Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fuel oil is the next whale oil

With volatile crude oil prices, oil burners are bound to go the way of the Dodo.

Home heating oil, once a Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canadian mainstay for powering boilers, furnaces and hot water heaters is now becoming a thing of the past. Most people from this area (over 30) can remember a house they've lived in, with a giant oil tank stinking up the basement; the oil truck coming every month or two in the winter; the oil man trudging through the snow to keep your house warm. It seems the cards have been stacked against oil burners for the past 15 years and natural gas is rapidly taking it's place.

Home heating oil (HHI) is known in North America as No. 2 Heating oil: similar but different from diesel and kerosene. Although far from extinct, homes and commercial buildings once fired by fuel oil are rapidly being converted to high efficiency natural gas systems. With oil and gas reserves being discovered and exploited from New York to Montana, the oil reserves are PRIORITY ONE, because oil is more profitable. As a result, natural gas has to play second fiddle and in North Dakota, 2011: 30% of all natural gas produced was burned off as waste.

But, just like the whales, killed for their oil rich blubber, hunting petroleum oil will soon be a part of history, supplanted by modern energy: cleaner, renewable and sustainable sources (solar, geological, wind, etc). But the petroleum whale won't die easy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Massachusetts new Governor: left handed

Charlie Baker, Mass' newest Governor (elect) is left handed; surprise. I like this guy, he spoke pretty candid and ran a good race. His democratic rival Martha Coakley has never really impressed me. Charlie Baker was the head of not for profit, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and supposedly turned that (billion dollar) institution around. Showing his bipartisanship, his first cabinet pick was a democrat from Chelsea, for the head of Housing and Economic Development.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Arthur T. Demoulas: Working class hero

One of New England's biggest headlines of the summer, was the ousting of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas (Arthur T, or ATD as he's affectionately called by employees) and two other top executives by the Market Basket board of directors, who are also his family. This in itself isn't really news, as execs get axed all the time and it's just business as usual.
What happened next is where the story spikes. The employees of Market Basket, (all non Union) in a move to show solidarity for their beloved chief, Arthur T., orchestrated a grassroots workforce strike the next day; with the brutal effectiveness of a megaton bomb. The workers ultimatum: they wouldn't return to work until ATD was reinstated as chief. Yesterday, August 28, 2014, (two months later) after intense news coverage, social media bombardment and two governor's pleas, the saga came to a peaceful and amicable ending. Arthur T. and his constituents finalizing a $1.5 billion buyout, resulting in ATD having a >50% share in Market Basket, and thus, control.

"Some industry analysts put the loss from the job action at more than $10 million a day."- Bloomberg News- Market Basket Revolt Ends as Arthur T. Demoulas Wins Bid

The genesis of the argument & what was at stake, was a difference in opinion on how profits should be distributed at Market Basket: a privately held, 71 store grocery chain, with $4 billion sales/year. Arthur T. believed that the wealth should be distributed back to the employees in the form of profit sharing, whereas the Chairman, Arthur S. Demoulas and supporters felt the money was better spent giving back to the shareholders- Demoulas family members.
This is one of the greatest case studies i've been fortunate to experience and learn from, first hand. I think this summertime Market Basket fiasco represents a historical precedence in labor relations, wealth distribution and bottom line economics. As Arthur T. Demoulas, in a heartfelt victory speech to employees said yesterday-
"As I stand before you, I am in awe of what you have accomplished, and the sterling example you have all set, for so many people across the region, and across the country."
Watch the highlights here, for one of the most honest speeches i've heard in my lifetime.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tribute to my European wedding holiday,

Summer solstice 2014 Home is where you lay your head.

