Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav Predictions

Storm Surge Model from Weather Underground


I've been surveying the storm surge models and tracks. From what I can tell, I think Orleans Parish proper will have no more than moderate damage. It looks like it's going to be far enough away from the city and it's weakened enough to keep the eastbank safe, although you never know how what will happen with the funner (GIWW/MR-GO). I think the westbank is in great danger. If I recall correctly, only 2 of the 3 floodgates on the Harvey Canal are complete. I'd also be really worried about all the small towns between the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi. Houma's going to take a big hit.

Possible damage to oil infrastructure from Gustav via The Oil Drum
This looks to be a doomsday track for the oil industry, but the platforms are stronger (some were improved after Katrina and the weakest ones were taken out by Rita) than people think and the storm has weakened slightly. That could greatly reduce damage. Pay attention to what happens with the LOOP and Fourchon (America's Oil Port).

When I was driving around New Orleans yesterday, I noticed plenty of National Guard from Louisiana (locals protecting locals!). They had plenty of brand new equipment. They were out in force and were deploying all over the city. I doubt there will be any looting this time around. Jindal is making McCain regret his Veep choice.

Stay safe and I hope we all come through this ok. We'll see how this all turns out.

Safe from Gustav

After initially wanting to ride out the storm, we decided to hit the road. We took late Saturday and dropped my car off on the northshore before heading up I-12 to I-55 to North Mississippi.

Some of the signs have been shut down before the wind even shows up

UPDATE- One big difference from Katrina- buses evacuating nursing home patients and others.

UPDATE- Lots of traffic.
We averaged 35 mph on I-55 until we got to Mississippi and then it picked up slowly.

Once we got north of Jackson, we were finally able to hit the speed limit. We to our destination in North Mississippi a little after midnight.

We decided to get all the way out of the storm. Candice and I are safe in North Mississippi. We're hanging out way in the country. Blogging might be a little slow, but I'll be busy typing things up and I'll dump them when I get to a connection. I can use Twitter with my phone, so you can follow me on that. Susie is enjoying the country:

Stay safe and see y'all back in New Orleans in a few days.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is this a joke?

While everyone down here is freaking out over Gustav, there's some national news to report. I know it's shocking, but there's a place where everyone isn't talking about their evacuation plans.

First off, Cheney travels to Georgia on "Diplomatic Mission." Cheney and diplomacy? HA! I love Cryptagon's reaction: "Organ Harvesting?"

Then, there's Obama's Speech:

I'm listening to it for the first time as I write this post.
UPDATE- OOPS. Wrong speech.

The next day, some good journalism ferreted out McCain's VP before she was announced. Someone tracked planes coming and going from Alaska, noticing a particular Gulfstream IV owned by a McCain donor and interviewed the ground crew and got the scoop before anyone else. Good job.

McCain Officially Announces Palin as his Veep. A friend of mine asked me, "is this a joke?" My response was, "Yes, it is a joke." Wow, what a slap in the face to Jindal. Less experienced nobody chosen over the "Golden Boy" of the GOP. "But John, I'm BROWN! If you want, I'll even put on a dress!" More from Greg at Suspect Device.

The worst kept secret in politics right now is McCain really wanted to pick Lieberman, but the Republican apparatchiks, especially Karl Rove, vetoed that idea. I think all the momentum McCain had (which was greatly exaggerated to begin with) is now gone and with Obama, especially after Hillary and Bill's speeches presented a united front with Obama.

Getting back to New Orleans, I'm not freaking out about Gustav (at least not yet). Last night had a wonderful dinner at Lillete. I tried escargot for the first time (I now know I love snails) and the hanger steak was a carnivore's delight. There's only one hanger steak per cow, so it's extremely rare to find and Lillete's was fantastic.

