Saturday, May 22, 2010

airport bloggin

Picture looking from
St sophia's to the
other monastery
at the end of the

I'm at munich airport flying back home from Ukraine. Yesterday was a pretty
long day, took a train to Poltava and back in the evening. Everyone else went out
again for a last 4 hours on the town before a 6 am flight, but I p'd out and crawled
into bed for 4 hours of deeply needed sleep.

I just encountered my first really inefficient germans, while struggling through
security before coming through immigration. The security setup was running
like a well oiled barrel of monkeys with a football; taking 1/2 hour to get 1o people
through. Anyone with a close connection was screwed right there. I felt like
yelling 'what kind of germans are you?', but probably not a good idea.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kiev blogging

I've been in Kiev, Ukraine for most of this week. It's a nice city that
gives you a scare when you leave the airport, blocks of russian style
apartments that look like they were crappy when they were built. Then they
stop and you have to drive another 20 minutes to the city. Then downtown
is pretty nice.

Very few people speak any english here, but everyone speaks Ukrainian and
Russian. It's still a very low trust society, the hotel bill is paid when you
check in, and to charge something to your room you have to prepay a credit
to your account.

I have had more vodka this week then I've had since LSU. It kind of forces you
to drink the next night too, because the only thing that helps with the hangovers
I've had every day is a beer. I think my liver will fly back to Italy before me, trying
to make it's escape.

The one afternoon I had to play tourist and the weather turned crappy. I got to see
St Sophia and the museum, but it took me two tries to get in. They have a ticketbooth
in the big gatehouse you enter through, with a sign in english that says 50 hrivna
(pronounced "grivna")for a combination ticket. I gave the lady a 50, she gave me 45
back in change and a ticket.

I walked into the courtyard, an older guy was playing a sitar and singing in a really good
voice. When I tried to enter the cathedral, the lady said no, 'need ticket, giftshop'. grr.
I tried in the next building that looked like a giftshop, but it's a crappy museum with cool
amber pieces, but it's all in ukrainian so who knows what that's about. The equally fat
amber museum ladies say 'not right ticket, giftshop' and point to the entrance. I'm steamed
now, the old guy is still playing the sitar, but the music hurts my ears, he's probably
singing about americans that can't get in to see the cathedral. grrr. Back at the entrance
there's a little trailer to the left of the main gate. doh! it's has 6 price options, none
of them total to 50 hrivna, and the unlikely total to see everything is around 200 hrivna.
I give her a 100 and ask for everything and make finger motions that indicate everthing.
She gives me back 60 in change. I wanted to yell what the hell are you giving me, none of
the options total up to the price you charged me. grrr.

I walk back to the cathedral, the guy is still singing, I give him 5 hrivna, expecting him
to switch from his dirge to NY, NY; but he doesn't. The catheral is beautiful. It's one
of the few that weren't knocked down by the soviets, and it looks similar to San Vitale in
Ravenna, just not as old. (11 century vs 5th century.)

Everything here has a bureaucratic feel. Hopefully things will get better. There are a lot
of people here that are beautiful with nice cars, then the 50 and above generation all look

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Euro in trouble?

The Instapundit linked to an article talking about the Euro's current
steep decline down to 1.23E/$. When I started to panic two weeks ago,
and decided to send what spare cash I had back home the euro was at 1.33,
by the time I could wire the money and my stupid bank posted it, it was
down to 1.25. Which seemed dire last week, but now I'm happy to have
gotten 1.25 when it looks like the euro is about to fall off a cliff tomorrow,
I've seen links to articles at the Big Picture that say that the 1trillion euro
rescue is being used to rescue fatcat investers, the government is just
holding the tent flap while everyone with money gets out.

Glenn Reynolds also asked what will happen if the Euro breaks up? Well,
my understanding is that euro notes and coins are issued in each country,
so that my Italian euros have famous italian landmarks, and if the euro
cracks up my italian euros would become liras again, german euros would
become deutchmarks etc. I heard this during the crisis a couple of years
ago, and at the time I thought it might be good to go to Germany and take
out a few thousand german euros from an ATM. But too much trouble.

A better plan would be if the euro is really in trouble and goes below 0.8,
then make the germany trip, change dollars for german euros and then
exchange them for DM after the dust settles.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Deepwater Horizon and tuna fishing

The New York times has a good story based on eyewitness accounts to
the deepwater horizon accident. (If a story is non-political, they tend to do
a good job and I'll read it all day, on politcal stories they are slanted too far
to the left)

They have the same problem that all non-oilfield people have, they describe
the operation as:

The job of sinking the well had gone relatively smoothly — extending the well, pipe by pipe, until it punched through to the oil below. Then the crew shoved a final long stretch of pipe deep into the reservoir.
The problem with this description is it implies that the pipe is shoved
into the reservoir, like pushing a straw into mud. The reality is that
each hole section is drilled with a bit, then casing is run into the hole
then progressively smaller bits are used for the next section, followed
by smaller casing. Each string of casing is cemented by pumping cement
down the inside of the pipe, then up the annular space. The shallower
strings of casing have cement that goes all the way back up to the
wellhead on the seafloor. The deeper sections might only
have enough cement to isolate the openhole section of casing.

Then the times goes into the speculation that everyone is making,
and they start off with attacking the cementing company, which just
happens to be haliburton. They were using a foamed cement
that is normal practice for all cementing companies to use in deepwater,
because it is low enough in density to not fracture the formation while
being pumped. I wonder if they publish this speculation just because
it's haliburton, when it's been several years since haliburton sold off
Brown and Root, the object of liberal's ire.

