Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tops of 2011

Here are some top lists for 2011:
I like the Wired top scientific discoveries of the year more than the SciAm list. I'm going to go cook some cabbage and black eye peas and go set off some fireworks now.

Lines Plan

So, blogging has dropped off because I'm now in grad school. So far, I'm through with one semester (with several more to go). I'll have to take it relatively slowly, since I'm still working at the same time. That actually gives me some time to slowly consider what I want to take.

For one of my classes, I had to do a Lines Plan (sample below) by hand.

This meant lots of Saturdays spent meticulously measuring and drawing.
Body Plan

This is also where you get the phrase "ducks in a row"
Ducks in a row
The ducks are used to hold down a spline to draw a compound curve.

Here's the final result. It doesn't photograph too well, because it' s so big.

Most of the drafting-type classes have been eliminated from modern engineering curricula. That's something that MIT started in the 1940's under Vannevar Bush. It's funny, with some of the older engineers, they all have the exact same font to their print and that font exactly matches AUTOCAD.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Drew Dat

iProcreate by Noladishu
iProcreate, a photo by Noladishu on Flickr.

Yesterday's game was awesome. It was just so damned enjoyable. Not only watching the Drew beat Marino's record, but also doing it against the Falcons.

To the whiny Falcons fans, boo hoo.

What's also great is we have players that are just a joy to root for. Brees thanked the equipment managers ("for rubbing down his balls") instead of focusing on himself. Another great example is Jimmy Graham (as profiled in this earlier Times-Pic piece). That Times-Pic piece is actually a bit better than the "$98 Tight End" ESPN video that's been making the rounds.

One of the the Saints I'm the most thankful for is Jabari Greer. He's just about the least flashy Saint on the squad (he's a lot better at batting balls away than INT's), but he's so much of an improvement over anything on the old Saints. He, like Drew Brees, is the best Saint ever to play his position. Nothing is more frustrating to fans than watching bad CB play. When Jabari Greer is in the game, you don't hear Megatron, Steve Smith, TO, or Roddy White's name (except to make fun of the last for dropping the ball when he finally does get thrown to)
Just some thoughts.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Douglas Brinkley vs. Don Young

It starts at about the 31 minute mark.

Brinkley was testifying on the historical background to the ANWAR debate. The former-Tulanian book-factory has cranked out another one, The Quiet World.

H/T Fuel Fix

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Links of the Day - Economics

If you read no other link, scroll down and read the last one.

"Our problem is not that we don't have enough stuff -- it's that we don't have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff." Unconventional story will give you a new way of looking at things.

This symptom probably applies to the majority of Air Force procurement projects. More Air Force officers can fly Powerpoint than fly an aircraft (sad but true).

...Due to having the largest portion of their supply chain within the US.

So says one of the stars of "Deadliest Catch"

German executive arrested under Alabama's Immigration laws. That'll attract foreign investment...

A free market, until it's their neck in the noose.

Nabors Drilling Exec gets fat payday
Isenberg's payment would exceed Nabors' third-quarter profit of $74.3 million. A horrible executive gets a gigantic payday, against the wishes of the stockholders.

Banks are unpopular with #OWS'ers and conservatives.

With Christmas shopping around the corner, long live the Consumer?

And people accuse the #OWS crowd of hating bankers...

Can you imagine letting prisoners save your house? Coming to a budget-strapped city near you!

World Power Again Swings back to America
Talks about 80's US/Japan fall/rise trend that ended up with a lot of journalists with egg on the face. One key factor: a weaker dollar helps out US manufacturers. There were also some interesting discussions on Twitter about how NOLA-area merchants LOVED it when the dollar was weaker because they had European tourists spending like mad. Now, with the Euro in the gutter, those tourists are gone.

Fascinating article

Michael Lewis is the best writer out there when it comes to the economy. He covers the German/Greek debt crisis from an unusual perspective.

H/T : "Read this then tell me who has done more damage to the country, Al-Qaeda or business schools"

Statistics-rich article.

Over the past decade, on average, wages have risen only for Americans with graduate degrees

Report: Rich-poor gap growing - Mackenzie Weinger -
50% of US workers made less than $26,364 last year

A sobering read.

Now THIS is an interesting monkey wrench.

Linked to by LGM.

