The Broken Economics of Long Distance Moving

Picture of packed boxes in the center of an apartment

Jilted by the Long-Distance Mover

At the end of April, I had a chance to take a leadership role with a state-of-the-art automotive infotainment software development project in the Columbus, Ohio area. I jumped at the chance. As soon as the paperwork was confirmed, Tomoko and I stuffed my Chevy Volt with some pots, pans, blankets, and bare basics for an apartment and took off. We drove North to Dallas and then headed Northeast through the wilderness to the Ohio border. Along the way, we encountered some of the most stupendously filthy restrooms on the planet – and I make that comment coming from a wealth of experience of appallingly primitive restrooms in desolate places.

The Nightmare

While we thoroughly enjoyed that delightful adventure, we decided that once in a lifetime was quite sufficient. Tomoko would fly back to Austin and spend about two months planning to move the ship the other car and the rest of our possessions from Austin to our new apartment in Dublin, Ohio. And so she did. Tomoko researched meticulously, and lined everything up around the expiration of our apartment lease on the 29th of June.

Not that it was easy. Her first calls to the major moving companies (Allied, United, Mayflower, et al) were met with the information that these exalted organizations could not be bothered to do businesses with lowly cockroaches like us. If you were not moving a small palace of at least 30,000 square feet of floor space, they did not want to waste time talking with you.

Having been rebuffed by the majors, she continued to dig and identified an outfit called Fine Line Relocation out of Dallas, that as of May 20th seemed to have at least a few happy customers…as well as a few furious and dissatisfied customers. Fine Line quoted us a flat fee of $1400 for the 1244 mile move and collected a $140 deposit with a scheduled pickup date of 6/28/2016 – the day before our scheduled final walkthrough of our apartment. Tomoko began discarding, organizing, and packing. On 6/26/2016 I flew back to Austin to help. We spent all of 6/27/2016 furiously packing…until around 5PM. At 5PM of the afternoon before the scheduled move, Fine Line called: “By the way, we aren’t coming.” After 15 minutes or so of Tomoko trying politely to get some sort of sensible plan out of the Fine Line dispatcher, I got on the phone. I was less polite. The dispatcher did not like that. She transferred us to her supervisor who tried to explain to us that it was our fault. We should simply understand that the trucking industry is just like that. Stuff happens. A heated discussion ensued with him telling me that he was refunding our $140 deposit immediately (which he did) and had no interest in doing business with idiots like us.

Tomoko standing with two movers in front of our storage unit

Tomoko with Corey Washington and Roosevelt of Two Men and a Truck

Very nice. We were stuck without a mover, with a ticking clock, during the craziest, busiest time of year. We tried all sorts of alternatives. Pods and Upack were booked solid until the end of July. Fortunately, we still had Junk Busters scheduled. The local North Austin franchise of Two Men and a Truck scrambled to get us a crew for a local move on 6/29/2016. The apartment agreed to a one-day delay. We shifted strategy. We had Junk Busters haul away almost all of our heavy furniture items. We kept only our dining table and mattress. The extremely effective crew from Two Men and a Truck moved the remaining stuff and help us repack our existing storage unit to get it all stuffed in.

Honda Fit in the middle of Jollyville Rd behind a tractor trailer

Honda Fit Being Loaded

That got us out of our apartment. The remaining problem was getting our car shipped to Ohio. Tomoko had carefully made a reservation with a company called Ship a Car Direct It all looked very clear and official and was arranged for 6/30/2016. On 6/28/2016, having heard nothing further from Ship a Car Direct she called them. They had no idea who was coming or when but told her “not to worry”. Naturally, that information made her worry more. The next day, the information improved somewhat. We were given the name of a company in Ohio that had a truck driving around Texas picking up cars. The truck finally showed up on 7/1/2016 (one day late). The driver was very friendly and polite. However, we had to get a cashiers check for the shipping fee. No credit cards or personal checks accepted.

The Economics

After the Honda Fit was loaded, I received a follow-up call from Two Men and a Truck. I gave their guys a good review and asked about long distance moving. That question led to me being transferred to their local long-distance moving guy who spent quite a bit of time with me explaining the ins and outs of the industry. It goes something like this:

  1. They definitely do provide long distance moving. They will have a crew come pack your belongings, and drive them across the country for you. The same crew will unpack at the destination – which does wonders for accountability, effectiveness, etc… That same crew will then drive the truck back. There are some variations, but this is the basic deluxe plan.
  2. In order to understand the price, we have to understand that there are two seasons: “Summer” and “Not Summer”.
  3. During the Summer season, the company can keep their trucks 100% busy with local moves. During this season, they book each truck for $150/hour perhaps 8 hours per day.
  4. Having a truck drive long distance to deliver a customer’s shipment to a distant state represents an opportunity loss compared to the business that the truck could have been doing in local moves during the trip.
  5. For a 1244 mile move, they would expect:
    • 1 day to pack
    • 2 days to drive
    • 1 day to unpack
    • 2 days to drive the truck back
  6. That makes 6 days.
  7. The opportunity cost of having the truck unavailable for local moves for 6 days is cost = 6 * 8 * 150 = $7200
  8. Add to that the wear-and-tear and gasoline costs of about $1/mile. The total distance is 1244 * 2 = 2488 miles. On the other hand, the truck would have driven a little locally…so add $2400 for the mileage cost for the truck.
  9. Round it out with 5 days of hotel and meal costs for the crew
  10. and you are at $10k

Indeed, this number was in the ballpark quoted by all more serious movers that we contacted, with some wanting as much as $15k. If you move during “Not Summer” the price comes down a little because the opportunity cost is lower. If you are lucky enough that the mover can find another customer to share the truck, and it is during “Not Summer” you might get down into the range of $5k.

