Category Archives: Whatever

Unconventional Wisdom

“Think outside the box,” they said. “Question Authority,” they said.  So, here I am, thinking outside the box, challenging the “authorities.”  Sticking my neck out, putting my reputation on the line.  All for the sake of making progress.  Well…I hope it’s progress.

Last week I submitted a proposal that challenges a world of conventional wisdom in the field of industrial safety and personal protection.  It was a bit unnerving to put the proposal in writing and send it to the people who can gather up the money to test the theory.  Not just because it’s a new idea, but because it is an in-your-face challenge to a LOT of history and heavy hitters in the world of personal protection.

And since I’m out of the box already, I started a bit of research on something a bit less important, but with conventional wisdom that is at least as well established.

Last week, I was the blessed recipient of a brand-spanking new combination gas/charcoal grill and smoker.  And since I’ve never owned a bona-fide, wood-fired smoker (I did have a little electric one that served us well), I had to give it a go last weekend.  And I did all the things you are supposed to do when smoking meat – marinated some of the meat in a salt/sugar brine, and cooked it low and slow (which is a good plan) with thoroughly seasoned and soaked hardwood chunks to create some nice smoke.  The result was fantastic.  Something I plan to repeat as often as I can.

But….next time, I might try something new, too.

IMG_1353[1]

Orange Wood Chunks

Before I got busy smoking meat, I had to do a little yard work which included “trimming” my Satsuma orange tree.  There was this one big branch hanging way too low (dragging the ground), so we cut it back to the stump. Doing that yielded quite a few thick limbs that made the perfect size chunks of wood for the smoker.  And while searching  the interwebs for confirmation that using orange wood in the smoker was okay, I found a few other bits of information that fly in the face of all the conventional wisdom I had learned about smoking meat.  (By the way, it is okay to use orange wood in the smoker.  As it happens, you can even buy it commercially.  Lucky me – all I had to give was half-a-day’s worth of sweat, blisters, and sore muscles.)

The good people at Epicurious say that marinating your meat is wasting your time (and maybe even ruining your meat).  Get the details here.  In summary, the marinade does not penetrate deeper than the outer layer, it does not tenderize your meat, and it does not make your meat juicier (it might even lead to steaming instead of searing and make your meat soggy).  Quality meat, ample fat, and proper cooking will make your meat juicy and wonderful (which is pretty much what happened with my ribs and Boston butt last weekend – even the pork shoulder I brined wasn’t really juicier than the Boston butt).  I like a nice dry rub on ribs anyway, so I think I’ll just skip the marinating business from now on.

But now for the real myth busting.  Meathead Goldwyn over at AmazingRibs.com says to stop soaking your wood.  Like the marinade, he says the water only penetrates the outer layer and dries out nearly as soon as you put it on the fire anyway.  His testing showed wood chips only absorbed 4% water.  And you need dry wood to get blue smoke (a thing I never heard of, but apparently is what you really want when smoking meat).  If this is true, I no longer have to guess at how much wood to soak to be sure I have enough.  I can just get a chunk or two from the bucket and toss them in as needed.

Meathead also says that pink smoke ring isn’t actually created by smoke penetrating the meat, but by a chemical reaction.  And you can’t make it go deeper into the meat by smoking it longer – but you can get more flavor and more tenderness by cooking longer.  So stop worrying about whether your “smoke ring” is think enough – you can’t change that anyway.  (That pink ring is the result of the reaction between myoglobin, and nitric oxide and carbon monoxide – he’s got a lot of science there to support this theory.  Just go with it.)

It is also conventional (or at least common) wisdom that you should remove the bark from your smoking wood.  But the bark on my orange tree is so thin and tightly bound that I think it would not be worth the trouble.  But then I read numerous discussions, like this one, that suggest there are some widely varying opinions on this issue.  I think I’ll leave the bark on and see what happens.

After submitting my proposal on personal protection, it turns out that numerous people have come out of the shadows saying “yeah, I’ve been thinking that, too.”  Maybe they didn’t see a need to challenge the accepted wisdom, or didn’t have the energy to dig into the details, or maybe they just didn’t want to rock the boat.  Who knows?  But give it a try.  Think outside the box, turn the world upside-down, and challenge the conventional wisdom.  You could be surprised what might happen.


Esta Tierra

Yeah, I know.  It is wildly unpopular to speak of immigration in a favorable tone.  I should clarify that I think immigration is a grand idea, and that I really wish we could find a way to make the legal process a lot easier for those people who are seeking a better opportunity.

On the heels of our independence celeberation, I find this version of Woody Guthrie’s classic song a grand reminder that we are all here because of immigrants who were seeking the hope and promise  of a great opportunity. And I’m reminded that there is no other country where people are climbing fences, swimming rivers, braving starvation and death in a desert, or building a raft to cross an ocean just for a small taste of that opportunity.

