Brazil trip continued

Did you know there is a new strain of the “swine” flu? It is called the Sao Paulo  H1N1 – because it was first identified there. When we “flu” in last Tuesday we were greeted by people in white smocks and surgery masks handing out flyers about the flu. If you (or anyone around you) have been coughing, sneezing, running a fever or just not feeling well you should report immediately to the nearest clinic. There were posters and signs to that effect all along the way from plane to terminal. luckily no one around me turned me in for having sneezed more than once on the plane (every time the flight attendant with horrible taste in perfume walked by). i also did not feel that well – after having spent a full day at the Chicago airport, ate airport food and then flew 9 1/2 hours in economy and actually having eaten the “meal” they served.

Also in the Sao Paulo airport I finally found out what drive in restaurants do with their drive through speaker and mic systems when they get too bad for even them to use – they obviously sell them to the Sao Paulo airport to use as the PA system announcing flights.

Brazil, at least the parts I was in, are not geared to American tourists. There were no stores hawking the sorts of things we tend to buy as gifts to take home. I could only find a handful of “Brazil” t-shirts, two “Brazil” refrigerator magnets and some mini “Brazil” soccer-balls. They also need to make sure the rent a car agencies not only offer but strongly encourage use of GPS units. Also all those people that spend their days whitewashing the curbs – let them have real paint and have them paint signs with street and highway names.

Now, as to the idea that drilling for oil is good not bad, the only drill rigs we saw were in the bay at Rio and they were under construction or being refitted. That alone accounts for a large number of good paying jobs. Once they are put to use (obviously far enough off the coast that you can’t see them) they account for more jobs, not just on the rigs but supporting them. Petrobras is very busy recruiting and training the people that they need. And of course, the effect of all those jobs is even more jobs in businesses supporting all those people – stores, services, home building – it ripples wide through the economy.

There is zero impact on the beautiful coastline of Brazil from the drilling off shore. I read today that just one area off their coast is thought to hold some 45 billion barrels of oil. That one area can supply all of Brazil’s oil for over 10 years – that is what I call energy independence! They don’t need to turn all their food into “alcool” or put a windmill on jesus’s head over Rio.

Not only are there more areas with the potential for that sort of oil discovery off the coast of Brazil, there are the same potential sources off our coast – in areas that Obama, Gore and Florida Senator Nelson – won’t let us drill. There is more in Alaska, where they also won’t let us drill and in Colorado and Utah and Wyoming.

My boss – who was born in Germany – pointed out how short sighted the Brazilians are in not working harder to have more people speaking English. Think about it, how many places can you really expect to do business in the world only speaking Porteugeuse? Brazil and Portugal pretty much are it. And it is hard to attract businesses or tourists without lots of people speaking a more widely used language.

That said – Brazil is a very interesting place to visit and the people – all that I met – are friendly and try very hard to help the crazy “Americans” (I tried very hard not to call us or others from the USA “Americans” pointing out that Brazilians are also Americans). They generally tried very hard to understand us and make us understand them.

Oh and if you think that everything there will be inexpensive – nope – most everything we bought cost about the same as it would here. But, the Coca Cola there is EXCELLENT!!! They still make it with cane sugar – not high fructose corn syrup! Oh and as far as I can tell – there is no penalty for drinking the water – it tasted great, in fact better than the tap water here in Parker Colorado! I cannot travel to Dallas and drink the water but Brazil – no problem!

A most eventful trip

A week ago Sunday my boss and I embarked on a trip to Brazil. From the very beginning it was “eventful”.

When we arrived at the Denver airport there was a report there were funnel clouds reported in Denver. The storm was tracking very near the airport. Our flight was delayed and delayed and delayed. We finally took off about an hour late, hoping that the connecting flight to Brazil from Chicago would also be delayed. It wasn’t.

The flight to Sao Paulo left the gate about the same moment we arrived.The airport was nearly empty that time of night – except for the line at customer service trying to rebook. We tried to rebook using the phone and were informed that we had been rebooked on the same flight – Tuesday night – meaning we would miss half the four day trade show. Not an option. They tried to rebook us but my ticket was paid for with frequent flyer miles so the options were limited – they could not rebook us to a partner airline. We looked into all sorts of options on the phone and later at the customer service counter.

While waiting at customer service counter, a young Chinese man with an elderly Chinese man was behind us. The elder man had missed his connection after a long flight from China and the young man was trying to help him get at least a hotel room for the night. The young man had to go catch his connection and had the elder man follow us to the counter. He did, and when we were called to the counter the woman helping us couldn’t understand why we were talking about just two of us when there were obviously three. Once we explained what was up, the man at the next counter took care of  him using a by phone translation service. It seemssince his delay was strictly weather related and he was not entitled to a hotel voucher – onjly a discount coupon. Our flight was over booked as well as being weather delayed so we got the voucher.

