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Dec/29/2020 news: \\ political party law reformed: idea > individual; transparency; female % \\ Pashinyan responds to "not being enough pro-Russian" \\ who owns which business? \\ protests & snap elect. \\ burglary case & HHK MP \\ humanitarian aid for Artsakh \\ Vitalik flexes muscles \\ bills pass
Your 14-minute Tuesday report in 3589 words.
Pashinyan about pre-war negotiations and "avoiding" the war:
The idea that a flexible foreign policy could have avoided this war is being constantly circulated. Those [former officials] who believe in this thesis must answer at least one question: as a result of their "flexible" policy, why was it not possible to avoid the war of 2016, which was preceded by the unprecedented escalation of 2015 and 2014? The "flexible" policy adopted by Armenia for many years led to the introduction of Russian proposals in January 2016, which proposed the return of 7 territories (5 + 2) without any legal status for Nagorno-Karabakh. Why did Russia make such an offer? For one simple reason, as a result of Armenia's "flexible" policy, the Madrid process had come to a standstill because Artsakh could receive a Status outside Azerbaijan only with the consent of Azerbaijan. It was obvious to Russia and everyone else that Azerbaijan would not agree to this, so it was necessary to find ways to break the deadlock. And, by the way, if certain people claim that Armenia's foreign policy after 2018 was not sufficiently pro-Russian and this was the reason for the war, then why in the conditions of the "sufficiently pro-Russian" policy of 2016 were Russian proposals born and why did the April war take place? There was only one way to prevent this war: return the regions and forget about Artsakh's legal status. Now, after the war is over and we know the outcome, the number of supporters of [giveaway of 7 regions] is growing. What they forget is that if we gave away the lands to avoid the war, we would have the same situation in Syunik borders. They used to accuse us of "selling lands" [he means the contradictory statements like Nikol sold the lands, and why didn't Nikol sell the lands earlier to avoid the war]. The biggest failure by the supporters of the "flexible policies" is that they spent years trying to avoid a war instead of preparing for it. Our biggest failure is that we weren't able to recover enough embezzled public property in the past 2.5 years to help us better prepare for the war. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039231.html
businesses owned by opposition leaders
What are the known businesses owned by some of the famous people you might have seen in the public square lately?
20% share in Lorva Amrots Ltd which plans to operate two hydro-power plants on Dzoraget river. Manukyan purchased the shares in 2011 after being appointed by Serj as the head of the Public Council. In 2015-2016, he owned 30% shares in Vanavka Group. In 2015-2017 he had 30% shares in Jermakunq Group. These companies extracted and bottled water. At the time, the director of these companies was charged with illegal bottling and causing ֏55 million in damages to the state. The corruption case was sent to the IRS, which terminated the investigation after "not finding a crime". The companies export the products mostly to Russia.
Vanetsyan is a poor boy, according to the public declarations database. But if you have time, take a look at the investigative report I covered in Ap29/2020 news, according to which Vanetsyan's family allegedly used offshore firms and owns mining shares. More on that here. Here is a Hetq investigative report. Vanetsyan's father owns AV Group flower importing business. About a year ago, the police investigated several flower sellers near a stadium. An opposition outlet claimed that the sellers were "beaten and forced" to testify that Vanetsyan's father was running an underground business. This was never properly proven and the opposition's claim that Vanetsyan was about to be charged did not happen. The police confirmed that there was an investigation against several flower sellers. These flower sellers ended up hiring Vanetsyan's co-party-creator Arsen Babayan as a lawyer. Vanetsyan's father owns 50% shares of A B Export oil import company that began operating in 2017. It was a minor player that quit the market in 2019. Vanetsyan's father also owns 60% of A B Trans transportation company. In Nov/2019, CivilNet wrote about Arthur Vanetsyan's cousins' possible involvement with Zangezur Copper factory (massive business). The same offshore firm in Cyprus, which purchased Zangezur shares, was tied to Vanetsyan's cousins' another business in the same offshore. Vanetsyan's cousins also own a Switzerland-based Exoil wholesale cooking oil and shipping company. In 2019 it had a revenue of $148 million (11 billion Rubles). The cousins don't do this business in Armenia. Per 2019 registration, Arthur Vanetsyan himself owns one apartment, $10,000, and ֏1 million. Media reported in May/2020 that Vanetsyan's cousin purchased a ֏300 million mansion in Yerevan, which was donated to then-new political party "Hayreniq", co-founded by Arthur Vanetsyan and Arsen Babayan (the guy who is accused of helping HHK to fabricate documents in 2018 to hijack the Constitutional Court by appointing HHK MP Hrayr Tovmasyan as a judge). Arthur Vanetsyan's mother served as the chief of the personnel-management department in Serj and Pashinyan administrations, before quitting and working as Serj's aide. Vanetsyan's wife owns Villa Montessori preschool in Yerevan. She also runs the Young Education Center Ltd.
ARF Ishkhan Saghatelyan
Pashinyan appointed Saghatelyan as Gegharquniq governor for a brief period after the 2018 revolution, when Pashinyan created a unity-government, represented by all political parties. The honeymoon soon ended and each party went their way. Saghatelyan owns shares in i-mega Service Ltd. It's a tourism agency founded in 2006. It operates in Armenia, Artsakh, and Georgia. Saghatelyan founded Navasar company and serves as director. It's owned by his father. Saghatelyan family owns the Tsovasar hotel complex on Lake Sevan shores. It's 10,000 m2 (a hectare?). As of 2018, Saghatelyan declared ownership of 8 pieces of land, 2 apartments, ֏18.5 million, $45,000, and €15,000. Saghatelyan's father is the mayor of Gegharquniq's Geghamavan settlement. This municipality had recently sent a letter demanding Pashinyan's resignation. Saghatelyan used to be a shareholder of Shiman Ltd which is no longer active.
BHK leader Gagik "dodi gago" Tsarukyan
BUCKLE UP, KIDS! Overall, Tsarukyan runs 54 companies. Студент, комсомолец, спортсмен, u наконец, он просто красавиц. His business empire was covered in details here. Textile, gas stations, malls, Multi Group empire, Shangri-La Casino, Ararat Cognac & Wine Factory, BMW official office Euromotors (also Hyundai, Gazel, Niva), Multi Motors, Magas Invest, Multi Wellness, Olimpavan sports complex, Kotayk beer factory, TechnAlyumin door & window factory, Multi Rest House hotel chain, Paravon luxury restaurant, Onira Club, Zvartnot's airport's upper-level service company Avia Service, Farm Adama, Multi Pharm pharmacy, Multi Leon gas stations, Multi Solar solar panels. He owns shares in Frank Mueller Yerevan watch company, Fortsa, Multi Gold, Multi Diamond jewelry firms, several fish-breeding businesses. He also runs businesses in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia. Per official declaration, he owns $168 million, €29 million, ֏675 million, 14 pieces of land, 6 houses, 2 public buildings, 1 apartment.
Details for BHK MP Mikael Melkumyan and HHK Vahram Baghdasaryan in the link below.
