Friday, June 04, 2010

Drilling The Relief Wells

Likely to be an arduous, difficult, time-consuming activity.

Haley Barbour: The King Of Denial

Good science fiction and adventure thrillers often feature a stuffy, complacent VIP who is so invested in the current power structure that he can't see the blindingly obvious danger posed by a new, alien phenomenon. The town mayor in "Jaws" is a fine example of this sort of person.

The BP Gulf oil spill thriller has one of these folks too: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. He can't seem to comprehend that his state has been betrayed by his oil industry benefactors: it's simply inconceivable. He equates calls to halt offshore drilling with liberal treachery (rather than simple prudence) even as an oil spill as large as Mississippi cuddles up menacingly right next to Mississippi.

Amazing! What a work of art this Haley Barbour is! He's the kind of guy Hollywood only ever dreamed of!:
Barbour originally claimed several times that the spill "isn't anything like Exxon Valdez." (He was right, it's much worse.) He has appeared on television and gone out of his way to praise both BP and the government's efforts: "BP has never said no to any request," he told CNN, while "the federal government, whether it's the Coast Guard or whomever, has worked hard with us." And he has compared washed up oil to "caramel-colored mousse" and "toothpaste."

Barbour has repeatedly blasted the media for hurting his state's tourism with reports that make the spill sound "like this is Armageddon." He told a local newspaper that cancellations at hotels and other attractions were "are at a record pace, and the reason is they think we are inundated with oil or that it's imminent."

The Governor has also been critical of calls to halt offshore drilling in the Gulf. "A bunch of liberal elite were hoping this would be the Three Mile Island of offshore drilling," he told a business group.

On Tuesday, when oil actually washed ashore on an island off the coast of his state, Barbour initially sounded a different note. "This could turn out to be something catastrophic and terrible," Barbour said, before adding, "but that has just not been the case so far." He called the incident, which occurred 43 days after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, a "wake-up call." (And he did eventually ask the government for more boats to be stationed off the coast.) Still, the Governor who insisted his state was prepared for spill damage thanked "God's grace" that Petit Bois Island did not suffer more harm. "I don't think the island was hurt one iota," he said. "[Tar balls] are all on the beach, and they should be easy to clean up with rakes and shovels." So all's well.

Meanwhile, three of Barbour's fellow Gulf Coast governors have been front and center with criticisms and demands in response to the catastrophe. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has slammed both the government and BP for failing to act fast enough in response to the spill. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) has asked BP for millions of dollars to fund a tourism ad campaign. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) has admitted that the spill has forced him to reconsider his support for offshore drilling. And when those three fellow Gulf Coast governors traveled to Louisiana last Friday to be with President Barack Obama while he surveyed the effects of the spill, where was Barbour? He preferred staying home.

Bleak Roadway Vista

Last night, about 6:40 p.m., I sailed through the intersection of 19th & W Streets about one minute after a three-car collision there had tossed cars to three of the four corners of the intersection. Folks were just starting to clamber out of their broken cars, cell phones in hand.

I sailed back through the intersection from the other direction about 35 minutes later, at 7:15 p.m. This time, I had my camera in hand. One car still hadn't been towed away.

Looks pretty bleak out there....

Bobby Jindal, Slave

And I thought I was a petroleum addict!

This is just sad. I thought that, despite his annoying habit of blaming Obama for everything and accepting no blame for himself, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal might still come out the disaster in reasonably good shape, because he was supposedly hard at work down in the marshes.

Nevertheless, just like any other addict, it looks like Bobby Jindal didn't learn a damned thing. What does it take to make these politicos hit bottom? How many other calamities do their constituents have have to suffer before they even get the merest clue?

Prudent Southern conservatives are not so invested in their pro-business, anti-government ideology that they can't see the dangers of continuing on the same path, or are unable to think matters anew in the face of danger. For example:
Ben Brooks, a lawyer and Republican state senator from coastal Alabama, says he's no fan of big government but he expects an aggressive federal response to the oil spill. "There's nothing inherently contradictory in saying we believe in smaller government and demanding that the government protect public safety," Brooks said. He's not alone. All along the Gulf Coast, where the tea party thrives and "socialism" is a common description for any government program, conservatives who usually denounce federal activism suddenly are clamoring for it.
Nevertheless, national conservative leaders would rather sacrifice the coastal South - the real coastal South, where people live and work - rather than pause for thought. Listening to a representative of the Heritage Foundation on the "Jason Lewis Show" last night on Talk Radio 650 KSTE, I was flabbergasted to hear the representative emphatically rule out more regulations on the oil industry, or stronger regulations, as a response to this crisis. That must not be considered. So there you have it! We aren't even supposed to think about these things! AT ALL! These are FORBIDDEN thoughts! FORBIDDEN!