We then tried to retrieve our suitcases but were told doing so would somehow cancel our newly aquired reservations for Monday night (24 hours later). We were assured that our bags – which contained not only our clothes but all the literature and trinkets to be given out at the show – would be on the flight with us.

Monday morning we tried again, with the help of a travel agen to get an earlier flight – still no go since my ticket was paid by miles. Finally, we accepted that the red eye flight that night was our only choice.We again asked about our bags and were assured that they would make the flight with us – the clerk even entered our claim check numbers into the computer to make sure they were associated with our tickets.

Guess what, my bags made it the bosses did not. Again, the claim check numbers were entered into the computer and we were assured they would be on the Tuesday night flight and delivered to our hotel by Tuesday night.

While we were at the airport in Chicago we made sure emails were sent to the rental car agency and the hotel letting them know we were delayed 24 hours. The rental car was not there.

Of the 4 rental agencies at the Rio airport – only one had cars available.

We quickly found out that having a map was pretty useless- Brazil seems to see little need for putting up road signs with the names of roads. We took a several mile side trip into Rio proper after we missed the turn to the bridge across the bay. The maze of streets with no names and very limited oportunities to turn resulted in our finding the only obvious “retorno” toward the bridge not only was marked with a no righyt tur sign (tose they put up) but manned by a policeman. When a motorcycle made the turn with no reaction from the cop we tried it. He reacted, we held up the map jabbered in English (which at least 99% of Brazilians do not understand) he smiled, looked at what we were pointing to on the bridge – jabbered some Porteuguese and waved us on to the road we needed.

we made the rest of the road trip of about 150km with little difficulty (and zipping past who knows how many photo speed traps because we did not recognize them). The route we took was mostly a two lane with many trucks laboring up the many hills. the tiny Fiat we rentedhad some difficulty accelerating enough to get safely around the trucks so we did what the locals did – cut it way too close and passed them anyway.

We drove past the trade show venue on our way to finding the hotel – it took over an hour getiing from the one to the other even though it was only a few miles.

The hotel honored our reservations (but I am sure we had better rooms waiting on Monday than we got on Tuesday. The view was of a blank concrete wall and looking down from the balconies we found the hotel employee’s break area – the alley behind the hotel. We asked for directions back to the show venue and the hand drawn map the busman let us look at (he only had the one copy) indicated the route we had taken getting there. So we headed out (me in clean clothes and armed with a handfull of literature and trinkets from my bags) and drove the hour back to the show. We paid the R$20 to park and were there for the final two hours of the evening.

Our “hostess” we hired was a very pleasant surprise – she was so good at translating and learned our products so well that she quickly did not need to translate the questions but simply answered most of the questions directly.

Wednesday we went to the show, found we could park across the street for only R$10 and had a good day at the show. At least the boss was able to wear one of my shirts with the company logo – but was still in Sundays clothes otherwise. Returning to the hotel Wednesday night we found that the airline had again failed to deliver the lost bags.

Our translator told us there is a “mall” in the city – near the hotel. The desk clerk said the only directions “You should take Taxi”. Diligent internet searching found themall’s web site with a rudimentary map. Only one of the roads on that map could be found on Google or Yahoo maps. But Thursday morning, instead of going to the beach (the hotel is on the beautiful beach and the trade show started at 2 pm) we set out to buy clothes and a phone charger for the boss. We found the road shown on all the maps (linhqa Verde – Green Line) and it is a four lane divided highway. We of course missed the turn to the mall – this time because there were not only no signs but a construction project blocked us actually seeing the mall.

That missed turn led us to the realization we could use that highway to reach the show venue in considerably less time than the through the city route.

We got clothes and the phone charger and went to the show. (n between we went to the hotel and parked in the attended lot across from the hotel and – as instructed – had the hotel stamp the ticket. When we went to get the car we gave the attendant the ticket – he tore it up and demanded R$4.)

At the show we found a farmer allowing parking in his field for only R$5 (we only had a 50 and two 2′s so we negotiated it down to $4.

The end of the day at the show left us with exactly 4 pieces of literature.

THE BAGS arrived!