The street demonstrations, organized by the former regime and its allies, continue. They demand Pashinyan's resignation and the appointment of their candidate Vazgen Manukyan as the Prime Minister for the duration of a year, after which they agree to hold new elections. ARF leader Artsvik Minasyan said they don't plan to discuss snap elections with Pashinyan. "Right now, our only demand is Pashinyan's resignation. We demand SIS to immediately hold every criminal accountable". The demonstrators gathered in front of the SIS building to present the demands. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039316.html
Pashinyan meets leaders of several opposition parties
felony case: ex-HHK MP charged with armed attack on ex-IRS official
In August of this year, Russia extradited a former HHK MP Alraghatsi Lyovik to Armenia. He was wanted for allegedly burglarizing and shooting at a senior IRS official a decade ago. At the time, his case was "frozen". It was relaunched in 2018. (magic wand) NSS says: suspect Lyovik, with the help of citizens AK and AN, organized an armed burglary against IRS Chief (?) Avetisyan in 2008. AK was in the United States. In 2004, he stole $150,000 from jewelry shops in Los Angeles. He got caught but managed to flee to Armenia. Once in Armenia, AK colluded with policeman AN to organize a similar criminal ring in Armenia. [MP] Lyovik personally knew AK, and learned about their burglaries. Since Lyovik had bad relations with the IRS chief (victim), he decided to punish the victim by urging AK to burglarize his house. Lyovik revealed the plot to his brother-in-law, who happened to be the victim's personal aide. The latter gave all the personal habits and details about the victim to the burglars. [read the article for the full story, or wait for a Hollywood movie in theaters near you] The burglars and organizers are charged with felonies. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/203835 , https://youtu.be/brdozVbwQ6A , https://factor.am/274836.html , https://armtimes.com/hy/article/183522 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/203835 ,
Russian Orthodox chapel will be built
... in the Armenian settlement near Nakhijevan where Azerbaijan had earlier shut down a Russian helicopter, which killed and wounded Russian pilots. It'll be on a hill in Yeraskh. Construction starts on January 6th. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039259.html
Vitalik Balasanyan will return the lands, kicks junkies, and restrict Facebook
Artsakh President Arayik earlier announced that he will allow his opponents to take jobs in the new coalition government. Kocharyan-ally Vitali Balasanyan became the Security Council chief. Vitalik: we will return Hadrut and Askeran region with the help of Russian and Armenian military-political efforts. We are in a better situation now to solve territorial issues. We will soon create border guard forces. It will report to MoD, which will report to the Security Council (his office). Drugs have no place in Artsakh. Drug users must quit or leave Artsakh now. We need to return to traditional values of giving women as wives after asking if the man had served in the army. No public official will be allowed to use Facebook during work. More: https://youtu.be/DceHyi4AB5g https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/289056/
search operations are paused / the "welcome to Azerbaijan" sign
Azerbaijan received criticism for refusing to allow search teams to enter the Hadrut region yesterday. They also prevented UNESCO from checking the status of several Armenian cultural sights, after complaining that UNESCO was "biased" against Azerbaijan during the war. HR Ombudsman: Any untrue information can not be a reason to disrupt the humanitarian process [referring to unconfirmed rumors on social media that Armenians opened fire at Azeris in Hadrut. An unofficial Iranian social media channel claims 3 Azeris were killed but due to an internal fight.] The Human Rights Ombudsman also criticized the Azeri troops for installing a provocative "welcome to Azerbaijan" sign on part of a road that went under Azeri control near Syunik borders. The Ombudsman says it's meant to intimidate the locals. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039233.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039237.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039244.html , https://factor.am/325511.html
Context: BHK MP Naira Zohrabyan referred to the majority of Armenian voters as human trash *(or as she says: impure), and called for the establishment of forced re-education camps so people won't vote for a "wrong party" again. The ruling QP party launched a process to terminate her chairmanship in Parliamentary Human Rights Committee. Read yesterday's thread for more details.* QP MP Arthur: the law states that the Parliament can appoint and terminate the chairman. The termination of this seat does not require the same procedures as in the case of MPs and Judges. Armenian Constitution states that in Armenia, human beings are of the highest value, and inalienable human dignity is the inseparable basis of their rights and freedoms. MP Zohrabyan's public conduct is against it. // The law gives the second-largest political party the mandate to appoint the chairman of this particular Committee. BHK, being the second-largest party, said they wouldn't appoint a replacement if Zohrabyan is voted out. QP MP Arthur: per rules, if BHK refuses to appoint a new candidate, the largest (QP) party will receive the mandate. // Parliament voted 78-4 to terminate Zohrabyan's chairmanship. BHK and LHK did not vote. BHK MP Zohrabyan: this termination was a Constitutional crime. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039245.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039264.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039304.html , https://factor.am/325132.html
Parliament votes: registering parties becomes easier / ideology instead of person / financial transparency
The goal of this reform is to have political parties that are more about ideology and less about an individual. The reform will boost internal democracy within parties; it will expand the powers of the Party Assembly. Parties will be required to add more anonymous voting mechanisms. The law also requires more financial transparency. The required membership to register a party is lowered from 800 to 300. Some of the public funding given to political parties will depend on the % of female members in the administrative boards. Parliament voted 99-1 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039270.html , https://youtu.be/bPuZViCCCxo
Parliament votes: monthly fees towards soldiers' recovery are raised
Most workers pay a monthly 1000 Dram towards the Soldiers' Fund, which takes care of wounded soldiers and families of those who died. The govt found it necessary to raise the fee to cover thousands of new recipients. Here are the new fees and salary brackets: ֏1,500 for < ֏100k/month ֏3,000 for < ֏200k ֏5,500 for < ֏500k ֏8,500 for < ֏1 million ֏15,000 for > ֏1 million Parliament voted 89-0 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039296.html
Parliament votes: ban on public smoking is delayed until 2022
The govt had adopted a law to ban smoking in public cafes and the public display of cigarettes in grocery shops. The ruling party wanted to delay parts of the bill that were set to go into effect in January, citing possible financial issues for businesses caused by the pandemic. QP MP: the cigarette industry pays $383 million to state coffers. Healthcare Ministry: it will be a mistake if you delay this bill for the sake of $10 million in tax revenues. Parliament voted 86-0 to delay the anti-smoking bill until 2022. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039295.html
Parliament votes: no tax on goods donated to Armenia
QP MP: When you donate a charitable product to the Republic of Armenia, you are exempt from customs duties and other tax payments, except for one payment, which we are trying to exempt with this bill as well. // Parliament voted 80-0 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039297.html
how is the Judicial Branch doing?