So what was going on with Fine Line‘s $1400 price quote? Basically, they are opportunistically hoping to find a truck driving back empty in the correct general direction. Apparently, the industry rule of thumb is that the driver/owner will be happy to have the $1/mile running cost of the truck. Naturally, these empty trucks are very hard to schedule accurately. Basically, the morning before the move, Fine Line sends someone out to stand next to the nearest freeway exit with a cardboard sign reading “LOOKING FOR EMPTY TRUCK HEADED TOWARD OHIO”. As we discovered, this process is really unpredictable. Also, there is no guarantee that the (randomly selected) truck that picks your stuff up will be the same truck that delivers it. Your stuff may get trans-loaded multiple times. It may spend several weeks sitting in someone’s warehouse, next to the bales of cannabis waiting for the next leg transportation.

Apparently, there are also a lot of games with the estimates. One common trick seems to be the seemingly convenient over-the-phone estimate, during which they low ball the weight estimate. Once the truckers pick up your stuff, they take it somewhere and weigh it and discover – Surprise! – your stuff is three times heavier than they had guessed. At that point, they hold your stuff for ransom and triple the price.

What to Do?

At these prices, shipping heavy furniture makes no economic sense at all. Unless you are fabulously wealthy and have exotic antiques, you can definitely buy an entirely new set of furniture for less than it will cost to ship an existing set. The long-distance guy at Two Men and a Truck was laughing a little telling me about customers who wanted him to ship furniture **TO** North Carolina. North Carolina is the furniture manufacturing center of the universe. Shipping heavy furniture across the country into the heart of furniture manufacturing is really silly.

One of the other interesting things we did is stop at the local Fedex Office store and ask about ground shipping rates. A 20lb box from Austin to Dublin, OH would be about $50, depending on shape and a few other things. In other words, the Fedex Ground rate on that route would be roughly $2.50/pound. On the other hand, the “Not Summer” quote we discussed above was about $7000 for about 2000 lbs of stuff – also in the vicinity of $2.50/pound. Hmmm….

The other thing we have noticed is that there seems to be almost no market for used furniture. In theory, one can advertise furniture on Craigslist. In practice, we have had mixed success getting rid of stuff this way, even when we gave it away free. The problem is worse if you are in a second floor apartment. Almost no one on Craigslist will come get heavy furniture from a second floor apartment. Buying furniture is really easy. Getting rid of it is really difficult.

What about renting? 30 years ago when I was single, I rented furniture for an apartment from CORT Furniture Rental for an apartment for a year. It was great. Painless to acquire. Painless to dispose of. CORT is still around. From my preliminary check, I can minimally equip our apartment with the key heavy furniture pieces from CORT for around $200-$300 per month. This is the direction I am headed in currently.

The really problem here is our current wobbly-as-jello economy in which there seems to be no such thing as a “permanent” job. We are now thinking carefully about how to play this game in which the constant turbulence in the economy forces us to move every year. It looks something like this:

  1. Ruthlessly eliminate the last vestiges of paper-based anything. We just closed our safe deposit box. We will be moving our wills to a cloud-based specialty service soon.
  2. Rent any piece of furniture heavier than 20 lbs. The rental service delivers and installs it. When it is time to move to the next spot, the rental service comes and takes it away.
  3. Buy smaller furniture pieces locally, as cheaply as possible. Walmart has amazing stuff in this category. I just purchased two very nice LED desk lamps for $7 each at Walmart.
  4. Rent a storage locker somewhere and never move it. This becomes your “home”. Ship precious memory stuff to that locker and keep it there. At the start of each temporary assignment, select a few small sentimental items from the museum (your storage locker) and ship them UPS or Fedex to the new apartment to enjoy and give a little warmth to the environment.
  5. Move things like clothing around in 20lb boxes. Ship them by UPS, Fedex, or USPS. The cost is about the same as the moving company would charge and you will have full electronic tracking and better control of delivery.
  6. Ship cars, but be prepared to have a several day window in which they get picked up. Rent cars while permanent cars are being transported.
  7. Make judicious use of the two luggage pieces that most airlines will allow for a reasonable baggage fee.

Overall, the challenge here is to simply have a lot less stuff. That is, we have to get used to having a lot less stuff until the miracle occurs in which we end up with the $4m or so currently needed to be basically financially independent in the United States. Until that time, we have to be on a very agile footing and ready to move at a moment’s notice.

Bring Your Own Izakaya – Texas Saké Co

Yuki Tacata standing next to Tomoko behind the counter

Yuki Tacata with Tomoko Hetherington at Texas Saké Co

Friday night we had a wonderful time at Texas Saké Co. This was the closest thing I remember having in the United States to the authentic Japanese Izakaya experience.

