In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, they can be found by clicking the labels button "stuff I made up".

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Know Better...

...but my curiosity got the best of me.

I had a strange link in my traffic links, so I took a look. Surprise!!!! It was a commercial site luring me to look at their software, which will make me rich and in the same peer group as the 108 year old blogger. I was pissed enthralled and spent some time examining the cheesy  professional spam advertisements. After I realized it was a typical site with the usual garbage I didn't have time to peruse the wonderful opportunities, I clicked to close the page....which led to a few BS pop-ups reminders that asked me if I was really, really sure I wanted to navigate from the page.

My thought was: "In a less kind world, I'd find you and wait outside your door with a baseball bat"  "Am I really sure I don't need to take advantage of this opportunity?" So, I clicked the "okay" icon, held my breath and grabbed the power cord to my computer....just in case. Hopefully, whatever spam-bot is lurking will decide to leave my blog alone. They can be sneaky, and I'll put duct tape on all my wall outlets to keep them out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Object

It was around 7:30 pm on a summer evening. I had made my first rounds of the evening and was headed back to the shop to work on safety equipment. The wind was light out of the southeast and the Gulf was a tranquil emerald green.

As I walked across the catwalk, movement in the south caught my eye. I stopped, spent some time examining what caught my attention, and within moments, felt the hair stand on the back of my neck. Whatever it was, it was big and moving under the surface towards the platform.

The circular object appeared to be around a hundred feet in diameter and was a silvery gold that shimmered in the late evening sun. Since it was right beneath the surface, the small waves prevented me from seeing any detail. One thing I did know: it was moving fast and would be at the platform shortly.

As I examined the object, I tried to determine what it could be. Was it a some type of secret military submarine, or was it extraterrestrial?  My curiosity turned to apprehension and then to fear. I thought of trying to alert the crew, but soon realized there wasn't enough time. I stayed where I was and waited. It was moments away.

When it arrived, I braced myself by tightly grasping the handrail on the catwalk.  It passed between the platforms, so I had a ringside view. It was fish. A huge school of moon fish that swam in a chaotic ball of motion, which kept predators at a distance. They passed silently through the water right below the surface. In less than a minute, they moved to where the light couldn't catch their silvery scales and were gone.

That was the only time I saw moon fish. I don't know if that was a migration, or a rare occurrence. I do know that I was in the perfect place to see the school as they passed. If they had passed a few hundred feet on either side, my tale would have a different ending.

Rain!

Around 1:30 this afternoon, I noticed a cumulus cloud that looked like it might form a small thunderstorm and offer a little rain for relief from the drought. Since it was hotter than blue blazes, and the humidity was high, I figured there might be a small chance of some rain. I was wrong.

At 2:00 pm, I thought I heard thunder. In a few minutes there was no doubt I heard thunder. The cloud was developing into a thunderstorm, so I looked at the radar to see which direction it was heading. It wasn't really moving, but radar loops showed it was becoming larger.

At 2:15 the rain started. Not just the tease of some rain; real rain, which became heavier every minute. Eventually, the storm reached severe strength, so we had some pea sized hail and plenty of cloud to ground lightning. The heavy rain continued until around 3:00 and now it's just sprinkling.

Total for the last two hours is 1-1/2 inches and the radar shows there is the possiblity for more. It's about time and the cooler weather behind this rain will be welcome. I've had enough of Summer.

Sleep

Why does our society find it so deplorable to take a nap after lunch? We need naps and it's the perfect time, since food digests better when the body is at rest. So, why not a nap? It's good for your heart, helps clear the mind, lowers exposure to chiggers, prevents accidents, helps poor posture, reduces traffic congestion, saves energy, improves vision and is pleasing, which is important for mental health.

Maybe I'm missing something, so if you think I'm wrong, please explain why.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some Thoughts About Blogging

I like blogging. It's an escape, and an opportunity to document some of the things that bounce around in my head. It satisfies the compelling urge to write , which for some reason, appeared a few years ago. I never had the urge before, but I'm glad it appeared. Maybe my life won't disappear forever like most of my ancestors.

Blogging is humbling and would be lonely without the people that stop in and have a look. So, thank you for spending a little of your time reading. I'm honored and hope my writings can lure your return to look again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nature Shows

I like nature shows...to a point. They're interesting and the social interactions of some species are fascinating, but what's the deal with the predators? They have to put some nasty, ugly predator ripping a shrieking animal to pieces and then zoom in on entrails as the predator consumes the still twitching animal. To accentuate the event, ominous music is played in the background.

I know part of nature is death, but to put it in perspective, how would you feel if they did the same thing with a prime time television program? What if in the middle of "American Idol", some crazed Jeffrey Dahmer character ran on the stage, hacked a contestant with an axe and then starting consuming the victim while they zoomed in on the intestines? Wouldn't that ruin the show? Would you wait in anticipation for the next episode? I don't think so.

 

If...

... emotions could be placed in the kitchen for viewing and our use, would it be different in how we handle our reactions?

Anger:  A big box of frustration, could be placed on the shelf for small amounts at special occasions, like cinnamon on eggnog. A little for spice, but too much and it overpowers.

Sadness: another big box, could be placed in a lower cabinet for the times when we have to bring back a happy memory. Season it with a little sadness for the acceptance of our losses. Garnish the loss of a loved one. Never place too much or it will destroy the memory.

Fear: a small box of poison. Never to be used and only a reminder that we are weak if we succumb to fear.

Happiness: A pot almost overflowing and always on the stove. A soup of joy which is always added to for all occasions. The broth of our soul and the source of our strength.

Love: the bread of our existence. Without this staple, we perish in loneliness.

Hope: like salt, the flavor of life is bland without it. Truly the secret to health.

In the last few days, I learned how short life can be for those we love. Treasure your moments and never allow the emotions that destroy into your life. Have patience; allow your love to guide and never allow it to smother. The most special moments in time are right now. Enjoy them for whatever they bring.

*I wrote that  a few years ago, after my younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. I was thinking an older brother that died of heat stroke in June and had to reference this again. Sometimes, there's not a lot to go on, so you take what you can.

It's Hot

This morning it was around 75 for a low and it's in the low 90's this afternoon. The humidity is somewhere around 178% (that's an exaggeration) so it's far from comfortable. Otherwise, it's summer all over again, except a tad cooler.

I'm ready for Fall. Chilly nights and pleasant days with temperatures in the low 70's. Blue skies, without haze, and the aroma of burning leaves in the evening.

And no daylight savings time. I want my hour back.

Locally, The Madness Continues

Locally, some taxing entities collected taxes from refineries they were not supposed to collect. To add insult to injury, the taxing entities spent the money and now owe it to the refineries. Meanwhile, some locals are stirring the crap about how it will hurt the schools (children) and something should be done to stop the return of the money. I agree, something should be done, the dumbasses that overcharged the refineries should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail by sunset.

Meanwhile, it looks like some potholes will become bigger, since the tens of millions owed are not figures of money to consider lightly. One local community, in their infinite wisdom, bought a fire truck (needed) a rescue boat (not needed, the coast guard is within minutes at all time), and an armored urban assault vehicle(WTF? Are they scared the taxpayers will congregate and get even?)

Bleh.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Doctor Statistics

I was reading a statistic that states that only about 17% of doctors are in the AMA. That's more than a statement. That's a mandate that shouldn't be ignored. In my opinion, the association is gone. It's politics and bureaucracy.

Strange Link

A traffic source to my blog was the following:

http://slimfastdietblog.com/tag/juices/

What does this mean?

