

2014 maximum sea ice extent, National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Water Storage Montana Style

We don't get much rain.  We do get plenty of snow, mostly at the higher elevations.
According to the monthly water supply outlook report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman, as of April 1, Montana was at 143 percent of normal snowpack and 156 percent of the same time last year. 
Statewide snowpack, at 22.2 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE), was the second-highest in 34 years of recording. In 2011, SWE over the same time was 20.9 inches. 
Full of purples and dark blues.
Precipitation across the state was the same in March as in February. Only two sub-basins — the Wind River basin in Wyoming leading into the Bighorn River and the West Fork of the Bitterroot River — saw small decreases in snowpack, while the rest of them saw increases. 
“March snowpack accumulation continued the trend February set last month by increasing snowpack an average 13 percent across the watersheds of the state,” the report said. 
The upper and lower Yellowstone River basins were at 157 and 143 percent of normal snowpack and 174 and 168 percent of 2013, respectively. They combined to put the entire Yellowstone basin at 150 percent of normal and 171 percent of 2013. 
In the upper basin, the Red Lodge-Rock Creek basin is the highest it has ever been for SWE, at 203 percent of normal, while the Shields River basin is at 168 percent of normal. 
Streamflow forecasts for the lower basin bumped 20 percent over the last month, to 138 percent of normal. 
In the Bighorn Range in the lower Yellowstone basin, areas have seen 165 to 181 percent of normal March snowfall and SWE totals across the entire lower basin were the third most in 34 years of record keeping. 
The April-July streamflow forecast for the lower Yellowstone basin is 159 percent of average, up 25 percent from March 1. 
In the combined Smith, Judith and Musselshell river basins, snowpack finished the month at 160 percent of normal and 167 percent of last year. 
The Musselshell drainage saw a noticeable jump from last year, up 592 percent, due largely to the fact that it was at just 27 percent of normal at the same time in 2013. 
Streamflow forecasts are also up for the entire basin, at 215 percent of average and 420 percent of last year, assuming average precipitation through July. 
Across the Missouri River basin, March set a new SWE record for April 1 thanks to 173 percent of average snowfall, although it hasn’t topped the total record set in 2011. Overall it is at 160 percent of normal, 168 percent of last year and up 14 percent from last month, the report states. 
The streamflows could be at 148 percent of average, according to the report’s forecast, and 199 percent of last year.
Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/montana-snowpack-through-march-near-levels/article_3894a7f9-61fe-5267-a0a9-f78ad19514b4.html#ixzz2yUQN1vwj

The ample snow packs mean that fishing will be good, groundwater will be replenished, reservoirs will swell to the limit and irrigating will be great -- good for the local agricultural economy, and a shot in the arm nationally when California's output will be down. 

Meanwhile, here in Bozeman we've gotten great snow melt on the east side this last week, so,

Thirteen holes is better than none.


Post by Bridger Creek Golf Course and Academy.
Darn. I predicted April 8. So close and yet so far.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jumping the Fence

Our neighborhood elk herd video has gone viral, with over 1.4 million views on YouTube, which is about 400,000 more than there are people in the entire state of Montana. Too bad we can't count the deer and the elk, or cattle. We'd get a second representatives in the House. And heh, you got to love the little one.

The Masters (Repost)

Masters week is here. The golfing world’s attention will be focused on the lush fairways, rolling hills, lightening fast greens and historic layout of Augusta National Golf Course, located just south of the South Carolina, Georgia border. For those not in the know, The Masters is the first of golf’s four majors – the others being the United States Open, The (British) Open Championship and the PGA Championship. The course and tournament are progeny of golf legend Bobby Jones, who nursed them from infancy to become the most renowned course and revered tournament in golf.
Augusta National 13th Hole
The Masters is about renewal and rebirth.  It is adorned by flowering spring bulbs, blooming azaleas and dogwoods, stately magnolias framing the the clubhouse lane and towering pines along the fairways. By virtue of its early season position the Masters both creates and limits possibility. Only the winner of The Masters can achieve the most coveted (and never accomplished in modern times) feat in golf – coming home victorious in each of the season’s four majors, the Grand Slam.

