Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Project Truck Update: Back to Work Edition

It's been a while since I've done an update on the truck. Weather and injuries have gotten in the way. I actually used the truck as my primary means of transportation for a while while my ankle was injured (the only vehicle either of us owned that wasn't a stick shift).
Susie wants to drive patches
Dogs love pickup trucks

A few weeks ago, drove the truck home. The truck felt a little weird. I wasn't sure what it was. When I get back to the garage, I check out the truck and lo and behold, it tried to kill me again. The turn signal harness wrapped around the steering column, Half of the exhaust was held on by only 1 bolt, and one of the main engine mount bolts was sitting neatly on top of the frame rail.
Wiring wrapped around steering column
Turn signal wiring harness wrapped around steering column
One bolt holding the exhaust on
Missing bolt and hanging exhaust

I've now learned that those bolts need to be torqued after a little while because the heat and cold expansion/contraction loosens them. Oops. Cut the (inoperable) wiring away that day and put the truck up. Waited on the weather for a couple of weekends.

Big beastie

Went back, got the torque wrench out, set it to the highest setting (80 ft-lbs) and torqued the shit out of a replacement bolt. The shiny bolt on the right in the middle of all the rust in this photo is the new one.

While Patches was parked on the street, the primered hood started showing some rust. We were always intending to get back to cleaning up the hood, but primer isn't a great oxygen barrier and the hood started to rust underneath the paint. To prevent things from getting worse, we stripped it down, repainted the primer and topcoated it.

Me cleaning up after sanding

New paint

The white will be the undercoat for the final red topcoat. The white helps the red stand out nice and bright.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Be careful about who comes down the chimney:

10 Things about Christmas:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Overview of Engineering Jobs

A lot of people don't really know what engineers do, so I like to post little things here and there to explain things.

In order to become an engineer, you have to first get a degree in engineering (Bachelor's) and then you choose who to go to work for. There's basically 3 broad areas: Corporations, Consultants, and Government.

By corporations, I mean working for someone who directly makes something, like Dow, Shell, Exxon, etc. The corporations tend to be the highest paying. Depending on the discipline, starting salaries might be as high as $75K/year. If you want to play politics, there's plenty of room for advancement. The downside: it's serious Dilbert-land. Everything posted by Scott Adams actually does happen. Don't think it's just satire.

I work for an engineering consultant. There are several broad areas: service companies (like, say, Schlumberger), Architecture & Engineering {A&E} firms (like Fluor), and smaller, individual or family owned operations (where I work). The variation is large, but consultants tend to pay about 10% less for doing the same work as the corporations, all things considered. The bright side is that you tend to get shifted around to different projects and gain good experience. One thing to note: your options with consultants are limited without a P.E. Jacobs has just announced that they won't do any new hires unless they have a P.E. Another bright side of a consultant is you don't have to play politics. You do your job and if they don't like it, they can find someone else; there's less pressure to give the answer that's "desired" versus what the numbers say it should be. Consultants also tend to get very few holidays (because if the client is open, you have to be).

The government could be the Corps, MMS, etc. The government tend to pay about 25% less than a corporation. Recently, MMS has hemorrhaged petroleum engineers who took private jobs paying double their government salaries. On the bright side, you get lots of holidays, very secure employment, and probably the best retirement package of any of the groups. Being the government, Dilbert-land comes into play again, big time.

Also to note: there are quite a few one-man-band operations out there. A good P.E. with ample contacts can make quite a living for themselves. I know of a few major projects that were put together with phone calls. One person will get a contract, then call up a friend, who calls up a friend, and before you know it, you have a roomful of engineers in each specialty needed and they're all working together successfully.

This is a mixture of my experience and impressions, so if anyone has any experiences, please feel free to chime in.

NOTE: Some edits for spelling.

Mayoral Campaign: Hot/Not

A few notes on the race:


* James Perry - Continues racking up great debate performances. If the rest of the campaign gets its act together and he raises money, look out.

* Mitch Landrieu - Everyone else implodes while he treads water. Victory by default? He just better not rest on his laurels.


* John Georges - Shorter Georges: "I am not a crook." He's illustrated that he's secretive and suspicious, or he's an idiot and can't even control his own campaign. Loki tracks the connections. Note to old farts: these internet thingies are easily tracked. The harder you try to cover your tracks, the worse you'll look. Georges' response is FAR, FAR worse than anything in the video.:

* Ed Murray - I liked his first commercial, but his new one says it doesn't matter whose fault the levee failures are and his debate performances are as awful as can be.

