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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Last weekend, I went to the All-Florida Championship Rodeo in Arcadia, which is a cattle town in Central Florida.  Attending the event with me was my oldest son, his wife, and daughter.  This was to be the first rodeo experience for my granddaughter, Gianna, so I tried to enjoy it through her eyes.

The day was perfect for a rodeo with low humidity and temperature around 25 C.  The crowd was comprised mostly of pensioners from retirement communities in the area and local families with school-age children.  It began as most American events with a display of patriotism.

We were first treated to bareback riding of the broncos.  For my international followers, broncos are horses that have not been 'broken' to carry a rider.  As a pilot, we learn of the Flail Response in which a person cannot control his body when experiencing strong acceleration.  I surmise that this cowboy was pulling significantly more that 3 G's.

In steer wrestling, the cowboy is to dismount from his horse at full gallop, grab a steer by the horns, and wrestle the beast to the ground.  It seems fundamental to accurately match the speed of the cow as it accelerates out of the chute.  The wrestler has a wing man who helps him to corral the animal; however, the bovine sprinters were particularly spry and often left the cowboys in their wake.

When the wrangler was actually able to grab the fleeing steer, it was not always a pretty sight, as he dropped the cow to the ground.

In the steer roping event, the pair of cowboys had somewhat better success since they could subdue the fleeing steer with their lariats.  In order to be scored for the competition, one rider had to get a lasso around the cow's neck while the other cowhand roped a hind leg.

This technique worked better than just jumping from your mount and grabbing the cows head, albeit it was significantly less bravado.  The last roping event involved calves.  This seems unduly cruel since it involves scaring the heck out of a baby cow, but it had its own set of requisite skills.  Ideally, the calf was to be lassoed in order to bring it to a halt, but this was problematic.

Those wily young cattle were often very fleet of foot.  When this bovine ballet made it to completion, the rider rapidly tied the feet of the calf while his clever horse kept the tension on the rope around the calf's neck.

The cattle left the spotlight to make way for a little equestrian fanfare.  A team of 'horse dancers' performed a precision choreography known as quadrille.

The events were completed with saddled bronco riding and then bull riding.  As with most performances, they save the best for last.  Bull riding demonstrates that very large performers can be very light on their feet.  As soon as these 1400 kilo divos exit the gate, they enter into a whirling dervish with the intention of jettisoning the hapless rider as soon as possible.  Few riders managed to stay on the animal's back the required 8 seconds to score points.  Often the bulls required distraction by rodeo clowns to keep the angry beasts away from the downed rider.

At dusk, the animals had their favorite time of the whole day as they lined up to be transported back to their paddock for food and an unencumbered run.

Rodeo started in Spain but is popular in North and South America, as well as Australia.  The skills that are highlighted are mostly those that traditional cowboys needed to herd and move cattle.  Horsemanship is presented in a very practical way that differs from the fine art of equestrian competitions, like ice hockey differs from figure skating.  It captures some of the romance of the American West that formed a large part of our history.

Cynics may consider it to be toying with our food, like bull fighting in Spain and Latin America.  To get a fresh perspective, I asked my granddaughter what she thought of the proceedings.  She said, "Poppi, I don't like the way those men are mean to the cows".  Yee Haw, Buckaroo!!


Saturday, February 9, 2013
After uncertainty and frustration in 2012, I am pleased that 2013 is beginning auspiciously for my family and me.  In addition to the completion of treatments for my wife's illness, I have recently been hired by a new enterprise that is pioneering new technologies in renewable energy.  The lead project will be a small, offshore, commercial hydroelectric generating station that utilizes the flow of ocean currents and tides.

I have been retained in a creative, not managerial capacity.  I shall be the naval architect and industrial designer in the product development team.  The U.S. headquarters of the company is in Lakewood Ranch, which is in Florida's High Tech Corridor.  Our research consultancy is in Europe, so it will entail some international travel.  I am excited about the prospects for the future of the company and that I shall be able to play a role in developing this burgeoning technology.

The new position represents something of a personal redemption for me.  For most of my life, I have designed, engineered, and built yachts and and luxury accommodations.  Although results were often magnificent, they did squander significant resources for a select few.  I enjoyed the challenge of creating and coordinating the unique contributions that brought the projects to life.  Now, fate has handed me with a very different design and engineering challenge.  The success of this venture will result in the creation of carbon credits for good, old Mother Earth.  It will be nice to pay it forward for a change.

You Go Girl!

Monday, October 1, 2012

This is a tribute to my wonderful wife, Tiki.  She is pictured here in front of the Cliffs of Mohr on the west coast of Ireland.  This was a happy moment during a great trip.

Recent times have been darker.  She has just completed her last session of chemotherapy in a third bout with cancer.  I am proud to say that she has come through this latest struggle with flying colors!

After several years of travel and adventures in foreign lands, 2012 has posed a special challenge for us.  My first full year back in the States started with the passing of my Mother and then segued into a war with cancer in Tiki's latest fight.  To make matters worse, her Mother fell gravely ill while Tiki was in the middle of her treatments, which obviated a journey across country by Tiki to rally her siblings.  Fortunately, her Mother has since gained some ground.

We are not completely through Tiki's therapies but the worse is over.  She is a great fighter!  We look forward to putting this year in the rear-view mirror and to having new adventures in the future.

New Discount for My eBook, Fire Erzu of Qi' Lam

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

With the advent of 2012, I am discounting the price of my first ebook from $4.99 to $2.99.  Sales were up during 'Buy an eBook Week' in early March, so I have decided on a permanent price reduction.  Now, those of you who have procrastinated in acquiring a copy may go out and download today.  The best site to find my book is

When you read the adventure, please join this blog and post your comments.  I am working on the sequel to The Fire Erzu of Qi' Lam now.  Since I am creating the new manuscript for you, I want to be aware of your likes and dislikes.  Keep me informed with your feedback.

