Monday, December 31, 2007

Fiberglass ignites

I love following the nuclear plant news. For example, this article says a fiberglass blanket caught fire. That's neat, since physics outside a nuclear plant might indicate that fiberglass doesn't burn. But in nuclear plants, anything can happen!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What now for AECL research reactor?

A Happy New Year to everyone! As we go into the first few months of the new year, the most interesting story (in my space) will be about AECL and the CNSC.

As we recall, AECL has been branded incompetent, and the CNSC has been destroyed (seismically speaking). I was talking to some nuclear people, and they think Linda Keen grossly over-reacted when she effectively closed down the research reactor, knowing of the tremendous dependence on isotopes. They note that she doesn't have a speck of qualifications for the job, and was an appointed political hack of the Liberals. That said, she simply may have been following a staff position, but most likely, she was in a political game, since she and AECL both fight under one cabinet minister.

This puts me in the poor position of never making any money off seismic things. The utilities can now happily ignore seismic issues, and say Naaah Naah to the CNSC. Harper has ingrained the position of "If you can't see it, it doesn't exist!" This makes for a sad Harold. You are not going to see any nifty geophysics and geology for the next nuclear plants.

I hate waiting for the next earthquake. It's going to be such a mess, and there is no fun in saying "I told you so!". I'm just going to have a drink at New Years....

Areva's Pride and Joy delayed again

We really can't say that AECL is the only one that screws up. Areva must be a proud member of that club! Their flagship plant in Finland is delayed another big hunk. At the current rate of delays, it will never get built!

I don't think there are any companies left that don't have screw-ups, since most of the US companies have ties to Japan, and they haven't really built much recently. So, we really can't discriminate against the screw-ups, or we'll have nobody left!

Our big problem is that we want large plants, and there is not a lot of good experience in that regard. The old US light-water plants are too small, since they have origins in the US nuclear submarine business. Scaling up reactors is a tricky business, as we well know.

I'm still 100% for nuclear (Warning: Sound Bite!). GE should buy AECL, and we'll go with their nuclear plant, built by Bruce Nuclear at the Wesleyville site. Of course, that makes too much sense, so you know what we'll end up with.

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Japan nuclear plant delayed

Very weird news story. As we all know, a Tokyo Electric nuclear plant with a long name was blasted by a big earthquake, a while ago. I still can't find the peak velocities, but I suspect they were huge. This plant is still closed.

They are planning to build a new plant, but have delayed it for a year to incorporate 'new earthquake assessments', but no change to the design. This is designed to win back the locals, who are a bit wary, for some reason.

I wonder if that will work? Would anyone have faith in more Japanese 'earthquake people' looking at the design, and giving a nod? I don't even think they were fully open about the big quake. This will be interesting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fan-driven cooling towers are the latest thing

It looks like Ontario will get two new nuclear plants, one Candu design for OPG at Darlington, and one Areva (or other) light water design on the broken rock of Bruce.

The big question for both plants is whether they will use straight water cooling, or cooling towers. As this article shows, pass-through water cooling kills a lot of fish, and warms up the water. On the other hand, cooling towers probably aren't meant for Canada. Think of how a snow-maker works on a ski hill, and that's a cooling tower!

The new cooling towers don't look like something from the Simpsons. They are low and flat, and cover a football field. They still pump out a huge amount of water vapour, but they use fans instead of air convection. The Darlington site really doesn't have room for them, and the Bruce site has that cold Lake Huron water (what's left of it!).

I really hope there is some action next year on the nuclear front, to pull me out of my doldrums. The Bruce site will be interesting, since they are planning the riddle the rock underneath with a waste repository, while building a new nuclear plant! I can see all sorts of fights!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Badsiting - 4

Found this on an arrow embedded in my plastic 'Colour Changing LED' snowman.


When only the very bad will do.

For immediate shooting

Ottawa Valley: Other badness pales in comparison

Now, as we have seen, the Ottawa Valley would be pretty bad for a site, in any case. It is fractured down to the bottom of the crust, has had volcanoes run down it's length, and is on the edge of the Western Quebec seismic zone. What could be icing on this cake?

It turns out to be something that looks like icing, although sort of mucky and brown, and doesn't taste good. People might just call it dirt, but it's a very special dirt, extremely unusual in this world.

During the last glaciation, the whole area was pressed down by a giant ice thumb. When the ice melted, it didn't spring up right away, which allowed the ocean to come in quite far up the Ottawa Valley. All the ground-up rock from the glaciers, and the salt water from the ocean mixed up to form a delicious marine clay. Badsiting is too cheap to buy a map of this soil, but it's all over the place!

You would think this clay was bad enough, since it is a soft, jiggly mass that amplifies seismic ground motions by a factor of 10 to 100. But noooo, in the Ottawa Valley, it became something much worse. Groundwater attacked it, and replaced the sodium atoms with calcium. This made the clay super sensitive, so that you can have a very solid cube lump of it on a table, whack the table with a hammer, and the whole lump melts to ooze.

On the large scale, it makes goopy landslides like this.

So to find a truly bad site in the Ottawa Valley, we need to find the worst of two things:

-where the Ontario megathrusts intersect the valley (Timiskaming was one of them, but that huge earthquake happened already)

-where there are deep soil deposits

Surprise! Chalk River and the City of Ottawa come out on top! Unfortunately for Badsiting Inc., they already put some bathtub nuclear reactors at Chalk River, and Ottawa is all built on that nice goopy clay. There really isn't much to propose.

Therefore, we at Badsiting are closing up for Christmas, since we are plumb out of ideas. Perhaps something really stupid will come along (like Nuclear Waste!) that will get us going again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


A poem sent to me to cheer me up:

Why I love Ontario

It's winter in Ontario
And the gentle breezes blow,
70 miles per hour at 52 below!
Oh, how I love Ontario
When the snow's up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Ontario,
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Primer: AECL Maple reactors, MDS, and the Positive Coefficient of Reaction

I was very interested in researching this story, and it has turned out to be most fascinating. I've gone through lots of articles, and scientific papers.

Having picked the Absolutely Worst Spot in the World for a nuclear reactor, AECL has gone on to pick the Absolutely Worst Design. How could they have hit two home runs in a row? It turns out that the original NRU and Candu designs were done by brilliant people brought together by the war. The successor designs were done by techno-bureaucrats, who followed in their place. The location for all this was also picked out by bureaucrats.

As mentioned in a previous primer, the NRU was a brilliant piece of simplicity, although somewhat unsuited for its seismic location. It was an open bathtub of heavy water, with a lattice of hanging fuel bundles, and control rods. Although controlled by the crudest relay buttons, this reactor was kind and stable. If it overheated, by say filling up too much, the heat would create steam voids, and water would evaporate. These pockets of steam could not moderate (slow down) neutrons, and the whole nuclear reaction would slow down. This is like flying a biplane with a stick.

But the AECL techno-bureaucrats wanted to build a fighter jet. They wanted something to generate enough isotopes to Control The world! (market).

They designed and built Maple I and II. So confident were they, that they totally built the thing on the swamp. So confident, they made the coolant in the reactor of light water, with a reflector of heavy water (to save money). So confident was MDS, that they bought these reactors for a few hundred million. Soon, the isotopes would be flowing!

Alas, such are the dreams of mice and men. The Maple reactor has one little thing wrong - A Positive Coefficient of Reaction (PCR), which meant that if the reactor had a power pulse, steam would form in the light water coolant. The light water is a very heavy killer of neutrons, steam is not. The surrounding reflector of heavy water (perfect slower of neutrons) would continue to do its job and send in 'perfect' neutrons. The reaction would run away, and only the brakes of the control rods could stop it.

Now, AECL could probably have overlooked this little quirk, and snuck it past the sleepy (and LIBERAL!) CNSC, except for one inconvenient thing - Chernobyl! That's right, this graphite reactor also had a nasty little problem with PCR, and when things started to blow, inserting the control rods made it worse (and you know what happened).

Poor MDS, stuck with the bag, they put in some few hundred million to try to fix things. They finally gave up, returned the reactors to AECL, receiving $60 million pocket change, and a firm monopoly of all isotopes from AECL in perpetuity.

AECL has now made countless presentations to the CNSC (on the web), saying how smart and wonderful they are, and how they can handle this tiger by the tail. Like an unstable modern fighter jet, they have tacked on 'fly by wire' controls, and other stuff to deal with PCR. The Koreans have one and it works by magic!

In the meantime, they have to operate a 50 year old corroded thing that was to have closed years ago. Thanks to the Beaming Face of Harper, we are assured that there will be no earthquakes in this region. MDS is still making its money, so it has no need to grease things along, but the followers of Harperology may send their offerings, so that He should also abolish the PCR! That way, we can make billions in isotopes, and be ready when the old reactor collapses under its own weight!