"American firms have been laying-off their engineering staffs for years. In today’s world of MBA-managed companies, R&D is perceived as not being a good use of money." Horrifying.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blum and Roberts 2009 - "Drowning of the Mississippi Delta due to insufficient sediment supply and global sea-level rise"

As I referenced earlier, Blum and Roberts 2009 is an extremely important paper published in Nature that deals with feasibility of rebuilding the coast. Here's a presentation I submitted to class with some notes.

That's a really stark title for an academic paper. No messing around, just going for the jugular.

The drainage basin of the Mississippi. The sediment load basically comes from clastic deposits of material washed down from the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.

"All these lands are drained by the Mississippi" - Armand St. Martin
Louisiana Frenchman

Problem is, the sediment load is not what it used to be. The main loss comes from the damming of the Missouri River.

Here's a snapshot of a few of the dams. Each one pictured generates several hundred MWe's.

From Blum and Roberts' paper, you can clearly see the dropoff after the dams are completed. This data comes from USGS samples of suspended sediment load. Note that we're also losing the coarsest-grain sediment, which is the best at creating new land.

And, to make matters worse, we don't just have a choked off river and low sediment loads. We have to deal with increasing rates of sea level rise. Historical data indicates a rise of ~1mm/yr for most of the 19th and 20th Centuries. We've been increasing to closer to 1.25-1.5mm/yr since about 1970. Future projections are for a MINIMUM of 2mm/yr. There's quite a bit of disagreement on how quickly sea-levels will rise. Here's some discussion on Dr. Jeff Master's blog.

The biggest culprit in sea-level rise? It's not deglaciation. It's thermal expansion.

So, Blum and Roberts put together a mass balance of the sediment coming down the river and what we'd need to keep up with sea level rise. Even if we blew up every single dam on the Mississippi and unleashed the lower Mississippi, we'd continue to lose prodigious amounts of land.

There are some flaws in their model, though. For one, they couldn't come up with a way to count organic buildup of soils due to plant activity. They (as they pointed out in their own paper) said that since they couldn't come up with a way to quantify it on a macro scale, they just neglected it altogether, but admitted that organic buildup could be significant.

This is from the Times-Picayune writeup of the Blum and Roberts paper. Note the slide shows a "no-action" scenario with a 1-meter sea level rise (over 100 years), which is on the middle-to-upper-end of sea level rise projections.

Quite an ending quote. Note that Dr. Harry Roberts might be THE foremost authority on Coastal Louisiana subsidence. He is also from Louisiana, so it's not like he's some grad student on the other side of the country throwing this out. He's right in our backyard. This paper was also published during a major push for diversions to save the coast and he went and said that diversions were nearly pointless (not what you want when you're trying to drum up political support). The paper was extremely contentious within the scientific community.

Also, an honorable mention to Maitri's coastal retreat costume.

Monday, November 14, 2011

1st Down, Saints!

coach gimpy by Noladishu
coach gimpy, a photo by Noladishu on Flickr.

We need Brees Circle, Gleason's blocked punt in bronze, and this as a giant inflatable hanging from the Superdome (or at least an animated .gif to play over and over).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tulane Green Wave Dome

Tulane Green Wave Dome by Noladishu
Tulane Green Wave Dome, a photo by Noladishu on Flickr.


Coastal Geology & "Engineered Avulsions"

So, I'm in grad school now and that's eating up a whole ton of time. I'm going to take one of my projects and post a bit of it on the ole blog because I think it's interesting.

The assignment for a class on coastal geology was to take a scientific paper, write your own abstract and make a presentation to the class. Two of my projects were Blum and Roberts 2009, "Drowning of the Mississippi Delta due to insufficient sediment supply and global sea-level rise" (quite the pessimistic title, especially for a scientific journal). Here's a writeup by Dr. Len Bahr and here's the original paper [PDF] as published by Nature Geoscience.

The second one I did was was Mohrig, Kim, et. al. 2009, “Is It Feasible to Build New Land in the Mississippi River Delta?”. Note that the second paper directly references the first. Here's a writeup from Dr. Bahr and here's the supplemental material from Eos / American Geophysical Union (Thanks, Maitri and Helena on the assist!).

Here are my slides with my presentation notes interspersed. I skipped a couple slides in the middle, but this should be the gist of it.

So, the last time I presented, we went through how screwed South Louisiana is. We went through Blum and Roberts' extremely pessimistic projections for coastal rebuilding efforts. Well, now I'm going to present an alternative scenario.