Bleh

Bleh

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When We Went to Metrics, But Didn't

About a decade ago, TxDot made a big push to go to all metric measurements. It started with a new specification book (Bible) and the unit of measurement was forced by mandating all contractors submit all information in Metric terminology. Otherwise, feet became meters, pounds became kilograms. etc....

It was a mess. Not only were the contractors struggling with the mandate, many suppliers, such as those that fabricated reinforcement bar, more or less said "kiss my ass". They weren't going to spend millions to re-tool all of their equipment to the required measurements. I don't blame them. I would have done the same thing. We ended up with "soft measurements" which meant metrics weren't really metrics and English weren't really English.

My problem was that the devices we had for measuring, which amounted to substantial amounts of money, were in English units. The "fix" was converting everything from metric, to English, to metric. This made every thing work and I didn't have to go through the headache of teaching metric units, or verifying the right equipment was used for measuring.

It was tedious, to say the least. I had to take measurements from plans, change them to metric and record the results on plan sheets. I had a good project inspector who was suffering with many of the same problems. His mandate of carrying measurements out to three decimal points meant long hours of calculating and writing. I helped him; he helped me. We both had too many things to do and not enough of the time required. Skewed measurements, with the necessary trigonometry, could be nightmares to handle. I was constantly worried I busted a conversion and was putting something in the wrong place.

Eventually, since many other states in the U.S. decided not to follow the example, TxDot went back to English measurements, which meant a new specification book, new forms, new software, and millions of dollars for the changes. Meanwhile, I breathed a sigh of relief, although I had finally reached the point that my mind automatically knew (and knows) that 3.28084 feet (39-3/8") is a meter, 25.4 millimeters is an inch and a guardrail section is 7.62 meters (25 feet) in length.

So, another great experiment ended with an expensive whimper. I'm glad it did, but wish they'd had just said no and put the money in an account for my retirement.

A Cup Of Coffee and Some Memories

I stopped for a cup of coffee this morning, and ended up taking a trip to the past.

The same group of men sit in the doughnut shop every morning. I'll nod and say "Hi", but that's the extent of the conversation. I don't know, or recognize any of them - until this morning.

As I pulled through the parking lot where the doughnut shop is located, I remembered a Sinclair gas station that sat in the spot in the 60's. When I went into the shop, I asked one of the men if he remembered the station. He didn't but he remembered the shops that were in the strip shopping center behind the doughnut shop. I told him of "Dino the Dinosaur" and the toys you could buy at the station. I think my brother had one. He like those things and had a collection that included a metal Texaco tank truck.

As we talked, we eventually reached the point where we were trading names and I realized he was married to a girl that graduated one year before I did. He was the younger brother of an older classmate that was killed in a tragic car wreck years ago. I remembered the accident. He continued talking and told me his mother was never the same until her death a few years ago. We talked for a few minutes longer; mostly about the old neighborhood and the buildings that were forever gone.

After I left, I was flooded with memories of the old neighborhood. I remembered the skating rink where I first held hands with a girl. It took forever for me to ask her. We skated the "slow songs" and neither of us could be called accomplished skaters. There we were, two painfully shy souls, sweaty hands, the overpowering fragrance of her mother's "White Shoulders" perfume and the embarassment of realizing neither of us could break the silence. I don't think I said more than a half dozen words the entire time. I knew that one wrong word would convince her that not only was I clumsy, I was, also, a complete idiot.

Those were different times. Maybe we were naive, or maybe we were more kind, but things changed and the skating rink closed after drugs, with violence, led to a huge loss in business. A safe haven for learning to socialize disappeared. A source of fond memories was gone forever.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This One Will Make You Chuckle/Giggle/Laugh Hysterically/Pass Wind

Chief "Hank-whoo" is all I'll write.  If you're thoughts are like mine, you'll envision some hybrid of "Mr. Roberts" and "Monty Python".

Well, Did You See It?

A six ton satellite reentered earth's atmosphere somewhere over the Pacific Ocean during last night. I didn't see it, although I wasn't looking and would have probably missed it anyway.

From the reports I've read, it's possible people in Oregon saw it. So, if anyone did (only if your really did), leave a comment with your location, what direction your were facing and how many degrees it was above the horizon. (for a handy reference for degrees, your outstreched fist is about 10 degrees, otherwise, two fists high, about 20 degrees above the horizon.)

Why do I want to know? I'm curious.

It Was Foggy

For about two weeks, every day was foggy during a time I was working offshore. While it would lift enough for some visibility, it was mostly heavy fog, with almost zero visibility at night.

All in all, it was about a three week period, but I was off for a week in between my two work shifts. It was only foggy at night on the bank. Out in the Gulf, it never lifted. It would become heavy as soon as we hit the jetties on the way out. The crew we relieved had the same report: heavy fog all week.

Moving between the platforms was tedious. The boat skippers were navigating by radar, so they kept their speed low to compensate for their lack of visibility. Looking out the window was like looking at a gray wall. There was little to see, until we were close to one of the platforms. The skipper would let me look at the radar, which told me little. There were blips on the screen, but I had no idea how to tell how far they were. I could see the basic configuration of the gas field, but it was a two dimensional basic version of the real world.

One night, the night man on the bank called to inform me we had lost some gas. Instruments in the control room showed we had lost a satellite structure at the far end of the field. The structure, which had more than one well attached to the header, meant there was no waiting until morning. Since it had shut in, all the attached wells would have shut in, also.  After waking the gauger on call, we called the boat and started out.

It took a long time for the boat to reach the platform, even though it was only about a half mile away. After we boarded, I went to the wheelhouse to shoot the breeze with the skipper as we travelled to the platform. We had a few miles to travel, so I knew the trip would be longer than usual.

The skipper had his face on the hood of the radar. The hood could be removed, but the skipper liked it that way. It was probably due to the instrument lights on the console; they would distract from the two dimensional view on the screen. He didn't have much to say, so my mind drifted as we travelled.

I became lost in my thoughts, which is easy to do when there's nothing to see, or hear. The reference of time becomes distorted. The engines droned in the background until the skipper suddenly pulled back on the throttle. I was instantly alert.

I asked what was wrong. He replied there was nothing wrong; we had arrived. It seemed like we arrived faster than expected, and I wondered if the skipper was lost. It could happen, which was not a pleasant thought in the Gulf of Mexico. We didn't have Loran on the boat, so there was no reference other than the radar, which could be inaccurate.

I looked out the front glass. It was like a blank wall. There was nothing to see. The skipper gave the boat a little throttle, and we started creeping forward. I kept looking forward, but still didn't see anything. Suddenly, something caught my attention. I looked up and could see a faint greenish glow above the boat. As my mind sorted the image, I realized it was the mercury vapor lamp on the generator room on the platform. The front of the boat was only a few feet away from the bottom catwalk on the platform. The skipper gunned the throttle in reverse, stopped the boat and then went to the back controls. He spun the boat so we could leave from the stern.

We repaired whatever was wrong, I don't remember exactly what it was, but it had something to do with the fire loop. More than likely the plastic tubing had failed due to the constant exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. It was common and the fix was usually a few feet of new tubing with some stainless fittings. The gauger stayed on the platform, while the boat skipper brought me to the satellite structures to bring the wells back on line. After everything was back on line, we returned to the main platform, so the gauger could get a few more hours of sleep and I could go back to my usual tasks.

As I made my rounds, I realized how working in that environment was surreal. Visibility was limited to a few feet. The mercury vapor lights cast an eerie greenish glow.The spider webs, which sparkled  as they moved in the light breeze, looked like bizarre jewelry made of some exotic green stone. Turning my flashlight toward the Gulf only made the fog seem thicker. The yellowish cone disappeared within a distance a little more than arms length.

