Monday, December 31, 2012

A Little Cutting

An observant barber is a good thing to have. When I was getting a haircut a few weeks ago, my barber commented on a new spot in my hairline on my temple. It was not easy to see in the mirror, but he had a good view from his vantage point and after 30 years of cutting my hair, he knew what my head looked like and called it to my attention.

So I made an appointment with the dermatologist. He said it looked suspicious and took a biopsy of that one and another similar spot on the other side of my head. The short story is that it came back as basal cell - not particularly dangerous, but cancer none the less. I returned to have them both cut out last Friday. I now sport a 2" incision with a ladder of stitches on each temple. I look like I just got de-horned.

So, be sure to tip your barber well.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Hampshire Free Staters

It is with some pride that I claim New Hampshire as my state of birth and my youth. (although I am a little disappointed by the way she voted in the last election) NH has always been known as a place for rugged individualists and makes that known by the State Motto, "Live Free or Die." There is also a grass roots movement called "The Free State Project" which is inviting 20,000 people who yearn for personal freedom to move to, and live in New Hampshire.

But it turns out that not all citizens of the state are so welcoming. State Representative Cynthia Chase, a Democrat representing District 8, has been quoted as saying the following:

"In the opinion of this Democrat, Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing today. There is, legally, nothing we can do to prevent them from moving here to take over the state, which is their openly stated goal. In this country you can move anywhere you choose and they have that same right. What we can do is to make the environment here so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave. One way is to pass measures that will restrict the “freedoms” that they think they will find here."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Argumentum ad Baculum

This is one of the logical fallacies. The list of fallacies is one of the few things I retained from a one semester liberal arts elective named "Logic". Fallacies are, however, something everyone should be aware of because almost every argument the Left makes is full of them. Ad Baculum was recently demonstrated by the union thugs in Michigan. Other favorites are Appeal to Emotion or Argumentum ad Hominem. Here's a good summary.

You could even start a drinking game - chug a beer every time you recognize a fallacy in one of Obama's speeches.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Obama Bonus

I've had a few shares of stock in a small oil company that I got years ago in an ESOP plan. They send me a few bucks in dividends every 3 months. I just got my latest dividend. In addition to the normal amount, there was a check for the equivalent of 2 years of dividends. They wanted to send it to the stock holders before Obama raised the tax rates. I'll enjoy spending it and thumbing my nose at him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Head Count

Saudi Arabia tried to make up for slow progress and sent 10 heads rolling in November. This brings their year to date total to 66.

Peter's Cranberries

My wife whips up a cranberry relish every holiday season. The youngest grandson took a liking to it. He will eat it by the bowlful. Every fall, he watches for cranberries in the grocery store and then alerts my wife that it's cranberry season. Here's the recipe.

2 - 1lb bags of fresh cranberries,
3 oranges,
1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger,
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon,
1/12 - 2 cups Splenda

wash cranberries and pick out any bad ones, wash oranges and cut into sections leaving the skin on. Put cranberries and oranges in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and process.

Easy peasy and it's guaranteed to get you away from the jellied stuff in a can.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Susan Rice is the Wrong Focus

I'm getting a tired of watching Republican greyhounds (?) chase that mechanical rabbit Susan Rice around the track. She is being used as a distraction. She either is a playing Charlie McCarthy and mouthing words put in her mouth or she is doing it willingly in exchange for some future reward. None of that matters. Either way she is not qualified to be Secretary of State.

The real question is (1) Why didn't we have security at the consulate and (2) why wasn't anyone sent to help when they came under fire?

Stop running in a circle and call a hearing!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gimme Cheese

New Hampshire natives used to be proud of the motto "Live Free or Die". After the election, and looking at the way the counties voted, the new motto should be "Free Stuff for Me".

I now believe some of the pundits that say we have had a cultural shift in the country. The culture in NH used to be one of independence. But now it seems that everyone wants some government cheese. We can't vote our way out of this.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thoughts on Sandy

New Orleans was chastised in the press for holding Mardi Gras in 2006, even though Katrina was several months in the past. Where is the outrage about the New York marathon? Portalets, power and police for the runners but none for the people?

New Jersey turns back non-union electrical workers from Alabama! So much for eliminating red tape. Go freeze in the dark.

Where are the Disaster Recover Centers with FEMA, Blue Tarps, MREs and SBA loans?

Will there be FEMA trailers in Central Park?

People, you watched several disasters run their course since 2005 and should have known that you would be on your own for several days and without electricity for several weeks. And yet when someone puts a TV camera in your face you cry about not getting any help? It's time to put on your big boy pants and help yourself.

The MSM would have you believe that it is all sweetness and cooperation in the dark areas of NYC. Somehow I find that hard to believe.

I wonder how the people in the high rise apartments are doing? Are they piling their feces in the bath tub? How are they cooking? Has their refrigerator begun to smell? I guess no main stream news people want to climb 20 floors in order to find out.

Finally, things are not going to get better in the affected areas any time soon. There will be no groceries, schools, water or sewage anytime soon. You will be crapping and peeing in a 5 gal bucket for weeks. You will soon learn to read the symbology of disaster. You have just been put in a time machine and transported from the 21st century to the 18th. If you are smart, you will pack the bug out bag and head for civilization.

And I don't want to hear "They deserve it because they live below sea level." ever again!

Head Count

The swordsman in Saudi was unemployed last month. There were no executions in the Kingdom. Head count remains at 56 for the year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Early Voting

I voted yesterday. Early voting opened in Louisiana last Tuesday. As I may have to be in Houston on Nov 6, I took advantage and voted early.

One item on the ballot was a state constitutional amendment that would make it more difficult to enact gun laws. While I'm driving home from work I hear the New Orleans DA, Leon Cannizzaro, on the radio saying he is urging a vote against it. He doesn't want it to interfere with the legislators ability to enact gun laws. Sorry, Mr. Cannizzaro, gun ownership is a constitutional right. Gun legislation has not stopped the killing spree that goes on every day in NOLa. When you get a handle on the crime, we can talk more. Until then, keep your pie hole shut.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Locksmith Work and Crazy Thinking

I came home yesterday to find the thumb latch on my front door hanging loose. My wife opened the door from the inside and I went to get my screw driver and allen wrenches. When I pulled the knob off the inside, the entire internal operating mechanism fell out on the floor: a couple of springs, a nylon bushing, two brass screws, etc. I'm thinking that I will be headed to Home Depot for a replacement door knob. And then it hit me: I'm a mechanical engineer, I can field strip an M1 without hurting myself, and I can put a Ruger Mk II back together (after several tries).....

So I picked up all the parts and laid them out on the table. I then used the process of elimination to determine what went where. 15 minutes later, thedoor  handle was back together and working fine. My only regret is that I didn't have any Loctite to stick those darn screws in place.

I read today that a woman on the assembly in Cook County, Illinois wants to impose a $0.05 tax and each bullet sold in the county. This, she thinks, will cut down on crime. Jeez, no wonder Chicago is so screwed up. I guess she thinks thugs all go to the local gun store to stock up on 9 mike mike.

Walkabout - Finale

The brother in law finished his thru hike of the Appalachian Trail yesterday. After living about 7 months on the trail, it will be interesting to see how he re-adjusts to civilization.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


If you have been in Kennebunk, Maine any time during the past few years AND have frequented the Zumba fitness studio there, you need to check the local papers. It seems the owner of said fitness studio had an ongoing criminal enterprise which involved the trading of sex for money. She also surreptitiously made videos of some of these encounters and kept a list of clients. She was arraigned this week on 106 counts of prostitution. The local constabulary is assessing her client list and will arrest them in groups as they develop the legal cases against them. Their names will then become public record.

Needless to say, this is big news for the coast of SE Maine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Brother in Law is now on the final 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. This last segment is all in wilderness area and crosses several streams. It ends on the top of Mount Katahdin. He will have to rely on food that he is carrying as there is no chance for resupply. Another week and he should be finished.

More Scary Stuff

I have blogged about counterfeit parts from China before. I'm sure that most people feel that counterfeit parts will not have a big impact on their lives and that they don't need to worry about them. But the NHTSA now has evidence that bogus parts may hit you close to home.

