Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creating Prosperity

New Orleans has been in relative economic decline for more than a century it has actually lost population since about 1970 and economic power since the the 1980's. Katrina and the Federal Flood merely moved us along the same trajectory at hyper speed.

Politicians talk of "jobs" but all too often they mean jobs for their supporters, often by taking them away from their political rivals. Giving a job to my brother in law, by taking it from someone else's.

Politicians talk of "Economic Development" usually giving money to some well connected developer for a project of dubious economic viability or utility. There are high density apartment developments around town nearing completion fueled not by demand for housing but by low interest government financing. All too often economic development has failed to have any meaningful impact often failing to even find takers.

Just to mention two failed projects, the Hotel at the Piazza d'Italia, which was supposed to take up one corner of the site and fund the maintenance of the Charles Moore designed Piazza. No takers.
The World Trade Center Hotel, for years the city have been looking for re-developers to take on re-purposing the 1960 Edward Durrell Stone tower, with no luck. Recently the city threw the remaining tenants out, resulting in the closure of more than one consulate in New Orleans. Great economic development move.

Yet over the same time a large number of new hotels have opened nearby including the Lowe's (on the other corner of the Piazza), the Ritz Carlton, the Astor Crowne Plaza, The Renaissance Arts' hotel, the Convention Center Hampton Inn, and Harrah's hotel to name a few.

All too often economic development in New Orleans has been worse than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It has been assuring the First Class Passengers have a seat in the life boat.

I recently became aware of a new acronym BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). It accurately describes the Gauntlet people have to run to do anything here. There are outright obstructionists for any initiative, often proxies for local fixers, often well meaning people who like things the way they are, often simply inertia and bureaucratic bungling.

We need a new way of looking at the future. We need to stop being afraid of change, and start embracing it. By fearing change we have created negative change all around us.

Our new Cocktail

She gets confused sometimes about tonic, club soda and seltzer. On a recent trip to Canada she stayed at Falkridge, a house built by Mogens Smed and acquired by Haworth when they bought his company out. They used it as a conference center and guest house for people visiting the factory. We have stayed there a few times, it is stunning.

On her last trip (probably the last time either of us will ever stay there since Haworth sold it to some rich guy before leaving town) the bartender was making Mojitos. She said they were the best she had ever had and insisted that they were made with tonic and triple sec. I think she was confused.

In any event we went out an bought an aluminum muddler.I tried to duplicate the drink She said She had. A traditional Mojito is made with
  • 1 jigger of White Rum
  • 1 jigger Fresh lime juice
  • 3 sprigs of Mint
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • Club Soda
She insisted they used tonic, so we experimented. Eventually we settled on a different combination which tastes pretty good;

  • 1 jigger White Rum
  • 1 jigger of Triple Sec
  • 1 jiggerFresh lime juice
  • 3 sprigs of Mint
  • Tonic Water
We named it the Moj-quito, since it might be effective against malaria.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doomsday BCS Implosion Scenario

We have the possibility of a BCS implosion this year.

The Number 1 and 2 teams are in the same conference but don't play each other this year in the regular season. They could meet in the SEC Championship game, if they both get there.

That would upstage the BCS game.
But suppose LSU, who does play the number 1 and number 2 teams beats Alabama, and then beats Florida in a rematch in Atlanta. All three would probably be in the top 5. Three of the top 5 teams in the country would be SEC teams and all would have one loss, each to another top 5 team, in its own conference.

Only one of the three would probably go to the championship game, although an LSU Alabama rematch would be interesting. Everyone now presumes that Texas would be the likely opponent against the SEC champ. However college polls are dominated by losses. Top 20 teams move up primarily when a team ranked above them loses. Perhaps none of the one loss SEC teams would be selected.We could end up with Texas (who only plays only one top 20 opponent) and Boise State (who plays only one top 20 opponent) in the championship game.
Other currently undefeated top 10 teams are Cincinnati (who plays only one top 20 team), Iowa (who at least beat Penn State) and TCU (who plays 2 top 20 teams but hasn't yet)

I don't expect any of this to happen, there are too many moving parts for it to work out, but I for one would enjoy it.