It has been about a year since Adam Blumenshein and Tim Klatt relaunched Texas Saké Co with Jeff Bell as the toji (head brewer). Since that time, Jeff has completely revamped the Saké production approach and come up with a new distinctive label for their bottles. Both are great improvements!

Recently Yuki Tacata has joined Jeff as an employee (perhaps *THE* employee?) helping all around with the production and marketing of the product. Yuki is currently operating their tasting room Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30PM. She doesn’t have much in the way of food other than a few pretzels, but guests are welcome to bring their own. The Saké itself is delicious and very reasonably priced. Last Friday she was serving a Junmai (clear) as well as a Nigori (unfiltered) as well as a special raw Saké – all of which were wonderful.

Some Assembly Required

Of course, you can simply go and enjoy the Saké in the authentic, cozy, Izakaya atmosphere. However, I DO like to have a little bit to eat while imbibing, so some preparation was in order.

Whole Foods

Bag of Japanese edamame crisps by Calbee

Calbee Snapea Crisps

First stop was Whole Foods.

Of course, the very quintessential snack for drinking in Japan is Edamame – steamed and salted soy been pods. These are slightly cumbersome to prepare and transport. Fortunately, Whole Foods sells Snapea Crisps by Calbee – a Japanese snack manufacturer. These are essentially edamame in a crispy snack format. Perfect!

Package of Beef Jerky with Sesame Ginger flavor

Sesame Ginger Beef Jerky

The next classic Japanese drinking food is Surume or salted, dried, shredded squid. Surume is not so easy to come by and also happens to be one of the few Japanese foods I have never quite warmed up to. For me surume is vaguely reminiscent of chewing on shreds of used truck tires which have an overpowering fishy flavor. At Whole Foods, I was able to find a perfect substitute: Sesame Ginger Beef Jerky. Chewy. Salty. With a pleasantly Asian-Fusion flavor.

Asahi Imports

White car parked in front of Asahi Imports

Asahi Imports has Hand-Made Onigiri

Next stop: Asahi Imports …. which has wonderful handmade Onigiri – triangular Japanese rice balls. …which were unfortunately, all sold out. <:-( Oh, no.

D K Sushi & Seoul Asian Food Market

Car in front of D K Sushi

DK Sushi is not a Market Anymore

Idea! We will stop by D K Sushi & Seoul Asian Food Market and pick something up! We used to visit this market all the time when our kids were first born. Unfortunately, the market part seems to have disappeared and the current establishment seems to be a sushi-themed karaoke lounge – not what we were looking for.

Tactical Retreat – KFC

At this point we cut our loses and went through the drive-thru lane of a nearby KFC. Not fabulous, but the chicken fingers sort of worked. Next time, we will have to work a little harder at preparing the onigiri at home.

Ready to Drink

Tomoko Hetherington in front of Texas Saké

Arriving at Texas Saké Company

Fortunately, the minor SNAFU with onigiri that turned into KFC chicken fingers did not impact the rest of the evening at all. The tasting room is in the rear of the building. When we arrived, one other couple was there and another regular dropped by. It was very sociable.

two glasses of sake with a plate of snacks

Calbee Pea Snacks and Sesame Ginger Jerky

Picture shows Yuki taking bottles of sake from the refrigerator

Yuki Tacata Serving Sake

All in all it was a delightful evening! We will definitely be back, albeit with home-made onigiri for the occasion.

Biscuits for Thanksgiving

In years past, we were part of a large communal Thanksgiving celebration that rotated between the houses of several families each year. For these events, I always enjoyed baking one or even two fruit pies. However, time has progressed. Children have grown up and moved away. Careers have changed. We moved from a large house to a cozy apartment. This year’s Thanksgiving was just three people.

For three people, I decided to do something a little simpler: biscuits.

That is, I have been tinkering with baking powder biscuits for more than ten years. However, I had not made any biscuits since 2009. Time to dig the recipe spreadsheet out of the archive and try again. Here is this year’s version:


  • All purpose flour – 3 cups (300g)
  • Quick cooking oats – 3/4 cup (75g)
  • Baking powder – 3 tablespoons (40g)
  • Baking soda – 1/2 teaspoon (3g)
  • Sugar – 3/4 teaspoon (4g)
  • Salt – 3/4 teaspoon (4g)
  • Unsalted butter – 3/8 cup (75g)
  • Crisco vegetable shortening – 3/8 cup (75g)
  • Low fat buttermilk – 1 cup (225ml)
  • Additional cold water – as needed, about 1/4 to 3/4 cup (50-150ml)


  • Cookie sheet – a professional aluminum “half sheet” available from your nearest restaurant supply store works much better than a consumer-grade tin sheet.
  • Mixing bowl – that you can put in the freezer
  • Medium plastic bowl or similar for weighing on the scale
  • Cutting board – that you can put in the freezer
  • Flour sifter
  • Postal scale – I have a nice Japanese one that reads out in grams, much more accurate than U.S. scales that read only in ounces
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large wooden or plastic spoon for mixing
  • Biscuit cutter 2.5 inch (6cm)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Timer
  • Oven mits
  • Rack for cooling
  • Spatula to move biscuits from hot cookie sheet to rack