The NHTSA is putting out a warning about counterfeit air bags being installed in automobiles. There have been recent cases where counterfeit air bags have been confiscated and one Chinese national jailed for trafficking in counterfeit air bags. If you have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a private auto body shop, you may have received a bogus bag. (Dealer shops will use the manufacturer's parts) The bag may not inflate or, in one case, the air bag fired shards of metal on activation. So far, there have been no deaths traceable to counterfeit air bags, but they are out there.The culprit is a company called Guangzhou Auto Parts but they package the assemblies with copies of manufacturers logos so the parts are not readily identifiable as coming from China.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review - Mad River

This is the newest of the Virgil Flowers series by John Sandford. It starts with a group of three on what appears to be a killing spree. Victims are dropping like flies and Virgil gets called in to work the case. However, he finds something that doesn't sit quite right with him and he goes searching for a deeper motive while dealing with the local sheriff who takes a more simplistic view and wants a quick resolution, meaning that the perps are killed during apprehension. Flowers wants to keep them alive as he wants to question them regarding his theory.

Don't start this book if you can't devote the time to finish it quickly. The action grabs you and won't let go. I highly recommend this book for long airplane flights, car trips or boat rides.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia played catch-up last month beheading 9 people for murder, drugs and armed robbery. This brings their year to date total to 56 heads removed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Renewable Energy Unintended Consequesces

The Telegraph (link here) has an excellent summary of the problems Germany is having with their wind energy system and it serves as a warning for the US and UK.

Electricity is a unique commodity. It must be used as soon as it is generated. And if there is a demand for more, that demand must be met instantaneously. In order to meet the requirement to respond to changes in electrical demand, power companies use a mix of generating systems. Large steam systems, including nuclear plants, like to have a constant load. However, the electrical load changes throughout the day and to respond to these changes, power companies must have plants that can react quickly to changes, such as as gas turbine driven generators.

The problem they are finding out in Germany is that wind turbine and solar power output can change according to the weather. Because they cannot rely upon these weather dependent systems to provide electricity when needed, they have to back them up with conventional power generation that can respond quickly. This means that the conventional units have to be running and on line - and that means they are usually running at low output most of the time. Running at low outputs means that these plants are running at low efficiency and costing more to operate.

So here's the unintended consequence: in order to have "green" energy you have to run a carbon technology plant at low efficiency to provide backup to the green system. This results in more carbon emissions and higher expense for the customer.

As the article describe, power companies in Germany are beginning to push back against the green requirements. We should pay attention to what is happening over there because they are the future of Obama's lust for green energy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Remember this.......


Brother in Law is about 300 miles from the end of the Appalachian Trail. He made it over Mount Washington in some pretty cold weather and finished the Presidentail Range in the dark. I'd been watching the weather on Mount Washington and was a little concerned as the temps were well into hypothermia range and he was overdue for a check in. My concern increased when I learned the highest shelter on the mountain, Lake in the Clouds, had been closed for the season.When I talked to him, he was stuffing his face at a chinese buffet in Gorham , NH.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bomb Scares

Someone called in a bomb scare to LSU yesterday. 30,000 students evacuated the campus causing massive traffic jams in Red Stick. I'm told by my niece, who was in that scrum, that Mike the Tiger was evacuated before the warning was issued to the students. Can't have Mike in danger and mixing a tiger into the traffic jam was probably not a good idea.

I wonder if we are again in for a spate of bomb scare calls. When I was a student in the late 60s, the SDS was famous for calling in bomb scares to the various campuses in Beantown. It was like the boy who cried wolf - there were so many false alarms that we became immune to them. I was in a fluid dynamics lecture when a guy came to the door and told the professor that a bomb scare had been called in for our building. Prof looked at the walls and the ceiling and informed us that the walls looked strong and that he was going to continue with his lecture but we were free to go if we wanted to. None of us left - missing the lecture would have put us behind the curve and nobody was willing to risk that.

Years later I was working for Big Oil. I was responsible for pipelines and I kept a tool in my office. It was an underwater pinger. We used to to find pipeline breaks. You send the thing down the pipeline and when it pops out at the break, you can locate it with sonar. It was cylindrical, painted blue and had a chain on one end. There was a short spate of anger against the oil companies in the 80s and our security folks were on the watch for "problems". Unknown to me, they did an office by office search to make sure all our offices were "clean". When they saw my pinger, they about passed the proverbial brick. They found me and, in a breathless voice asked, "what the hell is that thing"? I explained to them that it was a simple underwater noise maker and not to worry. Anyway, it gave them something to talk about.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Head Count

With the excitement of Hurricane Isaac I neglected to check the stats. It was a slow month as Saudi Arabia beheaded only two murderers in August. This brings their yearly total to 47.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Brother in Law called to tell me he was at Mount Wolf in Cow Hampshire. That means he's covered about 1800 miles in his thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. In another 50 miles he'll be on top of Mount Washington and the highest point on the trail. These next few days will take him over some of the toughest and most dangerous section of the trail.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget!

Did you remember what today is?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back Again

We arrived home Monday evening to a house that had just received electrical power. It seems there was a broken pole on the line that fed our street and the boys from Entergy worked all day to replace it. But now power is restored and it is consistent. No other damage to speak of.

The first order of business was to throw out everything in 2 refrigerators. It was a little smelly but not as bad as after Katrina. The yard clean up can wait until the weekend.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Isaac Story

As we were driving to a restaurant last night, my mother-in-law expressed a desire for gumbo. I informed her that one cannot get a decent gumbo in Alabama - they just don't know how to make it and I know this from living there for several months for construction projects. She, however, is of stubborn Sicilian ancestry and ordered gumbo anyway. As she was eating it, I looked over to see her adding ketchup to her bowl of gumbo. "What are you doing", I asked. "Trying to make it taste better.", she said. Well, it was an "I told you so" moment and even though it gave her great pain to say it, she agreed that I was right about the gumbo in Alabama.

Later we were going to watch the RNC Convention. I told grandson that it would be on any network and to tune in the one with the best reception. Mom-in-law said, "Are you sure about that?"

"I'm as sure about that as I am about not eating gumbo in Alabama."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Isaac Summary

We lost power at about 7:00 PM Tuesday night. Things started getting wild abut midnight but had backed off by 6:00 AM. I made a little walkabout around the 'hood and found lots of small tree branches and other minor damage. Everyones roof looked good. In order to make coffee, we went to mother-in-law's house a few blocks over to boil water on her gas stove and pour it over coffee grounds. Then we sat on the back patio and watched the wind blow.

By 3:00 PM Wednesday, the parish ordered a mandatory evacuation of everyone south of the new, partially complete levee and flood gate as Barataria Bay was threatening to overtop the back levee. Our son and grandchildren are in that zone so they left to go to the Redneck Riviera. We followed them as it was clear that it would be several days before power was restored. (bucket trucks can't work in winds over 30 mph and Isaac was so huge and moving so slow that it was going to be Friday before crews could get to work.)

It was interesting to learn that it was not until the evening on Wednesday that Isaac finally got to a point that put it due west of NOLa. But the storm had tropical storm force winds extending out 160 miles from the center.

The drive west was interesting. Traffic was light but driving in tropical storm force winds is an experience that you should try to avoid, if possible. You know it's blowing when brown pelicans are sheltering in the lee of the concrete barricade on the bridge to Slidell. There was a constant stream of bucket trucks and 18 wheelers carrying portable lighting heading west. aircraft controller niece informed me that the weather station at Alvin Callender JRB is placed close to the tree line and therefore tends to give false readings. So my wind speeds on earlier posts may be off on the low side. Bear that in mind if you are trying to land your C-130 there.

We are now in the Redneck Riviera waiting for Entergy to do their thing. My ace in the hole is that my neighbor works for them. I hope he pulls some strings to get his house back on line.

I see that 2016 is playing at the theater near here. That will be on the agenda.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Isaac minus 7 hours

Wind is picking up and becoming more constant. It's raining but not heavily. Callender Field reports winds from the NNE at 22 mph.

Isaac minus 11 hours

NHC just upgraded Isaac to a Cat 1 with 75 mph winds (1 mph over the lower limit). Most of the models now show it tracking west of the Mississippi River. The centerline of  the track may be about 50 miles from the casa. Weather here is now overcast with light rain. Even though I'm supposed to be in tropical storm force winds, they are still intermittent. Looking at the satellite, the storm is lopsided. It seems to be sucking in dry air on the west side.

Here's a comparison of Isaac and a real hurricane.

