Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu - History Repeats?

If you are younger than 50, you probably don't recall the Swine Flu epidemic of 1976. For an excellent review of this government lead fiasco, go here.

The short story is that one soldier at Fort Dix died of Swine Flu after a forced 5 mile hike. The CDC found evidence that other soldiers had been infected but recovered. There was great concern about a pandemic which lead to the President's science advisers recommending a nation wide inoculation program. But there were side effects to the serum and 25 people died as a direct result of the program.

To put things in perspective, in America, approximate 36,000 people die each year from "normal" influenza and there about 200,000 people hospitalized.

Given that our President's current science advisor is a global warming alarmist, I would advise that you follow any recommendations coming out of the White House at your own risk and with extreme caution.

Friday, April 24, 2009


The purist in me prefers single malts but I have to admit that the art of the blend can be interesting. The blender has to keep his mix consistent between distillery runs which has to be a challenge. For that reason, I tried, and liked, Usquaebach.

The distillery was started in 1768 and is now owned by the American company Stone Flagon Whiskey LLC. It is a located in the Western Highlands. Usquaebach means "water of life", which is true of all good whiskeys.

Here are my tasting notes.

Usquaebach Reserve

Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Clean
Palate: Clean, Delicate, Fresh
Body: Medium Soft, Mouth Coating
Finish: Short, Clean,Tingling

Robert Burns said in 1791, "wi Usquaebae we'll face the devil." I don't know if I'd go that far, but this is truly a good whiskey.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Nutria (Myocastor Coypus) is a large aquatic rodent that is one of those grand economic experiments gone wrong. They were imported to the US back in the 1930s to be raised for fur. When fur prices dropped, the farmers usually just released them to the wild, where they flourished. They are known to be destroyers of the marsh with their ravenous appetites for herbaceous material. The late Sheriff Harry Lee declared war on nutria whose burrows were undermining the drainage canal banks in his parish. The SWAT team sharpshooters were sent out with .22 rifles to shoot the little buggers. The shooters found that nutria were wily and difficult targets. They quickly learned that any noise could be a death dealing deputy and ran for their burrows.

The best solution is to introduce the orange toothed critters to the human food chain but their unappealing appearance and classification as a rodent is off putting to many people. However, a Cajun will eat just about anything. If you get the urge to try nutria, here’s a heart healthy recipe for them.

Heart-Healthy Crockpot Nutria
2 hind saddle portions of nutria meat
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 tomato, cut into big wedges
2 potatoes, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
8 Brussels sprouts
½ cup white wine
1 cup water
2 tsp chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup demi-glace (optional)
Layer onion, tomato, potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts in crockpot. Season nutria with salt, pepper and garlic, and place nutria over vegetables. Add wine and water, set crockpot on low and let cook until meat is tender, about 6 hours. Garnish with vegetables and demi-glace. Serves 4.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ohhhh, The Irony!!!!

Shamelessly stolen from Mostly Cajun.

On Her Majesty's Table

As I travelled around the world, there was one condiment that seemed to be universal - Tabasco. I could be in a grass roofed lunch shack in Brazil and find a bottle of the fiery liquid on the table. Cajuns had probably introduced it to the world as they travelled in the oil industry and it was everywhere from the deserts of Arabia to the Amazon jungles.

We learned this weekend that Tabasco has been approved for a Royal Warrant of Appointment as a supplier of goods to the Queen of England.

I like Tabasco, and am not afraid to use it, but when I travel, my favorite condiment to carry with me is Crystal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coyote Tales

Last November, on election day, I wrote about a coyote running across the road in front of my car on my way to work. Well, he still must be out there because yesterday one showed up at the Grandson's school. He is now in a residential area and there is a good chance that some little kid will get hurt when they try to pet the "nice doggie".

Middle Grandson said that SPCA stands for "Slow Progress Catching Animals". Oldest Grandson was not sentimental. "I wonder why they just didn't shoot it?" was his comment. That allowed me to discuss the 4th Rule: Be aware of your target and what's behind it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Global Warming Cure??

Obama Science Advisor John Holdren’s idea of injecting sulphur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere sounds like “we had to destroy the world in order to save it”. I decided to do some back of the envelope calculations to test the feasibility of his idea.