I love this story, it's like a movie or a soap opera! Will they tame the PCR? Will Harper ascend to the Heavens in lightning bolts? Will AECL last forever? Will MDS stockholders be happy? Stay tuned....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Badsiting - 3

Ok, the giant snowstorm stopped them from getting to my front door. This was tied to a brick that stopped my snowblower.


Where all good things go to bad.

For immediate throwing

What's so special about the Ottawa Valley?

You may not believe this, Virginia, but the Ottawa Valley and associated structures are some of the most significant and recent signs of rock destruction in Eastern North America (ENA). Sure those big megathrusts under Ontario are something, but that happened a billion years ago! So Yesterday, in geologic speak. What we have here is a giant tear through the entire crust, only some odd hundred millions years old.

It all starts with Wilson Cycles. This is the tendency for the earth to smash up all the continents together in one big pile-up, and then split them all apart again. It has to do with the fact that oceanic crust only wants to stay on top when it is young and hot. After a wild life of an odd hundred million years or so, it gets tired and wants to die, so it dives back into the earth.

Well on the cycle before the last one, the continents were all happy together, when they decided to split up. Wasn't really their decision alone, since they were responsible for true global warming right under their feet. They had blanketed a huge section of the globe with their bodies, which did not conduct heat well, and things started to warm up.

This upwelling of heat lifted and stretched the continents, ready to split. In the Ottawa area, a giant zit started to form, that extended out in a three-way. One big crack went up the Ottawa Valley, another down the St. Lawrence, and a third going down Lake Champlain. Later geologists would call it the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben.

In cross-section it looks even more ferocious.

Anyway, all this action was for naught, the continents decided to separate along different lines, and all this split rock was called a failed rift.

But it's not a failure for us! After the continents split, things cooled down, and the rift valleys tightened up. The continents then started to smash together again, and we had the Appalachian Mountains. All would be peaceful for Ottawa, except for the fact that when things started to heat up again, a 'hotspot' formed somewhere north of Ottawa. As the continent moved and traveled over this hotspot, it had the effect of a key on a Rolls Royce, except the key was coming from underneath!

This mushed up the rock all over again, and gave us nice scenic spots such as Mount Royal in Montreal. Of course, the glaciation added an immense weight which crunched things up some more.

We now have the most wonderfully cracked up rock in ENA! The Ottawa Graben forms a boundary of the extremely seismically active Western Quebec Zone. As well, it is the terminator, of the Ontario megathrusts.

We can expect the most marvellous huge earthquakes at the intersections of these two fault systems, just like the 1935 Timiskaming earthquake. All in all, a most wonderful bad site! What makes it absolutely terrible, is discussed in the next 'flyer'.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A primer on the Canadian Nuclear path to glory

I realize that some people are making fun of this whole nuclear business in Canada, but other people can't laugh along unless they've had some serious background on the whole issue. So, now I put on my serious hat, and offer this to help others.

I've had something like 29 years in the nuclear business, so I think I'm as good as the Conservatives! The mere fact that my many alter egos find everything so ridiculous should not put me at a disadvantage compared to those who are totally humourless. I started my career as a Geotechnical Engineer, working on the foundations for two nuclear plants - Bruce B, and Darlington. I also helped review Pickering B. I was a bright young thing and learned everything about Candu, because the plant was going to sit on the foundation, draw water through tunnels, and put it's waste in the facilities I was helping to design.

I have recently re-researched the history of nuclear stuff in Canada. It is actually difficult sifting through all the AECL-generated fluff, or avoiding the nasty Greenpeece versions. Somewhere in middle is a very human story of people muddling along to try and help Canada.

The history of nuclear in Canada is very much tied up with the nuclear bomb. The first man-made nuclear reactor in the world was done by some crazy guys in Chicago, who shoved some enriched U235 together, until the Geiger Counters went wild, and their eyebrows tingled.

This was the critical concept. A small hunk of U235 all by itself spontaneously generated neutrons, but they just zoomed away and went into people. But U235 has a great property that it can latch onto a neutron travelling at just the right speed, vibrate a lot, and then split apart. When it splits, it generates more neutrons, and other radioactive stuff. We are lucky that sometimes it takes a while to split, which allows the reaction to be controllable.

Nevertheless, they soon realized that knocking together bits of Uranium with a screwdriver was not ideal, and set about to scale it up. The US used graphite in big piles of bricks (hence, 'nuclear pile'). Their attention was solely on the prize of producing Plutonium for bombs. Graphite was extremely dangerous (think Chernobyl!), but this was war!

The graphite acted as a 'moderator' which meant that the high-speed neutrons could be slowed down to just the right speed to split the Uranium. This was necessary for a controlled reaction. But there was another moderator - heavy water, which is a rare form of water with extra neutrons in the hydrogen. The world's only supply of heavy water had been purified in Norway, constantly being shipped ahead of the German advance. It finally made it to England, and then to Montreal.

So, at this point, the US was churning out Plutonium, and they thought it would be great if the Canadians did it a different way. They pumped a lot of money into Canada to create a super-secret installation disguised to look like a miltary base, right in the middle of a great big swamp north of Ottawa. This was Chalk River.

With their big supply of heavy water, the Canadians did it different. They had a big bathtub, and they hung uranium fuel rods like icicles. Then they pumped in the heavy water, and at a certain level, it became a 'hot tub', full of neutrons. If they filled it too much, it became super-hot (super-critical), which had a good chance of blowing up. If this happened, they had suspended control rods, which dropped down into the tub, absorbing neutrons, and killing the reaction.

Needless to say, these crazy guys had a lot of accidents, where people got majorly zapped with neutrons, and it never bothered anyone! I like to think that a good dose of neutrons counteracted the smoking.

All of this was ready, the day the war ended. The Americans no longer had any interest in the Canadians, and gave them this wonderful present. Now the Canadians had to figured out what to do with it! So, they cranked up the reactor and made neutrons! In 1957 they made the biggest reactor bathtub in the world, the famous NRU, of nuclear fiasco fame. This was no super-safe baby, they cranked it up for neutrons! If the water level went too high - poof! If it went too low - poof! And you were relying all the time on those rods dropping cleanly. Needless to say they had accidents, since this really was 'research reactor' run by absent-minded professors.

Since they had nothing better to do, they bombarded all sorts of things with neutrons to see what happened. They made Cobalt for the first cancer machines, and they made medical isotopes. Such a large bathtub could churn out lots of isotopes!

Needless to say, somebody figured out that having scientists monkey around with water levels, and floopy rods was no way to have a commercial reactor, where you wanted lots of power. They changed the design, still having a big bathtub, but shoving in the fuel sideways in pressure tubes. Thus began the great Candu era!

Over the years, they have realized that the original design was a bit too dependent on gravity behaving itself. And we all know that earthquakes can upset that assumption. The first and most important thing was building on a good foundation, not a swamp. The second was to make the control rods spring loaded, and able to insert under high lateral forces. As well, all the surrounding buildings were built for earthquakes.

Today the new Candu stations are pretty good for earthquakes. What about the old NRU? I can only shudder. The building is on ground that will amplify ground motions about 100 times. It is probably all brick and block walls. The bathtub can slosh out all the water, which makes the fuel rods explode. The control rods won't drop under violent shaking. The containment building won't hold. Still, most likely, the great big poof of radioactivity would spread over a fairly empty area, and flow down the Ottawa River, where it would be diluted. Not really that bad.

*All of this can be found by Google searching, and looking up Wikipedia. I left out all references, because I wanted to.

Badsiting - 2

Those people have nailed another notice to my door. Damn, I wish they'd learn to use tape!


We go one up on the Big Guys!

For immediate nailing

Badsiting Inc. continues it's efforts to find the worst sites in Ontario, for big nasty things such as nuclear research reactors. It's a constant struggle to compete with the Big Guys, since they have infinitely more money under the table.

Originally, Badsiting Inc. was going for a Hamilton site....

But now, with the Face of Harper beaming down on Ottawa, there's more money there.

First, why is the Ottawa Valley so interesting? It's an amazing fact, that in the last Nuclear Fiasco, nobody thought there are any earthquakes there. In fact, many comments were along the line of "We haven't heard of any incidents there for 50 years, so it's good for another 50 years". In fact, all the bitching that Geofish guy does about earthquakes in Southern Ontario, is a waste of breath compare to Ottawa. Here is a seismicity map...

