Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ice Harvest

Back in the Olden Days - no refrigeration!! You bought ice, and kept things cool with and 'ice box'. How did you get the ice? When your grand parents were kids, you had to harvest it from a lake, or buy it from someone that did.

Harvesting Ice - Traditional: (You might want to turn down the sound. They sing 'Winter Wonderland' as background, which has got to be one of the most obnoxious songs ever written.)

The Ice Saw:

Harvesting Ice Modern:

Working with Horses

After looking at some of the PT clips, I was thinking about some of the other things that played a big part in the lives of all of your grandparents. I tried to find some clips showing sugar beet cultivation and harvest by hand, but I think those days are truly gone. I did find some clips that showed early sugar beet tractor harvesting, which I suppose looks crude and primitive compared with today's harvesting equipment. Still, even the most elementary of the tractor powered machines would have been beyond imagination to Grandpa. They did it all by hand and by horse, at least for many years. They started in the spring and plowed, disked, harrowed, planted, blocked, thinned, weeded, irrigated, lifted, topped and loaded the beets into a wagon, all without engines.

I did find a few clips on doing farm work with horses. In our minds, we know that our forefathers powered their farms with horses, and think of the horses working quietly along. There aren't any run-aways in these clips, but as you watch them, you might imagine the excitement that could show up in an instant if the horse spooked, or was stung by a wasp or bee, or even a horse fly. Some of the little buggy seats are actually in front of the machine. I think that in the old days, most of seats were mounted so that they were in back of the load, and the driver could jump off to safety if the horses took off.

It was a whole different world, and a different way of looking at things in those days. If you haven't farmed with tractors, you probably won't be struck by the quiet that remains undisturbed when you farm with horses. It's very tranquil, and probably was lonely at times too. It makes you think of Matthew Cuthbert from Anne (with an 'e') of Green Gables. He was well cast, and you can imagine him working in the silent fields for seasons on end.

A plowing 'match':

Disking with a double team:


Binding Corn:

A Day in the Hayfields (1904): This was pretty good, and showed the mowing, raking, and loading on the wagon, then the transfer to the haystack of the loose hay.

Logging and Moving Wood:

Harnessing and Hitching:

Old Tractor-powered hay baler:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Few More PT Boat Clips

After reading Jerry's biography of Dave Levy, a PT Captain, this clip shows it's Hollywood/propaganda roots. It is still kind of cool, but Dave Levy said that they just putted quietly about in the dark. The hotshots that ran their boats at speed to either attack or retreat became very visible from the white wake, and the Japanese picked them off at their leisure. This fits in pretty well with what Dad used to say. I remember Dad telling about how they used to land spies in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy, and that they would sit quietly for hours. The boat's speed allowed it to get to and from it's base in a reasonable amount of time.

As a boatbuilder, I found these clips to be really interesting. They were really well made - light and strong and had a lot of precision laminations in them.

PT Boats - Giant Killers Part 1

PT Boats - Giant Killers Part 2

PT Boats - Giant Killers Part 3

I guess that is enough for one post. Good night all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sammuel on the Wall

I thought some of you might get a smile from this. Especially if you are LDS and live in California.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sailor escapes a ride to the top of the boiler (mostly)

Another day, another dollar, another tube leak. I got the day shift this time, which was nice, but thought I was going to have to ride the xxxxxxxxxx (note: x's replacing a brandname ) up to the leak to take pictures, and acess the situation and to put in my two cents as to what would be the best way to repair the boiler.

The xxxxxxxxxx is a platform with an air motor on each end that climbs a steel cable. Two guys ride it, one running each motor. Mostly, I don't mind heights, but this thing gives me the willies. Not only are you up high, but the whole thing swings back and forth some. If the operators aren't watching, one motor will run a little faster the the other one, and one end will rise or fall faster than the other. It is noisy in the boiler, and hard to communicate, and if you walk towards the middle to yell at each other, it wobbles all around. When they got it ready, Jake the Welder and I went into the boiler, down at the bottom with safety harness' on. We climbed onto the platform and started up for a test run.

