BusinessWeek: “Korea’s Biggest Foreign Deal Ever Bites Back”

That’s the title of this article I found in my BusinessWeek magazine this afternoon, so I dug up the link to the online version for you. To summarize, Doosan (the company which bought Bobcat) is in some dire straits and needs to cut costs. That’s an obvious fact to many Bismarck-Mandan families, but this article explains a little bit about why those cuts are occurring.

I thought it was interesting because of a few key bits of information I was able to pick out of the article. One is that Doosan was one of multiple bidders for Bobcat…sure, they closed the Bismarck plant, but a different bidder could have decided to abandon North Dakota entirely. Another is that the financing deal on this purchase requires Doosan to accelerate their loan payments in the event that Bobcat’s cashflow declines, which it clearly has.

This also reminds me of this article, which describes the moving of some Bobcat operations to the old iMation plant in Wahpeton. It looks like it’ll be some of the hydraulic and cylinder shop jobs. They’ll be paying $416,000 a year in rent. I wonder how that compares with the cost of owning facilities in Bismarck, and paying the property taxes thereon? A “nonprofit development corporation” owns the Wahpeton facility, which probably means that the taxpayers are eating it on the place in the name of “economic development.” Don’t get me started on that boondoggle; That vast empty Northern Plains Commerce Center southeast of town cost $4.7 million taxpayer dollars, with Bobcat its only prominent tenant. I haven’t heard of them packing up their operations there, but it raises the question: might they abandon the NPCC now, too?

One thing I didn’t hear mentioned in any of this articles: labor unions. Someone told me that the Litchfield, MN plant is non-union. I’ve also been told that the Wahpeton facility will be non-union. I don’t think it’s a stretch to connect those dots, in light of another anecdote I heard from a union meeting in Bismarck a while back. As the story goes, someone stood up and mentioned that he makes more at Bobcat than his wife at a professional job with a college degree, and dissatisfied Bobcat employees might want to consider that. While plenty of good things have come from workers getting together, I think the modern labor union is sorely off track, disregarding the best interest of their members, and probably played a significant role in hundreds of Bismarck jobs moved only two to three hours to the east.

There are probably more interesting observations and deductions you can make about the economy, the Doosan/Bobcat deal, the economic development canard, and labor unions…I’ll leave that up to you. I just wanted to share the observations I got when I flipped open the October 26th issue of BusinessWeek this afternoon.

What is it with people driving into our hospitals?

No photos here, just ponderings. With the news that someone has driven into the ER entrance of St. Alexius tonight, it bears mention that this isn’t the first time someone parked a vehicle inside the east entrance of one of Bismarck’s hospitals. An elderly lady turned Medcenter One’s coffee shop into a drive-thru a couple of years ago. Coincidence? You be the judge.

One interesting note: according to the Bismarck Tribune story, the driver of the vehicle lodged in the ER of St. Alexius was “arrested for driving under the influence of prescription drugs and taken to Medcenter One…” Apparently St. A’s must have been too busy dealing with a black S-10 in their emergency room to treat the guy.

Life sure is interesting, ain’t it? It’s going to be rather unpleasant in a few hours too, for this guy at least. I’ve stayed up way too late reading the last 176 pages of a Ted Bell novel and nursing a sore throat with medication and chicken soup. Not a good way to prepare for an early morning Thursday. I’d better get some rest, so I don’t doze off and drive into a building or something. We don’t have any untouched hospitals now, so perhaps I’d have to settle for a clinic…

Tanks for another year

Thus endeth year number three here at the Bismarck-Mandan Blog. The tanks pictured above are from Napoleon and Strasburg, captured on a recent photography trip before the big snows. I wonder how much of these beasts is visible now!

This website continues to serve thousands of pages to a thousand or more visitors every single day. I’m humbled, grateful, and a little astonished that people continue to stop by. Hopefully I can continue to provide pictures and rambling words that people find worth a little bit of their time each day. Here’s to year number four! If the Obamessiah’s people haven’t shut me down by then…

This is only a test

I’m doing some fun server-related changes right now. This is a test. And yes, the photo above is a forgery. Not only are the windows not lit like that yet, but we’re also in the middle of a blizzard. I’m just testing my photo file transfer engine and stuff, and thought I’d have some fun with last year’s picture.