Friday we managed to get stuck in the elevator at the brand new hotel (it had not been finished when we made our reservations). The boss wore his own clothes and we had plenty of literature and several different “trinkets” to give out. On the way to the show we decided to stop at the only money exchange house in the city – armed with what details we could glean from the internet mapsrealizing actual street names might not help,I had counted the number of blocks from recognizable landmarks, only to realize too late the internet maps left off at least half the streets. We wound up asking directions on the street and two women gave up trying to make us understand and simply got in therecar and waved for us to follow. We did and many turns and several close calls from the kamakaze drivers she waved out the window at the proper building.

To be continued… too late to keep typing tonight

Macae’ – Brasil oil boom town

We are here in Macae’ (Mack-I-ya) Brazil (Brasil the way they spell it) for a trade show. It is a town that without oil would be a nice stretch of beach that nobody would go to unless they had relatives there.

The discovered oil off shore here and – unlike the USA – the Brazilian government actually lets them drill  for it. Did I say “lets” – no – they make sure they drill for it. The oil revenue is paying off the national debt – it can be paid off? These Brazilians are so clever – why didn’t anyone in the US think of that?

There are no hotel rooms to be had here, the traffic through town is terrible (we found out today there is a much better way to get there on a very nice 4 lane road. The people at the hotel did not include that in their directions.

Yahoo maps and mapquest were of little help finding our way around – not so much because of anything they do but the fact that Brazilians seem to see no need for street signs, certainly none with the name of any street you are actually on.  Add to the lack of road signs the drivers who make your worst foreign born cabbie in the US seem like a grandmother off to church on Sunday, the kamikazee motorcyclists weaving through stopped or slow traffic at twice the posted speed limit and it is easy to find your self quickly lost of at least needing to find the next “retorno”(U-turn) to get back on track. There are city buses that squeeze by on the right with inches to spare (with motorcyclists squeezing through those inches).

We have been introduced to the Obama future car of the US – it is a tiny Fiat (didn’t they just get Chrysler?) with a tiny engine that has just enough power to let you pass a slow moving truck and leave a few inches to spare before the oncoming car flashes past. It looks remarkably like a 4 door “Smart car”, runs on Gas or “alcool”. We drove it about 150 miles and then bought R$75 worth of alcool ($40 US). I work it out at 15 mpg and the cost of alcool (made from sugar) R$7.20 per gallon about $4 US. Gas is double alcool but the mileage is probably better – not sure if it is double.

The poor mileage could be partly from the hour long traffic jams through town.

Since the Unnamed Air Line (which I’ll call UAL for short) lost the boss’s bags in Chicago from Sunday through tonight (Thursday night) we went in search of the Plaza Macae’ (sole shopping mall) to buy a phone charger so he could consult his Blackberry, some clean clothes and other necessaries. The hotel declined to offer directions saying – better to call a cab. Yahoo maps and mapquest couldn’t find it by name, the plaza’s web site did not include an address or directions but did include a not to scale short on detail “map”. The usual map sites could not identify the few street names on the plaza’s map, the not to scale feature (and not terribly accurate even as to the relative directions of the roads it did show) made comparing it to the other maps useless. There was one named road that seemed familiar – I had seen a sign pointing toward it near the hotel. So we went and found that road, then drove down it looking for the “mall”. A less than convenient road construction made it impossible to spot the mall on first pass – we had to go several km before finding a “retorno” which conveniently led us to a road that appeared to go to the convention center.

We back tracked, found the mall behind the construction vehicles and got the needed items.

Of course this evening the bags appeared at the hotel.

We ended the day at the trade show with 4 company flyers left. The rest are in the now found baggage so tomorrow, we can be much more free with them.

I really have to say something about Pollyanna our interpreter. We thought we had hired another interpreter and had lined her up as a “hostess” to hand out flyers and just be friendly. We were not expecting our interpreter to bail on us and for our “hostess” to be a very smart, pretty assistant who not only did an excellent job interpreting for us but quickly learned about our products and then was answering nearly all questions directly.

Well, TCM just finished showing “They call me Mister Tibbs” in English with Portuguese sub-titles and is now showing an old Clark Gable movie dubbed in Portuguese. Guess it is time to turn in.

24 hour layover in Chicago

Watched Marine One (and the decoy and at least 4 other Marine copters) fly past the window of the Chicago hotel that United put us up in because they were an hour late getting us here on our way to Brazil (or Brasil if you live there). We were supposed to have a meet and greet with the US Ambassador today. Oh well!

We have been re-booked unbooked re-rebooked and again unbooked on flights so many times that I lost track.

Could have been on a flight out of JFK today except my ticket was “paid for” with Freq flyer miles, could have been rebooked on another flight out of Miami – but – Freq flyer miles.

