WESTIN—CHATTANOOGA

November 18, 2018


Just about every Friday evening my wife and I celebrate the weekend by going to dinner.  We like to go early, i.e. 4:30 or 5:00 P.M. In other words—happy hour.  The crowds are smaller and the prices are much more in line with a reasonable budget.  This past Friday, we tried the Westin—Chattanooga located at 801 Pine Street. Pine Street is just west of the “main drag” and close to I-27.  Great location for a restaurant.  We heard the Alchemy Bar and Restaurant on the tenth (10th) floor of the hotel was great.  We were not disappointed in the least.

The Westin was at one time Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Chattanooga.  A digital picture of that building is shown below.

This building was called the “Gold Building” for obvious reasons.  The gold windows reflected sunlight, thus keeping the interior office areas much cooler and saving considerable utility expense.  Blue Cross basically outgrew these facilities and relocated some miles away.  Westin purchased the building some time afterwards and spent millions and over one year of time in refurbishing it and turning it into a marvelous hotel and commercial facilities.

As mentioned, the Alchemy is located on the tenth floor.  We will take a pictorial tour of the facility.

You are greeted with a plaque indicating the location and name.

One of the great features of the Alchemy is the lighting.  Lights everywhere and beautifully done.

I hope you can tell the restaurant is “kid-friendly”. When we were there, there were children ranging from infant to young teen. All very respectful of the furnishing and QUIET.

The dining area is very spacious with plenty of room to move around.  I did not include it in the pictures but here are high tables along the picture windows to the left of this JPEG and to entry of the facility.

You get a great view of the famous Lookout Mountain.  Lookout Mountain is noted for the “Battle Above the Clouds”—a famous battle between the North and the South during the Civil War.  This profile is on the City seal just as you see it here.

The picture below shows a small portion of the Chattanooga skyline.

LOBBY:

The lobby is really inviting with an exceptional amount of space.  The pictures below will definitely give you that reality.

I want to note the “picture wall” below.  The Westin has hung pictures of Chattanooga new and old to show a very brief “evolution” of the city center.

CONCLUSIONS:

You really need to make Chattanooga one place on your agenda while driving South.  We have become a destination for visitors due to the following: 1.) Great dining, 2.) The Tennessee River and all the “stuff” you can do on that river, 3.) Great accommodations, 4.) Wonderful tourist attractions in the downtown area and the surrounding tri-state areas. It’s a great destination summer, winter, spring and especially the fall.  Come on down.

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MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

November 6, 2018


Atlanta is the host city for one of the most beautiful stadiums in our country.  Also, from an engineering standpoint, one of the most complex.  You can see from the digital above the stadium at night.

My wife and I traveled to ATL recently to visit our granddaughters and thought we would take a tour of the stadium prior to our visit.  The Atlanta Falcons were not playing so things were relatively quiet; otherwise, you could not get within ten (10) feet of the places we were allowed to go on the tour.  The prices for a tour are as follows:

  • Adult Ticket-$25.00
  • Senior Adult Ticket: $20.00
  • Parking: $15.00 (In the parking garage.)

I don’t think this is too bad for the “look” we got.  The entire tour is about one hour and twenty minutes.

STATISTICS:

Let’s take a look at several statistics to get some idea as to the immense project this was.

  • Arthur Blank indicated the groundbreaking of the stadium would be conducted the last week of March 2014. The stadium opened in 2017.
  • Cost to build: $1.15 Billion (Yes that’s billion with a “B”.)
  • Construction time: Thirty-nine (39) months
  • Parking space: 21,000
  • Stadium height: 305 Feet
  • Field level: 1018 Feet above sea level.
  • Total stadium footage: 2,000,000 Square Feet
  • Total concrete: 150,000 Cubic Yards
  • Total structural steel: 27,000 Tons
  • Roof size: 14.5 acres
  • Total seating capacity: 71,000 expandable to 75,000
  • Club seats: 7,600
  • Number of suites: 190
  • Concession points of sale: 673
  • Bars and restaurants: 24
  • Beer taps: 1,264
  • Escalators: 25
  • Scoreboard: 63,800 Square Feet

In other words, this is one big place.  Let’s now take a digital tour.  I made all of these pictures so please forgive, in some cases, the armature nature.

As you approach the stadium you get an idea just how big it is. This is the walkway leading from underground parking.

The most prominent indicator announcing “we have arrived” is the Atlanta Falcon—otherwise known as the “dirty bird”.

We mentioned earlier the number of escalators used to access seating. From the JPEG below, you get some idea as to the layout.

With out a doubt, the most prominent feature of the stadium is the dome and the skylight.

