Safety, and Personal Responsibility

I was taught from childhood on: There is no such thing as a no-fault accident, somebody always had a way to prevent it. Fault is a legal term and means something else, but all accidents are avoidable by taking (or not taking) some action, or list of actions. Let’s start here:

I’m sorry but such a list of blown safety rules, to me, makes this little less than suicide, and him a poor employer, and you know what, once he thought about it, I’ll bet his supervisor wasn’t surprised, although saddened. But that’s fine, he failed as well.

This is the overhead companion to that post the other day about fixing underground cables and is a pretty clear indication of why I like so many of my peers prefer overhead construction. Of, course it has it’s moments as well:

It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and frankly it is why you never see electrical utility crews leaning on our trucks, which we specifically do ground. The advice given here on what to do if this happens to you, is the same that I have been taught all my life.

One thing that causes us out here to lose afarmer every once in a while, is when the get something to close to a power line, note that you don’t have to touch it.

And finally, most American power companies have demonstration rigs like this that are available, and the skilled presenters that go with them. if you haven’t seen one (or even if you have) pay attention, this is the straight scoop from our side of the meter.

And yes, I have killed more than a few generators (and sometimes the tractors they were attached to, when I safed a line. DO IT RIGHT, or be prepared to kill a lineman, or trplace you generator

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Fault

scattergood01Have you ever wondered what guys like I do, when we’re not telling you that you need to do some completely unaffordable thing to keep your house wiring safe? We’re telling the utilities the same thing.

I ran across this the other day, talking about fixing an underground cable from a powerplant in California. It also highlights one of the reasons why a fair number of us are not fond of underground, no matter how much prettier you think it makes the landscape. :)

How do you fix a shorted cable ? Not just any cable. An underground, 3-phase, 230kV, 800 amp per phase, 10 mile long one, carrying power from a power station to a distribution centre. It costs $13,000 per hour in downtime, counting 1989 money, and takes 8 months to fix. That’s almost $75 million. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power did this fix about 26 years ago on the cable going from the Scattergood Steam Plant in El Segundo to a distribution center near Bundy and S.M. Blvd. [Jamie Zawinski] posted details on his blog in 2002. [Jamie] a.k.a [jwz] may be familiar to many as one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.

To begin with, you need Liquid Nitrogen. Lots of it. As in truckloads. The cable is 16 inch diameter co-axial, filled with 100,000 gallons of oil dielectric pressurised to 200 psi. You can’t drain out all the oil for lots of very good reasons – time and cost being on top of the list. That’s where the LN2 comes in. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN2through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. With the frozen oil acting as a plug, the faulty section is cut open, drained, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed. To make sure the frozen plugs don’t blow out, the oil pressure is reduced to 80 psi during the repair process. They can’t lower it any further, again due to several compelling reasons. The cable was laid in 1972 and was designed to have a MTBF of 60 years.

Finding out the location of the fault itself was quite a feat. It involved time-domain reflectometry (inconclusive), ultrasound, and radar (didn’t work) and then using an Impulse Generator-Tester (Thumper) which got them pretty close to the defective segment. What pinpointed the problem was a bunch of car batteries and some millivoltmeters. They hooked up car batteries to both ends, tapped the cable at several points and knowing the drops and resistance of the cable, got within a few feet of the fault. Finally, X-Ray equipment was brought in. Sure enough, they could see the cable shorting against the steel wall of the pipe. Cutting open, and closing it all up, required certified welders spending up to 8 hours on each section to avoid damage to the paper insulation. The welders placed their thumbs 3 inches away from the seams they were welding, and stopped when it got warm to touch, allowing it to cool off before starting again.

The failure was attributed to “TMB”, short for Thermal Mechanical Bending. TMB causes the cable to wiggle in place due to load surges. This eventually causes insulation failure due to abrasion against the pipe and separation of the many layers of paper tape. They repaired the short, put aluminum collars in most of the joints to hold the splices in place, and have added a load management scheme to reduce the current peaks. Apparently, the fix wasn’t good enough. According to this Wikipedia article, “the 315 megawatt capacity Scattergood Steam Plant (Unit 3) to West Los Angeles (Receiving Station K) 230 kV line is having to be replaced after only 45 years of operations, due to multiple failures within this rather long single-circuit, oil-filled, “pipe type” cable.”

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Feels Like Mission Impossible | Hackaday.