Key Points

  1. Use a postal scale to weigh the flour, oats, butter, shortening. The ratio is tricky and using a volume measure for flour is very unreliable. The volume of the flour can vary widely depending on the humidity, whether it has been sifted, and so on.
  2. It is hard to get the amount of liquid just right. How much liquid the dough needs will also vary from day-to-day depending on humidity, temperature, the phase of the moon, and so on.
  3. The goal is similar to that of a pie-crust. We want to make little balls of shortening that are covered in flour and do NOT dissolve into a wet mush. When we put the biscuits in the oven, these should fluff into “flakes” or at least that is the idea.
  4. One method of keeping the little shortening balls intact is to get them very cold just before the final prep of the dough. It also helps to have the working surface really cold. Finally, you want to handle the dough very quickly and briefly. Otherwise, your hands will warm it up, melting these little balls.
  5. For those not used to weighing things on a postal scale, put the plastic bowl on the scale before you turn it on. That way, the scale will calibrate itself to “0” including the weight of the plastic bowl. This technique makes it very easy to measure ingredients and then use the plastic bowl to dump them into the mixing bowl.


Starting two hours before meal time:

1 – Weigh flour into sifter.

2 – Measure baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar into sifter.

3 – Sift together.

4 – Mix the oats into the bowl and stir together.

5 – Put some of the mix back into the plastic bowl, put it back onto the scale, turn the scale off and on again to calibrate.

Picture shows bowl on postal scale with some flour mix and vegetable shortening

Weigh Crisco into Some of the Flour

6 – Scoop the vegetable shortening into this mix using a spoon until you have measured 75 grams.

7 – Dump the mix and vegetable shortening into the bowl.

8 – Calibrate the scale again.

9 – Trim one stick of unsalted butter until it weighs 75 grams.

Shows intact and unwrapped stick of butter sitting in flour mix in bowl

Put Butter and Crisco into Flour Mix and Allow to Soften

10 – Unwrap and drop the stick of butter into the bowl with the vegetable shortening and dry ingredients.

11 – Allow the mix to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes until the butter is fully softened.

Continuing 90 minutes before meal time:

Shows crumbly flour mixture

After Cutting in Shortening, Mix Will Look Like This

12 – Use a knife to cut shortening up into smaller chunks. Then use fork to press these against the sides of the bowl, turning and repeating until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.

13 – Cover with plastic wrap.

shows bowl and cutting board in freezer

Bowl and Cutting Board Into Freezer

14 – Place cutting board and bowl into freezer.

15 – Turn on oven to “bake” and 450°F (230°C) and allow to preheat.

16 – Allow cutting board and mix to chill for 45 to 60 minutes.

17 – Remove bowl from freezer.

18 – Add buttermilk, 1/3 of a cup at a time. Stir lightly to spread moisture. Do not over-mix.

Shows that dough is still too dry to come together

Not Moist Enough After Adding One Cup of Buttermilk

shows dough now sticky enough to form a ball

Moist Enough After Adding a Total of 1/2 Cup of Additional Water

19 – Assess dough. Is there enough moisture that this dough will stick together? You don’t want a cake batter. You want a level of stickiness that just barely picks up the flour mix.

20 – If necessary, carefully add more cold water, 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is just sticky enough.

shows a ball in the bowl

Form a Ball in the Bowl

21 – Form a ball of dough in the bowl. Don’t over-work it. Just squeeze and pat it together until a ball forms.

Shows crumbly dough patted into a rough square on cutting board

Pat Dough Flat

22 – Remove cutting board from freezer. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Pat dough ball into a square about an inch (2.5cm) thick.

23 – Lightly oil the cooking sheet.

24 – Cut biscuits with the biscuit cutter, twisting slightly to separate each one.

shows 13 biscuits touching each other on cookie sheet

Place Biscuits Touching on Cookie Sheet

25 – Place biscuits touching each other on the cookie sheet. Placing them this way will encourage them to expand upward rather than outward.

26 – Press the scraps of dough together, pat back to a smaller square and continue cutting. Don’t worry if there are small gaps in the dough. These actually make the biscuits more interesting.

27 – Take the last tiny scraps of dough and push them into the biscuit cutter to form one last biscuit.

28 – Using your thumb, press a small dimple into the center of each biscuit. This dimple will prevent the biscuit from crowning (forming a domed top).

Finished Biscuits After 15 Minutes in Oven

Finished Biscuits After 15 Minutes in Oven

29 – Place cookie sheet in oven.

30 – Set timer for 15 minutes.

31 – Bake until golden brown on the top. Remove from oven.

32 – Use spatula to transfer biscuits to rack for cooling.

Finished Biscuit with Butter and Jam

Finished Biscuit with Butter and Jam


The biscuits look and smell great. However, for my taste they are a little dry. I would like them to be a little softer and more like the unspeakably artificial biscuits that you get in a little cardboard tube at the grocery store. I realize that those instant biscuits contain all kinds of frightening chemical ingredients…but I like them. As a next step, I may cut the cooking time slightly. I may also experiment with adding an egg to the dough.