Ha! Look at the red dots! One might argue that all the red dots are over in Quebec, and nobody gives a damn, but boundaries are very significant. In our next release, we opine on how the Ottawa Valley is one of the most significant seismic features in Eastern North America, even though nobody remembers an earthquake there.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

California's Hayward Fault

I caught this on the web, didn't see it in my journal yet. They are making a big deal out of this, but all of California is a big mish-mash of faults. The article has a very interesting map, though, and it shows how a lot of faults are interconnected.

In California, they make a big deal out of 'segments' in their faults. They like to feel that if an earthquake has terminated in the past at one point, it will always do so. And if they map a trivial one-mile gap in the fault, then it is significant. Boy, has Nature got a surprise for them!

In reality, this doesn't make much difference for the average bridge, or house. The big threat is always the earthquake right beneath you, and if it comes as a 500 km fault rupture, or a 50 km rupture, it still packs some velocity. As well, being on soft soft in a basin amplifies by about a factor of 100, so they will react to any earthquake. A big earthquake just affects a lot more people all at once, so this has an impact on recovery efforts.

In the end, I can look at a big long active fault, and not know whether the future holds one big, full length rupture, or a lot of in-betweens. As with the upcoming big Vancouver earthquake, it could be a big slip, or a decade of terror!

Badsiting Inc. is back!

Oh, look at that! Somebody has nailed this to my front door.


Our sites are so bad, they're good!

Our company's mission is to find the worst sites in Ontario for important things, such as nuclear waste, nuclear power plants, dangerous research reactors, refineries, etc. The difficulty in our challenge, is to find sites that are worse, than those actually chosen.

Our current project is to find a site on soft soil, along the Ottawa Valley. Further 'Nailing Notices' will go into the details, showing how you couldn't pick a worse site, even though everybody lives in a fool's paradise, because nothing much has happened in living memory.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nuclear isotopes: the fat lady sings

The shouting is over. The bill is passed, and let's see if AECL can get it started, even with this push. Meanwhile, the totally Liberal CNSC is doomed. I'm glad Harper relied on an old OPG buddy, Bob Strickert for all that advice, instead of me. :) I worked for Bob a long time ago when we did the environmental assessment for Pickering A. He invited the working stiffs to a success party, and I got a gift! Will never forget him, but God he must be OLD! And so busy with that Conservative Party stuff! And what he knows about seismic risk and hazard could fill a book! (am I thinking a big book here, folks?)

Oh well, on to the next crisis! At least this has inspired me to think evil thoughts....

Earthquakes and medical isotopes

That was fun watching the House shouting match on TV. So much shouting, so little brains. Here's what Harper should have said:

"I am neither God, nor a nuclear safety expert. I do know we have a serious problem balancing the immediate need of 10's of thousands of patients, versus the risk of something happening to the reactor. My personal seismic expert, Harold, assures me that the chance of a major earthquake, over a short time, is small. This "Time at Risk" argument has been used before when there are problems with backup systems at nuclear power plants.

I, therefore, put forward that we immediately start the reactor, with it's inadequate backup systems, on the proviso that we shut down and pack up the entire reactor in two years. Harold tells me the reactor is a piece of shit that could never pass a modern seismic walkdown, and it will most likely crap out in 2 years, throwing us back into the same situation.

This gives 2 years for the sleepy Medical Establishment to get their act together and find some alternatives. On my part, I am ordering the immediate sale of loser AECL, in the hope that some new brains can get the replacement reactors going."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reactor to start over Keen's dead body

Oh, well. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out, to see it chopped off. That's what is happening to the CNSC big boss, ever since Harper found out he was an expert on nuclear safety. Harper has expressed that he has 'lost confidence' in the poor lady, which is the next thing to the boot. And since she is a political appointee, she is only giving the CNSC staff opinion. Perhaps they should all be fired! And fire the damn guy who says that there's a heavy seismic hazard up there! (Oops, that's me! And they can't fire me, I quit!).

I now see the end of this great saga. Soon the creaky old reactor will start running again, waiting for an earthquake. It's upriver from Harper, so he'll be able to eat his own dogfood...

Harper promotes himself to God

Citing his immense God-like powers, Harper declares that there will be no earthquake under Chalk River, while he has any say in it. It's a good thing when people do not let reality choke their high opinion of themselves, just like Conrad Black!

These same powers will be needed when we have our expected big earthquake under Lake Ontario, some January. With all the nuclear plants shut down, and nobody having a clue what actually happened to them, it will require a declaration from God-Harper to start them up half-crippled, since everybody will be freezing to death. I'm glad he is sharpening up the old lightning bolts right now.

The truth is that this horrible old reactor should not be running -- period. The fact that it is vital to save lives, isn't my problem!

Gov't chooses isotopes over nuclear safety

The government has now put a lot of pressure on the CNSC to paper over their difficulties and get the reactor running again. This, despite the fact that AECL did a Conrad Black over required seismic safety upgrades.

If this were the States, we'd put AECL in jail, but we can't. The hospitals are now getting isotopes with these 'generators' which I gather are shielded boxes with a hot core (cobalt?). Probably these isotopes are now 10 times more expensive, because apparently the gov't wasn't paying AECL much for the cheap stuff.

This bottom line is that this is an old clapped-out reactor in a very active seismic zone. I bitch a lot about OPG and the province not doing a good job on seismic, but this reactor takes the cake! There is nothing worse than being right on an active old rift. And this reactor was built when they would have said: "Seismic, who?".

Again, we wouldn't have had this problem if AECL had the slightest clue on the fundamental physics of these reactors, especially heat and water flow. They built the new reactors and found a big surprise! The same thing happened for Darlington. You can only step on Mr. Physics for so long before he bites back!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Doctors want to run reactor until it blows up!

Damn that's a nice headline! This is right in my interest area of nuclear power and bureaucratic incompetence, and finally I have something to write about!

To twig the search engines (for greater audience!), this is about AECL, the CNSC, and the Canadian Government, Nuclear Medicine, blah, blah. The article has everybody yelling and screaming. Where were they when I said politics (such as AECL) destroys everything technical. Would the politicians say that? (No way!).

Now there will be a great political dance that happened all the time in OPG, that of casting blame, and deftly side-stepping it. It truly shows the finest skill of the political types that have infested all these organizations.

Should there have been a backup? Can't you just have a special control canister for an active nuclear plant, like they do with Cobalt? Or did they *want* to make this reactor so vital that it couldn't be shut down (with all the jobs?)? Rational people want to know, and we sure as shootin' aren't going to get it from the politicians.

Japan nuclear plant knew about deadly fault in 2003

At least that's what some headlines are saying. This article just says that they saw some horrifying evidence that the fault was a lot bigger than they thought, so they stomped on it. I would call it selective blindness, which is common in such organizations. They certainly wouldn't have ordered more investigations when faced with such a horrible thing...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Most vulnerable cites to earthquake

This is an interesting article, and I really like the pictures. For a lot of these cities, you really don't know the exact odds of a killer quake happening, and you certainly don't know if it is going to happen soon.

My general observation is that most earthquake cities settle down to the odds of 1% in 100 years (one in ten thousand per year), of having a super-disaster earthquake. That is because this is the level where things drop off the 'living memory radar', and people become slack. I include Toronto in that crowd. You only need a few hundred cities in that category, to have a big disaster every 10 years or so.

Usually after a big disaster earthquake, the city will close the barn door, and start building in a responsible manner. For poor countries, we are more worried about the buildings collapsing. For richer cities, such as Toronto, we are more worried about life-lines, and economic damage.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Choose your Global Warming book for Christmas

Ah, Christmas. Up here in Canada, they are predicting the coldest winter in a long time, due to that nasty sloshing of the Pacific Ocean. As I run my snowblower, I think "Bring on Global Warming!". However, there are poor dusty suckers in Australia that might not be of the same opinion.

So, this year you can choose your book as a Christmas gift. This article lists several that are either Goreishly Gloomy, or celebrating that coal in your stocking! With either type of book, it looks like things are warming up anyway, so it's just a matter of feeling guilty, or not.

My own feeling is that you should not be terrified of something that is out of your control. I've read a lot on the subject, and I would dismiss the doomiest-gloomiest vision of an exponential run-away reaction that turns us into a hellish Venus. Those guys are out to lunch! But at the same time, those damn Americans should pay a realistic price for gas, that includes all the externalities. But, we might not have to worry too much about them, as they go down into a carbon-saving recession.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The fun of deep earthquakes

If you must have an earthquake go off near you, pray that it is deep! One such earthquake has just happened in the Caribbean. These earthquakes tend to be very large in terms of Magnitude (this one's an M7.3), but just a big rumbler at the surface. Old, crappy buildings may collapse, and people will feel it in high-rises far away.

In fact, this earthquake was such a good transmitter that is set off all the phony earthquake alarms in California! If you look at all the seismograms of the North American seismometers, you will see a very strong signal.