A really interesting link to fishing forum with a post from an eyewitness
from a fishing boat. They witnessed something horrible, and tried to
help but were warned off by bigger boats, but in true coonass fashion:

We stayed a mile off the fire and searched/listened for missing ppl for 4 hours. We saw nothing. 20 or so commercial liners eventually brought Medics and oxygen for survivors. Helicopter came for search and transport. All the other facts you probably already know about; via News. The 11 missing people in 'mind' I hope slipped away in a safety boat, but in reality I doubt they are alive. This is a sad thing to say, but if you would have seen the explosions you wouldn't believe anyone of the 126 would have survived it! I pray for all of them and their families! We left at morning to make our way in, we were 60 miles offshore and gas was running low. We stopped at Elf on the way in and filled the ice chest.

The tuna were busting on top water and we couldn't resist. We left the half way point in hopes to make it home. The starboard motor ran out of gas at the very mouth of the river, but fortunately we had a spare gas tank on board! We made it to Venice at about 3pm on Wednesday and began cleaning the fish.

Tom Clancy at it again

One of the first things I thought of on 9/11 after hearing that
the planes were crashed by terrorists was that those guys copied
the idea from Tom Clancy. Yesterday when the markets went tits
up, and it was explained a fat finger followed by program trading
it seemed like maybe someone else read "Debt of Honor"

"Even as the military mission begins, the cabal engineers the collapse of the American stock market by exploiting flaws in the program trading systems at major brokerages, and then deletes all trade records. With a massive economic crisis, and panic and chaos in America's homeland, it is hoped that America will be too distracted to quickly respond to military adventures."

Maybe the taliban has a trading desk and sold a billion shares of PG causing the
crash. I suggest that americans stay alert. If your broker recently spent 5 months in
Pakistan. has a 'death to the american satan' poster (or at least a serious knee injury
to the great satan poster) and fat fingers, then be alert.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Deepwater Horizon and similarities to Katrina

I'm starting to see some calls in the blogosphere and the news that Obama
should have reacted sooner to the disaster in the gulf. There are some similarities
and some differences between this disaster and when Katrina hit, and in the
same waythat it was unfair how much blame Bush took for Katrina, maybe we
shouldn't throw too many stones at Obama.

For the It's Obama's fault side:

This was a disaster out at sea, in federal waters, no one else had any regulatory oversight
There was no collateral damage like Katrina where the major roads and interstates were
cut at multiple places, the feds had free access all the way to Venice, LA.
There was no raging storm blocking everything.
There was full information available, the people who knew best what was happening were
available for interviews after less than a day at sea.

For the it's not Obama's fault side:

The federal government does not have a magic wand to sooth all hurts instantly.
From where I sit, the leak didn't seem very bad for several days. At first it seemed
like the oil was coming from fuel onboard. (very similar to Katrina, where the storm passed
and everything seemed ok for several hours.)
BP was making noises very similar to the ones fema made before Katrina, 'we're
prepared, we've got miles of booms', etc.

Reading over my partial lists, the key difference here is that during Katrina there
was a bad ass storm that destroyed infrastructure from east of Baton Rouge to
Florida, short of dropping the 82nd airborne into N.O. there wasn't much more
that was possible and due to politcal problems the Governor of LA never asked
for help until later, a requirement for federal troops to come, so really it was a city
and state problem.

The deepwater horizon was a purely federal problem, the states have no input
to safety in federal waters, get only a small portion of money from the 8g fund
and aren't involved in licensing, safety reviews or inspections. The Feds have complete
authority over the operation, can stop drilling, intervene in well designs, after the
fire had full visual coverage of the disaster and had people on the ground while
the disaster was unfolding.

I'm changing my answer, it's Obama's fault.

(I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid, if I offend I'm sorry. I don't think he bears any more responsibility than bush did for the sloppy response to Katrina)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Black Swan comes home to roost

Anthony Watts at What's up with that blog has an excellent
essay with photos showing what happened at the Deepwater
Horizon, some of the best information about what happened out
there, when no one from BP has given any details about what
was going on at the time of the disaster, and I've given up on
speculating because I feel similar to after 9/11; it's hard to believe
such a big rig burned up and sank taking 11 men with it.

What is clear to me is this was a Black Swan. BP's emergency
response plan apparently said there was low risk of pollution and
low risk of a catastrophic accident. The definition
of a black swan is when one is operating in extremistan where large forces,
monetary flows or pent-up pressures are operating. Where on the frequency
axis, if you make an estimate of the rate of negative events you are probably
wrong, with disastrous results, and where the events are 'rare' enough that
we don't really know what the frequency distribution is, or if it has a shape at all.

Where those two axis' collide is the forth quadrant,
where it is dangerous to assume that a low frequency event will be rare
enough to not affect you, and when you are wrong people are killed,
giant structures are reduced to pillars of flame, economic systems destroyed,
cats and dogs sleep together. [This is all covered by Nassim Taleb in
The Black Swan, and more precisely in an essay called The Forth Quadrant,
which has to be one of the most important articles ever published for
free on the internet. I added the dogs and cats]

from NNT's
the fouth quadrant.

The wonderful thing about the oilfield is it is where economics and engineering
geology and mathematics are all applied to create money. There are no evil
shadow organizations needed, just the simple rule that if a project will make
more money than the discount rate plus some stated excess profit taking into
account the probability that you'll get nothing in return, the project is drilled.


Before anyone says that the operator (BP) or the rig owner was incompetent
or negligent, the problem doesn't come from the lack of hard work or oversite,
but of thinking that we can operate in the forth quadrant without getting burnt
occasionally. We will get hurt and accidents will happen as long as men dare to
sail the sea in ships, fly to the moon or drill the ocean depths.