The Supreme Court protects or punishes judges. It also handles complaints. It's separate from the Constitutional Court. bad boys 19 complaints against judges were heard, 14 of which were petitioned by Justice Ministry and 4 by Judicial Ethics Board. 10 judges ended up receiving disciplinary penalties, 3 received a warning, 3 were reprimanded, 2 were terminated, 4 were cleared. the system is overloaded 61 judges are handling 6470 felony cases. 86 judges handle 175,940 civil cases. 24 judges handle 17,390 administrative cases. The number of Arbitration cases rose from 3100 to 9900. finances This year, Supremes appointed 20 new judges. Supreme's budget remained the same this year. They returned ֏607 million in savings back to state coffers. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039249.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039284.html
anti-corruption: SIS busts an IRS agent
SIS says: IRS border inspector took a bribe from a citizen to help him avoid paying Millions of ֏ in import taxes by splitting a large load into smaller pieces, so each piece would fall below the taxable threshold. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039293.html
Police and Nature Ministry have set up additional checkpoints as part of measures against whitefish poaching in Sevan. 24/7 monitoring on all alleys leading to the lake. They will also travel across markets to catch contraband whitefish. Why? It's the egg-laying season. Fishing is banned for now. The legally-allowed fishing tools were temporarily removed from the lake. https://youtu.be/8ZyRGpEazMQ https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039339.html
...the rest should have access to other jobs. There is an opportunity now because many businesses operate remotely. Call Center workers don't have to visit an office. Businesses would rather pay less to hire a rural remote worker than more to hire someone in a Yerevan office. The High Tech Ministry has an ongoing program to teach IT to 5,000 citizens. We must help workers to expand their skillset. We're working on a program to allow a worker to quit the job, not worry about the food on the table, and have enough time for education and learning new skills. The villagers should ideally lease their smaller lands to large agricultural producers," said Economy Minister Qerobyan. Full interview: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039319.html
State regulators bust another price-fixing ring: fruit mafia
Yesterday, the Economic Competition Committee busted the egg industry's alleged price-fixing and anti-competitive practices. Today they say a similar collision was observed in the orange, mandarin, kiwi, lemon industry. The companies Best Fruits, Art-Fruits, and Promout were slapped with a ֏39 million in penalties for colluding to raise the prices for the products that had an increased demand during the pandemic period. http://www.competition.am/.../resources/Vo370_17_12_2020.pdf https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039269.html
Lenovo slapped for "anti-competitive practice"
The Economic Competition Committee heard a petition filed by Oazis Computer company against Lenovo. The latter was issued a warning for anti-competitive behavior. Public Regulator: "Lenovo" company had the ability to influence the process of importing Lenovo computers to Armenia from non-EAEU trade bloc countries. "Lenovo" took steps to reduce the import of Lenovo computers from non-EAEU states, by discriminating against Oazis Computer importer. Lenovo is given a month to correct the issue and fix the requirement and standards related paperwork. (Facebook next?) https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039333.html
Artsakh will also increase childbirth benefits
First child: ֏300k instead of ֏100k Second child: ֏300k instead of ֏200k (or ֏500k if one parent is disabled) As for monthly child care subsidy payments, it goes from ֏15k to ֏27k until the child turns 2. https://factor.am/325487.html
700 Artsakh families continue to live in 40 settlements of Gegharquniq province. The All Armenia Fund (HimnaDram.org) has provided food and household items to 241 families ahead of New Year. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039313.html
daily life in Syunik bordering villages Shurnukh and Vorotan
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…9
Continuing... “I say that you’re way the fuck out of line, Chuckles. Are you an educated, experienced, fully licensed and internationally renowned master blaster?” I asked. “No, but…” he tried to continue. “But nothing, Scooter.” I said, “What, other than your insane xenophobia and nationalism, causes you to come to such unfounded, not to say stupid, conclusions?” He looked down at the deck. Evidently, he was not used to being challenged in such a manner. He realized he walked face-first into a metaphorical wood chipper. “I’m waiting for your answer, pally.” I continued. Still nothing. He was either deep in thought or ill at ease from newly soggy undergarments. “Want to know why I chose what I did? Fine, meet back here in 15 damn minutes.” He looks at me with a most perplexed, and ignorant, look on his face. “Dax, Cliff? I need you.” I say. We go back to the weapons locker and I explain my idea. “Let’s load a case of typical, TYPICAL Chinese-made dynamite. Then let’s load a case of American C-4. Be very careful with that leaky Chinese shit. Wait one. I’ll do it if you want and you can handle the C-4.” I say. “Ah, Rock; yeah. We’d appreciate it. You being the Pro from Dover, after all.” Cliff agrees. “No worries”, I say, “I got this. You make me up a nice, tightly packed case of C-4. For demonstration purposes.” I find a near-empty case of dynamite and begin to judiciously fill the thing with random samples of shitty and leaky Chinese manufactured and Korean not-too-well-cared-for dynamite. This stuff was so incredibly shitty and poorly manufactured that even when leaking and nasty, it was nowhere near as dangerous as its Western counterpart. It was loaded with so much and many interstitials, like sawdust, diatomaceous earth, literal horseshit, and shredded newspaper, the nitro denatured itself to some degree as it oozed out. Plus, in the non-climate controlled weapons locker; the high humidity, salt air, and poor circulation from the small open grate facing the sea, the nitro had desensitized somewhat and evaporated. It left only sticky, thin, fly-ridden films rather than the usual ‘waiting for a good reason to explode’ puddles. It was in no way as twitchy as that locker back in Nevada. Oh, but be assured, it was still a shit show. If I really wanted to, I could blow myself, this boat and all occupants into the next dimension rather easily, but it was nothing like that old locker back in that disused Nevada mine. I still needed to be scrupulously careful as there could potentially be puddles of the pale yellow, viscous liquid explody stuff, instead of the thin films I was mostly finding. Either way, it required caution and judiciousness. Nitro’s twitchy as fuck and the last thing I need is a dropped nail, blasting cap, or hunk of the rotten box falling into an errant nitro wet patch… Extra attention was exercised. Dax and Cliff are halfway through, and I’m still picking through the leaky, smelly bundles. “Next time”, I mused to myself, “I‘m writing in a ‘Handling fucked-up explosives”-clause in my contract. No matter how much I’m being paid for this, it ain’t enough…” We find a couple of expendable, dry-rotted ‘life preserver’ floaty-rings, upon which we secure both cases of explosives. They’re tethered with a rope and primed with a number of blasting caps. I let the head local Korean crank examine both to ensure that I’m not trying to pull a fast one. He did not notice the 3-pound bag of Tannerite (an impact-actuated explosive) I snuck in the middle of the box of Chinese TNT. “Now. Satisfied that they’re equal?” I asked. “Nothing fishy here. Just dynamite in bundles, with caps. Then, over here, C-4 blocks with cap. OK?” He was satisfied; but only after letting a couple of the shiny suit squad check as well. “Well”, I smirked,” So much for your ‘covert observation’, asshole.” This guy was DPRK secret service or equivalent. “Holy cold-pack cheese-food product fuck”, I cogitate, “They are so goddamned suspicious”. I ask Dax to go over to the pilothouse and borrow the mauled AK-47 I saw hanging on the bulkhead there. They keep it for run-ins with cranky