At more than one point I would have arrived 4 or five hours later than my boss but the several hour drive from Rio to the trade show was a problem. At one point the difference in confirmed flights was 24 hours.We could have flown to Sao Paulo and then had a 24 hour layover before heading to Rio.

Anyway, here I sit at gate C11 next to a woman that has so far not made her connecting flight to Denver for the 6th time today. We are sharing one of the sparse public outlets. There were 100 standby’s for the last flight she did not get on. Yesterday there were 100 stabdby’s in Denver waiting for the flight that we got on. Maybe United would be doing better if they actually flew passengers rather than trapping them in airports. She discussed renting a car and driving the 16 hours to Denver – might get there quicker. I am sure that most of the passengers on the flight here last night missed connections – they all seemed to be in line at Cust Service with us. So was a poor little man who spoke only Mandarin and had missed his connecting flight to somewhere from China. They didn’t even offer to put him in a hotel – only offered a discount.

Somehow our weather delayed – overbooked flight made us special in their eyes – just weather delayed did not qualify him.

But there did not seem to be any disruption due to AF one being on the ground when we arrived from the hotel.

Hopefully all the people who come to the Macae Offshore Drilling show looking for handling tools will wait for us to arrive.

Drill here – drill there – drill now!

Biofuel vs Food – Stop putting Corn in my Gas

I’ve been ranting for a long while (since before I started blogging) that turning corn into a “fuel” was bad policy and stupid economically (except for “Big Corn”).

Turns out  other people have finally come to the same conclusion.

At a weekend conference in Washington, finance ministers and central bankers of seven leading industrial nations called for urgent action to deal with the price spikes, and several of them demanded a reconsideration of biofuel policies adopted recently in the West.

Food prices are skyrocketing,  world food experts are touting potatoes as the savior of the starving populations (Did that really work out well for my Irish relatives? Hmmm…)

How about this – drill in ANWR and off the coastlines, use that oil to reduce the dependence on foreign oil, cut the cost of refined fuel by allowing new and more efficient refineries in this country, use the reduced cost of fuel and reduced false demand for corn to reduce the costs of most ag products, stop paying farmers to not grow products and encourage them to grow produce that will actually be consumed.

Yeah, I know politically it will never happen – not with the current make up of Congress.

A blimp, some busses and lots of sign waving

I drove to Myrtle Beach the other day and attended a Fair Tax Rally before the GOP Debate. The Elks lodge was full to overflowing of people fed up with the income tax. There were lots of Fair Tax hats and shirts, some food and a pretty darn good C/W band. Then the party really started with speeches from Fair Tax Candidates starting with Will Breazeale (yes he was about 30 miles out of his district but then so were a bunch of the people in the audience) followed by some running against Sen. Graham in SC.

The keynote speaker was Congressman John Linder of Georgia. He spoke about how far the Fair Tax movement has progressed since he came aboard in the 90′s.

After the rally, the group went en mass to a parking lot across from the Convention Center where they met up with the Huckabee campaign bus. On the way they passes by groups of supporters for the various candidates. The Fair Tax group easily out numbered the supporters for any of the candidates.

The group raided the Huckabee trailer and most were then carrying both Fair Tax and Huckabee signs.

The Huckabee bus arrived (without Huckabee) and after a while he did come along too and spoke to the crowd.

Those who had not experienced the Paulies experienced them first hand, often walking away shaking their heads at the incredible “logic” espoused by the supporters of Dr. Paul. All the while his blimp circled alternating with a small plane towing a banner for “ED 08″. Took a while to find out it was not a FRED 08 sign missing letters but one for a group pressing for more federal control of education.

Will and our crew made our way to the convention center where we occupied some of the nose bleed seats for the debate.

For my first trip to Myrtle – was a little disappointed not to even see the beach, but it was a very interesting day.

Finally a solution to rush hour road rage!

We have all had that simply make the driver of the car that cut us off in rush hour traffic just disappear, well GM is proposing an answer:

GM Researching Driverless Cars

And just think how much better it will be if they build special new lanes – like HOV lanes – for these empty cars. I didn’t know that cars had unions but they sure do understand feather bedding!

Traffic congestion, pollution, energy depletion all while we sit safely at home telecommuting and just sending our driverless car to the office to occupy the parking space. can I retro fit it to my old vette?

Global Warming snow job

I’m sure that the global warming crowd will somehow try to tie the recent winter extremes in the mid-west to CO2. The ice storms in Oklahoma and Kansas. The blizzards in Kansas. These are not “normal” and to the disciples of Algore and the Global Warming zealots anything out of the ordinary must be caused by the burning of carbon based fuels for energy production.