Eventually the fog was swept away by a cold front. I was glad to see it gone. The constant wet, dismal conditions had caused me to have a sour and negative attitude. Work had become a small oasis of sanity in a bizarre world without depth.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Falling Off a Bridge

Janie asked, so here's the story:


It wasn't a tall bridge. From the deck, to the broken concrete rip-rap, it was only about 15 feet. It was all that remained of an abandoned railroad. It had to go for the new concrete bridge, which was part of a new four lane road.

The bridge was a typical bridge of its type: Creosote pilings, caps, stringers and deck. It was in good shape, but in the way. Part of our project was to remove everything to below ground level, including the two small pipes hung on brackets attached to the caps. This meant anything salvageable ended up on a low boy trailer and went to the boss' houses.

We had a 50 ton crawler crane on the bank next to the bridge. We used it to remove, and stack, the heavy timbers, which we pried loose with large pry bars. I was on the prying crew, so as we worked, I'd loop a sling around timbers and guide the load away from our work area. We removed in phases, starting with the deck timbers, then the stringers. Eventually, we'd reach the point there was nothing left but the caps, and the two small pipes that were attached on the far side from the rig.

The stringers were around 3 inches wide and 12  inches tall. The were joined with splices and toe nailed to the caps. It was a rule to lay them on their side after the nails were removed. Although they would stand on their own, a small push would roll them on their side, or off the bridge.

I don't know how I ended up being the person that hooked up the timbers. Maybe it was because I was more nimble/stupid and didn't have any qualms about walking on wobbly, narrow boards. I would rather do that than constantly pull the 60 penny spikes from timbers. It was a welcome break, in my mind.

Right after lunch one day, I eased out on one of the nailed upright stringers, put my hand on the next upright stringer and reached across the far stringer to loop the sling around the stringer I knew was loose because it was laying on its side. That was my mistake, and I should have paid closer attention.

As I leaned towards the outside stringer, the stringer I was using for balance fell over, which launched me over the side. It was quick. Before I could comprehend was was happening, I was falling between the two pipes attached to the caps. For some reason, I had enough presence of mind to extend my arms like a cat, which allowed me to stop my fall.  I ended up with one pipe under one arm, and a death grip on the other pipe with my free hand.

It took a few moments for it all to register, and longer for the crew to realize what happened and come help me back on the bridge. It was a typical close call. Remarks were made on my luck and what might have happened, but the only remark I was interested in was who left the board standing with all the spikes pulled.

After it was all sorted out, one of the hands admitted he had pulled all the spikes right before lunch and had forgotten to lay the timber on its side. He forgot, but from that point on, I never forgot to nudge a timber to make sure it wouldn't fall.

I've had a few close calls; I've even been hit with a backhoe bucket. It's always the same: after the adrenalin is gone, the quick reflex muscles start aching and your mind races. If it was really close, the shaking starts after a few minutes. The event is remembered in slow motion, which only makes it more vivid.

Oriskany


A friend's father landed a jet on this carrier back in the early sixties. This is probably one of the last photos of the Oriskany as it was towed to final preparation before being turned into an artificial reef. Much of the ship had been removed, but it was still a magnificent sight as it passed our project location a few years ago.

It now sits on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Due to it's size, the island structure is around 80 feet deep, which is at the limits of sport diving. The flight deck is around 145 feet deep, which makes much of the carrier beyond the depths of sport divers.

* I have to add how big it was. what's most amazing is that one of the reasons for decommisioning was it wasn't big enough for modern requirements.

The Drought Continues

A dry front passed through during the night. It's around 72 degrees this morning and the humidity is considerably lower than it has been. By the end of the day, the afternoon sun, and low humidity, will lead to a low relative humidity, which will allow the temperatures to fall into the sixties tonight.

The long range forecast through the middle of next week is no rain, daytime temperaturs in the mid 90's and morning lows in the low 70's. Otherwise, the drought continues, things will become drier and the threat of wildfires will still be present.

I've noticed even trees are dying, which is unusual for this part of the country. Eventually, the weather pattern will change and rain will increase but that's not forecast until the summer of 2012. Until then, the drought will continue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Things We Don't Talk About

Sometimes, I think my life has been much different than others, but then again, it might be others have done well with not revealing the things nobody likes to talk about.

I've had to deal with the emotional disorders, and substance abuse, of people that I love. I won't elaborate, but they're far from distant relatives. After a long time of dealing with it, I one day realized how much of my own thoughts were directly related to their problems. I didn't have an epiphany. I knew something was terribly wrong and I was struggling with coping.

I started researching the symptoms and found that my particular circumstance in life was many times ignored. There was help for sufferers of emotional disorders, but few for those that were directly affected by the problems of others. I sought, and found resources, but it was only scratching the surface. My thoughts, and reactions, were a bigger problem than I realized. I guess you could call me a victim, but being a victim is as insidious as an other problem. Victimhood is a form of defeat and can lead to problems that can be overwhelming.

So, I learned what I could, found some help (some professional ) for my own reactions and started taking back the control of my life that I desperately needed. It's been a journey, but it's been enlightening; mostly because I've found the one person that can control my life is me. Sure, others can influence, but they can't control, unless I allow it to happen.

I'm guessing some of you are wondering where I'm going with this post. I think it's a knee jerk reaction to what I observe most every day: People with more blessings than they can count can be so miserable, they never realize they've become trapped. If they continue as they are, they'll end up spending too much of their lives fighting their own personal demons. It doesn't have to be that way, and it's not a sign of weakness to admit life can be overwhelming.  Maybe some day there won't be such a stigma attached with mental disorders and people will make a stronger effort to find their health. I can only hope. Life is too short to carry spare baggage, especially when it's not your own.


From the amount of visitors today, I'm thinking I should have wrote about the time I fell off a bridge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Placing Box Culverts

It was a cold early February morning. The slate skies promised rain in the evening, but that was later; we had box culverts to lay.

The box culverts were huge concrete boxes with internal dimensions of 12 feet by 10 feet. With concrete walls a foot thick, they were heavy enough to require a 150 ton lattice boom crane for placing. They were trucked to the job site, unloaded and placed in a line near their proposed location.

It was a typical winter day. The ground stayed muddy, so I was wearing rubber boots to keep my feet drier. In the summer, the boots were uncomfortably hot and kept my feet soaked with sweat. In the winter, my feet would still sweat,  but the bitter north wind kept them miserably cold. The trade off was regular work boots, but eventually, I'd have to wade water, and the trade off became misery that could only be described as worse.

In the trench, the crew that worked with the large excavator were more comfortable. They didn't have to fight the wind and the fresh cut earth wasn't muddy. They would work with the "rod man", who constantly checked the grade for the "instrument man" that shivered and read the grade rod all day. He couldn't move. I didn't envy his long day of standing in the cold.

As the excavator removed the dirt, I would work with the crew that hooked the lifting eyes to the large box culverts. We'd make sure the asphaltic sealing strips were warmed by a fire and placed on the male end (spigot) of the boxes. The female end (bell), which was on the box already placed, was handled by the crew in the trench. We'd hand them down the sealer before we set each box, so they could place the still pliable material on the primed bell of the box.

When everything was ready, it was my job to flag the crane operator until the box was in position. At that time, a large beam was lowered by the the excavator, cables were attached and an air-tugger was used to pull the boxes together.

I had been doing this for weeks. We were about half through this part of the project and I had reached the point where I was hoping it would rain. I needed an early day. The cold had penetrated to my bones and every second in the raw weather was slowly wearing away what little energy I could muster. I was tired of shivering and the thought of lunch - while sitting in my truck with the heater at full blast - was constantly on my mind.

