Thursday, May 27, 2010


On my fourth trip to the pool, after somewhere between 4 - 8 hours of trying, I finally found my rhythm while swimming! It is like a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I get it, now! I get it!

When I talked with him last night, Jim (my triathlon coach) said I was breathing bass ackwards. (Keep in mind I spent several years doing advanced yoga moves and taking multiple-hour-long breathing classes.) I was so accustomed to breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, I never stopped to think about the logistics of breathing while swimming. Jim said I needed to exhale OUT through my nose just before I brought my arm back, and inhale IN through my mouth as my arm came out of the water. And that one piece of advice changed everything.

It comes down to numbers. A four beat count. On the second stroke with my right arm, I exhale through my nose. Follow my hand around with my face. Inhale as the hand comes up. And repeat. Sounds simple. But for an aging computer dork, it was a major breakthrough.

I'm up to ten very sloppy laps. The goal is twelve. That would be six hundred meters. If I can do it in a pool, I can do it in a race. Or that's my theory. We'll see how it goes.

Unforeseen Consequences

The thirty eighth day of  our continued unnatural disaster. We're the victims, but BP has sentenced us to death by slow, lethal injection. Black gold. Texas tea.

Surprisingly, the audience is still watching. Hasn't changed the channel to American Gladiators or the latest installment of New Moon, yet. The media clowns and new hounds still circle. Parading along our beaches with their vans and satellite dishes. Looking for mucked-up corpses and angry locals pointing fingers.

BP is trying the "top kill" option, now. Use a big straw and slam fifty thousand barrels of "mud," into the existing shaft. If they can push the crude back down, they'll clog the works with rubber tires and boomerangs and unsold copies of American Idol's Greatest Hits. 60% chance of success. That's in perfect conditions, I'm betting. Nobody's done it 5000 feet down.

A couple of "What If" situations. Some unforeseen consequences of failing in these Sisyphusian efforts.:
  • Hurricane season starts in four days. What happens if a CAT3 - CAT5 strolls through, picks up several million gallons of goo and deposits them on top of everything within half a mile of the coastline? How many folks will have to be evacuated due to that toxic hazzard? And for how long? Cleaning oil off of a beach is one thing. Cleaning it out of backyards and out of flood-savaged remains of semi-demolished buildings is something else entirely. Nearly five years after Katrina, we're still rebuilding. Try that after a Category Five Toxic Avenger does the two-step on your vacation community and see how long it takes the tourists (ie: income) to return.
  • Speaking of tourists. The five affected Gulf states have a combined $2.2T economy. What happens if 10% of that is shuttered? A $200,000,000 loss at this stage in the Great Recession isn't going to help anyone. BP isn't going to give up a single penny more than it has to. And our government can't possibly print up more money to cover that gaping wound.

    Extend that damage to Georgia? The Carolinas? How about if our spill affects Cuba?
  • Has anyone considered what this will do to already-suffering home owners along the coastline? The value on their homes isn't bad enough? If they're "under water" now, they'll be subterranean by the time the last seagull is degreased.Can anyone see that affecting the currently-terminal housing market? The lending industry?
  • And what about the MS river? Has anyone considered the notion that a blob of crude will float over to the mouth of it and put the entire shipping fleet at risk? We can't have ships covered in oil motoring back UP the MS, sloughing off toxic love every couple of miles.
Almost forty days later. Shouldn't we start talking about these unforeseen consequences? 

Friday, May 21, 2010

It Will Be Horrific

A month has passed. At the edge of our sight, the next nightmare grows by the hour. Nobody has good numbers any more. BP says 200,000 gallons per day. Others say a million per day. The truth is somewhere in middle, I hope.

BP's sole success (a 4" pipe siphoning off some of the flow from one of the leaks) is diminishing the horror by 20%. At most. Perhaps a fraction of that.

At this moment, they're lowering a "kill" rig in place. To pump 50,000 gallons of "mud" into the pipes. Hoping to gum the works. A technique which has never succeeded at this depth. And the attempt could take upwards of two days. While everyone on every coastal city watch the grainy Internet feed from a mile down and pray to our prospective gods for salvation.