TDR’s are one of the most useful diagnostic tools ever, they pay for themselves quite quickly but it’s nearly impossible to convince bean counters that think Radio Shack sells useful meters that a $2K plus tool, that doesn’t fix anything, and occasionally isn’t good enough is justified. Heck, I haven’t even quite convinced myself yet. Thumpers work (sometimes) on the principle of “letting all the smoke out”. It’s much easier to find a broken something than a cracked one, after all. For the rest, if you’re interested follow the links.

It’s part of the reason than the electrical trades are often so fascinating to be in.

And there’s this, from his comment stream, showing how sometimes we manage to get authorized to buy a new widget.

View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

Screen-Shot-2015-05-14-at-9.33.52-AMI’m a senior electrician and operations manager. In both roles, my major function is to lead, and to get people to do their best, as well as to get the job done: on time and on budget. In other words its up to me to get the best my people can do, whether they are white, brown, black, or purple; male, female, or other. I just don’t care.

Are you a competent electrician, able to do all of the duties of the position? That’s my only question. Granted there are parts of the job that require physical strength, there are parts that require a certain type of intelligence. If I need five hundred feet of trench hand dug in wet clay, I’m unlikely to (if I can help it!) send a five foot two, 98 pound electrician (whatever their gender) to do it. To me that’s common sense. But it happens, it also happens that I end up doing it myself, I don’t like it either, but that’s life. The mission is the thing. And my mission is to get the electrical done, come hell or high water.

One of the places I learned that was in Air Force ROTC way back in the age of steam airplanes, and I learned it from men who had driven airplanes from England to places like Schweinfurt, and from islands like Saipan to Tokyo. They understood the costs of the mission very well and accepted it. That mission (unlike mine), projecting through air power the overwhelming force of the United States, cost them the loss of many of their friends. They, and their friends, willingly paid it. They were warriors.

And we are lucky, we still have warriors but, it seems to me that the Air Force has forgotten their mission, and become a touchy-feely, don’t hurt me outfit. If so, it has become a flawed weapon, not to be trusted, and that is the point of this article.

I start with the original poster’s explanation of the author because it is right to do so.

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing tothe Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way. Enjoy and respond. -Q.

★       ★       ★       ★       ★

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way. […]

When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Read it all: One Airman’s View: Open Letter to the SARC : John Q. Public.

There is nothing to add to that, except to thank God for women, no warriors, like Kayce.

Lead her

Follow her


Get the hell out of her way!

Taylorism, or “My Steam Engine is Broken”

English: Frederick Winslow Taylor lived from 1...

English: Frederick Winslow Taylor lived from 1856 to 1915 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Business and Industry in this country is screwed up, I suspect you’ve noticed that. There a fair number of reasons for that. One of the big ones is that the regulatory agencies are completely out of control.

In my field, industrial electrics, there are procedures that are all but essential to troubleshooting but one can no longer use them because you cannot comply with OSHA rules and implement them. So, we all, even the best of us, have to grope around in the dark, almost randomly changing parts based on our experience, and hoping we get lucky. Eventually. we do, but it’s often slow and frustrating because we know there are better ways. That’s one way.

Another is that the lawyers and the accountants have taken over, and so we are restricted to doing things that will reflect on the monthly or quarterly (at most) bottom line. You don’t build a great company by making a profit in this quarter and the devil take the next, we’ll worry about that, then. You build a great company by doing thing the right way at the right time, not patching things together to get through the day. And with the lawyers so deeply involved, anything approaching honesty, or even admitting you might have made a mistake, will cost you your job, and likely your career.

It’s rather like letting the umpires and scoreboard operators run baseball, regardless of the owner, players, and spectators. It just doesn’t (and can’t) work very well.

Then there is management philosophy. If you’ve ever worked for an old-line manufacturing corporation, you likely noticed the sign over front gate, the one that said:

Thinking is neither allowed nor encouraged

Do as you’re told!!

Yeah, me too. frustrating wasn’t it? In large measure, it comes from what is called Taylorism, and there is another book that is on my wish list about it. In truth, if you are building 50,000 widgets, just alike, it works fairly well. It would be wiser to automate the whole line, and use your people for better purposes, though. Here’s a piece of the write up:

In the early 1900s, the US was swept up with a drive for improved ‘efficiency’ in every field of endeavor; a drive that was sufficiently significant to earn its own title, the Efficiency Movement. This movement is seen today as a part of the wider Progressive Era – the early twentieth-century drive to clean up corruption in politics, break up industrial monopolies and generally to allow the cleansing waters of modernism to flow through the mucky stables of late nineteenth-century American civic life.

