Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SRL: Ocean Bottom Seismometers

I got my SRL, and there a few interesting papers. This shows the full underwater installation vehicle. The OBS is the pop can. This one is lucky, since it is beside a big underwater research cable with data and power.

The MARS cable is laid far out in the ocean. This makes it a bit more immune from tsunami-buoy-stealing pirates! If you didn't have that cable, you'd need the Italian job:

This is really cute! I like the fishies!

On another note, there was a paper on Ontario seismicity, an earthquake swarm near Georgian Bay.

I once looked at an OBS for the Great Lakes, but it's rather hopeless without the big power and data cable. As well, you need a big installation digger to try and get it on firm ground. It's generally useless to just plunk it on soft fish-shit! The swarm is interesting. It is exactly the same distance up-fault from the Grenville front, as was the big Burlington swarm from the Hamilton Fault. Of course, these don't exist in the 'real' pay-wall literature, so shhhh!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Japan Reactor Starts Up Again


No, this is not the infamous earthquake reactor, but there is a common theme. Mainly, that they are so opaque that they are in serious doo-doo when something bad happens that they can't cover up. In this case they tried their usual cover-up on something that was too big, and got slammed. There's a lesson here for us, but nobody will get it. We'll just keep all our cover-ups until something bad happens.

Spring Slope Failure Along the Humber

This was a fun Spring walk with the wonder dog. They just cleaned out the fish ladder, and expect the fishies to start jumping this week. I can't wait! Just up the river is something 'anti-fish', which is a silty slope failure. You can see they put up some rock 30 years ago, but it's probably become undermined. You can always tell a slope is in trouble by looking at the trees. If they are tilted, watch out!

This slope has our infamous Queenston Shale halfway up, overlain by some beautiful cross-stratified sand. Makes for a deadly combination.

This year some fences are in for a surprise.

Deep dark hacker network attacks the Fish

Yes, we had a massive spam comment attack. Obviously the word verification thing has been cracked. This is revenge for living in Toronto. I spent all my writing time cleaning it up. I'm going to need some real ad juice to perk me up again!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Waiter, There's Radioactivity in My Soup!


I always like to follow these stories. The nice thing about radioactivity is that it can't hide. There used to be stories about cesium getting into the scrap metal, but now all scrap yards and garbage dumps have monitors. Still, you can go all freaky about nuclear waste dumps, and nuclear plants, but this is real stuff that could hit you.

WIPP Turns 10


Ah, WIPP, ten years old this week. It was excavated into a mobile, creeping salt bed, mainly for dry waste, lightly contaminated with plutonium. It sounds like the place is run on the cheap, without a lot of brains. Since it takes defense waste, it takes on defense opacity, and critics are left muttering on the outside.

Here, you can only maintain an opening for a short time, so the waste is shoved in, sealed and forgotten. The big problem is that everything is corrosive, and you are using high-pressure water jets to carve out the openings. That means big water pipes can fail.

The wippie could never take over for yuk-yuk mountain, since that old fuel is physically hot, and the salt would flow like water. Also, you probably want to retrieve the used fuel sometime in the future. Rusty Obama Barrels for a long time.

Earth Hour Diary

How was your earth hour? Here's ours.

7:30 pm - "Start the dishwasher before earth hour!"

8:30 - "Oh shit! Is it earth hour already?" #1 Son has graciously appeared from downtown to tutor daughter in math. Let's see -- have her fail math, or make her do homework during earth hour?

While those two scream at each other, we retire to do some very low-power movie watching. We're watching "The Prince and Me", and keeping the volume low so the daughter doesn't catch on.

9:15 - Daughter has found out! And boy, is she mad! "You don't care about the earth!". We say "Did you turn off the lights when you came down here to nag us?" It would be worth a million earth hours if these kids would just turn off the damn lights!

9:30 - Whew, it's over! Time for a nice hottub soak in the dark. And why are all the lights on? Damn!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Niagara Tunnel: Doing It Right - Part 4

I am hoping to maintain an excavation rate of 30 m a day, in order to do the tunnel in a year. After excavation, I am letting the rock settle for 6 months, or until I get no acoustic events or continuing convergence.

Now I put in the lining. It has to be as smooth as a baby's bum. Probably 12 inches is sufficient. I really want to put in a synthetic web for crack control, like this.

That is so neat! I'm slip-forming the lining, and after, it will be the worlds greatest skateboard run!

This one is circular, and smaller. At the very end, I'm going to zoom a Tesla at high speed along the length!

But, we are forgetting one other vital geotechnical work, that I am sure reality will screw up.

The extra water is only useful if we beef up the pumped storage. Note our piddly pond compared to the US! This wasn't dug out, but constructed from big earthen walls. The walls have already failed in the past. We have to top up the walls to increase the holding capacity. Since nobody has screwed this up yet, I won't tackle it.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Maple Leaf Blog


Well, there isn't anything more Mel-ish than Canadian food regulation. It is one big opaque blob, run by meat producers and farmers.

As I have said, Mel tends to have big blunders, and none was bigger than the Listeria Outbreak of the Maple Leaf. Now, they are attempting to tackle it, so much so that I am buying Maple Leaf, and I would have their advertising on the site, if I could figure out how to make money from it.

I like the heart-felt blog. It still doesn't add more transparency, sort of sounds like it went through PR and lawyers, but it's a start. I don't know exactly what I would like, but I'll know it when I see it! Sun Microsystems used to be the leader in heartfelt blogs, but look where that got them!

I want to have an idea about the next food-safety disaster. It won't come from Maple Leaf, but from where? For this, we need to fight back Mel, and he hates blogs.