The Masters is link between young and old. The Masters is the youngest of the majors but the most revered. For the old of it, Fred Couples looks strong and is hoping for a miracle at age fifty four. Ernie Els is back. And Phil Mickelson shows signs of rounding into form. Zach Johnson is playing well. For the first time this year a father son team, Craig Stadler from the Champions Tour and son Kevin from the PGA tour, are teeing it up. Two time major champion Rory McElroy leads the young contingent and will be joined by other under age twenty five tour winners, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reid. Many are looking this week to a breakthrough victory by Dustin Johnson. Look for the tournament to be a typical Masters classic not decided until the back nine on Sunday afternoon.

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player
The Big Three in their Masters Green Jackets
The Masters bestows uniquely among the majors the honor of first teeing off Thursday morning to living legends. This year the honorees are Jack Nicklaus (6 time Masters champion), Arnold Palmer (4 time champion) and Gary Player (3 time Masters champion). They once dominated professional golf as the Big Three. Decades later they are being honored for lifetime achievement and lasting contributions.  They have earned the privilege of driving the first  tee shots into the morning dew.   

Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead
For almost two decades the honorary threesome had been Sam Snead (3 time Masters champion), Byron Nelson (2 time Masters champion) and Gene Sarazen (1935 Masters champion), gentlemen who legitimized professional golf in the post Bobby Jones era. Sadly, they are no longer with us, but we still have memories of Snead’s slamming swing, Nelson’s ruthlessly efficient stroke and Sarazen’s elan. Ken Venturi had the honors once.
Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod
First Honorary Starters
The remaining two members of the exclusive honorary starters club are Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod, who paired up from 1963 through 1973, which happens to intersect with the nine years I caddied at Glen View Club in Golf, IL.  Why those two?  Neither man won The Masters. But each did win another important tournament at Augusta. Bobby Jones was an organizer of the PGA championship for senior golfers, what today is called the Senior PGA Champrionship. And the first two Senior PGAs were played at Augusta National Golf Club. Hutchison won the first one in 1937, and McCleod won the second one in 1938.  

Jock Hutchison was a member at Glen View. I caddied for him. I did not believe a word the old guy said when he pointed to a club in his bag and said “I won the Open Championship with this mashie niblick laddie.” But thanks to Jock I can say today that I caddied for a successful pro, a one-time honorary starter at the Masters and a British Open and PGA champion. I can say that with confidence because now we have the Internet.

Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer walk across Hogan's bridge on the 12th hole at Augusta National before this year's champions dinner at the Masters.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Climate Change to Set World Back 400 Years!

The United States Government and the experts concur -- climate change will be catastrophic, causing "economic and political upheavals 'almost beyond comprehension.'"

Consider these impacts:

  • Millions in India "face starvation."
  • China will face "a major famine every five years."
  • Russia will lose a "major wheat growing area."
Here are specifics.
India will have a major drought every four years and can only support three fourths of her present population.The world reserve would have to supply 30 to 50 million metric tons of grain each year to prevent the death of 150 million Indians. 
China, with a major famine every five years would require a supply of 50 million metric tons of grain. The [Russian Republics] would lose Kazakhstan for grain production, thereby showing a yearly loss of 48 million metric tons of grain. 
Canada, a major exporter, would lose over 50 percent of its production capability and 75 percent of its exporting capabilities. Northern Europe will lose 25 to 30 percent of its present production capability while the Common Market countries would zero their exports.
The new climate era brings a promise of famine and starvation to many areas of the world.  The economic and political impact of major climate shifts is almost beyond comprehension.
Read it here, in full below.

We are on our way back to the year 1600 baby. The Ottoman Empire, Savoy and Saxony are back. Baroque is in, Ming is out and Louis the XIV reigns.

The Independent Record (Helena, Mont.), May 2, 1976

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Common Core Lesson.