Issac minus 16 hours

Tuesday morning. Isaac is still a tropical storm. Track is a skosh more to the west but the cone of uncertainty is still big. No real gain in intensitylast night. Weather here is breezy but clear. Partly cloudy. Humidity feels low. According to the NOAA graphics, I should be feeling tropical storm force winds but the wind is intermittent. Neighborhood is quiet. Guy next door works for Entergy and had to go to Jackson, Miss. to stage for repairs. Everyone else is staying inside even though the weather is really nice. Local TV is nothing but hurricane coverage. They even dropped prime time programming last night to cover it, but how many times can you interview people who are boarding up windows? Most of what they do is fill air time with BS man on the street interviews. I'd be happier if they would spend some time describing the pros and cons of the various hurricane models. Instead, I had to miss Chef Ramsey's shows.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Going to "shelter in place" for Isaac. Still predicted to be a Category 1. Back yard is picked up but don't see a need to put up plywood. Track centerline seems to be trending west. I'll blog events as best I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Passing Gas

ExxonMobil recently completed an LNG import facility in west Louisiana. The project name was Golden Pass and cost about $1 billion and took three years to construct. The plan was take LNG, warm it up to gasify it and put it into the nation's pipeline network.

But now Golden Pass has applied to become a export facility and build a $10 billion LNG facility on the same site. The plant will liquify and export some 15.6 million tons of LNG per year. That's about 2 billion cubic feet per day. Why would they do this before they have even reached the break even point from their first project, you ask?

The answer is that the US now has an abundance of natural and the oil companies see us becoming an exporter instead of an importer. But, but, but, I though we had an energy crisis? Where did this natural gas come from you may wonder?

In a word - hydraulic fracturing. This technology has unlocked vast reserves of natural gas and has caused the long term planners to re-think their markets. Plus, they can get more dollars for their gas in the overseas market. Here's the story.

Now, ask Obama why he'd rather shut down coal plants instead of using this natural gas to generate electric power.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I'm Wearing

Dinner in the French Quarter tonight. Galatoires. This is what I'm wearing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eid Mubarak

If you can see a crescent moon tonight, then Ramadan will have ended. If you can't see it, you've got to wait one more day. (It's kinda like Groundhog Day)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oil Companies and Taxes

Every quarter we read about the record profits made by oil companies, but rarely do you hear about the taxes they pay. The chart below is a summary of taxes paid and profits by ExxonMobil.

Source: The Hayride

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hunting Elephants

MATHEMATICIANS hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left. Experienced mathematicians will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate exercise. Professors of mathematics will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students.

COMPUTER SCIENTISTS hunt elephants by exercising Algorithm A:

1. Go to Africa

2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope.

3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west.

4. During each traverse pass:

a) catch each animal seen

b) Compare each animal caught to a known elephant

c) Stop when a match is detected.

Experienced COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate. Assembly language programmers prefer to execute Algorithm on their hands and knees.
ENGINEERS hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching gray animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.
ECONOMISTS don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves.
STATISTICIANS hunt the 1st animal they see N times, and call it an elephant.
CONSULTANTS don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do. Operations Research Consultants can also measure the correlation of hat size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies, if someone else will only identify the elephants.
POLITICIANS don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.
LAWYERS don't hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds around arguing about who owns the droppings. Software lawyers will claim that they own an entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.
VICE PRESIDENTS of engineering, research, and development try hard to hunt elephants, but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the vice president does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure that all possible elephants are completely pre-hunted before the vice president gets to see them. If the vice president does see a non-prehunted elephant, the staff will :

1. compliment the vice president's keen eyesight,

2. enlarge itself to prevent any recurrence.

SENIOR MANAGERS set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.
QUALITY ASSURANCE INSPECTORS ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.
SALESPEOPLE don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens. Software salespeople ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an elephant. Hardware salespeople catch rabbits, paint them gray, and sell them as "Desktop Elephants"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Engineer Humor

One morning 3 Engineers and 3 Geologists were in a ticket line at the train station.The 3 Geologists each bought a ticket and watched as the 3 Engineers bought just one ticket among them.
"How are the 3 of you going to travel on one 1 ticket?" asked one of the Geologists.
"Watch and learn" answered one of the Engineers.
When the 6 travelers boarded the train, the 3 Geologists sat down, but the 3 Engineers crammed into a bathroom together and closed the door.
Shortly after the train departed, the conductor came around to collect tickets. He knocked on the bathroom door and said, "tickets please." the door opened just a crack and a single arm emerged with a ticket in hand. The Conductor took it and moved on.
The Geologists saw this happen and agreed it was quite a clever idea. Indeed, so clever that they decided to do the same thing on the return trip and save some money.
That evening after the game when they got to the train station, they bought a single ticket for the return trip while to their astonishment the 3 Engineers didn't buy even 1 ticket.
"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asked one of the perplexed Geologists.
"Watch and learn", answered one of the Engineers.
When they boarded the train the 3 Geologists crammed themselves into a bathroom and the 3 Engineers crammed themselves into the other bathroom across from it.
Shortly after the train began to move, one of the Engineers left their bathroom and walked quietly over to the Geologist's bathroom. He knocked on the door and said "ticket please".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review - Creole Belle

Fans of Dave Robicheaux will be pleased to learn that he is alive and well in James Lee Burke’s latest novel in the series. I was disappointed after his last novel, Feast Day of Fools, which featured Hackberry Holland, but he is back in top form when writing about Louisiana.

I love his descriptions of Louisiana and would carry his books when travelling overseas because they reminded me of home. He is a master of the similie and a philosopher of life and the human condition. I enjoyed his writing and the action so much that I lost track of the overall plot. I realized after finishing that he never did develop a good reason for all the mayhem and murder he committed in the novel.

The story starts with Dave having a morphine dream about a young singer coming to his hospital room (he was shot in the last installment) and asking him for help. Somehow, her problems are related to evil industrialists who may have had a hand in the Macondo blowout. It gets serious when her younger sister is found encased in a block of ice that drifted to shore. In the meantime, Clete Purcell, Dave's friend and escapee from the cardiac ward, has found out he has a daughter who also may be a contract killer. Throw in a Louisiana beauty queen and a Nazi war criminal and the story takes off like a duck busting from cover on a cool fall morning.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Deadly Medicine

We had visitors in town this week so we played tour guide and took them around to see the sights. This included a visit to the World War II Museum. The museum had a special exhibit on loan from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC titled "Deadly Medicine". It traced the use of science and eugenics by the Germans to identify racial types and people with special needs and who had various diseases in order to segregate them from society, and eventually kill them. This is the description from the brochure.
From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany carried out a campaign to “cleanse” German society of people viewed as biological threats to the nation’s “health.” Enlisting the help of physicians and medically trained geneticists, psychiatrists and anthropologists, the Nazis developed racial health policies that started with the mass sterilization of “hereditarily diseased” persons and ended with the near annihilation of European Jewry. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race traces this history from the early 20th-century international eugenics movement to the Nazi regime’s “science of race.”
This was all done under the auspices of medical science to eliminate "worthless life". Medical panels signed off on the actions to give it the cloak of respectability. While I was walking through the exhibit I couldn't help but think about the use of medical panels in Obamacare.

"A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members ......."  Pope John Paul II

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Head Count

KSA added only two more heads in July bringing the tearly total to 45. No doubt the start of Ramadan had some effect on their activity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Irony Check

The mayor of Boston does not agree with statements made by the CEO of Chick fil A who was exercising his First Amendment Rights so the mayor is going to use the POWER OF HIS OFFICE to prevent Chick fil A from building a restaurant near Faneuil Hall, which is on the famous Freedom Trail, which tells the history of how Americans gained their freedom from the tyranny of oppressive governments.

The mayor of Chicago believes that Chick fil A does not share the same values as the City of Chicago so he is going to use the POWER OF HIS OFFICE to prevent the construction of a Chick fil A in his fair city. But since his city is also a murder capital of the USA, he has no problem in allowing Louis Farrakhan, an avowed anti-semite, help "police" the streets. (and I guess he didn't realize that Chick fil A already has one restaurant within the city limits. He'd know that if he checked their web site)

Retribution for voicing ideas counter to those of the politicians currently in power - isn't that the working definition of a NAZI?

Pitchforks, tar and feathers will be distributed soon.

August 1st is Chick fil A appreciation day. Go get a sandwich. And middle grandson loves their key lime pie. Get some if they make it at a restaurant near you.

Follow Up: It's as I suspected. The Chicago Chick fil A is a franchise owned by a local Chicagoan. And they'll add about 100 jobs to the economy. So he is punishing his own constituents.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Education in the Classics

The other day my son and his wife had to go to a wake so we kept the grandsons for dinner. It was a slow TV night but I noticed that the Turner Classic channel had "Fobidden Planet". You know. The movie with Robbie the Robot and a sound track that was all electronic sounds. Made in 1953, it was one of my favorites as a kid.

I thought the boys might find the special effects a little hokey since they were brought up on CGI but after about 15 minutes in to the movie, the 12 year old turned to me and said, "This is a good movie, Grandpa."

Now the challenge is to find another SF classic. What about "The Day The Earth Stood Still"? Any others?