  • Alton Brown “Good Eats” seen on 27 May 2004
  • GQ Magazine August 2004 issue page 66 on 10/9/2005

Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokuniya

Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokunia Books in San Francisco

Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokunia Books in San Francisco

Recently we have had a major win for Asatte Press. This photo shows our new book on sale at Kinokuniya Books in San Francisco. We are thrilled! For the Japanese speaking world, Kinokuniya Books is the equivalent of Barnes and Noble. Even better, they found two other books with very similar topics and similar covers to put ours next to. From a book marketing point of view, it doesn’t get any better than this!

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! - Front Cover

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! – Front Cover

The title of the book is “ブルシット! Bullshit!” and is the first book by Tomoko Hetherington. The book covers the rich variety of less-than-polite expressions related to the word “shit” that Tomoko learned from her three bilingual children. The bull on the front of the book is saying something to the effect of: “Totally wrong. This here is HORSEshit.”

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! - Rear Cover

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! – Rear Cover

On the rear of the book, we can see the same bull (from the other end) saying: “Nope. No bovine manure here.”

In order to avoid confusing readers of our technical and engineering books, we created a separate imprint “Texas Hirame” (which happens to be Tomoko’s blogging pen name) and are marketing the book under that alias. This kind of thing is done all of the time. Most major publishing companies have dozens of different imprints targeted at specific markets.

Better Get Your Boots On, The Shit is Getting Deep

Better Get Your Boots On, The Shit is Getting Deep

The cover artwork was done by Tomoko herself as were the numerous illustrations in the book. Here we see a helpful illustration for the expression: “Better get your boots on. The shit is getting deep.”

This is Horseshit

This is Horseshit

Shit from several different major animals (bull, horse, chicken, bat, ape) is introduced and the nuances of each type of shit are discussed in some detail.

Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

Other expressions that describe various types of difficult situations are clarified as well.

The book is offered in print from It is also available in Kindle and iBooks versions on and iTunes respectively.

The iBooks version also includes a number of convenient embedded audio segments. For example:

Provides Japanese speakers with a convenient audio example that they can practice with and emulate until they can smoothly make sarcastic remarks about dim colleagues discovering the obvious.

Links to all of the major stores are available here:

Chevy Volt Key Fob Battery Replacement

So, recently my 2014 Chevy Volt has begun honking at me at random times. Since this is a relatively new phenomenon, my guess is that the key fob battery is getting low. That is, as the radio gets weaker, the car may be having difficulty deciding whether I am inside or outside of the car. In any case, I use my key fob actively (remotely locking and unlocking) almost every day and it is reasonable to expect that the battery would need replacing after a year and a half.

The owner’s manual does provide instructions on how to replace this battery, but they are brief. The owner’s manual does not provide any diagrams and it is not visually obvious looking at the key fob where the battery compartment is. So… I have posted a few photos here in case anyone else is looking for guidance.

picture of a pack of two batteries

Replacement battery is CR 2032

The battery is a CR 2032, available in a pack of two at Walgreens for $7-8. Going forward, I will put this on my annual calendar and replace batteries in both key fobs once per year.

picture shows key fob with blade extended

First, extend the key blade

First, extend the key blade.

picture shows key fob with cover removed.

Flip key fob over and pop off lower half of case

Flip the key fob over so the buttons are facing down. You can pop the lower half of the rear of the case off by pressing up on one side. Once the case is open, remove the old battery and replace it. The manual cautions that you should be careful not to touch the internal circuits with your finger as static electricity from your body could damage the electronics.

Note that some brands of batteries have a paper sticker on one side. If your new battery comes with such a sticker, be sure to remove the sticker before inserting the battery into the key fob.

Once the battery has been replaced, carefully put the cover back on and squeeze it gently with your fingers to snap it back into the closed position.

Valentine’s Day

vase of pink roses with some blue garnish

Pink Roses

Our son Tye has been working part time as a waiter at a restaurant here in Austin for the last few years while he finishes his computer science degree. That restaurant asked Tye to work on Saturday which was Valentine’s Day. We thought “Great! We’ll come in for dinner!” but he warned us off, explaining that the restaurant would be packed, food preparation would be necessarily slow, and that everyone would be pretty stressed.

Given Tye’s input, we decided to do a nice meal at home instead. The start for the day was some nice pink roses from a local grocery store – much cheaper than a formal bouquet from a florist and very pleasant in a laid-back sort of way.

Dinner – Bacon-Wrapped Fillet Steaks

picture shows a dining table, two plates, two glasses of champagne, a lit candle.

Dinner, Bacon-Wrapped Fillet

Tomoko was in charge of dinner, which was as shown:

  1. Petite bacon-wrapped fillet steaks on a bed of fresh greens
  2. Grilled portabello mushrooms in a sort of pureed pepper bisque
  3. A bottle of New Zealand champagne that we had received as a gift

As usual, we had a small candle on the table for atmosphere.

Start with a Toast

Picture shows Tomoko holding two glasses of Champagne

Toasting with New Zealand Champagne

Of course, drinking Champagne calls for a toast.
Strictly speaking, this beverage should be called “New Zealand Champagne-style Sparkling Wine” or something awkward like that. The Europeans are very touchy about their geographical trademarks.
That having been said, I liked this one better than the real French champagne which I generally find too sour for my taste. Likewise, I don’t like the Italian products either because they tend to be too sweet. The German products produced in the Rhine region around and in Mainz are wonderful – sparkling wine made with Riesling grapes. Unfortunately, the production quantities are quite small and they more or less impossible to get in the United States. This New Zealand product was similar to the German ones: not sour; fruity, but not overpoweringly sweet.