Unfortunately, some aspects of the Efficiency Movement – particularly Frederick Winslow Taylor’s ideas about Scientific Management, often referred to as Taylorism – are still lodged in the modern corporation’s subconscious. These industrial-era, managerial behaviors are still affecting corporate behavior today – in ways that are entirely inappropriate to the knowledge economy.

Continue reading History News Network | The Mantra of the Industrial Revolution that’s Hobbling the Knowledge Economy.

Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that only thinking people can do work to my standards, and so that is part of my selection process, even above credentials. What I do is tell my supervisors what needs to be done, who they have to help them, what material they have, and when it needs to be done, and let them run. They can, of course, talk to me if they need to, but it’s their mission to get it done, safely, on time and on budget. Their career depends on it, and I’m not particularly interested in excuses.

In other words, I think the employee’s brain is at least as important as his back, but I’m kind of lonely sometimes.

Corporatism and Healthcare

Image representing CGI Group as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

We’ve often talked of the differences between capitalism and corporatism. We are living through a real life demonstration as we speak. Where? In Obamacare. This is true on several levels.

One the law, distorts the market by requiring some coverage irregardless of the customer’s (that’s us) desires. One example is that I, as a roughly 60-year-old single man have very little need for maternity benefits, but the law requires me to buy them. Why? Most likely because it’s important to increase my cost to offset something else in the law. Like that women use more health care and are therefore more expensive to insure, but you can’t charge to reflect the fact.

There are plenty of these things in the law, pretty much all of them increase the cost of coverage.

You know, of course, that you are required to buy insurance. Why? And in truth most of these plans have annual deductibles that are higher than I have spent on health care in my life, which is why, except when I had an employer sponsored plan, I’ve never had health insurance, I’ve just paid my bills out-of-pocket and gone my way. Granted I’m not average, I suppose, I’m perhaps healthier than most, but not spectacularly, I just don’t go to the doctor every time I have the sniffles. Insurance companies love me, I’m nearly pure profit after underwriting. But I don’t love insurance companies, they are very nearly a pure cost to me, without benefit.

In truth, I’m at the age now, where I would be considering buying at least a catastrophic plan, but Obamacare has outlawed them. So I’ll have to reconsider.

That’s one way the law interferes with an efficient (let alone free) market.

Then there is the implementation.

Government programs are often contracted out, as they should be, the government does very little well. This contract process usually attempts to find qualified contractors, and then the contract is issued to the contractor offering the lowest price. It works, after a fashion. It leads to some jokes like the astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission after their problem looking at each other and asking how it feels to be going to the moon in a vehicle built by the lowest bidder. But it’s reasonably fair to all parties, and the government does have to purchase things. There are comparable things in the private sector, and if the specifications are properly drawn (sometimes a big if) it works well. It is a bit (sometimes a lot) cumbersome though.

So if you need something done very fast, there has always been a way to sole source contracts. The left used to love to talk about Halliburton in Iraq, specifically one of their contracts, which was sole sourced. It was to drive gasoline tankers across Iraq during the war, and it was for cost-plus one dollar. This one was to the government’s benefit but, the system is easily abused.

And that brings us to the HHS department and Obamacare. It appears that a lot of the IT work was awarded on sole source contracts (and no, gentle reader, they were not cost-plus a dollar, either). They agree to have been awarded to cronies of the Democratic party. That’s very bad management, and possibly corrupt. But the worst part is that it appears they were not particularly competent either. John Hinderaker of Power Line Blog has an article up with a cogent technical discussion.

Software expert Dan Weber, in a comment on Marginal Revolution, offers a cogent technical explanation of the failure of the Obamacare launch:

The front end technology is not the problem here. It would be nice if it was the problem, because web page scaling issues are known problems and relatively easy to solve.

The real problems are with the back end of the software. When you try to get a quote for health insurance, the system has to connect to computers at the IRS, the VA, Medicaid/CHIP, various state agencies, Treasury, and HHS. They also have to connect to all the health plan carriers to get pre-subsidy pricing. All of these queries receive data that is then fed into the online calculator to give you a price. If any of these queries fails, the whole transaction fails.

