Saturday, April 30, 2011

More TSA Adventures

I was leaving Houston last Thursday and opting out of the virtual strip search as usual. (Bear in mind that I know the pat down procedure and I know it includes a check for explosives at the end.) I told the agent to skip the explanation - I knew it by heart and I knew the drill - so he ran through the pat down while I kept up casual banter and told him I sometimes found the pat down faster than the x-ray. He swabbed his gloves and put the swab in the explosives detector. "It may not be faster today", he said. There on the screen, in big red letters was "EXPLOSIVES DETECTED".

Huh! "I've always wondered what happens if you get a positive reading", I commented.

He was joined by another agent and they asked me to enter their cubical for a private pat down.

"I prefer to have the pat down in public - right here."
"No sir, we must do it in here."
"It's the rules."
"Can you show me the rules and where it says that?"
"No sir."
"Are you ashamed of what you are doing?"
"No sir"
"Then lets do it here in public."
"Its the rules. Or I can call a policeman."

At this point I relented and we went into the cubical. The pat down was the same, except that he used his palms for a full contact pat down. I suspect that is why they go into the cubical. They don't want any more cell phone videos showing the TSA feeling up passengers.

This time the explosives test was negative and I was allowed to proceed. Of course, in the meantime they had pulled my boarding pass and called to have my bag pulled and all that had to be undone.

The last group of people who used adherence to "the rules" to justify their actions were defendants at the Nuremberg trials. Bear that in mind when dealing with the TSA.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Civil War History

On this day in 1862 there was a little trouble in New Orleans.

Admiral Farragut was moving up the river and was about to capture the city. He sent a mesage to the Mayor to remove any Confederate flags and replace them with Union flags. The Mayor declined the request. Then, without orders from Farragut, the captian of the USS Pocahontas sent some marines to remove Confederate flags on the US Mint and replace them with Union flags. He warned that he would fire upon anyone trying to remove them. (Note that this was before the official surrender of the city) As could have been expected, the marines were heckled and one William Bruce Mumford removed the Union flag under cannon fire.

A few days later, Gen Benjamin Butler heard about the incident and had Mumford arrested and tried for treason before a military tribunal. He wasfound guilty and sentenced to hang. Butler issued the following notice:

William B. Mumford, a citizen of New Orleans, having been convicted before a military commission of treason and an overt act thereof, tearing down the United States flag from a public building of the United States, after said flag was placed there by Commander Farragut, of the United States navy: It is ordered that he be executed according to sentence of said military commission on Saturday, June 7, inst., between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. under the directions of the provost-marshal of the District of New Orleans, and for so doing this shall be his sufficient warrant.

On June 7, Mumford was taken to the courtyard of the US Mint and hanged.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Obama Needs Help

This was in the news today....

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement has asked major US producers to provide names of recently retired petroleum engineers who could help the agency improve offshore oil and gas operations, BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich disclosed.

The initiative is part of several funding alternatives being explored, he said during an Apr. 19 Center for Strategic and International Studies forum.

Bromwich said the engineers would be asked to come on board temporarily to bridge the gap until BOEMRE is able to hire more inspectors and analysts. Potential conflicts of interest would be avoided by having them not work on projects involving their former employers, he said.

While visiting several universities in October and November, Bromwich said there was a strong interest in jobs as BOEMRE inspectors. He visited petroleum engineering departments.

BOEMRE also received inquiries but several potential applicants lost interest when they saw the starting salaries, which are significantly lower than what companies in the industry offer, he said.

Consequently, BOEMRE has asked the US Office of Personnel Management to let the US Department of the Interior agency pay more than the normal GS-7 salary for federal employees with university undergraduate degrees, Bromwich said.

Meanwhile, BOEMRE will appeal to retired engineers who are interested in providing short-term government service without returning to their careers’ sometimes rigorous conditions of spending several days offshore, he said.

It appears that the government is having trouble finding people who want to work for them. A word of warning to any engineer who thinks BOEMRE may be a good career choice. You will never gain any experience and you will be seen by your peers as someone who only serves to block progress. If you want the enjoyment of creation and a challenge, do not go to work for BOEMRE. All you will do is push paper. You will never have any substantial authority over a project and you will have to wait for your boss to die before you get a promotion.

I have spent over 30 years gathering the experience I have. If BOEMRE wants to gain access to my brain, they will need to pay much much more than a measly GS-9 salary.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phase 5: Search for the Guilty

Spent the day in a meeting back at the Home Office. The "Technology Group" wanted to have a review to discuss future improvements to the project. We don't even have a set of Approved for Construction drawinsg and they are looking for "improvements".

Friends, whenever a non-participant wants to help find "improvements", it really means he wants to try to fix blame somewhere. There were several times when I heard, "Where (or who) did that come from?", "I was not invited to the reviews." or "That's got to be changed or it won't work."

Yep. Starting into Phase 5!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The TSA at MSY

By now most of you should have heard about the incident where the TSA gave a pat down to a 6 year old girl. This happened at Louis Armstrong International on Tuesday, April 5. The following is the TSA's response from their blog:

Screening of 6 Year-Old at MSY

A video taken of one of our officers patting down a six year-old has attracted quite a bit of attention. Some folks are asking if the proper procedures were followed. Yes. TSA has reviewed the incident and the security officer in the video followed the current standard operating procedures.