Monday, July 23, 2012

USS Miami Follow Up

It has been determined that the fire on board the USS Miami that caused $400 million of damage to a United States Submarine was caused by arson. Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, NH, a civilian painter/sandblaster at PSNY, has been arrested. He failed lie detector interviews made by the NCIS. His reason for setting the fire - he wanted to get out of work. I have a feeling he won't have to worry about work for a long, long time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Happy Ramadan

Ramadan began at sundown July 19. Be alert.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Obama's Logical Progression

When the President says, "You didn't build that.", he means that you do not deserve compensation for your creativity and labor.
When you are not compensated for your creativity and labor, you stop innovating.
When you stop innovating, the country falls behind the rest of the world in technology.
When the country falls behind in technology, it becomes a third world country.
Don't live in a third world country. Kick Obama out!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


I discovered Lee Child's series of book featuring Jack Reacher earlier this year. The good news was that it gave me a whole series of books to read - and the opportunity to read them in sequence. I am almost up to date with the series and look forward to Child's latest release.

But now I read in the entertainment news that Tom Cruise is going to star in a movie version of one of the books. Whaaat? Jack Reacher is 6'-5" and 250 lbs. Tom Cruise is smaller than most of his ex-wives.

Who would you cast for the part of Jack Reacher?

Friday, July 13, 2012


Up before the crack to attend some meetings in Houston. As luck would have it, thunderstorms shut down Intercontinental for several hours. The good news was that they let us off the plane so we eat and other things. I finally arrived in Houston 4 hours late. I had missed the morning project status review meeting but I could still make the afternoon meeting. That meeting was a kick off meeting on the preparation of a fairly substantial document we had to prepare to satisfy our regulatory overlords in the Yankee Government. It describes our development plans - in detail. I arrived at the office to find that meeting had been postponed for one hour because, wait for it........some people had problems getting over from New Orleans. Obviously, they were piss poor planners because they picked a flight that left them no time cushion and I had to suffer for their incompetence. They had still not arrived when we started the meeting but there were too many managers sitting there to postpone it any longer.

The meeting lasted all of a half hour. After we introduced ourselves, the leader said he would tell us what our responsibilities were in an email. And that was that.

I had a 16 hour day of travel for 30 minutes of meeting.

PS: Star Sighting - RJ from Swamp People was on the same flight in the morning.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taxing the "Rich"

I did a little research over at the National Taxpayers Union to see who pays what. Interpolating their data, I estimated that those who make $250,000 or more are in the top 3% of adjusted gross income (AGI). That 3% account for 48% of the taxes received by the government.

By contrast, the bottom 50% of taxpayers have an AGI of $32,000 or less and pay only 2% of the total taxes collected.

If you are in the top 5%, your income is above $155,000 and you help pay 59% of total taxes.
If you are in the top 10%, your income is above $112,000 and you help pay 71% of total taxes.

The top 1% earns more than $344,000 and pay 37% of taxes collected.

Obama does not understand that when he sets the bar at $250,000, he is including many small companies, most of them LLCs, who are small businesses. If he adds to their tax burden, he will kill their growth. That means fewer people hired and no spending on expansion. Some estimate that this may include more than 900,000 small businesses.

The economy can't be fixed by taxing the top 3%.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Bro-in-Law is at mile 950 on his Appalachian Trail thu hike. In a few days he will be at Harpers Ferry which is the half way point. He was able to meet up with his son last week and they hiked together for about 10 miles.

If he maintains this pace, he should be able to get to the end before the snow.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Obamacare Taxes for 2013

Do you think you can skate by without being taxed by Obamacare? Think again. Here are 5 taxes Fox News tells us about:

Medical Device Tax: a 2.3% tax on all medical devices from stents to artificial knees to CPAP masks. This will be passed along to the consumer.

Medical Bills Deduction: You will need more than $10,000 in medical bills now before you can deduct the expenses instead of $7,500.

Flexible Spending Accounts: These will be capped at $2,500. You will no longer be able to use unlimited pre-tax money to pay for medical bills.

Investment Income Surtax: Own stocks? Get dividends to supplement your retirement income? The capital gains tax will increase to 23.8% and the tax on dividends will increase to 43.4%.

Medicare Payroll Tax: It will cost employers $86 billion over the next 10 years.

Note that all of these take effect after the election. There's a reason for that. They didn't want you to realize that Obama lied about increasing taxes on the middle class. Do the right thing in November. Please!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review - Fire on the Horizon (The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster)

Clay recommended this book to me. It is written in the style of Sebastian Junger in that it reads like fiction, but is fact. The first 200 pages or so are dedicated to background. The authors develop some of the key characters, describe the construction of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, provide a pimer on drilling and well construction, and describe life on a rig and the lifestyle of the rotating shift offshore worker. After 200 pages, they get into the minute by minute experiences of the survivors of the blowout of the Macondo well and the aftermath of the disaster.

I was impressed with their ability to accurately describe the working conditions, lifestyle and politics of an offshore drilling rig. My first job after college was for one of the major drilling contractors. I spent 2 years constructing a rig and another year working on them providing engineering support. I participated in an unplanned "evacuation drill" and witnessed first hand what happens to a group of men operating in panic mode. (after this incident, a friend of mine admitted that he left a perfectly good lifeboat because (1) people were too panicky and (2) he left his cigarettes in his room and suddenly felt the need for a smoke. Plus, he saw the radio operator sitting in the lifeboat and knew that someone had to man the radios. I was one of the few who stayed on the rig. When people on another lifeboat saw me in the ballast control room as they were being lowered, somebody said they should return and get me. The response was "F 'em. We gotta go!") I lost friends when the Ocean Ranger sank. I worked at the Korean shipyard where the Horizon was built and fought the same herd of motorbikes they describe everyday. In short, this book is, in my opinion, an accurate description of offshore life and the incident. If it has any shortcomings, it's in the technical descriptions of drilling and the well design. These are highly technical subjects and difficult for someone without an engineering background to comprehend. But, it's still worth a read.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia played catch up last month by beheading 16 people. Most of the executions were either for murder or drugs. There was also a kidnapper/rapist and Muree bin Ale Al Asiri was executed for witchcraft. Yes, it's 2012 and our key middle east ally still executes people for sorcery and witchcraft.

Next month might see the execution of the idiot who killed two people when his automobile got away from him during a game of "drifting". Clearly, he is a dangerous criminal that needs to be eliminated. (If I were him, I'd pay the blood money and be done with it)

Year to date beheadings in KSA is now 43.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Macallan Fine Oak - 15 Year Old

A couple of years ago I decided to tell everyone that if they didn't know what to get me, there was always scotch. Since then I have not lacked for scotch in the pantry.

Color: Gold
Nose: Clean and sweet
Palate: Gentle
Body: Smooth
Finish: Short but pleasant

Macallan has been distilling scotch near the Spey River since 1824. They use small stills and claim that makes a better scotch.

The fine oak series is matured in three different types of oak: European sherry oak casks, American oak casks seasoned with sherry and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon. It makes for an exceptionally smooth scotch. This particular selection was picked out by my 15 year old grandson for Father's Day. No, he didn't taste it - he went with his instincts.

There's something special about sipping a scotch picked for you by a loved one.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lease Sale - Finally!

The government finally held a lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico and it set records. They offered 7,434 blocks (a block is a 3 mi x 3 mi square) in the Gulf of Mexico between the Texas/Louisiana border and the Alabama/Florida border. 56 companies made 593 offers on 454 bocks which brought in a check for $1.7 Billion to the government. This money only gives the companies the right to drill for oil and gas for 5 to 8 years.

Here's how the numbers stacked up:

Statoil made the highest single bid of $157.1 Million for a single block. In total, they bought 26 blocks for $333.2 Million.

Shell spent the most, dropping $406.6 Million for 24 blocks.

BP spent $337.7 Million to acquire 43 blocks.

If you attend a lease sale, you will probably be bored to death as it involves a guy reading out the bids on all these leases. But the room is full of people who are involved in oil field poker game and want to see who did what. They studiously take notes on the results. It's most interesting when one company spends a lot of money to acquire a lease and leaves a lot of money on the table between his bid and the next highest.

An example is Mississippi Canyon 162. There were 7 companies trying to get this block. Chevron won it with a bid of $51.2 Million. The next highest bid was $40.7 Million, which means they over bid by about $10 Mil. The lowest bid was for $600,000. This could cause someone to wonder what Chevron saw that nobody else did. They won't know until they drill it, and then a geologist could either be a hero or looking for a new job.