Mohrig, Kim, et. al. presented their paper shortly after Blum and Roberts presented theirs.

We've all heard the dire predictions. 10,000+ km^2 of land loss over the next century. Look at all the red on that map and of course red = bad.

We should just give up and move to Cleveland, right?
Let's take a closer look at one of those "red" maps. You see a bit of green. The Atchafalaya basin is still growing. One lobe is the main Atchafalaya. The other is Wax Lake, which is actually artificially created.

What is Wax Lake? In 1941, there were big river floods and people were worried about Morgan City being inundated, so the Corps cut a channel (the Calumet Cut) to divert ~30+% of the water away from Morgan City. The Corps cut the channel, Morgan City was saved, and everyone forgot about the cut and left it at that. And then something interesting happened...

(Progression of images of delta building; note Belle Isle Salt Mine)

(Some images omitted for post)

Note that all this delta building took place in an area that WAS affected by oil and gas activity, that WAS affected by major erosion from Katrina/Rita, etc.

So, in the paper, Mohrig, Kim, et. al. constructed a model of delta building based off Wax Lake, then backchecked their results on the actual Wax Lake delta. Here's the model results 1941-2005 (the two sets of lines represent variation in % sediment load captured by Wax Lake vs. main Atchafalaya).

Mohrig, Kim, et. al. then modeled two major diversions in Lower Plaquimines Parish. Note that these diversions are AT LEAST an order of magnitude greater than West Bay, which is the largest diversion project built to date.

So, here are the results. From 2010-2110, considerable land is created. One important note: the diversions are only opened during flood events. During low river levels, the diversions are closed. If you "save" New Orleans, but kill the Port of New Orleans, you've sorta shot yourself in the foot. We can both save the city and keep the river navigable.
Another thing to note: everyone says, "we just gotta blow up the levees" and that will fix everything, right? Well, not quite. Mohrig, Kim, et. al. said that wouldn't give you a deep enough channel (to capture the coarsest-grain sediment) and you don't really have enough control over the river dynamics.

They advocated an "Engineered Avulsion" (*I love this term*), like the Old River Control Structure.

Here's another view of an "Engineered Avulsion"

That's the presentation. There was some nice discussion at the end of the presentation. Gotta run to class now.

UPDATE: Fixed some minor typos.

Here's the full progression of images on the Wax Lake building. Found it via this Field and Stream article: Wax Lake Delta: Accidental Eden in the Atchafalaya. I reformatted the images to make them easier to read, but the raw source has a lot more slides on it.

Here's a presentation on "Optimizing Engineered Avulsions". Once again, I love the term "Engineered Avulsion."

Here's the definition of an "Avulsion": In sedimentary geology and fluvial geomorphology, avulsion is the rapid abandonment of a river channel and the formation of a new river channel. Avulsions occur as a result of channel slopes that are much lower than the slope that the river could travel if it took a new course. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

West Bay Diversion to close?

West Bay Diversion Project to End. Or at least, that was the headline in early 2010.

Backing up, West Bay was the first diversion project optimized for sediment diversion. It's also WAY larger than either Canarvon or Davis Pond (ea. ab. 10,000 CFS vs. 50k+ for W. Bay). Canarvon and Davis Pond are sometimes called failures, but that isn't really fair, since they were optimized to fight saltwater intrusion only and NOT to carry sediment.

West Bay is located near Head of Passes (scroll down on the link for the maps). Planning started in 1991 and it was the first diversion optimized for sediment diversion. It was opened and petered along for a while, but was considered a disappointment. The Corps, who hated the project from the start (they believed it would be a hazard to navigation or would just plug up), trumpeted the failure and pushed for its closure.

Here's a quote from Dr. Len Bahr about the Corps and West Bay:

Despite its recent construction in 2003, bathymetric surveys in 2009 showed that sediment accretion from the West Bay Sediment Diversion project had exceeded subsidence in parts of the project receiving area for the first time in almost a century. Nevertheless, the public was told that a lack of significant wetland accretion contributed to a decision to shut down this ‘youthful’ sediment diversion project.

