Saturday, February 26, 2011

Turn Off All Portable Electronic Devices!

To: the Texas A&M Women's Golf Team Member in Seat 12C

I know you think that I am just the grumpy guy across the isle, but the flight attendants don't make safety announcements because they like to hear themselves talk. You are supposed to shut down personal electronics when the doors close. Of course, you know better (because you are an Aggie, blond, and female) and kept playing during push back and taxi and until I gave the attendant a high sign and he asked you to shut down.

But then you just had to turn back on as soon as we were wheels up and barely off the ground. You then received my wrath about the use of personal electronics below a flight level of 10,000 feet!

I thought that Texas A&M taught their students better, or at least how to listen to instructions. The next time you fly, get the buds out of your ears and listen to the instructions. You are not exempt from the rules!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Energy Policy

I paid $3.159/gal in Houston yesterday for regular gas! From the sounds of things it won't get less any time soon even though the price is being driven more by panic than actual supply and demand.

Where is the public outrage?

Looking at the drilling rig count, there are currently 25 rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico. These all appear to drilling development wells - these are wells into an existing reservoir that enhance recovery. None of them are exploratory rigs - rigs searching for new reservoirs! The rig count is some 20 rigs less than one year ago. With rigs leaving the Gulf, it will take several years for the production to recover - if it ever does. Rigs that have left will not be easy to get back.

As you should have learned during Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico provides some 25% of the USA's needs. What will the price of gasoline be when production from the Gulf starts falling off?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teachers - Welcome to MY World

There's an article in the Providence Journal about the RI Superintendent of Schools will send out termination notices to ALL teachers. The reason is to give the board maximum flexibility in resolving a budget deficit. The union, of course, is up in arms.

Well, welcome to the real world. When I worked for a major oil company we would undergo some sort of re-organization about every 18 months. At each re-organization, your job was in jeopardy. You had to qualify for your new position - if you had one. In some cases management would call everyone together and announce that nobody was guaranteed a position. In one case, we were told to sit in our offices and wait for someone to offer us a job. If nobody came, that was the sign that you were now unemployed.

Our operations people were union and seniority rules came into play if there were layoffs. I watched the young, smart guys who were up on new technology laid off because of seniority of older guys who were entrenched in the system.

So I have no sympathy for these teachers who think they are owed a job. They have needed a good shaking up for a long time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Petit Garcons - 1, Mom - 0

My daughter - in - law was making chocolat covered strawberrys last Sunday when the 6 and 10 year old grandsons ran into the kitchen yelling about a mouse in their toy room. Dutiful mom went to try to corner the critter leaving the boys unsupervised. When she returned, after finding no mouse, all of the strawberries were gone.

They hatched a plan and executed it perfectly!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10 Commandments of Project Engineering - NOT

Thou Shalt:

1. Not violate the process
2. Avoid risks at all cost
3. Not violate the Delegation Of Authority Guide
4. Not operate outside thy silo
5. Honor the audit process
6. Change nothin’ without Management Of Change approval
7. Seek endorsement and approval for all decisions
8. Conform thy office space to company standards
9. Use toolkits and checklists in all activities
10. Abide by Operational Integrity Management System above all others

The above was prepared by an employee of a major oil company to describe the expectations for new employees. Rigid control and innovation do not coexist well with each other. But it makes a managers job easier because he doesn't have to think.

Here endeth the lesson......

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vienna - Departure

We left Vienna on a Sunday morning under an overcast sky and snow flurries. There was no traffic so the trip to the airport was made in about 15 minutes. We flew Vienna to Amsterdam to Memphis to New Orleans. There were no delays and all connections were made easily and with no long layovers. But no matter how you cut it, by the time you walk in your front door, you have been on the road for about 24 hours and its hard to sleep because you are chasing daylight the whole time.

