Despite being born and raised in the Great State of California, I was never a big fan of wine, one of our most popular exports. I always prefer a pint of beer. Barbaric, I know.
So, for this reason, I don’t have a very large collection of wine. In fact, I own only one bottle, as pictured below:
This is a bottle of Baku-Ceyhan wine produced by Tovuz-Baltiya Ltd, an Azeri wine company. I had some leftover manat burning a hole in my pocket and decided to waste a few minutes in the Baku airport duty free store while waiting for my flight back to Tbilisi. The store products consist mainly of caviar, vodka, and more caviar. I was hoping for a few oil-related souvenirs (I mean, seriously, this is Azerbaijan. What’s a girl gotta do to get a mini barrel of authentic Azeri crude with Aliyev’s face plastered on it?) but was thoroughly disappointed until I came across this bottle of Baku-Ceyhan wine. It’s named after (and the label has a map of) the 1,099 mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which begins at the Sangachal Terminal near Baku, runs through Georgia, and terminates at the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where Azeri crude is loaded onto tankers and transported to market. Having completed my master’s degree by writing a dissertation on the BTC pipeline, you could say it’s rather close to my heart. Not a bad souvenir for a few manat.
When I saw an advertisement for these shoes at the Pentagon City Mall, I wanted to vomit all over the freshly mopped floor:
These Croc rip-offs are the most hideous shoes I have ever seen in my life. What’s even more insulting is that they have appropriated the term “Cali” for these shoes (I assume they are referring to California and not Cali, Colombia) when, in reality, no self-respecting Californian would be caught dead in them. They should rename these shoes “Nebraska gear” or “Delaware gear” or whatev.
Protester Konstantin Timokhov, 21, said he was deeply worried that the government will force him to work in a contaminated area when he graduates from university.
“The government is hiding the truth from us. My health and my future are in danger,” he said.
Radiation levels have declined substantially in most areas near Chernobyl, but scientists disagree on the level of risk.
Some doctors who work in towns downwind from Chernobyl say the health effects are still being felt, and students being sent into these areas are afraid.
Kasya Markouskaya, 23, has been ordered to spend two years in Buda-Koshelyovo, a contamination-area town, when she graduates with a journalism degree this spring.
“My situation is little different from that of a slave who has been forced to do dangerous work,” Markouskaya told The Associated Press recently. If she refuses, she will either be stripped of her diploma or required to reimburse the state for the full cost of her education. When she entered university, there were no such strings attached.
The work assignments began last year, and about one-fourth of this year’s 21,000 graduates are being sent to the contaminated areas.
Vice Prime Minister Alexander Kosinets said at parliamentary hearings Friday that if the work assignments were canceled, these regions would be left without the doctors, teachers, agricultural workers and other specialists they need.
Many people from these areas moved away; Lukashenko now wants to repopulate them so agriculture and industry can be revived.
Some of the young professionals sent to contaminated regions last year have already fled. About 800 graduates have refused to take up their work assignments this year, the Education Ministry said.
I am flying out to San Antonio tomorrow for work. Again, just doing my part to ensure America’s energy needs are met. My parents are meeting me in San Antonio over the weekend, as they’ve never been there and I think they will enjoy the city. I told my mom I would be done with the meetings around noon on Friday, just in time for lunch. Her response?
(on an interesting side note, ten years ago Enron CEO Ken Lay and UES CEO Boris Brevnov signed a “10-year strategic alliance” and $55 million joint financing project:
According to Brevnov, “This alliance with Enron will enable UES to combine our experience in power generation, transmission, marketing and distribution to identify joint projects in Russia, Europe and Central Asia. I’m pleased this first transaction will provide us with important funding to upgrade power links to our key export markets.”
Enron’s Ken Lay described the alliance and loan as an “important step in Enron’s relationship with UES and in our company’s long-term strategy to actively promote and participate in competitive energy markets world-wide. We are pleased to be in partnership with one of the world’s largest power companies and to have signed our first commercial transaction with them. We look forward to working with UES to identify other projects that can take advantage of our finance expertise, risk management skills and generation and transmission development capabilities. We are also very optimistic that the rapidly liberalising markets in Russia, Europe and Central Asia will create new electricity trading and marketing opportunities for both of our companies.”