How bad do you want it?

La tierra es para ti y para mí.

Via con Dios mis hermanos.


Brutus, Bullwinkle and Mars

A couple of months ago I spent a day travelling around the Gulf of Mexico visiting one small oil production platform (Boxer, or Green Canyon 19) and a compressor station (Ship Shoal 28). This week I spent a few days helping with an audit on a larger production platform and drilling rig (Auger, or Garden Banks 426). The Green Canyon, Ship Shoal, and Garden Banks names define certain geologic formations or oil fields in the Gulf.

The drilling rigs and platforms are also given names that sometimes simply defy explanation (well, any explanation I can find, anyway). Sometimes they make perfect sense. For example, the Noble Jim Thompson is a drill ship owned by the Noble drilling company, apparently named in honor of someone special (as are all the Noble rigs). Some are apparently named for legendary or mythical characters related to the oceans (like Neptune). And then, there are those that simply do not appear to make any sense at all – but they are fun to say. Here’s a quick list of the ones I’ve been considering:

  • Brutus
  • Bullwinkle
  • Mars
  • Ursa
  • Popeye
  • Enchilada
  • Salsa
  • Cougar
  • Cognac
  • Perdido (do you really want to be on a platform that is “lost”?)

And a few pipelines:

  • Serrano
  • Oregano
  • Cardamom
  • Habanero
  • Macaroni

I suspect the engineer(s) responsible for the discovery of a well, or development of the field, or design of the drilling rig/platform have some vote in the name of the development.  If so, I’m glad to know that there are engineers with a sense of fun.

Side Note: A pig, in the oil patch, is a device placed in a pipeline to help clean it out; a pig launcher is the opening in the pipeline where the pig is inserted – or launched – to be sent to the “pig trap” at the other end. And, of course, you know that in this computer age there are “smart pigs” that can inspect the line as it travels to the other end.

Which leads me to tell you that seeing something labeled as the “Macaroni Pig Launcher” is just funny.


This Week or Next?

When, exactly, does next week start?

A couple of weeks ago, while standing in line at Subway, I overheard the customer in line in front of me ordering a large, seven-foot sandwich to be picked “this Thursday.”   The “sandwich artist” (their term, not mine) asked
“day after tomorrow, or Thursday next week.”

Reminds me of the time I rented a house in Ruston.  The owners had negotiated a deal with the gas company to supply free gas service to the house in exchange for running a distribution pipeline through the yard.  All I had to do was call the gas company and have them come out and read the meter before I moved in (they still gauged gas usage, but didn’t charge for it).  So, on Tuesday I set up an appointment for “next Thursday at 9:00.”  A couple of days later, I got a call from the meter reader, asking where I was.  I said “I thought we were meeting next week.”  The scheduler thought I meant the next Thursday on the calendar, when I thought we were talking about Thursday of next week.  The next Thursday on the calendar is “this Thursday” – right?

I’ve had this conversation a few times since then.  When, exactly, does
“this week” end and “next week” start?  When is “next Thursday”?  Is it
the next Thursday that appears on the calendar, or is it the Thursday of
the next week that appears on the calendar?  In my mind, “next Thursday”
is next week, and the one that appears on the calendar this week is
“this Thursday”.  If “next Thursday” is the next one that appears on the
calendar, and that so happens to be the day after tomorrow, then when do
we get to have “this Thursday.”  Can “this Thursday” and “next Thursday”
be the same day?  How confusing is that?

Similarly, if you have an appointment on Monday, and you are discussing
that with someone on Saturday, would you tell them you have an
appointment “this Monday” or “next Monday.”

Here’s the plan.  From now on, just quit talking about “this Thursday”
and “next Thursday.”  Just tell the lady you want to pick up your
sandwich on the 14th, and there won’t be any confusion.  As to “this
week” and “next week,” I don’t have an answer for you.


Where Is Your Oil From?

As gasoline prices start their annual rise in anticipation of summer driving season, we’ll start seeing the annual spam about who imports oil from the Middle East and who we should not buy from, and of course the pleas to hold a national gasoline boycott day to put the squeeze on the oil companies.

I started a long rant trying to debunk the mis-information in the spam email, but during my research to get the facts, I found that Snopes does a good job trying to de-bunk this bunk, although I do think they missed a few important points.  You could go over to the Snopes site and read their version, but I think mine is more entertaining.

Short version:  It’s all baloney.  Don’t believe any of it (the spam, that is).  Every refiner imports oil (we use more than we have – there’s nowhere else to get it).  If you want to impact oil (and therefore gasoline and diesel) prices, and where we get it from, stop using so much.  Stop driving like a maniac, stop driving when you don’t need to, and stop buying stuff.  All stuff.  Any stuff.  Stuff which is delivered by trucks burning diesel fuel.