We know that volcanic eruptions have caused global cooling (volcanic winter) in the past so let’s look at them as a model for Dr. Holdren’s idea.

Volcanic eruptions are classified by their “Volcanic Explosivity Index” (VEI). This is a number between 1 and 8 that relates to the amount of material the volcano ejects. The amount of material ejected is measured in cubic kilometers. A cubic kilometer is a cube that is over a half mile on a side. An eruption with a VEI of 8 ejects 1,000 cubic kilometers of stuff. One with a VEI of 7 ejects 100 cubic kilometers of stuff, and so on by factors of 10. For comparison, let’s look at some well known eruptions.

Mount St. Helens in 1980 had a VEI of 5
Mount Pinatubo in 1991 was on the high end of 6
Mount Tambora in 1815 was on the high end of 7

(By the way, the USA has had a couple of 8s back in prehistoric times. Where? Yellowstone!)

Mount St. Helens didn’t seem to cause much of a volcanic winter. But Mount Pinatubo is known to have reduced global temperature by 1 degree F for about 2 years. Mount Tambora caused the year without a summer and widespread starvation. So, if we were to try to control global temperature, we’d probably like to start with a Mount Pinatubo sized event and go from there.

It is known that Mount Pinatubo put 20,000,000 tons of SO2 into the atmosphere to a height of 35 kilometers. We can estimate the amount of energy required to do that using high school physics. Multiply the mass in kilograms by the height in meters and the gravitational constant and you get the energy in Joules required to raise that weight to that elevation.

(18.16 x 10**9 Kg)(35 x 10**3 m)(9.8) = 6.23 x 10**15 Joules

(note that I use the double asterisk ** to indicate scientific notation)

Well, hell! I don’t have a clue what a Joule is so let’s get that into something we all can recognize.

It so happens that a kiloton on TNT yields 4.184 x 10**12 Joules. The Hiroshima atomic bomb was 12.5 kilotons. Therefore, if we wanted to inject an amount of SO2 equivalent to the Mount Pinatubo eruption, we would need to expend the energy equivalent to 119 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

If you prefer BTUs, we’d need 5.9 x 10**12 BTUs. That’s a lot of heat! I leave to the reader to convert that into units of your preference.

I know that this is a rather simplistic analysis but I think it makes the point that the energy required to attain even a modest, and temporary cooling of the earth is massive.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Crawfish Time

Good Friday is typically the first family crawfish boil. We do two batches: a mild batch and a spicy batch. We also throw in sausage, potatoes, onion, garlic and corn. The spice concentrates in the vegetables but boy is it good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

USS Thresher

On this day in 1963 the nuclear submarine USS Thresher sank with all hands. It was the first post WW II peacetime submarine casualty. The mystery of her loss, and the efforts to find her location and determine the cause, resulted in the realization that a new engineering discipline, Ocean Engineering, was needed to cope with the problems of designing for ocean forces. It also led to the development of deep ocean search and rescue capability.

The loss of the Thresher is particularly poignant to me. I was born and raised in New Hampshire. Dad worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Fathers of my friends worked there. I attended her launch with my Cub Scout Den. I still have mementos from the launching ceremony. What most people don’t realize is that 17 civilians also went down with her. They were shipyard employees and field engineers who were there to observe the operation of the subs systems. My father, or fathers of my friends, could have been onboard just as easily.

It turned out she was a victim of the Joule-Thompson Effect. Stated simply, the J-T Effect says that when the pressure on a compressible fluid under high pressure is reduced, the fluid will cool. Its simple high school physics. Mr Wizard TV show stuff. It was surmised that the Thresher suffered a piping leak that caused her reactors to shut down, or SCRAM. When they tried to blow the ballast tanks with high pressure air, the moisture in the compressed air froze because of the J-T Effect. The ice blocked the piping and shut off the ballast blow.

Take a minute if you will and go here and read the obituaries of the men lost on the Thresher. The crew included a few WW II veterans, several African Americans and two brothers. These men were the cold warriors of that era.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It Ain't Broke....