sharks, walruses, and lovesick blue-footed boobies evidently. “OK, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll float each out, and I‘ll trail with demolition wire. Once we’re a few hundred meters out, you can press the big, shiny, green button and detonate your dynamite. I even used 6 blasting caps, to give each bundle its own. You saw that. We green?” I ask. He was, although suspicious of what I had in mind. He agreed although he refused to use my terminology, the stodgy prick. So float away the dynamite case we did. The case of Chinese dynamite floated out and away from the boat, leaving an oily slick in its wake. As it got to around 200-225 meters or so, I requested a rendition of the Korean version of the Safety Dance, as it was just too fucking hilarious to watch. Once completed, I handed Doubting Korean Thomas the detonator. “Your turn, Tweedles”, I said, “Hit the button to spark off your “much-better-than-the-West’s” Oriental dynamite.” He grabbed the detonator, gnashed a tooth in my direction, and mashed down on the big, shiny, green button with a vengeance. PFftt!PAH-foof!fuff There was a cheery little pop, a puff of acrid smoke, and not much else. Let it be said from the onset that I just selected examples of the Oriental manufactured dynamite at random. I didn’t look for the worst or leakiest. Though truthfully I really didn’t have much too choice in the matter. “You! You swindled me! You knew the dynamite wouldn’t explode! Somehow you knew it!!” he swore in my general direction. “Try it again”, I said after retrieving the detonator and doing a quick re-wire to another bank of blasting caps. “Gumeong-e bul!” [“Fire in the hole!”]. MASH goes the big, shiny, green button anew. Pfffft!” *Pop. Poooof! Piffle. Blerp. Nothing but a cute little pop, a poof, and a few acrid puffs of smoke. He was crestfallen. He had taken on the Motherfucking Pro from Dover in a necessarily explosive subject, with inevitably disastrous results. I asked if anyone here was weapons trained. A couple of Coasties raised their hands. “And you are? “ I asked the closest one. “Lt. P'an Tae-Hyun, Sir”, as he snaps a snappy salute. “Groovy.”, I reply and retrieve the AK from Dax. “Can you squeeze off a couple of shots and hit that floating box of dynamite?” I asked. “Yes, sir!” he replied, smiling. “OK then”, I replied and turned to the crowd. “Dynamite is usually pretty stable stuff and won’t detonate without a blasting cap or impulse source. A bullet will most certainly not detonate it. However, I’ve stuck in 3 pounds, imperial, of Tannerite, which is a type of binary explosive used for targeting. Tannerite will most definitely and energetically explode when impacted by a high-velocity bullet. I think we can agree that an AK-47 round is high-velocity?” I asked. There were nods and a buzz of general agreement. “Now, there’s the better part of a case of unexploded dynamite out there. That’s what we in the business call very, very fucking dangerous. Now those three pounds of Tannerite should vaporize everything within a 10-meter radius if it detonates as designed. Agreed?” I asked. Again, there were nods and a buzz of general agreement. “Lieutenant P'an?” I asked, “At your discretion. Fire at will. Or the dynamite case, as it were.” He nodded. He walked over to the furthest point on the stern, checked to see everyone was back and out of harm’s way, as he was a consummate professional. He futzed around with the old AK for a bit and took a shot. It was low and outside. “Ball one”, I snickered. “Sights are off. Not any problems.” He remarked. The next round found its mark. The Tannerite exploded adeptly. It threw sticks of unexploded Chinese dynamite over a 20-meter radius. They each sank into the briny deep leaving only an oily spot to mark their entry and eventual watery grave. The top of the case of dynamite was blown off, but the floaty ring remained. We reeled it back in to find a few more scorched, but unexploded, sticks of fine Oriental manufacture explosive on the bottom of the case. These were motherfuckingly dangerous. Cantankerous dynamite has no place on a ship. I remarked, however, that this would be no problem. Dax and Cliff brought up the case of C-4, which I had wired with one single blasting cap and booster. We had Korean Doubting Thomas and his shiny suit buddies give it the once over to ensure I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. He agreed, it was nothing but C-4 as advertised. One of the more expendable Coasties jumped down on the stern transom-rack which is just above the waterline on the back of the boat. He wired the two rings together and set them adrift, tethered by a good nylon rope with my nasty, silky demolition wires trailing. Dax was working the rope and I was handling the spool of demolition wire. I had a good 350 meters of the stuff on the spool and wasn’t about to return a single centimeter. Old habits and all. As they floated away, Mr. Kwan asked if we’d like a bit of refreshment, as, gosh, it sure was dusty out here today. Of course, we agreed in unison. Good old Mr. Kwan. So, we’re unspooling our lines slowly, drinking our end of the day refreshers, smoking cigars, and watching our Oriental colleagues getting antsier every minute. I knew what a case of C-4 was going to do when detonated. It would be one hell of a show. I was so confident with my design I had Lt. P’ay return the AK to the pilothouse. Wouldn’t work here anyways if the C-4 failed to detonate. But that’s not going to happen. Dr. Pro from Dover Rocknocker has spoken. Finally, I’m almost out of demolition wire, and Dax has tied off the tether. I motion over to Herr Doubting Thomas and hand him the detonator. “For ye of little faith”, I smiled, recalling the entreaty that even Satan quotes the Bible for his own nefarious uses. But first, an encore of the Korean Safety Dance. They're guaranteed to raise a smile. I look to the character fumbling with the detonator. “At your convenience, good sir”, I say, dripping insincerity. “Gumeong-e bul!” [“Fire in the hole!”]. Mash goes the big, shiny, green button. KA-MOTHERING-FUCKINGLY-HUGE-BOOM! Even over 300 meters away, every one of us not only saw but felt that shock wave. It was like a solid Savate kick to the chest. The boat even rocked a bit in appreciation. I smile, retrieved the detonator, safe it, and reply: “And that is the singular reason why I used good old American manufacture C-4 as a sonic seismic source rather than shitty, leaky Oriental dynamite. Any further questions?” He shook his head in agreement, bowed slightly in my direction, slunk away, and that was the very last we ever saw of Mr. Korean Doubting Thomas. The Captain saw and felt the detonation. He put the boat in park, actually, he handed it over to the sub-pilot for station keeping and came back to the fantail. He wanted to know if we were now officially finished with our project. We maintained that we were and it had come off very, very successfully; in no small degree because of his boat handling abilities. He came over to me and shanghaied one of the translators. “Doctor Stone?” he asked. “Hrmph. Close enough.” I smiled. “May I be first to congratulate your team. In eight sorties, you and your teams are the first to fulfill mission parameters. I am pleased to say that this will go on all our permanent records. It will mean bonuses for all present. I salute you.” And does with a naval flourish. “No shit? Well, thanks, Cap”, I reply, “But I’m just the den mother for this special education class. Without them, and all their hard work, it’d never have happened.” “I knew you would say this”, he smiled, “You are leader of men. We see that. You are teacher, but also not afraid to work. You should do this more often. Use your education and experience to train and teach others.” He says, shaking my hand. Now it’s time for me to wonder. Did he hear of my offer back home? I don’t think he did, I’ve been playing those cards very close to the vest, as it were. I am now officially confused and bebothered. But, since I don’t believe in anything, much less coincidence, I’m going to chalk it up to happenstance and just gratefully consider the source. He asks that we wait here and he’ll return forthwith. “On a boat this size, there are not too many places we can sneak off to…” I chuckle. He returns with a very, very old bottle of something quite unidentifiable since it appears to be lacking a label. He yells something in official Korean and suddenly, a