From the blog Real Science.

Learning To Identify Global Warming

During March, 2012 the Eastern US was warm and Alaska was cold. Experts told us that was just what they expected from global warming.
This March, the Eastern US was cold and Alaska was less cold than usual, and experts tell us that is just what they expected from global warming.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eight Feet Thick Ice

The shipping season is not happening on the Great Lakes.
Aside from ice already floating on the lakes, several factors are hampering crews' efforts to clear the way for commercial ships, including some chunks up to 8-feet thick and stiff winds. Once crews are able to create an open-water path, Read said the wind closes it by pushing the ice together. 
"The commercial shipping season is definitely slowed down, almost to a halt," he said.  
"There is warmer weather coming, so we hope that helps." 
Depending on the ice's thickness, icebreaking ships only can travel at speeds ranging from 3 to 10 knots, which make for long days for its crews, Read said. One ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, now is working to get two commercial ships through the locks toward the end of the week at the earliest.

A view of frozen Lake Michigan from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay on Friday.
Here in Bozeman, for the third time this week, Cottonwood Hills golf course has had a morning snow delay. The other seven 18 hole courses in Gallitan County remain snow covered and closed.

Honor? Please!

We are creatures of our experience.

You know, from time to time I hear about honor punishments and killings of women in the Middle East or claims about sharia law. Those references bring back memories of a friend I once had from Pakistan. We worked together at the Postal Service. Let's call my friend Mahmud, because, well, that was his name.   

Mahmud's father was filthy rich. His dad was involved in some sort of export, import business and had multiple homes throughout the world. Mahmud was brilliant. He wanted to prove to his dad that he could make it on his own. Mahmud was urbane, stylish, sophisticated and world traveled. He had a Ph.D in economics from an Ivy League school. Due to family influence, Mahmud's career aspirations were more in business than academics. Mahmud had a gorgeous, intelligent, friendly and sparkling wife, and two of the cutest kids you would ever see.

We worked together in a part of the Postal Service that produced product cost and revenue data, and used, among other things, econometric analysis to analyze the data and produce forecasts. Mahmud and I were reformed minded. We both wanted the Postal Service to scotch its simplistic (and in our view, misleading) unweighted labor productivity metric in favor of an advanced weighted measure. We were determined to produce an alternative productivity model on our own, in our spare time. To help, we wrangled authority to hire a temporary employee -- she was a Vietnamese refugee right off the boat -- to transcribe, organize and, at our direction, crunch reams of data that we had accumulated in hard copy over the years, so we could analyze it and establish baseline multi-factor productivity trends.  

Our refugee hire worked her tail off, so when a suitable vacancy opened we hired her on to a full-time permanent job with benefits. I remember, years later, how proud she was when she tracked me down to brag that her daughter had been admitted to Duke Medical School and thank us for taking her on when she despaired for her future. I said, no need to thank anyone, you earned it.

Anyhow, the partnership with Mahmud was one I enjoyed, where I could offer him insights and understanding of the data we were using, and counsel on how to wind his way through the bureaucracy, the regulatory system and the political climate (in those days, where merit still counted for something, one could actually do all that). And Mahmud could offer me on-the-job, one-on-one graduate school level training in matters statistical and econometric.  While our planned approach proved to be too unwieldy to implement, we were part of a movement that was ultimately successful, and led to the Postal Service adopting a measuring called Total Factor Productivity (which was subject matter of a post last February).

After a few years with the Postal Service, Mahmud was restless and impatient.  He wanted a bigger stage and a more important position, so he moved on first to a consulting firm, and then to a very large corporation headquartered in New Jersey that we all know of, and most of us have been customers of at one time or another. Mahmud was a chief of one sort or another in that company's strategic planning department, came to wear thousand dollar suits, and was known take us out to lunch on his expense account when business beckoned him to Washington, DC.