Earth Hour - A Chance to Freeze in the Dark


Yeah Earth Hour! No cheating now with candles, and cranking up your furnace the hour before. This is a genuine opportunity. See how life was before they invented energy! Eat raw meat! Let your food spoil! Ignore the fact that humans co-evolved with fire!

I know that I will be enjoying my Earth Hour, so that the neighbours don't smash the windows. Happy Earthy To All!

Chasing Carbon Capture


Oh, those lovely photo-ops, Ms. Raitt! Nothing could be sexier than carbon capture, and that's a really big photo.

Will carbon capture actually do anything in the long run? First of all, you need to burn a lot more carbon purifying and injecting that stuff down a hole. Second, the co2 is freely available at the oil or coal sites, which have been punctured by a zillion swiss-cheese holes. I just don't see this working, and with a low muttered voice, I suspect some good old-fashioned porkifying here.

But I see co2 becoming a much more important industrial material. Maybe one day they will mix co2 with natural gas and extract it at the end, or maybe we'll see dedicated co2 pipelines. This has something to do with the hydrogen economy.

Since naked hydrogen is the world's worst fuel, I am following all the work to make synthetic hydrocarbons. The carbon acts as a binder to H2 and you can make Methanol or Octanol, which is also making it big in the biofuels area.

If captured co2 were cheaper and more abundant, we would see all sorts of uses that would save energy, and thus reduce the carbon burning.

Niagara Tunnel: Doing It Right - Part 3

I continue my fantasy. I am writing this in real time, thinking as I go along.

Tunnel Design

There are two traditional cross-sections for tunnels. One is the circular section for tunnel boring machines (TBM), and the other is the inverted horseshoe for drill and blast. I am going down a different path. I have classified this as 'new engineering', which means I will have more monitoring, and some flexibility to change as I go along.

Rejecting Circular

From Ontario-geofish

Recalling an old drawing from a previous post, the circular tunnel section is too sharp, causing a stress concentration of a factor of two at the crown. I want the stress contours to flow nicer around the opening, like this.

From Ontario-geofish

Naturally, I would chop down the sides and bottom to make it more practical for access. I would watch for floor heave. You always wind up with the general dimension of 10 m, just to provide the clearance for everything at the face.

Since this is a fun project, I can throw in all the latest tools. This will probably come in at twice the phony Mel price, but it will last 100 years. Besides, what is the price of a complete disaster?

Now, for the grinders. I'm not going with drill and blast, because this is under a city, and that doesn't seem like very much fun anyway. I'm now off to the internet to look at mining machines.

Ok, I am very impressed with modern longwall mining machines. I will use something that grinds this pattern.

And probably looks something like this. I need some bigger versions.

This generally gives me the most unease, since I'm not really up on these things, but I know what I want.

The roof rock bolt machine is also very modern, using the latest robotics. I will need a fairly dense pattern, with welded mesh and shotcrete. The shale is perfectly happy being confined, but release one direction and it may start to crumble. The idea is to maintain confinement, and I hope this can be done with roof bolter right behind the grinder. I would do convergence measurement and acoustic monitoring to check this out. If not enough, the bolts would have to be tilted towards the face, and the pattern densified.

A robotic version of this for rock bolts.

-to be continued

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Salton Sea Seismic Swarm


Swarms are always interesting. They most likely result from some fluid movement. In this case, perhaps, water has opened up a crack and is moving to the south. In California, there is always the question if this will crank up the Big One. Who knows?

It's Not Rocket Science, It's Rock Science


These guys get my nod for best quote of the day. I love this micro-monitoring stuff, and will use it in my fantasy tunnel. Requires a lot of computer processing, but that's cheap now.

Niagara Tunnel: Doing It Right - Part 2

My first boreholes indicate high horizontal stresses, but I need to get a handle on this. Shale is a very different animal under high stress. On the north shore of Lake Ontario, most of the stresses have been relieved, so it is more like a soil. You excavate with the knowledge that air and water will deteriorate it further, so you cover it up as soon as possible.

This leads to a bit of a corundum when you get to higher stresses, since our experience shows that you must let the rock 'relax' for at least 6 months before you pour in the final lining. Thus, it is vital to beef up the science of this.

I am using my existing boreholes and going with hydrofracturing to determine the magnitude and polarity of the horizontal stress. We had done that successfully with our Darlington deep hole. There, we had drilled quite deep, right into the Precambrian, and had done stress measurements. This was a far contrast from the kiddy-holes they drilled at Bruce for the radioactive storage.

Hydrofracturing involves packing off a section of the hole, and pressurizing it with a fluid. At some point the rock fractures, and two cracks propagate away from the hole. With careful measuring of the pressure, you get a measurment of the stress that is holding the cracks together. At Darlington, we got moderate stresses in the Paleozic, with no strong polarity. On the other hand, the Precambrian was quite surprising, with a high value of stress, and a strong NE orientation. In fact the degree of polarity affected the results which can only measure oriented stress, to a maximum of twice the minimum stress. My suspicion was the Precambrian stress was much higher than measured.

But I digress...

My measurements now show me that we are in a band of very high, oriented horizontal stress, much like the Darlington Precambrian (remember this is a fantasy!). I am now in a pickle. We have handled high stresses before. I have visited uranium mines in the north with a very high horizontal stress. They have blasted out huge openings in an elliptical shape that were remarkably stable. I, therefore, am going with a flat ellipse for the opening.

On the other hand, we have ventured into 'horrendous' stress levels. This was encountered in the lower levels of the Underground Research Laboratory (URL) up in Pinawa, Manitoba. You can imagine solid granite virtually exploding into disks the moment you start to drill. Nobody hung around that tunnel very long, and it was soon closed. If the shale was that bad, we would have to adopt extreme measures.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama Can't Shove Intelligence Through the Senate Meatgrinder


I'm just interested in this, because of my clandestine fight against the Mel-i-verse. Poor Obama is trying to lead a New Enlightenment, where there is no great movement. He was shattered by the Yuk-Yuk rocks, and then came The Fight Against the Depression, where the Mels have out-snuck him on protectionism. Now comes the Inquisition. Can you imagine any intelligent person making it through the Ultra-Mel gauntlet of the Senate? You need a genuine Bovine who has never done anything.