The ground was soaked from the February weather, so the crane was as far as the operator could place it from the trench. Every lift was close to the load limit, so the operator was constantly watching and running the crane by "the seat of his pants". If it felt as though it was tipping, he could release the brake and drop the load. We knew this, so we constantly watched the load. If you made the mistake of getting under the load, and the operator had to let it go, the choice was one worker, or the whole crew. The answer was easy: Never get under the load.

At around 10:00 am, we reached the point we had only one box left on site. Trucks were scheduled to arrive in about an hour, so we had time to lay the one box and not enough time to split off on some other task. It would be a welcome break.

Due to the positioning of the crane, and the location of the trench, the crane was right at the limit of reach. The operator kept the load a foot above the ground as he slowly winched the line and lowered the boom. I kept giving him hand signals and watched the load. I could tell the crane was "getting light" on the far track as I would glance at the crane. The bottom rollers were starting to come off the track.

The load was finally over the hole. I signaled the operator to slowly lower the load. I looked at the rig, and realized there was daylight under the far track. One false move, or if the operator stopped the load too fast, and the box would be dropped, or the rig would go over.

The box slowly descended until I stopped the operator about an inch above the ground. The excavator operator swung the beam into position and the crew quickly connected the pulling cable. As they tightened the cable, it pulled down on the load. I quickly looked at the rig and saw at least two feet of space between the far track and the ground. The operator didn't move, even though the crane was rocking in the breeze. As the bell and spigot sealed, I signaled for the load to be lowered. As it lowered, the far track set back on the ground.

It was now time to wait for the loads of box culverts. I walked up to the crane to hide from the wind. It wasn't like being behind a wall, but it was better than standing in the open. The operator slid open the cab door and asked me if I would like some coffee. I went to my truck and retrieved a small Styrofoam coffee cup I had from before work. He opened his thermos and poured us both a cup of coffee.

As I shivered in the cold wind, I slowly lifted the steaming cup of coffee to my lips and took a small sip. There was a taste of coffee, but it was overwhelmed by the strong taste of bourbon. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. I had been working with this operator for weeks and it was a common sight to see him sip coffee the entire day. It dawned on me he was an alcoholic and the last few hours of "seat of the pants" operating had been under the influence of alcohol.

I finished my cup and savored the warmth it generated. Soon after, trucks started arriving and we were back in business. We worked until light, steady rain chased us off the site in the early afternoon. I was pleased. I was ready to go home. It had been a rough day.

That was around thirty years ago. I worked with that crew until we finished the underground drainage and I moved to the paving crew. I was never offered another cup of coffee from the operator and he eventually was laid off when we were finished with the large crane. He was around fifty, and I imagine he's dead by now. It seems like yesterday I would watch him, sitting in his cab, sipping his coffee and waiting to balance his rig between success and disaster.

Computers and Networks

I have a computer, and network, with a sense of humor. Once, or twice, a year they conspire to make my morning a little more tedious.

It's always the same: I'll arrive at the office, my computer won't connect to the network, so I have to go check the file server, which usually has some little B.S. Windows task that is completed, which SHUT THE ENTIRE DAMN NETWORK DOWN BECAUSE WINDOWS IS TOO DAMN STUPID TO DO MORE THAN ONE THING AT A TIME. I DON'T CARE THAT THERE ARE UNUSED ICONS OR THAT IMPORTANT UPDATES ARE READY TO BE INSTALLED. I'M TRYING TO LOG IN AND CHECK ON THAT SPREADSHEET I WAS WORKING ON YESTERDAY EVENING!!!!!!!!

Anyway, my computer usually forgets it's I.P. address and other important information, so I have to manually reload that information, reboot the file server, wait for it to completely load and then reboot my computer. With fingers crossed, I wait to see if I can connect. Sometimes it doesn't, so I have to repeat the task and take a Xanax (No, I'm just embellishing my post. I don't take Xanax, but probably could use it on some days.)

What it all boils down to is that Windows wants me to upgrade to version 7, or 8. This means I will take my computer to a shop, they'll screw everything up and I'll have to unsort the entire mess over a few weeks of cussing and the destroying of small things in my office. I will get a new computer because all earlier versions ruin perfectly good computers. About the time I get everything "just right", Windows will want to upgrade, which will cause the file server to glitch, which will cause me to have a morning just like this morning.

I really do need some Xanax. My browser wants to upgrade.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mainstream

There's nothing mainstream about the mainstream media. Never has been, never will. In the real world, men don't wear makeup at work, unless they're a drag queen. Women don't dress, or appear as beauty queen wannabees at 5:00 am, unless they're hookers. That's the facts and nothing will change my mind.

* That was a pretty harsh post. I suppose I should add a disclaimer:

The resemblance of this post to any hooker, correspondent, or drag queen, whether living, or dead, is purely coincidental.

Warning - this post may cause consternation, headaches, numbness in the extremities, pain when urinating, insomnia, fainting, halitosis, dry mouth, painful rectal itch, bulimia, depression, temporary memory loss and weakness. Do not operate machinery, or drive until you know this post will not affect your abilities. If you have difficulty breathing, or suffer a severe rash, stop reading and seek immediate medical care.

And I can't forget:


No animals were hurt during the making of this post.

We've Had Some Rain

Over the last three days: 2-1/4 inches. It won't make up the deficit, but maybe it will keep some of the stressed vegetation alive. We were at the point that grass was mostly brown, trees were starting to have drooping leaves and dangerous fires were only one spark away.

An Evening at the Skywalkers

"Luke. I am your father"
"Yeah dad, but it's all holds barred when it comes to pool"
"Luke, I'm still a little upset about the DNA test"
"I know you are, Dad, but how was I supposed to know you're my father? After all, it really wasn't the typical dad and son outing when you sliced my hand off"
"I'm sorry, Luke. I guess I was a little upset when you called me "bacon face"
"Another thing, Dad: what's the deal with the new nickname of "Stubby?"
"Sorry, Luke. I was just trying to make up for all our lost time together."
"Well, maybe we should just change the subject. How about a bucket of chicken?"
"Good idea son. KFC has a special. I'll flip you for original or extra crispy"
"No way Dad. I'm not falling for that Jedi crap again. Anyway, it's my turn so it's extra crispy. One other thing, Dad. This time we go through the drive-through. I don't have another thousand for bail and your attorney still hasn't found out how to get your light saber back."
"Okay, son.....pull my finger"
"Jeez, Dad. After the way you polished off those pickled eggs, I don't think I want "the force" to be with me. You ride in the back....with the windows down.."

The Business of Business

I've been on the business end of my business for decades. There is an important thing that I don't think many people realize: If the costs go up, the costs are passed on to the consumer.

Higher fuel costs? Passsed on to the consumer. Higher taxes? Passed on to the consumer. Whatever the costs are, they're passed on to the consumer, until the consumer changes their buying habits - whatever that may be - including less purchases or no purchases at all.

Another thing: Those that run the business will do everything they can to stay in business. If the costs reach the point the consumer is unwilling to pay the additional costs, cuts in operating costs are the next step. This usually means less employees. If there isn't enough work for the current staff, the staff is whittled down to an acceptable size. The steps to cutting costs can reach the point labor is outsourced to another country.

If the economy gets so bad the owners of businesses can't continue to operate, they don't go down with the ship. Their personal assets are protected and they legally absolve all responsibilities to the business in the courts. They may not be in the same financial shape they once were, but they're usually far from destitute.