I find the idea that we should have some kind of playoff system in college football ridiculous. College Bowl games should be played on New Years Day (or New Years Eve) as God intended, anything else is a crime against nature. Every fan should be allowed to believe their team is best (even Notre Dame).

Besides, what else would guys argue about in bars?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Predictable Negativity

Sunday was a beautiful day in New Olresns, She started out in Washington D. C. and flew home for the Saints game Sunday. Her flight was early so I picked her up at the airport and we went directly to the dome for the game.

The game was great, I can't think of anything negative to say about it. The Saints were virtually flawless, beating the New Jersey Giants 27 -48.After the game we went home, grilled a steak and watched more football. It was an almost perfect day except for two things;

Decreased Security at the Dome. A couple of weeks ago the NFL announced increased security at games due to the recently uncovered terrorist plots. It has never been in evidence in New Orleans. This week Security was horrifyingly slow, not because of increased precautions but because the Dome had apparently reduced the number of screeners, especially in the male lines.

At previous games if the female lines were empty then men were allowed through them. Not So Sunday. At gate D where we entered only two sets of screening lines were open and the female lines were virtually empty. The screeners refused to allow men through the female line and refused, in spite of the obvious problem and the chants from the crowd pressing forward, to convert one of the female lines to male. That would have required only removing a Velcro sign and allowing the virtually unoccupied female screeners to screen men. As a result She was in her seat well before kick-off and I missed the first two plays.

Agressive Dome Foam Vendors. Sunday I noticed something I had never noticed before. The beer vendors are assigned to specific aisles in the dome, identified by the adjoining section numbers on their ID Badge. Previously I had noticed that the same people worked the same section throughout the game but there have also always also been a couple of other vendors up and down the aisle.

Last year I was spoiled. For almost the whole season our section had the same guy. He was pleasant, always smiling and after a short time really was working the section. He remembered what kind of beer people liked, made a point of checking on regulars, especially near the end of the third quarter. He got a lot of tips that way I'm sure, I know he got them from me.

This year it's been a different person every game. For the Jets game it was a fairly nice looking blond girl, something of a novelty.

This game was not so pleasant. The guy assigned to our section was a hustler, and not in a good way. When I got to my seat aggravated by the security foul up, I wanted a beer so did She. He was there but didn't have my "brand" (which is generally anything but light beer) so I agreed to accept a Bud Light, I gave him a $20, a Jackson.

I expected him to whip out a fist full of ones and start counting them out. Instead he asked "keep the change?" "I don't think so" was my surprised response. Last year my habit had become giving our regular guy a larger tip near the end of the third quarter, generally when I got my last beer. Still he hesitated as if waiting for me to respond, he counted out 3 dollars and offered it to me. I guess the dirty look caused him to count out two more. I'm old fashioned. I like to think tips are voluntary, especially for $7.50 beers.

Not long after that he got into an altercation with another vendor working our aile, chasing him off waving his badge. A first in all of my trips to the dome. He immediately disappeared for most of the first half. I had already decided not to engage in any of more of that. I went to the stand at the rear of our section for the rest of the game. I was really expecting him to say something like "I bet I know where you got your shoes." A couple of other regulars had similar comments.

Now Sunday was perfect. I even got to complain after the Saints opened a giant can of Whoop Ass on the Giants.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Geektober Fest

Last Saturday night we had another Geek Dinner. Because its Oktober, in honor of German my heritage, and the Irish Channel, (where we almost were) I decided to create Bratwurst and Red Cabbage.

Since I still had one of the throw away aluminum chafing dishes left over from last time it seemed perfect. As usual the problem was getting the quantities right.

The cabbage is a variation of smothered cabbage.

