West Bath
Siem Riep
Sri Lanka
Czech Republic
Bora Bora
Porto Alegre
Sao Paulo
San Nicolas
Hong Kong


The World’s Best Restaurant?

unnamedIf someone said to you, let’s go to this restaurant that’s supposed to be pretty good.  They only offer tasting menus, and you have to choose one of the two:  the all-vegetable one, or the one with meat.  There are eleven courses, but they’re all pretty small (the lamb serving is the size of one third of your palm) and four of them are desserts.  The price is set at $295 per person.  There are a couple of alternatives for some of the courses – substituting a tiny amount of Wagyu beef for the tiny amount of lamb, for example – but this adds $100 to the price of the dinner.  The same for adding some Australian truffles to one of the vegetable dishes –$100.  You may of course order wine from the wine list, the wine is additive to the food cost. This is not a “wine pairings” sort of dinner, and the wait staff resists requests to make it so.  The service is fine, the restaurant is in a two story sort of old building that is pleasant but architecturally undistinguished.  So, you wannna go?

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Iraq my brain to see why i should care

Once upon a time there was a country that was located on one of the fringe areas of western geography and to which most people paid little attention.  It was made up of several diverse groups of people, separated by religious and ethnic differences, and with a long history of conflict and distrust among them.  Its boundaries had been set by the European colonial powers as an outcome of WWI with its breakup of traditional empires.  These borders were not particularly mindful of older divisions and rivalries and traditional territories.  It was ruled by a ruthless dictator who used force to keep his potentially divisive peoples together in some form of polity.

When the dictator was removed from power, the groups fell to bickering among themselves, and then fierce and bloody conflict broke out.  Militias, mass killings, mass graves, and neighbor vs. neighbor soon became the norm, along with shellings of civilians, hostage taking, rape, etc. There were larger countries armed with nuclear weapons who espoused the concerns of one or the other of the fighting ethnic groups.  The western powers were shocked, and the fear that this smaller war could easily lead to a larger one was discussed endlessly.  Many ways to keep the country together were proposed and some were tried.  But no one could muster the requisite amount of blood and treasure to impose a “colonial” solution.  Despite all the hand wringing, and all the bloodshed and reprehensible war crimes, the center did not hold.

The result, however, was not the creation of a terrorist haven, or the triggering of a larger war of the traditional powers.  The result was Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro.  And maybe Kosovo, depending on how one counts.  One large country—Yugoslavia—was now seven smaller ones.  Is the world better off or worse off?

It is hard to understand any argument that the US or NATO or the EU or the Bobbsey Twins should get involved in Iraq and the murderous, unfortunate conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites.  Let us stipulate that it is a tragedy for those directly involved, and that many innocent lives will be lost, and that maybe even a quite unattractive Islamist regime enforcing Sharia law will be established in part of the territory.  Productive capacity of all sorts will be destroyed, as well infrastructure that the US has built or funded.  Cultural landmarks will be desecrated or looted despite UN designation.  Competing parties from the outside, notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, will support their own co-religionists and prolong the conflict.  And once everyone has finished killing enough of everyone else, there will most likely be three smaller, weaker countries where one had stood before.

These three countries will not be particularly attractive as global democratic partners, they will have values that we do not espouse, especially with regard to the treatment of women, they won’t like us much in general, and they won’t be very good trading partners. They will not be nice places in which to take a vacation.  But one thing is for sure—they will still sell us oil.  They have to, it’s all they’ve got and they will need the money.

Note as evidence for the above that just last week, Oryx Petroleum Corporation Limited a publicly traded and Toronto listed oil company, announced on 7 July a production and drilling update for the Demir Dagh field in the Hawler license area in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  The results were generally positive, with production capacity not approaching 4000 barrels per day.

Oryx Petroleum is the operator and has a 65% participating and working interest in the Hawler license area.  The Chief Operating Officer noted, “We expect to spud DD-7 [an appraisal well] in the coming weeks and expect to drill three additional development wells at Demir Dagh this year in order to increase production capacity and continue delineating the field.

Importantly, our operations remain largely unaffected by the security situation in northern Iraq, outside of the Kurdistan Region. We continue to vigilantly monitor the situation and implement measures to mitigate risks.”


That used to be important.  Thanks to the advances of technology, and not thanks particularly to US policy (see the Keystone XL pipeline debate), the US is rapidly headed to being a net oil exporter.  So the Iraq states, once the destruction is over, will sell their oil to Europe and India and China, which is probably just fine.

One or all of these countries may continue to pose threats to their neighbors, but they will pose no particular security threat to the US.  They may serve as a haven for terrorists, but there are lots of havens for terrorists and one more or less really won’t make that much difference, so long as we have the intelligence apparatus to keep watch and the long range weaponry to make terrorist training centers unpleasant places from time to time.

I would far rather live in a world with lots of little and unpowerful countries, versus one with fewer large, powerful countries.  China will no doubt be handful enough in the coming decades. Having three countries in what used to be Iraq instead of one is in fact a good thing, for us and for the rest of the world.

—-Robert Hemphill is an author and former senior executive with a global power company.  His most recent book is Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons, a humorous look at international business.  Learn more at

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A new short story by Lydia Davis [sic]

When she received notification by mail that she was to be awarded the Man Booker International Prize for 2013, she stayed awake all night worrying that it would or wouldn’t affect her life.  She got up the next morning and brushed her teeth, using the ‘morning’ tooth brush, but still was unable to decide. The End.

—-Robert Hemphill is an author and former senior executive with a global power company.  His most recent book is Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons, a humorous look at international business.  Learn more at

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Is there an App for that?

I am literate.  I can read and write, at least English. I know a bit of French and a bit less of Spanish.  I am what some call “numerate” in that I understand and can manipulate numbers, certainly well enough to balance a check book and construct a spread sheet that sums columns or rows of numbers.  I could probably calculate compound interest rates if I had to.  I got seven eighties on both the English and math college boards. I graduated from a nice college.  I know stuff.

And of course I am computer literate, at least I thought I was.  But perhaps not.  Or perhaps it’s not enough. Continue reading

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Save the cheetahs or we’ll eat you

Over the weekend I went to a benefit for saving the cheetahs, predators who live mainly in Namibia as does the dramatic looking woman, Dr. Laurie Marker, who is attempting to save them.  She resembles Diane Von Furstenberg if Diane were taller and had lots of curly hair.  And were younger and lived in Namibia.  The cheetahs have developed an unfortunate taste for the local livestock (sheep, goats, scrawny cows) and this does not set well with the reasonably poor herder/farmers.  So they kill the cheetahs, which does nothing good for saving them.  If you were to evacuate all the people from Namibia, you could save a lot of cheetahs very quickly, and probably no one in the rest of the world would really notice, excepting the evacuees. Continue reading

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A first posting

Welcome and thank you for visiting this web site.  This is a new endeavor dedicated to several things, including highlighting the most recent book, which so far is the only book that I have had published.  But there can be more. The site also includes a blog where I plan to share the experiences of the wide world of California as seen through my own personal lens.  It will be updated from time to time, probably erratically.

A quick perusal should make it clear that this is not a political site expressing a conservative or liberal view, even on Hilary Clinton altho that’s pretty tempting. Nor will you meet the man of your dreams here, or get tips on kitten videos or be able to check out the ten hottest babes on the beaches of San Diego.  You cannot find the latest sports scores or read your horoscope or get a recipe for flank steak with chimichurri sauce.  I am not opposed  to any of these passions, you just have to look elsewhere.  And if you do find some great kitten videos, be sure and let me know.

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