They also forced CWPPRA to pay for the dredging of the Pilot Town anchorage, despite modeling that proved West Bay was responsible for 20% (or less) of the shoaling and that the anchorage was built in an area that was prone to shoaling anyway. Here's a presentation from a past Tulane Engineering Forum describing the sediment transport modeling [PDF]. Furthermore, the port people weren't really complaining because the anchorage is hardly ever used (pilots are almost 100% available within a few hours notice at Head of Passes; the anchorage is almost a vestige of the old sailing days).

Enter the 2008 and 2011 Mississippi River floods (both of which were BIG, especially 2011 which was at least a 100-year event). West Bay, which wasn't a total failure like the Corps was making out, but also wasn't lighting the world on fire, explodes in activity and they figure out the missing ingredient: sand and gravel. The normal river flow has almost no sands in it; it's all mud and fine sediment (good for nourishing plants, but not enough of a base for land-creation). In flood events, there's a totally different dynamic. During flood events, sediment load per unit volume of water is at least 50 times larger, with much coarser sediment mobilized. The Corps continues to call West Bay a failure.

There was also an interesting side story that happened about this time: CWPPRA was investigating barging sediment from one area to another and asked the Corps about shortcutting through the West Bay diversion instead of going all the way around to SW pass. The Corps said, 'bah, it'll be too shallow and you'll just get stuck on a sandbar and we know everything there is to know about river dynamics because we've been studying it for 100+ years.' Well, the barging project was shelved because of cost, but they did to a hydrographic survey and the depth of the West Bay channel: 84' (barges draw ~20' or less).

More and more, the science community wants to study West Bay (being wrong in science is a good thing; you learn something new). The Corps is doing what a bureaucratic organization does to something it sees as embarrassing them: kill it with fire. The Corps had finally blackmailed CWPPRA into closing West Bay in 2010 when 2 monkey wrenches were thrown into the mix: the 2011 floods and the shipping people 'stabbed the Corps in the back' (or so that's how the Corps felt, so I'm told). Note that that link is dated October 13th.

My theory behind the objection: the port people know SW Pass is hydraulically inefficient and a pain to keep dredged. They're looking into a new, deeper pass much closer to Venice and see West Bay as an interim solution to accommodate New Panamax-class ships (Panamax=39.5' draft, New=49.9' draft) in a cost effective manner (as opposed to Miami's expensive Deep Dredge Project that's caught up in Tea Party-type stalls). The Port of New Orleans has been doing extremely well with containerized cargo this year (highest ever for NOLA?) and want to get an even bigger slice of that pie going forward.

How will this all shake out? Will the Corps force the closure of West Bay? Will we ever learn how to save the coast? We shall see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So much catchier than "Drill, Baby, Drill"

H/T Fuel Fix. Actually pretty cool. They even get what a Christmas Tree is.

Remember kiddies, don't drink and drill, no matter what the Russian guy says.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sneak Peek of the BenzDome

Took a break from grad school to go to the Tulane/Memphis game. It was Tulane's homecoming game. It was an interesting game to watch, but unfortunately Tulane lost. Oh well. It's not like it isn't the first time I've seen Tulane football lose.

There were 25,000+ people in attendance, but, because it's the Dome, it still looked empty. A bright spot: got an early preview of tomorrow's Premiere of the new "Mercedes-Benz Superdome":
Benz Dome
Louisiana Superdome

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reggie Bush vs. Darren Sproles

Reggie Bush:
Games 1-3: 104 total yards, 1 TD, 2 Fumbles (1 Lost)

Darren Sproles:
Game 1-3: 235 total yards, 2 TD, Zero "Fiddle-Farting Around"

If the Dolphins gave us a pizza for Reggie, they were robbed:

USCG/MMS Final Report on the Loss of the Deepwater Horizon

Full Report here.

Direct link to PDF of main body of Report.

There's nothing big in the report that we haven't already seen somewhere thus far.

David Hammer's Wrieup. Hammer focuses on the difference between the Presidential Commission (no subpoena power, said it was a systemic problem) vs. the USCG/MMS (later USCG/BOEMRE) Report (which had subpoena power and focused on very specific errors they "laid at BP's feet").

As I read through the report, I found the most interesting part is where they go through the CFR's (Code of Federal Regulations; The LAW on how to do everything) and they systematically list the CFR's that were violated and why. They also go through the ones that need to clarified. CFR's tend to be written by lawyers (or at least engineers with lawyers looking over their shoulder) and tend to use notoriously impenetrable language. Clarification of CFR's is a great idea for a part of regulatory reform.