So, where am I going with this post? Don't believe the hype about making the rich pay their fair share. Most of the "rich" are far from rich on anything but their tax return, and $2000,000 per year is far from rich. Ask a doctor or other professional that runs an office/business. Their monthly costs can be more than many people make in a year, but you have consider their costs include what many people make in a year. In fact, the people on their staff are what makes it happen. Punish the professional enough, they put somebody on the road, if they just don't give it all up and say: "That's enough!"

If you want to see real change, demand the bureaucrazies quit spending what they don't have. While you're at it, demand they start cutting costs the way businesses cut costs. After all, bureaucrazies don't produce anything except flatulence and paper. We have too much of both and need some relief.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Passing the Past

Today, I was in my home town and passed a building that used to be a convenience store. When I was living a few blocks away, I would stop at the store often and the same woman was usually there every evening.

The woman, who I thought was probably fifteen years older than I was, usually worked the evening shift. She had a young teenage daughter that would sometimes be in the store during her shift. From the short conversations we had, I gathered she was single mom with the usual worries about raising her daughter. Her daughter was at that age where the lack of supervision could end with a ruined life.

Over time I moved and stopped going to the store. Years later, I was watching a show about crime. It was a stark show that had a segment where the news crew reached the crime scene before the police secured the area. A part of the segment showed a woman sitting on the floor with a bullet wound in her forehead. She was alive, coherent, but obviously in distress. I suddenly realized it was that clerk. I, also, remembered reading about the robbery when it happened. The report had given a name, which I never knew, and a later report stated she died. I never put the pieces together. I didn't know who had died.

I've wondered what happened to her daughter; whether she had family, or ended up in foster care. I, also, wondered about whether she moved on, or was forever scarred and would never have any semblance of a normal life.

Evil stalks us every day. We don't notice it, or ever really feel the consequences, until it destroys someone we know or love. It's a harsh reality that's a punk robber with a gun, or a government without conscience that destroys all detractors in the cruelest methods imaginable. It will never be completely eliminated, but it can be isolated. This requires a society that condemns evil and handles those that stray to evil without hesitation. If not, there's only anarchy and the unbridled power of those without compassion.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cause and effect

Some mornings, I'll stop at a local doughnut shop in a shopping center for coffee. It's built in front of the main center, so there is only a narrow drive in front. It's invariably blocked in the morning by "I'll only be a minute" people. There's literally acres of parking, but these fine folks block the access drive so they don't have to walk a few dozen feet.

I'm guessing these patrons want to speed their heart attack by refusing to exercise and eating fried bread. It that's their plan, I have to admire their effort. Judging from the sizes of some of these patrons, I can almost guarantee their success within ten years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rite of Passage

This afternoon, I stopped at a hardware store to pick up a measuring tape. After I made my purchase, I scanned my receipt and found: Senior Discount 10%. I paused for a moment to think about this discount, while I fought a compelling urge to dig in my ear with my truck key. I didn't ask for it, and the clerk looked older than I am. For some reason, corrupted words to a Harry Chapin's  "Taxi" popped into my mind:

"Another man might have been angry
And another man might have been hurt
But, another man wouldn't have gotten so old
I stashed the receipt in my shirt."

A few minutes later, as I drove by a local university, I looked at the young folks and thought how most of their lives are ahead. I wondered what words of wisdom I could impart to these young minds that would make their futures bright and full of hope. As I glanced in my passenger rear view mirror, all I could think of was "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear" That will have to be enough. After all, I'm now an official "old geezer". Do I get a certificate?

Hamfisted Moderating

I don't know why it's called moderating. There is no moderating on my part. I tried to edit one of my own comments, which deleted the post and placed the message: This post has been removed by a blog administrator, which is not what I wanted to do. I just wanted to see if I could edit the comment, maybe add a silly picture, or place some stern warning that detractors, including me, are not to test my patience. Instead, the post was forever sent to electron hell, vaporized and will be lost forever.

I had another option, which was to delete the post. If moderating is complete annihilation, what happens if I click "delete"? I guess I could try it, but if you find yourself in a parallel universe, don't blame me. I'm the moderator and you never want to piss me off with your petty whining.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some Advice

This is some advice for those that use the drive-through window:

1. Don't waste my time.
2. They can't see you very well, if at all, so hand gestures are useless, although amusing to watch.
3. The reason they have the numbered menu is because that's really what they want you to buy. Give them a number and the only real decision on your part is to decide what flavor soft drink.
4. If there is more than one order, you are forbidden to use the drive-through. I know that's not a written rule; it's my rule. Go inside and read rule no. 1.
5. Be aware of how much money you have on your person. Digging through the console, your pockets, the seats, your purse, your wallet, the visor, your passenger's pockets and their wallets should happen before you reach the window.
6. Don't special order anything. I don't care that you don't like tomatos, or pickles and prefer mustard. That's why you go inside. See the first rule.
7. Don't order 20 items. That means you slow the entire process and will eventually wait in your car. They have a special spot in the parking lot. You sit there until some pissed off clerk brings your food, which is soggy, old and probably tastes like crap. The drinks are so watered down, it takes a chemist to decide if they're cola or tea.
8. I know you have a car full of children. That's why they invented peanut butter and jelly. You can carry that in your vehicle, disburse the product as necessary and avoid violating the first rule. Stop at a convenience store for milk and plastic cups. Have a lactose intolerant child? Bottled water is the right choice.

All in all, if your time in the drive-through violates the first rule,  you're not only wasting my time, you're wasting the time of another. They probably, too, only have 30 minutes for lunch. I'm sure they despise you as much as I do.

-I know someone will comment about peanut allergies. My rule is to never allow anyone with a peanut allergy in your car, unless you carry an epi pen. Even then, I don't recommend it. Let them carry their own epi pen and, if they use it, never allow them in you car again.  

What's the Correct Word?

I'm trying to think of the correct term for most of the political critters that we elect and pay to harass. Whore doesn't work, because a whore is a slang word for a prostitute. They, at least, provide a wanted service and work for their money.

Pimps? Nope. Although this is closer, there is still a private sector enterprise, even if it's illegal in most places.

Thief? It works for many. They steal from others. Most call them taxes, but I think even the founders would say there is a problem when the taxes have to be collected at gunpoint. What happened to the polite "no"? Imagine a society where it's acceptable to say "No, I do not want to finance that part of your budget and have deducted the percentage from my total tax bill, Thanks and have a good day."  No tax levies, or sheriff auctions for property taxes. Government only worked with what it received. If they became belligerent, just cut off the money until they behaved.

I can think of a lot of other words, but I won't write them here. None are considered compliments and describe my disgust for the people that subvert the simple reasons for a government.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It Was A Beautiful Morning

It was an early Fall. The temperature was in the mid 50's and the skies were crystal clear. I had just finished breakfast and we were driving to the job site in the twilight of dawn. The motel was close to our project site, so the trip was short.

Traffic was light as we placed the advance warning signs and started closing down the inside lane of U.S. 59 in Cleveland, Texas. We had five sections of concrete to pull. We sawed the concrete the day before, drilled lifting holes and now needed to pull the sections of failed pavement and start preparing for the new concrete. The pour was set for 10:00 am.

It didn't take long for the lifting machine to pull the first section of paving. As soon as the broken slab was moved to the shoulder, the crew started drilling holes for the anchors. When the anchors were placed, the crew placed a mat of rebar and moved to the next patch.

The procedure was moving as planned, so all five patches were well on the way to being prepared by 8:00 am. We would be ready for the concrete. I checked the work and started documenting the sizes on a daily report.

