Monday, May 31, 2010

For the Gulf.

There are probably few things I would come to Rand Paul's defense on.  He's the Tea-Party nominee for Senate in Kentucky this year and he's 100% teabag.  In the middle of stupid prattle about how unfair we are to big business and how anti-American criticizing "free enterprise" is, he really drew outrage by suggesting that in the scheme of things, accidents happen and that despite working to fix the well and promising to make good on damage payments, BP is just becoming the dumping ground in the blame game.

While I can't say there is isn't blame to head BP's way on this...or Transocean's... or Halliburton's... or the Interior Department... or the state of LA....  the scale of this catastrophe is just too much.  Look at what is going on in the Gulf:

It's amazing it's taken this long.  What good does blame do?  What good is to now suddenly act shocked that left to its own for year after year, one government to the next, enormous corporations accumulate and reward excessive risk.  It's oil.  It's on all of us.

Please stop this well.  Hope and pray.   For my egrets.

About my new job, part 1

The blog began with me leaving a job, so it makes sense to relay a bit about the work I've ventured into.  My new employer is called Tenneco, and they are an auto parts supplier conglomerate of sorts.  They have two main businesses: exhausts (tailpipe to mufflers up to the engine) and suspension components (shocks and struts).  For each business they're the top American supplier and thus the bottom line is heavily tied to the Big 3.  I work with the exhaust side, which is all based in two buildings in Jackson County, MI.  My job is in Grass Lake, a tiny town right off of I-94 between Ann Arbor and Jackson.  25-minute door-to-door travel time for me, but a fair amount of miles every day.  Here's the as-the-car-drives-it commute for perspective:

View Commute TO Grass Lake in a larger map

So it's in the country.  Anyway, I still work on "diesel aftertreatment".  That's the specialized niche I've been in since I left locomotives and worked at International Truck.   The premise is that diesel engines are under a steady tightening of regulations that are bringing all of their emissions in-line with modern gasoline cars by 2013.  The first big new technology to enable this are "Diesel Particulate Filters" which are ceramic bricks that fit in the exhaust where the muffler would be and trap 100% of the black soot that diesel engines make.  For cars and trucks, these were mandated in 2007 and I've now worked on the first and second generations of this technology at my prior two employers.  The second new technology is called "NOx aftertreatment" which is a slightly-less-standardized technology to remove Nitrogen oxides from the engine exhaust.  Cars have had catalytic converters for decades to do this, but that technology will not work with diesels.  NOx causes smog in major cities and is poisonous in high-risk exposure.  So new systems were invented that use liquid urea sprayed into the exhaust to convert the NOx to harmless nitrogen.  These systems are just hitting the road now with cars and trucks and all engines must be all the way up to the regulations in the next couple of years.

So what's different than at GM?  Well, Tenneco is entering the business of selling complete aftertreatment systems to diesel engine makers to handle compliance with regulations.  While a huge company like GM develops the controls of system on it's own in it's own trucks, a smaller company that makes, say diesel forklifts or construction equipment doesn't have those resources.  So what I work on is intended to be a "bolt-on" system.  Right now I'm just working with the soot filters, but I have a project lined up later in the year for a NOx customer.

The technology is a little different at Tenneco.  With the soot filters the major challenge is how the soot is periodically cleaned out of the filter to prevent clogging.  This is called a "regen" and involves very high heat in the exhaust pipes, up to 1200 degrees.  Where GM uses extra fuel in the exhaust being oxidized in a ceramic catalyst to make the controlled heat while driving, Tenneco is offering a diesel fuel burner for the exhaust.  With an actual flame that I have to control - actually quite similar to that within a jet engine.  The advantage is that a burner can make heat without any changes to the operation of the engine.  So we keep our hands off of our customers engines and just work with the exhaust.

Here's a picture of the system, without any particular labeling, on the back of my Japanese forklift (counterweight removed).  It has new challenges to me and I think it's interesting work.  The way we're implementing a burner, it is the first of it's kind in the industry.

Work is boring, so enough for now... More to come

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Furniture, part 7.