These effing addicts rule the world!:
A stunning new letter by the oil-addicted governor of Louisiana gives the lie to right-wing claims that environmentalists are to blame for the BP oil disaster.

On Wednesday, Bobby Jindal, who blames everybody but himself for the environmental disaster hitting his state, wrote to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pleading with them to end the deep water drilling moratorium immediately.

He expresses "grave concerns" for the "economic impact of a six-month (or longer) suspension of activity" at 33 Gulf rigs -- "including and in particular the 22 deepwater drilling rigs currently in operation off the Louisiana coast." Jindal warns that the "announced moratorium of deepwater drilling activity creates a significant risk that many of these drilling platforms would be relocated to other countries -- along with the hundreds of high-paying jobs that they each create."

Jindal seems oblivious to the "significant risk" and potentially devastating economic impact posed by the drilling itself -- risk that will be present until we figure out all of the causes of the spill and how to make sure it never happens again.

Amazingly, Jindal writes:
I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling. However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely....
Jindal omnisciently -- and mistakenly -- asserts here that current federal regulations are sufficient to avoid another blowout disaster. He has no way of knowing if this is true, whereas we have every reason to believe it is false.

Under the Cheney-Bush administration, efforts to strengthen regulation were blocked and the industry demanded and achieved essentially voluntary, "trust us" self-regulation and self-certification. For instance, when the Minerals Management Service considered requiring an acoustic backup system to shut off the blowout preventer in the event of a disaster, as Brazil and Norway require, lobbying by BP and other oil companies persuaded them not to.

The Wall Street Journal reported that "the safety record of U.S. offshore drilling compares unfavorably, in terms of deaths and serious accidents, to other major oil-producing countries. Over the past five years, an offshore oil worker in the U.S. was more than four times as likely to be killed than a worker in European waters, and 23% more likely to sustain an injury." A 2007 MMS study of 39 blowouts from 1992 to 2006 found, "Nearly all the blowouts examined occurred in the Gulf of Mexico." Big Oil clearly can't be trusted to regulate itself.

That's why some are calling this disaster "Cheney's Katrina." And that's why Obama set up a commission to figure out exactly why this disaster occurred. Until we know all the causes, we can't be sure we are taking every possible step to make sure it doesn't happen again. And that's why the president put in place the moratorium for six months, to wait until the findings from the commission are in. That's also why the president on Tuesday called the disaster a wakeup call that should lead us to once and for all end our addiction to oil.

Where The Oil Is Likely To Go

Basically, everywhere!

What Are The Odds This Year?

I read somewhere the odds are about 50%, but I can't remember a year when the northern Gulf of Mexico didn't have at least one tropical storm.
This image, courtesy of NOAA, maps all tropical storms and hurricanes of the past 100 years that passed near the site of the spill, signified by the red star in the center.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lennox Head Tornado, Plus Waterspouts

A furious weather day at Lennox Head, near Byron Bay (Australia's easternmost extremity). Amazing videos!

I'm quite impressed how small, and how potent, the cyclones are that develop along the eastern shore of Australia. On some days (like maybe June 3rd), the vorticity helps contribute to phenomena like waterspouts. The area is just east of the Great Dividing Range and the New England Plateaus, and thus subject to lee cyclogenesis due to the conservation of potential vorticity:
Since f is approximately constant, the flow must assume negative vorticity or anticyclonic turning, i.e. counterclockwise turning in the southern hemisphere. By the same token, on the lee side, the expansion of the isentropic layer demands positive vorticity or clockwise turning. A ridge over mountains and a trough in its lee are often observed. Below the upstream side of the trough a low may form and intensify at the surface (Note 12.L). This process is called lee cyclogenesis and explains why midlatitude cyclones form in the lee of mountain ranges, e.g. to the east of New Zealand and southern South America (Fig 6). These lows or troughs are responsible for most of the rainfall along the coast.