Deep earthquakes are born along the subducted oceanic crust, when it goes for it's big plate-tectonics recycling. After the crust gets crunched up and compacted, it moves along the conveyor belt to get melted. This factory belches out any waste through its chimneys conveniently disguised as the numerous volcanoes in the Caribbean.

Hospitals now rated by Death

This one goes into my Lies, Big Lies, and Statistics file. Seems you can now rate a hospital by how many body bags exit the back door. Reminds me of the time I talked to a University admissions person, and how everything they did was to jig the Maclean's Ratings. I'm now thinking of hospitals....

"OMG! Don't let him in here, he looks like he's about to die!"

Chocolate cartel

OMG, is nothing sacred? And just in time for Christmas! You won't be able to bite into your delicious Choco-Addiction, without thinking about how much you were hosed. Way to spoil things Big Choco-Business! Quit reading the Conrad Black Manual of Nastiness!

Here, the male is the meat in the Meat Market

This article is hilarious. I can imagine the male saying, "Get away from me, you bunch of crazy females!" At least, that's what I always have to say...

Neato computer controversy

I don't normally dip into sordid US politics, but this one has an interesting computer angle, related to another article I just did. We had just discussed how you should be careful with your old hard drive, but this guy new what he was doing, from previous investigations. He got someone to do a 7-Level Wipe, on all his hard disks, and that of his cronies. He professed that it was for a virus! I love it!

The real joke is that this guy was a total Bush-crony, and he was investigating Karl Rove, the uber-crony! In the comments of another blog, this made the Hillary-haters go nuts, because they thought he was her crony! The joke is that if he is wiping emails, there are probably a million copies somewhere else.

Christmas idea for those with lots of money

Do you know somebody with a fancy Windows laptop that they claim is too slow for the hoggish MS Word? Are they thinking of getting a new laptop with Vista? Save them from wasting money, and let them waste money on something else.

Get the Yoggie Pico (that's a name?) and reinstall a clean XP without software virus protection. Their old laptop will run like the wind, and they will have better security than crappy Vista. Yes people, Linux has advanced so much, that it can hide in a USB key and protect the hapless Windows users. No need to worry that every other Web site has malware. You can even continue to use the deadly Internet Explorer, knowing that you are safe in your Linux cocoon.

Getting rid of your old computer

Whenever I put an old computer on the street, I always take out the hard drive, put it through my giant old tape-erasing magnet, and hide it in the regular garbage. This little article tells why I do it, and old hard drives are worthless anyway, since you can always get a new one with ten times the storage at little cost.

Fish ladder fun

This is a cute article about fish. Since I can't engage in ineffective fishing for the season, I fish for articles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Asus now all clear with Linux

Asus has released the ridiculously named eeeeeeeeeeepc, which is a sub-notebook running Linux. It's more of a notebook-appliance, and it seems to be popular. I think if you just want to do your Facebook, while sipping coffee at Starbucks, then it is perfect. It might be quite good for high-school students, since they can't type anyway. It will certainly keep you away from the Vista horrors! (and don't ever give them Sims2!).

The other alternative is to pick up old laptops from companies who want to run Vista (ha ha!). Then run Linux on them and they are perfect! I use the generic Debian release, but there are a lot of distributions that make your life easier.

Computer security

Computer security has always been one of my interests, as well as general Linux-Unix systems. I would love to be offered a job by somebody wanting to get off the Microsoft treadmill, but I'm not pushing it. Like most things, I've generally found that organizations don't really want something that works, but just appears to be working good enough.

I just read quite a few articles on computer security. Seems that malware attacks on compromised web sites is the big thing now. These sleazy sites have found a way to be number one on Google searches, so you must now assume that any site is trying to kill you.

So many of these exploits go into the guts of the unholy alliance of Windows-Explorer incest, that virus checkers are useless. The best way to break this is to use Firefox, which requires a different effort to break.

I do all my secure stuff, and insecure web surfing with Linux, which can't be broken easily (if at all!). I was also interested in reading that XP outperforms Vista in lab tests, but I'm sure they didn't use the typical rat-infested XP setup that is in common use. One person I new (rich people), bought a new fancy laptop, because the old one had completely ground down. But when they took Norton off the old one, it was much faster than the new one!

Mud volcano keeps on going

This was always an amazing story. An oil company taps into a volcano, the mud starts flowing, and it never stops. I don't think I've ever read about this sort of thing happening naturally, although it must make an interesting geological formation after it stops.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nobody shows up to Yuk-yuk hearings

In a presage to future hidden Bruce Waste Deep Geology Thingie hearings, it turns out that nobody is turning up at the Yuk-yuk Mountain parties anymore. I can understand it. Nobody feels it's going to happen, and nobody thinks their voice will be heard.

I sense there will be the same enthusiasm when they finally hold the hearings for the Bruce mess. Nobody cares, and once they try to dig into that dangerous piece of broken rock shit, it won't happen either. It's just me and my tiny little blog... :)

Whitewash on 3 Gorges

Whew! The Chinese have gotten over their unusual bout of 'soul-searching flu', and are back to normal. The original whistle-blowers have been trotted before the state-controlled media, and have recanted.

Reminds me of other times, in other situations. Nothing worse than a giant bureaucracy leaking out some bad news... :)

Depression leads to bone loss

Depression is the general lack of serotonin, and other such goodies. This causes a loss of mass from the brain, and now, it appears to cause bone mass loss. I'm always interested in these stories, because of my family history. Nearly all of this can be reversed with some simple little pills.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vista piece of sh*t!

Like I've said before, I am forced to have Vista 64 on the daughter's new computer, because of her addiction to Sims2. I suppose I could have been 'retro' and put on XP, but it just didn't seem right to me.

My problem is that MS buried IPV6 deep within Vista, so you can never really turn it off. They did this to 'hard tie' in with their business communication software, thus extending their monopoly. Nobody else has this working, so it's a perfectly 'legal' scam, especially if they use their own 'flavour'. So, no matter how hard you try, it barfs out an IPV6 packet once in a while which can destroy your whole network. I could never get any of my wireless PCI cards to work in Vista, so I went with an external wireless bridge, and Vista even manages to hang that thing up!

Now I read this, where an old exploit was never really fixed, or it was fixed once and then started up again "Hey, what was this code for?". I have ditched MS as much as I can, without dumping the kids!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More weather disasters in a warming cycle?

I really don't understand the physics behind statements such as these. If you really could place a uniform thermal blanket of gas around the world, and it started warming, then why would there be more storms? Would you have less storms in a cooling cycle? Or a static phase? I know that on the US east coast there have been hurricane cycles that are independent of anything else. What drives them?

The world has always been in warming cycles, cooling cycles, peaks and troughs. I must come to the conclusion that there is more money available whenever anybody plays the 'guilt card', and so it gets played for everything.

Actually, I think that ocean currents are really underplayed here, so this big push for oceanic mega-bucks might be more than a mere money grab.

Dam watch system

My intellectual problem here, is to wonder whether this is a legitimate improvement, or just something that looks good. It sounds like there is a major problem with economic externalities, which in this case covers the liability of a dam, with a cheap owner. The concept of private dams might not work when there are people living downstream, since it is very difficult to calculate how nasty one should be in turning the screws on the owner.

With all of this, they put on a nice gloss of dam monitoring. A good physics understanding of the system, with rain gauges would be sufficient here. After that, you really have to figure out the behaviour of each dam.

Status of 'One Laptop'

This is a sign of the Wall Street Journal opening up. It's a very good story of an idealistic machine versus the monopoly nasties, who can still try to kill an idea by pouring in lots of loss-money.

No matter what happens, the floodgates are open. Taiwan should unify and flood the market with Linux machines on generic processors, such as the successful Walmart computer. The monopolists can't fight everybody!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Nice fishing story

Even though it's getting cold, and I've changed to my lined pants, I have to keep up the 'fish' part of the name. I like this story, because there has been a lot of effort to remove useless dams from rivers to allow the salmon to have their run. Still, we have those pesky beavers!

Undersea landslide

This is nice science. These huge mass flows disturb the ocean floor, and probably generate huge earthquakes and tsunamis. I'm always amazed at how far they go, and over such gentle slopes.

Toronto ditched trolley buses, Vancouver picks them up

Yep, those trolley buses don't work in the winter. Which makes them an unusual choice for a Canadian city. The streetcars have the single conductor, which grounds in the tracks, so they work better with a bit of ice on the lines.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Radiation whimps

Afraid of a little radiation are you? Thinking that some unmeasurable uranium atom might come floating over and ZAP you? Death by some horrible cancer monster? Do you think that billions of people had 2-headed babies from the atomic bombs?

