More Junkmail from Bob!

December 20, 2006
Important Stuff.

Grandma Ruth

My dad's mother was named Ruth. It makes sense that she should have come from Ruthenia, but in fact she was born in Oklahoma. Her dad came to Oklahoma from Kansas in the Oklahoma Land Run.

The Oklahoma Land Run is generally thought to have occurred in 1889. In fact, there were five Oklahoma Land Runs. The one in 1889 was first, and opened up 2 million acres of "unassigned lands" to settlement. In the fourth and largest land run (1893), Ruth's dad homesteaded in the Cherokee Strip. Actually he wasn't her dad yet because she wasn't born yet. But after Alvin got to Oklahoma, he married Pinkie and they had Ruth and 13 other kids. Actually, Osie had some of the kids, but there were 14 in all. The Cherokee Strip was a strip of land 60 miles wide and about 225 miles long bought from the Cherokee Indians for $8.5 million.

At any rate, I have it on good authority that Grandma Ruth did not come from Ruthenia. She came from the dust bowl.

      reo-ruth.jpg    hi res

I guess the dust bowl didn't really start until a few years after Grandma Ruth came into the world. Maybe she caused it.


Ruthenium did come from Ruthenia. That's where it got its name. It was discovered as an impurity in some platinum from the Ural Mountains. I think the Urals are partly inside Ruthenia, although there may be some controversy over this because the Ruthenian boundary was never clearly defined by the UN, let alone the United Federation of Planets.

Ruthenium is good for things like hard drives. If you take a thin layer of ruthenium and put it between two magnetic layers, you can get denser data on your hard drive. The thin layer is about 3 atoms thick.

Ruthenium also makes a moderately unique superconductor when you add a little Strontium and Oxygen. The electrons behave differently in superconducting Sr2RuO4 than they do in other superconductors.


So where do you get the Ruthenium for your new superconducting woofers? On the internet, of course!

Offshore Oil

You can find a lot of fun things on the internet. If you've finally decided to get rid of that offshore drilling rig that's been sitting in the back yard for years, you might try internet. In addition to Ruthenium, has listings for "offshore drilling rigs wanted":

If you're planning to buy an offshore drilling rig for a yard ornament or for bass fishing, there are some decisions you'll need to make. Offshore drilling rigs come in submersible, jack-up, semi-submersible (floaters), fixed platforms, drilling ships, and of course, the combo model that combines drilling and production in one platform. There are lots of variations on these themes.

About 60% of the world's petroleum currently comes from offshore production, according to British Columbia.

The U.S. imports around half its oil. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of U.S. oil comes from offshore production. About 3/4 of that comes from the Gulf of Mexico. So between 10% and 15% of the oil used in the U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico. That is quite a lot.

The Petronius platform is a fixed production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. It is built on a compliant tower. "Compliant" means the tower moves back and forth a little in the waves and the wind - about 20 feet at the top. The structure is a little over 2000 feet high, but about 1750 of that is underwater. If you count the entire 2001 feet, it's the tallest freestanding structure in the world.

The KVLY mast in North Dakota is the tallest man-made structure in the world. It's 2063 feet high. It has guy wires, so it's not considered "free-standing.",-97.28901&spn=0.004355,0.011147&t=h

The Petronius platform took quite a bit of damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Ivan was a category five hurricane when its eye passed almost directory over the Petronius platform. During the hurricane, a weather buoy measured 52-foot significant waves. That means that 1/3 of the waves were higher than 52 feet.

The platform had been evacuated before the hurricane hit, and I assume the oil was turned off.

When Petronius was being built in 1998, they added the "topsides." Those are the huge assemblies that go on top of the rig with things like living quarters, machinery, and a whole lot of et cetera. There were two topside modules, one weighing 4,000 tons and the other 3,600 tons. That's 8 or 9 million pounds each.

When they were adding the topside modules, a 2.25" cable broke. The $70 million 3,600 ton topside got away from them ended up at the bottom of the ocean. I bet that got some heart rates up.

The Typhoon oil platform was planted on tensioned legs in 2100 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2005, Hurricane Rita came. The Typhoon platform was found floating about 70 miles away, upside down. It was totaled.