There is a saying in the oilfield that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Obama science advisor John Holdren would do well to follow that piece of Cajun knowledge. Instead, he advocates "geoengineering" the planet to correct global warming. He forgets that every time man has sought to "improve" something on the planet, it has wound up to be a dismal failure, if not downright dangerous. Just consider the invasive species that have been introduced to areas with no natural predators and how they have taken over the environment. Can you say Kudzu Vine? Nutria? Zebra clams? Murphy's Law of Unintended Consequences rears its ugly head every time.

But John Holdren wants to inject material into the atmosphere to block the suns rays. I guess he didn't read about the summer of 1816 when Mount Tambora did the same thing with catastrophic results for Europe and the USA. What if he actually succeeds in his crazy scheme and we can't grow any food because he starts a new ice age. Make sure you hold on to your guns because you will need them when the food riots start.

And its not like he has a stellar record for being correct. But I guess being the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard gives him a pass.

I wish we could call a "do over" on his confirmation. He scares the fecal material out of me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bayou Militia

Remember the idiot who stole a Cessna and flew south with the intent on committing "suicide by sidewinder"? Remember the F-15s who shadowed him? Well, they came from Belle Chasse NAS. They were part of the Louisiana Air National Guard.

A few of you may remember that after 9-11, we kept fighter jets on strip alert all over the US. I attended a briefing for oil field folks back then given by a whole bunch of alphabet soup government agencies. One thing we learned was that air support was only a phone call away. (Call the Coast Guard oil spill response center if you need the fast movers) Occasionally I would hear a flight of two taking off on full afterburner in the middle of the night and knew that something was going on. (night flights were restricted because of noise) Fortunately, the ANG is still protecting us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I just got back from a long awaited trip to Italy. (Cashed in a few frequent flier miles) Here is a list of random thoughts about the trip.
  • Florence and Rome could be cleaner. I was particularly disturbed by the amount of graffiti in Florence on the historic stone buildings.
  • I ended up with a VW Golf diesel with a 6 speed standard for a rental car. I haven't driven a stick in a long time and I was surprised at how fast it came back to me. I had forgotten the satisfaction of snicking through the gears and the fact that shifting up and down became such an unconscious act.
  • The Autostrada is a great highway but they installed a crash rail that is uncomfortably close to the left lane. In fact, it blocks your view in a tight left hand turn. I never got used to that rail flashing by me ear at 80 MPH.
  • In two weeks we never had a bad meal. And we ate in everything from a hole in the wall local pizzeria to a 4 star restaurant in Rome. Everyone in Italy, it seems, has mad cooking skills.
  • If you order a salad, you will get a bottle of balsamic vinegar and a bottle of locally made olive oil. Don't bother trying to get any other dressing.
  • The Italians like to tailgate. And I mean so close you need K-Y.
  • I had a GPS in the car. I programmed it to take the "shortest route". This led to some interesting trips down secondary roads. In one case, it took me down a dirt road through a vineyard after crossing the A1 on what I swear was an overpass still in construction. It will take you through all the small towns but its a great way to see the real Italy.
  • When you miss a turn, a nice lady on the GPS will ask you to "When possible, make an authorized U-turn". I heard that many times.
  • Pizzerias will serve things other than pizza. It's possible in some to get a regular meal. And they all have wood fired ovens. Thin crust only!
  • Many businesses that we saw (restaurants and hotels) are family run affairs. It seems to be the norm that Mom, Dad and the kids all run the operation together.
  • For the 2nd Amendment folks: I saw Puccini's birthplace. (The opera guy) He is buried in his summer home by a nearby lake. He is buried in the house between his music room and gun room. He called his rifle his "second most favorite instrument". So, opera guys can be gun guys, too.
  • I don't know much about the history of WW II in this part of Italy. Most of the fighting here took place in the fall of 1944. However, it is easy to see that the terrain would favor the partisans. The hills are too steep for tanks to go cross country and it would be a bitch to assault a prepared defensive position. Our host at small hotel told me that his grandmother used to bring food to the partisans when she was a child.
  • Most public toilets have no seats. This is no problem for the guys who only need to do No. 1 but it's a problem for the ladies. They have to "hover".