Well, perhaps you should read once in a while. This is quite a comprehensive article, and I think it's fairly true. I suspect that Humanity sprang from a zone of fairly high radiation, and took care of it. Our fear of radiation is much greater than a fear of smoking, and this is irrational. As more studies are done in the cess-pools of radiation accidents, we will know what the human body can take. And for us old guys, a good hike to the top of Mt. Everest, and the attendant heavy dose of cosmic rays probably zaps out any old cancer cells lying about.

So, have a crème brûlée, pour a brandy, light up a cigar, and forget those radiation scares.

Greens may have something

Those crazy Greens have another report on nuclear power. But this may have a kernel of truth. A bit like the old half-empty half-full glass thing, but it is a cautionary note that those who hype new nuclear plants really don't have clue what they are doing (did I say that out loud?).

Cyber Monday

Well, in the States, the old blog readership is going to take a dip on Monday, as everybody shops. How about putting a nickel in the box for the old guy? Actually, I think my readership (yes, the one or two of you, plus the spam bots!), is too smart to click those stupid ads. More's the pity....

The science of rain in the land of Oz

This story is about Broken Hill Australia, and it's effort to secure water supplies. Now, I hesitate to mention anything about Oz, especially with the millions of people there who read my blog, but I found this interesting.

They have mined almost everything out, so this city now lives on tourism, which means gardens in the desert, and lots of air conditioning. So, they need water, and there are many innovative ways to conserve it (including the 'liquid solar blanket' concept). But what I find surprising is that there is a huge cotton farm sucking up all the water! This is like growing rice in the deserts of California. The ancient concept of water rights for ridiculous farming is the main culprit behind most water shortages, including the Everglades.

ps. I doubt whether this 'silicone monolayer' thing is that great for dams. Wouldn't it heat up the water tremendously? Wouldn't lots of little plants love that? I'll have to wait for the Ozi-ites to chime in.

Humans try to beat evolution

I like this story. It's a bit like the big-science effort to bring back the dinosaur (I made that up!). Although they try to bring it back, it then comes down with root rot. Can you beat the evolutionary roll of the dice? Why doesn't some horrible blight kill all the dandelions? Stay tuned...

Sony continues to pour money into PS3

I'm just writing this because we have one, and it is a fantastic machine. You can see that Sony is losing tons on each one sold. Although the boys play games on it once in a while, I've put Linux on it, and have it as my main console computer for the big screen. It'll be even better when Sony start playing mpeg4 (xvid, divx) movies natively.

This is a fine example of a third-stage bureaucracy pissing away their money, and spreading the wealth! I'll be happy to take any more heavily subsidized hardware!

Three gorges dam starts killing people

The landslides have started, and these recent one got a packed bus. This landslide, of course, is nothing compared to the potential of monster slides activated by the headpond. Of course, this always was steep terrain, and always had landslides, but the filling of the reservoir changes the scale, and consequences of monster landslides. The chief social benefit of the dam was to reduce flooding, so in order to do that, they must lower the headpond by 11 m before the rains come. This up-and-down of the water level is the ideal way to tickle landslides!

But, as usual, the main reason for the dam was to keep the communist elite in clover, but generating electricity. This could come to a swift end if a monster landslide causes a monster wave that wipes out the plant!

Problems at OPG

In my recent paper, I mentioned how we can only get hints of whether an organization is in the third stage. Unfortunately, my worst fears become true, and this hits me right in the pocket-book. I knew things were bad, when all the politically ambitious people flocked to the Plant Life Assurance division, which I quickly dubbed the Life-style division, because of their parties and free t-shirts. Still, they became my best hope for getting something done, until Gregory Smith jumped, or was pushed. Now, the hope that anything will happen lies on the slim chance they can find a Smith replacement for a tenth the going rate, somebody like Bob Lutz.

In the meantime, they have delayed any decision on the rather hopeless Pickering life-style extension. We can get a hint that Pickering is hopeless because the whole station is dragging down OPG. Of course, I have personal knowledge of that, but nobody would ever believe me how bad it is, so I just shut up.

Now, my hopes lie on the effort to build a new nuclear plant on a tiny postage-stamp piece of land, right beside an active monster-quarry. This effort won't be helped much when they go into the hearings about the Bruce nuclear waste underground hotel. (And it becomes obvious how hopeless that is!).

Still, I enjoy watching, and commenting on the whole mess, and wait my turn to help straighten it out! :)

Still no earthquake scenario

The prov. gov't is blaring how good they are at emergencies. They even have teams trained in heavy lift for collapsed buildings, etc. But, they've never treated the earthquake scenario intelligently. Hopefully, nothing happens to show them how woefully unprepared they are...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Everglades project on last gasp

As the one guy said: "The government is broke". And all those nasty Canadians keep buying the land to put in manicured lawns! They would probably get further if they didn't subsidize sugar farmers, but that's another story...

Shaft testing for new bridge

They are actually moving ahead on replacing that rusty old bridge that collapsed in the US. Newer bridge designs like to put a lot of weight on narrower supports, so it is important to see how much the rock can take. And the rock there appears to be pretty bad.

This bridge appears to be having the usual problems getting any money, which was the reason the old one collapsed in the first place. I was quite interested in the concept that they hit high-pressure water in one shaft, so they made the next one shallower. Wouldn't you hate having a shaft end right on top of a water pocket?

The general collapse of US infrastructure offers some excitement for us geotechnical engineers, as they have to replace things when they fall. The cities and states just run up more debt to do it!

Facebook continues to squeeze

As I've said before, all the kids have gone from hotmail, to msn, to facebook, because it offered tons of goodies for free. Now that they've burned through their venture capital, Facebook must make some money. They have blundered fairly badly in this department.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blah, blah, Internet looming disaster

Yet another self-serving study that has been picked up by thousands of no-brain media outlets. This group says that the main backbones will choke, yet they want more broadband access for everybody. Who is paying them? Who do they want the money from? Government?

I was into the Internet on Day One, and it has always had it's doomsayers. We went through this whole useless IPV6 thing because of them. I suspect that Cisco is behind this latest thing, and they want billions of gov't money for more super-routers.

The bureaucratic cycle - Part 3

-continued from Part 1 and Part 2

We are interested in the latter part of the cycle, and how it destroys wealth and talent. Most companies cannot survive a slide to the third phase, because of factors that give immediate feedback. Depending on the strength of their monopoly, they can have a very long middle phase. As well, bringing in a brilliant talent at the top can reverse the cycle, since pockets of beleaguered talent can remain for some time. An example is the recent uptick of GM under Bob Lutz (who revived Chrysler for a while).

A typical story about talent destruction is as follows. Brilliant young thing (BYT) enters company. They are capable of bringing in 10 times the revenue of the average mediocre employee. BYT starts shaking things up, saving tons of money, etc. But, by definition, they have to go beyond the system to get things done, such as Internet access, hours of work, conferences, etc. Soon mediocre employees whine: why do they have Internet access, come in late, talk to directors, etc. Company clamps down on everyone.

Sometimes BYT has protection of some upper management, most likely not. They become bitter and cynical. One in ten succeeds, and this becomes food for the propaganda machine. When you talk to BYT's, they express great frustration.

Organizations with a political mandate can go on forever in the third stage, but now something can really kill them. Mainly, that they can no longer find large numbers of BYT's to burn, since BYT's trapped on the inside can now communicate with each other. The collective intelligence of these places goes down to that of a poodle. More and more big disasters happen. Their mandate becomes questioned by the dumber politicians, and they descend quite rapidly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wind power is a disaster for Ontario

Anybody who can stare at the Pickering wind mill all day, knows this for a fact. The damn thing never rotates when you need power. I remember whole summers when you could hang limp laundry on the blades!

Now, there is more data on the entire Ontario fleet, and it's not pretty. With wind power, it never rains, but it pours, and it does so everywhere all at once! When we are locating seismometers in Ontario, the only thing we look out for are trees, because wind can blank out the whole array. Anything else, such as trains, cows, farmers, etc, only happens to one seismometer at a time.

Getting power from this is like trying to harness lightning. What do you do when there is no wind? What do you when there's lots, dry the clothes in the dryer? Close the windows and put on the air conditioner? All the time on the highway, I see these huge wind turbine blades being transported to somewhere, and I know that somebody is making a lot of money...

Interesting science

I just love this site! I read an article in the Economist, and then looked it up. It's just another one of those neutrino detectors, but the scale is amazing! As well, I like the stories of life at the South Pole.