One of the post-Macondo regulatory changes was a shift from a prescriptive-regime (do X, Y, and Z and you're assumed to be safe) to putting the onus on the companies to prove they've managed risk on a systematic basis (the North Sea's regulations are along these lines). I personally don't have too much of an opinion as to which is "better" and BP looks like it would have screwed up either way.

Note that it was published the same day as the report about the BP Geophysicist testifying in a deposition that they "missed" a 2-foot gas zone hundreds of feet above the top of the cement plug. She "assumed" that it was passed to the rig for them to modify their P&A procedures. BP now claims that it was a water-bearing instead of gas-bearing zone.

Another thing to note is that the lead investigators are being held back, probably to preserve their testimony for the (imminent?) indictments of BP management (or at least quintuple fines under the "gross negligence" clause). Another recent development: BP puts in for their first post-Macondo drilling permit. BP's been a minority partner on a few wells, but this is the first one where they are the operating company (with their own company men on the rigs running the show). The Sunday Money section in the Times-Pic had more about the drilling push by BP.

Going forward, I see all but the largest independents squeezed out of the Gulf and deepwater drilling left to the majors (Shell, Exxon, etc.). This was a transition that was underway well before Macondo, but the post-Macondo world (insurance, regulation, increasing technical challenge) really accentuates. The other guys are discovering they really don't have the manpower to put together permits that can withstand post-Macondo scrutiny. Here's an erl industry exec that says BOEMRE isn't holding back permits for political reasons, they're just checking them very thoroughly. Here's gCaptain's reprinting of an excellent WSJ article about getting back to work in the Gulf.

Containment Boom

And as a side note, the NTSB has released their report on the fatal California gas pipeline explosion. The keys were very old, substandard pipe. It was an intra-state pipeline, so there was never any requirement to hydrotest the pipe (an incredibly important safety procedure in ASME Pressure Vessel Code).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

News and Notes - Local Edition - 24 September

Billy Nungesser abruptly cancels all public appearances. Gee, you figure his history with Jeanette Maier resurfacing has something to do with it. Some very interesting comments in that last link. Let's just say don't make any assumption on the gender of Ms. Maier's employees. Oh, look, David Vitter endorses Nungesser over Jay Dardenne for Lt. Governor. UPDATE- More from the Yellow Blog, who beat me to the publish button.

Corruption in the New Orleans Taxi Certificate Markets. From The Lens. Excellent reporting. But, but, but, the Times-Picayune told me Nagin eliminated corruption in the taxi bureau?

Another one Louisiana can be proud of: David Vitter named one of the most crooked members of Congress. If you go to CREW's website, they like to point out how many people on their old lists are now behind bars.

Poor John Fleming. At least he made The Daily Show.

Watching Jay Cutler thrown to ground repeatedly was extremely satisfying. I'm actually glad Ingram fumbled. He got taught a lesson in ball security in a situation that didn't really matter and we got to watch more of the Cutler beat-down. 1/21/07: Never Forget.

Tulane brings back CS. The first of the Cowen-eliminated programs returns. Note that for years, Tulane has done without an ABET-accredited Computer Science program in the 21st Century. How can you call yourself a University without at least CS?

Back to Bacchanal. Great expose on the whole flap. Especially searing on the out-of-towner, absentee-landlord next door.

SOS from Avondale. Gambit coverstory. Note there might be some interesting Avondale news coming down the pipeline shortly...

Garland violated the Public Trust, Stephanie Grace. James Gill's epic takedown of Garlandfill. Everyone is taking a whack at the pinata.

ER: Homeopathy Edition

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: "The Big Uneasy"

I missed the chance to see The Big Uneasy premier at The Prytania and a lot of other opportunities since, but felt it was pretty important to watch it. I downloaded it off Amazon and just finished it and here are some of my thoughts.

The Big Uneasy doesn't cover a lot of new ground that a local that's read the paper won't know, but it's good to know that a lot of it will reach a wider, national audience. It did a great job of some of the more qualitative issues (addressing "Why don't we move New Orleans?" in their "Ask a New Orleanian" segment), but I was a bit disappointed when it came to some of the more technical aspects. I may have had high standards, but I expected more.