But the sad truth is that the cleanup is destined for failure. It will be horrific. We know from recent testimony that the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez was futile.  Dr. Jeffrey Short of Oceana testified in a 2009 hearing that:

Despite heroic effects involving more than 11,000 people, two billion dollars, and aggressive application of the most advanced technology available, only about 8 percent of the oil was ever recovered. This recovery rate is fairly typical for a large oil spill. About 20 percent evaporated, 50 percent contaminated beaches, and the rest floated out to the North Pacific Ocean where it formed tarballs that eventually stranded elsewhere or sank to the seafloor. 
8% success rate? Our ecosystem will drown in the rest. Wildlife. Commercial fishing. Tourism. All of it needs to learn to swim in crude, or die trying.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tri Training - Week One - Swimming

A confession. Outside of survival purposes, I do not swim. Never had the need nor the desire. But to prepare for a future triathlon, I swam laps last night. Ugly, pitiful ones. A pale, pudgy, 39yr old computer jockey flailing through the water in a long pair of skin-tight Spandex trunks. More of a spectacle than a swimmer. 

Despite my frightening appearance, glaring imperfections and sloppy mechanics, I didn't really care if anyone was watching. Or laughing. I gave it my best effort. Almost two hours of effort. Thankfully my instructor was more patient than I was, and helped me move towards the proper form I should be using. I'm nowhere close. But I can only improve between now and July 10th.

My conclusion? Swimming sucks. I doubt any races are won by perfect swimming. I have to work up to 600m. That is down and back (a lap) twelve times. I can do it. Or die trying.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Graduation 2010

The kids "graduated" today. Somehow, they had back to back ceremonies. Helped diminish the burden on my schedule.

Meg went first. She made it to the rank of top three readers in her class. Was awarded the "Most Creative Writer" award. And was awarded "Super Reader - 10." At the end of second grade, she's reading on a sixth grade level. Very very proud of our baby girl and gave her some spending money for all her efforts.

4th grade went next. And by some trick of the light, Liam went first for his class. He received top reader in his class. And #3 reader in the whole fourth grade. Then he gets the "Bill Nye Science Award," and makes the honor roll. Proud of that kid. At the end of fourth grade, he's reading at an ELEVENTH grade reading level. He absolutely 0wnz. Gave him some spending money, too.

Cindy and I are truly blessed. Both of my kids are MUCH smarter than I was at their ages. Both have huge potential and make us proud on a daily basis. They're bright, glaring lights that steer me through my storms. With them in it, my life is complete.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not The Same

My, my, my, that whole thing sucked. But, I did it.

Running, actual jogging in my case, is not the same as spending time on an elliptical machine. I can grind out a 5K on the elliptical without too much grief. But today, I ran. No machine. Did two miles in twenty four minutes. Had to fight for every stride after the first mile. But I did it. And I have 10 weeks to train for one more mile.

Also noticed that I'm back up to 199lbs. From 195lbs a couple of weeks ago. Have to blame my lack of attention to my diet and a LOT of Mexican food as of late. High calorie. High fat stuff. Just scarfed it all down with no regard to consequences.

I'm heading back to Daily Burn to track everything. Cut back on the Mexican food. Shift my training into high gear for the triathlon. Extend my running. Add swimming. Add biking. I can hit 185. It'll happen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

When It Rains

All weekend. And today. Rain. Down here in South Hell, when it rains, it pours. As if the sky is broken.

Shakespearian stuff. The gloom of oil creeping across our horizon. This whole ungodly Race To The Courthouse as people and lawyers line up to collect from BP. The oil giant pointing their fingers at the owners of the rig. The rig owners pointing their fingers at Haliburton, who poured the concrete. And Haliburton claiming they did what they were paid to do, using the regulated specs, which was all approved by some slackjawed inspectors. All of them stumbling over each other to dodge the blame and proclaim their innocence in this disaster.