Friday, August 29, 2008


New Orleans, 3 Years AK. The best thing you'll read today.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Open Letter to the Corps from Matt McBride

Recipient of the 2007 Ashley Morris award and fellow mechanical engineer is trying to pressure the Corps into releasing their surge modeling to show the public what would happen if Gustav comes this way. The Corps is probably running surge models based off computer projections (like GFDL) and Matt wants them released to the public. It would be a great step for the Corps to take to rebuild their reputation. Remember that risk management is very simple: "Just tell the truth," according to John Barry.


Dear Corps officials, (as well as government representatives, New Orleanians, and media representatives),

I am writing you to make a request. In light of the possible effects of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Gustav upon the Greater New Orleans area, I would ask that the Corps and its partners at LSU and the Universtity of North Carolina make public the results of storm surge model runs which are (or soon will be) created as part of the Lake Pontchartrain Forecast System (LPFS).

As I understand it, the Corps has contracted with UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences (contracts W912P8-06-P-0334 (from 2006, for $279,117) and W912P8-08-P-0082 (from earlier in 2008, for $101,512)) and their partners at LSU to provide forecasts of surge levels within Lake Pontchartrain when tropical systems are approaching New Orleans. This enables the Corps to determine when to lower the gates at the three interim closure structures along the Lake Pontchartrain south shore. The system is explained on a few webpages at LSU:

In light of the Corps' "12 Actions for Change" specifically Action Number 9, "Effectively Communicate Risk," it would be tremendous goodwill gesture to the public across the country to know what the Corps knows about the surge risk before the storm makes landfall.

Doing so would be in the same spirit that allows the National Hurricane Center and other organizations to make the results of hurricane track and intensity model runs available to public. Doing so allows government agencies and members of the public to plan more effectively, and allows the media to get more accurate information out to the public as they plan.

As part of your public outreach during the coming days, I urge you to upload the model results to your website so that everyone can be apprised of this vital information which will inform your decisions.

Best regards,

Matt McBride


Let's see if the media picks this up and runs with it.

UPDATE- Look what we have here: USGS map of water levels

UPDATE 2- Storm Surge Model for Gustav

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ed Blakely, you complete me

This post is dedicated to the inspiration for this year's Rising Tide theme (Cranes on the Skyline).

Recently, we've learned Ed Blakely has an inflated resume, he goes out of his way to demolish homes for no apparent reason (raising suspicions about his motivations), and is too busy idolizing drug dealers to answer his phone

Could we have the keys to Blakely's secret identity?

E has an alternate theory about the outburst. Did Blakely just get a shank in the back from Nagin (I was going to do another crappy photoshop job, but I decided the image of Blakely and Nagin in a prison shower should never be contemplated).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rising Tide 3: Journalism Panel

Cartoon broadcast on SNL in 1998. It was broadcast on the east coast, but never appeared on the West Coast broadcast.

The conversation is revolving around Jeffery's homework list. Can't really summarize the conversation. I'll add updates as I can. The video was mentioned in the conversation, so I'll post it to help people find it.

UPDATE- Nagin and "sex appeal" should never be used in the same sentence ever again.

Lee Zurik made a great point that much of NOAH's attention came as a result of Nagin's press conference and antics. He got 10 or so emails after the initial report. He got 300+ emails after Nagin's press conference where he was accused of "hurting the recovery." Who is responsible for loving sexy news, like the "Inside, Nagin's a Hero, Outside He's a Joke", but ignoring the education situation in New Orleans. Is is the responsibility of the journalists or the public?



Oh yeah, and Zurik is saying Saints will win 9 games this year.

UPDATE 3- Great tag line: " comments: where you go when you're too racist for talk radio."

Rising Tide 3: Education Panel

The education panel is underway. The discussion has hit some key points. A certain element of the "reform" movement is a right-wing movement to destroy teacher unions, privatize public education (for profit, of course), and destroy community spirit.

I don't know whether or not I'm going to get a chance to ask any questions, but I have a few thoughts on education in New Orleans that I'd like to throw out there.