Kennedy did it because of Sputnik. The Renaissance did it because of coffee. I think Obama faces a hard slog.

Niagara Tunnel: Doing It Right - Part 1

This is an academic exercise for those interested in rock mechanics. There is no news here for political scandal-mongers, since the project would have been canceled, had somebody insisted on doing it right. As it was, they could easily find someone to take the money and run.

The cheapest way to do a tunnel is to take a used tunnel boring machine (TBM), and run it through unsupported. You can do that in limestone. Anybody pulling out a core of Queenston Shale, and looking at it for 2 minutes would quickly see that it resembles limestone, it is a really good rock! Just ignore it after it's been in the core box for a few days!

Everybody gives lip service to the high horizontal stresses in Ontario, but nobody knows it lies in bands, associated with the megathrusts I have written about. That means the distribution is uneven, which could mean there are zones with higher stresses that we have ever encountered before. This is something to look out for.

For 30 years, I was always worried that the rock stresses underneath the St. David's Gorge could be horrendous. What would be the consequences? What would it look like? Is this something for Science? Sadly, we will never know, because they are doing diddly-squat for science here, they are just trying to wallpaper their bo-bo's.

So let's start our fantasy. We need to transfer a decent amount of water, not the piddly trickle allowed by the 1909 treaty, but something that is cost effective.

I'm in charge. Mel has been beaten back because it is a new age of enlightenment, and he has screwed up too many times. Since this is a fantasy, I have not crumpled up into a ball, but I relish the challenge. I am still terrified of the rock, since I have had many years of experience in this stuff, and, being Canadian, I expect the worst.

As I have always done, I would open-source the science on this, and try to find people who are brighter than me. I want to know how bad this rock really is, so I would try something innovative with the core drilling. I would pull core and wire it up immediately for measurement and sonics. I might try to throw in a horizontal hole. Most likely I would just assume the worst.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Story of Mel

This was inspired by a comment on why I don't just go nuts and vent spleen on those in power. I generally don't know who I'm writing for, but I know who I wish to avoid -- and that is Mel.

Mel is my fictional character, a collective of many people I have known over the ages. Mel is in charge of the world. He sits in his oak-panel office, with a Scotch IV, and has a zillion private lines in, and out. Mel sits at the apex of a million mini-Mels, who cascade down in a self-similar hierarchy. He is so opaque that nobody knows he exists. He just lives for the comforts of ultimate power. Although everybody aspires to be Mel, he never dies, and arranges the world around his comfort. Through him funnels all the 'tax' on productive work.

Mel exists because of the basic human desire to stop thinking. This task is painful, and usually only results from some sort of fear or discomfort. Everybody dreams of sitting on the beach, and leaving everything to Mel.

Mel's power goes up and down in cycles. He was fine in the 50's, but then those pesky Russians put up Sputnik, and everybody got scared. Thus began another great bloom of Science, as had happened many times before. But the People's great desire for Mel caused another god to rise: Mr. Whitecoat Scientist. He wasn't up to the job, and the people tore him down. In the past twenty years or so, Mel has established full power. He keeps a few tame scientist to putter around with Cancer, etc.

We don't have the Russians anymore, or Great Ambition that turfs Mel out for a while. But we are entering a more dangerous phase. For the trouble with Mel and his Minions is that they can't do anything that requires scientific thinking. We are now in for the Time of Great Blunders, until we actually fight Mel again.

And so with Mel and his Minions firmly in control, I try not to say anything that will catch their attention. They are very attuned to terms such as 'stupid idiot'. They know how to fight for survival. The intellectually interesting part is to wonder how many Great Blunders he can get away with. Right now, I see an endless number stretching into the future, like airplanes coming to land.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Whitemud, The Apple of Bruce's Eye


I just shudder when there's mention of mud and nuclear power plants. This place is quite hopping for earthquakes, but Bruce is an expert in locating sites on bad geology. They won't have any problems, and it should be as good as Chalk River.

This will be our first river site for a nuclear plant. In fact, a darn cold river site. I find it hard to imagine the intakes for a river site, perhaps they can just dig a ditch. Still, I can't see it.

Queenston Shale Photo Essay

I was going to a video, but I'm too ugly. So this is a photo essay on the rock that is in the news. You can decide the political fate.

There it is, exposed in a valley in Toronto. Why are we up in Toronto, when that nasty rock is destroying in the Niagara Tunnel? Ah, the wonders of geology. That rock lies in thick beds which tilt up towards the north-east. That means it's very deep in Niagara, but outcrops in Toronto! If you want to learn your Queenston Shale, it's here.

I've just decided to call this 'Popcorn Rock', because it is completely different when it is down in its natural state. When it comes up, it 'pops' like this, and weathers rapidly.

Here is a close up.

And look at this! The nasty vertical fractures that hit everybody by surprise. They are invisible when the rock is all compressed in its natural state, but they come out when the rock is stress relieved, such as you would get when boring a tunnel. Here, the insitu stresses are relieved by a stream cutting.

Queenston Shale has caused endless problems in engineering geology. Here it weathers quickly, causing slope stability problems (cd's for scale :).

I love the fossils: clams and worms. (Hint for Canadian Science Ministers: We went with the worms!).

This little guy laughs at all those who didn't know about this shale.