Nice days bring a change in attitude. Funny how it just takes a little bit to get the ball rolling. Stop thinking so negatively about things overwhelming you, and just making the most of each day - lining up the little projects that make your home a nicer place. I've done some work on my deck. A bunch in my garden-like areas. And of course, there's the garage.

I picked up a project I started back in December. It's like a bookcase merged into a dresser for upstairs. The design in my head was intended to complement the bed, which of course was a huge success a couple years back. Well, I have since added fancy tools and a much improved workshop. So I'm giving it a try as a earnest foray into what could be called cabinetry, as it will involve sliding drawers. A first try for me. Here's some pics in progress.

Start with a sketch and a neighborhood lumberyard...

Then dust things up with the miter saw...

Fire up the biscuit joiner (hey that's new!) and of course the palm sander and it's glue-up time...

Then it's a whole bunch of junk from the hardware store, some semi-careful measuring and it starts looking like furniture.

Norm from This Old House he'd be...  well... he wouldn't exactly be proud.  But if I gave him a six-pack of micro brew to drink in the corner of the garage while I did this he'd probably have something positive to say about my handiwork.   Eventually...  In between drunken slurred rants about the SAWKS and how they're WICKED GOOD this year.  Then he'd fire up the table saw and cut a bunch of fingers off and say something about "how 'bout them apples".   Then Richard the plumber and Roger ("Rawjahh") the landscaper would have to drag him to the hospital again....  Oh dear, my This Old House delusions are back!  help.

Music videos - they still exist...

And I can't stop watching this new one.  

A blog soldiers on

I'm not sure how to pick up this blog again.  So I'll just be random until I can find a way to write naturally (and interestingly) about my life.  I mean if I were unemployed and taking motorcycle journeys all over the world I probably wouldn't need any help.  But lets face it...  I am what I am.

There was food...

... right, and then there was the night I made the seafood gumbo and the cornbread.  With my notes from cooking school.  That came out real good.

That's called making a roux.  Fortunately for me I had a sous-chef that evening.

Et voila.

  That was a fun weekend.  One thing I remember was that meal.  Another was a guy who took my dopey enthusiasm for the BBC series "Top Gear" and one-upped it (times ten) with the story of how he and his brother went to Vietnam and rented Vespas and rode from Saigon to Ha Long, just like on the show's awesomest coolest (and least automotive) episode.  Yeah, that guy and the memory of how different and generally unpleasant my city is walking home across downtown at exactly 2AM Saturday in the middle of the semester.

Thanks for the visit Sister-Molly.  Evidently my old house is a bit drafty...

A Birds Nest

At the bottom of my stairs in my living room there is a window. It faces south, with a view of a tree (more of a bush really) that scraggily grows in the planter bed between the house and the driveway. The tree isn't much special, but it is healthy and has grown together with the similarly-sized, prettier-leaved, but slightly disease-stricken tree/bush across the driveway. Together they form a very nice arch over my driveway. And that's about all I ever thought of it, until this Spring when out this window I notice a bird's nest. With a robin parked in it. Hm. It's a shame that my first thought when I see birds nests is "well, I'm going to have to get the ladder and a garbage bag..." Yeah, not sure where that comes from. Anyway - this nest is right outside the window - like a foot. And the lady robin, whose name is Rosie, really doesn't seem all that upset by me in the window. She kind of stares at me, not moving too much.


Anyway, I'm distracted these days and to be honest, I very seldom think about birds. I sort of take them for granted - they're around. They don't get in my way, they don't jump in front of me on the road, they seem to come and go in the winters but not all of them. Some of them stay and are cold. I mean, really neat birds like the Sandhill cranes I see at my job - those I usually will admire and "appreciate". But I think its just because they have long legs. Why do they have long legs? I guess it's not just birds but nature around me in general - it's there but it's not part of my life. I don't bother it, it doesn't bother me. All this is my way of saying that while I noticed the robin and the nest so close outside my window it never occurred to me why the robin made a nest. It's not a place for her to sleep - or to have dinner worms with her husband (whose name is Jerry Seinfeld). No, its where they have baby robins. Ohhhh. Right. That's what those little puffing balls of tiny are under her in there. A-ha.

Good thing I have a camera. For science.