Sunday, June 28, 2009

Couple of Notes on Iran

If you haven't seen the Reza Aslan interview on The Daily Show, I highly recommend it:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reza Aslan
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

H/T Dambala.

A reminder of what the batshit insane neocons were saying just a few weeks ago:
IRAN: Stop nukes by bombing oil wells, neocons suggest
. SUICIDAL FUCKING MANIACS! In Aslan's words, how important was November's election? If McCain/Palin were in charge, there would be a messy, bloody war by now.

Here's a sample on Five Thirty Eight of their excellent analysis of the electoral returns.

What's happening in Iran is far more about them than us, but there might be something solid you can do to help the "Iranian Greenies." Wired's Threat Level and the Wall Street Journal are reporting that Siemens (Germany) and Nokia (Finland) are assisting in the suppression of internet communications. Boycott Nokia and Siemens. They have far more business in the West than in Iran and should be punished for making such a stupid business decision (plus morally abhorrent, of course).

Meet the Authors:
Reza Aslan and Moira Crone
July 1, 6 to 8 p. m.
The Cabildo

The Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society and the Louisiana State Museum will cohost a reception July 1 for Reza Aslan, author of the international bestseller, No God But God, and the new book How to Win A Cosmic War. Reza, an Iranian-American who lived in New Orleans for a while, is a respected scholar and teacher in the field of religious studies and Middle East politics. He is a regular commentator on the Middle East for CBS and he also has regular guest appearances on such news/talk shows as MSNBC's Rachel
Maddow Show, most recently tonight, his third appearance in a week. Reza will discuss terrorism, Islam, and the current uprising in Iran at the event.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Engineering Programs

One of the things that surprises some recent graduates is how "worthless" your school time is. Nothing you do at work resembles what you studied at school, at least on first blush. What your schooling is supposed to do is give you a good feel for the operating principals behind what you do. Even though you don't learn about pumps or piping (or at least very little), you do learn about turbulence and friction losses.

When you're an engineer, you do most of your work with very basic tools. Books like Crane TP#410 are all you need for the majority of your work. Occasionally, you will get into more complex problems when you run into either indeterminate problems or cases that would just take too long to do by hand. In those instances, we resort to computer modeling programs. Even then, though, we back up those calcs with hand calcs when it really counts. For critical structures, like say the hull of a TLP, all computer calculations are backed up by hand, no matter how intensive.

Here are a couple of examples that I've played around with:

Pipe-Flo allows you to create hydraulic models of facilities and test them with whatever flowrate you want. Very useful for pump selection and control valve programming. Pump selection is always tricky by hand because centrifugal pumps' flowrate depends on the friction loss in the pipe. The friction loss is defendant on the flowrate, so pump selection is an iterative process.

Caesar II is a pipe stress analysis program I just learned how to use. It tells you where to anchor your pipe, including loads from thermal expansion.

Hysys is used by process engineers (sort of a hybrid between mechanical and chemical engineering) to design plants. I haven't messed with it too much, yet, but I hope to learn it soon.

Finite Element Analysis is used to figure out how complex structures will react to stress. One program that's very good that I know is Solidworks/COSMOS.

And then of course, there's AutoDesk. The granddaddy of all AutoCad programs. So many expansions are available, so you can get it to do whatever you want. It's also the industry standard.

Friday, June 26, 2009


HUET Escape
Originally uploaded by Noladishu
I haven't blogged much about offshore in a while. I recently uploaded some old photos, so I've got some things to share.

Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) is required for everyone offshore. It's required so you have a chance of surviving incidents like this. The training program was developed for the North Sea fields and a lot of the course still involves cold water training (dealing with hypothermia, etc.). You generally take a morning course that's videos and a written exam.

I took the course 2 1/2 years ago. Certification should be renewed every 4-5 years (it varies by company).