More Dreams of Rock Excavation


Everybody thinks that rock is all the same, and you cut through it like cheese. I remember that we studied underground pumped storage 30 years ago, but that's when we had brains. There are a lot of problems with this technology.

Don't Worry About Earthquake Maps


I like this article. It describes the difficulty of scientifically presenting a hazard, without the populace going gah-gah. In fact, this popular reaction is the reason why many politicians suppress the 'bad news' of seismic hazard. Just ask Toronto!

More Drilling into Faults


Looks like people want to drain the budget by drilling into another fault. Although this is always a sexy project, it really doesn't tell you anything. Although I would say that it is better to do something else, you might not get the money from politicians, for something as boring as seismic monitoring. Such is the life when all 'Big Science' depends directly on the political mood of the day.

Niagara Tunnel to Extend Portable Toilet Contract


There they are in the picture, all lined up like soldiers. Under their 'worst case' scenario, the project will be extended a few years, but the cost will not be doubled.

Those who have read my articles, would realize that their worst case scenario, isn't even my best case scenario. At least they finally admit to 'dangerous rock conditions'. So geology does exist!

I'm going to do a video in a little gorge up here in Toronto. It cuts right through the Queenston shale and shows all the things they should have been aware of.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Winter Cottage

I'm off to a winterized cottage for a few days. I'm quite 'brain dead' (no offense) on the blog right now, and maybe this will pick me up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Flush of Hotwater Tank

My longest running thread is over at the Livclean Department. It's been going on forever! One thing I did learn is that you should flush a new hotwater tank regularly, perhaps Spring and Fall, or more often if you are neurotic. You'll see a nice brown sludge coming out.

Now, if your tank is over 10 years old and never been flushed, I'm not saying to touch it! It is a ticking time bomb ready to explode, and if you flush it -- KABOOM! (maybe). I just don't want all the whiners coming back and saying: "Mr. Fish, you blew up my tank!".

I'm surprised how many people do not make provision for the tank cracking. I've had two crack on me, and luckily I have a direct drain. Somebody I know had all the finished basement ruined. And the same goes for washing machine hoses! Never--ever use the black rubber crap that may come with a new machine. Go high-end on this, trust me!

Casks of Doom


Here's an article showing how one company makes its casks. I'm sure there are many other companies. It's much cheaper to make your cask as big and as thin as possible. After all, there's a free market here!

Considering the size of the thing, the walls seem to be paper thin, just enough to provide a radiation shield. The fuel goes in for 100 years, but it's not designed to come out. For that, they will have to split the cask, and put the fragile fuel bundles into something else.

So, in 20 years these Obama Barrels will lose their coat of paint, and the rusting carbon steel takes over. Not a pretty site. (Freudian slip!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Rise of the Phony Technical Purist

A political organization that doesn't have to do anything will soon attempt to get rid of all its Technical Purists (TP's). These are the people who are a true Royal Pain in the Ass. They stop reactors from starting too soon, stop pollution, stop safety hazards, etc. The only thing that stays the hand of executioner is the worry that nothing will ever work anymore. But that never really stops a Political Organization (PO). See this article on the WHO computer system. And we all know about the other things in Ontario.

But I have recently heard of the most delicious irony: The Phony Technical Purist (PTP). The PTP rises in an organization that has purged itself of all TP's. This is a crazy person who dons the mantle of a TP. They start to raise a fuss about all sorts of ridiculous things, and they know how to document it, and insert monkey wrenches into the system. The PO is powerless to stop a PTP, since they have no honour, and can totally use the system to survive. A TP is relatively easy to kill, just order them to do something unsafe or stupid.

And so the PO starts to get plagued by these fleas. They have no TP's to squash them. I just love it!

Greg Weston Strikes Again


Nothing ever happens on the weekends. My readership dips, my money goes down to pennies, and I'm searching all the news for nothing. Except, good old Mr. Weston does his thing!

People (my relatives!) have accused me of being too nasty, but I am nothing in the larger pile of dirt. W. goes way beyond me, and he stole my "I digress" line! In his effort to elevate Ms. Keene to the position of a god, he may be wrong.

K. was a purely political creature, put in by the Liberals, the first of the governmental organization toadies. They had actually started "pre-approving" the AECL design, along the lines of the US NRC. I found out about it through CSA work, and kicked up a big fuss internally in the old company. Mainly I was concerned that we would lose our bargaining power, if this was solidified as the only choice. I knew, at the time, we would want to hammer down AECL's price.

To my very great surprise, management took it up. I was floored! Shortly after, K. shut down the operation, mainly as a reaction to offending anybody. She was a true political person, following the "politicallly correct" philosophy of never offending anybody. As well, we all knew that her organization had no staff to do this.

Since then, still with no staff, they have approved everything, and done an amazing amount of work! And these are government workers! They run a totally opaque organization, which only has to come up with a smily face. They don't even have to write a justification.

I'm not saying anything about opaque organizations, but we know that Transparency International equates opacity with bad things, and I tend to agree.

Friday, March 13, 2009

March Break

Here in Ontario, we start our school break. As is custom, all the kiddies go on a trip. This year my daughter is going to Spain.

The day did not start well. The ladies wanted to actually be brought to the airport. Then the whining began:

  1. But 100,000 people are going to the airport now!
  2. Why don't I just throw the daughter out and zoom through?
  3. I am *not* going to park!
  4. It will be horrible and we are going to DIE DIE!
When they finally settled me down, we went to the airport. And it was empty! I found my best parking spot ever, and took this picture without stepping on anybody.

So my blog has become "Information Central" for this trip. I will collect all the info sent back by the kids (NADA!), and post it. I won't be busy.

Here's the silly picture I made them do.

Ontario: No Mercedes, No French


This is just a pundit column musing on the irony of having Ontario go ballistic on not having local cars for a lottery, but then going for the French with the nuclear plant. I think it's like forcing everybody to drink the local wine!