In the background, Greece is in a shambles. The European Union & International Monetary Fund are printing up a $1T check that is backed by empty promises and buckets of spit. America still fights two wars. State governments are making cutbacks and layoffs faster than the paint on their ever-shrinking budgets can dry. While banks (which we bailed out) and oil companies are making record profits. (BP alone cleared $5.6B in profit just last quarter.)

When it rains, it pours. And we can't build arks quick enough or big enough.

Friday, May 14, 2010

End Of The Week

Wrapped up an extremely tiring week with chest & triceps at the gym. Did 260lbs x 6 on my fourth set. Look, I know I'm a clown. My records aren't records anywhere except in my mind. But for a nearly-forty, full time computer dork, I think I put in a serious effort. By my previous standards, for sure. I veto getting older. I opt to get better.

Anyway, two corp IT amigos were in town from Las Vegas. I never once made it home before 6PM. I'm working my normal glut of issues, a missing coworkers issues, and delving into problems which have risen the ire of the corporate team. I need a week off to recover. I won't ever get it.

Dinner with Cindy and Mom and Jason and the kids tonight, at  Juan's, in Long Beach. Liam tried and declined buffalo wings for the first time. Mom burned her finger. Jason arrived for the last quarter of the meal, but I was glad to see him. And Meg had Fried Ice Cream. Good times. Family times. Enjoying them while they last.

A long weekend. At least I'm never bored.

Sleep beckons.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ink On The Inside

Party at work today. Second Anniversary of the opening of our Customer Care Center. Good people. Good times. Lots of food. (I ate a bit.) Lots of soda. (I drank none.) Rock Band. (I played Bass.) And plenty of temporary tattoos. I insisted on a RHCP logothingy. Plus some knuckle ink that reads: THUG LIFE when I made angry-computer-dork fists and threatened to delete your email. That'll learn ya.

Won a couple of rounds of Name That Tune from the late 80s. Standy, by R.E.M. and Turn This Motha Out, by McHammer earned some prizes for the kids. Of course, I left them at work. So there's a spiky pink ball and a spiky blue ball waiting when I return.

Had fun with the RHCP  tattoo. From a distance, it fooled the eye. Of course I'd never have the sack to get such a visible one. I wear my ink on the inside, away from prying eyes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can I? Let's try!

I spent years thinking I was incapable of so many things. Didn't think I could bench press my own bodyweight. I was wrong. Didn't think I could run 5K. I was wrong. Didn't think I could advanced back bends in yoga. Wrong. Couldn't leg press 500lbs? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I have a new goal: finish a triathlon.

I've never thought I could do it. Until now.

There's one in about nine weeks. July 10th. Under a burning MS sun.

Can I? Let's try!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nuke The Sight From Orbit

I was joking the other day when I suggested we nuke the remains of the Deepwater Horizon from orbit. But then a friend of mine said that the Russian have used nukes to seal leaks on several occasions.

The theory is that the blast shifts the sea floor and/or fuses the mud and rock, preventing uncontrolled oil from escaping into the water.

The traditional methods aren't working. Time for the non-traditional.

I'd also like to suggest we use our Earthquake weapon to seal the leak.

Or find a way for HAARP to fix it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plan C? D? And E?

The 100-ton, 4-story-tall, steel and concrete container failed. Pressurized natural gas combined with the freezing seawater and gave birth to some kind of icy spooge that clogged up the whole thing in a manner of minutes. The oil is seeping out around it, unfazed.

BP says that Plan C is to use a smaller widget. A "top hat" shaped device that will cover one of the leaks because it is less likely to clog. My money says the pressure will effectively keep it from sitting in place properly.

Plan D is to pierce a lower portion of the piping with a "hot tap" and siphon off the oil. Not sure if that's ever been done effectively before now. And if it has, I doubt it has been done at 5000'.

And Plan E is to keep jamming objects into the pipe until it is so clogged it stops. Tires and golf balls and sponges made of hair. Seriously. That's their plan.

