Scrap parts from Chevy Volts transformed into… duck houses?

I seem to have bumped into more than the usual number of looneybirds, dumb crooks and foolishly dangerous human beings in my reading around the world, around the Web, today. But, I think I’ll ignore ’em for a nice guy-tale from General Motors.

Yes, you read that right. General Motors has indeed taken scrap battery covers that would otherwise have been discarded and, with the help of a team of youngsters from the Lasky Recreation Center in Detroit, turned them into duck houses.

Seems odd, no doubt, but we’d certainly rather see creative recycling such as this instead of sending off the scrap bits and pieces to rot for hundreds of years in a landfill or some other ignominious end-of-life scenario.

According to The General, these homes “will provide a safe place for wood ducks and even screech owls to lay their eggs.” For what it’s worth, this is the second such creative recycling project we’ve heard about from the team behind the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the first being the reuse of oil-soaked boom material from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made into underhood plastic Volt parts. Nice work, GM.

I agree.

Gulf oil spill + design flaw in blowout preventer ≠ BP!


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill cold failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, a testing firm hired by the government said…in a report that appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device…

The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas is not the final word on the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April that killed 11 workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from a BP well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

It helps answer one of the lingering mysteries nearly a year later: why the blowout preventer that sat at the wellhead and was supposed to prevent a spill in case of an explosion didn’t do its job.

The report cast blame on the blowout preventer’s blind shear rams, which are supposed to pinch a well shut in an emergency by shearing through the well’s drill pipe. In the BP crisis, the shear rams couldn’t do their job because the drill pipe had buckled, bowed and become stuck, according to the DNV report.

The 551-page report suggested that blowout preventers be designed or modified in such a way that the shear rams will completely cut through drill pipe regardless of the pipe’s position.

The blowout preventer was made by Cameron International and maintained by Transocean Ltd.

The report suggested that actions taken by the Transocean rig crew during its attempts to control the well around the time of the disaster may have contributed to the piece of drill pipe getting trapped.

“This is the first time in all of this that there has been a clear design flaw in the blowout preventer cited,” said Philip Johnson, a University of Alabama civil engineering professor who did not take part in the analysis. “My reaction is, ‘Holy smokes, every set of blind shear rams out there may have this problem…'”

Speculation on why the blowout preventer failed has persisted during the year since the disaster…

Johnson, the professor, said the report indicates that the blowout preventer had a design flaw that may have gone unnoticed by the entire industry, not just by Cameron.

RTFA if you feel you really need to know how each company’s lawyers attempts to pass the blame along to one or more of the other companies. Predictable.

The only item of substance – aside from laying the blame at the feet of Cameron International and Transocean – is that all the blowout preventers of this type may be potentially faulty. And that had better be changed real soon, folks.

Guard stored package for 3 weeks – turned out to be a bomb!


Think it’s any safer just because it’s older, now?

A security officer at the McNamara Federal Building stored a suspicious package that turned out to contain a bomb for three weeks before alerting authorities, said a spokesman for a union that represents guards at the site, who called the incident “a total embarrassment.”

He apparently set it aside,” said David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, which represents the Federal Protective Service (FPS) employees, who guard the McNamara and other federal buildings around the country.

“It should have been left in place and he should have called in a canine detection unit to see if they could make a determination about it,” he said Tuesday.

The package was eventually placed behind two dumpsters behind the McNamara Building on Michigan Avenue downtown around 10 a.m. Friday. The Detroit Police Department’s bomb squad collected the device from there and moved it to Belle Isle, where it was detonated…

The contracted security guard has been suspended, said an official with the Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday.

Whoo-Hoo! If he loses the gig he can always go to work for the TSA.

Happy 80th Birthday, Viktor Korchnoi


Sosonko: “Pssst. You’re not supposed to be winning any more.”
Korchnoi: “I can’t help it.”