New Madrid: No Strain No Gain


In the past few years, the big glory in earthquake studies has come from real-time GPS measurements. For example, Northridge didn't have a fault rupture, but they measured that the mountains bounced up 3 m. And there have been lots of these 'slow earthquakes' that just show strain, but no seismic waves.

And so I remember, it was with great excitement that I was involved in boosting up the Southern Ontario Seismic Network with real-time GPS. I was sure it could show something around the Hamilton area. And I knew our strain rates must be about 10 times less than California, but it still should show up, especially around New Madrid.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice, and crazy guys! Now, it appears that New Madrid has come up a cropper. They're saying that it might show the old gal is dead, but I know better. Our strain energy accumulation may be 10 times less, but our rock is probably 10 times stiffer than California. Thus, we may never make any good measurements.

And now I realize that our earthquake mechanism is different from the bankrupt state. Our earthquakes come from stress corrosion at the fault resulting in strain relief. Thus, we may never read anything until there is a big earthquake. Then, I'm sure the needles will go through the roof! :)

So, keep up with the GPS measurements, and will see something soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fish and Geology


My greatest goal is to find stories with fish and geology! Well here it is: Somebody found a fish and blamed the 'second jaw' on the tar sands! Not a nuclear plant! The story got splashed all over the greenie press.

Sadly to say, it really has nothing to do with geology. It's just a wild fish, who's heavy, toothed tongue got pushed out the lower jaw. Now, if we could combine fish and earthquakes......

Rock of Niagara

Looks like this film production of Niagara geology is on again, and I'm involved. Too bad I'm so ugly. Maybe they could do that digital stuff like the Brad Pitt movie!

This would make a great HD production!

Cue the Falls: Thunderous water dashing down on rock. The view from the tunnels.

Cue the Geology: Gorgeous 3D imagery of the geological history, including St. David's Gorge.

Cue the Heroic Investigators: Yet something is sinister about the rock. It doesn't like tunnels. Sherlock Harold goes down into the old smashed tunnels, the scene of the crime. He shows the overcoring tools, to define the rock. Boy, is he ugly!

Cue the SEM: A detailed look at shale microshears in HD.

Cue the Effort: A tour of the latest tunneling effort, focusing on the heroic efforts at the tunnel face.

Male Depression and Niagara Falls


This is the most amazing story, and I'm always willing to talk about male depression. It's different from 'the other side', because it's usually accompanied by anger, violence, and anxiety. I had it, but I'm on the pills and I'm good. It's caused by a simple deficiency of essential brain compounds (nutrients).

It's always been around, but lately there have been a lot of mass shootings. Males with depression usually do not seek help, and attempt to self-medicate with booze and drugs. The older males just drink, and function perfectly as political masters! :)

This guy in the river will get the right treatment and will recover. That's the amazing thing about male depression, it's so easy to treat! However, once addiction takes hold, or the person goes psycho, then recovery is difficult. I hope one day there is a genetic test for this, so they can start treating at a young age, and we won't have all these mass-murder suicides.

Nuke Company Goes After Blabber


Wow, this is a fun, sordid, tale to read. I really hate the concept of those retention bonuses. If you are in one of these companies, and they offer it, you can't refuse. This will be your only raise, and they will milk it for all it's worth. I don't think it makes anybody happier, since they become more of a wage slave.

Somebody close to us had the company bought out by Americans, and then this 'retention' bonus flew in. There it was, like a big steaming turd. You are giving away your freedom, and you have to swallow this.

I, on the other hand, stuck to the old company because of the pension. At least it was transferable to other organizations, or you could cash out.

Anyway, back to the article. I suppose this guy felt like I felt many times, and jumped over the edge. He should have had a psychiatrist and lawyer, and immediately sued for wrongful dismissal. But instead, the company sued to shut him up. I also think it's a bit ironic that they couldn't start the reactor anyway in 12 hours, it took over a week! So the guy went nuts for nothing!

And it's not as though anybody is going to believe him! Our constant 'refrain' in the old company was that we could never go public, since nobody would ever believe us! That's why I stay silent, besides the fact it took me a year to get rid of the nightmares, and I don't want to go back there. :)



This is just a standard newspaper column, but it has one little tidbit I didn't know. The Germanless French have offered to consume AECL if they get the Ontario contract. Wow! That would solve a number of problems.

Unfortunately, we can't get our dream of 4 reactors at Darlington with the French design. Do we just go for two? Now that all the automakers are going belly-up, that's at least one reactor down. But if we go electric, that's more than 4 reactors up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Panel Will Bury Nuclear Waste in Their Backyards


That's the price for being on this cushy, all expenses paid, panel. You have to take a rusty Obama Barrel back with you!

Remember that there is no national standard for these barrels by the river. They are all made as cheaply as they can get away with, and given a fresh coat of paint. That means they are probably not transportable, which would cost a lot more money.

Poor Obama, he wants to be so rational, but he is faced with gut-tribal pandering politicians. The position of Nevada will probably cost the country hundreds of billions in the long term, but nobody ever mentions that.

In Canada, the political choice of Darlington as the site for new nuclear will probably only cost us 10 billion over the rational choice of Wesleyville. The choice of actually excavating at Bruce will cost another 10 bil.

Yeah for Money!

Today I celebrate activating my second check from Mr. Google (went over the next $100 US). It took me 2 years to get the first hundred, and 6 months to get the second. And people ask me what I do?

I will now boldly go forth as a Paid Pundit! No more worrying what the big boys will think now. If they want to silence me, it will cost them a lot more now!

I will defend the way of the Technical Purist, the arch-enemy of Political Expedience. Those political guys hated me in the old company, and now political old-boys from all walks of life can enjoy hating me! Being a Paid Pundit, I will branch into any area where I can find some old story to tell, sort of like Miss Marple in the books.