As you start up, the platform bangs against the sloped bottom of the boiler, throwing you off balance. The platform begins to climb the slope, and we each stick a foot out between the handrails to brace us back to vertical. My motor didn't seem to be working as well as Jake's motor, and when we got to the top of the slope, up the the side wall we stopped to assess the situation. Jake wanted to look at my motor, but the handrails are really narrow, and neither Jake or I am very wispy. So Jake climbed up onto the handrails, and I crawled between his legs and went to the other side, amid a lot of rocking and wobbling. We determined that my motor just wasn't up to the trip and we went down again. It was quitting time, and I went home before the motor was replaced. Whew.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Snug Night

Tonight the house was empty, and I wandered around for a while, looking for Annie. There was a chicken in the oven, baking, and that was pretty inviting. Finally I found her in the back yard, hauling the houseplants towards the porch. We haven't been watching the news too closely, and it is supposed to blow/rain/snow for the next few days. We dragged all of the plants in the house, then fighting a biting wind, got the tomatoes covered with plastic and old blankets, ready for the storm.

Now we are having a nice evening. We are both tired, fed, warm and snug in the house. Bed time is just around the corner, and even the fact that I have to work on a tube leak tomorrow doesn't dispel the cheer.

I think I will wish you all a good night, add a little wood to the fire, and maybe top off the wood pile in the house and head for bed. Sleep well, and wake. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Alabama Music Videos

These songs have been favorites of mine for a long time, and I found the MTV video clips tonight. I hope you like them too. They are a little dated, but then so am I.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Little Bit of Fun

You have to look down at the bottom of the page to find it, but I have installed an audio player gadget and you can listen to some of my red neck, de classe favorites if your taste in music runs not so much to the soul thrilling and character building as it does to the foot tapping and ye-hah brand. I probably should choose a new template, but am a little afraid that will goof up previous posts.

Anyway, Annie helped me get it set up last night. (Thanks Annie). Like most things,it isn't that hard, but I would have floundered for a long time before figuring it out. I hope you like some of them.

Today is Emily's blessing, so we are headed up North this morning. We have 450# of hard red wheat with us to distribute, and Annie found a place where we can pick grapes.... so, it should be fun.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Up in the Night

Again I am up in the night. We are putting the finishing touches on another tube repair, and I am just finishing up my shift. I have a couple of pictures to post from our recent Lake Powell Messabout.

We went down with a friend I will call JetSki. He wanted to make one more LP trip this year, and we were headed down for the Messabout, so it worked out well. JS is a dyed-in-the-wool power boater/rock crawler and jet-skiier.
So we wondered how he would react to the gentle art of boat building and quiet sailing. It all worked out pretty well. The boat builders are way out on the edge of individualism, and JS fit in just fine. A very interesting bunch. Annie already blogged on this, and did a great job on it, so I am not going to go into much detail. It was just a lot of fun. My favorite lake, and really favorite place.

This last picture was of the Viking funeral boat that carried the ashes of one of the group that died this last year. It was a little bit different, burying his ashes 'at sea' but kind of fitting too.

Anyway, that is about all for this blog right now. It has been a good summer, and I have neglected to blog about it. I could claim being busy, and could even defend the position, but I was probably somewhere the other side of lazy. I hope this finds you all well.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good Clean Fun

Today we had an irrigation flood in our back yard coupled with the fortuitous visit of M & J and their girls, and J and her little one. The Bigger Little Girls had a very good time. The rest of us had a good time watching them have a good time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just a Thought

All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

C.S. Lewis

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore (code),
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my office door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

OK, well, there is only so much I can do with this poem, but it is a midnight dreary, and I am fairly weak and weary. We have a tube leak in Unit 1, and that doesn't rhyme with anything that I can think of at this hour.

Yesterday we went to a wonderful wedding in Salt Lake City. The son of some dear friends was getting married. He is S1's age, and the oldest of their children, and the last to marry. So it was a happy day. She is Russian, and a really cute girl. She is an only child, and her mom is a single mom.... so that is kind of a hard thing. They had a great turnout, and they invited a lot of people from the LDS Russian Branch in SLC. A great time was had by all.

We got to see S1 for quite a bit of the day as he was the best man. After the reception, we took him over to D1's home to stay the night and visit. D1 and SIL have only been in this house since Wednesday night, but they are pretty much unpacked, have changed bathroom door knobs, hung a new cabinet, mounted a flat screen TV and wired up the sound system..... not too shabby.
When we got home, it was bout 2:30. I saw that the answering machine had a message, but since they are almost always for Annie, and since I almost always bungle the message, and since it was 2:30 am and I would be sure to screw it up, I just let it go. But it was my boss calling to tell me that we had a leak. Annie checked it in the morning, and so I am covering Sunday night.