As you might expect, the roof is an un-suspended design with no supporting internal posts or columns blocking view from any seat.  The complexly of the superstructure may be seen as follows:

This is a civil engineers dream, or nightmare.  Choose one.  There are eight (8) petals to the retractable dome and they actuate like the shutter on a camera lens.

CLUBS WITHIN THE STADIUM:

There are various clubs within the stadium, each bearing the name of the sponsor.

The AT & T Perch is the first you encounter.

Atlanta is the hub for Delta Airlines so you know they will be involved in a big way and support a club—a beautiful club at that.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors an equally beautiful restaurant and bar called the Gullwing.

 

Another “Benz” club is shown below with internal seating.

PLAYING FIELD:

OK, this is a football stadium.

LOCKER ROOM:

By far, the most disappointing aspect of the entire facility was the locker room.

We are taking bland and generic although, maybe for game day, things improve greatly.  After all, this was a guided tour.

CONCLUSION:

I can certainly recommend to you taking the tour the next time you are in Atlanta. It is well worth it to see the come by itself.

BORDER SECURITY

October 27, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from the publication “Military & Aerospace Electronics”, October 18, 2018.

For more than a week, thousands of migrants from Central America have been marching north towards the United States. They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs.   Many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers and I am certain they are correct. One can only guess as to how many will die along the way but there is safety in numbers.

On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of one hundred and sixty (160) people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.  By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than one thousand (1,000) Hondurans had joined. Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

I will not debate the pros and cons of allowing them into the United States but our federal government is positioned to stop as many as possible from entering.  This post will strive to detail the methodology used by our military and the Office of Homeland Security to facilitate that effort. The technology is striking and, for the most part, developed by the military.  Homeland Security is using that technology.  Please keep in mind, these programs have been developed over the years and not specifically for the caravan slowly approaching our boarders.  Let us now take a very quick look at some of the methods used.

  • Air-based technology
  • Apex border situational awareness
  • Artic communications and technologies
  • Biometric technology engine
  • Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAISE)
  • Countering violent extremism—actionable indicators and countermeasures project
  • Data analytics engine
  • Eye-dentify
  • Future Attribute Screening Techniques (FAST)
  • Ground-based technologies
  • Identity and access management engine
  • Low-light internet protocol cameras
  • Pat-Down Accuracy Training Tool (PATT)
  • Polar Scout
  • Space-based technology
  • Port of entry-based technology
  • Port and waterway resiliency
  • Port of entry people screening
  • Port and coastal surveillance
  • Port of entry forensics and investigations
  • Post Tracking System (PTS)
  • Small dart aircraft, or the hunt for drug-smuggling aircraft at the borders
  • Tunnel detection and surveillance
  • Video-based training for border patrol trackers
  • Virtual shooter

For the sake of time, I will let you discover the specifics of the list above but as you can see, it is very extensive and laden with cutting-edge technology.  Most of the technology, if not all, was developed for the U.S. military but adopted by Homeland Security.

If members of the caravan are successful they will be on U.S. soil. In the very near future The Border Patrol will have to take them into custody and unless Mexico agrees to take them back, the migrants will be held in detention until they can be deported.   If the migrants are accompanied by children, the government has virtually nowhere to put them.  Let’s just hope there is no more separating children from mothers and fathers.

The Trump administration has been preparing to expand family detention capacity by housing detainees on military bases, but those facilities do not appear to be ready. And once asylum-seeking migrants are on U.S. soil, it becomes significantly harder for the government to deny them access to the legal system, with the rights and protections it affords, in accordance with international laws and norms.

At this writing the caravan is still more than one thousand (1,000) miles away from U.S. territory, and there is a great deal of Mexico left to traverse. If the group manages to advance fifteen (15) miles per day, it would take more than two months for the caravan to arrive at the Rio Grande.  That timeline changes significantly if caravan members manage to board buses, trucks or freight trains, in which case they could reach the U.S. border in less than a week. But that’s a major if, absent a significant fundraising effort to provide mass motorized transport.

I cannot imagine living in a country in which it is unsafe to go to the market, making a doctor’s appointment or visiting a family member.  This is the condition that seemingly exist in the three countries mentioned earlier.  Then again, look at the southside of Chicago on any one given weekend.

As always, I welcome your comments.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NASA

October 17, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from NASA Tech Briefs, Vol 42, No.10

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite.  I remember the announcement just as though it was yesterday.  Walter Cronkite announced the “event” on the CBS evening news.  That single event was a game-changer and sent the United States into action. That’s when we realized we were definitely behind the curve.  The launch provided the impetus for increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of a new federal agency to manage air and space research and development. The United States and Russia were engaged in a Cold War, and during this period of time, space exploration emerged as a major area of concern.  In short, they beat us to the punch and caught us with our pants down.