It will take several years for these lease to be productive. First they have to line up budget funds and schedule drilling rigs. After drilling, they will need to evaluate the results and come up with development plans. But it's a good sign that the Gulf will be getting busy and that there will be new projects in the works.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Energy Cost Rogues Gallery

Last month I blogged about the rising cost of electricity due to Obama's EPA regulations on coal plants. Yesterday, the Senate took up a resolution to strike down Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT). It failed by 4 votes!

Go here to see how your Senator voted. And you folks in the northeast. Your RINOs just voted to add another burden on you. You can expect your electricity costs to skyrocket! But, it's not a tax. And you can always keep warm chopping firewood.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Executive Privilege

Is it just me, or is the proper time to assert Executive Privilege is when the subpoena is first issued and not after months of hearings and threatening letters and when you finally need to assert it in order to protect the ass of a direct report who probably isn't worth saving in the first place and whose incompetence placed you between this rock and that hard place?

If it truly was Bush's fault, why aren't you showering Mr. Issa in documents that confirm that?

It's clear to me that the rock is being kicked over and all kinds of critters will come scurrying out. What I don't understand is why Obama is trying to protect Eric Holder, unless he has pictures of Obama being amorous with a goat, or something.


I did a little maintenance on the blog roll. I cleaned up a few links and added two interesting blogs. Go take a look at Improbable Research and Retro Things.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paralysis by Analysis

So I went to our bi-weekly meeting where the different discipline groups involved in this project get together to compare notes and swap information. In this one, our illustrious Reservoir Engineers broke the news that the temperature of the reservoir is thought to higher than anticipated. (They do this by "modelling" the thermal gradient as they have no direct temperature measurements) The problem is that if the temperature of the oil is higher than a certain maximum temperature, it could cause problems for the equipment used to produce the oil. After listening to a maddening description of his "study methodology", he informed us that his conclusion was: "We just don't know enough and need to do more modelling!"

Color me gobsmacked! All I need to know is that even if there is possibility that the temperature could be higher than planned, that we have a contingency plan to deal with it - even if it means cutting back on production rates for a few months. Then we can continue with the design with no schedule delay. But everyone else seems to want to do the studies so we came away with about 5 more "action items".

I marvel that gas prices ares as cheap as they are.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review - The Lost Ones

This is Ace Atkins sequel to "The Ranger". Quinn Colson is now sheriff. He has to deal with a old friend who is selling guns to a Mexican drug cartel as well as a baby smuggling ring. There is also a side plot where we learn a little more about Quinns younger days and his sister, who has returned home.

This one did not grab me like the first book, but it is still a good read.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

USS Miami

On May 23 of this year, the USS Miami (SSN-755) had an onboard fire while it was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard undergoing a 2 year refit. It took 10 hours to put the fire out. 7 firefighters were injured trying to fight the fire within the confines of the submarine. The fire was limited to the forward spaces. The reactor, which had been shutdown, was not in any danger. The cause has been determined to be an industrial vacuum cleaner that had picked up a "heat source" (weld slag, cigarette butt?) and then caught fire. The Navy continues to evaluate the damage and cause.

If you are a submarine history buff, you will remember that it was on May 23, 1939 that the USS Squalus (SS 192) , also a Portsmouth boat, was sunk. There must be something about that day that causes problems for submariners and PNSY.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Scary Stuff

The Senate Armed Services Committee recently published a study concerning counterfeit electronic parts finding their way into military aircraft. The study's conclusions sent chills up my spine:

1: China is the dominant source country
2: The Chinese government has failed to take steps to stop counterfeiting operations that are taking place openly.
3: The DoD lacks knowledge of the scope and impact of these parts on critical defense systems
4: Counterfeit electronics can compromise the performance and reliability, risk national security and endanger the life of military personnel
5: Permitting contractors to recover any costs incurred as a result of their own failure to detect these parts does not encourage the adoption of aggressive detection programs
6: The defense industry's reliance on unvetted distributors results in unacceptable risks to national security and safety of military personnel
7: Weaknesses in the testing regime for electronic parts creates vulnerabilities that are exploited by counterfeiters
8: The defense industry routinely failed to report cases of suspected counterfeit parts

To read the entire report, go here.

The use of counterfeit parts has long been a concern of mine and others. China is well known as the counterfeit capital of the world. Even when you get a "certificate" from an international authority, you cannot be certain that it is not a forgery. And once a part has passed through several distributors, it is difficult to trace its country of origin. We are seeing this now in things like pipe fittings, bolts and small valves.

And if you think this is limited to the military, don't be fooled. Remember the Chinese dry wall fiasco after Katrina? Remember the lead paint on childrens toys? Now take a look and see how much of what you buy is "Made in China". Now stop and think.....what if the engine on the plane you are flying in was overhauled using Chinese parts? Do the bolts have the proper strength? Are the turbine blades in the engine made of the correct high temperature material?

When your life can hang on the integrity of something as simple as a bolt and nut, you want them to be the best and not counterfeit.

And here is some final food for thought.....If China thinks they may have to fight the US at some time in the future, wouldn't it benefit them if our weapons systems failed at critical times?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Bro-in-Law has reached Pearisburg, VA on his hike of the Appalchian Trail. That 626 miles down so far.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Wisconsin

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Grand old Badger State!
We, your loyal sons and daughters,
Hail thee, good and great.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Champion of the right,
"Forward", our motto,
God will give thee might!

Perhaps Obama might want to re-think his new "Forward" slogan based upon yesterdays recall election results and the state song lyrics.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dead Duck Day

Today is Dead Duck Day in Rotterdam. To find out why, click on "Improbable Research" over on the sidebar. It's SFW and should give you a giggle or two. (Warning - the account describes bizarre avian sexual practices and is not for the feint of heart)

But now I wonder - Was it suicide.......or murder?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Head Count

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ratcheted up executions in May by beheading 8 murderers. This brings the Year to Date total to 27.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

State of the Gulf

A new report from Southern Methodist University summarizes the impacts of the federal regulatory changes after the Macondo blowout. Here is a summary:

• Total active rig counts in the Gulf are far short of pre-moratorium numbers. In May 2010, there was an average of 27 “active” rigs in the Gulf – those engaged in drilling activities as opposed to maintenance, completions, and workovers. As of May 1, 2012, there were only 18 total active rigs in the Gulf.

• Production in the Gulf is down by 30 percent over projections. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Gulf production fell from 1.55 million barrels per day in 2010 to 1.32 mb/d in 2011. This year, EIA estimates Gulf output will fall further to 1.23 mb/d. But two years ago, before the moratorium, EIA predicted that production would reach 1.76 mb/d this year.

• Federal revenues from Gulf activity have dwindled: Under the Obama administration, offshore lease sales have gradually declined each year, depriving the U.S. Treasury of a sorely needed source of revenue. During 2008, $9.4 billion was generated in new offshore lease bids. That dropped to $1.1 billion during the recessionary year of 2009, $979 million in 2010, then a paltry $36 million in 2011 as only one lease sale was held during the entire year.

• Deemed ‘submitted’ period expanded: When an operator submits a plan, regulators first determine whether it meets the initial criteria to be ready for review, or deemed “submitted”. No one officially tracks this phase. The SMU report reveals that the average number of days to obtain approval for a plan from original submission to final approval has risen from 50 days pre-Macondo to 207 days – attributable to the fact that the average number of days from original submission to deemed “submitted” has ballooned to 160 days since Macondo.

• Permit approval claims overblown: Since early 2012, the administration has touted the number of permit approvals issued for unique wells in the deep waters of the Gulf – claiming in early March 2012 to have approved permits for 94 unique wells. Yet only 32 of those 94 permits covered unique new wells specifically permitted to reach hydrocarbons. The rest applied either to pre-moratorium wells in need of revised plans, or permits that allow shallow batch set depths, which need additional permits to reach total depth for hydrocarbons.

• Just in time permitting breeds uncertainty: Current drilling permit approvals are being issued on a “just-in-time” basis, sharply hindering a company’s ability to plan for the next job. A back-log of at least three approved drilling permits is sought for each active rig in order to secure the long-term contracts that the industry utilizes. With 18 active deep-water rigs, the inventory of approved permits should be at least 54. As of March!31, there were only 6 – leading companies to question where their rigs will be going next.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review - Stolen Prey

It was not a good day for Lucas Davenport. Strange as it may seem, a couple of tweakers got the drop on him at an ATM and he ended up with a broken wrist. Then he was called to a gruesome murder of a family in a well to do neighborhood. The crime scene had all the earmarks of a torture murder by a Mexican drug gang but they could find no connection of this family to drug activity. It takes all of Lucas' sleuthing skills to uncover a well hidden money laundering scheme behind the murders. Meanwhile, Virgil Flowers is tracking the tweakers who seem to be in the business of manure transport.

