Admiral Rickover’s Engineer’s Engineer Robert Milligan

My mother worked at the US Naval Station in Brunswick Maine for over 30 years and I grew up hearing everything about the Navy. One of the most colorful people my mom always talked about was Admiral Rickover. Last year I read this great book that was written in his own words called “The Never-Ending Challenge of Engineering: Admiral H.G. Rickover”. It was an amazing book and it really discussed a depth of engineering that I have always been fond of.

One story that the Admiral talks about in one of his speeches is about the Chief Engineer of the USS Oregon named Robert Milligan who served during the Spanish war of 1880’s. He talks about how Milligan changed the way engineers were treated in the Navy – before his tenure they were nothing more then part of the crew, but after that, they are part of the thinking officers on the ship.

USS Oregon

As the story goes, the captain of the Oregon listened to Milligan while working the blockade and let him keep the boilers slowly burning so they could get to full speed fast! This allow them to catch the fastest of the Spanish ships as it tried to out race the entire US Navy.

crew of the Oregon

Another story about Milligan on the Oregon was when they were going from California to Cuba as quickly as possible, the Captain asked Milligan to use the limited fresh water for the crew and use seawater for the boiler. Milligan asked if he could speak freely and recommended using the boiler feed water for the crew and fresh water for the boilers. His changed allowed the ship to do the massive trip in 66 days (this was before the Panama canal and had to go around South America). This forged the relationship between the two men and allowed engineering to have a larger role in the ship decisions.

The best thing about this description of Milligan was the engineer’s engineer as Rickover describes him. The statement about walking down the engine room and hearing every noise knowing if the equipment is working correctly exemplifies that mindset- that was also a trait of Rickover when he was coming up in the Navy. People from other ships would ask his opinion because he knew equipment so well.

The Spazmatics

Spazmatics

Last month I had a great I was at the 4C environmental conference held in Austin Texas. One night out they had buses take you to the world famous salt lick BBQ and then to a distillery. This was my first time hearing the band “The Spazmatics”. They play 80’s music in this classic Nerd look and feel. Not only where they amazing and funny, they know how to entertain!

The next day I looked them up thinking I would go see them if they traveled up to Boston, to my surprise – the band I saw was part of a multi-city Spazmatic corporation! They have a formula I guess where they get gig’s all over the country and have different people in the band. Who knew Nerd culture mixed with 80’s music was so popular.

Don’t listen to them

I am reading a great book about the history of cancer – it is called “The emperor of all maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee- just a fantastic book. One point I want to discuss are the naysayers everyone hears when trying to change things. In the book Siddhartha talks about Dr Pinkel at St. Jude’s hospital in Nashville in the 70’s on the cutting edge of pediatric chemotherapy. In 1979 after many years of chemo trials on really sick children he did a little math of how his new thinking on cancer had been effective. Out of 278 kids, 80% cancer free. He wrote “Palliation is no longer an acceptable approach..”. He was referring to a practice not many years before that when it was standard procedure for doctors to let kids die with on intervention – “let then die in peace”.
Sydney Farber and Don Pinkel did not listen to conventional wisdom, they made HISTORY! Whenever I heard “It can’t be done” it makes me think of these amazing mean and what they did to save children of horrible deaths.

DMK – Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá, Colombia

I have always been a Depeche Mode fan as with all 80’s British music and 4 years ago by chance I found DMK on youtube. They were the most original cover band I have ever heard and the way they do the music is amazing. Not only is the band 2/3 children, they are all using homemade instruments!

I just looked them up today and realize they are still around – the kids are bigger and they are now doing tours! Here is a great acoustic version on Just can’t get enough.

Fantastic! Hope they come to Boston soon!

Old letter I found

Well I found this old letter in my basement that held my baptism records. This was over 50 years ago and I was wondering where we lived as a family back then. So today I decided to look a little harder at it and see what I find.

Letter found

first, the street I was born at is no more – I am quite sure it was renamed to Dleur De Lis Drive in New Orleans. The main reason is it is would make consist with “A” and “B” street.

map between house and church

Also it is about 5 miles from where the church I was baptized. It must of not been that much of a drive (15 minutes on google earth now). Interesting that I have never heard about this church before this.

the church

The church is still there – and it looks very nice from the outside.

latest photo of where house was

The house does not exist anymore – perhaps it was destroyed during Katrina (it is very close to lake Pontchartrain).