Most of these systems are old legacy systems with their own unique data formats. Some have been around since the 1960′s, and the people who wrote the code that runs on them are long gone. If one of these old crappy systems takes too long to respond, the transaction times out.
Amazingly, none of this was tested until a week or two before the rollout, and the tests failed. They released the web site to the public anyway – an act which would border on criminal negligence if it was done in the private sector and someone was harmed. Their load tests crashed the system with only 200 simultaneous transactions – a load that even the worst-written front-end software could easily handle.

Continue reading Why the Obamacare Rollout was a DisasterI’ll wait for you.

As it happens, I don’t and never did write COBOL, although I know people who did, I sort of learned FORTRAN IV a scientific language that we used in engineering, and I learned to program (and debug) on punch cards. You younger people have no idea how easy you have it. :-)

It’s hard, and I’d guess interfacing that stuff to a website leads to lots of hangovers. Not least because the programmers who really knew how to use those languages are pretty much retired (or dead).

And then when your prime requirement for getting the contract is political connections and/or contributions, you have set the whole process up to fail, the only question is, did you know that or are the executive level employees so incompetent that they didn’t understand what they were doing?

My friend Gilia at the Hump Day Report is here to tell you about some of the connections involved. I’ll bet we find more. Here’s Gilia

It pays to be a friend of the mighty Obamas.  While the American people have spent over half a billion dollars on the botched ObamaCare website, and the administration has wasted over 3 years getting it ready,  King Barry and Queen Michelle’s friend are doing quite well.  Check this out (shaka to DocMarv):

Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website

4:57 PM 10/25/2013

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is a top executive at the company that earned the contract to build the failed Obamacare website.

Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of ’85, is senior vice president at CGI Federal, which earned the no-bid contract to build the $678 million Obamacare enrollment website at CGI Federal is the U.S. arm of a Canadian company.

Townes-Whitley and her Princeton classmate Michelle Obama are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni.

Toni Townes ’85 is a onetime policy analyst with the General Accounting Office and previously served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, West Africa. Her decision to return to work, as an African-American woman, after six years of raising kids was applauded by a Princeton alumni publication in 1998

George Schindler, the president for U.S. and Canada of the Canadian-based CGI Group, CGI Federal’s parent company, became an Obama 2012 campaign donor after his company gained the Obamacare website contract.

As reported by the Washington Examiner in early October, the Department of Health and Human Services reviewed only CGI’s bid for the Obamacare account. CGI was one of 16 companies qualified under the Bush administration to provide certain tech services to the federal government. A senior vice president for the company testified this week before The House Committee on Energy and Commerce that four companies submitted bids, but did not name those companies or explain why only CGI’s bid was considered.

On the government end, construction of the disastrous website was overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of longtime failed website-builder Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services.

Update: The Daily Caller repeatedly contacted CGI Federal for comment. After publication of this article, the company responded that there would be “nothing coming out of CGI for the record or otherwise today.” The company did however insist that The Daily Caller include a reference to vice president Cheryl Campbell’s House testimony. This has been included as a courtesy to the company.

Read more:

Friends With Benefits.

To be honest, in all business there’s a level of this, we all like to work with our friends. I don’t get very excited about it as long as the work is done competently, on time, and on budget. But when you can’t hit even one of the goals:

“Houston, we have a problem.” 

Where Government Drops Ball, People Must Take Up

Logo of the United States Department of Health...

Logo of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The symbol represents the American People sheltered in the wing of the American Eagle, suggesting the Department’s concern and responsibility for the welfare of the people. The logo is the department’s main visual identifier; the seal is now used for mainly legal purposes. The color can be either black or reflex blue. More information here and here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Anchoress has a story up that I was glad to see, we don’t see enough of them lately it seems. Go read it, and then we’ll talk.

This is one of those stories that makes you feel good about one human being seeing and hearing and helping another human being, but it also frustrates, because long-term answers are not forthcoming.

When she asked if she had paid for all the food she was carrying, Robles confessed that she hadn’t.

“I asked her, ‘Why would you do that? What would make you do that?’” [Officer] Thomas told WSVN. “And she said, ‘My children are hungry.’”

Thomas pulled her aside and checked her criminal history. Finding nothing major, she charged her with a misdemeanor.

However it was Robles’ story that left Thomas concerned, as she knew the single woman’s problem wasn’t at its end. “I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry,” she told the station.