The Long Version (with ranting):

I’ve copied in the Facebook post I saw, which is pretty typical of the email spam we will start seeing, and interspersed a few of my own comments and *gasp* facts.  (note: I do recognize that actual facts have no shock value, and will have no impact on the momentum of the spam email, and that beyond my five or so loyal readers, no one will even see this – but I also recognize that once I finish this rant reasoned discourse, I can move on.  No wait, you’re right, it’s a rant.)  So, here’s the spam (blue text), with my comments:

Are you aware that the Saudis are boycotting American products? In addition, they are gouging us on oil prices.

If they are boycotting our products, someone forgot to tell them – the US Census Bureau foreign trade report shows we are exporting quite a lot of stuff to them.  And most of it has increased over the past eight years.

Shouldn’t we return the favor? Can’t we take control of our own destiny and let these giant oil importers know who REALLY generates their profits, their livings? How about leaving American Dollars in America and reduce the import/export deficit?

Yes, you can take control of your own destiny.  You can change the way you drive.  You can grow your own food (and reduce the amount of diesel fuel required to deliver your food to the store).  You can keep American Dollars at home by reading labels, other than gasoline, and buy American.  The oil companies know exactly where their profits come from, and as long as we keep demanding the product, they will be happy to deliver.

An appealing remedy might be to boycott their GAS. Every time you fill up your car you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia . Just purchase gas from companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.

Nice thought.  But there are no oil companies who use only domestic oil.  Okay, maybe some small oil companies who don’t import from the Saudis, but ALL refiners import oil from outside of the United States.

Nothing is more frustrating than the feeling that every time I fill up my tank, I’m sending my money to people who I get the impression want me, my family and my friends dead.

The following gas companies import Middle Eastern oil:

Shell……………………………….. 205,742,000 barrels

Chevron/Texaco……………….. 144,332,000 barrels

Exxon /Mobil…………………….. 130,082,000 barrels

Marathon/Speedway…………. 117,740,000 barrels

Amoco…………………………….. 62,231,000 barrels

And CITGO oil is imported from Venezuela by Dictator Hugo Chavez who hates America and openly avows our economic destruction! (We pay Chavez’s regime nearly $10 Billion per year in oil revenues!)

The U.S. currently imports 5,517,000 barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC. If you do the math at $100 per barrel, that’s over $550 million PER DAY($200 BILLION per year!) handed over to OPEC, many of whose members are our confirmed enemies!!!!! It won’t stop here – oil prices could go to $200 a barrel or higher if we keep buying their product.

Aside from the number of barrels and dollar figures, this is mostly true.  All those companies do import oil from OPEC countries – and a host of other nations, including Canada and Mexico.  Hugo Chavez does run Citgo, and hates us.  And I, too, dislike giving my money to him and other nations that hate us.

Here are some large companies that do not import Middle Eastern oil:

Sunoco…………………0 barrels

Conoco.. ……………..0 barrels

Sinclair……………….0 barrels

BP / Phillips……….. 0 barrels

Hess……………………0 barrels

ARCO……………………0 barrels

Maverick……………….0 barrels

Flying J……………….0 barrels

Valero…………………..0 barrels

Murphy Oil USA*…..0 barrels

*Sold at WalMART > , gas is from South Arkansas and fully USA owned and produced.

*Not only that but they give scholarships to all children in their town who finish high school and are legal US citizens..

All of this information is available from the U.S. Department of Energy and each company is required to state where they get their oil and how much they are importing.

That last paragraph is THE grain of truth here.  The facts are indeed available from the US Energy Information Administration. If you go to that link, and click on “Company Level Imports” you will get the most recent report that shows who imported what, and from where, during a specified time period.  Of the companies listed above, Murphy, Valero, Hess (and Hovensa), Sunoco, and Conoco all import oil from overseas. You could fairly say that Sinclair did not import oil from the Middle East, but they did import it from Canada.  At least the Canadians don’t hate us.  Then again, when is the last time you saw a Sinclair station?

True enough that Murphy Oil is a good company that gives scholarships to graduates of El Dorado High School through the El Dorado Promise. (By the way, if you don’t live in South Arkansas, that’s pronounced “El  Duh-RAY-da”.)  But they still imported oil from overseas.  They have to.  There is not enough domestic oil to meet our demand.  Did I mention that WE control the demand?

A few other interesting tidbits.  Look at that list of companies that supposedly do not import oil.  BP.  Really?  (You do recall that BP is “British Petroleum,” right?)  Sure, they were trying to get oil from the Gulf of Mexico, but that’s not their only source – and even if it were, you don’t really think all our dollars are staying in America when you buy from BRITISH Petroleum, do you?  (disclaimer: yes, I know my own employer is a foreign company, too, and even has a strong connection to the Saudis – but then again, they are providing a lot of good paying jobs in this area.)