I'm gong to suggest Plan F will be to train some dolphins to plunge themselves, Kamikaze-like into the pipe. They'll do anything for us. And Plan G will be to nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Meanwhile, we've got upwards of four million gallons of Earth's finest oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully, it hasn't touched ground in MS, yet. LA has some on its beaches. AL is waiting for us to get our toes dirty. And FL is hoping the power of prayer defends them from the worst of it.

I'm guessing we have another week or two in the headlines. After that, Americans will want something new and interesting to keep them worried. Maybe the stock market. Or a government sex scandal. But this whole "oil in the Gulf" thing is rapidly starting to bore them. See how quickly they've already forgotten about the 11 dead oil workers?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Solutions & Answers

So, the brave, tireless heroes at BP have positioned a four-story, 100 ton, steel-and-concrete condom over the grave of the Deepwater Horizon. And meter by meter, foot by foot, they are lowering it down over one of the three broken pipes.

If it works, I guess they're a third way toward getting everything capped. Then they can focus on cleaning up the mess they created. If the giant condom doesn't work, we all have to shave our heads and create a giant absorbent pad to stuff into the pipes. So. Pray, people. Pray!

In the meanwhile, the folks over at have put together a great explanation of What Happened On The Deepwater Horizon.

The short version is that the rig was about to temporarily cap a well it had dug, and hand the whole operation off to a permanent pipeline or production rig. But the disconnect process went completely sideways. The Halliburton-constructed cement casing blew up like a glass pinata. A thunderous  blowout belched a boiling motherload of pressurized natural gas into the bottom of the rig, where it exploded into a raging fireball and eventually sank the Deepwater Horizon to  bottom of the sea, leaving behind three very angry pipelines that are currently spewing two hundred thousand gallons of crude from the bowels of the Earth each day.

And here we are...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Widening Gyre

Two weeks of waiting finally over. BP scored a glorious touch down. Their oil washed ashore. The Chandeleur Islands and New Harbor Island, LA. Only a couple of hours west. Both natural wildlife preserves. Makes it a two point converse for BP. Go team!

Apparently, the sludge looks like spongy orange cornflakes. All clumped up from the disperants. As if it wasn't toxic before? But, hey, even with indisputable proof that the additional chemicals are only making a bad situation worse, a good corporation never lets a little thing like evidence interfere with their public efforts to paint their efforts as viable.

Meanwhile, we've got three million more gallons turning and turning in a widening gyre. Surely some revelation is at hand. And what oily beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(My apologies to Yeats! But hey, it worked. Didn't it?)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wildlife Goes First

We started finding the corpses.

Pitiful, helpless birds washing up. An hour west of me. In the bays and harbors of Louisiana. Nothing most folk can do. Except find them and report them. Apparently, volunteers aren't supposed to do ANYTHING with wildlife, without being trained and certified to do it. Not that I'd dip gunked-up avians in Palmolive, but how about making some training and certification available to us so we can put a stop to their suffering?

Then, in Pass Christian, MS, just 15 minutes west, the dead sea turtles. None are covered in crude. No apparent physical damage, either. But they are most definitely dead. Perhaps food poisoning? Or something in their lungs? I'm no marine biologist, but the timing of these deaths is uncanny. If it isn't due to fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I'll be stunned.

Poisoning the environment is one thing. Coating our beaches in a grim layer of raw crude is another another thing. But being responsible for the slow, miserable death of hundreds upon thousands upon millions of innocent animals is not only unforgivably offensive but (hopefully) criminal.

And it is only just starting.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

50 Ways To Fail

I have no room in my philosophies for pessimism. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Ere on the side of action. And Results kick Planning's ass every single time.

But I also believe in admitting when I do not know something. I support those that know enough to ask for help. And people ought to know when something is destined for failure.

Case in point: these feeble, wasted efforts by BP to mitigate the damage from their Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They've abandoned the robotic repairs. In the open sea, with the weather being what it is, burning the oil is not going to work. 12" tall plastic booms are not going to provide a defense against any waves over two feet. And using chemical dispersants to fight an oil spill is nothing but doubling the amount of pollutants we're releasing into the environment. We've got 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, and BP is paying to prove there are 50 Ways To Fail in an oil cleanup.