The afternoon consists of in-pool activities. There are basic swimming lessons, but oddly enough you don't need to know how to swim to get HUET. All HUET training is done with a life preserver. There are a lot of old guys that don't know how to swim and (in order to give them a bit of a break, because HUET hasn't always been required) it's assumed that you'll always be able to access at least a life vest. The hardest part of the afternoon, by far, is pulling yourself into a life raft. The life raft keeps moving and flexing the harder you push. You job is to pull yourself in, pull the next guy in, and then take a break because after that, you're going to be totally exhausted.

The most fun (at least for me) was the actual HUET training where you practice escaping from a downed helicopter. You have to do it at least 3 times: once being lowered with the doors and windows out, once where you have to kick the doors out, and once where the helo rolls over and then you have to extricate yourself. When the helo flips over, your nasal cavity fills with water and it feels really, really weird. Some people can't deal with that and fail. Once the helo is flipped, it takes generally at least 5 or 10 seconds to get out. I tended to take my time and did it in somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute. We had two people that couldn't swim that were able to get out in well under 10 seconds. They passed the course.

The whole thing is safe as can be. There are divers in the water. The pool is heated (an absolute necessity, when you consider how long you're in the pool during the training). I volunteered to do it a fourth time for extra training. The extra session was to practice following someone else out in case you don't get a window seat. You have to sit there strapped in while the guy next to you fumbles around with his seat belt (all the while upside down).

I look forward to renewing my certification. Enjoy the video of my coworker extricating himself.

More HUET training footage from Norway:

UPDATE- One more photo to add:

The practice pool.

Rock on, MJ

Thriller. You know you want to watch it. Click the link.

Couldn't resist posting it. Rock on, MJ.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Project Truck Update: Ticking Timebomb Edition

I've been using the truck to move things and smelled gasoline, but I assumed it was part of the usual aroma. I was showing the truck off to a certain brain-eater when he noticed a trickle of gasoline coming out from the gas tank.
Fixing gas tank
Been busy, so haven't gotten a chance to fix it until today. All I had to do was play around with things and tighten them down, fortunately. I guess I didn't do a good enough job when I changed out the gas gauge. I made sure to keep a fire extinguisher handy when I was working, though. Very important. Now the fire extinguisher lives in the glove box (along with that bracket, the registration, a bottle of WD-40, random tools, and other various and sundry nebulous odds and ends).
Permission to lower property values
The new house is in a 2-hour resident zone, so I had to get a permit. Now the truck has permission to lower property values in the Garden District!
Two seat belts
Installed a second seatbelt. Anyone want to go for a ride while sitting on 20 gallons of 93 octane?

One of the older draftsmen told me that on these old trucks, there was a cruel trick you could play on your passengers: the dash is made out of bare steel and the seat only has a lap belt. Slam on the brakes and the passenger will fly forward and nail their head on the dash. Many noses were broken that way, allegedly.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"... Only the odor of decomposition stirs them into action."

"The corpse of a murdered man can lie in a New Orleans street for three days without the citizens paying it the slightest notice. Only the odor of decomposition stirs them into action."

-1849 Visitor to New Orleans

Quote from Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders.

Firey Debate over Crime Funding. Riley vs. Cannizzaro for more funding. Riley wants more police overtime. Cannizzaro wants more investigators to back up his prosecutors. The pot of money they are talking about using is from unused money in Riley's budget (he can't recruit enough qualified policemen, even given NOPD's minimal standards).

Warren Riley is constantly complaining about how the numbers are making him look bad. He wants credit for "reducing violent crime," but nobody puts any stock into the NOPD's numbers.

NOPD reports reduction in rapes. By reduction, we really mean an increase, including an increase in brazen rape-abductions. Silly maths. Maybe they forgot to include the rapist-cops in their numbers when they were tallying it up. Quality recruits Riley is getting.

Witnessed threatened from jail. "I would never be a witness again – never. "

Petty, vindictive Warren Riley sends NOPD veteran to Siberia (Police Academy) until he swallows the party doctrine that the sky isn't blue. Cannizzaro bails him out, though.