Two months later, Brevnov left UES and eventually ended up with a job at…Enron – in the broadband unit, no less.
The plan’s architects say they have raised $33.9 billion by creating a simple and obvious investment opportunity: the chance to sell heat and light to one of the world’s coldest and darkest countries. Moreover, the Russians say they have learned how to privatize their electricity market by watching the best example of failure: the Americans and Enron.
The Russian state electricity monopoly, Unified Energy Systems, will be disbanded on June 30 after spinning off dozens of subsidiaries and floating a portion of shares in those companies on the Russian stock market, then selling the balance at auctions.
To attract buyers and investors, Russian officials promise they will also liberalize electricity tariffs for industrial consumers by next January.
“From a market point of view, it’s very sexy,” said James R. Fenkner, chairman of Red Star Management, a hedge fund based in Russia. “You are going, all of a sudden, from a system of government-controlled inputs and outputs to a market-based system with more potential for profit.”
To be sure, enthusiasm has been damped not only by the complexity of the securities, but by memories of President Vladimir V. Putin’s reversal of some oil industry privatizations, and concerns that the same fate could await electricity investors.
In addition, many Russian power plants also generate heat for residential buildings — a market where rates will not be liberalized. Residential heat is transported as steam or hot water in great underground pipes that flow beneath Russian cities and into apartment blocks. The heat is sold as a service to municipalities, at margin-crimping rates. Generally, electricity privatization is fiendishly complex, and it has failed spectacularly before. But the Russians say they have learned from others’ misfortune, especially Enron.
“What happened in California, though it was unfortunate, helped us design restructuring,” Sergei K. Dubinin, the chief financial officer of Unified Energy Systems and a former Russian central banker, said in an interview. “We said we can’t do it that way.”
One outcome of Russian electricity privatization is likely to be a shift from natural gas to relatively cheaper, but less-clean-burning coal as plants seek savings — indeed, a Citigroup investor note has even recommended investors buy coal-fired plants.
One looming risk, however, is that Gazprom, the gas monopoly, will raise domestic prices for natural gas before the electricity market is fully liberalized, squeezing the profits of the electricity companies and their new owners.
And, as one investor who did not want to be identified because his company deals with Gazprom, noted, “Gazprom is far more powerful than Enron ever was.”
Word. Enron, however, had a much cooler logo than Gazprom does.
If this is approved by the regulators, it’s a pretty sweet deal for both the oil company and the environmentalists in Santa Barbara. PXP will be allowed to drill and profit from record oil prices, while prime real estate owned by the company will be spared development and donated to a land conservancy:
A Houston oil company has agreed to shut down its offshore oil production off Santa Barbara County decades early in exchange for approval this year to drill into untapped undersea reserves and cash in on the nation’s record oil prices.
To sweeten the deal, Plains Exploration & Production Co. — known as PXP — also has agreed to donate about 200 acres of oceanview property along the sparsely populated Gaviota coast and an additional 3,700 acres in Santa Barbara’s premier wine-growing region for public parkland. It would withdraw a proposed housing development on that land and pay millions to fund projects that offset carbon dioxide emissions, such as low-emission public buses.
Steve Rusch, a PXP vice president, said the company was willing to make concessions because it wanted to do more than simply neutralize offshore oil’s traditional opponents — it wanted to enlist their support. Since the 1980s, most offshore oil development in California has been met with fierce opposition, including protracted litigation, congressional moratoriums and bureaucratic delays.
So beginning later this month, Krop and her clients will support PXP in its petition to use “slant drilling” from one of its four offshore platforms to tap into an undersea oil field, the Tranquillon Ridge, that could yield as much as 200 million barrels of oil and 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Are you nuts! If you move to Texas, I hope you don’t eat like that all the time. You will be huge, not to mention your arteries clogged.
Mom, as a warning, you might want to stop reading this post now.