As a result, President Dwight David Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA.  NASA opened for business on October 1, 1958, with T. Keith Glenman, president of the Case Institute of Technology, as its first administrator.  NASA’s primary goal was to “provide research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and other purposes. “(Not too sure the “other purposes” was fully explained but that’s no real problem.  The “spooks” had input into the overall mission of NASA due to the Cold War.)

NASA absorbed NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) including three major research laboratories: 1.) Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 2.) Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and 3.) the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.  There were two smaller laboratories included with the new Federal branch also.  NASA quickly incorporated other organizations into its new agency, notably the space science group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by Caltech for the Army and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. As you recall, Dr. Werner von Braun’s team of engineers were at that time engaged in the development of very large rockets.

The very first launch for NASA was from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  It was the Pioneer I, which launched on October 11, 1958. In May of 1959, Pioneer 4 was launched to the Moon, successfully making the first U.S. lunar flyby.

NASA’s first high-profile program involving human spaceflight was Project Mercury, an effort to learn if humans could survive the rigors of spaceflight.  On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space.  He rode his Mercury capsule on a fifteen (15) minute suborbital mission.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and back before the end of the decade.  To facilitate this goal, NASA expanded the existing manned spaceflight program in December 1961 to include the development of a two-man spacecraft. The program was officially designated Gemini and represented a necessary intermediate step in sending men to the moon on what became known as the Apollo Missions.  I had the great pleasure of being in the Air Force at that period of history and worked on the Titan II Missile.  The Titan II shot the Mercury astronauts into orbit.  Every launch was a specular success for our team at the Ogden Air Material Area located at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.  The missile has since been made obsolete by other larger and more powerful rockets but it was the “ride” back in those days.

One thing I greatly regret is the cessation of maned-flight by our government.  All of the efforts expended during the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo have not been totally lost but we definitely have relinquished our dominance in manned space travel.  Once again, you can thank your “local politicians” for that great lack of vision.

1918

October 6, 2018


I want us to climb in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and travel back in time to the year 1918.  One hundred years ago.  What were things like back then; clothes, cars, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.    It’s amazing to me how many advances have been made in just one hundred years.  Let’s take a quick look.

  • The average life expectancy for men was forty-seven (47) years.
  • Fuel for automobiles was sold in drug stores.
  • Only fourteen (14) percent of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only eight (8) percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten (10) MPH.
  • The average wage in the US was $0.22 per hour.
  • The average worker made between two hundred ($200) and four hundred ($400) dollars per year.
  • More that ninety-five (95%) percent of births took place in homes.
  • A dentist made $2500 per year.
  • A veterinarian made between $1500 and $4000 per year.
  • Ninety percent (90%) of ALL doctors had no college education. Instead, they attended so-called local medical schools. Many of which were condemned in the press and the government as substandard.
  • Sugar was four cents ($0.04) per pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents ($0.14) per dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents ($0.15) per pound.
  • Most women washed their hair only one per month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • The population of Las Vegas was thirty (30).
  • Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only six percent (6%) of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • There were two hundred and thirty (230) murders reported in the entire United States.

If a picture is worth a thousand words—let’s have pictures.  All of following pictures are from Getty Images and were taken in the year 1918.  Let’s take a look.

HUGE differences—right?  One thing I am certainly grateful for is advances in medical technology.  Our life expectancy for a male is now seventy-eight (78) and not forty-seven (47).  Huge advances.


Some information for this post is taken from the Concord Coalition

Business, corporate, government or individual fiscal year calendars and planners for the US fiscal year 2018 as defined by the US Federal Government, starting on October 1, 2017 and ending on September 30, 2018. The calendars cover a twelve-month period and are divided into four quarters. With that being the case, once again the clock begins ticking elevating our national debt.  As of 2 October 2018, at 0900 hours our national debt was about $21.5 trillion dollars.

As you can see, a trillion is a one with twelve (12) zeros behind it.  We have twenty-one of these to deal with.  The chart below was “shot” at sixteen (16) hundred hours (4:00 for you civilians) on 2 October 2018.  If that debt is allocated for each citizen and each taxpayer, the debt becomes $65,447 or $176,475 respectively. We all had better have a really really good year.

Right now, our debt is approximately ninety-four percent (%) of our gross domestic product (GDP).  In 2050 that debt is estimated to be one hundred and fifty percent (150%) our GDP, which is considered to be unsustainable.   The chart below will give you some idea as to how quickly our debt has risen.

Well, if misery loves company, we are not alone with issues of national debt.  The following chart give debt of the top twenty (20) countries with significant debt.  Not a pretty picture.

WHAT IS THE CURE FOR US NATIONAL DEBT?

Entitlement Programs – When social security was first enacted the life expectancy in the country was sixty-three (63) years old.  Today that life expectancy is in the late seventies (70’s).  If we’re to get our entitlement programs back into line, we should think about changing the eligibility age for social security and Medicare to at least the early seventies (70’s).