So thanks to all for clicking the silly ads. We are now going into some very juicy times, such as:

  1. The Niagara Tunnel boring machine getting stuck.
  2. The Great Nuclear Decision.
  3. The Deep Disposal Environmental Show.
  4. The Great Toronto Earthquake (I wish!)
With all of these, every click gives me confidence to push on, and I have to use a blog because I'm too ugly for television!

I was just at a luncheon where they were giving an award to eldest son. A dad's proudest moment! Anyway, the room was filled with very old engineers, so when I mentioned I do a blog, it went over like a wet dog. One day I'll find someone who knows what a blog is!

Forget Gold, Hoard Maple Syrup!


It's interesting that although most commodities have hit the skids, food inflation is starting to zoom. Bad weather and water shortages have something to do with it.

I just like this story because it reminds me of some nice times we had with the kids. A distant relative has a maple stand near Cornwall. We would go there in the spring and collect maple sap. It was fun with all the buckets hanging from the trees. I loved to drink the actual maple sap right from the tree. It was mostly water, with just a hint of sweet nuttiness.

Then all the buckets would be dumped into the big reservoir behind the sugar shack. I'm sure this was the most impressive for the kids, with the huge fire and tons of steam from the boiling sap. Then we would get the syrup in gallon cans!

La Noah's Flood


What if you turned all of Quebec into a giant lake? Is there an environmental cost? This seems to be the question of the day. The cost of the project is quoted at merely the construction cost $8 billion for 1500 MW, the price of a nuclear station (done right!). How much are they leaving out in externalities? The loss of land, increased mercury, etc.

So really, how 'green' is all this, considering they are killing the 'green' and replacing it with blue. There's probably a big carbon cost, since bogs are great at capturing carbon. My own feeling is that if we put a carbon tax on this, and captured other externalities, the cost would be two or three times the base cost.

Everyone into the Pool!


I love it! The obituaries for Magic Mountain are starting to pour in! People are starting to discover the extent of Nevadian Perfidy. But why should they become a 'toxic wasteland'? (ha, as if the bombs didn't do it!). Best to jam it all into North Dakota!

Well, I'm sure the US is going to wring their collective hands over this for the next thousand years.

AECL Swallowed $1.2 bil


I don't know why this article suddenly popped up. Did the news people discover adding? Is there something else going on?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Loose Nukes Rolling Down the River


An usual article, lamenting the passing of good old Yuk-Yuk Mountain. At least they come out and say the "Earthquake Threat" was a red herring. I personally think that the greater threat comes from the "Obama Barrels" of nuclear waste lining the populous rivers of the nation, just waiting for a juicy earthquake.

Canada Credit


Ok, once again this has nothing to do with nothing, but the other day I was thrown in to talking to this crazy lady. She pulls in almost no income, but she has a big horribly expensive house she can't afford, and she is racking up the credit card. Her and her kid just got the very expensive iphone, and she barely knows how to use it.

I thought, this can't be happening in general! But here is an article on the situation. Is it a Canadian reaction to the recession? Or are we just behind the States a couple of years, as always?

Fed Environmental Assessment to Become More Efficient


I think it's pretty efficient now. Since the geology and seismicity has been cut out, you can probably cut out the stupid birds. They're all going to be chopped up by the windmills anyway. :)

I mean, really, if they're just going to thump the Big Rubber Stamp, why not cut down on all those hearings with all the whiners and lawyers?

Science Shoved Out


Ah, Canada and Science. I remember in the 50's and 60's Canada led science through gov't efforts. There was the National Research Council, the GSC, and a host of others. We all wanted to be Civil Servant Scientists (CSS's)! My hiring in 1979 was the last hurrah of this genre.

Then what happened? Everything became political. Massive cutbacks. The famous CSS's became embattled union members. All of these groups started to get their gov't toadies. The NRC was destroyed, etc.

Universities were still a hope, but then things happened to them. With the cutbacks, every professor had to become a consultant, some in charge of large staffs. They became 'careful'. Now, the whole broken system is being cut back even more, but it hasn't produced for a long time. However, there are always a few bright spots.

Australia had the same system, and where are they? And we can point out the true cost of not having an independent 'Voice of Science', in that truly silly ideas are being pushed out all the time, costing billions.

Can anything be done? Not right now. I think Canadians have to be convinced that 'Political Design' is not working right now, and that the 'powers that be' don't have a clue what is going on. This process of discovery can be helped along with more transparency. But, before that, we will have many more disasters, such as the Niagara Tunnel, and the Bruce waste disposal.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Niagara Tunnel Slowing Down


I just couldn't imagine it going any slower without getting stuck. Sure, every day it's getting hit with 30 ton blocks of rock that have to be busted up, but 5 m per day!

We will have to say that the biggest struggle right now is to get the machine out alive. If I see it slow down any more, I will have my doubts for its life.

What has happened in the past with rock squeeze, is that the boring machine advances too slow to keep ahead of the time-dependent creep of the rock. If, for example, they just took a holiday, the rock would totally move in, freeze all parts, and wreck the machine. Then they would have to cut it up, and bring it out the way it came in. They are following the script right now, so I give it a 50-50 chance.

Famous Earthquakes: Miramichi 1982


This earthquake happened when I was very freshly into work. It was a surprising earthquake, since it happened in the middle of nowhere, and it had the same magnitude as the Cornwall earthquake, which I was very 'into' at the time. I just thought of it now because of a recent earthquake there.

This earthquake had a special meaning to us in the old Geotechnical Department, since we were rich enough, and crazy enough to send a drill crew to measure horizontal stresses. It was thought to be great fun to drill right on top of the epicentre!