After-Dinner Snacks

Picture shows a cutting board with cheese, salumi, crackers, and Spanish Almonts

Cheese and Salumi

I was in charge of the less healthy after-dinner snacks. You really can’t re-cork a bottle of champagne… we would be needing something to help us finish the bottle. The salumi was from the local grocery store, nice, but not expensive. The cheese was my favorite Dutch Leyden caraway cheese. I also found some very nice Spanish almonds at Costco. Spanish almonds are very tasty, but they are also usually outrageously expensive. These were very nice and moderately priced.

Strawberries and Japanese Television

Bowl of strawberries


We finished the evening eating strawberries (Tomoko’s department again) and watching two episodes of a Japanese television mini-series called “Ghostwriter” on Viki TV – an interesting operation that gets television shows from around the world and crowd-sources the creation of subtitles for them. Recently they have been monetizing the site slightly by showing a few commercials before each episode. However, once it starts they don’t interrupt the actual program. This mini-series has one of my favorite Japanese actresses: Nakatani Miki playing an aging star author (think J.K. Rowling) who is suffering from writer’s block and gets into a complicated relationship with an ambitious young female novelist. It was a lot of fun – a nice way to finish the New Zealand champagne and end the evening.

Superbowl XLIX – Top 5 Commercials

Great game! Amazing finish. Here are my picks for the best (and worst) commercials.

The Top 5 Commercials of Superbowl XLIX

#1 – Acacados from Mexico

This was my favorite! Really fun, original idea, not sponsored by a multi-$10b manufacturing behemoth.

#2 – Fiat Blue Pill

Fiat commercials are always a lot of fun!

#3 – Clash of the Clans Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson satirizing himself!

#4 – Doritos Middle Seat

Not that I (ah-hem) have ever tried to psych out who might sit in the seat next to me…

#5 – Budweiser Lost Dog

Really pretty. This seems to have been Tomoko Hetherington’s pick for number 1.

Buzzkill Commercials

What was new this year was a series of commercials put out by various organizations that just couldn’t tolerate the idea that America might **GASP*** be ENJOYING ITSELF during the Superbowl. These self-appointed guardians of public morality felt the need to bludgeon everyone with extremely heavy-handed buzzkill messages designed to stifle all of that inordinate merriment and shame everyone into reaching for their checkbooks to donate to something or another. Here are three annoyingly heavy-handed commercials that aired during the Superbowl:

#X – Nationwide Dead Children Commercial

What arrogance. Preventable accidents are an important topic, but there is a time and a place for everything and the middle of the national enjoyment festival is neither the time nor the place to browbeat the public with this sort of guilt message.

#Y – Like a Girl Commercial

Attention all men. Line up to be flogged…

NO MORE’s Domestic Violence Advertisement

Any men who did not get flogged for the previous commercial, line up for a flogging for this one. In the early 1990s I had several years of experience as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician and got to see the domestic violence issue live and in person. It is not nearly as neat and clear-cut as this sort of advocacy group would have you believe. In fact, the most severe domestic violence injuries (and deaths) in the little community I was serving during the time I was there turned out to be those inflicted on men by their furious girlfriends. One guy in particular enjoyed dancing with the wrong woman at a bar and ended up needing to be flown back to Austin for 180+ stitches courtesy of his jealous girlfriend. In any event, domestic violence is a serious issue, but the Superbowl is neither the right time, nor the right place to browbeat America’s men with such a heavy-handed commercial.

New Year’s Eve at the Swissôtel Merchant Court

Youjin Smiling

Youjin Welcomes us to the Bar around 11PM

A year of commuting to Singapore to help a shipyard with the software systems integration of the systems on an offshore oil rig wrapped up with a 28-day visit starting in early December. Since we knew far in advance that this visit would cover Christmas and New Years, we focused our family festivities on Thanksgiving. Tomoko accompanied me to Singapore and our three grown children were on their own.

Dave, Countdown

Dave, Countdown

So…what to do for New Year’s eve?  It rapidly became clear that *THE EVENT* for New Year’s Eve in Singapore is fireworks at Marina Bay.  However, everyone wetalked with described massive crowding and congestion. Also, December is really not the best season to visit Singapore – it is monsoon season, constantly soggy. Finally, I had to work the day of New Year’s eve.  We decided to simply hang around the vicinity of our hotel: the Swissôtel Merchant Court which is conveniently right on the river at Clarke Quay. That proved to be an excellent decision.

Tomoko, Countdown

Tomoko, Countdown

After packing up – we would be departing early on January 1st – we had drinks in the hotel’s club lounge on the 11th floor. Luckily, we caught a break on the weather. It was dry and pleasant. We had a very nice light dinner outside by the river at SQUE behind Central. After that, we returned to the bar at the Merchant Court.