911 calls by kidnapped teens goes unanswered. What happens when you need the cops, and they aren't there. Talk about an 'Oh, Shit' moment. The message that sends is, 'you can't trust 911 and the police to protect you.' NOPD: When Seconds Matter, They're Only Minutes Away. Is it any wonder that Concealed Weapons Permits are once again through the roof?

Some good news: FBI looks at cases involving New Orleans Police Department officers. The FBI has to do it because NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau, arguably Pennington's greatest accomplishment as police chief, has been destroyed by Warren Riley. Keep in mind that Riley worked for Internal Affairs and got promoted, despite being disciplined for tipping off a crooked cop (Len Davis) about his wife's complaint, leading to her murder.

Riley For Mayor? Police Chief Issues Statement. More here. Scary thing is, you can't just dismiss his candidacy out of hand. Because there is no real frontrunner and New Orleans voters are crazy enough to vote for someone, just because people don't like him, he stands more than a snowball's chance in hell of winning. DO NOT WANT!

Algiers murder adds to bloody weekend. The article ends with this:
Police don’t have suspects in four of the five shootings.

This year is already on pace to top last year's murder total and the summer is just beginning...

UPDATE- Some more to add:

Business owner murdered on the job. Ambushed from behind, peppered with rounds while doing his usual routine of refilling ATM's.

"At first, after Katrina they were very much victims," said Normand. "As the population started to grow, now they are becoming perpetrators." BULLSHIT! Sheriff Normand, instead of protecting all in his charge, is trying to gin up fear against "the illegals" to help himself out when he comes up for reelection. He need to distract people about how ineffective his "chee-wee chasing" tactics are.

Man dies in crash on stolen motorcycle. Darwin Award on a donor-cycle. Maybe the first time when the no helmet law actually did the public some good.

Three arrested for alleged plot to kill witness. And you wonder why people are reluctant to testify. Good job catching them. Let's hope they go to jail for the attempt.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Restaurant Review: Lusco's

Lusco's (cropped)
Went up to visit my dad in the Delta and went to Lusco's for the first time (at least since I was a kid).

Lusco's has been the restaurant of the planter gentry for generations. It started out as a dry goods store with a small restaurant attached, bloomed in size in WWII and became a North Mississippi institution. Everyone up there just can't say enough about it (to the point of being mildly annoying*). It's got the reputation of being the "Galatoire's of the Delta."

One of the things I liked about the place was how creeky and old it was. The furniture in the waiting area has holes in it and depressions where many a derriere has taken a load off. The primary seating areas are wooden cubicles open at the top and curtained off with flowery cotton sheets. The measure of a man in North Mississippi is being able to land a booth on a busy Saturday on short notice. I put on my seersucker and, of course, we got in.

They're famous for 2 things: steak and seafood. I was reluctant to try the seafood, given that I'd just driven from New Orleans, but I decided to try the Pompano, one of their signature dishes:
Allegedly, one of the Galatoire family members used to trek up to Lusco's to sample the whole fish Pompano. It's cooked whole, skin, eyeballs, and all. I loved it. Part of the appeal is no place in New Orleans serves whole fish. I've heard that since so many New Orleans patrons get stupid drunk when they go out to dinner, they can't handle deboning their fish and the chefs don't want to get sued by some New Orleans lawyer that bites down on a bone. Evil lawyers ruining things for everyone else. Took me a second to figure it out how to eat it, but once I did, it was delicate, with a careful balance of lemon-citrus sauce. I also enjoyed the onion rings, gumbo, and a spinach souffle.

The other thing about the restaurant is it doesn't serve alcohol (although back during Prohibition, people came for the moonshine and homebrew beer). That doesn't discourage the patrons, though. Regulars bring fancy leather bags filled with booze and the restaurant helpfully provides "setups" (seltzer, ice, glasses, etc.). One great thing about the BYOB policy: eating there is astonishingly cheap. For fine dining, I was shocked at how low the bill was.

All in all, it's an excellent restaurant in its own right (although I'm still not sure about that whole "Galatoire's of the Delta"-thing). Just go there and enjoy it.