Hurricane Ivan destroyed seven platforms in 2004 and damaged 26 others. Katrina destroyed at least 46 platforms in 2005

The jack-up rig Ocean Warwick had its legs damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. When Hurricane Katrina came by in 2005 it blew the Ocean Warwick 66 miles up to the beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama.


Deepwater Oil

In 1997, Shell's Mensa platform set a world's record for production in 5,300 feet of water.

Now the record is 8,960 feet. Exploratory wells have been drilled in water more than 10,000 feet deep.

Here are the deepwater wells recently drilled and completed:

The Jack Ryan drill ship is operating off Angola. It is capable of drilling in 10,000 feet of water.

      jack_ryan_drill_ship_angola_2336x3504.jpg hi res             worker_on_jack_ryan_drill_ship_angola_2336x3504.jpg hi res

Thunder Horse

BP's Thunder Horse platform is really big. I think it's the biggest in the world. It cost around a billion dollars. It was designed to handle 147 mph winds and 100-foot waves. The platform has accommodations for 229 people. They used to call Thunder Horse Crazy Horse but some Sioux Indians considered Crazy Horse an insult to their proud heritage.

The Thunder Horse platform is located at about 88 29.65W, 28 11.4N. That's 60 miles or so southeast of Louisiana. The Thunder Horse field was the largest oil and gas field discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2001. I don't know if it's still the biggest.

This picture was taken before the rig was towed to its deepwater home.


This is a good BP article on the Thunder Horse platform.

Here's a good article on the development of the Thunder Horse Field.

      Thunder Horse Drilling Platform

The Secretary of the Interior seems to like offshore drilling.

Dockwise Transports

The Thunder Horse Platform was built by Daewoo Shipbuilding in South Korea. South Korea is not very close to the Gulf of Mexico. So Dockwise Shipping was hired to ship the platform to Ingleside, Texas, near Corpus Christi. They expanded their largest ship, and 61 days after they loaded the platform, it was in Texas. They went via the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. They traveled almost 16,000 miles at an average of 11 knots. That is really amazing to me.

     6620ThunderHorseBR052.jpg      thunder-horse-transport.jpg

The platform weighed 59,500 tons, was 373 feet wide (overhanging 83 feet on each side of the ship) and was 433 feet tall.

The Dockwise ships are semi-submersible. They sink enough to load floating cargo, then pump out their seawater ballast to lift the cargo out of the water. They ship things like sailboats, floating hotels, and decommissioned nuclear subs.

It doesn't always go flawlessly. A few days ago the Dockwise ship Might Servant 3 sank off the Angolan coast.


The 21 ship's crew and the 83 drilling platform crew are all OK. The drilling platform was not damaged. I think the ship might be a bit waterlogged, however.

Hurricane Dennis

In July 2005, the Thunder Horse platform was evacuated before Hurricane Dennis arrived. This is normal procedure on an offshore platform. When the people came back, they noticed that Thunder Horse was sitting at an angle of 20 degrees.


Consistent with AP's photo accuracy, they ran a photo of a platform sinking in 2001, claiming it was Thunder Horse. It looked a lot worse.

It turned out that the list of the Thunder Horse was caused by a malfunctioning ballast system instead of major hurricane damage. They got that fixed before the next hurricane came around. Since then Thunder Horse has weathered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without major problems such as sinking or floating away.

The latest "challenge" in the Thunder Horse platform is with the submerged equipment. Earlier this year they were pumping water through the system to test it out. Some welding failed. So they're going to bring up all the subsea components and replace them. That will delay Thunder Horse production until 2008.

Discoverer Enterprise

Here is a Google Earth model of the Thunder Horse and the drill ship Discoverer Enterprise.

The Discoverer Enterprise is a big drill ship owned by Transocean. It is rated for operating conditions of 80 knot winds and 40-foot waves, and storm conditions of 100 knot winds and 50 foot waves. The Discoverer Enterprise drilled the exploration wells for the Thunder Horse Field.

Sometimes things go wrong. In May 2003, the Discoverer Enterprise was pulling out of a well hole in 2-3 foot seas. It experienced some unexpected wave action, the ship moved, and the drilling riser broke in two places.