I won't call this one of the best in the Prey series, but Sandford always manages to write a readable story. And this one has an interesting twist at the end.

Engineering Geekery

While I have never observed the phenomenon personally (probably because I usually get Guinness in a can), it is important to understand why it happens.

Engineers understand Stoke's Law which describes the drag on spherical objects with small Reynold's Numbers in a viscous fluid. It's the mechanism that describes how oil and water separate and you can use it calculate how long it will take a micron sized oil particle to travel a certain distance and hence know the residence time needed for separation. But folks who get their Guinness in a pint glass have notice that the bubbles in the brew seem to flow down rather than up. Leave it to the Irish to find out why.

Next I predict a Computational Fluid Dynamics Doctoral Thesis in the subject. You have to admit that the research would be fun.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MSM Bias

I was watching national news on the National Barrack Channel yesterday when BrianWilliams starts a story about Donald Trump being a birther and then tying him to Mitt Romney. The implication being that Mitt is a goofy birther too. He went no further in describing why The Donald had re-started the birther issue. If he had, he would have had to admit that Obama's birthplace was listed as Kenya in Obama's literary agent's brochure and he would have had to explain how that happened. And then he might have to talk about why Obama let such a mistake carry on for so long. And then he might have to admit that Obama let it happen because it was a useful lie at the time.

And then he could have talked about the other useful lie perpetrated by Elizabeth Warren who claimed Native American status. But we can't let a few lies defer us from the The Narrative.

To paraphrase a popular commercial:

"When you want attention, you list your birthplace as Kenya.
When you list your birthplace as Kenya, people think you are not an American.
When people think you are not an American, they don't want you as President.
Don't affect you chance to be President, tell the truth."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Energy Cost Sticker Shock

PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization that manages the high voltage electric grid and wholesale electricity market for 13 mid Atlantic states and the District of Columbia. They recently held a capacity auction to fix the prices for electricity for 2015. The results are ominous! The market price was $136 per megawatt. In 2012, the price was $16 per megawatt. If you do the math, that's an 850% increase!

This is not speculation. These are real prices. Here's the press release.

Why, PE, you may ask, is the price increasing so much? In a word, Regulations. In Obama's war on coal, the EPA instituted regulatory changes to require coal plants to install MACT, or Maximum Achievable Control Technology, on their emissions by 2015. This regulation will effectively remove 14,000 megawatts of coal powered capacity from the system.

You won't see this news in the MSM. The Fox story is here along with information on what our legislators are doing about. Remember that this issue goes far beyond "tax the rich". Everyone will have to pay more for electricity. How would you pay for an electricity bill that increased by a factor of 8? What do you think manufactured goods will cost because of this increase? What will your food cost? Get busy and write your Congress Critters!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Going Walkabout

The Brother in Law hit Damascus, Va this weekend in his quest to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. He's covered a distance of 467 miles. He hit town during the Trail Days Festival. They had a medical tent there for the hikers so he got a checkup and was declared good to go.

In local news, Rico and his father were in town for a few days so we had a few drams of scotch and ate some Bar B Que shrimp.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Up and out the door at O Dark 30 to catch the first flight to Houston for a day of meetings. The morning meeting, a project status update, went pretty well. It stayed on topic and folks didn't try to engineer a solution in the meeting. The afternoon meeting was a different story. It started with one of the brain trust talking about a highly specialized technical subject (lateral bucking in sub sea pipelines) and treating us to a detailed review of his research in an accent that almost nobody could understand. At about the mid point of the meeting, the leader asked about taking a short break. The next speaker assured us that she would be short and wanted to talk before the break. 30 minutes later she was still talking about a ramp up procedure for a well that wouldn't be put into production until 2015!

Sometimes I wonder why the price of gasoline is so low and how major oil companies manage to make a profit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Robert Parker Lives!

It was a sad day when Robert Parker died. He gave me hours of enjoyment reading his novels and I was sad to see it end. But wait, there is a new possibility out there. Ace Atkins has been selected by Robert Parker's estate to ghost write Robert Parker novels and his first one, Lullaby, has hit the shelves.

Atkins has the uncanny ability to write in the same style as Robert Parker. If you know Parker's books, you know his style - short sentences, gritty descriptions and no nonsense action. It was all there. I look forward to more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bag Balm

Bag Balm is an ointment that was developed in Vermont in 1899 to soften cows udders. Farmers found that the little cuts and nicks on their hands healed faster when they were applying Bag Balm to the livestock. Since then, hundreds of non-bovine uses have been found for the concoction.

Saturday night, my wife and I were sitting for our 6 month old grand nephew while mom and dad had dinner and a movie. He had contracted a severe case of diaper rash (day care center dropped the ball on diaper changes). While mom had cleared up the worst of it, he was still tender in his nether regions. We made liberal applications of Bag Balm to his butt at every diaper change, and on Sunday, it was gone. Wonderful stuff!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Link

I was killing time at lunch by searching for Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Tool. That led me to search for Engineering quotes by Henry Petroski and I ended up at An Engineer's Aspect where I found some excellent engineering geekery. Use the links on the RH side.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This is a true story that happened after Katrina.

My brother-in-law offered his back yard as a FEMA trailer site for a friend of his. He thought it would be easy to install as he had kept a 40’ Airstream trailer on the same spot, complete with hookups, for several years. However, with FEMA, nothing is easy. This is his story.

First, FEMA had to inspect the site to make sure it was suitable for a trailer. M brother-in-law told them to be sure to call because he wasn’t on the property and the gate was locked. One day he got a call.

“We’re here.”


“At the gate to your back yard.”

“Well, I’m across the river so get a soft drink, smoke a cigarette and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

When he arrived to let them in, he found not one, but two FEMA inspectors. Their only job was to measure the site to make sure the trailer would fit. Two guys, with only a tape measure! I guess there must be a FEMA job description somewhere for the guy holding the “dumb end” of the tape. But, then my brother-in-law already knew that it should be possible to fit a 34’ trailer on the site where a 40’ trailer had been. He asked them when the trailer would arrive.

“Couple of days or so.”

About a week and a half later he gets another call.

“We’re here.”

“Do you have the trailer?”, he asked.

"No, I’m just the escort. The trailer is on the highway.”

(That’s right. They had an escort for a camping trailer. Not a permit load. Not an oversized load. But a camping trailer that any bozo with a trailer hitch would be allowed to tow anywhere.)

So he goes back and opens the gate and the driver sets the trailer. Out of curiosity, my brother-in-law asked the driver how much he made. Turns out he makes a flat fee per trailer plus mileage to deliver it. For this one, his take was about $500. And that doesn’t include the escort guy. Now, this is a camping trailer. And almost everyone in South Louisiana has a pickup truck with a trailer hitch capable of hauling the thing. But our government feels it is necessary to pay people hundreds of dollars to deliver their trailers.

But the driver doesn’t do the hook up. And when will the guy be there to hook it up?

“Couple of days.”

As you have probably guessed, another week and a half goes by when he gets another call.

“We’re here to hook up that trailer.”

So he meets the guy and points out where to run the sewer hose and where to plug in the extension cord. (Remember, his personal trailer used this same site) But wait, FEMA says the plumbing must be hard piped and the electrical run in conduit. During that process, my brother-in-law has to tell the guy to re-locate the electrical meter because it will interfere with the push out section of the trailer. Then, the guy jacks the trailer off the ground, sets blocks under it and ties it down with hurricane straps.

OK, we know the thing may have to go through next hurricane season, but this is a trailer in a land where most people have pickup trucks with trailer hitches. If a hurricane is coming, doesn’t it make sense for the occupant to be able to hook up to the thing and tow it someplace safe instead of leaving it there to be destroyed?

When the hook up guy finishes, my brother-in-law asked him for the keys to check everything out.

“I don’t have the keys. Another guy will be here in a couple of days.”

Sure enough, about a week and a half later, the key guy shows up and everyone is happy and the tenant moves into his new FEMA supplied trailer. The plumbing hook up is so good that the first time he flushes the toilet, its contents is deposited on the grass.

That is why you can’t trust your life to FEMA.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review - Harbor Nocturne

I am a big fan of Joseph Wambaugh, Master of the Metaphor. His production in recent years has been slow but his books are worth waiting for. Harbor Nocturne is the latest in his series about those wacky cops in Hollywood Station. Flotsam and Jetsam are back as well as Hollywood Nate. And there are a few new characters as well.