And BP now owns Amoco. A quick lo0k at the ARCO web page – I thought they were out of business – shows they are not only limited to five western states (so you couldn’t focus on buying from them anyway), but they are also owned by BP.

Flying J may or may not actually own a refinery.  The one they had in Bakersfield was sold to Alon Refining.  Even if they still had one refinery, there’s no way they could supply all their own fuel outlets through one refinery.

Which brings me to one last point.  Regardless of what brand is on the gasoline pump, you have no idea who refined the oil to produce that gasoline.  Why?  Gasoline (and diesel fuel) is a fungible commodity. That means no matter who produces the gasoline, it all meets the same specficiations, and it all gets put into a single pipeline, to be intermingled, and when it is taken out at the end, it’s the same gasoline (i.e. meets the same quality specifications as what went in).  Just before it is loaded into a truck for delivery to a station, it may get some detergent additives to make it clean your valves better (Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP), or it maybe some lesser detergents (Conoco, Sunoco, Murphy, Hess), or maybe the minimum additives required by the EPA (Racetrack, 7-Eleven, and your favorite independent station on the corner).  Performance-wise, it’s all the same.

Even if Murphy didn’t import oil, their two refineries in the U.S. and one in Wales could not produce enough gasoline for all the Wal-Mart stations they serve.  They must purchase gasoline from other producers, as well.  The Shell refinery in Mobile, Alabama produces gasoline for distribution to 75% of all stations in the Mobile/Pensacola market.  The point is, no matter where you buy gasoline, you really don’t know who produced it, and where they bought the crude oil.

Mike Rosen suggests there is nothing we can do to curb our addiction to oil. Maybe he’s right. And there isn’t much we can do to drive down the price today.  But we can stop driving like a maniac, stop driving when we don’t need to, and use less stuff (nearly EVERYthing we use is in someway supported by the oil industry, but that’s another blog rant for another time.)


Milestone

Today there are now 100 comments on my blog – and only 86 posts.  When I started this, I didn’t really think I’d get many comments.  To see the number of comments surpass the number of posts is surprising.

A couple of days ago Girl on the Contrary posted a description of her dancing in front of a mirror, only to realize it was a window.  That reminded me of another of myembarrassing moments.  Several years ago (while attending yet another one of those conferences) in Atlanta (Georgia, not Texas) I took a side-trip to visit the Coca-Cola museum. 

Coke Fountain

One of the neatest things they had there was this fountain that would shoot “coke” (all flavors)* in an arc of about 10 feet, right into your little tasting cup.  This fountain was itself an arc shape, wrapping half-way around a room.  (A new “World of Coca-Cola was opened in 2007; I don’t think they still have this fountain).  At the end of the line of fountains, as I was turning to go into another room of the museum, some guy came around the corner and nearly ran into me.  I said “Excuse me” at exactly the same moment he did.  “He” turned out to be my reflection in a mirror at the end of the line of fountains.

After I looked around to see if anyone saw me (I don’t think they did), I then had to quickly duck into the next room so no one would see me lauging at myself.

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* where I’m from (and a few of my readers), “coke” is a term used interchangeably with what many other people refer to as soda or even “pop” in the midwest.  As in “You wanna coke?”  “Yeah.”  “What kind?”  “Root beer.”  And if you acutally want Coca-Cola, then say that – Coca-Cola.  Or, some people will say they want a “regular coke” which also means Coca-Cola.


Science/Math Humor?

Some time ago I came across a video of a stand-up science comic.  I don’t remember the website it was on, but I do remember one of the jokes someone posted in the comments.  There were several good ones – well, good if you are a science/math nerd.

There are lots of old gems out there.  Like the one about the two atoms that bumped into each other.  The first atom said to the second “Are you alright.”  The second atom said “No, I lost an electron.”  “Are you sure?” the first atom asked.  And the second atom said “Yes, I’m positive.”

So tonight while Whitney was studying radioactivity for her science class, she mentioned the half-life of iodine-131 is only eight days.  I asked that if that’s true, how can there be any left?  Debbie then asked “What is half-life.”  So while Whitney is explaining that, my (weird, twisted) mind was filled with what is an apparently old math joke that I read on the aforementioned website.

An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar.

The first one says “I’d like a beer, please.”

The second one says “I’d like half-a-beer.”

The third one says “I’d like a fourth of a beer.”

The fourth one says “I’d like an eighth of a beer.”

And the bartender says “I hate you guys,” then pours two beers.

While you are either rolling on the floor laughing, or scratching a hole in your head trying to figure that out, I’m going to search for that website (or help Debbie with the laundry).