That's OK. It is about 1:00 am right now. The tube has been replaced, but they had to cut out a beam to get room to fix the tube. So now one guy is rewelding the beam, and another guy is fixing dings, thin spots and the webbing between the tubes. These tubes are 2-1/2" in diameter with a wall thickness of about 0.270 inches - they are pretty stout. Something fell down onto these tubes and bent about 6 of them by about 2-1/2". And they are welded together too. I can't quite imagine it. It had to be a piece of slag falling from about 200' that was as hard as a rock and had abou the same energy as a truck at 30 mph. Not exactly an asteroid that will make us all extinct, but a pretty good wallop.

The actual failure was due to ash erosion of the tube wall. You can see the big flap that opened up.

On the lower picture you can see that the tubes were bent about 2-1/2" from straight.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fishing at Lake Powell

Last week I went to Lake Powell with a friend and his two sons. We left on Monday and were planning on staying until Friday and coming back fairly late if the weather held. But the weather didn't hold.

We got in some good fishing on Monday night. They were catching and releasing striped bass. Between them they probably caught and released 40 fish. So, it was a good start.

Tuesday was also a good fishing day. In the morning catch they probably released 60 fish, and in the evening catch probably almost as many - maybe 50. I was watching their technique mostly and was really, really tired (coming down cold turkey off of my Mt. Dew habit.) They didn't have a trolling motor, so we would turn off the engine and sort of drift over the rocks where the fish liked to hide. I grabbed the paddle, and if the wind wasn't blowing, I could point the boat or move it somewhat so that they could stay on station a little bit longer before we had to start it up and avoid a collision. I think I caught a couple of stripers and a catfish on Tuesday afternoon. Kind of fun for a change to not get skunked.

Wednesday was a great day as I think I caught about 5 stripers, and a very nice large mouth bass. If I would have know that the weather was going to get bad, I would have kept that fish. We think it weighed about 3-1/2 lbs. Very thick and deep in the body.

When the fish weren't biting we towed the boys around on the wakeboard. Much like waterskiing but with the shape of a snowboard. The water was really pretty cold and they weren't as enthusiastic as they probably would be in late July.

And I thought I would link up a little clip that I found on filleting fish - stripers in particular, but I think it could be adapted to just about any fish. You can find this the original of this clip at

Monday, May 26, 2008

When the Steam Doesn't Stay in the Tube: Day 3

It is a little after 5 am and I am at work. Checked in and almost ready to get into the boiler. The night shift has just gone home. They welded in 6 tubes (12 welds) which is very good. It always buoys everyones spirits a little when we stop cutting things apart and start putting them back together.

Annie wondered in her comment on the Day 2 pictures what caused this in the first place. It might take a minute, but I think we have the answer.
Coal is a dirty fuel.... compared to refined oil products, or natural gas. It is a solid fuel, and has dirt in it, basically. To keep all the tubes clean we have air driven lances that blow the ash off the tubes at regular intervals with hot, dry steam. Well, it should be hot and dry, but it takes a bit to warm up the lance and all the connecting piping, so when it gets to the sootblower, some of it has cooled and condensed and when it blows into the tube bundle there is water that mixes with the ash, and steam. This mixture, and to a lesser extent dry steam is like a fine sandblasting mixture, and over time it erodes the tube wall.

In the early days of operation the sootblowers were set to run at about 300# of steam. So some areas got a lot of erosion. This particular sootblower hole is short, and the lance is close to the top tubes. Erosion is always worst above, rather than below the blower. So these tubes took a beating. If nothing is done, pretty soon there isn't any metal between the steam and the metal, and you have a leak. There are thee things that can be done to keep the steam in the tubes:

1. Pad weld the tube. Put more metal on the thin places with lots of weld beads. This can work pretty well, but in this area you have to do a lot of out-of-position welding and the tubes are always somewhat dirty. These two things contribute to POROSITY. Yikes!

2. Put a stainless steel shield around the bottom of the tube. This also works well, and during the last outage we pad welded and shielded hundreds of tubes. More than the usual amount, but we do a lot each year.