722 Carrollton Ave., Greenwood, MS
(662) 453-5365

*I wonder if it's like that when New Orleanians describe our treasured institutions...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Links of the day - 6/11/09

Lots to peruse:

Netanyahu Clashed With Obama, Congress On Trip. M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum wrote that it was "the first time in memory" that "an Israeli prime minister went up to the Hill only to be bombarded with criticism."

Little Green Footballs - IAEA Reports Weapons-Grade Uranium Found in Egypt. HEU (highly enriched uranium) found in Egypt?

Pakistan expanding Nuclear Weapons Facility. Wired notes the possibility of a nuclear Civil War.

David Kilcullen. Petraus' brain? Be sure to read the end of the article.

Fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan... in pink boxers. SecDef praised the soldier for a "special kind of courage."

Obama's Speech already undercutting extremists? Maybe.


Goldman Sachs names ex-SEC chief Levitt as adviser. The colony of leeches gets bigger.

Italian Police Seize Japanese Nationals trying to Smuggle $134 Billion in Bonds. Either stunningly well counterfeited, or, even scarier, genuine articles.


My dear American Neighbors. Northern Neighbor gives an honest take on "the Canadian way."

Cheney Lost to Bush. Interesting chronicle of the inside politics at the White House. Reminds me of the PBS documentary.

Bernard Kerik indicted for lying to Feds. Remember, he was Giuliani's pick to head DHS.

Robert Gates: Bureaucrat Unbound. Cheesy title, but so many people are singing his praises.

Pitchers are sissies. "Bone chips," HA! Published in 1946.

Deadspin - Why Scott Boras Isn't As Evil As You Think He Is. Scott Boras for commissioner of baseball? Couldn't be any worse than Selig...

Palin visits Yankee Stadium. Highly concentrated evil. Now if only Jeter would give her an STD and knock her up with a 1/4 black baby...

Either the coolest thing ever or incredibly wrong. Still can't decide which.

Hot Stuff in a Squeeze Bottle - NYT. Siracha hot sauce.

Phoonan Devi. Inspiration for Kill Bill? "They gang raped her, so she came back with a gun and some friends, and killed twenty-two men. Unsure of the identity of her rapists, she killed most of the males in the village just to be on the safe side"

Poster advertising Bachelor/ette Parties at a Gun Range. You mind will explode trying to process it all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The car that cannot be killed

Yesterday's Exxon-Valdez spill needed a serious overhaul. It's a 1981 Mercedes Turbo-Diesel. These engines are legendary for reliability and refusal to die. Their last legs will give out over and over, only for them to sprout new last legs. In another race, a Benz refused to die, even after having its oil replaced by New England clam chowder. Someday, all that will be left are roaches eating twinkies while driving around in diesel Mercedes.
Got Oil?
Ain't Done Yet. Got Oil?

Yesterday's oil slick seriously damaged the car. The team worked all night, but halfway into the second day, they got it roaring again.

The crowd cheered when it roared to life (and then went into spastic coughing fits from the acrid black smoke).

People's Curse

One of the features of 24 Hours of Lemons is "The People Curse." In order to ensure the spirit of the race is followed, one car is crushed into a pulp. It's generally a cheater or an asshole that pisses off the rest of the racers. The car with the most votes gets sent to the crusher. The "winner" is usually a Miata or BMW racing team that takes the race a little too seriously. This year's winner was the #2 Miata:

Black Widow Miata leading a pack of cars around the track

This team has all sorts of racing-spec Miatas. They showed up in a big caravan of air conditioned trailers, campers, duelley pickups and generally pissed everyone off. They got a big penalty for spending too much on their car, but it wasn't big enough and they made up the laps and were in the top 5 when the ballots came back. 9 out of every 10 votes were for their #2 Miata. THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!

