Sunday, June 4, 2017

Issac Hou — "Lord of the Ring"

Chase Bank recently returned to the air with a "flight" of commercials featuring Taiwanese Street Performer, Mr. Isaac Hou ("who"), gliding effortlessly across the landscape in his Cyr Wheel.

The world of advertising, like every other industry, has its unique and imaginative jargon, which "leaks" into mainstream communication, quickly becoming downright pedestrian and annoying! For example:

• "At the end of the day." This insidious weed of language takes six words to say what ultimately, or perhaps better still, nothing at all, could convey better.
• "The new normal." A catchall for the dismal post-Great Recessionary world. Let's face it, this feels normal to almost no one and good to even fewer people. In marketing, it's particularly meaningless. 
• "Flight," an advertising agency timing strategy where ads or commercials are run during a period (called a "flight") followed by a period of no advertising (called a "hiatus.")

Certain companies follow the "intermittent plan," including American Family Life Assurance Company (Aflac,) Chase, Volvo, Capt. Obvious. This practice differs from the "recency theory" which argues that any gap in promoting a product will hurt its sales; so advertising should be continuous.

And you know who they are! "Flo," "the green lizard," "statute of Liberty," and the terribly back-lit "mesothelioma."

The Cyr Wheel has been a circus apparatus with a variety of names, over its long history, dating back to 1869. The wheel was "reintroduced" by Daniel Cyr, co-founder of a Canadian circus troupe, in 1996. The construction of the wheel has undergone design changes, and is a favorite of "street" performers, including Isaac Hou.

Isaac Hou grew up in New Jersey with a software engineer father and database manager mother. Hou and his brother are named after Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. He took time off back packing the world by himself after high school.

He came across hoop performing by accident and honed his skills on city streets across Europe and Asia. An appearance on "China's Got Talent" earned him worldwide fame. In 2003, Hou saw a video recording of Daniel Cyr, performing at a festival in Toronto.

Isaac Googled "man big wheel big hula hoop," but never found anything. A few years later, he ran into a friend who knew the name of Daniel Cyr, the name of the prop, and the dimensions of prop to body size.

Isaac says "It's not easy to learn, but neither is it terribly difficult. It's hard to find a good place to train. The floor can be a problem. Often it's too slippery, too slanted, too bumpy or a combination of all these."

You can read the full interview with "The Lord of the Ring,"on the Chase Bank website.

The rig Isaac manipulates is made of steel and PVC, weighting 15 kg (33 lbs.)

On weekends, shoppers in Taiwan's Xinyi District's Shin Kong Mitsukoshi complex are treated to an awe-inspiring sight: a man spinning while balanced in a giant hoop. Here is one of his street performances, beginning with the Globe manipulation, ending with his "donation bag."

Here is Isaac performing recently (April 16th) at the 2017 Formosa Salsa Festival. Warning! Do NOT attempt to recreate this with your children's hula-hoop!

There are many fine performers, most in Europe and Asia, a few can be found in Canada and the US.

• Adding LED's to a Wheel results in a dazzling light show.

• Here's  an interesting performance by Shena Tschofen. She graduated from the National Circus School in Montreal in 2016 with a specialization in Cyr Wheel.
• Finally, from Poland, a husband and wife team, Anna and Lukasz Misztela, performing on the Cyr. Back in 2012, Anna Misztela had graduated from university with a degree in culture studies and was a fitness instructor in Poland.

The two met when Anna stopped Lukasz on the street one morning to ask for directions; 47 days later, they got engaged. Anna asked him to teach her some tricks, just for fun, but it turned into something much more. As well as finding a husband, she fell for his job. And the result speaks for itself.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day — 2017

Korean War Memorial, Washington D.C.

The 19 stainless steel statues were sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, VT and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, NY. They are approximately seven feet tall and represent an ethnic cross section of America. The advance party has 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force members.

The statues stand in patches of Juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment.

Click here for a description of the mural wall and statutes, including position in the formation, Service, Duty, Race and Weapon.

I am very proud to have stepped up to the plate and served my "adopted"  country. "Adopted,"  because I was born with duel citizenship. Like the president, with his "bone spurs," I could have avoided military service.

It's my belief that serving one's country, no matter the time commitment, results in a "well rounded human being," for lack of a better description. You are exposed to mental and physical conditioning,  learn the meaning of trust, commitment, honesty, and selfless connection to  others.

Throughout my "working years," I formed an opinion, that men and women who I either worked for as an employee, or worked with as an employer, were reliable, dedicated and professional.

My first exposure to "military service" was as a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet (RCSC) back in the late 1950's when we lived in Prince Rupert.