Infrastructure at the limit of decay

I find articles like this interesting. If an infrastructure has decayed to the point of self-collapse, then it has no margin for earthquakes. I don't think Chicago has a high seismic hazard, but New York and Boston do. So much money is generated from these cities' economies, yet they cannot tap the necessary 5% for infrastructure turnover. As mentioned in the article, these places have only coped by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and now their debt interest is so high, they have no money to clean out the rust.

New coal plant to poison the earth

I don't know, but it doesn't strike me as a great idea to turn that big smokestack on a coal plant upside-down, and stick it into the earth. Who thinks that this will be 'clean' CO2? Who thinks it will stay there? Who will determine when the earth is full, and is about to belch it all back again? Do you trust coal companies?

Dutch ban Wikipedia!

Sort of. This story would make me split my sides, if it did not bring out stabs of pain, as well. I mean, this is truly the attitude of all terminal bureaucracies. If you ban Wikipedia, then you must ban everything, where there is a chance for outside communication. Terminal bureaucracies must never allow anybody from the inside to leak anything out! It is the essence of their survival, but it always becomes a more difficult fight.

Self-serving studies

I'm detecting a rise in the self-serving 'scientific' study. This genre died a slow death at the hands of Microsoft, but now the Media is lapping it up again. As we remember, MS funded all sorts of 'independent' studies, showing how fast, how cheap, how secure Windows was. Eventually, the Media was ridiculed whenever they splashed the results of these, so they gave up.

Now, all sorts of groups are getting in on this, and the Media is all over it again. The latest comes from the Bridge Construction Money Suckers, and says that all the bridges in Ontario are about to collapse, and lots of money has to be funneled to the group! As if they were about to come to any other conclusion!

Another was the recent Port Hope Uranium study. They picked the worst people, and shipped it off to some lab, in the 'hope' of finding a uranium atom. Then the Media splashed it everywhere, for a big hoopla! Would there be any other conclusion?

I think the Traditional Media are in third-stage decline. They never really recovered from Conrad Black...

Bureaucracies, Part 2

- following from Part 1.

On the surface, then, organizations could have three rankings:

-has a purpose in life, attracting new talent

-has a natural advantage, doesn't need new talent
-internal political weasels take control

-destroying talent, no great purpose

This might not be enough, since organizations can go through cycles, and it is difficult to plot them on the hopelessness scale. The Growing and Milking stages are boring, I prefer to concentrate on what happens at the beginning of the Decline stage (and the various sub-stages!).

All organizations that are truly entering the final stages, must be secretive. They follow the maxim: 'Don't air your dirty linen in public'. This is not necessarily a conscious decision, but rather, the company folds in upon itself. The process is usually accompanied by a growth of the Public Propaganda department which handles all outside communication.

This is a necessary, but not sufficient condition, since many efficient organizations are also closed and secretive (the Mafia!). Take for example, large drug companies which are mostly in the third stage. I know a brilliant young guy who has entered one for a work term. He has redesigned their processes, and fixed up their plans for new buildings. Yet the company totally blocks access to the Internet, and he spends his time getting around all their silly blocks, so he can get required information (as well as the usual other stuff).

The need for secrecy is extremely important, for both the milking and decline stage, since nobody on the outside must know what is going on. This is even more vital, when they are actively destroying talent. A company can continue to destroy new talent, as long as they offer good benefits, and attract innocent hordes. The example is WWI, which was the stupidest fatal destruction of talent ever. As long as nobody knew the truth of what was going on in the trenches, they could sing patriotic songs, and get more bodies to fill them.

The big problem is that these companies are running into the Internet, and it is my thesis that they are running down the decline stage much faster than they used to, mainly because the talent finds out, and shuns them. (to be continued).

Weird earthquake injuries

We finally know why all schools should practice 'duck and cover' drills for earthquakes.

Los Alamos continues to die

This would be one of those organizations that have lost their way, and would be high on my rating of hopelessness, if I could ever figure out how to rate these things.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Roller compacted concrete for dams

This is just a cute little article on something I knew nothing about. Instead of pouring concrete, they make it up as stiff as asphalt, and they smash it down. It looks quite ugly, but it's strong.

Poor New Orleans at the mercy of the Pork Army

It's quite an important point to know if New Orleans is safer than it was before. Somehow, I doubt it, since I know who is in charge. My guess is that they will abandon that place in their effort to throw around $23 billion dollars in new water-pork. Nobody lives in that city anymore, so why bother?

Alberta nuclear fun

This is fantastic entertainment! Those Alberta liquor people have started drilling, they got a small lake they can boil, and all sorts of things. But most important, they got their own wacky protesters, complete with fake Simpson barrels of nu-clar waste!

What do we have in Ontario? Nothing! We've got a rock-solid politician as an energy minister, and rock-solid people in charge at OPG. With all this rock, I don't think anything will move! I would love for them to prove me wrong...

Instant divorce, or Computer Screens are Evil!

This is funny! Can you imagine letting such a computer into your kitchen? For sure, I'm with the guy who said he'd be divorced in 3 weeks if he let that into his kitchen! Personally, I think we need to make a stand on attention-grabbing devices. We have raised a fine family by having a primitive cottage, with no electronic things. The kids learned to play cards, and have conversations!

We also have the hot-tub which we use every night. This acts as a family 'campfire' where we can talk. The default action is having the kids attached to their computer screens, playing games, or using face-my-space!

Non-pdf book reader

I am sure Adobe extracts a huge price for devices that use pdf. That's why you can't find an cheap laser printers with pdf, and might be why the new Amazon book reader doesn't do it either. So perhaps pdf is the ultimate Trojan Horse?

So is this the year that book readers take off? I doubt it. Perhaps one day, they will be colour e-ink in a 100 gram flexible package, equipped with wireless. Will this be enough? Most likely not, since the book sellers, such as Amazon, will want to sell downloads at a price comparable to hard-media, much like current music cds, and movie downloads. Eventually, there will be general-purpose computers that can be used to read books, and people will find a way to download for free. No pdf restrictions there!

The bureaucratic slide to hopelessness

Time for another long boring story. I've always been fascinated in the progression of societies, families, organizations and companies. Most tend to drift in common patterns.

The most fundamental drift is in family wealth. The founder of a wealthy family is usually a tremendous talent who created wealth out of nothing, by providing something useful to society. Their children were raised middle-class, and usually consolidate this wealth, perhaps by ruthlessly extending the original natural monopoly. Their children were raised in wealth, and are usually totally useless. Their role in society is to piss all that money down the drain, thus boosting the economy, and spreading the wealth.

What is fascinating, is if an entire country becomes locked into the family cycle. This is the case with Japan. The founders rose after the war, and created new wealth. Their children expanded and consolidated the empires. But Japan refused to take in immigration, and now the third generation is mucking everything up.

A country, such as Canada, can avoid this fate by immigration. Each new wave of immigrants follows the same cycle, until their children become corporate lawyers, but the new waves create wealth.

If an organization becomes a closed society, it, too, follows the same cycle. Think of NASA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and old Ontario Hydro. At the beginning, they have a purpose to life, and attract the best brains. The second generation are usually their children, and also have dedication, but less brains. Finally, the third generation, are the idiot cousins of the president, and have no brains.

From a high level, these are general truths, but it is most interesting to look at actual scientific markers, and determine exactly where each organization is in the cycle. As well, there might be ways for sub-societies to avoid or delay this fate. (Next time!)
Part 2 Part 3

Sunday, November 18, 2007

RCMP becomes an incompetent bureaucracy

Ok, I don't want to get into political commentary, but on a purely technical basis, don't you feel that something is wrong here? This is not the only thing, there has been a string of incidents that indicate a great incompetence. I've been involved with incompetent bureaucracies all my life, and they have certain common elements, which we all know, and I don't have to list. But the most lasting impact is that the talent is no longer attracted.

Throwing laptops around

I love this article about people worrying because a laptop was thrown in the streets. They should be worried! Laptops could puncture tires, or pieces from them could hurt people! I just hope that laptop-throwing doesn't become a popular thing...

Toronto condo bubble

I just like this article. The condo bubble in Toronto has gone on much longer than I ever thought it would. It is probably inflated by massive fraud, just like the US, and all the rats will shake out, once things assume their rational course. But it could go on for some time yet, since the reason the Canadian dollar is up, is that foreign oil money is pouring in.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More slop from the US Army

I wouldn't say these guys are the worse engineers in the world, because I haven't made an exhaustive search. But this giant civilian techno-bureaucracy, with a tiny coating of military people, sure likes to screw things up. Hands up anybody who thinks New Orleans will do well in the next big storm...

Spectre of earthquakes raised for US nuclear plants

I was waiting for this. The US (East side) hasn't done a speck of work on earthquakes in the last 30 years. Now they want to extend the life of decrepit stations, and build new ones. Finally, somebody is raising the obvious questions about earthquakes. Now, if only somebody in Ontario would do this...