I much enjoyed the recent "Abiquiu" episode on "Breaking Bad", which seemingly drew a parallel between artist Georgia O'Keefe becoming obsessed with representing a door in her Abiquiu home after husband Alfred Stieglitz 'left' (presumably after passing away from a stroke in NYC in 1946) with drug dealer Jesse becoming obsessed with (what exactly? saving Tomas perhaps? to be revealed!) after Jane 'left'.

For a television show, that is an unusually-sophisticated kind of analogy to make! And it's all NEW MEXICO too, which just makes it all the sweeter! What a great TV series!

June 2nd would have been my father's 85th birthday had he not 'left' as well last year. And what have I become obsessed with as a result, exactly? Sudoku? Blogging? Musicals? Scrub Jays? Fairbanks, AK, weather? The Gulf oil spill?

Still not obsessed yet! Too scatterbrained!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Next Time, Don't Read Your Own Press

Bizarre lessons from the Gulf:
BP CEO Tony Hayward apologized Wednesday for saying recently that he wants his "life back."

Discussing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill over the weekend, the embattled oil executive said, "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."

Hayward came under fire for making the comment at a time when BP is trying without success to contain the oil that's gushing from the company's blown-out well.

“I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment on Sunday when I said that 'I wanted my life back,'" he said in a statement. "When I read that recently, I was appalled. I apologize, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident."

Anxious Musical Theatre Dream

I awoke screaming this morning from one those dreams that seemed to combine several anxiety-producing elements in my life into one big, anxious bundle.

First, I caught a glimpse of [local musical theater producer], smiling, arms open wide in anticipation of giving me a great big bear hug. Just then, one of [said musical theater's] lead ingenue actresses ran past. I wasn't sure who she was, because she ran past too fast. Nevertheless, for reasons uncertain, I quickly gave chase, but she was faster. She clambered up the outside ladders on the side of a three-story building that looked like a La Quinta Inn. I clambered up too.

Nevertheless the rooftop was not flat - it had a log-function curve shape, something like the floor in my living room (where one wall is slowly sinking). There was a small girl and a man on a big tricycle on the rooftop (similar to the tricyclist in a recent show staged at a local community college). To my horror, both promptly rolled/fell off the building.

Suddenly, I slipped on the rooftop too. Flying off, I caught myself on a ladder, but couldn't quite get my grip, and....

Tar Baby

Sarah Palin has had an interesting run in politics so far, but she is committing a fatal misstep here. She doesn't have sufficient humility or grace to admit error and to survive this disaster to elite opinion. Her influence will decline when the Horrors Of The Gulf are finally understood:
Last night, former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin believed she'd found a way to both absolve her oil-happy politics and blame environmentalists for the spill at the same time, and took to Twitter to rub it in.
"Extreme Greenies:see now why we push"drill,baby,drill"of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?"

Embarrassed To Admit I Largely Agree With Thomas Friedman Today

Thomas Friedman writes as if for children - confused, inattentive children. Nevertheless, today I applaud his mushy-centrist desire to help:
Turkey has a unique role to play linking the East and West. If Turkey lurches too far East, it may become more popular on some Arab streets, but it would lose a lot of its strategic relevance and, more importantly, its historic role as a country that can be Muslim, modern, democratic — and with good relations with both Israel and the Arabs. Once this crisis passes, it needs to get back in balance.

Ditto Israel. There is no question that this flotilla was a setup. Israel’s intelligence failed to fully appreciate who was on board, and Israel’s leaders certainly failed to think more creatively about how to avoid the very violent confrontation that the blockade-busters wanted.
After reading Matt Taibbi's many useful and hilarious analyses of Thomas Friedman's writings, I learned it's important to have a dictionary at hand when reading Friedman, and today is no different. Friedman seems to be using the word 'strategic' in this sense:
Important or essential in relation to a plan of action
Apparently Friedman's 'plan of action' for Turkey is that it be 'Muslim, modern, democratic'. Nevertheless, heavy thinkers have valued Turkey most for its geographic importance, astride the Bosporus, not for Friedman's 'plans', or anyone's 'plans' that don't involve large armies and navies. So, whether Turkey lurches East, West, North, or South, it will remain strategically important. History in the area has proven much too mercuric for any mortal's 'plans'.

Nevertheless, I agree this flotilla idea was guaranteed to provoke Israel. That's why it was done. Whether all the participants understood that violence was part of the plan all along is unclear. Whether even all the planners understood that violence was part of the plan all along is unclear. These matters have yet to be clarified. But some planners did understand what was going to happen, and their handiwork is now on display for everyone to appreciate.

