Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of Taste and Levees ...

One of the pleasures of living in Cincinnati is being able to get together with Susan’s brother Harley and his wife Jascia. The major discussion topic was politics, lately the source for a lot of laughs.

They visited with us last night for a going away party for Matt, who is going back to the University of New Orleans (UNO) for his senior year. Matt has been staying with us for a few months and leaves Thursday for UNO. He will get to experience dorm life for the first time.

Later today we are going to the “Taste of Cincinnati.” At Fountain Square, we get to taste samples of food from some of Cinci’s finest restaurants. We will then do some campaigning for Dr. Victoria Wulsin, Democratic candidate for Congress, handing out campaign literature at the “Taste.”

Meanwhile, on the New Orleans front, fears are being fanned on the flood protection front. Below are excerpts from an article by Cain Burdeau,of the Associated Press:

Leaky New Orleans levee alarms experts

NEW ORLEANS — Despite more than $22 million in repairs, a levee that broke with catastrophic effect during Hurricane Katrina is leaking again because of the mushy ground on which New Orleans was built, raising serious questions about the reliability of the city's flood defenses.

Outside engineering experts who have studied the project told The Associated Press the type of seepage spotted at the 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview neighborhood also afflicts other New Orleans levees and could cause some of them to collapse during a storm.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $4 billion so far of the $14 billion set aside by Congress to repair and upgrade the metropolitan area's hundreds of miles of levees by 2011. Some outside experts said the leak could mean billions more will be needed and some of the work already completed may need to be redone.

"It is all based on a 30-year-old defunct model of thinking, and it means that when they wake up to this one — really — our cost is going to increase significantly," said Bob Bea, a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley.

The Army Corps of Engineers disputed the experts' dire assessment. The agency said it is taking the risk of seepage into account and rebuilding the levees with an adequate margin of safety.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Of Bratwursts and Beer ...

Susan was in New Orleans this past week, at a seminar for a national organization for public opinion research. As part of her visit she spent a little time with our real estate agent, looking at houses in the uptown area. She was not impressed.

She went to only one session at the convention, on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, of all things. A lot of her friends were there and a major subject of conversation was whether we were going to return to New Orleans anytime soon. She and I have declared a moratorium on discussions on the subject until June 1, so she had no answer to give. Susan returns tonight.

Susan’s countdown to the end of her teaching career is down to three weeks. We thought the part-time job would be a good way to phase down to retirement, but she has gotten impatient to be done with teaching. I think it will be tough for her to quickly put together a satisfying retirement experience; like me, she has no real hobbies and it takes a little time to put together a rewarding volunteer schedule.

I continue to enjoy my retirement in Cincinnati. My volunteer work has been more pleasurable than expected. I am doing some writing on business matters, and preparing to team-teach an upcoming seminar for my professional volunteer organization. Today is spring cleaning day at campaign headquarters of my political volunteer organization.

Cincinnati has a strong German tradition, and yesterday I went to Maifest, just across the river in Covington, KY. I guess this is for people who are having trouble waiting for Oktoberfest. My dinner was bratwurst and sauerkraut, washed down by some good German beer.

Hillary Clinton was going to address the group a bit later in the evening. As I followed the crowd walking from the parking area to the Fest I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who is a clinical psychologist. It was his professional opinion that the Clintons are narcissists, and had no business in government.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Of Homestead and Seminars ...

In response to a Metairie friend’s inquiry as to whether we are returning to the area:

“You ask a tough question. We have been discussing this for months without a decision. We lean toward coming back, and have looked at properties on two recent visits. Unfortunately Susan has this visceral fear of hurricanes that sidetracks us each time.

We are getting ‘plugged in’ in Cincinnati, and it has its charms. Still we miss our friends back home, at least if N.O./Metairie is still home.

Our lease forces us to make a decision by the end of August. We are spending much of August on an Alaskan cruise and I suspect it will be a major topic of discussion on the trip.“

On another subject, I have been working on a “Web Site Fundamentals” seminar which SCORE offers periodically. It is a half-day seminar where I teach the first hour. Yesterday I was working on adding links to example web sites for the presentation.

One topic we discuss is making purchases on the web and I thought eBay might make a good example. I wandered around the site looking for a good page to illustrate the shopping cart and checkout process and decided that none of them was quite illustrative enough. I found a better example on an auto parts site.

Soon I got an email telling me that I had “won” a Toyota Prius. Further down the email I discovered that in exploring the eBay site I had bought a car! Of course I replied that the purchase was an accident, and asked the eBay folks to notify the dealer.

Working on the seminar has been very enjoyable. After each presentation we refine it based on feedback from attendees, and it has morphed from “Internet Marketing” to the current title which is more reflective of seminar content. The seminar is next scheduled for June 10.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Of Louisiana Ethics ...

An article from AP via the Seattle Times:

New ethics rules touted by Gov. Bobby Jindal as a hallmark of his young administration actually make it harder to prove violations, a government watchdog group said Wednesday.

Lawmakers approved Jindal's legislation during the first of two special sessions he called soon after taking office in January. Jindal repeatedly decried Louisiana's corrupt image during his election campaign.

The problem, according to the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, is in the wording of one bill: While existing law requires "reliable and substantial" evidence of wrongdoing in an ethics case, the bill that takes effect Aug. 15 requires a higher, "clear and convincing" standard in ethics cases.

The change will require the gathering of more evidence and could require the re-evaluation of cases now being investigated, the council said.

"It is clear is that this change will slow the prosecution of ethics cases already in the works, likely create a backlog of investigations and discourage violators from admitting guilt when they think the evidence of their offense is slim," the council said.

Critics of the administration have raised questions about the new language in recent weeks. Jindal, asked about the criticism Wednesday before the report's release, said he was not convinced there was a problem.

"I'm not an attorney," he told reporters. "My understanding is there is some disagreement between the ethics board and some of those members and our attorneys about what the appropriate standards should be."

Jindal said those concerned about the issue should make their case to legislators, who are now meeting in regular session. But, he said, he would veto anything that he believes weakens the new ethical standards.

The new ethics legislation included a host of lobbying restrictions, income-reporting requirements for public officials and bans on officials' contracts with government.


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