One of the things that constantly annoyed me was little glitches. For example, there's a progression where they show land loss from 1932-2010, but the graphic is wrong. They pulled the graphic from Blum and Roberts (or some derivation thereof, like the Mike Schleifstein writeup) and the progression should have ended in 2100, NOT 2010.

There's another screwup where they're interviewing Ivor van Heerden and he's talking about building on sand horizons in the London Ave. Canal and he's talking about water seepage through sand and he says that sand is a bad foundation because it's not strong enough. Well, actually, sand is a pretty good foundation. It can withstand a pretty hefty load without subsiding, when compared to many other layers you'd encounter in South Louisiana. Now, the larger issue that Ivor was talking about is absolutely 100% correct (water seepage through sand) and that was his main thrust of his excerpt; the structural point was sort of an (irrelevant) aside, but because the editor left the whole interview unedited, it sort of makes the subject look (to technical eyes) like he doesn't know what he's doing, when he (at least in this case) does.

I'm probably being nitpicky, but I'm an engineer and that's just what I'm gonna do. One of the things I was really disappointed in wasn't what was in the movie but what was left out. When talking about LSU, Sean O'Keefe's is never mentioned. There was no real mention of the actual structure of the Army Corps of Engineers (military officials that come and go while 90+% of the Corps are civilian engineers, etc.). Dr. Bob Bea is big on organizational issues contributing to disaster, well, wouldn't it be great to ask Dr. Bea (who had worked at the Corps back in the day) about leadership churn at the Corps?

Another issue is the dynamic between Congress and the Corps. They made the point over and over that the Corps is Congress' pet and they had one good example where they went through all the Congressional websites highlighting all the water-resource bills various congressmen have corralled. I would have like to have seen them go a bit further there.

I'll even lay out a great example for somebody to take: dredge companies. I'd love to see someone look into crooked dredge companies. There are examples out the wazoo. For example, on one coastal restoration project, the dredge company was paid per cubic yard of material dredged, but not on what actually made it to the build site, so they could lose all the material they wanted between Ship Shoal and the deposit site and there was no contractual mechanism to penalize them.

The best example of all on how crooked the dredge companies is the River Dredge Wheeler. Wheeler was commissioned in 1982 after being designed from the keel up for one purpose: keep Southwest Pass open. It was a purpose-built tool designed to maximize efficiency and minimize cost for a very specific purpose. Since it's commissioning, it's been almost entirely unused. It sits in "ready reserve" most of the time next to the ACoE headquarters at Riverbend. You see, back in the early 80's, a group of congressmen (including Bob Livingston, you can fill in the rest of the 'usual suspects') got elected and decided that "the government is obviously incompetent and let's let the free market do everything!" Now, they couldn't just lease the Wheeler to a private operator; that wouldn't result in enough political donations to the politicians. So, they decided to let it out to private dredge companies. Then, embarrassingly, nobody bid; it was too big a job for even a consortium of companies. The Corps then went back, sliced and diced the dredge job into small tranches that private dredge companies could tackle (with huge project management staffs to keep track of everything). This highly inefficient system continues to this day. A few years back, a Dutch company wanted to bring in some ultra-modern dredges and do the job much cheaper than the local companies could do with their antiquated equipment. The dredge companies then squealed like stuck pigs for government protection ("GAH! Jones Act! National Security! DEY TOOK ER JERBS!"). The Dutch, who had plenty of work building the Palm Islands in the UAE dropped their inquiry after a while.

On a related note, after Katrina, there were scores of letters to the editor demanding to "privatize the Corps." What would a privatized Corps actually look like? Wouldn't you still have to have some sort of project management staff to oversee the whole mess?

Dr. Bea does make the excellent point that the Corps no longer has as large a technical staff and that lots of personnel are now outside contractors and a lot of those who remain are more project managers than competent technical professionals. That is, frankly, a criticism you could extend to many, many other industries. Contractors and subcontractors and consultants are a major feature of any heavy industry today. I will say this: you can pull up Karen Durham-Aguilera's CV shows a P.E. licence and a technical Master's. The Vicksburg office of the Corps is still a center of excellence in geotechnical engineering. OTOH, I've also had interactions with Corps employees who couldn't set up a free-body-diagram to save their life.