The city of Wichita KS has already spent their entire snow removal budget. Having spent over 20 winters in NH and seen snow removal for real, then comparing it to what I saw in Wichita last week, I have to wonder if they budgeted anything at all. But, the fact remains, cold, ice and snow are not what I would expect as a result of Global Warming!

Traveling after 500 miles

Cleared 3 inches of snow and an eighth inch of ice from the cars and trucks and left Wichita just before noon today. The roads in Wichita were sloppy (they barely understand the concept of snow removal and seem to rely upon the solar method). Once on the Interstate it was cleared but wet, with a stiff, slightly above zero wind which immediately froze the spray onto the windsheilds of the trucks, even though they had warmed up for over half an hour.

The first twenty miles revealed that the previous owner of the ’07 suv they just bought felt that straight water was OK for the windshield washer. The older suv also turned out to be out of fluid (even after the local Jiffy Lube had done an oil change with the instructions to check and top off all the fluids – they seemed much more interested in convincing us that unless the trans fluid and the grease in both differentials was changed that disaster was imminent).

About 30 miles out of Wichita, after three stops to deal with the washer fluids we decided to stop at a WalMart /Subway for the bottomless pits (the boys). We also filled the washer fluid on both trucks.

Was then uneventful until we were on I70 west of Salina and decided to fill the trucks. I was enjoying listening to the Audio Book (Double Cross by James Patterson). Neither of the boys wanted to ride with me – which was probably for the best since it was prone to more motion than they probably are used to. So no one got car sick. The dogs also made it through the trip without incident.

Stopped in Colby, Ks for fuel – a little ahead of schedule because they had a Starbucks in the Petro2 Truck Stop.

Took C 86 from just north of Limon to Kiowa and Franktown, saved about 35 miles and who knows how much in tolls by ignoring the GPS suggested rout of I-70 to E-470 toll road.

Considering all the snow that has fallen between Denver and Wichita in the last few days the roads were all pretty good. The first few miles of C 86 showed evidence of previously drifted snow and some areas that were close to black ice but no slipping was evidenced but we did hold significantly below the posted 65 limit in that area (the old motor home towing small suv with no lights obviously felt need for extra caution as he went past me at about the 65 limit over a double yellow and barely cleared my truck before crossing back in front of me).

blogging on the road again

Vicky (my other half) and I have spent the past week helping her son’s family prepare to move from Wichita, KS to Denver. Christmas morning saw the presents opened (mostly by the 7 and 10 year olds) and then about an hour later the Tree and ornaments were in a box.

The 26th the two rented trucks were picked up (two 26 footers) and a trailer for one car. The plan, up until a couple days before Christmas was to trailer the car and drive the SUV. That changed when they had a problem with the 9 year old, 150k miles, suv. They bought a slightly used ’07 suv as a replacement but then found the repair was minor and rather than trade it for only $1000, they are keeping it. So now we are waiting to hit the road later today with 4 drivers, two suv’s, two trucks, two kids and two dogs for the roughly 500 mile trip.

They decided about a month ago to move back to Denver (job related) and just mentioned it to friends in Wichita. One friend said “We have a friend, a banker, moving from KC and needs a house and really likes your neighbohood – should I have him come see?”

The come see resulted in an offer of several thousand above the price they had paid 18 months ago when they moved from Utah. (They have said if they end up moving again within 5 years they are going to seek therapy – an average of about 18 months between moves during their 12 years of marriage).

We have been dodging the weather – snowed Christmas Eve and Christmas while we were packing indoors. The 26th it was supposed to be flurries until 10am – turned out to be flurries Starting at 10 am. But the two professional loaders had no trouble with it. They were very efficient and well worth the money. My back is very thankfull for them.

Last night an ice and snow storm hit here in Wichita and heavy snow in Denver. Fox news just reported about all the flight cancellations there. The weather forecasts accross Kansas and into Colorado all look good from about 10am on.

The closing is going on now, the new owners actually took a walk thru of the mini mansion (two stories, 4 bedrooms – what had originally was a 5th had been converted to a HUGE walk in closet in the Master BR).

The boys are with their grandma down at the motel’s swimming pool. As soon as their folks return we will head out. The boys each got a portable DVD player with headphones and have been squabbling about where they are going to ride – the big trucks got first dibs, but then riding with Grandma has its appeal too.

We will hopefully be no difficulties on the highway and be in the new neighborhood tonight. Tomorrow there are three unloaders scheduled to help empty the trucks and the plan is to maybe sleep there tomorrow night.

My next post will probably be from the Motel there tonight or tomorrow morning.