tray with little, itty-bitty demitasse-style glasses appear along with some smoked fish, I think, nibbles of some kind. He pours a dram for all present. No one dares take as much as a preemptory sniff until he’s finished with the ceremony. Everyone thusly charged, he begins a toast. “Shoo-buddy”, I think, “I’ve been down this road before.” It was quick, succinct, brief, and laudatory. According to him, we had ‘hung the moon’. I liked this style of toasting. Left more time to drink and for camaraderie. The project thus finished, as we were running out of potables, especially freshwater, victuals, and toilet paper; we were headed back to base. That is, back to the hotel to see what our comrades who chose to stay onshore had developed. But, that was going to be for another day. First, we needed to chug our way back to port, both literally and figuratively. Ahem. Before which, though, there were some housekeeping and paperwork chores. Dax, Cliff, and I did a quick reconnaissance of the explosives locker and created a ‘used’ manifest; which all three of us signed. They may be officious, they may be obtrusive, but damn, they certainly love their goddamned paperwork over here. We gave copies to the head shiny suit, one for the Captain, and we retained copies for our records. Along with notes that we expended two rounds from the pilothouse AK, as we were trying to out-officious these officious paper-pushers. We made certain the keys were returned and logged in the proper logbooks and the explosives locker was locked securely, solidly, and soundly. Before which, we policed up the weapons locker and actually offered to the gods of the briny deep, quite the quantity of unsafe, leaky dynamite, and other ordinance that was more a disaster waiting to happen rather than inventory. Seawater would neutralize the nasties and in the case of anything metallic, it’d be gone within a fortnight. and the phosphates might provide some nice fertilizer for some lucky passing Cnidarians. We were in water of near 45 fathoms. This stuff would never hurt another living thing. The Captain was very pleased that we had taken that task upon ourselves. He wasn’t allowed to do anything about what was in the locker, but he was responsible for it and keeping the wrong people out of it. I commented that was a fairly stupid way of handling things, and he mentioned that he’d appreciate it if I made an official note of it to the powers that be once we go feet-dry, i.e., get back to shore. I assured him we most certainly would. From then on, all we had to do was putt-putt our way back to port. It was going to take some hours and we’d end up berthing during the wee hours. This would not be a problem as our bus and driver would be waiting for us no matter what the time. He would briskly and without fanfare, return us to our hotel. That we were actually looking forward to bunking back in the old hotel sort of gave one an idea of the Spartan arrangements we had endured for the last three days. Most of the Westerners groused and complained in a humorous manner. Hell, it was only three bloody days. Some of our Oriental friends were so totally aghast they vowed to lodge formal complaints once they returned to dry land. Landlubbers. Odd that once we hit the beach, they all scattered to the four winds and not a single letter nor either a peep of protest was ever forthcoming. Yes, this is an intensely weird place. We wandered down the gangplank, cigars a-fume, and drinks recently and for one last time, refreshed by Mr. Kwan. The shiny suit squad was supervising the offloaded of the seismic data we had collected and had seen it soundly sealed and concealed in the very living bowels of the bus. It was to return with us to the hotel, where we’d demand a receipt. Then it would be off to the ‘Technological Center” on Scientific Street for processing. They assured us that they’d handle that themselves. Evidently we were good enough to acquire the data, but not good enough to see the finished product. Ack, Volna, and Ivan chuckled. “OK, you pirates. What did you do?” I asked “They can try with all their might. But without the decryption key, they’ll spend years processing encoded compressed nonsense.” They snickered. “We did offer to come and help set up the decryption for the decompression of the raw data, but they said they could handle it themselves. Oh, well. We tried. Seriously, we did.” Ack and Volna snickered. “Well, keep it handy in case they come to their senses before we get out of here,” I said. “Always our intention, Herr Denmother”, Volna chuckles. “Oh, you heard that?” I snickered quietly. Back at the hotel, the majority of us sent our sea-gear to our rooms via the on-site laundry. That being settled, the majority of us retired to the catacombs of the basement. We needed strong drink, decent, non-tinned food, and seats that didn’t slop around every time you sat down. Well, with the acquisition of our sea legs, two out of three wasn’t bad. Since the hour was much too late, I decide that tomorrow, well, later today, would be a day of R&R for everyone. Moreover, I was informed that tomorrow would be the “Day of the Sun” celebration, the insanely earnest celebration birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, founder and Eternal President of North Korea. It’s supposed to be some sort of big, hairy nationwide deal. But aside from a couple of small posters, we heard little and knew less about the holiday and its celebration. Everyone’s being even more uncharacteristically low key. It’s odd like there’s something weird going on here. “What? Something weird and covert and sneaky going on in Best Korea? Pshaw, you old fart. You’re letting the paranoids get to you!”, I mused to myself. This place will do that to you after a while. I asked the front desk to place a note that made the rest of today a day of R&R in everyone’s mailbox. After another cigar, some decent prawn stir-fry, and a couple-twelve really stiff drinks, we were all ready to invade the land of Nod for a few hours. I went downstairs for a drink, a nosh, and a smoke. I ran out of NK won as we tend to use them in Western Expat high-stakes poker games, so I needed to trade some of my weird Middle Eastern currency for weird Best Korea currency. I was used to the 900:1 won:US dollar (equivalent) trade-off, but after cashing in the equivalent of US$500 in Middle Eastern dinero, I walked off with 650,000 won, not 450,000. “Pardon me, Ms. Cashier”, I said to the nice little local woman behind the bird-cage security wires, “I do think you gave me too much.” She took my stack, re-counted it, and proclaimed it correct. “I thought the exchange rate was 900 to the dollar?” I asked. “No”, she remarked, “Now 1,336.” “Any idea what’s causing the fluctuations?” I asked. She just smiled and shook her head ‘no’. I smiled back and tipped her 50 UAE dirhams for the information. “Weird. Now what?” I mused. Little did I know… The next morning dawned dim and early as there some sort of something going on outside. Oh, yes, it was ‘The Day of the Sun’ celebration. I discovered it was is an annual public holiday in North Korea celebrating the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, founder, and Eternal President and local Poobah-in-Charge of North Korea. It is the most important national holiday in the country, and is considered to be the North Korean pseudo-secular equivalent of Christmas. “Well,” I thought to myself, “I picked a damn good day to call for an R&R break.” Then I found out, why no one told us about any of this is still unknown, that the next two days after the holiday would also be considered a holiday. Come to find out, there are all sorts of intrusive, inconvenient, and wholly unnecessary nonsense that accompany these high holy days here in Best Korea. There are exhibitions, fireworks, song and dance events, athletics competitions, idea seminars: “Think about it!”, and visits to places connected with Kim Il-sung's life, including his birthplace in Mangyongdae. Shops close, the hotel televisions block any other ‘programming’ and show only ‘special’ movies. Either ridiculously fake documentaries on the life of the also ever so ronrey Kim Il-sung or movies he especially enjoyed. People parade to his statue on Mansu Hill to deposit flowers; later in the day, it resembled a pollinated glacier. There’s general obviously forced elation, all of which is extraordinarily strained and appears fake. People are trucked by the groaning busload to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun where the dead maniac lies in state. “Fuck this”, I said in the exact spirit of international amity, “I’m going to the bar.” I go downstairs to the basement bar, and even though it’s a high holy day, it’s open early. It didn’t used to be open until the afternoon, but since we’ve arrived, they have adjusted their hours for us. They have also doubled their daily receipts. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. One of my favorite barkeeps was station keeping that morning. I greeted him in the usual style and expressed to Mr. Ho Gun the best holiday wishes. “Hi! Ho!”, I said, “Annyeonghaseyo”, which comes out ‘Annie young eez-yo!’ in my Baja Canuckian dialect. Mr. Ho laughs at my attempt at Korean, but he does appreciate the effort. “Doctor Rock”, he says, “Dawn greetings. You will drink what?” Nice and direct, I like that. “Ye’ ken Greenland Coffee, me ol’ mucker?” I asked in a swirl of different dizzying dialects. Koran confounds me, so I thought I’d return the favor. “No, but I’m sure it’s coffee with some of your usual high-proof liquors, correct?” he smiles as I hand him a nice, oily Oscuro cigar. “For Best Most Happy Returns: Day of the Sun”, I said, waggling the stogie, as I hand it over. “However, you are correct. Normally, ‘authentic’ Greenland Coffee is a paltry 1/3rd ounce each of Whiskey, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier with excess coffee. Well, I don’t cotton to those liquors or measures. So my Greenland Coffee recipe, really from Greenland, by the way, is Siku Vodka, or any other high-octane vodka, as long as it’s premium. Then Immiak, which is Greenland’s version of Jagermeister, so let’s just go with Jager. Then finish it off with a shot of Tia Maria or Kahlua, if available. Oh, yes, then hot coffee. Silly me, almost forgot…” I conclude. “And measures?” Mr. Ho asked. “Whatever fills the cup”, I replied, in a bastardization of an old Russian toast. “OK, how about a 35 mils (~1 ounce) stiff shot each booze, then hot coffee to fill your mug? With a chilled vodka chaser, as per usual?” He asks. “Make it so, Mr. Ho,” I say. “No whipped cream or crème liqueurs, please. I’m lactose intolerant, and, well, no one wants to hear that…” He laughs and whips together a very nice morning sunriser. It’s a real day off. In a very, very weird land. It’s Festival outside and I stayed up most of the night calling people back in the world, creating and updating dossiers, doing explosives-tracking paperwork, worrying over logistics, and how and when the fuck we’re going to eventually get out of here. Fuck it, double front. I’m doing my ‘people watch’, perched high on Mahogany Ridge. I’m taking, for the first time since, hell, I left the Middle East, some real downtime. I figured I deserved it. I was the only one at the bar, but after a short time, there were festival-goers who infiltrated down into the hotel's subterranean catacombs. They didn’t know of the bar’s recently expanded hours and when they saw me sitting high up on Mahogany Ridge, smoking my ubiquitous cigar, they rejoiced. Obligatory Festival and alcohol! Better than beer and power tools. In the Baja Canada time-honored tradition, I have a pile of the local currency sitting on the bar. At the new exchange rate of 1,386 won to the dollar, I’m making out like a bandit. Drinks here are cheap, really cheap, to begin with. With this fluctuation in exchange rates, which I figured reflected the holiday, I was flush. In the chips. Well-heeled. I've got a lot of what it takes to get along. So, I was feeling magnanimous. I was tipping people very well. “Paper?” one local asked. “Sure. How much for a week-old English version of the Daily Worker’s Manifest and Pork Belly Futures Digest? 100 won? Here’s 1,000. Keep the change.” Not wanting to become over-caffeinated, I switched from Greenland Coffees after a couple to my usual potato juice and citrus concoction. Each one came in a tall, frosted gimlet glass, a very nice touch, and was expertly made my Mr. Ho after I showed him once when we first arrived. Each one, with the current exchange rate, was about 500 won; an exorbitant sum for any local. It was about US$0.40 for me. I bought several for people who bellied up to the bar and tried to engage me in conversation. I was used to handing out business cards, hell, one never knew where contacts could lead; and not receiving one in return. Today, I collected four new business cards; two from various European ex-pats, and two from locals. I guess Festival! time brings out the best and least paranoid in people. It’s only 1000 hours in the AM and people here are already seriously lubricated. This will be a fun few days. I decided to get a rather tall drink in one of my 100-ounce Kum-n-Go travel cups. With all the hoo-ha going on around here, I haven’t seen a handler, translator, or guide since we got off the boat. I decide with all the shenanigans and goings-on around the place on this festival day, no one would give me nor my wardrobe a second look if I were to venture outdoors for a walkabout. Besides, we’re on a bloody island. It’s not like I can go too damned far. So, quicker than a bunny fucks, I get my drink, fire up a cigar, and walk around the lobby of the hotel. There are the usual comings and goings of tourists, local workers, the security forces, and all that allied tat. I wait until a tour bus pulls up and all eyes are somewhere besides me. Pfft! And I’m standing outside the hotel, looking at all the sights. Which, truth be told, weren’t much. Yanggak Island is a slovenly-manicured island with shrubberies, tracks, trails, and assorted support buildings. The river is basically hidden behind stunted shrubs and nevergreens, and the remains of the defunct golf course. There’s a stadium on the island, which was thronging with festival-goers today. I don’t know what sport, if any, they play there, and didn’t care enough to ask anyone. There was a cinema hall, which was currently empty and looking in need of some dire repair. There’s some sort of Chinese health complex in the process of being built or torn down, it was hard to tell which. Needless to say, the scenery paled almost immediately. I did, after a concerted effort, find a small platform that overlooked the Taedong River. It was a very nice little observation platform with a couple of new-Tudor-esque electrical replica gas lights and two concrete benches where a weary traveler could sit and just watch the river. So I did. I was interested in the fish of the river, and wondered if any of the locals did any fishing; or if it was forbidden, as are so many ‘proletariat’ activities are in town. I did see a few locals, huddled out of plain sight, down by the shores of the river fishing with long, 10 meter, reel-less poles. In Britain, they would call this type of fishing ‘noodling’. I didn’t see them catch anything, but in the bar later, I spoke with a local who told me that they catch various species of fish here. These include Asian Aroana, Blue Guppy, Catfish, Crab, Eel, Halibut, Hucho Perryi, Octopus, Orange Guppy, Pacific Flying Squid, Rainbow Trout, Salmon, and Tuna. I’m not saying my informant was lying or embroidering the tale, but from the nasty condition of the river, I think Coney Island Whitefish, Cotton River Horse, Dumpster Trout, and Bugle-Mouthed Salmon would be the more common species. I had enough perambulation and even though I wasn’t given the least look, I felt a bit uncomfortable out here. That unfiltered sun and equally unfiltered air. After that, I wandered back to the hotel and went to enter to go to my room. “HALT! Who goes there?” some door guard yelled at me. “An American tourista who was out on a walk”, I replied. “Impossible!”, he replied, “Tourists are not allowed out without their guides.” “Look, Herr Mac”, I said, “I’m Dr. Rocknocker, and I am an invited Western Petroleum Scientist with the UN special-invited group here to evaluate the country’s oil and gas potential.” “You are not allowed.” He replied loudly. “My good man”, I replied, equally loudly, "Not allowed? Not allowed? I’m a geologist, I’m allowed everywhere.” With that, I grab the handle of the ornate door, take a slurp out of my drink, and sally forth into the hotel. Of course, he goes non-linear. He follows me and is making all sorts of bad noise. He is almost literally dancing around me, pointing, and exclaiming that I’m not allowed. Then, he made a bit of