How 'watered down' has the Corps become? I'm not sure I have an answer, but I'll put forward an idea. On projects I've worked on, when there's a really immense challenge and there's no time to argue over budgets or organizational hierarchies and you get the MBA's to just stand out of the way and let the engineers 'do their thing,' you'd be astounded with the results. In virtually every measurable metric (LTI's, delivery time, and {counter-intuitively} cost), these "Apollo-program" projects outperform the day to day engineering jobs we put together. There's total, bottom-up efforts to get it right. It's very similar to Scott Adams' "Bet on Engineers" philosophy (WSJ Op-Ed here).

The Corps is closed to finishing a major effort to get New Orleans' levee system up to 100-year protection as quickly as possible. How did they do along the way? Well, there are some good things they've done and some not so good things. The Ms. Garzino's faulty pump incident is quite worrying (updated letter here). So is the ongoing issue with debris in some of the levees (and what annoys me the most about that is the immediate 'shoot the messenger'-reaction as opposed to 'gee, maybe we oughta enforce these contractual requirements and penalize some contractors'-reaction). There's also the question of workplace atmosphere that was brought up by the personal attacks on company time issue. I think a commander of the Corps has more to fear from fostering a workplace environment of, say, sexual harassment, than one where technical competency is valued and a good engineering product is turned out.

In the end, the Corps is a big bureaucratic organization. They're not the only one who's had a major engineering disaster, but we'll have to see how they respond. Do they build a better organization or do they fall into the same old traps? It hasn't been settled one way or the other and the proof will be in the pudding (what gets built and how it holds up). I will say this for the critics of the Corps: they only responds to INTENSE criticism. The Corps doesn't really get tact and nuance. You have to whack them in the head with a sledgehammer to get their attention.

Keep paying attention to and Fix the Pumps.

NOTE- Small edits for grammar and spelling.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Garland Robinette and New Orleans Radio

First, a little background for those outside the area: Garland Robinette is a WWL-870-AM radio host. He used to be fairly left-wing (pretty ardent environmentalist and used to host striking refinery workers on his radio show). He came to prominence with the infamous September 2, 2005 "Get off your asses" radio interview with Nagin. You can see a snipet of the infamous interview below:

The full interview can be found below:

Anyways, he hosts a weekday, mid-day radio show. It seems to me that somewhere in 2008/2009 he's also shifted a lot further to the right, politically.

What's become REALLY interesting is Fred Heebe, the notoriously corrupt benefactor of a lot of Jefferson Parish politicos, paid him as a "lobbyist" for the River Birch Landfill. He even gave Robinette a $250,000 loan after he did a radio show blasting the re-opening of the Old Gentilly Landfill (which would take business away from River Birch).

Here's the Times-Picayune above-the-fold article from Saturday. One thing to point out, yet again, the Times-Pic was scooped on a corruption story by one of the NOLA Bloggers. Slabbed was already on the case. It'll also be quite interesting who else is on the list of lobbyists (other local media?).

Since the initial article, the Times-Pic has been quiet as tomb, but online is another matter. Which brought me to the discussion here. There's a nice little exchange about the state of local radio in there as well. (Partial quote of my comments + Jason's):

Clay said...
You know, NOLA has 2 dead-tree papers that aren't half bad, when you consider the market size (Times-Pic and Gambit). Both have flaws, but are well above the national average.

We've got awesome online news (The Lens, great bloggers).

We've got TV stations that, while not perfect, are also good and getting better with intense competition (WWL, Fox8). ABC's local affiliate is the only one that really sucks donkey balls.

BUT, when it comes to radio, New Orleans is ABSOLUTELY BOTTOM OF THE BARREL. There's a reason why I only listen to WWOZ and WTUL. Politics aside, Bob Delgorno is so incredibly stupid I wonder if he was dropped on his head as a baby.

September 4, 2011 11:44:00 AM CDT

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...
That's about the best assessment I've read. The only person on WWL that I could stand to listen to is Garland and now he's a useless shill.

Delgorno is so narrow-minded and dim I get embarrassed for him. I wonder who's idea it was to put that guy in front of a mic.

Spud is harmless enough and intelligent enough but I've never heard anyone talk so damn much and say absolutely nothing. Say something for Buddha's sake.

Tommy Tucker is hyper-annoying. If you were sitting in a bar and this guy started talking, you would get up and move in short order....once again, putting a mic in front of a guy like that is probably not a great idea.

Believe it or not the only person I've actually liked on WWL was Rob Couhig. I don't agree with his politics but he's no idiot. Taking into account WWL is way right of center, I would at least like to hear intelligent conservative banter on local issues instead of the dingleberries they have on the air now.

