Monday, October 26, 2009

Ocean Policy

It probably escaped everyones notice that President Obama issued a memorandum to form the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force back in June. This policy making group is lead by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. (and one of his czars)

Well, the Task Force has issued an interim report and 68 of our congressmen are at odds with it claiming it leans too far in environmental policy and not enough in economic policy, especially recovery of hydrocarbons.

A copy of the letter this bi-partisan group sent to the task force can be found here.

A link to the web page for the task force, including a link to sent in public comments, is here.

I encourage you to read the report and offer comments. At least take a moment and scan the list of commenters and see if you agree with what they say. Be warned, this task force is the group that will set ocean policy in this administration, and developing offshore mineral resources is not a priority for them.

While you are pondering that, bear in mind that the MMS, who oversees oil development in the federal OCS, and collects royalties from the oil companies, is the second largest source of money to the federal government after the IRS. That's oil money!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Road Trip!

Made a road trip to Houston this past weekend to attend the retirement dinner for a colleague from the Flying Red Pony Oil Company, now the Tiger Horse Oil Company. Its a lot more fun going to retirement dinners than funerals and I've done a few of those this year, too. It was good to see guys I haven't seen in a while and do a little catch up over a free steak dinner.

There may be some more of them in my future as well. You see, the company announced a change in the discount factor they use to calculate a retirees retirement benefit and it wasn't to the positive. Guys close to retirement found that their retirement benefit, and most of them take it in a lump sum, would be severely affected. The company processed ten times more retirement packages than normal after that announcement.

After we had a few laughs remembering his career, he spoke about his first jobs out of college and how the oil industry back then had a tendency to throw people into the deep end and see if they could swim. He told about being given charge of projects that were probably over his head and of ordering up offshore platform design and construction with a phone call. He talked about putting together a production facility from surplus parts because time was of the essence. All of us in the room had similar experiences - we had to meld an engineering education with field experience gained on the job to obtain a successful result - but we somehow managed to muddle through. But the drive to "get things done" never left us. Nowadays, the world is run by "processes" and regulations. There is a process and a procedure and a regulation for everything, and it is long and laborious. That is why, when someone needs something to happen, they call guys like me and my ex co-workers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Finnish War Movies

Talvisota (The Winter War), 1989
Director: Pekka Parikka

I stumbled upon Finnish war movies when doing a little research on the Winter War. This was the first movie I “discovered”. I found it on YouTube where you can watch it in 10 minute increments. The link is here.

This movie is the story of two brothers who go to fight the Russians during the Winter War. Russia, taking advantage of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany, decided to expand their territory. After capturing Eastern Poland and the Baltic States, they invaded the Finnish Karelian Isthmus in November of 1939. Finland, having only recently obtained independence, fought to keep them out although they were outnumbered almost 3 to 1.

The movie focuses on Karelia and depicts what is mostly trench warfare between poorly equipped soldiers. (The slashing strikes with ski troops took place further north in Finland.) This is where the Molotov Cocktail was perfected as it was the only means the Finns had of stopping Russian armor. Though lacking the glamour of ski troops, the movie captures a realistic representation of trench warfare in winter. The filming logistics must have been difficult as they filmed on location during the winter. There are also plenty of pyrotechnics to satisfy those who like explosions. The only concession to special effects was that the airplanes were all models.

Subtitled in English, the movie captures the cynical humor that is typical of the Finns. In one scene, a soldier running to shelter during a particularly fierce shelling is asked by another what he is doing out in such “bad weather”. And throughout the movie, the soldiers refer to Russians as “the neighbors”, giving the impression that the war is nothing more than a simple disagreement between two farmers or a social event.

The movie won 7 Finnish film awards in 1990 including Best Director, Best Music Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. After the move was released, the director, Pekka Parikka, was invited to work in Hollywood. He stayed there for two years but could not find a script he liked. (He turned down “The Firm”) He died in 1997.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Urban Archeology

Today I did some urban archeology. Unfortunately, the buildings had only been abandoned a little longer than 4 years. A group of us made a field trip to look at some buildings that are going to be demolished. It will be our job to write the specifications for the demolition work and to do so, we had to get some ground truth. This meant a sweaty couple of hours walking around in buildings that were trashed by Katrina and have not been all that water tight for the last four years. Its just one of the things that they never told you about in engineering school.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Senate Roll Call Vote 305

The Senate is discussing Dept of Defense appropriations. Sen McCain wanted to add the following amendment last Thursday:

Sec. __. (a) Testimony Before Congress on Meeting United States Objectives on Afghanistan and Pakistan.--The officials specified subsection (b) shall each be made available, by not later than November 15, 2009, to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of Congress regarding recommendations for additional forces and resources required to achieve the objectives of United States policy with respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan stated pursuant to section 1117(a) of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-32; 123 Stat. 1907).
(b) Officials.--The officials specified in this subsection are the following:
(1) The Commander of the United States Central Command.
(2) The Commander of the United States European Command and Supreme Allied Command, Europe.
(3) The Commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan.
(4) The United States Ambassador to Afghanistan

Hmmmm, seems like this might have forced POTUS to state an objective for his plans for Afghanistan. Can't have that! The vote was as you might guess, right down party lines, 40 - 59, 1 not voting, the Nays have it.