Enjoy the adventures of the Loxu in The Fire Erzu of Qi' Lam!  Cheers!

Short Track Auto Racing in Rural Central Florida

Monday, November 21, 2011
In the end of October, we enjoyed spirited automobile racing at the DeSoto Super Speedway near Bradenton, Florida.  The races took place at night on a 3/8 mile (0.6 km) long track with a 12 degree bank.  Most of the competitors and spectators were local 'Good Ol' Boys' from Manatee and the adjacent counties. [For your information, a 'Good Ol' Boy' is defined in 'How To Speak Southern' as a fellow who enjoys corn liquor, boon companions, and buxom women but not necessarily in that order.]  The evening was full of noise, beer, stadium food, and colorful fans...A real hoot!

The races included a number of classes including trucks, cars of yesteryear, bombers, outlaw modified, sprint cars, and school buses.  The most entertaining were the latter two.

Sprint cars are extremely lightweight, open-frame vehicles with large power-to-weight ratios.  They reach speeds of up to 140 mph (225 kph) with engines that output around 630 bhp (470 kwh)!  They are so stripped down that they have no starters or batteries and have to be pushed to crank.  The cars race with an alcohol fuel that is mechanically fuel injected into the engine.  For safety, they have a roll cage and the enormous wing.  The wing holds the car down onto the track and is outfitted with sideboards that help with cornering.  The wing also provides protection to the driver in the event of a rollover.  The sprint cars were undoubtedly the loudest, smelliest, and fastest vehicles racing that night.  I am proud to say that my nephew, Greg Alexander, is an emerging star of sprint car racing in California.  We wish him the best of luck and safe racing!

Behind the truck in the foreground was one of the competitors in the school bus race.  The bus race is always saved for end of the night.  The buses have all of the seats removed and the driver is enclosed in a protective cage.  The unique feature of this particular event is that the buses compete on a figure-eight track.  As they progress through the twenty-five laps, there are hair-raising near misses between the leaders and the stragglers at the intersection in the course.  All the spectators were out of their seats throughout this race because it was very exciting watching the big vehicles blasting along at breakneck speeds.

The night of racing coincided with the holiday of Halloween.  To mark the occasion, the drivers parked their cars in front of the grandstand and passed out candy and treats to the kids, who came in costume.  There was a costume contest as well and the winners received trophies that were similar to those awarded to the victors of the races.  It was great fun!  It also filled the stands with parents and their children which provided a change from the usual hard-core racing crowd.

Most of the world is familiar with the major sporting venues of the United States; however, the local and regional competitions like motor sport events and minor league baseball provide visitors with unique insight into the American culture.  I highly recommend attending if you are able.

Firehawk Designs

Friday, October 28, 2011

We are please to announce the advent of Firehawk Designs, where we create furniture and interior appointments for homes, offices, and yachts.  You are invited to visit our site on Facebook to learn more about us and to peruse photographs of past projects.

Our studio is a continuation of the type of work that I did during my time in the Middle East.  Even though the U.S. economy is weak, people are still improving their homes and boats through re-modeling and upgrading.  What we do is provide alternatives and solutions that are beyond the offerings of commercial retailers.  To date, we have received a very positive response to our offerings.

One of our hallmarks is our flexibility.  Since we are a relatively small operation, we may travel to your project to assess your wishes.  We may create your pieces with one of our local shops.  However, we shall also work with your interior designer and/or your cabinetmaker, if you are most comfortable with this arrangement.  We tailor our input to your requirements.

We would welcome your patronage, your referral to friends and family, and/or your endorsement to the building contractors and interior design professionals with whom you work.

Dragon Boats

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I have been a little lax in keeping up with the posts since my recent departure from the Emirates.  I confess that I have been busy looking for a gig and promoting my book here in the States.  (I hope that your are all downloading copies.)

We recently had some international culture here in the Bay Area in the form of the 10th IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships.  This biennial event took place on the canals of Tampa this year.  It attracted over 2,000 competitors from 17 countries.  I viewed dragon boat races in Dubai but it was great fun to watch them in my own 'backyard'.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sport, a dragon boat features a drummer in the bow to keep the cadence and a helmsman in the stern to steer with a sweep.  Between these two are a crew of 20 paddlers for the standard dragon boat or 8 paddlers for the 'baby dragon' boat.  The originated in China over 5000 years ago where they have been used for spiritual and competitive purposes.

They are usually festively adorned with features of their namesake.  These modern racing shells are lightly built from fibreglass but the traditional boats were carvel constructed like sampans and junks.

It is a very ecumenical sport for competitors of all ages and sexes.  Obviously, it promotes and relies upon teamwork, like most rowing sports.  Entrants ranged in age from late teens to seniors over 60, who paddled in a number of divisions.  As in Olympic events, there was great effort expended by the participants who proudly represented their countries.

Competition was often close!

Medal ceremonies followed the finals.  In contrast to other international sporting events, many of the winners were not from the large Western nations.  It was refreshing to hear the anthems of nations like the Philippines and Trinidad/Tobago as frequently as the European and North American national hymns.

If you ever have an opportunity to watch a competition, you will not be disappointed.  Better yet, go paddle a dragon boat yourself with your friends or co-workers.  You do not have to be a national champion to have a good workout and a whole lot of fun.  Check the Web for local groups.  Usually, your only investment is a good paddle and dues, since the boats are owned by the clubs.