Something worthy of note was a retinal scan security device at Amsterdam that allowed trusted travellers to bypass the immigration desk. You slide a card with a magnetic strip and let the device scan your eye and you are in! Also, Amsterdam uses body scan machines on every passenger but it is the type that only indicates "anomalies" in the scan. When you step out, you can see your screening while the agent gives you a fast pat down in the areas indicated. No doodles or other body parts canbe seen. (I did it because there was no other choice - everyone had to be scanned)

For you smokers, the Vienna airport "Jet Lounge" has a smoking room. Its a glassed in area with excellent ventilation where smokers can burn a last one before boarding. Also, Amsterdam has some bars on the concourse that have closed off areas for smoking. My wife compared it to the bar scene in "Star Wars" after observing some of the Euro-characters there.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vienna Day 7

Today was Saturday. We started with a tour of the catacombs of St. Stephan's Cathedral. Along with Bishops and Cardinals, the crypt is also the final resting place of parts of the royal family. It seems there was a competition between churches to be the final resting place of Dukes and Duchesses. In order to keep the peace, the entrails of the royals were preserved in alcohol and placed in copper urns for placement under St. Stephans. The tour ended with a peek at the ossuaries where the bodies of plague victims in 1735 were dumped into a hole under the church square.

We then caught the U-Bahn to Shonbrunn Palace. We did a tour of the Royal rooms but it was too cold to walk the gardens. Besides, they are dormant at this time.

Tomorrow its up early for airplanes and the trip home.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vienna Day 5 and 6

Day 5 my wife spent walking the old city while I tried to figure out the Austrian code for the control logic. We returned to the Gasthaus for dinner. When we return to a restaurant during a vacation visit, its because the food is good.

Day 6 was a short work day. I was back to the hotel by 11:00 and we took out to find some old WW II flak towers.

They say the best way to learn a city is to get lost in it - and we did. We took a circle route and a long walk along the canal before finding the Augarten Park where two of them were built.

They were built as anti-aircraft sites. Guns were mounted on the top and the interior was used for ammunition and personnel. The walls can be up to 12 feet thick. In Berlin, they sometimes housed 10,000 people as bomb shelters. The walls are so thick that if Vienna tried to blow them up, they would destroy the neighborhood as well.

Red Dog was impressed.

This is "G" tower. It is a third generation design. It has been reinforced due to deterioration. One side of it is used as a microwave tower. It is one of 6 that were built in Vienna.

If you look closely, you can see shell damage on the top of this one.

By this time we were pretty well walked out so we caught the U-Bahn back to the hotel.

For dinner we returned to "The Cuckoo" for Weiner Schnitzel and Austrian wine.


The only English news channel we have in the hotel is CNN International. Their coverage of the news in Cairo has been basically cheerleading at a big love in. I kept wanting the CNN idiots to ask a real question like "Who do you think will govern now and how will your life be better?"

As I watch the partying in Cairo, one thought comes to my mind......"You people are sooooooo screwed. You just don't know it yet."

Heard Aound the Office

"Unless their update is the equivalent of converting the Ayatollah Khomeini to Catholicism, their bid is still rejected." - Me in response to a question about a vendor's incomplete bid proposal.

"It's like a Rubiks cube" - Instrument engineer describing the Austrian control logic

"No, its worse. You can solve a Rubiks cube." - My response

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Vienna Day 4

While I was tied up in meetings, my wife spent the day in the Kunsthistoriches Museum. She spent 5 hours on one floor! She could spend all the time sshe wanted on each painting and
there were no Japanese tourists to get in theway.

We needed a change from Austrian fare so we ate at an Italian restaurant, Ristorante Sole, near our hotel. They knew how to cook pasta and their veal piccata and veal alla romana were excellent.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vienna Day 3

I was off to more meetings with the Austrian engineers. There are basic differences in the approach we each take to engineering projects that have caused "issues". The decision was made to hire these guys without knowing the details and as we all know, that is where the devil resides. At least it gave me an opportunity to visit the city.