The book starts with a human smuggling job gone awry when a container full of dead illegal immigrants is found in the harbor. One of the victims is the sister of a woman working at a strip club. When she complains to her employer, she ends up dead in a back alley. Her roommate, who was a witness, then goes on the run to avoid a similar fate and seeks help from an unemployed longshoreman. As is usual in Wambaugh's books, the main story line is broken up with short vignettes involving the various cops of the Hollywood Station.

Its a good read and an excellent way to kill several hours on an airplane.

Head Count

Four murderers and one druggie were separated from their heads last month in the KSA for a total of 5 executions. The Kingdoms year to date total is now at 19.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Louisiana

200 years ago Louisiana was made a state.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Brother in Law reported in at Clingman's Dome, TN which puts him about 200 miles into his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He got stuck by the recent bad weather and even had snow at the higher elevations.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creeping Freedom Restrictions

I'd like to bring your attention to a couple of items that I find troubling. On March 14, the Senate passed S.1813, known as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). It authorizes federal highway construction projects. But like most legislation, they buried stuff in it that has no relation to highways and restricts your personal freedoms.

In Section 31406 they require all new cars manufactured after 2015 to have Vehicle Event Data Recorders installed on them. These "black boxes" will record what the vehicle has been doing and probably where it has been. There is a provision that the data is owned by the vehicle owner and only accessible with a court order. But you and both know that is no guarantee of privacy. Why does the government feel this data collection is necessary? What do they plan to use the data for? What about rental cars - will my activities in a rental car be subject to scrutiny by Hertz? Think about the long term implications of having "Big Brother" as a back seat driver. Think about the Gov shifting to a mileage tax instead of a gasoline tax.

Another provision is in Section 40304. This allows the IRS to request the Secretary of Transportation to request the Secretary of State to revoke your passport if there is a question about your tax payments. Note that this does not require that you be found in arrears but that the IRS have "suspicion" that your are delinquent. Unlike a court of law, you have no appeal process to this bureaucratic procedure.

You can go here to see which Senators voted for this bill and to read the bill itself.

This bill now has to go the House for approval. I suggest you write to your Congress Critter.

Thoughts on Recent News Items

GSA Scandal
Fire them all. Fire the managers that arranged it. Fire the level above them for approving it. Fire the level above them for not being aware of it. Fire the Accounts Payable supervisor who paid the expense accounts for not blowing the whistle. Take everyone else involved and offer them a transfer, demotion or termination. Do it now!

Secret Service Fiasco
Fire the agents involved. Fire at least two levels of supervision above them. Refer the military guys back to their home service for discipline. Don't wait.

Taliban Trophy Photos
This sort of thing has been going on since the Romans hung the dead bodies of their enemies on pikes to send a message and instill fear. Face it, combat training is designed to develop a callous attitude towards death. I'm sure that tours in a combat zone further reinforce that callousness. How can we expect soldiers to hold bodies of their dead enemy sacred after witnessing atrocities these same enemies committed on their own people and our own soldiers? What they do, they will have to deal with and that is punishment enough for me.

Leon Panetta's Trips Home
We are involved in two wars and the Secretary of Defense heads home every weekend? Are you s***ing me? I don't care if he carries a Bat Phone, he needs to be in DC, not on the Left Coast someplace.

Bow Wow Luau

I'm not sure why folks are making a big deal about Obama eating dog. He lived in Hawaii where the Bow Wow Luau is common. It's Da Kine, and Mo Betta wit poi.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Travel Plans

I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you
can't go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be
driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my boss, work and
politicians who affect my life.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too
much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit
there too often.

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older and
as my muscles get weaker.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin
flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can

I may have been in Continent, but I must’ve been sleeping while traveling
through, and some places I'd rather not remember. It's an age thing.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Head Count

Five murders and druggies lost their heads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last month. Year to date total is now 14.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chipping Away at our Freedoms

Think this isn't important? Go ask a German Jew from 1939 or a Japanese American from 1942.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Going Walkabout

One of my brothers in law is starting to hike the Appalachian Trail today. He plans to thru hike the trail in one season. I'll keep you all posted on his progress along the 2180 mile trail.

Hes been active in Boy Scouts for years and raised two Eagle Scouts. He's had several trips to Philmont. I think he'll be successful if winter doesn't come too early in the north.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Road Trip

My wife and I made a road trip to Pensacola to attend the wedding of one of our nieces. As a child she used to spend New Years Eve at our house with her older brothers and sisters where we would make peanut brittle and shoot fireworks. Now she is marrying a retired Navy pilot. What the hell happened to the time?
The wedding was held at 511 Palafox. Older hands may remember that this was the site of Trader Jons, a somewhat infamous pilot hangout known for its collection of Naval aviation memorabilia and a Blue Angels Museum.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thresher Base

April 10 will mark the 49th anniversary of the loss of the USS Thresher. A small group of submariners have dedicated themselves to preserving the memory of the Thresher and those lost with her. They call themselves Thresher Base and their website can be found here. They will be holding a memorial ceremony this year on April 14 at Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine.

If you happen to be near Portsmouth, NH on that weekend, you might want to attend.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Armed Escorts

I made a promise to myself several years ago that I would no longer travel to countries where I needed an armed escort for protection. I had two very practical reasons: (1) I doubted that my guards could shoot accurately and didn't trust them to hit the bad guys and not me, and (2) I wasn't sure that they would actually fire on their own people in order to protect me.

So I drew the line and said "no more". But now it seems that I need armed escorts in my own country.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Obama was bragging recently that his administration has quadrupled the number of drilling rigs ("Don't tell me we're not drilling!") This is an exaggeration. If you look at the Baker Hughes rig count data you see that the current rig count is not quite 2000. You have to back before 1999 to find a rig count as low as 500.

Obama is running scared from gasoline prices and is trying to find shelter - so he lies.

The other thing to remember is that Obama is a victim of his own success at raising the price of oil. If the price of oil goes up it will stimulate more drilling as oil companies try to take advantage of a rising market. Take a look at the charts and see how many of those rigs are looking for oil. But never forget that this increase has nothing to do with Obama. This was done by private industry in spite of Obama. Those rigs are drilling on private lands where Obama can't contol the permitting. He's just trying to take credit for something he didn't do. What do you call people who take credit for things they didn't do?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Made in China

Clay has posted a book review about doing business in China - especially as relates to quality. As engineers, we are being forced by bean counters to consider Chinese manufacturers even though our email boxes are filled with examples of catastrophic failures in Chinese construction. If you are in the same situation, or concerned about the quality of products you see on your store's shelves, this is a good book to read.

In Louisiana we have had to deal with the problem of drywall that gave off fumes that corroded copper electrical wires and plumbing. This dealt a second blow to folks trying to rebuild after Katrina. And we all remember the problem of lead paint in children's toys. And for myself, I routinely check frozen crawfish tails to make sure they came from Louisiana and not China.

While it could be considered a business book, it is written in a narrative style as the author relates his experiences acting as a business consultant for a US beauty products importer. He describes a phenomenon he terms "Quality Fade" where the manufacturer starts cutting corners once an order has been placed. More importantly, he gives insight into how the Chinese culture affects its approach to business dealings with the west. Look for it and read it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Head Count

One murderer and three druggies were beheaded last month in Saudi Arabia. So far this year, there have been nine executions in the Kingdom.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gender Bending

You may have seem the recent news article about Northeastern University banning Chick Fil-A from campus because they were deemed to be "anti-gay" because of the charities the company supports. You might be surprised to learn that this is not the first time the University was involved in gender bending controversies.

Back in the dim ages of 1970, when PE was just a wee engineering student who also played trombone in the university band, a fellow student and band member learned that there was no gender requirement for Winter Carnival Queen. Upon discovering this, one Everett Nau, a solid citizen from the State of Maine and a drummer, decided to enter the competition. NUB, the Northeastern University Band, sponsored him. (The band was deemed an extracurricular activity as the university had no music major. Therefore, we students were alowed to run the asylum and did pretty much as we pleased - within limits)

To make a long story short, Everett, complete with mutton chop sideburns, won the competition and the right to represent the university as Winter Carnival Queen. His accomplishment became renown throughout the land and also landed him a guest spot on the quiz show, "To Tell the Truth".

Some people have tried to rationalize our prank as a backlash to the womens' lib movement or as an offshoot of the anti-war protests going on at that time. In truth, it was nothing more than a few students poking fun at the university establishment while blowing off a little steam in Boston's dark winter days. As a result of our endeavors, the rules were changed in subsequent years to limit the field to female persons only.

In the picture below, guess who is Everett.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Margin Call

I rented this movie because it had Kevin Spacey as one of the stars. He always does quirky stuff and sometimes its good. This happened to be one of those times. Other stars in the cast included Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons. The movie was the first major film by director/writer J.C. Chandor.