Sanchez - Longing To Come Home

European Union holiday

After nearly two weeks in Europe, I feel truly blessed. Flying first to Cyprus, to celebrate the marriage of two best friends.  We were treated to a great tour of the island nation, from a local's perspective.
A&A, took us through the island and visited his family home and the Capitol city Nicosia, then off to the east side of the island to Proteras and the Grecian Park Hotel. It was beautiful and the beaches and cliffs were idyllic and hearkened me back to my greek mythology memories from childhood. From there we were off to Pissouri, with a sleepy fishing bay/resort, and a historic mountain village with central square , beautiful coastline surrounded by on the south coast

After a week in Cyprus, I traveled north to Stockholm, Sweden, to visit the bustling Nordic capitol and see the European Union from it's furthest reaches.
This trip coincided with the summer solstice June 21, 2014- which is my favorite time of the year- The longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere, with days at their longest and warm, clear nights, glistening with starry skies.
It was a relaxing and comfortable vacation with some of my best friends, while making new ones along the way (below pic is my buddy Ahmed from the Hötorget (Haymarket) down the street from my hotel. Ahmed hooked me up with some trinkets.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Double Bomb Nor'easter- 03/26/2014

img credit
In a winter ripe with Atlantic storms, Nor'easter's and blizzards, the latest rendition was historic. A wind gust of 129 mph was measured on Wednesday at the Bay of Fundy

img credit NASA
Storm systems are generally measured in two ways; wind speed and barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is commonly measured in millibars(mbar): with sea level being 1013.25 mbar and 1 bar= 14.5 psi. Numbers above 1013 mbar are considered High Pressure, whereas below 1013 mbar are termed Low Pressure. The lower the pressure= the stronger the storm. If 0 millibars= perfect vacuum, think BLACK HOLE. The most historic (of recent times) Nor'easter is definitely, the Halloween "1991 Perfect Storm", for which a Hollywood film was made, depicting the final voyage of Andrea Gail; a fishing boat lost in the storm. The Perfect Storm had a registered pressure of 972 mbar, Wednesday's 'Double Bomb Nor'easter' was registered at 955 mbar.
I went to during the height of the storm, to see if any ships were bearing the storm. As I scanned the map for any ships close to the Double Bomb storm center, I see only ONE single vessel in the entire North Atlantic maritime region. I figured it was probably a 1000 ft container ship, plowing the (~75ft) seas on a transatlantic voyage, nope.
As I zoomed into the map, I notice the 'ship' is close to this small landmass out in middle of the ocean, east of Nova Scotia, called Sable Island. I click on the small vessel icon to see the track.
Now, it all makes sense:
The 81 meter/261ft Panuke (below pic); a heavy duty, North Atlantic supply vessel, was taking refuge in the protection of the crescent shaped, Sable Island. a small blip of a sandbar, nearby its destination, the Thebaud natural gas platform. Mind you, the above screen capture was taken yesterday, 24 hrs later, and the Panuke, remains there today, jogging in little circles, two days later.

As I talked with a friend who works in the maritime industry last night, I told him about the offshore supply 'boat', jogging behind this tiny island 150 km east of Nova Scotia (in the heart of the stormand asked if he'd ever heard of Sable Island, to which he responded, "That's the Island the Andrea Gail was trying to get to during The Perfect Storm"....

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

War in Syria.

After 3 years of civil war in Syria- with destruction reminiscent of the 1990's Yugoslav Wars; I'm amazed at how well built Syria's steel reinforced concrete buildings are. All sides of the war have been shelling the shit outta the infrastructure, which has held up quite well, given the sheer quantity of shells some buildings have taken.
What's even more intriguing to me is the and how many buildings were under construction during the beginning of the war. Signs of prewar construction are evident throughout Syria : geometric grids of unfinished concrete columns replete with exposed rebar sprouting out the tops, akin to giant cement carrots.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP

Sadly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's passing was, life imitating fiction; the great, tragic roles he played on screen and stage.
One of my favorite actors, I scanned through Seymour Hoffman's body of work and I found it both ironic and sad, that his last theater work was in 2012, playing the lead role of Willy Loman in the iconic Author Miller play, Death of a Salesman, on Broadway. I was never a prolific reader in school, but the story of Willy Loman and his dysfunctional life was one story that struck a chord with me and made me reflect. Even if you haven't read the play, it's pretty easy to discern the outcome.
EPIC scene of Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Brandt, (with Jeff Bridges and David Huddleston) in_ The Big Lebowski
Yes, yes.