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).