Around 30 minutes later, my boss called my cell phone. I assumed he was checking our progress, but he wanted to tell me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers. He didn't have any details. I wondered what failure had led a pilot to fly their small plane into the tower. Bad weather? An error in judgement? I thought about it for a few minutes and then went back to work.

It didn't seem very long after that when my boss called me again, which I thought would be a progress check. It wasn't. He explained that it was a passenger jet that hit the first tower and another had flown into the second tower. He described the preliminary news feeds he was watching on television. I could only stare while my mind raced.

We continued working. My boss kept me informed. It was now clear it was a planned terror attack. He was in contact with the area engineer office for the Texas Department of Transportation. We were working for them and their decisions would decide whether we would pour concrete, which required hours of time to set, or place a temporary material to be removed in the future. The decision was to proceed as we always did, so we prepared for the concrete pour.

Before the concrete arrived, my wife called. She was terrified and wanted me to come home. I told her I couldn't leave until the concrete was poured and we were off the highway. Even then, I couldn't leave if we were to continue with our project. I told her I would come home immediately if the project was shut down, and to go to her mother's if she became too worried.

More information was now available, so I knew there was an immediate call for all air traffic to land. I noticed the absence of air traffic immediately. We were close enough to Bush International in Houston to see the constant flow of air transports, which dwindled and eventually ended.

We poured the concrete and started the process of preparing for the next day. I went to the motel to catch what I could on television. The loops of the impacts, the falling towers and the smoking section of the Pentagon was almost unbelievable. My mind was having a hard time wrapping around the fact we had been attacked and the result was the death of thousands of innocent people.

We finished the day as usual. We were prepared for the next day when we started opening the lane in the early afternoon. I had spent long minutes as we were finishing staring at the empty skies, It was bizarre to not see the heavy air traffic. Contrails from military jets stretched across the skies. I wondered if they were ours, or the jets of an enemy that was in the process of invading.

I had kept in contact with my wife during the day. After I reached the motel, we had a long conversation. She was calmer. I knew she still wanted me to come home, but she understood that it probably wouldn't happen until the week was over. Since I was only about two hours from home, I reassured it wouldn't take long to reach home if anything changed.

Watching television was like watching a fictional disaster movie. I was still having a hard time wrapping my head around the events of the day, but it was becoming clearer that it was a middle eastern terror group. My anger was rising and all I could think of  was how cowardly it was to attack innocents. I wanted our military to bomb half the Middle East to Hell. Kill them all and let God sort them out.

I'll never forget that day. Time stopped and it became apparent that the cruelty in the world is always only moments away. Barbarians had tested our defenses and managed to find a weak spot for their advantage. It wasn't a pleasant thought then and still isn't. I feel no compassion for such people and can only offer their death be swift, although many days I'd prefer they would suffer the agony of those trapped on the upper floors of the World Trade Center Towers.  Even after ten years, I'm still angry. I'm not ready to forgive, or forget.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blow Out

My last year and a half offshore was as the "nightman". I was senior contract roustabout, so I was the only person that worked at night. My duties varied, but they were mostly maintenance, such as straightening up the shop, or repairing some of the safety controls that ended up on the shop table. I, also, had to immediately answer the phone, or radio. If we lost a well, I had to wake the field superintendent, who would make a decision on whether to wake a pumper/gauger or leave it until morning. I helped whoever was sent, which varied, but the only thing they liked was the overtime. They were losing sleep, which they wouldn't be able to make up until they went home.

In the summer, few things caused problems with the gas wells scattered over the square miles of the leases under production. Most problems were minor and easily repaired. Winter was different. The controls would freeze and finding the problem could be tedious. Besides having to troubleshoot, and work, in low light conditions, the north wind was unimpeded. When added to the moisture in the air, it could be miserable.

Late one night, I heard someone calling one of the two workboats that stayed tied to the satellite platforms. This was unusual, since I was the one that usually made those calls. I moved closer to the radio when they called again. The call was from a drilling rig that was drilling a new well about 4 miles from the production platform. The boat skipper didn't answer, so I called the boat. The skipper answered, so I explained he was being called from the rig.

The man on the rig requested immediate assistance for evacuation. I looked from the shop and looked across the Gulf at the rig. It didn't look different, but I could hear a sound that can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. High pressure gas was blowing and it was loud enough to overpower the sounds of the platform. Within seconds, all the lights from the derrick went out. That's when I noticed the zenon strobes in the water surrounding the rig. Somebody was in the water and their strobes had activiated when their life rings hit the water. It was now obvious; they had lost control and the well had blown out.

I listened to the boat skipper talking on the radio. The other skipper had wakened and was getting up to speed on the situation. As I ran up the stairs to waken the field superintendent, I noticed the cloud of gas drifting to the southeast. I wondered how long it would be before it lit.

Time seemed to have stopped. The entire event, from the first call, to awakening the field superintendent had taken about one minute. It was now a waiting game as the boats picked up the people in the water and finished evacuating the rig. Nobody was hurt, although a few ears were ringing. Those that went in the water were chilled, to say the least.

I went about my duties, while the field superintendent made phone calls and kept track of the evacuation. I would stop and look at the rig, which was now completely dark. Somebody had killed the generators so there were no lights except the navigation beacons. The northwest wind caused the sound of blowing gas to become louder, then softer. The boats were now back at the platform with those they had picked up. Eventually, only a few stayed at the platform. I figured they were higher up in the food chain and had responsibilities to stay close. The rest rode in on the crew boat assigned to the drilling rig.

Eventually, the sun started rising. A coast guard cutter patrolled around the rig for awhile, then left. The blowing gas was now very clear and a slick from the condensate liquid drifted to the east. My shift was over, so I went to bed.

I didn't sleep well, so I was up in the afternoon. When I went down to the galley, there was a new stranger talking to the field superintendent. He was wearing a pair of plain, well faded, red coveralls. He looked like any other oil field hand, except for the ring he wore. It had a huge diamond, which indicated he was either foolish with his money, or somebody of importance. He was a representative from Red Adair's company and had just returned from his examination of the drilling rig. His recommendation was to get another rig on site as soon as possible to drill a relief well. There was nothing else to do. There was no equipment that could be placed to control the well. He left within minutes on the helicopter.

Before nightfall, the amount of blowing gas started lessening. Eventually, it stopped and it was decided to make a complete investigation in the morning. It was too dangerous to get close to the rig. One spark would cause a terrible explosion and condemn the rig to scrap.

I watched the rig all night. I had been told to waken the field suprintendent if anything changed. Nothing did, so the next day started with boat trip by the "powers to be" to determine what to do. Their decision was to return to the platform and complete the operation they hadn't finished.

The well had blown out at a point when all drilling was completed, the well was supposedly completely under control and they were in the process of final cementing to fill the voids between the casings. Gas from the production zone was leaking into the casings, which allowed its final escape. While blowing, the gas had disturbed enough of the uncured cement to allow it to collapse, which stopped the escaping gas.

Eventually the well was completed, a platform was placed and special production equipment was installed. All of the equipment was very expensive due to the high pressure of the well. All equipment was required to work with pressures in excess of 10,000 pounds per square inch.

The well turned out to be jinxed to the end. After placed in production, the pressure started dropping. Over a few months, the pressure dropped to the point the well couldn't produce into the main pipeline that operated at 1200 pounds per square inch. It was shut in and never produced again while I was there. Even at full production, it only produced 4 million cubic feet per day, which qualified it as a low producer, even in the best of situations.

I think of all the money spent on the well. Besides the drilling costs, the costs to bring it to production were more costly than usual. I guess that's part of the game the big boys play. It's all a gamble and losses are huge.

I think I'm being probed.

