Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Schemes

I had a couple of things come across my desk recently. They were electrical power generation ideas developed by entrepreneur - inventors who were seeking some engineering assistance or wanted us to incorporate them into a facility. The business development guy kicked them down to me for comment.

Let me start by saying one thing:

You Cannot Disobey the First Law of Thermodynamics.

The First Law states, very simply, that energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed.

Yes, I may be a Luddite in that I refuse to recognize the genius of your invention/machine/idea and stick with the old ways but I have never been mislead by the First Law and I won't ignore now on the pain of going to Engineering Hell. And your case isn't helped when you quote power generating capacities that don't make sense and are in units that don't exist. And how much sense does it make to capture the kinetic energy in the pressure from a natural gas well by expanding it in a mechanical device when there are oodles more energy available if you just burn the stuff?

And a video of your machine just chugging along with no load on it and no voice over describing how it works and what is happening just does not do it for me. You should try selling it to the Shark Tank or the Dragons Den.

And for that reason, I'm out!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Senate Roll Call Vote 295

There was a vote in the Senate yesterday that has gone unnoticed but may have a big effect on your life. David Vitter introduced an amendment to HR 2996, the funding bill for the Dept of Interior, Environment and other agencies that would prohibit the Climate Change Czar, Carol Browner, from directing any activities of the agencies funded by the act. To me, that seems reasonable. Carol Browner has not been approved by any Senate confirmation process so why should she have any power to direct federal agencies? Well, in a partisan vote, Senator Vitter's amendment was tabled. The voting record is here. Carol Browner's resume, along with the resumes of her fellow czars, can be found here.

Folks, this is why you will wake up one day and find that everything has changed and you won't know how it happened. You will not hear about this vote on the news but it could have grave consequences for the country, the economy and your life. Your freedoms will be taken from you in pieces so small that you will never know it happened. They will be taken in obscure votes such as this one until what you thought was your government is no longer there. If you trust our president to give power to people that evade a vetting and approval process, then you are probably OK with this situation. I am not!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Winter War (Talvisota)

This documentary describes the little known war between Russia and Finland in the winter of 1939 called "The Winter War" or, in Finnish, "Talvisota". Its an interesting period of history. It shows how the Russian were out fought by a much smaller, but much more dedicated army in winter conditions. The Russian's poor showing in this war helped to convince Hitler to attack Russia.

Its personally interesting to me because my grandparents on my mother's side emmigrated from Finland back in 1901. That was a period when Russia was trying to take over the newly independent country which caused a wave of people to leave. Mother always hated the Russians and she didn't like it when I was traveling over there.

I hope you enjoy this video. The battle scenes come from a 1989 Finnish movie titled "Talvisota".

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monkey Wrench Firmly Inserted

I was called in recently to review plans for a cooling system for a large variable frequency drive. Sparkys (Electrical Engineers to the lay man) have been working on this for months, both here and across the pond in Deutschland. The cooling system uses de-ionized water which is pumped around the circuits and out to a fin fan cooler located outside the building. It will be located offshore Louisiana. After a short review, I asked the question:

"How do you prevent the cooling water from freezing in the winter?"

Dead silence. Deer in the Headlights looks all around. It never occurred to the ohhh so detail oriented Germans that the air temperature in the GOM can get below freezing, but it can. And the design basis required low temperature operation as well. Sparkys are now scrambling to retrofit a fix.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Liar? and Eating Politicians

Two curmudgeons from Downeast Maine were surveying the landscape when one turned to the other and said, "What d'ya think of that new man down your way? Would you call him an honest man or a liah?"

"Well, I woudn't go so far as to call him a liah, but when he want his cows to come in from pastyah, he's got to get someone else to call 'em!"

(adapted from "Bert and I")

Two crocodiles were sitting at the side of the swamp near the lake. The smaller croc turned to the bigger one and said, "I can't understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We're the same age; we were the same size as kids. I just don't get it."

"Well," said the big croc, "what have you been eating?"

"Politicians, same as you," replied the small croc. "Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?"

"Down the other side of the swamp near the parking lot by the capitol."

"Same here. Hmm. How do you catch them?"

"Well, I crawl up under one of their Lexus cars and wait for one to unlock the car door. Then I jump out, grab them by the leg, shake the shit out of them and eat 'em!"

"Ah!" says the big crocodile, "I think I see your problem. You're not getting any real nourishment. See, by the time you finish shaking the shit out of a politician, there's nothing left but an asshole and a briefcase."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The Senate today voted to eliminate funding for ACORN from the appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. An organization as stupid as ACORN has demonstrated that it is too stupid to handle large amounts of money. They are so stupid that even our representatives in Washington recognized ACORN's stupidity.

Think about it - a guy dressed like a bad caricature of a pimp walks into your office and starts asking advice on how to get a government loan to open a house of prostitution and you take him seriously???? So seriously, in fact, that you offer advice on how to skirt the rules on what is obviously an illegal activity. And this happens not once, not twice, but THREE times that we know of? That is the very definition of stupid! On an institutional scale.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

That Was Then.....

Sen. Obama on March 16, 2006

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America's debt problem.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is "trillion" with a "T." That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President's budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion


Our debt also matters internationally.

My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.

Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.

Now he needs the Senate to vote to increase the federal debt limit beyond $12.1 trillion. Ohhhh, the irony!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Les Petit Garcons

Oldest grandson's culinary skills are improving. When I came home the other day, he was in the kitchen with my wife and her mother and they were cooking up a storm. The three of them spanned 4 generations and some 70 years but they found common ground in the kitchen. He has become a very good scratch baker. His younger brothers are usually eager to sample the fruits of his labor whether it be red velvet cake, muffins or chocolate chip cookies. The next project is a series of pies: apple, pumpkin and cherry. With scratch made pie crust.

Middle grandson is scary smart. According to his standardized tests last year, he reads at above a high school senior level. He's 9! I believe he has a photographic memory. If he sees something once, he has it forever. He is now reading a Ronald Reagan biography.

Youngest grandson is dealing with some kindergarten angst. His girlfriend refuses to marry him until he is eight. I commiserate as only another man can in such a situation.