I never went, but I got all the reports. The most fun was that micro-earthquakes were happening right under their feet as they drilled. These would be like shotgun blasts, and would sometimes throw the drill around. I thought that if I had an accelerometer there, it would measure 2 g! That's when I started to realize that there was no physical connection between peak acceleration, and damage potential. The smaller you got, it was a higher frequency, and a very high acceleration. Peak ground veolocity, however, was constrained, since it was an integral, and had a relation to induced ground strain.

That earthquake totally turned me away from PGA, and I proceeded with my eternal conflict, with the rest of the seismic crowd.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nearly Lost the Old Guy

I have this horrible ceiling fixture in the middle of a tall hall over the stairway that goes downstairs. It's 12 feet high over a narrow platform. Every time the light burns out I cringe, since the covering glass must weigh 20 pounds and it's hooked on by a single screw. I call it my 'death lamp'.

So, I had to change the stupid bulb again, and being old, I forgot how I did it the last time. This time I brought in an inadequate ladder, so I had to reach over with my left hand and start unscrewing the bolt. I remember something screaming in my head "What the Hell are you doing?" Sure enough, the screw let go, and I had 20 pounds of glass that I couldn't hold up. Could I just drop it? Hell no!

I made the leap down to the narrow platform, but the glass was carrying me in slow motion over the stairs. I finally ditched the glass as I tumbled down, and landed with a thump. Instant Headache, but I wasn't out. I quick summary found a banged up wrist, and a bleeding face from glass shards. Good thing they didn't find my eyes!

So, all you kiddies, I'm banged up, grumpy, and not getting ad money, so I'm going veggie on drugs. You should all learn about your ladder safety, and never do this.

Friday, March 6, 2009

High School Swim Season Ends

For Ontario, with the OFSAA Championships. Ok, the daughter didn't get a gold this year. I still did the video, and I allowed her in the house.

Famous Earthquakes - Loma Prieta 1989


This series highlights earthquakes that were famous for me, in the sense that I found something interesting in them. The Loma Prieta earthquake interested me since it was a repeat of the 1865 earthquake. This was followed by the big 1868 earthquakes along the Hayward, and then the 1906 earthquake. Thus, I saw it as the beginning of a new series. The Hayward sequence hasn't happened yet, so it's not a firm pattern.

So, in essence, this M7.1 1989 earthquake was a dry run for the next big events. And how did everybody do? Not too well. If there had been just a couple more fires, they would have overwhelmed the fire departments, and we might have had a firestorm. As such, we will just have to wait for the 'big show'.

We are also suffering from the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake. You would think, after this event, it would be like Longbeach 1933, and there would have been lots of tougher building codes. But noooo. Like Homer, they didn't learn a thing! That's because the whole thing was pushed as a 'fire', and not an earthquake. Earthquake? What earthquake?

So, a lot of crap was built after 1906, quite fireproof. This showed up in the 1989 earthquake which just touched into the damage. A lot of 'soft stories on muck' were damaged, but only some. Many remain. Tons of pre-70 concrete buildings, and this earthquake only cracked them.

As usual, power facilities on firm ground were undamaged. Like 1906, anything on rock was undamaged. But this earthquake showed what is really going to happen when the 'series' starts up again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Congratulations Engineering Class 2009

I just came back from the Iron Ring Ceremony, and I can't tell you anything about it, or I'd have to send a killer virus down the wire. It was great to see all these young things graduating into the cold, cruel world. It was exactly the same thing when I graduated in 1977, the whole economy had gone down the sewer! Anyway, at least I could gloat about my retirement to some of the parents, and the fact I'm living off my wife!

I wish I could hire all of them, but that sounds like work, so I'll just give my best wishes.

Famous Earthquakes - Starbucks Earthquake 2001


Ok, this earthquake was another lesson on how everybody wants to give an obscure name to a big earthquake. Heaven forbid if the good name of a city would be so besmirked by naming an earthquake after it! So although we all call this the Seattle earthquake, it's official name is the Nisqually Earthquake, wherever the hell that is!

Actually, at the time, we quickly called it the Starbucks earthquake because of the very light damage to quaint old brick buildings where there was usually a Starbucks. This earthquake struck me as how there could be such a huge variation in damage between equivalent magnitude earthquakes. At M6.8 this was as big as Kobe or Northridge!

Yet, it was a damp squib. That's because it was deep, and most likely in the descending slab. It may have ruptured downward, which made it even more whimpy. I never did find PGV's for this earthquake, but the PGA was 31% g, and I would bet the PGV's were around 50 cm/s or less.

So, Seattle got off lightly. Had the earthquake been in the upper crust, and had there been a 'Fist of God' high pulse earthquake, we would have seen something!

Big CBC Earthquake Show Tonight


I never watch these things, they drive me nuts, but it has a lot of good stuff. I wish I wasn't so darn ugly, then I could appear on these shows!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Type of Netbook


I'm a great fan of netbooks for geology, or engineering in the field. This new idea (not built yet!) caught my eye. First off, it uses an ARM processor, which I like because I absolutely hate Intel. (this is totally irrational hatred!). The other nice thing about the ARM is that stupid XP doesn't run on it! So this is really top notch in my book. :)

With the arm, you don't need to wait for booting anymore. Of course the screen detaches from the keyboard, which proves that the keyboard will always be an albatross around the neck of tiny computers. Far better we all learn thumb typing!

But the real reason I have included it in my blog is the video at the reference site. The founder has the most outrageous Inspector Clouseau accent! Every time he says 'dongle' I just want to spit coffee through my nose! You have to see it.

Germans Ditch the French to Go With Russians


And who thought nuclear wasn't fun? The Russian-German Team will be a powerful force, good for third-world plants on top of volcanoes. No wonder the French are "Merding" all over the place!