Yelling At The Twerpy Guy On Folsom Blvd.

(After giving E. a jump start, she tried to head home, but unfamiliar with Folsom Blvd., she headed east: the wrong way. I pulled beside her and persuaded her to make a U-turn at the next light. I would lead the way, in the left hand lane. Unfortunately, she was slow pulling behind me, and another car interceded. The driver of that car wouldn't allow E. to pull in directly behind me. He drew up close to my back bumper and gestured for me to move faster. I stopped short of the next, red traffic light, got out of my car, and tried to communicate with him.)

Me: (pointing at E.'s car) Sir, would you allow this car to pull behind me? We are trying to form a caravan!

Twerp: (rolling down his window with controlled contempt) Is that the reason you cut me off? This is stupid!

Me: ("Cut me off?" Like, how? In some kind of Walter-Mitty, road-rage fantasy of yours?) No, sir, it is not!

(The light proceeded to turn green, and after much passive-aggressive maneuvering, said caravan was finally assembled. After installation of a new battery, further car drama was forestalled until, oh, like maybe next week.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It Never Seems To End....


Elites Gummed Up By Oil Spill

Here is a handy-dandy interactive chart here showing the relationships between Congress and BP and its publicists....

Then there was this news today:
As if the water wasn't deep -- or oily -- enough around British Petroleum's public relations, the company has hired a former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney to be its public face for the disaster.

Anne Womack Kolton, former head of public affairs at the Department of Energy and Cheney's onetime campaign press secretary, will take the baton from BP this week.
Hmmm. She's not even on this chart! I hope they update this chart and add her on soon. Get every single dad-gummed elite person and institution in the U.S. onto this chart!

Interesting Blogpost Regarding 1993 Saudi Oil Spill

I have no way to vouch for this, except to point it out:
"No one's listening," says Nick Pozzi, who was an engineer with Saudi Aramco in the Middle East when he says an accident there in 1993 generated a spill far larger than anything the United States has ever seen.

An engineer who witnessed a crude spill in the Persian Gulf in 1993 says BP should use a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water's surface.

According to Pozzi, that mishap, kept under wraps for close to two decades and first reported by Esquire, dumped nearly 800 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, which would make it more than 70 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

But remarkably, by employing a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water's surface, Pozzi's team was not only able to clean up the spill, but also salvage 85 percent of the oil, he says.

Endless Litigation Project Of 2010, 2011, 2012, Etc., Just Getting Started

Last week was kind of slow here at work. What would this week bring?

The very first hint or suggestion that we might get involved in some aspects of the litigation surrounding the BP oil spill. It's just a hint, though: no promises.

Sometimes we are like the lion chasing a gazelle, and never quite catching it. The BP oil spill is like a very fat, slow-moving water buffalo on the Serengeti Plains of Litigation, however, and will keep many people fat, happy, and employed (sorry, not you shrimpers) for many, many years to come!

Like dogs that occasionally catch cars, ambulance chasers sometimes get lucky....

"Crazy For You" Monday Evening Rehearsal At DMTC

Everyone looking a little "bookish" at this point.....

Memorial Day With The Isaacsons

Sunday Afternoon, Watched "Let's Go!" Again

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Methane Clathrate Hydrate Stability Curve

Just trying to puzzle out that out-of-control Gulf of Mexico oil well here. This diagram is helpful:
Methane Hydrate Stability Curve. In this example, the zone in which gas hydrate can exist is between 1200 and 1500 meters. (Actually, methane hydrates can exist anywhere from about 300 to 200 meters, depending on temperature conditions and sediment depth.) To explain the various lines: The "phase boundary" line (a pressure/temperature line) divides the methane as hydrate (that is methane ice) to the left of the line from methane that has dissociated from hydrate on the right. The "hydrothermal gradient" dotted line indicates the water temperature. The "Water/ Sediment" line marks the seafloor. The "geothermal gradient" dotted line indicates the temperature of the sediments, which increases with depth. At some depth (marked by the line "Base of gas hydrate"), the sediments become too warm for hydrate to exist. Below this depth, free ethane can exist, but not methane in ice. Methane hydrate, therefore, can only exist in the speckled area. (Kvenvolden, 1993)

Apparently there is a rapid temperature drop as the oil/methane mixture rises to the sea bottom. Accompanied with the abrupt decompression and extra adiabatic cooling that might occur as the mixture is released into the ocean, that helps explain why so much methane clathrate hydrate slush gets formed. It's like instant snow down there!