That reminds me…as long as it took to get the Christmas Tree displayed in the capitol windows, those colored shades were GONE already today. Wow…makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Seems everything is a commodity these days, especially tires

I suspect this is a common sight these days. Like metal, petroleum products, and everything else, rubber is in short supply. Perhaps this piece of equipment’s trip sans tires is similar to a story I heard a while back.

I was videotaping at a mining operation (not local) and one of the guys mentioned that they had placed a huge equipment order. When the time came for delivery, the manufacturer called to say that the equipment was ready to ship, but that there were no tires. No tires? Yes, the industrialization of other parts of the world had put a strain on the supply of tires for heavy equipment.

To my recollection, they had to cancel the order; you can’t have millions of dollars of big equipment show up and not be able to put it into service; at that point it’s costing money, not making money. I talked to another fella at a different mining operation who said that they have to try to stretch the tires on their big haulers a little further, and try to buy in advance, because they’re hard to come by. If they can’t operate their equipment, they can’t produce their product.

I don’t know if that’s the case with this loader. I don’t think they ship them without tires normally, but perhaps that’s the case. I used to have a desk facing the dock where Caterpillar equipment would come off the train cars, and I don’t recall seeing any without tires; of course, this is a truck, and it has to fit under the overpasses.

Whether this loader being hauled without tires is an illustration or not, I’m told the problem exists. I found out more anecdotal evidence when I replaced the tires on my truck. The model of truck I drive came stock with oversized tires, so that’s the kind of replacements I have to buy. Tires that cost $400 a few years ago cost $700 now. Ouch!

Race tires for the motorcycle were around $350-400 when I last raced, ($300 EACH if you order from the catalog) and they’re good for a couple of days if ridden hard. When it comes to the cost of tires and fuel, that’s the only reason I am glad haven’t gone racing lately!

Photographic evidence that I have no idea what I’m talking about

What’s that, you say? MORE evidence? Yeah, funny…I took pictures to prove it! Check out the nice, smooth arc of the new Memorial Bridge in the photo above. Pretty sweet, eh?


A while back, I posted the above photo while pointing out that the beams looked awfuly wavy. Well, after I’d pulled to the side of the road after being the last civilian to drive across the old Memorial Bridge, I talked to Mike Kopp from the DOT. He pointed out that the bridge beams were designed with that upward bow in them to absorb the weight of the concrete and steel composing the bridge deck to be built on them. Oops.

Don’t let me build your bridge, folks. It might look a little saggy in between columns if I did…unless I learned my lesson in this case and remember why those beams need to look “wavy” at the start.

New feature added! And a reminder of an old one

If you noticed the site loaded a little slowly this week, it’s because I animated the top banner. Doing so involved a little bit of Javascript and Flash, and that stuff has to load the first time you visit the page. Once you’ve visited this site with the new header, it should load quickly in repeat visits. I had been playing with a few ideas for new banners at the top of the site and couldn’t pick one, so I decided that I should just rotate them. I hope they’re pleasing to the eye.

Now a reminder of an older, less frequently used feature. When I activated this feature a long time ago, I posted instructions on how to “Rate the Windbag.” The number of regular visitors to the site has grown by leaps and bounds since then, so I’ll post this again for those of you who are new. While older posts have rating counts as high as 400 or 500, I’m getting several times that many visitors on even a slow day now. So perhaps not everyone knows what those dots are for.


This is a 5-point rating system. If you like the post, click on the dot to the far right. If you think I’m out of my ever-lovin’ mind, click on the dot on the far right. Just kidding. The dot on the left is worth 1 point, the one on the right worth 5, and I leave it to you to discern the values of the remaining three.

Each time a user clicks a dot it’s added to the tally, the number on the right. The average rating is on the left. In the graphic above, 4 users have responded with an average rating of 3.8.

This diagram illustrates the difference between the way a designer sets up a web page, with how he thinks the reader will scan it in mind, and the way the average web surfer actually looks through the page. It’s a pretty big difference, isn’t it? By the same token, I tend to assume that those five little dots look like they’re clickable… but apparently not everybody gets it right away. Oh well.