First off, my mom has been a teacher for 30+ years. She is a union member. She hates the union, but she knows it'll be the only friend in her corner if her back is up against a wall. I've been trying to convince her to shift from Jefferson Parish to Orleans and teach at a school 4 blocks from her house (saving lots of money in gas in the process). She refuses to because there are NO protections on teachers. The union is busted. Even though her friend is the principal, a great teacher is scared away because of the cut-throatedness. Most teachers just want to teach and the best system is the one that puts the fewest impediments in the process.

My second thought is about a couple of incidents in charter schools I know personally about. After Hines and Ben Franklin were converted to charter schools, egregious criminal acts were committed. At Hines, a parent on the PTA was embezzling funds from PTA funds (I'm looking for the article and can't find it). At Ben Franklin High School, the principal turned the budget into her own little kitty to reward and punish teachers. The final straw was her giving her partner a 'performance bonus' of several thousand dollars. The teachers went to the board and got the principal, Carrol Christian*, fired. My point is this: if this is going on at schools that would be considered top-tier in ANY school system, can you imagine what's going on at other schools?

My final thought (at least for now): Orleans Parish School Board's failure was not 100% attributable to lack of funds. OPSB had a $600 million budget. Less than 25 cents out of every education dollar reached the class room. I talked to Maitri last night about corruption in India and she said that they have just as many problems with corruption as we do. My point to her was there are certain things that people don't fuck with. In some areas, societal values make it unthinkable to mess with a child's education. Maitri said, as fucked up as some of the Hindu/Muslim things in India get, there's no movement to force kids to learn intelligent design, etc.

Just a few things to throw out there.

UPDATE- Oh yeah, there are 2 candidates for Orleans Parish School Board I'll give a plug to. Amy LaFont is running for District 3. She was at the party at Buffa's last night. Percy Marchand is an occasional commenter on Ray's blog and showed up today.

UPDATE 2- Being a graduate of a program axed by Scott Cowen, I love it how someone pointed out that the backers of The Cowen Institute are the same backers of Nagin's "award."

UPDATE 3- This is the NY Times article blindly praising the charter schools that one panelist called "garbage."

*- I never saw any news report about the firing. I'm happy to name her name here. Maybe when she applies for a job somewhere, someone will Google her and learn the truth about her.

Rising Tide and thoughts about being halfway to taking the PE

Great to see everyone out and about last night. I even got to shake Ceresoli's hand (3 times, no less). If you haven't seen Gambit's wrap up of last night's events, check it out.

I've slacked on my posting a bit lately and various and sundry individuals suggested I get back to it, so here's one post I've been kicking around in my head for a while.

To become a licensed Professional Engineer you need to get a Bachelor's in Engineering, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam, spend 4-5 years (depending on the state, LA=4) working under a licensed engineer, and then finally take the Principals and Practices in Engineering (PE) Exam. There are some minor details that vary by state, but all states follow that basic formula.

I passed the FE and I'm a little over halfway to taking the PE. That makes me an EI/EIT (term varies by state - Engineer Intern/ Engineer In Training). I have a few observations about the current state of engineering:

This is the best job market for engineers in 30+ years. Oil & Gas, mining, heavy industry, alternative energy, nuclear, it doesn't matter; they are all booming. There are very few young engineers and lots of experienced engineers are retiring now and within next 2 years. Companies that never used to hire recent grads are hiring them in bulk. Engineers always used to make decent money, but there was always a glass ceiling at around $100,000 or so in 2000 dollars. A friend's dad took 30 years to reach that level. That glass ceiling has been blown away.

As a result of the shortage of engineers, minor engineering work is being taken over by non-engineers. I wouldn't be surprised if a specialty engineering assistant (non EI's/EIT's) emerged similar to lawyers/paralegals.

The other thing that has saved us from a real crunch in engineering has been lots of productivity improvements. AutoCAD and processes of taking real life data and digitizing it into computer models have saved millions of man hours of labor. Research is now done on computers. Engineering libraries are now unlimited in size. That being said, gains in productivity are limited by management. All you have to do to know what I mean is read Dilbert or watch Office Space.