a mistake. He grabbed my arm. Really, really poor career move. I switched my drink to my left hand and executed a pretty spiffy opposite-side wrist grab on the noisy little nerf herder. He was so shocked by this turn of events, he went slightly white and was rendered mute for a short time. I frog marched the little irritant up to the front desk and asked the head clerk there to explain to my captive audience who I was and why I was here. The clerk smiled and gave the character whom I was dragging around a quick background on the guy who was currently holding him captive. When I heard “닥터 락 노커” [dagteo lag nokeo, “Dr. Rocknocker”], I dropped this guy’s hand and just took a few steps back. After a minute or two, he comes over, very, very abashed. He apologizes as he wasn’t told that any Americans were allowed outside the hotel. I told him ‘No problem’, as I really didn’t have any special permission and didn’t want to get the guy into any trouble. I offered him a cigar, which he refused, but he readily accepted the half-pack of Sobranie pastel cigarettes I had in the pocket of my Hawaiian shirt. I decided from that point to just stay inside the hotel to smoke, drink, and avoid any further Imperial entanglements. I wandered on down to the casino because I was bored and it was unusually quiet. Too hepped-up to sleep, too tired to work, it was that odd interarea between “should I be giving a fuck” and “who the fuck cares?” Leaving the basement, I wandered around the ground floor, just taking in the sights, and looking at the “Festival Specials” at the hotel shops. I found an empty, unlocked conference room that looked inviting. About two dozen chairs, a large wooden table, TV monitors, and a southern view of the city from slightly above ground level. I walked in like I owned the place, as it is always monumentally easier to get forgiveness than permission, sat down at the head of the table, propped my feet up, found an ashtray, and began playing with the remote to see what was available. Evidently, these rooms were available for rent by various factions, cadres, and other sorts of like-minded individuals. However, whoever was here last forgot to re-set the filters on the satellite television. There was real the BBC, real-time. There was German TV, Russian TV, Japanese TV, and even some American TV; all the best of the absolutely prohibited hit parade. I shut it down and left immediately. I went to find my comrades. They simply had to see this. I located Dax first, as he was losing won at a rapid rate down at the basement casino. He said he’d spread the word to any of the team members down in the tunnels and we’d meet at Conference Room #1. I had taken the precaution before leaving to move the “Occupied/Unoccupied” placard to indicate it was in use and that if you hadn’t reserved the room, you’d do best to stay the fuck out. I waited the obligatory 20 minutes for the elevator and went up to ‘our’ floor. I knocked on all the doors where I knew they were occupied by our occupants. I found a few of our team and informed them that if they were so inclined, there would be an unannounced, impromptu, and wholly illicit meeting down in Conference room number 1; complete with refreshments and real, uncensored television. They all agreed and said they’d rouse the rest of our team on the floor. I was feeling so brazen, that when I went down to the ground floor, I stopped at the front desk and ordered lunch and drinks for my team in Conference Room #1. “Oh, sir”, the desk clerk responded, “We don’t have any reservations today for Conference Room #1.” “Well”, I replied, “We are in there and if it wasn’t reserved, how would that have happened? The room would have been marked as unavailable, which it clearly was not; as it was open and available and we are now occupying it. Therefore, it wasn’t marked unavailable so it must have been available; not unavailable as you postulate. It’s almost a simple example of the single equation theory of universal containment. So we are meeting there now and requiring refreshments. It’s simply a logical progression of the facts of the matter.” “You are, of course, correct”, she immediately responded, distracted by all the Festival goings-on in the hotel, “Now, you said you’d like to order 4 dozen assorted meat and cheese sandwiches, two cases of beer, and a mixed case of bottled liquor?” “Yes”, I replied, “You see, it’s only going to be a brief meeting. I’ll also need ice, carbonated and non-carbonated mixers, sliced citrus fruit, and an on-call bartender if you have one available.” “Oh, yes sir,”, she replied, “That will be immediately arranged. Anything else?” “Yes”, I replied, “I’ll need about a dozen ashtrays, of the larger variety. Also, I am going to leave explicit instructions with you to disseminate to hotel staff that we are not to be disturbed. This is a very high-level meeting of the scientists of the IUPG. We will be discussing, umm, ‘sensitive information’”. I used the international ‘don’t-even-think-of-bothering-us’ buzzword to let her know were being very serious indeed. “Oh, yes sir”, she stiffened. “Marvelous”, I said and slipped her 1000 won for her troubles. All sighs of nervousness instantly disappeared. “Excellent. Excellent service.”, I said, rubbing both hands together most Mr. Burnsly. I go over to the conference room and see that our order has begun to already arrive. Have to hand it to them, you call for room service and you get room service. Especially if you’re well known around the hotel to be free with imported cigars, pastel cigarettes, and lavish tips. One by one, my teammates filtered in. There was everyone from out earlier pleasure cruise, and most of the force that remained back in the hotel to prepare the paperwork for our ground assault. Cigars, cigarettes, and pipes were lit. Sandwiches consumed and drinks were downed. After everyone had a chance to see their home-town, or at least home-county, version of the news, I decided that it would indeed be a good time to have a bit of a meeting. It was going nuts outside with the Festival, and as long as we were in here, we were being left alone. After the obligatory facilities break, I returned from a 40-minute round trip to my room to get a couple of my field notebooks. I wanted a record of the proceedings, no matter how spur-of-the-moment. When I returned, I thought the room looked a bit spare. I did a quick headcount and I noted we were missing someone. I glanced through my notes and saw that our Bulgarian geomechanic, Dr. Iskren Dragomirov Dinev, or ‘Iskren’ was not present. “Hey, guys”, I asked aloud, “Anyone seen Iskren lately?” There was a brief conclave and the answer was a solid negative. I called the front desk and got his room number. I asked them to ring his room for me. His room phone rang and rang and rang, but no answer. “Who last saw Iskren?” I asked the assembled crew. The Finnish PT, Joon, recalls drinking with him at the casino the night before last. He seemed normally jovial as was normal for him. “Anyone else? Or since?” I asked. Again, the answer was negative. “Something’s not right”, I thought, my rock sense was tingling. “Dax, Cliff, you’re with me.” We all left, stopped by the front desk, and asked for medical assistance. We explained where we were going and the sudden absence of our Bulgarian friend. We expressed deep concern. 25 minutes later, Dax, Cliff, me, the hotel security chief, and hotel doctor were standing outside Iskren’s room. We had pounded on the door for a good 3 minutes. He certainly wasn’t in the shower. No answer. “Fuck this. Open it”, I said. “Under whose authority?” the chief of hotel security asked. “Mine. Dr. Rocknocker. I’m the team leader of the IUPG crew. Do it.” I said. The door was laboriously opened, as both door bolt locks had to be breached. The room was dark, silent, and entirely unnerving. In the gloom, it appeared that there was a human form, unmoving, on the bed. “I’m a rock Doctor. I think we need a medical doctor here.” I said to the hotel sawbones. The hotel doctor went in without switching on the lights nor touching anything. He examined the mound on the bed. Apparently, it wasn’t a pile of dirty laundry. “Was the occupant of this room a large Caucasian male, approximately 60-65 years of age?” He asked. “Yes”, we all answered together. “I’m afraid he’s dead.” The doctor replied. Dax looked at Cliff who looked at me. In unison, all that was heard was a tripartite: “Oh…fuck.” To be continued...