This team has actually gotten the People's Curse 2 other times. Each time they drove a spec Miata in a way that rubbed the competition the wrong way. Each time, their car was crushed. Third time was apparently too much for them, so they actually absconded before the punishment was complete! Cowards!
Prepare to die!
Fortunately, one of the BABE rally cars stepped up into the fray. A sample of the carnage below:

People's Curse

Repair time at Lemons

When your drive $500 shitboxes, there are going to be a few breakdowns. When you push them to their absolute limit in 90 degree, 1000% percent humidity, you're going to get every breakdown known to man. Every mistake the mechanical engineers made designing the car will be exposed for all the world to see.

This Z did a couple of laps early and then went into the pits never to return.

Box Fans cooling engine
The Cajun Jihadi's put up good times in their Mitsubishi Mirage, but they had to pit regularly and to cool their engine. They had every fan they could lay their paws on blasting into the engine compartment.

Shot brakes
This Golf had its brakes seize up on it. When they first tore the wheel off, the brake rotor was glowing from the heat.

Pushing the Mercedes
An old, turbo-diesel Benz was out on the track. It's engine started out making the most god-awful sound and it only got worse as the day wore on. The team had to push it back to the pits after it went KA-CHUNK and lost all its oil.
Immense oil slick
The oil slick it left was rather impressive. At least 5 quarts decorated the pit for the rest of the afternoon.

Smoking Fiero
A Pontiac Fiero also put up nice lap times, when it wasn't smoking from a leaking head gasket. The team was planning on rebuilding the engine tonight. We'll find out how that one went.

Under Tow
Cars that died on the track had to suffer the indignity of being towed away. Supposedly, the tow truck operator was sadistic and tried to rip everyone's bumper off.

The biggest mechanical breakdowns of the day involved the fighting Tauri. The Ford Taurus (Robocop's car) is infamous for grenading transmissions. Three showed up to the track. By the end of the day, only one was still running (thanks to some parts from the other two).
Engine #1 on Taurus SHO
I drove a '92 Taurus to high school, so I'm rooting for them. One Taurus' transmission blew up on the track and left so many pieces, they had to sweep the track.
Engine #2
One of the Taurus teams was in the middle of open-heart surgery all day on the track. They had 2 engines and I think 3 transmissions laying out in their pit area. None were in their vehicle.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Penalties of Lemons

For driver's that misbehave, there are a multitude of punishments devised by sadistic judges. Here's a sample.
Penalty Board
The Penalty Board. Spin out, spin the wheel.

Penalty Pig
Penalty Pig. Welded to the car by the Arc Angel. Note the Chief Perpetrator (Jay, the organizer) in the photo, too.

Another penalty involved everyone on your team getting decked out in beads and parading around the entire pit area (~1/4 mile long loop) chanting "we are horrible drivers."

100. I will not go four off.
The Bart Simpson Penalty. You get the picture. And yes, they did write it 100 times on their hood. There's also the related rambling email punishment where drivers must write out several paragraphs explaining why their penalty is unjust.

The Bobby Bosch Penalty involves a pile of relays and you have to figure out which one is dead. As long as you have a multimeter, shouldn't be too hard.

The Burning Man Penalty. The offending team must pitch a tent, everyone has to get inside, and then the most awful techno music in the world (DJ Mix - Hidro-Ponik - Hadron Particles) is blasted into the tent. There is one track on the CD that is over one hour long! The link to download the song is 2 MP3's that are each over 100 megs.

I noted this one on the list:
The Bobby Jindal: "Judge Johnny wanted an excuse to do an exorcism. Maybe he'll just resort to simple voodoo, but if he gives you this one, he'll probably be making it up as he goes."

We'll see if it gets implemented.

The final penalty, I'll leave to Candice to cover later. The judges picked up a calender full of shirtless male models. The offending driver has to strip and replicate the poses until the female attendees are satisfied he's matched the pose on the calender...


Team Cajun Jihadis at 24 Hours of Lemons New Orleans.

Keep up with Jalopnik for more.

UPDATE- Back from the race. Hogging all the bandwidth in the city to upload photos and video. Here's some more of the coolest themed car out there today:

Driving through the pits:

They left the music playing on loop throughout the course to "intimidate" their opponents:

Note the serious doppler effect on the sound as the car runs the hairpin turn.