When you drill an oil well on land, you pump liquid down the pipe that holds the drill bit. This fluid keeps the drill bit cool and lubricated. The fluid then comes back up out the outside of the drill stem, all the way to the surface. It transports ground up rock, sand, gravel, and whatever else used to be where the hole is, back up to the surface. The fluid is called drilling mud.

In offshore drilling, the same thing is done. But there is a big pipe outside the drill stem between the ocean floor and the surface, to direct the drilling mud up to the surface. This big pipe that encloses the drill stem is called the riser.

When the riser under the Discoverer Enterprise broke, it spilled about 2450 barrels of drilling mud. When something like this happens (in the U.S., Canada, or Europe anyway), there is a lot of work to be done. They have to figure out what caused the accident, how to prevent it from happening in the future, what was spilled, how much of it was spilled, where it went, and how it affects the ocean life.

Here's the report on this accident. I was impressed with the detail they go into.

They use an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to video the damage.

Mud plume escaping from the parted riser:


Dispersion of the drilling mud:


Riser string resting on the seafloor. "The lack of accumulated solids indicates that the current dispersed the released drill fluids."


Lower marine riser package after the release. "Note the lack of accumulated drilling fluid solids."



They also use underwater vehicles to survey the ocean floor before they construct a pipeline. Towed sonar modules have traditionally been used, but ROVs and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are also used. The AUVs used are usually not really autonomous, they just operate without a tether. Here is the Hugins 3000 AUV operated by C&C Technologies. It has a lot of state-of-the-art sonar, and operates at 4 knots down to 10,000 feet.


In 2001, C&C Technologies was surveying for the Okeanos pipeline between Thunder Horse and Mississippi, they encountered something unusual -- a World War II submarine in 4780 feet of water.

After some further investigation, they confirmed that it was the German U-boat U-166. It's located in the neighborhood of 88 12W, 28 48N. But according to history, that's the wrong place. U-166 was supposed to be 130 miles to the west. Rather than moving the 60-year-old wreck, they decided to correct history. They also re-routed the pipeline around the wreck of U-166.

In 1942, U-166 torpedoed and sank the passenger ship USS Robert E Lee. Afterward, the Navy patrol boat escorting the Robert E Lee dropped some depth charges and reported an oil slick. They assumed the U-boat was only damaged. A few days later, an airplane reported sinking the U-boat 130 miles to the west. The plane was credited with sinking U-166. Now it is generally accepted that the Navy patrol boat PC-566 really sank U-166 on the day it torpedoed the Robert E Lee, although some maintain it was an alien starship that sank the submarine.

Here are some underwater photos of U-166. Some of these include modern instrumentation planted there for research.

More on U-166 and the Robert E Lee:

Ocean Census

In addition to undersea pipeline surveys and shipwreck investigations, they use AUVs and ROVs to research marine life.

They also use manned submersibles. Here's a Russian MIR submersible taking the first humans to visit the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone at 3000 meters in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (2003).


This is a journal entry of some people taking the Alvin submersible down over 2000 meters in the Pacific.

They are part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, founded in 1987 by David Packard. David Packard also co-founded Hewlett-Packard.

On this dive, they were working for the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year project to catalog as much ocean life as can be cataloged. The Census is in its sixth year now, with some pretty impressive results. They've discovered quite a few new animals.

They also have some great pictures.

The Mar-Eco group, studying the Northern Mid-Atlantic, has a lot of interesting stuff.

One of the projects of the census is "Tagging Pacific Pelagics." Pelagic means things that live in or around the sea, such as surfers. When I read the book Red Tag Comes Back, they used a colored tag on a fish to figure out where the fish went. Today they use satellite communications.

One single tuna fish traveled 25,000 miles in 600 days, crossing the Pacific three times. I guess if I was a Tuna I might do the same thing.

The Sooty Shearwater is a bird that lives in New Zealand, at least part of the year. They wander around to Japan, Siberia, Alaska and western North America, occasionally western South America, and back to the New Zealand area. They've been tracked 39,000 miles in 200 days. I think this is because they are horrible navigators and get lost a lot.

      sooty shearwater

Now you know the story of Grandma Ruth.

