Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life Lesson

I've been frequenting a Japanese restaurant in Houston. I usually sit at the sushi bar and talk to the sushi chef. It gives me a chance to practice my Japanese. In our conversations I found that he comes from Osaka. I explained that I lived in Hiroshima for 2 years. He has been a sushi chef for 30 years. When I expressed awe at this accomplishment and commented that he must be a sushi master he said, "No. I am not master. I am still studying. If I call myself a master, then I will stop learning and I still have much to learn."

I thought he had a good philosophy. Endeavor to never stop learning as long as you live.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Movie Plot

A young man is caught up in a war when a larger country invades their smaller neighbor. He finds he has a talent for the military life and becomes an officer. He eventually runs a team of guerrillas that inflict so much damage on the enemy that a price is put on his head. He also earns the equivalent of the Medal of Honor. But he becomes disillusioned when the politicians make a truce which ends the war with a loss of territory. In order to keep fighting, he joins the army of the country who was a co-belligerent with him against his former enemy. When the war ends and he is repatriated, he is tried for treason for violating the terms of the treaty and sentenced to 6 years.

After several years in jail, he is pardoned by the President. He then leaves his home country for the protection of a neutral neighboring country where he meets a woman and tries to make a living as a lumber jack. It turns out to be a dull life so he catches a boat for South America where some old army friends help him get to America. He jumps ship in America and is allowed to stay with the help of “Wild Bill” Donovan. He enlists in the US Army under the Lodge Act in order to earn citizenship. He is starting over as a private but soon moves up the ranks and becomes an officer. He joins the Special Forces and takes part in several secret missions before being sent to Vietnam. He becomes MIA in Vietnam after a helicopter crash in Laos. It is only years later that his remains are recovered and identified to be interred in Arlington.

Sound like a good movie plot? Well, it’s the capsule biography of Larry Thorne who was born in Finland as Lauri Torni. He fought in the Winter War and the Continuation War where the Russians put a price on his head and he earned the Mannerheim Cross for his exploits. After Finland signed a treaty with Russia, He joined the Waffen SS to keep fighting the Russians (The SS had a special group made up of Scandinavian volunteers). After the end of WW II, Finland tried him for treason and he was sent to jail. After being released, he made his way to the US and joined the army, basically starting all over again as a pfc before going to OCS and joining the Special Forces.

He was the basis for the character Sven Kornie in the book, The Green Berets. He was assigned to MACV-SOG in Vietnam and died in a helicopter crash in Laos on 18 October 1965. His body was recovered in 2003. He is buried in Arlington and his name is on the wall. Go and pay homage to a unique individual.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

9mm Therapy

It has been a while since I've been on the shooting range. Luckily, there is no shortage of ranges in Houston. So, after work, I went to the nearest indoor range for a little eye-hand coordination practice.

I selected a 9mm Glock 26 from the rental display, bought two boxes of ammo and three targets and went to the range where I was the sole occupant. I set the targets at 9 yards and went to work.

The results from shooting the first box revealed an occasional flinch but mostly a trigger control issue. Things improved on the second box. On aimed slow fire, I put 17 out of 25 in the 10 ring. And all shots were within the 8 ring. In rapid fire, I put 5 out of 25 in the 10 ring and another 16 in the 9 and 8 ring. Its a good way to relieve office induced stress.

Next time, I'll use the snubbie on double action.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Southern Manners

Today I got back to the hotel and went down to the exercise room. I set the TV on Fox News and got on the treadmill. After a while, a 20 something blonde entered the room, immediately grabbed the remote and changed the channel.


It's common courtesy to ASK before changing the channel in almost every fitness center I have been in. I spent the next 10 minutes plotting my revenge.

I finished, grabbed a towel and glass of water. I then asked blondie where she was from.

"California", she replied.

"That explains it ", I responded.

"What do you mean?", she queried.

"A Southern person would have asked permission before changing the TV whereas people from the northeast and California, do not".

She was so enamored with herself, she didn't see it coming.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Winter Wolf

Chuck Pfarrer is making a film about the Finnish Winter War.

This should be an interesting production by a former SEAL with some Hollywood credentials. But I wish they would take some of the Finnish made movies, dub them in English and format them for the US market.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meat Lovers Paradise

Last night I went to a Brazilian steak house, or Churrascaria. It's name was Tradicao. If you love charbroiled meat, go to a churrascaria. It's one price and the waiters bring out skewers of meat for as long as you can eat. Go hungry!

Top Secret Rosies

I tutor my niece in senior physics. A few weeks ago I wanted to show her the practical application of physics. I knew that during WW II there were hundreds of "human calculators" turning out ballistics tables for bombs and artillery shells and I was looking for a sample to show here how the Equations of Motion were used. And then I got an email from the WW II Museum. It seems someone has made a documentary about the women mathematicians who sat behind mechanical calculators for hours churning out ballistics tables. I can't embed the trailer, but you can find it here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Houston's Mahatma Ghandi District

My hotel is near Houston's Indian district and I was craving Indian food. I went to a little strip mall place called Mezban. It advertised Indian and Pakistani food so I knew it would have spice. A buffet was set up and it was clear that this is where the locals ate. I had pakoras, butter chicken, karahi gosht and topped it off with some kheer. Pakoras are fried onions. Butter chicken is white meat simmered in a coconut curry. Karahi gosht is lamb in a spicy curry of tomato and onion base. Kheer is a rice pudding with a hint of rose water. Knife and fork are optional. They bring naan bread which is used to scoop up the meat and curry mixture.

Tomorrow we havea long meeting to kick off the engineering on this biofuel project, but for now, I am content.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Science vs. Engineering

My current project uses some proprietary technology that could be a game changer for the gas-to-liquids business. The developers and our Chem Engineers can talk for hours about the processes taking place within their "black box", endlessly discussing the chemical minutia involved. But, somebody has to take this thing and put it in a real world environment and actually produce a saleable product.

I quickly realized that the folks in Ohio had not thought about those issues. What are the foundation requirements, what are the allowable loads on the flanges, what is the thermal growth, what utilities do I need to support it, how do we do an Emergency Shutdown......Answers to these questions are needed before it can go commercial and I'll be working on those along with the issues of doing construction in a Brazilian jungle.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On The Road Again

I've started a new assignment in Houston working for a company developing biomass to biodiesel plants. It's been a crazy few days getting up to speed with a new technology and all that goes along with that. Today I walked into the office and was asked to attend a meeting in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday. So I made a few quick reservations and am now typing this in Ohio.

As an interesting side light, I went to the hotel lobby this AM for breakfast and there was one other guy there. We got to talking and it turns out that he was a survivor off the "Deepwater Horizon". He was in Houston for medical checkups. So we killed the time talking about the disaster and the oilfield in general. A Vietnam Vet, the rig sinking was worse than Vietnam in his mind. He made it clear that he was finished with the oil industry. At 62 he was hoping for a nice settlement and a retirement from Transocean and he would go back to central Louisiana and go hunting. He put a human face on the disaster for me.

By the way, Bush International in Houston is preparing for body scanners. You now have to remove belts and wallets before going through security. The idea is to get you ready for the scanner prep but they don't tell this in time to prepare for it but yell at you as you are stacking your stuff on the xray belt. If I thought the effort was a stick in the eye to a terrorist, I would do it without flinching, but I suspect the terrorists are laughing at our silly attempts to thwart them. And I hate to see power in the hands of an uneducated martinet. Screw the TSA!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia executed one rapist and one murderer in September raising the count to 19 for the year.