That’s why, when you see the numbers at the bottom of the posts, things won’t always make sense. I’ll have a post with a low vote count, but with one comment, and dozens (sometimes hundreds) of comment views. So, while the post has been read between a thousand and two thousand times (that’s how many daily visitors I get), only one person may have found reason to comment, and not everybody decided to read his/her comment. Even fewer decided (or knew how to) vote to rate the post. It’s actually very interesting to see, especially in light of the server stats that I receive daily!

Of course, if you’re reading this post on one of the websites that syndicate it, you’re not eligible to vote. You have to actually come to bismarckmandanblog.com to do so.

Have fun. The old Democrat adage “vote early, vote often!” doesn’t apply here.

I highly recommend picking one up…or picking up with one

The call came early Tuesday morning. Five semi loads of steel beams had arrived! Our church’s new building project is about to take a huge leap forward. But someone has to unload and inventory this stuff, and they needed another guy.

Two of us got to run that shiny new turbo-diesel VersaHandler (it’s a rental). I have forklift experience from working in my parents’ warehouse, but that didn’t compare to unloading giant steel beams with this thing! It has all-wheel steering, a self-leveling adjuster via rocker switch, and a joystick control for all the boom and fork operations. Talk about a trip!

I have to admit, I was scared silly while running this thing. I was unloading really wide steel beams, several at a time, with my pastor and other close friends working below. I like those guys, including the truck driver sitting atop the steel giving me directions, so I’d hate to drop a beam on any of them! Plus it would be expensive to replace any damaged steel. Thankfully, I didn’t drop or bend anything.

This machine was fun in a number of ways. I have to admit that there was a stretch of time where I wanted nothing more than to get OUT of the cab and away from the stress of wielding those giant beams around on uneven ground! But as soon as I got out of the cab to return to work, I felt a longing to get back in and start white-knuckling my way around the truck again. Sadly, my time in the machine was over. I could spend a few hundred bucks and rent it myself, or $140,000 to get one of my own. Instead I’ll just wait for the next load of building materials to come and hope we rent it again!

A preacher said a while back that there will be two types of people that walk into our new church building when it’s completed. The first type will look around and say something like, “Wow! This sure is a nice place!” The second type will say something like, “I remember when we were up all night hanging that sheetrock over there” or “It sure looks different than when we first started framing out the walls” or even “I remember when so-and-so started painting this room with the wrong color!”

The point is, participation has its blessings. We get to feel some ownership in this new building if we choose. For instance, one of our church members works for the company pouring the concrete for this building. I can’t describe how happy he looked while out grooming the concrete of the slab on Tuesday! It was really encouraging to see. When I first typed up this post, I was excited about getting to run that fancy new loader. But what really sticks with me is the excitement of being part of something bigger. That kind of excitement sticks around a lot longer.

The new should be less wavy than the old

Here’s a shot from betwixt the two Liberty Memorial Bridges. The bridge on the right is straight as an arrow. Solid. Strong. Holding way more concrete on its deck than was ever intended when it was designed. You’ve got to admire that old world craftsmanship. The bridge on the left is designed to arc across the Missouri River. But was it designed to look so wavy and uneven?

I threw this shot of the north side of the new bridge into Photoshop and put it to the test. The red line follows the edge of the bridge’s beam and its curves. The green line follows a smooth arc over the same relative path. I used the path pen tool in Photoshop, so I know my curves are accurate.

Here’s the same story on the bridge’s southern side. Certainly they were capable of putting together a better bridge than this? The thing looks like it’s going to be the highway equivalent of a kiddie coaster! The wavy ups and downs of the beams are not worthy of a bridge of this importance to our community. Call me old fashioned, but I expected a smoothly arcing bridge across the Missouri, as the original drawings portrayed. Maybe once they tighten all the screws, everything will fall into line. Ya think?

Edit: First off, I replaced the word “wobbly” with “wavy” because I thought wobbly indicated a structural instability. I don’t mean to imply that.

Secondly, a friend whose opinion I trust in matters of engineering told me that it looks intentional. It’s true, when you look at the spans closely you’ll see that the upward bow of the beams forms a pattern. Perhaps it’s just unflattering from this angle. That was the point I was trying to make in this post, that it looks pretty weird from below. Once the old bridge is removed, we’ll see how it looks on its own.