Thomas spent $100 of her own money on groceries for the young mother. . .Anais, Robles’ 12-year-old daughter, had tears streaming down her face as she expressed her thanks.
It’s “not fun to see my brother in the dirt, hungry, asking for food, and we have to tell him, ‘there is nothing here,’” the 12-year-old sobbed to the news station.

It’s great that the cop did this, but $100 worth of food plugs a hole that will be open again in a few days. What this lady needs — and I’m sure she would agree — is a job.

Continue reading Where Government Drops Ball, People Must Take Up.

It’s a nice story, and it leads to the usual things. Less we all know “Teach a man to fish”. But it’s difficult to fish in a river so contaminated as to be devoid of life. And that’s where we are in many ways.

If we are to talk of health care, I find the sheer arrogance of any politician, let alone one (or a government full of people) who have accomplished nothing in their life other than to talk a good game, not to mention their arrogance in proclaiming they don’t work for us.

And that’s not to say that the so-called opposition is all that much better either. I see little that makes me think that many of them are any better, less audacious maybe, but little better.

But these are the people who have taken it on them selves to take over one sixth of the American economy, the part that has given Americans some of the best health care in the history of the world.

Did it have problems before they started screwing around? Yep, sure did.

  1. It was expensive. Yep, sure was, or could be. You know what, when your trying to make the best in the world, your average, that’s what happens. It’s a feature of a rich society, not a bug. I’m here in the middle of the prairie, in country that probably averages less than 10 people per square mile, and within an hour of me are at least 3 MRI machines. The last I knew their were less than a hundred in all of Great Britain. Not to mention a dedicated multi-million dollar helicopter ambulance and it’s staff. If you want to reduce the cost without reducing the level, you enhance competition, not reduce it. You allow me to buy any policy offered anywhere in the country, that I think meet my needs. I’m the only valid judge of that, not HHS, and certainly not the IRS.
  2. It was unfair to poor people, well, I suppose it could be, what makes you think the new system will be any better. I think it’ll be worse, simply because now the decisions will be made by bureaucrats in Washington, not doctors looking at the patients.
  3. Too many lawsuits, Yep, tort reform. Obamacare doesn’t address this, too many trial lawyers support him I suppose.

As many of us foresaw the monstrous mess of a bill is blowing up in everyone’s face. I can’t say I’m sorry. I desperately needs to be repealed and forgotten,but, that’s not going to happens for now.

But what is:

  1. A half a million people have lost their health insurance this week, Some of them, no doubt are like me, that in the last 20 years haven’t used the first years deductible, but I’d guess there are many that really need that insurance. I also doubt that, even if they manage to get through that website, they will be able to afford what’s on offer there, let alone the nearly guaranteed identity theft that goes with it.
  2. Doctor’s are going out of business just as fast as they can unload their practice. Most doctors in my experience, became doctors to heal people, not to be paper shuffling (or electron inconveniencing) automaton. Some no doubt will establish cash only practices, the are the best hope of reasonable care in the future. It’s also the old model that held sway when I grew up. Go to the doctor, give him between $5 and 25, depending and go your way, maybe to the drug store, give them money too, unless it was a wonder drug that you needed all the time, then maybe, your insurance would help, rarely.
  3. Because the government has decided it’s a good idea to punish companies for hiring full time employee, employers are letting them go. How many stories of full time workers being reduced to 29 hours a week have you heard.

But what I really wanted to do here was to remind you of a couple things. No matter how good or bad (and yes even for an incompetent administration, contracting with corrupt contractors, it’s amazingly bad) the website is; that isn’t the problem. The problem is the arrogance of government thinking it knows what I need, better than I do.

Along that line we need to be careful, the website is fixable, the problems with the act, are not.

The other thing is we need to be compassionate here. There are still a lot of people who believe in ‘free stuff’. I, like you, believe in absolute personal responsibility, but you know, they weren’t brought up that way, were they? We need to educate them, we don’t have any real need to starve them to death. We need to figure this out as we go forward because Obamacare has already caused a lot of damage to health care (and the economy itself).

 But part of it is what the Anchoress wrote about. Why? This is how we always did it. People didn’t flock to America for the last hundreds of years because they were being ruthlessly exploited, they came for a better life, and they found it, and they wrote home, and more came, and almost none starved or died in the street. Why? The people and churches of America.

I’m more than a bit of a know-it-all; but I’d surely be interested in how you think we should proceed.

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