  • 2 small heads red cabbage
  • 2 lbs of thick sliced bacon
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. cider vinegar
  • 5 lb. Bratwurst (about 20 links)
  • 1 squeeze bottle of Zataran's Creole Mustard.
  • Coarsely chop cabbage and discard core.
  • Finely slice onion from the pole
  • Peel, core and finely slice the apples.
  • Chop bacon into 1" pieces.
Cook the Cabbage;
  • In a large cast iron skillet cook the bacon reserving the grease.
  • In a large covered pot cook onions in bacon grease until translucent.
  • Add apples and cook until tender.
  • Add cabbage and toss until coated.
  • Add salt, pepper, caraway seed, allspice lemon juice and vinegar, toss
  • Cover and cook over low heat until cabbage is tender, toss occasionally.
  • Transfer into serving pan and sprinkle bacon pieces on top.
  • Seal with aluminum foil for transportation.
Grill the sausage
  • Grill Bartwurst over a low charcoal fire, turning frequently
  • Cut links in half.
  • Seal in an aluminum serving pan for transportation, may be kept warm in a low oven.
It turned out very nicely. One of the things I can never get right about Cabbage is that it growns in volume when you chop it and shrinks when you cook it. Estimating the final quantity is very difficult for me.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Is this Privacy?

We seem to have privacy laws run amok. This morning I decided to stop by the Office of Motor Vehicles and renew my license plates, all three of them are about to expire. I gathered up copies of the registrations, insurance certificates and blank checks, cash and credit cards.

When I get there there was a long line of people waiting to see the "Receptionist", actually two people behind a desk who's primary job seemed to be to tell people they didn't have The Right Stuff. Sure enough when I got my turn I was told that I couldn't renew two of the license plates, because my wife's name was on the title. The reason, it is against privacy regulations, I might learn some secret stuff, except I already had copies of the registration and simply wanted to pay a fee and get the little tag. What secret stuff was on the registration form?

I was told that If she filled out a form and I came back with the signed form and a copy of her drivers license they would let me pay the fee and renew the registrations.

There was another problem. We lost the titles in the flood and never got them replaced. We can't get one of them replaced. One of the cars has a lien on it from a long ago, long paid off car loan. In order for them to give us a new title that has to be removed. In order to do that I need a letter form the bank, A signed and notarized form from my wife.

All of this in a community property state where joint management is the law. I can legally sign a contract to buy a car and obligate my wife to help pay for it, but I can't renew the registration on it without a note from her, even though I have all of the information necessary to do so.

It may take years to get this sorted out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Wayward Inspector General Report

I have been a strong supporter of the concept of the IG form the beginning. Unlike others who saw it as a tool for rooting out corruption, I thought there was an opportunity for making systemic change to what is obviously a broken government filled with people who have never experienced anything else.

The first draft report on City Government "Review of 2009 Budget Process of The City of New Orleans" has been completed. You can read it here. I got my copy from Gambit and I thank them for making it availible. E tells me he got his elsewhere.

Which leads me to wonder why it took so long to get it.That is typically convoluted New Orleans story. As soon as I heard about I started looking on line for a copy. But I was dilatory, I had football to watch and work to do, so I did what most New Orleanians do. I asked a few people who should know. Not response until this morning.

Searching the Internet the first mention I found of it was a September 16 article in CityBusiness that article merely states that the report was delivered April 30 and made public today (September 16). That seems incorrect. As far as I can tell the report was delivered to the Mayor and Council October 2 and almost immediately every news outlet in town had a copy, but the report itsself never surfaced on those outlets web sites.

Bruce Eggler of the Ttmes Picayune picked it up October 4

WDSU did a story as well.

There may be others, I got tired of looking. What struck me as odd is that none of the new outlets posted the actual document. I even checked the Louisiana Justice Institue's Nola Public Records Site. It wasn't there yesterday, but it is now. They did have Leave Requests from the Inspector General's staff. Exactly what public interest that is I can't fathom.

I got a copy this morning. After quickly reading the report It pretty much says what you think it might. It's pretty much what we all knew all along.

There is no controls and lots of apparent duplication. We are spending money on administration not action.

The CAO controls lots of goodies for employees (Why is fleet management there and not in Public Works? Why is fleet managements main priority fuel availability?)

The parts about NOPD basically say they have plenty of money but no performance measures are in place. The same things Brian Denzer has been saying for years.

Oh and the Mayor makes up shit.

Why it took so long to get into public after floating around town for several days? I still can't figure that out.

One other thing is clear Len Odom oversaw much of this report and it is a solid piece of work. He deserves credit for that.