One peaceful Sunday morning I was at home. The phone rang. "Hi," the caller said "This is Mahmud, how are you doing?"  "Fine," I said and we talked back and forth about work for a few minutes.  Then Mahmud said, "Grady, I wanted to ask you a question because of your legal background." "Ok," I said. Mahmud asked "Is it against the law in the United States to assault your wife?" "It sure is!" I responded.

That was the last time I talked to Mahmud. I heard through the grapevine he resigned his job and left the country. We are all creatures of our experience and this was one of mine.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Herd Instinct at Work

That would be an elk herd.  This video was shot last week down the road and around the corner, just under a mile from our house. Watch to the end. By the way, for those looking forward to the volcanic explosion, the herd is moving towards Yellowstone.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4g: George S. Foster, Chicago Politician, Lawyer, Banker and More

Chicago Eagle, January 20, 1900
What can I say about George S. Foster? 

He led an incredible life. As a teenager he lived in a sod shanty where a snake slithered from the roof down into his cup of tea. As an elderly man he was a gentleman farmer who lived comfortably on the shores of Lake Michigan. Along the way he was a successful lawyer and a zealous advocate for unpopular clients. 

George S. Foster represented a notorious bond thief. He defended ghouls who stole money from the pockets of Iroquois theater fire victims. He helped to save the House of David religious commune from extinction. 

George Foster was a politician. He was intensively involved in Chicago and Cook County Democratic organizations. He served the City of Chicago as alderman, and later lost races for municipal court judge, the Illinois state assembly and the United States Congress. 

George S. Foster helped to find three community banks -- each of which, like most of their peers, failed during the Great Depression. 

There is much to say, so let's get moving. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free Bus Stops (Or What a Difference a Million Dollars Makes)

Here in Bozeman we are getting new bus shelters with ultra sleek, modern solar panels and LED billboards -- no cost to the tax payer, zero, nada. Fully enclosed on three sides (when they finish installing the panels) and roofed, the bus stops are actually designed to protect riders from frigid winter winds and driving snow. KBZK TV reports:
Waiting for the bus in Bozeman could be getting safer and more comfortable. MTN's Keele Smith shows us what will make that happen.
First bus stop under construction out Huffine Lane. See the
link above to view the video.
Carrie Fabiano knows the routine of waiting for the bus as a regular rider.  
"Well the bus was running a little late and that 10 minutes felt like a lot. I mean I started getting frostbite," she said. 
Fabiano says, "I just think it's a matter of life and death sometimes. I've seen elderly people waiting out in the freezing temperatures and you just worry." 
That is part of the reason why Chandler Communication, out of Kalispell, is building bus shelters. They will be taking care of all the construction and maintenance at no cost to taxpayers.The shelters in Bozeman are unique - they are the first to have solar panels and LED billboards. Only two of these shelters have been built so far. Six more are in the works, including two more on Huffine, three in Bozeman and one in Belgrade.  
Transportation Director with the HRDC, Lee Hazelbaker said, "This is a huge step forward. This has been in the works for years and to finally see it come to fruition is just a great feeling." 
Riders agree.
"Being able to sit down is what's going to be good for me," Fabiano said. "I think it'll help because you can't even tell where some of the bus stops are. It's just a little sign hanging up on the side of the road it's not really a bus stop." 
Another regular bus rider, Amelia Denagy said, "It's going to be a lot more comfortable to ride the bus. It's not going to be such a hassle. It's just going to be a one stop deal, you can take a break, you don't have to freeze or get wet, just much better."
Bozeman weekday bus map.
Contrast this to the bus stops inside the Washington, DC Beltway serving the fiscally spoiled and coddled, profligate citizens of Arlington Virginia who, in the federal spending bubble, have the highest median family incomes nationwide. They are served by million dollar bus stops that don't even protect people from the elements. Their bus stops are financed primarily by the federal government, meaning you the taxpayer, and our children and grandchildren, who are being forced to assume the massive federal debt bomb. The spoiled brats pay not for their own waste. There are few clearer arguments for massive down sizing of federal government.