Friday, November 16, 2007

No money, no place to dispose of dead nuclear plant

One of the essentials for a nuclear plant is to put a bit of money under the mattress for eventual cut-up and disposal. In Canada, this money is a cause for joy and happiness, for world-traveling bureaucrats! But what if somebody raided the kitty, and there was no money?

This seems to have happened in the good old USA, who wants to build more nuclear plants, without cleaning up the mess they already have. Vermont Yankee has a pitiful sum of money (probably all invested in mortgage funds!), to dispose of itself. And there's no place to put it anyway, since Yuk-yuk Mountain hasn't got a prayer! But no worry, they say they're allowed to hang a cheap 'No Trespassing' sign on the radioactive property for 60 years, and 'the money will come'. And all those people worry that Yuk-yuk won't last for a million years, when they are going to have all this scum scattered around the country!

More lawsuits than water!

As a geotechnical engineer who loves 'good' dams, I've been following this story for a while. Seems they don't have any rain down there, and a big lake is draining. The fight is over how fast the lake drains down to nothing. My favourite guys, the US Army bureaucracy, is in charge. Needless to say, there are lots of lawsuits. With this latest news, they have decided to drain it a little bit slower, which makes all the downstream people mad.

Von Braun

As I was born in Canada from German parents, with a somewhat murky association with the Nazi middle class, I am always interested in any books on Von Braun the Rocket Man. Since I never have time to read horribly long biography books, I just skim the reviews, and this looks like a good one.

I always like it when a review tells a lot about the book, so now I can pretend to be an expert on his life!

Coal rules the roost

We can thank whatever for the Jurassic and Cretaceous. The incredibly high carbon levels of those eras laid down mega-goops of coal. Now, we can bring back those good old days by burning it all again! This article mentions that coal is still a big thing, despite all that Gore-nagging!

OPG's earnings down

Rats, now they can't afford a new nuclear plant! But they still have lots of money in the nuclear waste slush fund!

Drilling for nuclear plant starts in Alberta

Holy cow! They're moving faster than anybody in Ontario! Energy Alberta, with their ridiculous plan for a nuclear plant has started geotechnical drilling. I hope they know what they're doing. They're visiting Bruce Nuclear this week, where they hope to learn the art of shoving seismic under the rug, with the regulator....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Accretionary Wedge #3 is out!

This is a monthly collection of geology articles, and this month's theme is Geology meets Biology, or some such thing. I put in my own Geology meets biology article! I still don't think I have a major geology contribution until the nuclear program starts to move a teensy bit, and then I'll have some fun! (mainly because they haven't done a speck of the required long-lead-time geology and seismology!).

When things get expensive, change the analysis method

In California, nearly all the old hospitals were rated as collapse hazards, if hit by a decent-sized earthquake. And amazingly enough, they do actually collapse! As such, they were ordered to upgrade or close.

Of course, California has no money, since all the movie stars voted to have no taxes (duh!). All these hospitals would be forced to close down, and the medically uninsured would no longer have their last-ditch kick at Dr. House. Naturally, this was unacceptable, so they have decided to change their analysis methods. They are pinning all their hopes on the HAZUS methodology, but I think this is just a delaying tactic, since most likely the new method will give the same results. Most of these hospitals are constructed of loose brick, and located on deep soft soil.

Yuk-yuk Mountain - money down a rat hole

They've built a shiny new courthouse for the hearings on rad waste. Some say it's a waste of money, but I say it can always be converted into a casino later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Google is Evil!

I just put in that headline for the Google scanners. They hate being called evil, it might bring their stock down from a zillion dollars to a zillion minus one!

Actually it's probably a big misunderstanding. On the surface, the new Google Android software stack for mobile phones has the appearance of fracturing the Java standard. This would be true evil, on the scale of Microsoft! I'm sure that once all the protests get around, Google will say "I was misquoted!".

Big earthquake strikes Chile

An inland M7.7 at moderate depth. Normally, you would expect massive damage, but this seemed light. Lots of people were able to phone in their observations, which is unusual. They might all be on firm foundations, but we'll have to wait for more details.

Time for the winter blues

Many of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I actually suffer from unipolar depression with season attributes. In other words, things get worse in the winter. This article is quite good and talks about things to improve the situation. I find the lightbox helps about 10-20%. If you are really having problems, then see your GP, and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist, who can give you some simple pills. These pills are actually healthy, since they beef up vital nutrients to the brain, and regrow some sections.

Lots of water in Northern Ontario gets people bitchin'

Poor OPG can't win. For years, Northern Ontario has been generally dry, with low snow-packs. This has resulted in a horrible lowering of the upper Great Lakes. Some people on Lake Huron have completely lost their access to water. Naturally, everybody blames OPG for draining the water!

Now, there appears to have been some rain, and the feeder lake levels are high. Naturally, everbody blames OPG!

NYC does some earthquake microzoning

There's a tiny bit of action on the earthquake front. They are trying to find the soft pockets of soil in NYC, similar to work done in Ottawa. They might eventually find the same results, that soft pockets in basins amplify the ground motions 10 to 100 times! Of course, none of this is going to mean anything until the next big earthquake.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Linux PC sells out

The $200 (US!) linux PC at Walmart has sold out almost instantly. It also has great reviews. They were only selling 10,000, but I'm sure another batch will be out soon. I switched another machine at the old homestead to Linux, and it's working out quite well, although the significant other is whining about wanting the 7 year-old Word back. But nobody at home likes the Vista 64, especially with its habit of turning off the network now and then. I keep telling them that you have to move on...

Port Hope residents stealing valuable Uranium

Yes, when they built the first nuclear bomb, they scattered uranium all over the place in order to hide it, but they knew they were going to come back for it one day. Little did they realize that those tricky residents would start sucking up uranium atoms. Now that they got it, how can you make more bombs?

Seriously, there is no greater mess than all the old bomb sites, scattered over North America. In those days, it was fun stuff to play with! Still, the levels are very low, and there is no greater amount of cancer there, than downtown Toronto (cough, cough!).

I sure hope this doesn't slow down my plans to make Port Hope the nuclear waste capital of the world!

Airlines pouring out tons of CO2 for bureaucratic silliness

I always remember working in a big bureaucratic mess, that at the end of the year we had to spend our budgets on anything, or risk 'use it or lose it'.

Now the airlines risk losing their coveted monopoly airport slots if they don't run empty jumbo jets across the Atlantic. Then they charge the remaining passengers fuel surcharges to cover this! So much for trying to minimize CO2 emissions! Who needs expensive carbon schemes, if you can just stop this crap! The airlines are totally to blame, since they live by the existing airport slot system, which allows them to charge extra high. The government goes along with it, because it's more money for them.

Trees love carbon dioxide

The leaves sprout earlier and stay longer if there is more carbon dioxide. The oceanic plankton also loves the stuff. Of course, you never know if the levels are rising too fast for these things to make a difference, but at least somebody is happy!

OPG goes super-cool

Hey, if you are addicted to corporate PR videos, then you should check out Ontario Power Generation videos on Youtube! They have their finest bureaucrats talking about nuclear power, nuclear waste, and lots of other fun things.

Dinos in the news

Two articles have been printed together, which raise some interesting questions. One states that the Deccan Traps may have been the smoking gun that killed the dinosaurs, and another says that a flood of efficient grazing mammals came from India.

It's all a matter of timing. India could evolve mammals because it was totally isolated throughout the Jurassic, and only 'docked' about 10 million years ago. At that time, the mammals could have flooded the earth, and taken over.

Then there's the massive volcanism of the Deccan Traps, about 65 million years ago, which is the latest hoopla about killing off the dinosaurs. What about those mammals people? They were stranded on the Indian ship! If you are going to kill all the dinosaurs in the world from India, I wouldn't give anybody nearby, much chance to live.

Personally, I think this is all crap anyway. Dinosaurs were a creature of plate tectonics. They loved it when all the continents smashed together, and had a big oceanic crust bake-off. This gave them tons of warmth, tons of carbon dioxide and oxygen, and lots of water vapour in the atmosphere. When the continents started their slide apart, the party was over. If, by chance, there was some final blow, it was irrelevant, since the dinos would not like today's cold, thin, dry air.

Monday, November 12, 2007

OPG starts to move

Yeah! I see a flicker of hope that we'll have a nuclear plant by the time my future grandkids get old! OPG has bought some extra property out east. But perhaps they just want to grow some tomatoes??