With that said, you may have read recently that our Administrator is looking into ways to move past the cookie cutter approach to screening. Recognizing that terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, TSA has been actively assessing less invasive screening methods for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers, while still maintaining a high level of security.

Also, you may have heard in the video that someone references a drug test.TSA does not test for drugs. It's possible those individuals are referring to the explosive trace detection test that can detect the smallest traces of explosives.

Here are my thoughts as one that had to watch my 10 year old grandson endure the same in Boston.

New Orleans depends upon tourism. It is sad that the memory that family will take home from their visit to NOLa is that their daughter was selected for a TSA patdown. The city should raise Holy Hell that the TSA is affecting tourism to the city. But the Mayor is a Landrieu and a Dimmocrat so don't expect that to happen.

The TSA refuses to tell why she was selected for fear it may give away their advantage over terrorists. Sometimes I think they have a Magic 8 Ball to make their choices. But it probably was that the parents didn't want her subjected to the virtual strip search machine. Or it may have been random and the poor girl was just unlucky.

The TSA states that the pat down was done by approved procedure (as if there should ever be such a thing as an approved procedure for a pat down of a 6 year old).

But I think you have to ask why would any thinking adult think it was acceptable to pat down a 6 year old child? Why didn't the TSA agent call over a supervisor and seek alternatives - especially since the mother was asking for an alternative? The agent was simply "following orders" which is a phrase I think we heard during the Nuremberg Trials.


Gobsmacked: adjective, a British colloquial expression meaning flabbergasted, astounded, speechless or overawed.

We recently learned from some lab tests that the waste output of our "green" bio-diesel project will be 10 times the amount that we expected, or designed for. This means either a complete re-design or operating at a much lower capacity than planned. However, our technology experts said that they were not surprised because the lab data was in line with published information.

When we asked them why they didn't feel it important to inform the design team of this issue, they said, "It was too early to worry about it because we didn't have any hard data."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Da Project

Deeper into Phase 4: Total Confusion.

Yesterday, the German fabricator for the central piece of equipment, the gasifier, told us zur holle fahren and rejected our purchase order telling us that the shop was filled with other work. Now, we are talking about a half a million Euros, give or take. This fabricator was selected because they had already built one of these for another project and this was going to be a duplicate of that one. Easy Peezy. And they turn it down while the purchase order was being typed and we were writing the check for the down payment.

Next is Phase 4: Search for Guilty. Now, WHO exactly decided to use that German shop?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Head Count

Saudi Arabia beheaded another murderer in March bringing the year to date total to 3.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Aviation Disaster Averted

There were 13 minutes of drama over the skies of New Orleans Monday morning. United flight 497 took off destined for San Francisco. Within minutes, the pilot requested a return to the airport because of smoke in the aircraft. As he was making his turn he declared an emergency and requested the longest runway. Unfortunately, there were construction vehicles on it and as they tried to clear the vehicles, he lost all instruments. Now he needed the tower to direct him home and his favored runway was not available. He quickly adapted to the situation and headed for the shorter N-S runway. By now he was at 600 feet and must have rattled a few houses as he headed in from Lake Pontchartrain. He hit the deck so hard that he blew a tire and skidded off the runway. But everyone walked away! Follow this link for an audio and transcript.

Petrobras in the GOM

There is a recent news item that should be a little disturbing to the public - if the public knew about it.

We all know that Petrobras was given a permit by BOEMRE to produce from their deep water lease (8,000' water depth) in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 3rd, it was reported that they had lost the riser buoyancy can on one of their wells. The 130 ton can floated off and the riser pipe collapsed to the sea bed causing damage to the subsea equipment. This link gives some pictures of how the risers are set up.

The incident should raise questions about the entire design - especially the connection of the buoyancy can to the riser. I will try to watch the BOEMRE web site for an accident report. That this should happen during calm seas raises serious concerns in my mind.

For background, the Petrobras FPSO is the first FPSO permitted in the Gulf of Mexico even though they are common elsewhere in the world. The ship , the BW Pioneer, was built in 1992 in a Japanese shipyard. It was converted to an FPSO by Keppel Shipyards in Singapore. It is a turret moored design which means the well flowlines enter into a common hub and the ship is allowed to "weathervane" around this hub or turret. In bad weather, they can lower the turret and the ship can leave the area under its own propulsion. The well connections are through a hybrid riser. The riser consists of a steel pipe held in tension by a buoyancy can. A flexible pipe connects the top of the riser to the turret. The FPSO will be operated for Petrobras by a contractor. The FPSO will be flagged in Bermuda.

Most folks in the industry hold a low opinion of Petrobras' safety record. While they are industry leaders in subsea technology, they tend to have a cavalier attitude and don't do their due diligence when using new technology. The sinking of the P-36 brought some of this to public attention. Here are my concerns:

  1. Not operated with Petrobras personnel but by contractors whose training, experience and commitment to safety may be open to question.

  2. Not flagged as a US vessel meaning it was not built to USCG requirements.

  3. Riser buoyancy can failure may mean the entire design is suspect.

  4. Petrobras reputation for short cutting safety issues.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Da Project

I posted recently that the project was on the verge of Phase 4: Total Confusion. I can now confirm that we are there. The grownups visited this week and informed us that they were going to change engineering firms. We have all been less than happy with the progress being made by our current engineering firm but changing firms at this point will lead to a couple of months of delay to break in the new firm and generally getting them up on the learning curve. This should all occur in early May. By July, I predict we will be into Phase 5: Search for the Guilty.