The diagram also helps explain why the oil companies don't see this slush in shallower water (the temperature is too high and pressure is too low).

BP's response to this blowout always seems ad-hoc: they always seem to be confronted with new phenomena that they should have expected all along, had they actually understood their textbooks (but likely didn't).

The first two containment domes they tried apparently can't function if they are filled with slush. The questions I have then are: Given the likelihood of slush, why did they try the containment domes and waste valuable time? Why didn't they expect slush? Are they really that dense?

BP is learning a series of horrifically expensive lessons here!

For the rest of us, we need to start protesting the most effective way we can. It's time to start boycotting AM/PM....

"Let's Go!" - Pepper Von Productions

Saturday afternoon, it was time to catch Pepper Von's "Lets Go!" at Calvary Christian Center in Del Paso.

This is the third year of the show, and a few friends have moved on (e.g. Corey Betts; Hannah Collins) from the show, but new, talented people have taken their places (e.g., Dannyelle Finch; Leo Valentine; Nicholas Gioiosa, and the talented Ali Llacer). And many die-hard folks remain with the show, eager to display their talents (Tyler Drewitz, Crystal Barrett, Carla Fleming, Helen Ventura, Elise Reese, Johnny Collins, and, of course, the amazing Keith Turk!)

I was most impressed how well the female dance ensemble performed together, as a cohesive unit, particularly during the Hip Hop Medley in Act I. The female ensemble includes veterans like Shanta Robinson, Summer Turk, and Ana Maria Shexnayder, but also relative newcomers like Emily Tsunekawa, Talissa James, and last year's novice standout, Michelle Makela. These newcomer girls are indeed fortunate for their tutelage under Robinson, Turk, and Shexnayder. I mean, these are AMAZING dancers!

"Let's Go!" has lasted long enough now as a franchise that new standout dancers and singers are being raised and fostered within its protective embrace. This year's novice standout, if I had to identify one, is 18-year-old Rashad Best.

Left: "Let's Go!" Director Pepper Von.

"Swing!" - Civic Theatre West

Friday night, I headed up to Roseville to see "Swing!"

Superficially similar to "Smokey Joe's Cafe" (except for a decade earlier) "Swing!" features the swing music of the 40's, with much energetic dancing.

In contrast to "Smokey Joe's Cafe", in "Swing!", the orchestra was in full view, in the manner of the Big Bands of the 1940's. As Kay Hight said, "the orchestra was amazing!" Of course, I particularly enjoyed watching Andy Sullivan on drums!

Lorraine d'Arco had several excellent solos, particularly "Blues In The Night" in the second act. Monica Wright also sang well, particularly "Skylark" in Act 1.

Good dancing males were on stage, particularly Jerald Bolden (who previously played 'Ritchie' in "A Chorus Line"), and especially Hakeem Thomas. Hakeem has a very fluid, emphatic way of dancing that is very nice to watch!

The women dancers were well-matched to their partners and were fine to watch as well (particularly Kate Howe).

There was an audience participation segment at the end of Act I. I danced with Jessica Benz. I was tempted to get extravagant. Nevertheless, as a warning, I remember a ballroom dancing friend once complained about dancing with a stranger who got excited and suddenly tossed her into the air without warning (landing wasn't pretty). Before I could toss Jessica into the air without warning, however, the audience participation segment ended.

Jabriel Shelton was the featured male singer in a number of songs (Steve Campbell was the other featured male singer).

It's been at least a year since I've seen Jabriel perform, and he seems more mature than I remember. My first thought was 'it's about time', but then my second thought was 'if Jabriel's more mature, what does that make me?' Perish the thought!

Virtual Maps

Legal silliness from Louisiana:
By an vote of 89-0, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 151 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, sending the measure back to the Senate for approval of clarifying amendments made by a House committee.

Adley's bill defines a "virtual street-level map" as one that is available on the Internet and can generate the location or picture of a home or building by entering the address of the structure or an individual's name on a website.

Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, who handled Adley's bill on the House floor, said that if the map is used in an act of terrorism, the legislation requires a judge to impose an additional minimum sentence of at least 10 years onto the terrorist act.