When I go to Houston, our meetings are occasionally held at the IAH airport Marriott. It’s convenient; your plane lands, you grab your luggage, hop on the mini subway that runs between the terminals, and shortly thereafter find yourself at the hotel. You have breakfast at the hotel, meetings at the hotel, lunch at the hotel, and, since there are no restaurants within walking distance of IAH, dinner at the hotel. The end result is that for a day and a half you exist in this airport/hotel bubble and never actually once step outside (although with Houston’s poor air quality, that’s probably a good thing).
This most recent trip to Houston, however, involved a roadtrip to Snook, Texas, a small town (population 568) located 100 miles northwest of Houston. I went to Snook with two highly entertaining engineers/bacon aficionados: my boss, and Dave, one of our Houston-based member company guys who heard about a restaurant in Snook and its holy grail of bacon several months prior to our trip. The drive didn’t take very long at all, and the countryside was actually quite beautiful. Trees, farms, cows, bluebonnets, that sort of stuff.
Still, I know what you’re thinking. Lindsay, dude, WTF? Why would you drive 200 miles roundtrip, to the middle of nowhere, for dinner? Simple: chicken fried bacon. Let me just emphasize this one more time: CHICKEN. FRIED. BACON.
The restaurant that serves this delicious, artery-clogging appetizer is Sodolak’s Original Country Inn, a small establishment where the walls are lined with firefighter gear and the borders of the menus feature ads for funeral homes and gun stores. The staff is friendly (it is Texas, after all), some of the locals are dressed in cowboy boots and hats (again, Texas), and stacks of official Sodolak’s Original Country Inn t-shirts and camouflage hats are piled next to the cash register.
We ordered three servings of Sodolak’s infamous appetizer. Chicken fried bacon, as you’ve likely already gathered, consists of long strips of bacon coated in chicken fried steak batter, deep fried, and served with a generous side of cream gravy. It was amazingly delicious, and the fried consistency was perfect (i.e., not too overbearingly thick.)
In addition to the chicken fried bacon, we each had a filet mignon, served with a baked potato, Texas toast, and a side salad that was drowning in ranch dressing (as it should be). For a brief five seconds, I had considered ordering chicken fried steak, but figured that would be pretty intense, especially after the chicken fried bacon. You may not believe this, but even I have limits.
So was Sodolak’s worth the 200 mile trip? Yeah, most definitely. I have already found myself craving chicken fried bacon and will be visiting Sodolak’s again after I move to Houston (and no, Mom, I won’t be eating chicken fried bacon everyday, alright?).
For more on Sodolak’s and chicken fried bacon, check out this YouTube video from Texas Country Reporter:
I always thought boxing would be a fun sport to try out, but as much as I’d like to put on some gloves and hit people, I have an incessant fear of getting my teeth knocked out. Really, I would never hear the end of it from my parents.
So what am I to do? Enter Wii boxing.
Coming soon to HBO Boxing
I don’t own a Wii myself, so have to rely on Olga for my dose of Wii. And while I suck at tennis, I’m pretty good at boxing. So good that last night I KO’d anyone willing to step up and challenge my mad boxing skillz, including one incident in which my nunchuck disconnected from my remote and I was forced to beat down my opponent with just one hand.
So if you want to challenge me, I say bring it on. My opponents claim I throw a lot of below the belt bunches, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I might have to step up my game a bit and buy a pair of Wii boxing gloves. Either that, or just duct tape the remote and nunchuck to my hands.
After having done my small part to ensure that America’s growing energy needs are being met, I arrived home from Houston late last night and discovered that the house I am currently living in now closely resembles my dorm in Moscow, without the benefits of actually being in Moscow (i.e, babushkas selling Baltika for 20 rubles). You see, both our internet and shower were broken (the internet, obviously, is now fixed, but apparently we can’t use the shower for a bit longer in order to let the caulk dry. Whatev). My roommates blamed the broken internet and shower on yours truly and told me that I had to move to Texas. Well, I am (eventually) and I’ll be stealing their dog, too. (He does want to go, BTW. Whenever I ask him if he wants to move to Texas, he gets really excited, although that’s probably due to the voice I use. Thinks he’s getting a treat or something).
I have a bit more to write about the past couple of days, including part two of “eating like a Texan” (am thinking of making this a regular series), but for now I must prepare for tonight’s Wii tournament at Olga’s house.