The movie opens with Tucci's character, the head of the risk management department, being fired during a general personnel purge at the investment firm where he works. If you have never seen the process in action, this was a realistic representation - cold, quick and brutal. As he walks out the door, he hands a memory stick to a young colleague and warns him that it may contain dangerous stuff. The young trader spends the night figuring out the risk model and realizes that it spells doom for the company. He sounds the alert. This kicks off an all night session with top management to try to reduce the damage to the firm while knowing that the economy in general will be heading down the tubes.

The appeal of the film is in the reactions of the various characters to the impending economic doom while they struggle with moral and ethical issues in the face of extreme financial losses. If you liked Glengarry Glen Ross, you will like this film.

While this film did not cause box office raves, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing/Screenplay as well as several other awards including an Independent Spirit Award. If you see this movie on the hotel or airline movie list, be sure to see it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Red Tails

My wife was giving a bridal shower for one of our nieces on Saturday so I did the manly thing - I got out of the house and went to see a war movie. Red Tails had been in the press because of George Lucas' problem getting funding for this movie. It was also about an interesting part of WW II history. I expected there to be technical inaccuracies and exaggerations but, since it was Lucas, I figured the action scenes would be good. In a word, I was disappointed.

Except for the fact that he used black actors in airplanes, this movie could have been any generic war movie. It had all the usual suspects, cliches and caricatures. There was the flawed, self doubting flight leader, the cocky pilot who ignores orders, the religeous kid seeking acceptance. And they threw in a romantic side story for good effect. You knew within the first 10 minutes who was going to live and who was going to die because you have seen this 100 times. Lucas had an excellent opportunity to tell the story of a unique piece of Black American history and he blew it. (FYI, each service had black units. The Army had the 761st Tank Battalion and the Navy had USS Mason (DE-529). All of these units had distinguished records)

IMHO, Lucas had touble getting funding because the movie was mediocre. Save your money and give this movie a pass.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ocean Ranger

Cajun's history summary reminded me that yesterday was the anniversary of the sinking of the drilling rig Ocean Ranger (Feb 15, 1982). I had some personal ties to that rig. If it was a Naval vessel, I might be considered a plank owner.

My first job out of college was working for Ocean Drilling and Exploration Company. Specifically, I was hired to join the client team in the Hiroshima, Japan shipyard where they were building two drilling rigs - the Ocean Bounty and the Ocean Ranger. The Ocean Ranger was a state of art rig designed to drill in the cold northern oceans (special steel in the hull) in the harsh weather typical of the North Sea. It also had a novel chain/wire mooring system that allowed it to anchor in deeper water. Coincidentally, both rigs got contracts to drill off of Alaska in 1977. I went along to provide engineering support to them. The Ranger drilled one hole in the Bering Sea where the winds were so fierce the anemometer pegged out at its maximum for several hours before the propeller flew off. As I was one of the few people who knew how to operate the complicated anchor windlasses, I was usually involved in any rig move and spent a fair amount of time on her.

Time goes on. I left ODECO and ended up working for Mobil Oil (the company she was working for when she sank). I was driving back from Morgan City one afternoon when the radio announced the sinking.

I can still remember the layout of the rig and sometimes I take a mental stroll across her decks and down to the engine room where I might take the elevator down to the ballast pump room - the same engine room that had a 20' x 20' hatch that provided access for downflooding straight down the elevator shaft. The ballast room where valves opened up in response to a shorted out control panel. I remember sitting in the radio room eavesdropping on other vessels radio telephone patches and their lonely men talking to their girlfriends. I remember the pranks played by the crew, especially if you were  green enough to leave your food tray unattended (Friends would add tabasco to your food if you did). I remember climbing down into her chain locker to help fix a snarl in the chain/wire swivel - a trip that an older engineer balked at when he realized the "ladder" was foot holes cut into the bulkhead. And I remember the 72 hour "days" pulling and setting anchors on a new location.

Most of the crew I had worked with in Japan and Alaska had moved to other rigs by 1982, but I knew two of the men who were lost on her. It was the first time someone I knew had been killed on the job.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interesting People

I attended Grandparents Day at the middle grandson's school. (He goes to a LaSallian School.) While we were waiting for the program to start, one of the brothers, a Vietnamese man of about our age, came over to chat. I was at the other end of the group so I only caught snippets of his conversation but it was enough to gather that he and his father had escaped from Vietnam in 1989. ( I assume they had been in a "re-education" camp since the fall of Saigon) They managed to survive a typhoon and when they thought all was lost, a passing freighter picked them up and took them to Japan. He joined the La Salle Brothers and is now teaching.

Sometimes you never know what astounding stories people may have. It pays to keep your ears open. You can't underestimate the pull that the USA has for people who yearn for freedom. I can't wait to engage this man in a longer conversation.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Offshore Living

I stumbled across the web site of a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have a solution to the problem of getting visas for foreigners to work for their industry. They want to house these people in offshore living accommodations moored in international waters. They can live and work outside of the USA but yet be close enough to visit the Valley when they need to collaborate face to face by entering the US on a tourist visa. The group is called Blueseed and they have several concept facilities on the drawing boards.

The idea is not a new one although it has been newly named Seasteading.

Ocean Engineers have been working on very large ocean structures for years. The most common concept is for an offshore airport. And the oil industry has long solved the problem of logistics by housing several hundred workers on offshore floating structures called "floatels". A floatel can house around 400 workers and are used during construction of offshore oil and gas production facilities. And the US Navy can keep thousands of crew members at sea for months at a time.

But I don't see these seasteading concepts ever coming to fruition.

First of all, anyone who has ever lived and worked offshore for any amount of time can tell you that living conditions are cramped. Offshore real estate is too expensive to waste square footage on parks and open space. You sleep in a small room in bunk beds with shared bathroom facilities. You eat in a mess hall. There is almost no privacy except for climbing into your rack and pulling the curtain. It is not a pleasant existence although I've seen thousands of workers live in worse conditions in Dubai. It is not something most people would want to do for extended periods of time.

Second, the technology exists to work in a virtual environment so why do we need to co-locate? I have worked on projects where the design may have been done on the other side of the world. Drawings are sent to a master server for distribution. Meetings are held as teleconferences. Fed Ex can deliver paper copies over night. Nobody needs to physically touch someone else in order to perform work.

Thirdly, I don't think that ICE is going to go for it. I worked on a project in the UK where I visited London for month long periods at a time. After about 4 visits, the immigration guys started to look at me funny. I've gone over to Canada to witness a test and been given the third degree by immigration officials who thought I was taking a Canadian job. People visiting the US from an offshore structure that was built for the purpose of avoiding immigration laws will not have an easy time of it, I'm afraid.

Finally, operating and maintaining a floating structure in the ocean is not cheap. You need lots of fuel for power generation. You need to bring food out on a regular basis. You need helicopters and boats. The ocean tends to wear out things like mooring lines and corrode steel. The cost of housing a person on such a facility would probaly exceed the costs of building a tele-commuting office in their home country.

And, oh yeah, don't forget that the USCG and the state will have to give you a permit for the facility. They could hold up the project for years if they were determined to do so.

The concept sounds like a good idea but I don't think it's practical.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review - Taken

This is Robert Crais new release. Elvis Cole is hired to find a missing woman and her boyfriend. He finds out that they have been kidnapped by a group that preys upon illegals being transported into the US. They kidnap them and then extort ransom money from their family. These two just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Elvis devised a scheme to impersonate a coyote in order to buy them back. His plan goes south and he is detained as well. Joe Pike, who was watching Elvis' back, then goes on a scorched earth rampage to recover his friend.

The book gives equal time to Elvis, Pike and Jon Stone, a mercenary friend of Joes. In a format new for Crais, he jumps back and forth between characters and time. This keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next. Don't start reading it if you have to get up early in the morning.

This is my new favorite Crais novel.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Glenlivet French Oak Reserve

This scotch is aged for 15 years in new French Oak casks. You can say it makes no difference but then why do the French age wine destined for sale to the US in American Oak and not French Oak?

Color: Light Amber
Nose: Light
Palate: Rich, Oakey
Body: Smooth, Silky
Finish: Long, Warming

For what its worth, I let my wife taste it for her opinion. She normally loves the smell of scotch but finds the taste too harsh. She tasted this one and didn't make a face. She kept asking for the glass for another taste. Because of her reaction, this gets my recommendation as a good introductory scotch.

A review of my history shows that I reviewed a different bottle of this scotch back in August of 2009. Go see and compare the tasting notes.