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Spam Scam

I whine and complain regularly about the spam I receive, to the President (who never reads my email), various politicians and bureaucrats, my cats, and anybody else who will listen. The cats are the most attentive, but I believe that's just because it's cold outside and they want to come in.

Someone has to be buying that stuff the spammers are peddling, or the spammers would quit spamming.

Where does all that spam come from? Most of it comes from people like you and me. The majority of spam today is coming from ordinary computerists on DSL or cable internet. You acquire a SpamThru-type trojan and voila! You're a spammer too!

James recently blocked all outgoing email on that doesn't go through our smtp servers. The majority of outgoing email on our ISP was outgoing spam. That surprised me. Local people in Mayes county, Oklahoma are spamming! They don't even know it, because the spam is loaded onto their computer surreptitiously and the spam is sent out in the background.

How can you make sure you're not a spammer? Two easy steps.

1. Update Windows

2. On the Start menu click Run, then enter "mrt".

That's Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool. It should clear out the popular trojans. James will be happy to help if you have any questions:

Stock Spam

I thought it was pretty strange that all these people are using spam to hype stocks. Then I figured it out. They only hype thinly traded stocks. They accumulate the stock over a period of weeks or months, then they send out millions of emails touting it as a great buy.

In a stock that normally trades only a few thousand shares per day, it can really drive the price up if 50 or 500 people buy 2000 shares apiece. In fact, the stock price may double or triple in the space of a few days if people keep buying it. People may see a rise in volume and price, so they jump on the bandwagon. Then the spammers sell their holding, and the stock is back to its original price before you know it.

The company itself may have no idea who's behind it all. It is somewhat illegal to manipulate a stock price. But then, it's also illegal to spam people. Look how well that's enforced. Someone could win the 2008 Presidential election if they'd promise to stop spam.

Let's take a look at Equipment and Systems Engineering, Inc. That's a small company in Miami that makes sodium hypochlorite water treatment systems for use in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have annual sales of 1.5 to 2 million dollars. Their stock price has declined from 20 cents to around 6 cents per share this year. That seems like a fair price for the company. The company seems normal except for a possibly funny financing deal.

Around the first of this month, millions of emails were sent out, pushing the stock (EQSE) with things like "Search your favorite financial information site and become a believer" and "An earth shattering release is expected out of the company any day."

But before this email went out, the spammers (or the ones who hired the spammers) started buying a lot of stock in the company. They had to do this over a period of weeks or months to keep the price from going up.

Then, after the spam went out around the first of the month, there were enough suckers to drive the price of the stock to 2 or 3 times its original value of 6 cents.

It looks like the spammers started selling on December 5th, when the volume went up over 2 million shares per day and the price rose above 15 cents. The selling was over by the 8th, and the volume is down about 90 percent now. The price is now 8 cents per share.

They sold their stock for prices between 7 and 18 cents per share, probably around 14 cents average. They may have doubled their money. If they made up 1/4 of the volume on those 4 days, they would have made well over $100,000 on this deal.

One thing that is interesting to me is that I could make money on this type of scam. If I get one of the early spams, buy the stock before the price goes up very far, and can manage to dump the stock before the price goes down, I could join the spammers and make some money.

I won't be doing that, however. It is not consistent with my investment philosophy. I prefer to buy stock and hold it until the company goes flat broke.

I use Spambayes to block spam. It gets over 90% of the spam with no false positives. You have to train it.

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MPAA Pretexters

After the HP Board of Directors made the term "pretexting" famous, some politicians recognized an opportunity for some cheap publicity and passed a law against pretending to be someone else in order to obtain personal information under false pretenses. The MPAA lobbied against this, and managed to get the scope of the law reduced. The MPAA uses pretexting (i.e., fraud) to obtain personal information under false pretenses so they can sue people.

GSA Cuts Audits?

Lurita, the new chief of the General Services Administration, is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste. Lurita said that oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce. I did not make this up!

Afghanistan Opium

Iraq's economy may be in shambles, but Afghanistan had a record opium crop this year, supplying 90 percent of the world's heroin.

Landsat Realtime

Get your near realtime (i.e., slightly falsetime) Landsat images here:

Jupiter Years

How old are you in Saturn years?