Nov. 9, 2007
OPG has purchased property in Clarington, near the existing Darlington
Nuclear site.
Sixty-one acres of land has been purchased from a private vendor, in the
area of the proposed Clarington Energy Park (near Osbourne and South
Service Roads).
"The site is an appropriate location for possible future needs that OPG
may have for office facilities, in support of the nuclear generation
program in Clarington," said Glenn Temple, OPG's Vice President, Real
Estate Division.
OPG currently operates three nuclear stations in Durham Region - two in
Pickering and one in Clarington. As directed by the Minister of Energy,
OPG has also begun a business case study for potential refurbishment of
the Pickering B station. Environmental assessment work is also underway
for potential new nuclear build at the Darlington site. "As these plans
progress, OPG will finalize a timeline for the development of the land
in support of our projects," said Mr. Temple.
Clarington Mayor Jim Abernethy is pleased with the announcement. "This
is a positive step for Clarington in developing the Clarington Energy
Park. Having OPG establish an aspect of their operations in the Energy
Park is a wonderful fit and is the type of business that our Council and
Staff see as playing an important role in establishing the area as an
energy hub. This announcement will help us to achieve our goal of
expanding our Industrial/Commercial tax base, thus reducing the burden
to the residential taxpayer."
Regional Chair Roger Anderson echoed Mayor Abernethy's thoughts. "OPG is
a strong partner of Durham Region and a valued corporate citizen in our
community. OPG has significantly invested in the energy industry in many
Durham communities. The purchase of this property is a commitment to
their continued investment in the Region and the industry."

Sweden to solve nuclear safety problem by adding a new executive

Yep, I always find that the 'hire executives' approach always works. That, or the other good one: "Reorganize and hire more management".

Poor Sweden, they are also having trouble hiring a Chief Nuclear Officer. Perhaps they are following the OPG pay guidelines? I hope they don't hire away our Miracle-Guy, that we are so desperately waiting for.

As for Ontario, I have scanned everything, and find no activity at all. I think we can safely say that our nuclear opponents can sleep soundly in their beds.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Crumbling California hospitals grasp at straws

Probably the weakest buildings in California are the hospitals. They can be knocked out of action with very low seismic shaking, and be in total collapse with severe shaking. California wants them replaced, but without putting in any money, which they don't have anyway. As one hospital says "How do you pay for this, when 20-30% of your patients are uninsured?".

As usual, we will have to wait for a disaster, and then they will use Federal debt money.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Kincardine's mayor gets trip to Switzerland

And so he should. This town should get all the information it can from it's single source. Why shouldn't they benefit from the generosity of their benefactor? I think everybody involved in nuclear waste should get wonderful trips, and I'm sure they do! And the local people, playing the role of opposition, should get trips as well. All in all, everybody is happy!

Microsoft denies it is doomed

"Google is not ahead of us". So says the big guy, in Japan, where nobody wants a PC anymore. I'm still waiting to see whether the super-cheap Google computer at Walmart will sell. If it does, there's another nail....

Volcano fizzles out

Well, I was wrong (first time ever!). That darn volcano just fizzled and gave up. Everybody is happy now, and can go on living beside a giant bomb. It'll probably make it even more difficult to move people the next time a volcano starts to get restless, but it sounds like they are doing more forced evacuations. Had it happened in the States, everybody would sue for being forced to move....

Bruce nuclear is moving ahead

Unlike OPG, who have yet to hire someone (Miracle-Guy) who can speak to the public, Bruce Nuclear is gabbing! They want a new build, or a rebuild of Bruce B. Will they open up the can of worms, of being on the worst geology in the world, or will they be able to continue running over the regulator like a steam roller? This will be interesting....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Carbon Dioxide is Good for us

I have this vague feeling that this site is supported by the Australian Coal Mines Association, but what the heck. It provides some alternate explanations, so that we are not all going to die in Coke fumes!

I would suspect that there are very few places on earth where the availability of carbon dioxide is limiting growth. My fish tank is one, and greenhouses are the other. Most other places lack water, minerals, or nitrogen. Still, the Jurassic was high in carbon dioxide, and it enjoyed tremendous plant growth, even though I think it had a lot of water, as well. Age of the Dinosaurs anyone??

Facebook is doomed

All of my daughters friends left MSN and went to Facebook, because the place was burning venture capital, and offering everything for free. Now, Facebook is attempting to pay their bills! Trying to squeeze money out of this bunch is hopeless! Their major purchasing power is to nag the parents into letting them have a cell phone, and they all have one. None of them actually buy anything, except clothes, and they don't put much effort into that!

I expect that Facebook will greatly annoy them, and they'll move to this new Google arrangement, which will be free for a year or two. Even Google is just living on the hopes and dreams of advertisers. I certainly can't squeeze any money out of my readers! :)

Neato Christmas gift!

Ok, right after you tell your wife how much smarter she is, you pop her with this for your Christmas list! This is the first gift I've seen that makes me salivate! Of course, I wonder how many open Wifi places there are, but you just walk into a Starbucks, and your camera is automatically unloaded! Probably uses a lot of battery juice.

Nobody wants nuclear waste

The interesting thing in this article, is that Finland found a place with nuclear plants and suitable geology (unlike the Bruce!). Nobody else has managed to do this, and so, nimbyism rules the roost!

100 worthless US dollars laptop starts production

I really like this project. You can make fun of the fact that it's not 100 dollars anymore, but what does $100 US buy anymore, anyway? I think it's best use might be in books and Wikipedia, which can be loaded on the local village server. Female education should be the main beneficiary, since we all know that girls are smarter than boys! (At least, that's what you should always tell your wife!)

Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex

This is just about some stupid American thing, but I just love the headline!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

No Bays Allowed

eBay wins a knock-off law suit. The site 'had nothing to do with ebay'. They said the name invokes 'a bay filled with perfume', or some such thing.

I'm thinking of starting a site I would sell things such as my wonderful advice about earthquakes, and earthquake alarms that say "Kiss your ass good-bye!". It invokes an image of San Francisco Bay shaking like a big bowl of jelly, throwing buildings into the air. Perhaps I could auction things... It has nothing to do with eBay!

Civil engineering chickens come home to roost

Ok, does this look like a real building to you?

Wouldn't a civil engineer say: "This is going to be a real bitch in an ice storm!" Well, the loonies that commissioned this half-collapsed thing, are suing the architects. Citing numerous things that a true arteest would ignore (mold, ice, water, etc), they want their money back!

Of course, they will say they are innocent, stupid victims of a sadistic conspiracy. This might be a bit rich, coming from MIT, but what the hey! (Wait a sec, I know the Dean of Architecture there!)

3 Gorges Dam - Bit of a Disaster

This interesting article states that the Chinese leadership is backing away from the 3 Gorges dam, doing the Bart thing: "Wasn't me!"

I had followed this right from the beginning. At the time, our geotechnical department was very friendly with the Chinese, and we had talks about the project. Eventually, our manager left the company, and went over to do a lot of work on it. The most amazing thing was the huge unstable slide areas over all the gorges, and these might be activated by the project. Each one of these slides could sent a giant wave that would overtop the dam! Of course, none of this stopped the dang thing from being built.

Now, the cyclic water level changes is activating one of these slides. I was surprised to read that it actually rumbled like an earthquake! Now, that's one heck of a slide! These things can't be stabilized by a California pin job, so it's just a matter of time...

Big volcano might be an oozer

The volcano gods are really having their fun with this volcano. Now, they think it might just ooze out the lava, instead of its usual pattern of big explosions. I find this difficult to believe, since a leopard can't change its spots. It would have been better if they had long-term tilt measurements, then you could see if it was blown up like a balloon, or not. If this really is just a volcano wet-fart, then it saves a lot of people.

Monday, November 5, 2007

SSA annual meeting 2008

This looks like a juicy meeting, complete with some good special sections. Sure wish a retired guy could afford to attend! Maybe if somebody clicked the weird ads! Maybe if Ontario pulled the collective fingers out and started on a new nuclear plant??

Carbon Dioxide Disposal

No need to worry! A use has been found for CO2, that will ensure that it will all be mopped up! That's right, it's a beauty treatment that may soon put to an end, the practice of growing botulism spores. We don't have to inject CO2 deep into the ground, just into Paris Hilton! And the more the earth warms up, the greater the demand, since these Hollywood starlets will be drying up like old prunes!

New PC is off the Christmas list

I wonder how good old Microsooft is going to survive now. Personally, after a hell of a time wrestling with Vista 64, I can understand that nobody wants a PC anymore. I do a lot of digital photography, so that is my main Linux PC use now, but all the teenagers are happy with Facebook, and taking pictures with phones. There is still a need for a keyboard, and the students have to write their essays, but a lot of this can be handled with a bare-bones Internet appliance, with the Google operating system (cleverly disguised as the independent gOS!).