No. Not the kind with aliens. Spam probed. I wouldn't think this, but the blog wizards tell me where visits to my blog originate. Some are commercial sites, so I figure they're trying to post all kinds of crap about cheap shoes, useless appliances and how to increase my girth without any dangerous drugs.

Maybe not. Maybe the people that run the sites have a genuine interest in what I post and follow when they can. After all, even spammers need to take a little time from spamming to read for enjoyment. They'll probably leave a comment and explain that's exactly what they're doing.

I'll wait in anticipation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

For Many, This is Summer

Down here, it was in the upper fifties last night and the high today will be in the mid 80's. Around here, we call that the start of Fall. Considering the high and low temperature is around 20 degrees lower than it was last week, we have no other way of describing the weather; except relief. That's why we really enjoy Spring and Fall. It's the best of summer days in other places and we get it twice a year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing By The Rules

I've played by the rules during my adult life. The rules aren't exaclty written down but they can be summarized as contributing. Contributing can mean many things but it's more of a frame of mind; You take care of yourself, help when you can and do everything you can to not be a burden. There is no arrogance and there is no idea anyone owes more - even if they have more than others.

The rules should apply to government. Besides the written rules, such as the Constitution, there should be a determined effort by all in the government to be stewards of the resources of the citizens and never take them for granted. I'm not finding much of this any longer.

There's an entitlement mind-set in this country that I don't like: Since others have more, they should contribute to those that don't. In fact, those that don't feel they shouldn't have to do anything. "Give me what's mine. It's my right. I deserve to have something, whether I do anything or not". It's selfish and the demands have reached the point  the resentment is palpable.  Not only is there resentment by those who think they're owed something, there's resentment by those who produce daily and have substantial amounts of what they make taken, with the threat of bankruptcy, or even jail, if they disagree.

The main ingredient in this entire mess is the government. For some reason, government employees decided they are more capable of allocating our personal resources than we are. They take these resources and do what they want. Give positions with high salaries to people as favors. Give money for bridges, or tunnels that cost billions, yet those that pay for them will never use them. Take "fact finding trips" or vacations on the public dime, while some poor sucker in the middle of the country works a side job to help pay the car note. The arrogance is insulting and the lack of concern has reached the point where few are willing to allow this to continue. They are horrified that not only have the stewards abused their power, they've indebted generations through their folly. Meanwhile, the entitlement class lives in their new apartments, lie about their circumstance and wait for the bus on election day.

This brings me to the "Tea Party" I've watched the media, politicians and anyone else looking for control try to describe this movement. Who is the leader? Who is in the Tea Party? The derision and insulting patronization is a daily diatribe of useless conjecture. It's as though they don't want to admit they've created a small segment of society that has lost all touch with those that are the backbone of this nation. Their daily travels only expose them to those that are the same: totally unaware that the world doesn't revolve around capitols of states and Washington D.C.

The Tea Party are those that play by the rules, and expect their government - and all that take so much a penny from the government - to do the same. It's that simple and it's a philosophy that has been proven by time. Nothing is free and nobody that is able should be allowed to become a parasite on society. Nobody, even those elected to the highest positions, is royalty, or should act like royalty. In fact, they should be treated as they are: an employee. Misuse your position, and you are removed from the position. No retirement, no benefits and maybe some time in jail. Public servants should be held to a higher standard; they derive their resources from the private efforts of the individual, who's rights are never to be abused.

In case any politician, or bureaucrat still doesn't understand, I'll make it even simpler: you have betrayed the trust of the citizens of this country. Whether guilty by act, or association, you are grouped with those that most people in this country have decided are as unethical as the worst of snake oil salesmen. The lies, thievery, arrogance, and waste are your legacy and it's time you make ammends - or leave.  There are no political parties, only politicians and bureaucrats who can't be trusted.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Making A Lift

"Making a lift" is a term used to describe using a crane to lift and set an object. The object can be anything and the size determines the size of the crane.

A few years ago, we had a job removing a large conveyor in an industrial facility. The conveyor had been out of use for a few decades and the facility had budgeted the money for demolition.

I had spent the better part of a day measuring the critter. I had taken measurements of the structural members and using the information to determine the weight. Since the conveyor was so old, nobody had any idea of the weight of some of the components. I used wags to determine some of the weights and added a few percent to cover my butt.

Demolition is an entirely different aspect of what I do. In a way, it's a little sad to destroy something I know someone had been proud of building. I know how I feel after finishing a project. Then again, I've been doing this long enough to see things I've built reach the point a little destruction is necessary.

Television likes to show huge building being dropped with shaped charges. The event is filmed, rerun in slow motion and a 30 minute show is played dramatizing the explosion. The tough, nasty, boring part of the process is never shown.  Days are spent tediously removing things of value, such as copper, and there are many things that don't require dynamite to dismantle. These things aren't glamorous, but they are part of the process.

Initially, everyone involved with removing the conveyor had determined a large crane was required. My boss, and I, examined everything and decided there was another way. We could remove the conveyor in pieces with a 50 ton hydraulic rig. We were given a purchase order number, so we started the process.

We spent most of the week removing the upper end of the conveyor. It had easy access and was isolated from any live components of the facility. It wasn't an open area, so we still had to use oxygen/acetylene torches to whittle away at components. There were a few larger sections, but they were easy to rig and let to the ground.

At the end of the week, there was a large section remaining that required one lift. It spanned two support columns, so there was only so much that could be removed without sacrificing the integrity of the truss construction. We had removed cover, belts, piping and electrical conduits. What remained was tough to reach, was at the limit of our crane capacity, and would require careful coordination to make a safe lift.

On the morning we removed the section, welders started the day welding some "pad eyes", which are steel clips with holes for shackles. While they were doing this, I moved the crane into the small area that was the only place I could reach the conveyor. I had spent the day before measuring distances and heights. It wasn't the best of areas for access, but I knew the crane would fit, but we'd have to spend some time preparing it for the lift. I would be swinging the load over two buildings, process equipment, piping and electrical trays.

I drove the crane up the narrow area to where it would sit. After extending the outriggers, the crew started placing cribbing (hardwood blocks) to compensate for the uneven concrete and to displace the weight. The wasn't any room for uh-ohs, so we took our time to make sure it was right. After I leveled the crane, I ran the boom out to the position it would be for the lift. I checked the computer; I would have around 2000 pounds of wiggle for the lift - if my calculations were correct. Since I had put a 10 percent safety factor on the weight, I felt comfortable.

I spent a few minutes going over everything in my head. I remembered running the calculations and still felt comfortable, since what we had already removed pretty well verified what I determined. Still, I had a nagging feeling. Mr. Murphy is the ruler of demolition. Mistakes are always dealt with unmercifully.

There's another thing about demolition. It's not like lifting something from the ground and then placing it somewhere higher. When you start from the ground, you probably already know the weight and if it's not correct, the crane computer will immediately shut down the controls if the capacities are exceeded. That's great on the ground. In the air, with something that has all of the supports cut away, losing the controls is a butt clincher at best and a disaster at worst.

 I lifted the lifting slings, with shackles, so they could attach the section to the block. We had determined the proper length after using a level to determine the angle of the conveyor and adjusting the lengths to compensate for the unequal distances. They screwed the shackles to the pad eyes and I started winching the main block to take up the slack. A burner, and helper, moved an 80 foot manlift to the upper end so they could cut the upper section away from the supports.

The burner that would signal the lift gave me the signal to start placing a bind on the cables. He stopped me, gave me a signal to adjust the boom, and then continued his signal to tighten the winch line. I watched the scale on the display panel. When we hit about half the determined weight, the burner was satisfied with the tension and signaled for me to stop. He, and the burner at the upper end, started cutting away the supports for the conveyor.