We ate at the Gasthaus Poschl. Its a small retaurant very popular with the locals. We managed to get seats at the bar without a reservation but it was a close thing. My wife had chicken, I had goulash and we both enjoyed a dry Viennese Reisling.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vienna Day 2

While I was going to meetings, my wife was shopping and sightseeing in Vienna. (Have U-Bahn Pass, Will Travel). While shopping, she bought a purse for our niece and struck up a conversation with the shop owner. It turned out that he was a Houston native that had transplanted to Austria 10 years ago. He then asked her if she had attended any music events and she described the Vienna Residence Orchestra concert. He said he had tickets to a concert but couldn't make it so he gave my wife two tickets to a youth from China concert for Friday. So, if you are near the Stephansdom Cathedral, look for the shop named Papillon and give them some business.

In the evening we went to a cozy restaurant filled with Cuckoo clocks. Their special of the week featured chanterelle mushrooms along with your main course. It was a wonderful place.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vienna Day 1 - Evening

My wife and I left Red Dog at the hotel and went to a concer tby the Vienna Residence Orchestra. (Remember the young man selling tickets in the square?)

This is a group of musicians that do nightly concerts featuring Mozart and Strauss. The works they play are a mixed bag including instrumentals, opera and ballet. They play in several historical buildings in Vienna. This night was in Auersperg palace. The venue was intimate. We had mid range tickets but everyone is close to the stage. The concert was just long enough to be interesting but not so long that your butt began to hurt.

Here's a sample.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vienna Day 1 - with Red Dog

Day 1, Sunday, we decided to roam the city and sightsee. Red Dog met some interesting characters in Stephansplatz.

The young man above was selling tickets to a music show outside of Stephansdom Cathedral. He was gracious enough to allow his picture to be taken after we purchased some tickets from him.

Red Dog likes mimes. He never met one he didn't like. (He prefers them roasted with a little garlic. He says they taste a little alligator.)
Then he decided to take a horse and buggy tour around the old city.
The horses were not happy that Red Dog was not pulling his share.
After all that activity, he was ready for some coffee with sacher torte and apfel torte.

Red Dog likee!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bound for Austria and Opt Out #5

If you read this blog last week, you will know that I don't hold the engineering of a certain Austrian company in high regard. Well, you must be careful of being too critical because I am now on my to Vienna for a week of meetings to iron out the rough spots in their design. (Hint: don't volunteer to go to the nice places. Just beg not to be thrown in that particular briar patch) The Mrs is happy to be tagging along.

As is typical, they tried to put me in the radiation booth. The agent I got was new and insisted on reciting the full description of what he was going to do during the pat down even though I told I knew the drill better than he did. His little speech took longer than the pat down. (thank you, Salvatore, for that waste of time - I hope you feel important now) They ought to pay me because I have probably done more to train TSA agents than Big Sis Napolitano.

We were flying NOLa - Memphis - Amsterdam - Vienna on Delta/KLM.

As we were trying to depart Memphis, the guy behind us refused to get off the phone. This lovesick middle aged dog was talking to his girlfriend and was suffering an episode of separation anxiety. I thought he was going to get thrown off the plane - and I was ready to help.

In Amsterdam, they patted me down again at the immigration/security point.

Other than those incidents, the trip was normal and I type this from the hotel in Vienna after a meal of beer, wienerschnitzel and saurkraut.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heard Around the Office

"You couldn't light their ass on fire with a blow torch and a gallon of gasoline" - Procurement Manager describing the sense of urgency of the engineering staff.

"As far as I'm concerned, that thing is just a boat anchor." - Engineering Manager to technology vendor describing his newly developed equipment.

"We don't need another boat anchor." - CEO to same technology vendor describing problems with the fabrication of his equipment

Head Count

In a slow start for the year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has only executed one murderer in January. By contrast, Iran has racked up 69.

Of course, Iran will kill you for spitting on the sidewalk.


This morning on the drive to the office, the radio said there was a 25 degree temperature gradient across Houston. Everyone who runs projects know that the problems happen at the interfaces. The weather is no different and I are in one. I felt temperature drop in the 10 minutes between the hotel and the office. Wish I'd a brought a coat!