Of all modern players, Korchnoi impresses me so much– as he does many others– because of the longevity of his competition at the highest levels. At 80 years of age, he is rated 2557 and ranks 427th in the world (FIDE). He was about 75 years old before he fell off the top 100 list.

I got to watch Korchnoi play Mecking in the 1974 candidates match for the World Chess Championship. One of the things I remember was the sound of the large doors slamming when Mecking would exit the playing area after making his move. The first couple of times, Korchnoi looked up like a half-perturbed bear. After that, he seemed to ignore the sound as if ignoring a pesky fly at a picnic. He feasted on Mecking and won the match.

One day, I was seated next to the infamous and aging Norman Whitaker (quite a trip!). At one point, not realizing the volume of his voice (or did he?!), he remarked of a move just made: “As Tarrasch used to say, the Bishop bites granite.” He kept repeating this to himself. There was a bit of a stir, but things quieted down.

E-mail on interfaith marriage gets ex-Marine on no-fly list


Abraham Mashal

Abe Mashal, a 31-year-old dog trainer from St. Charles, says FBI agents told him he ended up on the government’s no-fly list because he exchanged e-mails with a Muslim cleric they were monitoring.

The topic: How to raise his children in an interfaith household.

Mashal said he has never had any links to terror or terrorists and is a “patriotic,” honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran.

He found out he’d been flagged last April, when he tried to board a flight to Spokane, Wash., to train dogs for a client. Since then, his family members and friends have been questioned, and he said he has lost business because he isn’t allowed to fly.

Mashal is one of 17 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union over the list.

FBI agents questioned him at Midway Airport, then at his home. Finally, he was summoned to a hotel in Schaumburg, where more FBI agents told him he’d been placed on the no-fly list because of an e-mail he had sent to an imam — a Muslim cleric — whom they’d been watching.

Mashal said he had sought the imam’s advice about raising children in a mixed-religion household. Mashal is Muslim; his wife is Christian.

He said the agents offered to get him off the list — if he would become an undercover informant at mosques. He refused and said he feels he was being blackmailed.

The FBI conducts their activities on behalf of Freedom and the American Way the same way they always have. Like gangsters with a license to steal, extort and blackmail.

Sanctioning someone’s lifestyle and livelihood must be in Chapter 1 of the Handbook of Sleazy Practices issued to unprincipled intel operatives worldwide. Pretending to defend our Bill of Rights is exactly what it is – a pretense, a ruse.

Tokyo Electric Power company admits missing safety checks

The power plant at the centre of the biggest civilian nuclear crisis in Japan’s history contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians repeatedly failed to carry out mandatory safety checks, according to documents from the reactor’s operator…

According to documents from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company repeatedly missed safety checks over a 10-year period up to two weeks before the 11 March disaster, and allowed uranium fuel rods to pile up inside the 40-year-old facility…

The revelations will add to pressure on Tepco to explain why, under its cost-cutting chief executive Masataka Shimizu, it opted to save money by storing the spent fuel on site rather than invest in safer storage options.

The firm already faces scrutiny over why it waited so long to pump seawater into the stricken reactors and, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper last week, turned down US offers of help to cool the reactors shortly after the disaster.

Critics of Japan’s nuclear power programme say the industry’s patchy safety record and close ties to regulating authorities will have to change if it is to regain public trust…

One month before the tsunami, government regulators approved a Tepco request to prolong the life of one of its six reactors by another decade, despite warnings that its backup power generator contained stress cracks, making them more vulnerable to water damage.

Weeks later, Tepco admitted it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment inside the plant’s cooling systems, including water pumps, according to the nuclear safety agency’s website…

When disaster struck earlier this month, the plant contained almost 4,000 uranium fuel assemblies kept in pools of circulating water – the equivalent of more than three times the amount of radioactive material usually kept in the active cores of the plant’s reactors.

And like the First and second-generation nuclear plants in the United States – those uranium fuel rods could have been recycled. Beancounters in charge? You can almost be guaranteed that cost was more important than efficiency – or safety.