I was a mere lad of 14 when I joined Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps. (RCSCC) Captain Cook. The program was designed for kids aged 12 through 19.  And I was gobsmacked to see the unit is still going strong more than a half century — 57 years later!

It was a great introduction into the concepts of honor, responsibility, accountability, and team work.  We learned the basics of seamanship — ropes, knots, basic navigation, and got to ride Navire canadien de Sa Majesté [NCSM]) corvettes like the HMCS St. Laurent when she visited Prince Rupert.

I really enjoyed the experience! A notch up on my previous Cub Scout experiences, for sure!

How sad that we have an entire generation that lives in the basement of their parents, while I, at their age,was pulling duty in the USAF R.O.T.C. (ROT-see!)

I joined the USAF R.O.T.C. at Washington State University in 1962. And by the look on my face, took it very seriously! (That's the look you present when your skivvies are starched...)

By and by, I found myself as a basic recruit at Lackland Air Force Base.  And it was a totally different experience from the youthful camaraderie of the Cub Scouts, RCSCC, and when you dazzled your college date in your ROTC (Rot-See) uniform. If you've served, you know what I am talking about!

Pictured here is what our T.I. (Technical Instructor) referred to as a "trained killer."  I found it hard to synchronize a Personnel Specialist as being a "trained killer," as the only time I fired an M-16 was to "qualify" in boot camp, and annual qualification at permanent duty station.

Again, I really enjoyed my four year tour. Many fine friends and great adventures.

Despite my experiences, I get confused over the differences between Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. So for my benefit, let's review:

•  Armed Forces Day is always held on the third Saturday of May. The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 1950. The day is designed to expand public understanding the role of the military. It was also a day to honor and acknowledge Americans in the armed forces through base open houses, parades, even air shows. Armed Forces Day marks the close of Armed Forces Week.

•  Memorial Day, also held in May, is observed on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day — once known as "Declaration Day" — commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead.

After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day. Traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

•  Veterans Day is always observed on November 11th, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. Veterans Day commemorates the signing of the Armistice officially ending World War I — not WWII — which was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th month, 1918. Originally known as Armistice Day, intended to honor veterans of World War I.

Later amendments to the law included World War II, the Korean war, and finally, to honor all veterans, regardless of conflict, which brought in veterans of Viet Nam. And is generally taken to be the last day of summer.

Adapted from "WhatsupFagans."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bertha Break Through!

Twenty-nine months behind schedule and millions of dollars in the red, the SR99 Alaskan Way viaduct replacement tunnel ground through a five foot concrete headwall, which forms the north portal, on Tuesday April 4, 2017.

Circle captures WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation), flying a drone, documenting SR99 Hitachi Zosen TBM "Bertha" break through moment at 11:26 a.m.


At the time construction began, Bertha's 17.4 m (57 ft) diameter Cutting Head was the largest, and prettiest, cutter head in the world.

Four years later, almost to the date, at the end of 525 boring days, she's showing effects of nearly two mile bore, whilst been de-throned as "worlds largest diameter TBM."  More about that later.

Clearing out the rubble and removing the headwall braces will take up the next week or so. Bertha will then move into the Disassembly Pit, to meet her fate. And it is not a good outcome.


Bertha began her south -to-north 9,270 foot (2,825 meter) journey beneath the viaduct she is replacing, with obligatory speeches by the usual suspects at 3:45 p.m., Saturday July 23, 2013.

The break through at 11:26 a.m. Tuesday April 4, 2017 was handled like a routine affair, largely attended by media and State and Seattle Tunnel Partners employees.

The luke warm  public reception could also be do to the extraordinary cost overruns, and the prickly relationship between WSDOT, Seattle Tunnel Partners, and Hitachi Zosen, following a more than two year delay repairing a major breakdown of the TBM.

Or perhaps because Bertha is no longer the largest Tunnel Boring Machine at work in the World.

More about that later.

Construction of the SR 99 tunnel can be broken down into five activities:

1. Mining, just completed.
2. Disassembly and removal of the tunneling machine.
3. Completion of interior roadway construction.
4. Installation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
5. Testing and commissioning.

The TBM was constructed by Hitachi Zosen in Osaka, Japan. The "keys" turned over to Seattle Tunnel Partners on December 20, 2012.

The machine was packed up in 41 crates and loaded aboard the heavy lift vessel Jumbo Fairpartner.

Fairpartner departed Osaka on March 19, 2013, on a 4,538 NM (84047 km) voyage to Seattle.

She passed me here in Port Townsend on April 2, 2013.

In a contest, school children named her Bertha, in honor of Bertha Landes, former mayor of Seattle.