That's all for now. In a few more months, I'll start studying for the PE. And then we'll see what happens after that. Right now, I'm fortunate to work for a consulting firm that does very diverse work, so I've been exposed to a broad range of fields. No pidgeonholing for me (at least, not yet).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

News Buffet - 13 August 2008

Got a few things that have caught my eye lately...

China houses 10 MILLION quake survivors in temporary prefab housing. FEMA could barely handle a hundred thousand or so.

On the military:
The Pentagon as global landlord. Some interesting statistics about the Department of Defense.

The Caleb Campbell Story from Deadspin. Very serious journalism out of Deadspin. Good work.

Greatest Twitter Tweet Ever. No other way to describe it.

On the economy:
Joyous that oil prices have been going down? Don't get too excited yet. A lot of it is due to central banks and the Fed propping up the dollar. A moderate sized intervention has a widespread effect, given how over leveraged most players in the market are.

How the rich think about money. God bless British journalists. They have to do this with ridiculous libel laws. I dare any American journalists to get something like this published.

Some property news:
Section 8 moves to the suburbs.

In New Orleans housing market, Uptown shines while St. Tammany takes a bad hit.

A portrait of the true victim of corruption. From our Karen Gadbois.

GOP drops like a stone in voting rolls ...Except in Louisiana. Even Kentucky is smarter than us.

"Principaled conservatism out of Baton Rouge" HA!

On Energy:
The Dark Side of the Toyota Prius. Suck on this smug hippies: you Prius is soaked in the blood of slave laborers!

Great map of the Gulf of Mexico with infrastructure and lease blocks. Be warned, very big PDF file. Unless you work out there, people don't realize how much infrastructure there is offshore.

Chuck Schumer is about the last person you want to listen to when it comes to energy. He wanted to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as, "world oil prices continue their meteoric ascent to nearly $25 per barrel. "

LA Gangs Experiment with Pedal-By Shootings. Reducing your carbon emissions? You know gas prices are getting bad when...

On Evolution:
Tech geek takes on creationist in Kansas. I kicked into his campaign.

Colleges allowed to refuse admissions to students who have creationism in their science classes. Good. Maybe when little Johnny from Mandeville High gets turned down for Columbia, then Louisiana parents might get what Jindal's stealth creationism bill means in the long term to Louisiana. Also, I just realized we have a Louisiana Science Coalition. Anyone a member? How can I sign up?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Speed Cameras

Be warned. 1 mph over can get you a $75 ticket.

St. Charles Avenue & Washington
St. Charles Avenue & MLK
St. Charles Avenue & Louisiana
Poydras & St. Charles
Poydras & Magazine
Poydras & Carondelet

Just remember, that crime cameras are ineffective, traffic cameras increase accident rates, and many cities have been caught shortening lights to increase revenue.

Starter Frustration

Been a while since I did a project truck update. Here's an update on some of the bodywork.

I've needed to replace the other side of the exhaust headers for a while and I finally got around to doing it.

Passenger side of engine from when I first bought truck

The exhaust came out easily, once I took the starter off.

Engine minus exhaust headers and starter. Note the wires dangling down and the big gear that the starter threads onto.

A dirty victory

Old exhaust.

New Header. More chrome.
I got a friend from work help Candice and me get the exhaust back on. It was quite an ordeal getting all the bolts lined up. Then, once the exhaust finally got on straight, it took a several days to get the starter back on.

The starter: the bane of my existence for the last 2 weeks

It wasn't because it was terribly difficult (although holding that starter up when you're on you back is a serious pain). Thunderstorms from our friend churning offshore kept progress to a standstill. Candice and I had to push the truck back and forth more times that we cared for. 5,500 lb. vehicles on slanted New Orleans driveways aren't easy to push.

And here's what it looks like after all that work.

I'm smiling because I don't have to push the truck again.

And here's the reward after getting the starter back in: the roar of a mighty V8 engine...

UPDATE- I forgot about a second update on the battle against rust.