I watched as the molten steel, and slag, showered to to the ground. A helper watched for fires. We had covered the top of a motor control building with fire blankets to keep the roof safe. It would be unfortunate to cause a fire in a building that had a few dozen 480 volt motor controls. Such a disaster would shut down the facility and end our stay forever.

After a few minutes, the burner on the upper end eased his manlift away. The burner on the lower end soon signaled to slowly start winching the block. I slowly pulled the control. Movement by sight was imperceptible, but I knew the line was winching due to the "tell-tale" on the lever, which clicked every few seconds. I watched the scale. It crept higher and higher. At around 4000 lbs from the maximum weight I could handle, the burner signaled for me to stop. For a second I thought he might have needed to cut some more, but he leaned into the conveyor and started to push it sideways. It was free. It was now mine.

He signaled me to start lifting. I slowly lifted the conveyor as he threw the tag ropes to the ground. The burner on the upper end did the same. The crew on the ground caught the lines and started swinging the section to clear the supports.

After I was high enough with the load, the burner signaled me to start swinging. I started the slow swing to my left. As I was swinging the load, the crew slowly walked with the load to keep it under control. When I knew the conveyor was clear, I started slowly lowering the load. I had to clear the equipment and the last building.

I finally cleared the last building and now had the load behind the crane. I lowered it to the ground. As the cables started getting slack, a burner was on top removing the shackles. Before I could lift the cables completely clear, the crew was starting to whittle away the steel to sizes that would fit into the metal dumpsters. The worst was over.

I lifted the cables and started swinging back towards what remained of the conveyor. We had more to do and it was almost time for lunch. I glanced at the large empty hole that used to be a conveyor. After seeing it for so many years, it was a strange sight to see it gone.

Today

Today started with a quick check of the tube to see about Lee, the current famous tropical media darling. There wasn't much to report from my side, which is west of the center. From the radar loops, it looked as Lee was almost onshore, which usually means rapid acceleration to the north and an end to the disturbance. Not this time.

Outside, it was in the mid 70's, which can only be described as pleasant. It's been in the lower 80's with high humidities. Since Lee was bringing drier air from the drought stricken areas, the influx of rain cooled dry air around the system made it almost seem like Fall.

There were heavy clouds to the east, but overhead there were only a few fast moving, wispy cumulus that had were producing an occasional mist. The wind was brisk, with gusts to around 25 mph. Mostly, the sky was clear and a deep blue.

I had some errands to run, so I looked at the weather as I drove. The clouds to the east were becoming increasingly darker. The occasional cumulus were becoming more numerous and producing rain shafts that barely reached the ground. Most of the rain was evaporating due to the dry air. 

After an hour, the cloud deck had moved in. There was a constant drizzle that changed from heavy to just a few small drops; almost as if there was no rain at all. The winds were increasing, although they were far from anything that could be considered threatening. Weather reports had the sustained winds of Lee at 60 mph, but that was probably in a narrow area on the northeast edge of the eye. Since I was over 100 miles from the eye, the winds couldn't even be described as tropical storm force.

I looked at the radar at noon. Lee hadn't moved much, if at all. The rain bands were increasing on the west side, so now the precipitation varied between drizzle and rain. The clouds had now lowered to thick, low stratus racing overhead.

Now, it's a little after 8:00 pm and nothing has changed in the last 5 hours, except Lee has moved a few miles northwest and the rain band are now stretching into a large section of Southeast, Texas, including the Houston Metroplex.

Lee is forecast to move little over the next 24 hours, so the weather will not change - which is good. The only way it could be better is if Lee scoots off to the west and gives the rest of Texas some rain. It's needed and it's time for some relief from the drought.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Computers

I've used computers since the mid '80's. At that time, things were simpler, although there were few bells and whistles, which is why I'm posting.

I'm tired of operatings systems that have to be tweaked, protected, changed, refined and constantly require my attention or they dump the memory and give the blue screen of death. Update my drivers? Why? It's obvious the last drivers are the cause of the wreck. Why should I trust you to choose the replacements?

Also, I'm tired of printers that won't work unless you install software that constantly causes problems with the operating system. I don't need to collate, flip, embelish, add text, check for updates, take polls, give my opinion or find spam in my email that tells me I'm part of the team and should be proud of owning such a fine product. Yes, you can check my computer to see what kind of printer I have. Maybe one day you'll be a little more helpful than telling me what I can see is written on the side of my printer.

I guess I'm behind the times. I should be salivating over the opportunity of a new computer, with more bells and whistles, more memory, a larger harddrive and  83 USB ports. Unforunately, I'm not interested. Leave me alone and quit screwing with my system.

 

Watching the Gulf

Late summer around here usually brings some changes in the weather. From the meteorological standpoint, the lessening of daylight, accumulation of heat and changes in the atmosphere bring a new pattern. If an upper level high pressure ridge is in place, it starts to move, or weakens. With lack of steering currents, this can be the right ingredients for a tropical system.

Today, we have a massive system of radars, sounding instruments, satellites and aircraft to constantly observe the weather. Supercomputers can analyze past data, compare it to present data, and forecast changes in the weather. The data can be used to prepare for weather changes, or warn of the possible track of a hurricane. The past was much different.

Judging from what I've experienced and recollections of old timers, it's possible many people in the past were never exposed to a major hurricane. Otherwise, there was no memory to use for guidance. The changes in the weather wouldn't be noticed, because they were inconsequential in the mind of the observer without experience. I'm sure many died because they didn't recognize the warning signs. They casually went about their lives until it was too late. What should have alerted and instigated preperation was missed due to ignorance.

So what are the warning signs? I can explain by describing the weather I experienced over the last week and today.

Earlier in the week, the atmosphere was clear. There was no haze, few clouds and it was blistering hot. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees in the shade. The morning breeze was comparatively cool and was the typical migration of colder air to the warmer air in the Gulf. With an upper level ridge in place, the usual nocturnal thunderstorms, or sea breeze front were absent.

Yesterday, and this morning, there was a ground fog and a light wind from the east. It was clear yesterday afternoon and there was a fairly strong breeze from the southeast. Today, it was just as windy, but there was a heavy haze. This is the point where I really start noticing what the weather is doing.

The next noticable change will be in the clarity of the atmosphere. The only way the haze will leave is if high pressure allows a wind to push it away, or if the atmosphere starts lifting. If it's high pressure, the winds will lighten and the return of a southerly afternoon breeze will occur. If it's the lifting of the atmosphere, that means low pressure is forming, or approaching. Low pressure means some kind of tropical critter, whether a low pressure wave or a major hurricane.

The haze is still here, but I'm expecting it to lift and something to come from the Gulf. If it's a low pressure wave, there will be towering cumulus clouds, with imbeded thunderstorms in the next few days. It will start raining and, depending on how fast it moves, it could rain for days.

If it's something more, there will be a strengthening of the wind from the east, low scud clouds will appear in the clearing atmosphere and, eventually, a storm will arrive. Whether it hits directly, or lands somewhere else will only be known when it happens. It can be roughly gauged by the direction of the wind. A shift to the north means it's to the east. If the shift is to the south, the storm is moving to the west. A continuing east wind, with an increase in velocity, signifies a direct hit.

Until then, I'm watching the Gulf. So far the wind is staying from the east and it's still hazy. The weather wizards are forecasting something forming in the Gulf. I hope we don't get a hurricane.


Update 3:58 pm - winds are shifting to the northeast. This would put the center of a circulation to the southeast.