* Leslie Jacobs - Out of the race. I'll be interested to know whose signs replace hers:
Leslie Jacobs sign

* Troy Henry - Troy Henry's campaign went out and put up tons and tons of signs. Unfortunately, they didn't quite know the rules and lots of them were quickly torn down. One egregious example came from the old Shell station at Lee Circle:
John Georges sign
The signs were torn down and the irate owner replaced them with Georges signs that were twice as large. Note to the Enron alumni: learn the rules.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bobby and Mitch

Lost in all the news that Mitch Landrieu announced his intention to run was one little point on who will benefit the most: Bobby Jindal.

It should be clear to anyone that Bobby Jindal has national ambitions. If he's going to run, he needs a robustly rebuilt New Orleans. He can't allow it to haunt him on the campaign trail ("Why should you be president if the biggest city in your state is still drained of people - look at the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette and..."). Bobby Jindal also seem to be one of those rare Republicans from up north that get how important New Orleans is to the state economy.

No matter how the race turns out, Jindal won't have to worry about Mitch running against him in 2011 (he'll either have his hands full or he'll be politically dead from the loss). He'll also have an easy path for appointing his chosen successor as governor into the lt. governor's chair*.

Jindal should do whatever he can to support Mitch's bid. It would show off his "bipartisan" credentials, which the national press fawn over and he can also be "tough on corruption" {"dragonslaying"} by helping clear out Nagin, who is intergalactically despised.

A Jindal-Mitch alliance would be yet another example of strange bedfellows in Louisiana politics, but it makes a lot of sense for Jindal. If conservatives could think actual strategy, instead of absurd "triple bank shots", they wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot with this infantile shit.

* Sidenote: who might that be? Timmy Teeple? Anyone got any ideas?

Frac You

Hydraulic Fracturing has been in the news quite a bit lately.

Not quite.

Hydrofracing or fracing (rhymes with hacking) is a technique to complete a well that allows the well to flow much more than it would otherwise be able to. This Oil Drum tech talk give a good run through of perforating and fracing a well.

Fracing goes back to at least the early 80's. Everyone knew that more cracks = more flow, but the trick was how to achieve that. Early efforts resulted in additional cracks, but those early methods suffered from quick closure of the cracks. Later, companies added sand to prop the cracks open. That sand is called a "proppant" for its ability to keep the crack propped open. Most of the sand is dropped near the casing, so a small amount of polymer is added to "slicken" the water to allow the sand to slip further into the crack. This water is sometimes called "Banana Water."

Anyway, through much trial and error, fracing eventually evolved to be a highly reliable, repeatable, cost effective way to enhance your oil recovery. Schlumberger and Halliburton made boatloads of money off fracing. Fracing has been a key to unlocking vast deposits of shale gas in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and New York. US natural gas reserves have grown significantly, thanks to the additions of shale gas deposits (collapsing natural gas prices in the process). New Orleanians should be very happy to see the "fuel adjustment charge" on their Entergy bills quite small lately.

So, fracing must be wonderful, right? Technology comes up with new sources of energy? Not quite. There have been a few problems with hydrofracing, especially in New York. You see, New York doesn't have much experience regulating oil companies and monitoring drilling activities. In Texas, the Railroad Commission (which also happens to have been the inspiration for OPEC) looks over every single drilling activity in the state and keeps close tabs on what's happening. Every single barrel of oil taken out and every chemical put into the ground must be accounted for.

In New York, state agencies are playing catch up. I've heard that until very recently, you didn't even have to report what your production rates were and there will be no audits until they can hire more personnel. This is important because the state gets a royalty for ever cubic foot of gas produced or barrel of oil produced. The companies are on the honor system to report (or at least were until recently).

The shale gas deposits in New York also seem to be in relatively close proximity to aquifers that quench the thirst of state. Also, there' s been concern about the panoply of chemicals used [PDF] to enhance the fracing method. While Louisiana has been quick to adjust, New York hasn't and it's led to calls to ban gas drilling in New York.

We'll see how this shakes out. Check out the Oil Drum for in-depth, accurate coverage of what happens with Shale Gas.

UPDATE- One more link I forgot to add: Exxon is so concerned about federal anti-frac laws that they put in a clause to nullify their merger with XTO if it goes through.

Engineer Porn

World's most powerful diesel engine. Just under 110,000 horsepower. It powers container ships through the oceans. My favorite photo:

It takes a second to realize those are people walking around next to the crankshaft.

More great engine engineering here: Best Engineered Cars of 24 Hours of Lemons.