Emily Takes a Picture

Emily Takes a Picture

We arrived at the bar just before 11PM and were pleased to see “Team Korea” on duty. That is, during 2014 I visited the Merchant Court bar quite a few times to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine before bedtime. Of course, the entire staff of the hotel was very nice to me during the year, but four of the bar staff in particular – two from Korea and two from the Philippines – spent a lot of time chatting with me. It was very pleasant and made the place feel quite a bit like home. In any event, Emily and Youjin from Korea were on-duty at the bar for New Year’s Eve.

Tomoko Was Drinking Tea

Tomoko Was Drinking Tea

Tomoko was actually drinking the hotel’s very nice TWG Tea “Moroccan Mint Tea” which I also had on any number of evenings during the year. It was served in a very nice little pot with a cookie on the side – very pleasant.

Team Korea - Emily and Youjin

Team Korea – Emily and Youjin

As midnight approached, there was a lot of activity. The bar manager put a bucket of champagne bottles in ice on the bar. These were purchased quickly by the large number of customers. I was fine drinking a glass of white wine and Tomoko was sticking with the Moroccan Mint Tea.

Emily and Dave Just After Midnight

Emily and Dave Just After Midnight

There was a large-screen TV in the bar and it counted down the seconds at Marina Bay where a large stage show was in progress. The show alternated performers from each of Singapore’s different ethnic communities. It was very nice!

Tomoko and Dave Just After Midnight

Tomoko and Dave Just After Midnight

After Midnight, everyone cheered and took pictures…

Balloons Everywhere

Balloons Everywhere

The bar staff also unleashed a huge cluster of balloons which more-or-less filled the bar. Customers were running around kicking the balloons and throwing them at each other. Meanwhile, the national stage show was playing music on the large screen TV. It was quite fun and relaxing!

Team Philippines - Mae and Elle

Team Philippines – Mae and Elle

After around 30 minutes, we settled our bill and wandered out side. The first stop was the outdoor bar hut by the river which is also run by the hotel. Team Philippines – Mae and Elle – were on duty. They were really busy, but they stopped for a second so I could take their picture.

Clarke Quay - No Selfie-Stick Zone

Clarke Quay – No Selfie-Stick Zone

Wandering across the bridge into Clarke Quay proper, we encountered this sign. Those selfie-sticks certainly are a menace. The Singapore government had thoughtfully declared Clarke Quay to be a “No Selfie-Stick Zone” for the evening and put up this warning sign.

Singaporeans Celebrate New Years on their Smartphones

Singaporeans Celebrate New Years on their Smartphones while Waiting for a Table

Just around 1AM, things were hoping at Clarke Quay. There was a throbbing crowd. Bands were playing in all the clubs. It was really lively. This group of young Singaporean friends was out on Clarke Quay, waiting for a seat at a restaurant, taking in the ambiance, and furiously tapping on their smartphones.

Asatte Press 4th Annual Shareholders and Directors Meetings

Asatte Press held its fourth annual shareholders and directors meetings Friday 1 August 2014 at BB Rovers in Austin, Texas. That is, given that our first meetings were the formation meetings, we have been in business for three years now.

Fourth Annual Shareholders Meeting

The fourth annual meeting of shareholders of the corporation was held at B. B. Rovers, 12101 Jollyville Road, Austin in the state of Texas, on 1 August 2014, at 8:30PM for the purpose of electing directors of the corporation.

David Hetherington acted as chairperson, and Tomoko Hetherington acted as secretary of the meeting.

Dave and Tomoko drinking beer

Meeting of the Shareholders is Called to Order

The secretary announced that the meeting was called by the chairperson

The secretary announced that the meeting was held pursuant to notice, if and as required under the bylaws of this corporation, or that notice had been waived by all shareholders entitled to receive notice under the bylaws. Copies of any certificates of mailing of notice prepared by the secretary of the corporation and any written waivers signed by shareholders entitled to receive notice of this meeting were attached to these minutes by the secretary.

The chairperson then presented the (written) annual report to the shareholders of Asatte Press, Inc.

Accomplishments for FY 2014

Services Engagement

We were able to secure our first model-based systems engineering (MBSE) contract with Athens Group to perform services on their behalf at a shipyard in Singapore. This engagement is planned to continue through March of 2016.

  1. The structure of the engagement is a 28-sday on/off cycle.
  2. Asatte Press president David Hetherington departs early on a Friday morning for Singapore.
  3. He arrives in Singapore the following Sunday in the early hours of the morning.
  4. Consulting begins the following morning and continues for four weeks or 20 days.
  5. The Saturday after the last day of consulting, he returns home arriving on the same day in the late afternoon.
  6. Athens Group pays all travel expenses and bills the shipyard.
  7. Departure for the next 28-day cycle is on Friday of the 4th week after return or 27 days later.
screen shot of Asatte Press web site

New Website Design

Website Redesign

The Asatte Press website was redesigned completely to deliver a message focused on systems engineering.

The Asatte Press Store was closed as previously planned.




Modeling Conferences

In April 2014, David Hetherington attended “Code Generation 2014” at Cambridge University in England and gave a presentation on using SysML Requirements Traceability to design a training game.

Page from presentation

Presentation from Code Generation 2014

Several more paper submissions were not accepted. However, a paper submission has been accepted for the key IADC Advanced Rig Technology Conference in September 2014. Even better, the IADC has invited an article to accompany the presentation for publication in their Drilling Contractor Magazine.