Edison National Historic Site

You can download historic recordings from the Edison National Historic Site site. Some of these are pretty interesting.


The South Carolina State Highway commission got chastised for spending too much money on consultants. So they hired some consultants for $200/hour to help them figure out how not to use so many consultants. Those people have White House potential!

It's a little like Colorado's fiscal responsibility. They overpaid welfare recipients millions of dollars with their new software system over the past two years. I assume this has cut the poverty rate.

Milking 9/11

In New York City, the EPA is spending $7,000,000 million dollars to clean buildings in southern Manhattan. They said the buildings got dirty after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center. They must be running out of ideas on how to spend money on the plane crashes of 9/11/2001. Either that or it hasn't rained much in Manhattan over the past five years.

Eminent Domain

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities could seize land from one private owner and give it to another private owner for things like commercial development. The state of New Jersey said, "That's nothing. Watch this."

Last week the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a city can seize someone's property and set it aside for "open space."

Ed Mezvinsky

Former Iowa Congressman Ed has a son named Marc who is dating Chelsea Clinton. But Ed has other problems. He got suckered into "just about every different kind of African-based scam we've ever seen," according to federal prosecutor Bob Zauzmer.

Ed traveled to Nigeria several times and lost over $3 million dollars to the Nigerian scammers. He ended up stealing from clients and in-laws to pay his Nigerian partners. Then Ed ended up in jail.

Ed may sound particularly stupid, but remember -- he was a U.S. Congressman. Blowing $3 million in a foreign country is nothing to a Congressman.

Brazilian Flying


CNN Headline:  "Bush Seeks Advice on Iraq"

Why didn't he ask me four years ago?

Spider Boat

This is a REAL catamaran. It's supposed to do 60 knots.

Verizon Dollars and Cents

This is a really funny story. Verizon Wireless quoted a guy .002 cents per minute for air time on his cell phone in Canada. He was charged .002 dollars per minute. So far it's just a normal mistake. The funny part is when about five people at Verizon are completely unable to understand the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars. Even the supervisors were clueless.


Rashid Rauf  was one of the ringleaders of the recent terrorist plot in London. Remember? That's the one that made it illegal to carry shampoo, hand lotion, or napalm onto airliners in packages larger than 4 ounces.

Well, it turns out that Rashid won't be charged with bombing, terrorism, or illegal possession of contact lens solution. His case has been moved from the anti-terrorism court to the regular court where he will face forgery charges. The Queen of England apologizes for inconveniencing airline passengers across the globe.

Springtime on Mars

This is an outstanding video.

Facts is Facts

I've read fairly regularly about the White House distorting, suppressing, or fabricating science to meet political goals, but I did not realize this was as pervasive as it is.

10,600 U.S. researchers, including 52 Nobel Laureates, have signed a statement protesting political interference in the scientific process. If I was a researcher I'd sign it too. It really gripes me when politicians distort or suppresses scientific facts and discoveries. It reminds me of the "good old days," back when Galileo was in jail.

All three of these links are worth reading.

Transporting Coins

If you drive to Canada, you'd better make sure your ashtray doesn't have more than $5 in pennies and nickels or you're liable to end up in jail. New Treasury regulations prohibit carrying more than $5 in pennies and nickels out of the country, or shipping more than $100 worth. That's to keep people from melting them down for the copper. Max penalties are $10,000 fine and 5 years in jail.

I'd be in favor of doing away with pennies and using coins instead of bills for $1. But I don't care too much about it as long as I can still spend the money in some form or another.

Where in the Internet Are You?

This really works!

Dad's 78s

My dad has a few hundred old 78 rpm records. You can buy any of them for $1 each, or all of them for $.50 each. There will be a listing, photos, and mp3 files of them at in a day or two. You can download the mp3 files free. They aren't quite CD-quality.

Pictures of Today!

It snowed on the first of December.

      midwest tmo

Swings and Deer Tracks:


Pryor Creek:

      P1120622.jpg      P1120635.jpg      P1120639.jpg

Frozen Berries:


Cold Road:


Climax Mine, Colorado:


Leadville International Airport:


Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, from the west:


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I'm Bob Webster and sometimes I live in Pryor, Oklahoma.
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