2007 image of where the house was right after Katrina

From this image on google maps it looks like the entire area had damage from the storm.

map of Katrina damage

Also it only costs 5 Cents to send a letter back them.

Trip Review: #220 Gasket/Packing training Prairie State/Sioux Ameren Fossil Power Plants

Radionizer: #220
Trip: Valve and Gasket Training at Sioux Power Plant and Prairie State Power Plant
February 25th – 27th, 2013 – outside Saint Louis, Missouri
This trip was to conduct 4 4-hour seminars at 2 fossil power plants on the basics of valve packing and flange sealing. The training went off very well and I really enjoyed doing the training. It was also a chance for me to use my 2nd generation bolting demonstration unit I built from the ground up.


My bolting cart screenshot showing the decay curve of gasket creep.


Fred moving the valve hands on unit between plants


The Sioux Power Plant

The Prairie state Power Plant

Remembering California while it snows outside

This photo was taken while we drove up from Venice California to Santa Barbara on the PCS (Pacific Coast Highway). Not only am I getting the lingo down, I am all in on the golden state! We had a great vacation starting in Palm Springs and then moving through the Joshua Tree National Forest, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

I think one of the best things I loved about the vacation was the time of the year – terrible weather back here in Worcester and just amazing in southern Cal. Also it was considered way off season and we had very few crowds! I will try to add that destination for every January from now on!

Williams heat exchanger fire

Another video that shows how people neglect procedures in place because they seem to be burdensome but end up causing massive damage, and in this case death. The story also highlights how “tribal” knowledge can end up not being captured. I feel when the changes were made no one thought they would need to explain how the system now works – and they would never recommend opening the heat exhanger without having the vent engaged, but, like many times, that information got lost in translation to paperwork.
I think something like having a lockout tag on the 2nd valve would of been noticed if someone did a thorough MOC but, as stated in the video, some questions were left blank.

The link to the CSB report here.

Lac Magantic Train Crash and air leakage

I have been thinking of this accident in Canada.  Not only was the issue with putting the hand brakes on with the air brakes on already as a root cause, but also the leaks in the air line that must have lowered the air pressure in the system.  Air leakage is accepted as normal and no one really spends much time fixing but this accident should reflect on how something so simple as an air leak can cause a disaster.

Fittings around air piping are a typical air leak problem.  Simple checks and using higher grade tape could of assisted.  I am not the only person to wonder http://about this – here is a great article with more depth of the issue.  One good quote from this article:

“Hand Brakes should have been redesigned many years ago, to make them easier to use and more likely to work properly. The problem is, no one is pushing for it. Costly air leaks should have been addressed and improved, but nobody is pushing for that either.

It’s difficult to explain in this format just how much leakage the railway industry is OK with. Locomotives are equipped with an air flow sensor that shows the engineer how much air is flowing/leaking. Get the picture? Leaks are OK, we just have to manage them. Our Lac Magentic engineer was driving the train, so he knew what the leakage was on that train”

Manchester by the sea Movie Review

The movie really hit me after watching it last night.  The quote I see sometimes on social media is “you can’t tell from the outside what people are suffering inside”.  This was the main point I got from this movie and the pain people carry around with them.  As the character Lee said, “I can’t break it” – it is not as easy to say snap out of a bad mood when you have serious weights in your life you carry.

Your life can be looked at as a existing between 2 goal posts ~ one being the  worst pain you have ever felt in your life and the other being the most happiness.  Some peoples goal posts are very narrow with a low standard deviation of a bell curve and some with high ones.  In this movie they tell a story of someone who has lived though things no one should have to do.  It really made me think deeper about what people’s tolerance to suffering.  Also it was a movie to reflect on how people’s own selfishness gets in the way to see other’s humans pain.

Also the filming style was really low key and added to the feeling of flowing in sorrow with the main character Lee.  I recommend seeing it because it is something to reflect on your own life.