Management Discussion


Fiscal Year 2014 (hereafter FY 2014) was a year of transition for Asatte Press. As planned, we pivoted from Social Media to Systems Engineering. The contract with Athens has been very important to build both our credibility and depth of practical experience. We are now profitable and positioned well to grow organically. We are not pursuing investors at this point.

Description of Business

Asatte Press is transitioning to be a mixed product and services company. Our planned product and services mix is as follows:


We will continue to offer our existing lifestyle books as eBooks and on a print-on-demand basis. We will not put significant further effort into promoting them. Our new products will be in the following areas:

  1. Technical Books – During FY 2015 we plan to produce one or more narrowly focused technical books, most likely on using SysML tools to handle requirements traceability and other elementary systems engineering tasks. The primary target for these books will be eBook format. However, we also should be able to offer paper editions priced to be profitable on a unit-by-unit, print-on-demand basis.
  2. 3D Visualization Software – With the addition of Tye Hetherington to the team, we are now positioning to pursue software development for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. During FY 2015, we expect to explore the potential of this market.


Our current services offering revolves around using SysML and other Model-Based Systems Engineering techniques to assist customers in designing ocean drilling equipment.

Financial Outlook

Asatte Press is now paying salaries to the founders and is operating at a profit. We do not expect to need further funding from the founders or from other investors during FY 2015.


Fourth Annual Directors Meeting

Wings and Rings

Meeting of the Directors is Called to Order

The fourth annual meeting of the board of directors of the corporation was held at B. B. Rovers, 12101 Jollyville Road, Austin in the state of Texas, on 1 August 2014, at 7:00PM for the purpose of reviewing the prior year’s business, discussing corporate operations for the upcoming year, and for the transaction of any other business that may properly come before the meeting.

David Hetherington acted as chairperson, and Tomoko Hetherington acted as secretary of the meeting

The Meeting of the Board of Directors is Called to Order

The chairperson called the meeting to order.

The secretary announced that the meeting was called by the chairperson

The secretary announced that the meeting was held pursuant to notice, if and as required under the bylaws of this corporation, or that notice had been waived by all directors entitled to receive notice under the bylaws. Copies of any certificates of mailing of notice prepared by the secretary of the corporation and any written waivers signed by directors entitled to receive notice of this meeting were attached to these minutes by the secretary.

The secretary announced that the following directors were present at the meeting:

Name of Director
David Hetherington
Tomoko Hetherington

The above directors, having been elected to serve on the board for a one-year term by the shareholders at the fourth annual meeting of shareholders held on 1 August 2014, accepted their positions on the board. The secretary then announced that the presence of these directors at the meeting represented a quorum of the board of directors as defined in the bylaws of this corporation.

The chairperson presented the near-term cash-flow plan for the corporation. The directors approved the cash-flow and spending plan.

The chairperson announced that the next item of business was the appointment of the officers and of standing committee members of the corporation to an initial one-year term of office. After discussion, the following persons were appointed to serve in the following capacities as officers, committee members or in other roles in the service of the corporation for the upcoming year:

Name Title
David Hetherington President
David Hetherington Treasurer
Tomoko Hetherington Secretary

The next item of business was the determination of compensation or fringe benefits to be paid or awarded for services rendered the corporation by employees and staff. After discussion, it was determined that no compensation could be planned at this time.
There were no further resolutions at the meeting.

There being no further business to come before the meeting, it was adjourned on motion duly made and carried.

iPhone 3 Retires as an Alarm Clock

shows iPhone 3 on bedside table next to conventional alarm clock

iPhone 3 Retires as an Alarm Clock

Earlier this year, I upgraded from an iPhone 3 to an iPhone 5s. The previous iPhone 3 had served me well and had withstood an amazing amount of physical abuse. However, after four years of service, its battery was starting to fail and the rear of the case was cracked. So, I went to the Apple Store and purchased an unlocked iPhone 5 which I am now using with T-Mobile’s “Simple Choice” plan that allows global data roaming (an excellent concept that they are gradually working out the kinks in).

So what to do with the previous iPhone 3? When we looked online, amazingly it still seemed to have a market value of more than $100. However, given the cracked case and obvious imminent total battery failure, I simply would not have been comfortable selling it to someone else. Throw it away? I hate throwing away machines that are still usable. The answer? Alarm Clock. While the iPhone 3 would could no longer perform adequately as a mobile phone, it was still more than capable of performing as an excellent alarm clock, much more functional than any stand-alone alarm clock.

  1. First I got a longer cable. I wanted to be able to freely pickup and handle the phone without constantly having to fiddle with the cable. A two-meter cable was more than enough. By the way, for this purpose, a cheapo after-market cable was fine. All we needed was power.
  2. The phone still needed a SIM card. Even after transferring my service to the iPhone 5, I still needed a SIM card to make the iPhone 3 boot. I ordered a basic prepaid SIM card from Amazon for $1.50.
  3. That was basically it. Plug in the SIM card, plug in the power. Ready to go.
  4. The only additional thing I did was connect to our household wireless LAN so that the phone would be able to keep its clock up to date.
  5. I still keep the conventional clock so that I can see the display in the middle of the night without fumbling around to find the iPhone.

Reduce. Recycle. Reuse.