10 Stories that Changed Our Lives

So, there's a bunch of end of decade lists out there. One I came across has Katrina at #10. Personally, I would have put it a bit higher (like, say #1, but that's just me). And then I noticed what #9 was: Brett Favre...

Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!
Brett Favre!

Brett Favre!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snoozing on Politics Until...

I wanted to post a few of campaign commercials for the mayor's race and comment and then this happened. Mitch is now the front runner and, frankly, I think he has my vote right off the bat. It's a ballsy move. He'll either be a phoenix rising from the ashes or this will absolutely destroy his political career. So much for the overly cautious "reluctant warrior." Be sure to read DuBos' writeup.

Anyway, I'm going to post the campaign commercials anyway. I'm posting them in the order I've come across the candidates.

Ed Murray

James Perry

Leslie Jacobs

John Georges

Troy Henry
Video Here. Embedding disabled.

Some notes:
* Murray was the first out of the gate. He needed to be. Liked the first ad, but haven't heard from him since.
* James Perry had a slam-dunk during a debate, but had some issues with his campaign video. I think it balanced out in his favor by a lot.
* Leslie Jacobs got creamed in the same debate Perry aced (not just the Youth Studies Center question). She comes in with the best credentials (on paper), but even before Mitch entered, she was flailing.
* Georges: Yawn.
* Troy Henry: Big ad buy during the Redskins game. As Dambala points out, he's Nagin's man.
* Couhig: I'm still hoping Nagin will endorse Couhig as a belated (and totally unwished-for) favor for his influential endorsement. Nagin's endorsement is the kiss of death (just ask Bobby Jindal). Between Nagin and Mitch, I think it's actually become a fun race, if for no other reason than to watch Couhig flail in agony and misery. If you think I'm being mean to him, remember that I actually donated money to him. Boy, was that a mistake.

UPDATE- 1 more:


Sunday, December 6, 2009


In 2005, the Saints had a very unusual (and very blasphemous) ad campaign. My favorite of the commercials was a black guy through the decades with all the Saints stickers on his car. Through the years, the stickers change ("No Mora Excuses" was one of them). The car changes and the stickers pile up. Eventually, he scrapes off all stickers off his latest ride and replaces it with the final sticker. This is the only video I can find of that season's ad campaign:

Internet recipes

Candice and I cook a lot. If you were born and raised in New Orleans, you love good food and you like to cook, whether you're a man or a woman. Sometimes, no matter what cookbooks you have, you have to scour the internet for additional ideas and here are some that worked out well. Both recipes also made a lot, but cut down nicely. I tend to be the food photographer, so here are a few photogenic things that I've whipped up in the kitchen from recipes found on the internet.

Paprika Home Fries
Home Fries with Paprika
Recipe from All Recipes
This is a nice one to fix while you're doing lots of things at once, because it'll stop you from moving around the fries in the pan too much. The keys to this dish are Hungarian Sweet Paprika and adding the butter to the potato in stages. The potatoes can absorb almost infinite quantities of butter if you add it all at once and then you'll burn the fries.

Roasted Radishes and Greens
Roasted Radishes and Greens
Recipe from Food and Wine
I love bitter greens. We've been picking up the boxes from the Hollygrove Market. It's a CSA-style setup, so you don't get to pick what you get and it takes a bit of creativity to use all that you are given. What the hell are you supposed to do with radishes? We were hunting and hunting around for how to use radishes (other than raw in salad). Candice found this one and I liked it. The bigger radishes were a little on the bitter side, which is fine by me, but Candice thought we could have cut the bitterness with sugar. The small ones were delicious, though. I suppose if you wanted, you could just use the ones that are about the size of your thumb and put the bigger ones in something else. They keys to the dish are SALT (breaks down the radishes and complements the bitterness nicely) and cooking the hell out of the greens once they're put into the pan. If you use the stalks of the greens, don't forget to chop the stalks into small pieces and put them in before the leaves, because they take a bit longer to cook.

UPDATE- Here's the green mashed potatoes before they went in the oven (none after- they were consumed too quickly):

Greens and Mashed Potatoes

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let 'em have it!

Burnell Moliere (who stole from NOPS still getting city contracts? Yep, along with Pampy Barre. Nagin's response was a shrug. "Past corruption? No problem, Nagin says"

When did Nagin become the Special Man?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ashley had a word for guys like this*

Sparks fly over New Orleans health aid. Darrell Issa opened his big fat trap and unleashed this gem:

"Is everyone so poor in Louisiana that the state cannot do more for you? Are you going to be a permanent ward of the federal government? "

First off, nice job throwing your boy, Bobby Jindal, under the bus. Trying to kill off all opposition to Sarah in 2012? Second, Kucinich put him in his place: "Our country is falling apart, and what's happening in New Orleans is a signal condition of where America's priorities are totally fouled up."