Is it reasonable to try to see Yellowstone and glacier national park in 1 week? UPDATE
Hi everyone. About a month ago I asked for some advice about a trip to your state to visit glacier and yellowstone. A lot of you had some great input and advice and I just came back from my trip. We only had accommodations set-up for the first 2 nights and just kinda winged the rest of the trip. All I can say is wow. You guys live in a beautiful place. Montana is massive and so diverse. The first day we flew into Helena and drove north toward the east side of glacier to stay in a town called Essex just outside of the park. It was like another planet to see those rolling hills covered in flowers and wide open spaces for hours along the drive. The town of browning inside the blackfeet reservation had some really nice people too (also why is there a casino attached to almost every gas station?) We explored glacier the next day. Did some hiking in two medicine and drove the famous road inside the park. We got lucky and the weather was kinda sketchy when the day started so there weren't many people in the park or on the road (we went from east to west down the road). When we were on the road, the weather was clearing up and when we were finishing you could see the bumper to bumper traffic coming from the other side. The next day we just kinda went exploring and drove thru whitefish. We decided to check out canada since it wasn't a far drive and we ended up coming back thru Idaho and stayed the night in bonners ferry(idaho was surprisingly scenic and friendly). We came back to Montana the next day and did the hike to Kootenai Falls right by the border. Really cool area and we had the trails to ourselves. After that we just kinda bounced from small town to small town passing thru places like Thompson Falls to stop to check things out(thrift stores, random events in the middle of town). The views of the mountains and picturesque rivers/lakes made those towns seem like paradise. We stopped in Missoula and ate at a place called Taco San. We had a hard time finding a place to stay there and on a whim a found a place online in the next town over called Butte and decided to go there. I knew nothing about Butte when I booked that hotel. As soon as we rolled off the highway I knew this wasn't just another town. To me it was fascinating. Like you were in an episode of the twilight zone. All those empty houses for sale. These gorgeous turn of the century buildings with old ads painted on the bricks sitting vacant. We got up the next morning and there were no stores open. No cars on the road. No people besides us walking on the sidewalks. It was just bizarre. On our way out, ww checked out the Berkeley pitt and some mining memorials and started to piece together what happened to this place. To me Butte was one of the most memorable places I've ever visited. After Butte we found a place in Gardiner just outside of yellowstone and drove there and checked out Lamar valley that afternoon and saw tons of wildlife. We got up at 530 the next day to beat the crowds and check out the Westside of yellowstone with the hot springs. We stopped at mammoth springs and the mudpots and had the places to ourselves. We hit old faithful by 8am just as the crowds were starting to come in. We hit a few more things on our way out and were done by noon just in time to see the half mile deep line to get into the West entrance. We found a nice place near a town called Ennis and had the best steak of my life. And that was our last night in Montana before we flew back out of Helena. We drove 1300 miles in 7 days. It was scenic and interesting and not at all like driving up and down i95 in florida like how some of you said it would be. Almost everyone we ran into was friendly and helpful. It was a great trip and I plan on coming back again. Thank you for your tips and hospitality.
Went to Montana for 1 week. Checked out Glacier National Park and Yellowstone and tons of stuff in between. Had a great time.
We only had accommodations set-up for the first 2 nights and just kinda winged the rest of the trip. All I can say is wow. Montana is massive and beautiful place. The first day we flew into Helena and drove north toward the east side of glacier to stay in a town called Essex just outside of the park. It was like another planet to see those rolling hills covered in flowers and wide open spaces for hours along the drive. The town of browning inside the blackfeet reservation had some really nice people too (also why is there a casino attached to almost every gas station?) We explored glacier the next day. Did some hiking in two medicine and drove the famous road inside the park. We got lucky and the weather was kinda sketchy when the day started so there weren't many people in the park or on the road (we went from east to west down the road). When we were on the road, the weather was clearing up and when we were finishing you could see the bumper to bumper traffic coming from the other side. The next day we just kinda went exploring and drove thru whitefish. We decided to check out canada since it wasn't a far drive and we ended up coming back thru Idaho and stayed the night in bonners ferry(idaho was surprisingly scenic and friendly). We came back to Montana the next day and did the hike to Kootenai Falls right by the border. Really cool area and we had the trails to ourselves. After that we just kinda bounced from small town to small town passing thru places like Thompson Falls to stop to check things out(thrift stores, random events in the middle of town). The views of the mountains and picturesque rivers/lakes made those towns seem like paradise. We stopped in Missoula and ate at a place called Taco San. We had a hard time finding a place to stay there and on a whim a found a place online in the next town over called Butte and decided to go there. I knew nothing about Butte when I booked that hotel. As soon as we rolled off the highway I knew this wasn't just another town. To me it was fascinating. Like you were in an episode of the twilight zone. All those empty houses for sale. These gorgeous turn of the century buildings with old ads painted on the bricks sitting vacant. We got up the next morning and there were no stores open. No cars on the road. No people besides us walking on the sidewalks. It was just bizarre. On our way out, ww checked out the Berkeley pitt and some mining memorials and started to piece together what happened to this place. To me Butte was one of the most memorable places I've ever visited. After Butte we found a place in Gardiner just outside of yellowstone and drove there and checked out Lamar valley that afternoon and saw tons of wildlife. We got up at 530 the next day to beat the crowds and check out the Westside of yellowstone with the hot springs. We stopped at mammoth springs and the mudpots and had the places to ourselves. We hit old faithful by 8am just as the crowds were starting to come in. We hit a few more things on our way out and were done by noon just in time to see the half mile deep line to get into the West entrance. We found a nice place near a town called Ennis and had the best steak of my life. And that was our last night in Montana before we flew back out of Helena. We drove 1300 miles in 7 days. It was scenic and interesting. Almost everyone we ran into was friendly and helpful. It was a great trip and I plan on coming back again.
Going on vacation to Michigan--rock hound locations, please!
My parents live near Traverse City, so I have a giant pile of Petoskey stones already! We are going to Leeland this time around, so I'd love to find some Leelanau Blue, even though it's slag. Thoughts on the best location? Likewise, my parents want to spend the night in Brimley on Whitefish Bay (they love casino trips, haha). Is there any chance I can find agates around there, or will I have to round Whitefish Point and get out of the bay? I've found glacial float copper before, so my Michigan collecting list is almost done. Or am I missing anything else?
Making a motorcycle trip in a few weeks to Munising, Baraga (stay in Casino), Deleware Mine, back to Houghton, and then back down to Newberry to head to Whitefish point. Looking to drive on paved roads. Anything I should be aware of? Houghton good to navigate around? Any spots I have to see or places I should visit? I wasn't planning on staying in Marquette, maybe stopping there for lunch. Anything worthwhile I'll miss?
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