Surely they have hired men smarter than I am? Don't they have some professionals on their payroll? Aren't they running simulations on their ideas? How can they not see that the chance of failure exponentially exceeds the chance of success? And why is BP going at it alone?

Frustrating. Frustrating. Frustrating.

The good news? We have no oil on shore.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Oil Updates

Our thirteenth day. Some dead fish in LA. Couple of questionable sea turtles over here. No oil on our beaches. But there's a ten day ban on commercial fishing. Tourism already suffering, too. Hotel cancellations. Won't improve any time soon.

BP is using "dispersants" to break down the oil. But I don't trust that stuff. Let's use potentially toxic chemicals to clean up an already deadly oil spill?

No luck with the robots, thus far. Nothing is shut off. Still spewing 200,000 gallons per day. Short term solution is likely stillborn.

A steel-and-concrete sleeve is supposed to be in place this weekend. In theory, it will collect the oil from one of the three pipes and funnel it into a vessel of some sort. The technique has worked before. But not at five thousand feet. Odd physics going on there. I don't have much faith it will go as planned.

The long term solution? Unimaginably distant. It can't come to that...

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Tony is a strikingly (pardon the pun) curious and offensive movie about a week in the life of a sad, repugnant, lonely, terrifying Englishman named Tony. It is the low budget, bastard offspring of American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange. The accents. The violence. The lack of details and motives surrounding Tony. Great dialog. Odd, but intriguing pacing. Few special effects. Fantastic writing. Spot-on acting.

But this isn't exactly a date flick. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than VERY late teens. And it is not for the faint of heart or those prone to paranoid thoughts.

Takes a few minutes before the story really unfolds. But then it goes off like an Irish hand grenade. Worth the wait. And the price of a rental.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Book A Week: Drood By Dan Simons

I read. Voraciously. Every night. Throughout the day. Cindy loathes the piles of books and printouts that  accumulate around my side of the bedroom. When the insomnia is bad, I can tear through two novels a week. And I usually keep at least half a dozen books at arms length. So I figured I'd write about one book each week, then stick it in storage.

Dan Simmons is one of my favorite authors. I honestly idolize the guy. He was a teacher who dipped his toes into the fiction pool and out-of-nowhere produced some of the most amazing stories I've ever read. Song Of Kali, Carrion Comfort, and Children Of The Night were staggering master pieces of Horror. Then came The Hyperion Cantos, which brought Chaucer's Canterbury Tales into the realm of Science Fiction. And now he has given us another brilliant break-out novel: Drood.

At its core, Drood centers on the long-time friendship of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. They were not only friends, but also co-contributors on many literary works of the time. Wilke is attributed with writing the first detective novel ("The Moonstone") and Dickens was working on a detective novel entitled "The Mystery Of Edwin Drood," which he did not complete before he died in 1870. In Dan Simons' novel, Charles Dickens survives a train wreck, and while crawling out of the debris he bumps into a tall, gaunt man in a heavy dark cape, with a "shockingly pale, skull-like visage," and lidless eyes... Drood.

Wilkie Collins is the opulent,  gluttonous narrator of the adventure, as the two seek out the original and intentions of this new mysterious. There's a journey to the underworld. A constant struggle to plumb the full depth of Drood's history and nature. And a complex love/hate relationship that unravels between Wilkie  and Dickens, up until the moment of Dickens' death, and beyond.

Simmons masterfully re-creates the world and life of Charles Dickens while introducing the reader to the equally interesting Wilkie Collins. Drood, of course, is an epic villain that swirls around the two protagonists like a bad hangover.

Even at more than 700 pages, I could barely put Drood down. A fantastic read and a glorious new medal on Dan Simmons' belt. It is also rumored that Guillermo DelToro immediately picked up the movie rights after reading it. I'll be there opening night!