• Assemble 1. TBM constructed and tested in a dry dock in Osaka.
• During testing, it was revealed there were bearing problems; dismantled and repaired.
• Assemble 2, for testing and commissioning. Keys turned over to Seattle Tunnel Partners.
• De-constructed and packed into 41 crates for shipment to Seattle.
• Assemble 3. Built in Launch Pit, now South Portal. Major breakdown. Rescue pit constructed, and Cutter head assembly retrieved for extensive repairs.
• Assemble 4. Returned to pit and reconnected to boring machine.

At the end of her journey, Bertha will be dis-assembled and recycled.  The machine will take three weeks to push forward to the north end of the vault, followed by four or five months to dismantle the front end.

Nearly all the front-end steel components will be melted and recycled — after being carved into 20-ton pieces light enough to lift by crane and truck away. Virtually none will be reused except for generic parts such as hoses, belts, wires.

“Almost all the parts are not reusable,” said Takashi Hayato, U.S. president of Hitachi Zosen.

Apparently Bertha's construction cars will be dismantled and hauled back through the South Portal.

In some cases, TBM's are buried in situ. Here's an example of a TBM being buried in concrete, following removal of electronics, drive motors, and other salvageable parts.

One of the 11 TMB's used in carving out the Eurochannel Tunnels was stripped and  buried on the French side, while another was sold on eBay for £39,999 or ~49,500 USD. Yet another of the Channel TBM's was gutted, leaving the shell to become part of the tunnel!


Bertha penetrated the South Portal entrance on July 23, 2013, and broke through the North Portal on April 4, 2017.

• 3 years, 8 months, 13 days, or
• 1,352 days.
Minus 817 days lost to repairs or maintenance.
• 525 days, or 17.5 months actual boring time.

Traffic is now expected to pass through the tunnel in 2019. That compares to original scheduled opening of 3rd quarter 2015.


While building the roadways has been going on for some time, completion is set for sometime in. The work is tedious and complex, as shown in this video, provided by WSDOT.

The next phases, finishing interior road ways, installation of electrical, plumbing and ventilation, systems testing and commissioning. are well underway with the North and South Portals taking shape.

Tunnel approaches are created by "cut and cover" tunnel building techniques. This video, provided by WSDOT, explains "cut and cover" development.

Oh, to explain my comment that Bertha "began as the largest diameter bore in the world!" Since Bertha began her journey, a larger diameter TBM has gone into service over in Hong Kong.

On April 15, 2015, while Bertha was in pieces at the Rescue Pit, construction began on a 4.7 km (3 mile) sub-sea twin tube highway tunnel, the Tue-Mun -Chek Lap Kok Link. (TM-CLCK.)

TM-CLCK is part of a massive underwater tunnel - over water viaduct complex, creating a second connection to Lantau Island and the New Hong Kong airport.

Herrenknech AG, a German TBM manufacturing company built a 17.6 m (57.74 ft) diameter, as compared to Bertha's cutter head at 17.4 meters (57.08 feet,) TBM  to bore the twin - parallel tubes  sub-sea highway tunnel, scheduled open for traffic in 2018.


 "Tunneling technology has progressed exponentially from the first tunneling done by prehistoric people seeking to enlarge their caves. All major ancient civilizations developed tunneling methods. In Babylonia, tunnels were used extensively for irrigation; and a brick-lined pedestrian passage some 3,000 feet (900 m) long was built about 2180 to 2160 BC under the Euphrates River to connect the royal palace with the temple." — Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

Last year (2016) WSDOT flew a drone through the construction zone. (No sound; all you'd hear is the drone motor!)

Click on the "Bertha" tags following, to read the progression of Bertha on this Blog. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Final Voyage of Ro/Ro Sewol

South Korean ferry Sewol (ro/ro) which rolled over and sank in nearly three years ago, with a loss of 304 souls, is leaving her watery grave in the Yellow Sea.

Thursday afternoon Pacific Coast time (3-30-2017), Heavy Lift Vessel Dockwise White Marlin picked up her ground tackle and began moving out of Maenggol Channel, enroute 105 km ( 65 miles) to Mokpo New Port.

There she will be unloaded by an SPMT,  Self-Propelled Modular Trailer, similar to the unit used to transport Seattle Bertha components, still resting upon the 33 lifting beams, into a secure area.

Considered a crime scene (bodies still aboard, with lawsuits pending) and a bio-hazard area (bodily contamination as well as gray water and other spoils,) the vessel will be heavily secured.


March 31, White Marlin arrival at Mokpo New Port.

Events are moving faster than I.  Back story follows.