Scott Cowen sent this email out to students, their parents, and alumni:

Good Morning:

Yesterday, City Council President Arnie Fielkow and I presented “Five Things You Should Know About New Orleans” to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. We wanted to send the national media a different kind of message regarding New Orleans.

Our main points were:

1. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina will result in New Orleans being a better and stronger city in the future.

Katrina exposed flaws – crumbling federally-built levees (Gee, maybe you should have kept Civil Engineering around to do something about those crubling levees), a government unprepared, poverty and other signs of a community that had failed its youth. But this tragedy also awakened citizens to the need for change.

2. As a result of Katrina, New Orleans can serve as a demonstration lab for disaster recovery and transformation. (You mean like this?)

We now know how to plan for and respond to emergencies. We know the value of public/private partnerships that are revolutionizing our school system and establishing community health centers to provide medical care for the uninsured. We know how to recover our economy and even how to deal with FEMA.

3. Our recovery is a superb example of civic activism and resiliency.

Citizens voted out a wasteful system of seven tax assessors and multiple parish levee boards. They demanded funding for an inspector general to root out corruption and they banded together to demand effective and accountable government.

4. New Orleans is an iconoclastic city, which has retained its distinctiveness and charm despite the challenges and hardships it has and does face.

There are now more restaurants in New Orleans than before Katrina. We ranked first in more categories in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2009 “America’s Favorite Cities” survey than any other city. We are a hotbed of entrepreneurship and the quintessential sports town – hosting the Super Bowl in 2013 and the men's and women’s NCAA Final Four basketball championships in 2012 and 2013. Not to mention our undefeated Saints.

5. New Orleans has the potential to become a model city for the 21st century.

Great things are in store for New Orleans. We have gotten a taste of positive change. We want more and we aspire to be a model for the country.

I was honored to share our city’s message on a national stage. I hope you, too, will share these five things with everyone you encounter, especially out-of-town friends and family. Together, we can make the story of New Orleans known far and wide.

Have a great weekend,

As a sidenote, maybe not this year, but don't be too surprised if Cowen throws his hat into the ring for mayor sometime soon.
* Title Reference

Cowen was also a favorite target of Ashley's

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News and Notes - 3 Dec 2009

Odds and ends to ponder while listening to Christmas music.

* Bernanke wants to axe Social Security? Now there's now way he'll get reconfirmed.

Brezenzinski claims US too corrupt to go around asking others, including Afghanistan, to clean up corruption. Ouch.

* 21 Darts [PDF]. All about the new reserves accounting rules in the oil industry. Very snarky. Call the new rules "the equivalent of the repeal of the hydrocarbon Glass-Steagall Act."

* Arming Goldman with Pistols against the public. A must read. So many things that'll drop your jaw. A sample: of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other.

It's almost impossible for a "peasant" to get a gun permit or a CCW in New York, but if you're a rich Wall Street banker, go ahead! God forbid someone that might actually need one get a permit (like a cabbie), but some spoiled little Goldmanite who barely knows which end the bullets come out can have a permit to carry his Glock in Central Park to fend off the rabble. Also, a great moniker for Goldman: "Arrogant and Prescient."

* Boston Globe: Harvard ignored warnings about investments. Larry Summers lost billions of dollars at Harvard. Now, he's Obama's chief economic advisor. Lovely.

* Remember, Google, don't be evil.

* Food stamp use soars, stigma fades. Bush did one thing right: he worked very hard to eliminate the stigma of Food Stamps. It was renamed "nutritional aid," application was streamlined, and benefits were expanded. Good job, Mr. Bush.

* Terrorist bomb lab found in Ohio.

* From the editorial board of Scientific American: Climate Change Cover Up? You Better Believe It.

* Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, bitter over his ouster. There's a gem at the end: he wants to become a high school teacher now. He's used to dealing with gun-toting, steroid-addled, juvenile minds. He'll be perfect.


* Speaking of homework, here's Obama's speech on science education. My favorite quote: "We're going to show young people how cool science can be."

* Science witnesses the birth of a new species. A new species of Galapagos Finch emerges after decades of observation. Related: The Beak of the Finch. Great book.

* Drilling for Scotch. I wonder what that gusher would be like?

* WSJ: The Return of Tinkering. Honestly, this is one article that has made me very hopeful about the future. Well worth a read. Also: mechanical engineering graduates may soon top 20,000 per year.