If WWL had any good sense they would replace GR with a moderate Dem or even an outright liberal. If they offset their programming instead of enforcing the party line 24/7 it would make for more interesting radio. Plus the lib. host would probably enrage their listeners to the point where they would tune in just so they could argue. Then the rest of the conservative yahoo hosts could make apologies for the black sheep and make themselves look better. It's a win/win.

And need I point out that the whole network is staffed with old, white men?

Come to think of it, I wish they would put Sandra Hester on in place of Garland. 18 Wheeler would be a ratings bonanza.

September 4, 2011 12:08:00 PM CDT

There are plenty of other good comments over there. Go ahead and read them; I just don't want to grab more than I've already nabbed.

The thread goes into more general discussion of the New Orleans radio stations. Bob Delgiorno is probably the poster-child for our crappy airwave media. Jeffrey has been cataloging his miscues for quite some time. Even TigerDroppings (a site I generally loathe) points out his lack of research and total stupidity. Why does WWL keep him on the air?

On a more general note, why does NOLA Radio suck? Can't it be better? Will Garland be on the radio Monday?

UPDATE- Well, No Garland today. Maybe tomorrow?

'The best thing the government's done since the National Do Not Call Registry'

Wired: Feds are Right to Stop AT&T Merger. Great, systematic debunking of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

After years and years of letting big corporations get away with all sorts of appalling shenanigans, from mortgage securitization to insider trading to using Main Street & everyone's 401(k)'s as their own personal gambling funds, it's amazing that something so obviously disastrous actually gets attacked. One of the best quotes of the modern era is from Matt Taibbi: [on Goldman Sachs] "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

The reasons why the AT&T and T-Mobile merger are a bad idea are incredibly obvious. We've already broken up AT&T once (United States vs. AT&T, 1982) and it was a boon to the consumer. I remember going through some old documents of my grandfather and being astounded at the cost of the old telephone bill. It was like inflation never happened.

The modern AT&T incarnation sucks as a phone carrier. It's terrible at innovation. AT&T iPhone users hopped to the competition at the first opportunity.

The only thing AT&T does well is bribe politicians. They are the largest corporate donor to campaigns since 1990. They really don't care which party they bribe, either (45/55 Dem/GOP split). They're equal opportunity enticers. Hell, they'll even bribe state politicians (Thanks again, Bobby and the notoriously corrupt Louisiana Public Service Commission). Companies like AT&T are the reason establishment politicians (whether they are Boehner or Dianne Feinstein) suck. Americans of all political persuasions HATE huge, unresponsive corporations. And people wonder how we get to "too big to fail..."

And I'll close with a quote from the Wired article I really like:

AT&T is the single largest corporate donor to politicians and it’s used to getting its way.


This go round, the Justice Department is realizing that what’s good for AT&T isn’t often what’s good for Americans — no matter how many lobbyists and political donations Ma Bell can afford.

UPDATE- Here's the dinner and drinks menu for the wining and dining of lawmakers the bastards at AT&T are trying. $52 steaks and cucumber martini's...

Friday, September 2, 2011

I'll give you 1 guess what went here.

Hurricane Stocking Up by Noladishu
Hurricane Stocking Up, a photo by Noladishu on Flickr.

Didn't manage the K+X post. I suppose that means I no longer have to worry about keeping things bottled up.

Been fairly busy with school and work. We were out today stocking up for the weekend's expected soaking. I saw this and laughed. I'll give you 1 guess what usually goes here (HINT: it's the first thing everyone runs out of, even before beer and ammunition).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rising Tide Recaps

I'll add more as they come, but here's a couple from

'Treme' creator David Simon says New Orleans may have something to learn from Baltimore. Congratulations all you "young journalists" out there. (Also: slightly different wording on the Mobile version of the article). I also missed the first half of Simon's speech (desperately in need of caffeine), so I was trying to reconstruct exactly what he said from others and it was about 50/50 'nice points'/'Simon is a douchebag'.
David Simon
Gambit article on Rising Tide.

NOLA Femmes recap.

First Draft's Liveblogging here.

Maitri's favorite photo

Huck Upchuck: Busy Day

Cliff: 7 Years in Blogger Land and I'm still here.

B2L2: We Have A Winnah