Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Innovative Advertising

With the huge downturn in the economy worldwide, advertisers are finding more effective ways to grab consumers’ attention. It has become imperative to the success of their business. Although Germany has yet to experience the level of hardship the US economy is enduring, German automakers want to ensure that the slumping auto industry does not plummet further. I laud some of the German automakers in their innovative marketing schemes. See the following video of a well crafted car commercial. It is attracting a lot of consumers. The US could learn from this.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Riding Black Hawk Helos

I spent almost a year, from early February to late December 2005, working in Iraq for the US Army Corps of Engineers overseeing reconstruction projects as a Resident Engineer. My first two months was in Baghdad’s Green Zone and the last nine months I was in Camp Taji, which is about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. The primary transport to get to and from Taji from the Green Zone or Camp Victory was via Black Hawk helicopters. I had to attend biweekly project meetings for several health clinic and fire station construction at the Green Zone, where most of the larger contractors had their offices. While at the Green Zone, I also met with construction representatives from my office who were assigned there to oversee projects around Baghdad. I visited Camp Victory often to provide project updates and briefings because that is where the Gulf Region Central District HQ was located. My first couple of helo rides were scary. The helos usually traveled in pairs. The “gunner” positions on each side of the helo were always manned, ready for any type of attacks. In some helos, the passenger doors were removed from each side of the helos. During flights both helos would discharge countermeasure flares to fend off possible heat seeking missiles that may target the helos. So firework displays were always a sight during nighttime helo rides. After awhile, the flights became a bit more bearable, and I was able to observe and enjoy the views below of the desert landscape or the Baghdad cityscape. The flights were usually about 30-45 minutes with stops at several smaller installations.

The following are a few pictures inside and outside a Black Hawk helo, and a video from one of my Black Hawk ride. You can click on any of the pictures for better resolution.

Waiting for an early morning helo flight from Taji to the Green Zone –

Taji Sunrise, while waiting for a Black Hawk ride

Waiting for a night helo flight back to Taji from Camp Victory

Waiting for a Helo Ride

Me inside a Black Hawk –

Black Hawk Helo Flight

The “gunner” position –

Black Hawk Gunner Position

Views during a helo flight –

Black Hawk Helo Flight

Black Hawk Helo Flight

A Black Hawk flight video –

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all. Not really much to report on -- but because it is an Irish national holiday, I will share a few pictures with you from my trip to Ireland last May.

The following two photos are of leprechaun souvenirs at a Dublin shop:

From the same shop, I tried on a leprechaun hat.

And finally, no St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without a pint of Guinness. The first photo is taken inside the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The second photo is taken at the Gravity Bar, the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse. Sláinte!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bozo The Clown

While surfing the ‘net today I noticed a news story about Alan Livingston, the creator of Bozo the Clown, passing away. He was 91 years old. Bozo the Clown is world famous. Even in Germany, someone from work was able to find a blow-up Bozo the Clown figure. Our branch chief gave Bozo the Clown to a fellow project manager as a gift for him to beat up on instead of banging the wall or knocking things that are attached to the wall. Our office gets fairly hectic and stressful during the last three months of the fiscal year – July, August, and September. The sources and causes of our anger are usually our customers (not being able to make up their mind), the contracting office (insisting on every little technical detail to award a project), and the office of counsel (nitpicking on many of our contract actions); but we can’t really do anything but keep the wrath to ourselves. It is not uncommon to hear ranting and cursing, or banging noises in the 5th floor wing of our office building during these times. The fellow project manager gladly shared the punching bag with the rest of the group. Bozo the Clown became the designated recipient of our abuse. He would get punched, kicked, pummeled, and knocked around. Bozo would always come back up with a smile. Even when a small air leak developed, we were able to patch him back up and he was good as new, ready to take the same pounding from all of us.

So, I would like to thank Mr. Livingston for his creation. Bozo the Clown became our outlet for moderating our agitation and stress. In some small way, Bozo helped us out during our fiscal year end frenzy.

The following picture is of me and Bozo after I had rescued him from a thrashing by a co-worker:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Travels of Yore

Okay, they are not really travels from the distant past, but close enough. My first trip to Europe was in September 1998. I had invited Ron, my nephew who was at that time still in college, to accompany me on a three and half week guided tour of Western Europe. The tour started in London, went through Paris, Lucerne, Florence, Rome, Venice, Innsbruck, Munich, Heidelberg, Cologne, Amsterdam, and back to London. The tour had a lot of side trips such as a boat tour of Paris along the Seine, funicular and gondola ride up to the Swiss Alps, tour of Burano outside of Venice, a boat cruise along the Rhine, canal tour of Amsterdam, and many others. We enjoyed good meals at nice restaurants including a dinner in Rome with opera singers providing the entertainment, special lunch in Lucerne with Alpine music and yodeling, a lunch treat at Munich's Hofbrauhaus, and a dinner at an ornately decorated Chinese/Indonesian restaurant located along the harbor of Amsterdam. Since we were in a tour bus, we got to see a lot of the countryside. I have loads of pictures in neatly organized albums from this trip, but I only have a few digitized pictures.

Ron in London with the Tower Bridge behind:

Ron by London's Tower Bridge

With the Florence cityscape behind us. You can see the Duomo's distinctive top in the background:

Me and Ron in Florence

On the Rome leg of the tour, we visited the Colosseum. We had noticed two men dressed in Roman gladiator garb posing for picture with tourists. So I asked if I could take pictures with them while Ron takes the shot, and afterwards, I would do the same for Ron. After my picture was taken by Ron, one of them proceeded to demand money for their deed. I don't remember how much in lira they were demanding, but it was exorbitant enough that I refused to pay. They got angry and tried to scare me. I told them I would gladly call the police (who were conveniently nearby) to settle the issue. They gave up. I gave them about $5 equivalent for their troubles. Nevertheless, I got a picture with them, but Ron never got the chance. I don't have a digitized photo of that particular picture. I do have a picture of the Colosseum.

Rome's Coliseum

The Arc de Triomphe:

Paris' Arc de Triomphe

This trip was a great introduction to seeing the sights of Western Europe. It was also the impetus of me wanting to explore more of Europe on my own, not with a tour group. I have been back several times since with a six other backpackers, with two other backpackers, and in solo travels. I continue to travel the sights of Europe every chance I get. While working in Bosnia, I got to visit a few of the central/eastern European countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). Since I started working in Germany in July 2007, I have visited and revisited many sights of Western Europe. There are still a lot of places in Europe I would like to visit and revisit.

Monday, March 2, 2009

4 Out of 5 Dentists Recommend ...

My last four postings were all related to Italy (Bologna, San Marino, and Sicily). Even the post titled “Siena” about my great niece is somehow tied to Italy because she is named after the town in Italy. So to break the monotony and get out of the Italy mode …

Parents always tell you to brush and floss, and always wear your retainers. Kids, I suggest you listen to your parents or the following may happen to you:

I pirated the above photo from Rena's flickr page.