We should have them do Ontario, and then have them run it. It would end up much nicer than what will really happen.

Famous Earthquakes: Izmit, Turkey 1999


Izmit was a most fascinating earthquake. Located on the North Anatolian Fault, it was the latest domino to fall in the sequence. I found it quite interesting how these earthquakes have marched along the fault in an orderly manner.

Izmit totally went against the general rule that newer buildings fare better than old ones. One of the big surprises was the total devastation of modern structures. Although there was a very tough building code, it turned out that common practice was to have the designing engineer never leave the office! He just threw out the designs to the four winds!

Then some contractor picked them up, and used the finest French concrete, with coat hangers as reinforcement. Thus, all the buildings fell down. The earthquake also broke the rules about industrial facilities, since they were mostly devastated. The report did find buildings that were undamaged but these were well-built and on firm rock. Probably bank headquarters. :)

This earthquake showed that despite all the modern knowledge about earthquakes, it is possible to totally screw up. Hmmm, why does this sound familiar?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Say Good-bye to One Mass Extinction


It used to be that all geology was defined by uniformity. That is, things have pretty much plodded along in the past, the same way they are now. So, if you see a mountain range being eroded away now at 1 cm/year, all the ancient mountain ranges were eroded at a similar rate.

Uniformity was a really big thing, following the catastrophic 'Noah's Flood' theory. The concept of taking millions of years to raise and lower mountain ranges helped Darwin immensely.

But then this became too boring for geologists. They brought back catastrophe. It's very sexy to think that one day before 'the event' all the dinosaurs were perfectly thriving and happy, then all of a sudden BLAMMY!! The same with the Permian extinction. One day all happy, then the 'DEAD ZONE".

This is much more dramatic than climate changes brought along by tectonic plate movements. Perhaps the dinosaurs and the Permians were dying over millions of years because of everyday things. Who would go to see that in a movie?

Earthquakes Hammer Old Blighty


Not really, but I just think it's funny to think of England as earthquake country. I have a vision of all these elderly matrons spilling their tea!

AECL is the Favourite Horse


If you want to bet on the Ontario nuclear horse race, then here are some tips.

Nuclear Glass Trouble


Reprocessing nuclear fuel is a great dream. You take the used fuel, chop it all up, add horrendous acids, and extract the plutonium. Thus the remaining noxious liquor is supposedly safer. But not really, since it is in liquid form. Aha! We fix that by putting it into glass slugs.

These glass bricks are now as good as the original ceramic fuel, they can never break down, and we could just heave them off the back of a truck, if we wanted to.

But reality gets in the way. The Japanese have found this to be difficult, with unstable furnaces, etc. And with such instability, what is the quality of the glass? Could we really just 'bury and forget'? Or will we find some industrious bacterium chewing away at it?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ancient Iron Ring Ceremony

Soon, I'll be joining my son for the ancient engineering iron ring ceremony. A proud moment for an engineer who got his ring from his big brother (and I found it again!). I can't really tell you anything about the iron ring, because it's super-secret. Suffice to say that engineers wear the ring when they're young and foolish, and when they get old and doddery, they tend to misplace it....

Nanticoke Lives!!


Whew! I was so worried that I had totally killed the Nanticoke nuclear dream, what with the pesky issue of no water in winter, and situated on the same sort of fault as Bruce. But I'm glad the coffee-parties can continue, in this re-pression.

I really hope that Bruce Power continues to amuse us with new sites. I suggest Chalk River. Soon, AECL will be chopped up, and eventually that old reactor has to admit it's dead. The site is so contaminated, it's a multi-billion dollar liability to the government, and why would they want to clean it up? Put a nuclear reactor on it, and it doesn't matter about the contamination!

Sure the site has a few seismic issues, but nothing worse than those other sites, and nobody is looking at that stuff anymore. A very fine site, indeed.

Go For Westinghouse!


The big surprise with the recent bid submissions to Ontario, was the fact that Westinghouse still put in a bid. It had appeared from earlier news that they were fed up with the process. However, since nobody is in a position to cover the inevitable overruns, they have thrown their hat into the ring. Now is the time for us to get political and push Westinghouse (rah, rah!).

Since this is a totally political thing, we might as well have fun with it. The various factions have their own solution to push. The 'Made in Canada', Avro Arrow lovers, want AECL. The cheese-lovers want Areva. And so, we technical people, who are always ignored, should push Westinghouse.

The article shows their great progress in China. This is the best place for us to poach talent from! Surely we can top their wages! In earlier decades we robbed Britain and Scotland of their nuclear talent, and we can do the same thing to China. We're running out of Romanians, so we have to find some new place.

As I have said before, the Westinghouse reactors have a low megawatts per acre ratio, so the Darlington site can only hold 2 reactors. The new AECL design breaks new ground (Danger! Danger!) in density, so you can theoretically jam 4 reactors on that postage stamp.

Still, Westinghouse is the best chance to get at least 2 reactors working.

Lots of Room at the Mining Show


I remember in University, a friend and I got into this show. We were doing our Masters in rock mechanics and mining, and were full of the enthusiastic juice. All we wanted to do was find a hot stock tip, so we asked the first person we saw. He gravely warned us that this place was a hotbed of 'pump and dump' schemes, so we should be careful. He then gave us a hot tip.

Of course, we bought a few hundred dollars of the stuff, and it promptly went down the toilet!

The Chalk River Albatross


This is a short note suggesting that AECL will be chopped up before sale.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Followup on Free Garmin GPS Maps

A while ago I did one of my most popular articles. Now, after receiving a note, I went back to the site and find that all the Ontario topographic maps are gone. So, ignore the earlier note, and wonder at the power of the copyrighters.