We should also change social security disability and loosen the eligibility for those who are over sixty-two (62) years old.  Those who can’t continue to do hard labor (construction) type of jobs would be eligible to collect earlier.  We would also have to make sure that medical insurance companies use community rating so those older Americans could get medical insurance at a “reasonable” price until they reached the age of eligibility for Medicare.

The Military – It makes no sense that the United States should spend more than the next ten countries combined for national defense.  We have significantly more firepower than we need and as a result we tend to trot this ability out to other parts of the world and work towards “nation building”.  It’s time that we go back to the levels of military spending we had under previous administrations and even make larger cuts.  We just can’t afford the size military we have and the interventionists policies that we’ve developed.  We really cannot protect the entire world endlessly.

Tax policy – It’s not only the rich.  We do need to change tax policy on the richest Americans.  They do need to pay more, but so does everyone else.  Right now, we have close to fifty percent (50%) of Americans not paying any income taxes.  This just isn’t fair.  If we’re all to participate in the good things that our country has to offer, then we all need to participate in paying a “fair” level of taxes to support those activities.  Everyone should have “skin in the game”.

Public workers compensation packages – Thirty years ago people went to work for the government knowing they were going to make less money, but their job security was going to be very strong.  Today according to John Mauldin, we have a situation where government workers are paid on average forth percent (40%) more than their private sector counterparts.  This is more than unsustainable.  There is no reason government workers should have this sort of bonus and it needs to be brought under control if we’re to reign in our government debt issues

CONCLUSIONS:

The above suggestions and possible solutions are only the tip of the ice burg.  The problem is: WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING and do it quickly—like this year, right now.

 

 

 

CAN YOU RETIRE

May 29, 2018


At some time in our working future we all hope to retire, but one burning question lingers—can you retire on what you have or will save at that point?  We are told that:

At some point in your life, you’ll be using this money to support your lifestyle. By the time you reach sixty (60), you should have six times your salary saved – that’s $360,000 if you make $60,000 per year. Unfortunately, the average sixty-something has an estimated median of $172,000 in the bank.  That is an estimate as of December 8, 2016.  Nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all.  This really blows my mind but this fact is what we are told by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in a new report entitled, “The State of American Retirement”.  Please take a look at the graphic below and you can see age groups vs retirement account savings.

Whereas the average savings of a family with members in the 32-to-37 age range is $31,644, the median savings is a bleak $480. At the other end, the average savings of families 56 to 61 — those nearest to retirement — is $163,557. The median is $17,000.

I think there are very specific reasons for the lack of savings, especially for younger citizens of our country.  Student loans, cost of living, pay scales, credit card debt, living above ones means, etc. all contribute to the inability to save or at least save enough for retirement.

The web site called MoneyWise.com has a very interesting solution to this problem or possible solution.  If you go to this web site and look up the following post: “Places You can Retire to for Less Than $200K” you will see a list of twenty (20) countries that can supply most if not all of your needs if your retirement is less than $200 K.  Let’s take a look at the list in order of favorability.

Thailand

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Malaysia

Mexico

Malta

Ecuador

Spain

Portugal

Panama

Australia

Austria

Czech Republic

Slovenia

Chile

Uruguay

Vietnam

Guam

Indonesia

South Africa

MoneyWise.com completed a study comparing housing availability, cost of living, health care, crime, government and several other indicators to compile this list.  It is a very interesting study and I encourage you to take a look even if you are not considering being an expatriate. You just might change your mind.

There are two other web sites I definitely recommend you check out as follows: 1.)  The CIA Fact Book and 2.) Lonely Planet.  From these two you will find very valuable information relative to any country you wish to research.  Look before you leap might just be in order here. Another option might be spending time and not completely relocating.  Two, three, six or even nine months during one year might get you beyond worry relative to being able to afford retirement on what you have saved.  The most important thing is to DO THE RESEARCH.  Make a list, then a short list of the countries that represent the leading candidates. THEN MAKE A VISIT. Wade—don’t jump.  Several other considerations I would list are as follows:

  • Make sure you consider your family, friends and support group before you make the move. Will they be willing and able to visit on a regular basis if needed?
  • A huge factor for me would be availability of good if not excellent medical facilities.
  • Cost of transportation.
  • Language considerations. If English is an issue, how difficult would learning their language be?
  • Power supplied. (I know this is off the wall.) Does the country provide 120-volt AC, 60 cycles per second or do they provide another voltage and frequency?  In other words, will your electronics work?  Will you have to buy new equipment or can a converter do the job?
  • How difficult and costly is communication “back home”? This includes Internet services.
  • Viability of local banking institutions
  • Stability of government
  • Weather factors

This is where good research is a MUST.

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