3. Put in a dutchman. This is a short segment of new pipe. This is by far the best solution, but the most expensive, the most labor intensive and the slowest. But that is what we are doing now in the boiler in the section that was damaged.

Back to POROSITY. If your tube is dirty or your arc gets long the molten metal get impurities dissolved into it, and they form little gas bubbles. When the metal freezes, they are trapped. You never get rid of it.... well, you can grind it all out and start over, but it is amazing how hard it is to grind it all out. So, for practical purposes, you can't really get rid of it.

All those little bubbles can line up and form a crack, or a passage for the steam to follow to get out of the tube. Once a little steam can get through, it isn't long before the hole is bigger, and you have a leak. Because the tubes are so close together, it isn't long before you have worn a hole in a tube nearby, which send a jet of erosive steam over to another tube, and pretty soon there are holes all over and it looks like there was a Mafia gun battle that went on. You pull all the poor dead bodies out and line them up and look for what could have caused the problem to begin with. This is a picture of the tube that started it all. It was thin, the welder blew through the thin tube wall and a pocket of porosity formed, the welder tried to get rid of it, but it remained, and a crack formed.Then a leak formed and this tube started to leak up at about a 45 degree angle, blasting one of the tubes in yesterday's post that opened up.

That tube failed, and blasted right across. Both tubes opened up at about the same time, blasting each other sideways and getting everyone's attention.

Here are some new tubes, with the end's prepped, cut to length and ready to be welded in.

Home Sweet Home.

Making chill rings.

Chill rings are little devices that help to align and space the tubes so that they are welded just right. Those of higher ideals and purer hearts prefer the more elegant TIG root. This is where you use a tungsten arc with inert shielding gas to weld in the first pass between the tubes. There is normally a 1/8" gap between the tubes, and you delicately fill this with a thin film of molten metal. If conditions are good, then you get the very best weld. But if they are not so good, you just think you get the best weld. These little guys help fix that. You just put them in both tubes and use a normal stick weld. For all intents and purposes, these are the root weld. The ones that you buy commercially are kind of thick and clunky, but we make our own out of the same tube material, and they work very well.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

When the Steam Doesn't Stay in the Tube: Day 2

Here are a few more pictures.

As of last night they had removed 16 tubes. Two tubes were blown out, and three had some holes worn in them, the other 11 tubes were cut out just to get access to the tubes in the bundle.

Here you can see the two blown tubes, one bent to the right, one to the left. We are still trying to determine what was the original cause of the failure.

And a close up of the two blow tubes after they have been cut from the bundle.

The tubes in this section of the boiler are 2.0" dia. and have a wall thickness of about 0.203". And they are all bound together. So, to have them open up like this, and get bent as badly as they did shows the tremendous force involved in life steam.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When the Steam Doesn't Stay in the Tube: Day 1

We have a tube leak in Unit 2, in the primary superheat section of the boiler. This is an area where the tube bundles are very close together, and the tubes are very close together. And there is a lot of pressure (~2500 psi) so when a tube fails it starts to cut it's friends nearby, and they cut their friends and it is a mess. To fix it you have to cut out a lot of tubes to get to in to the ones that have failed, and then weld your way back out again. We are looking at a minimum of 12 tubes that will need to be removed and replaced, and possibly as many as 20. So there goes the weekend.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Starvation Messabout

If you filtered out all of the people who have much interest in -ball sports, then filtered out everyone who if interested in the rest of the competitive sports that are left, and then filtered for people who like to experiment, and make things with their hands, you would be left with a pretty small group of people. Then you have to filter out anyone who is influenced much by trends, fads, or conspicuous consumption. Among the people you would have left are the boat builders.

This isn't to say that boat builders are especially virtuous or anything, just that they are fairly rare. So when you get a bunch of them together, they are pretty interesting. And if you, like me, don't fit into the the world of competitive sports or conspicuous consumption, you sometimes wonder just how weird you are. So it is a lot of fun to go a 'messabout' and just kind of hang out and enjoy the sun and the water. I didn't bring along a boat (too cheap to drag Picara over for a day, and I have given away all my other boats) so I brought my dutch ovens and did some visiting. I even got a little sunburn. But it was fun, and the people are nice.

I particularly wanted to visit with Jim Thayer a little. Jim is in his 70's someplace, and has been sailing and building boats for years and years. He owns Grand Mesa Boatworks, and sells fiberglass hulls that they make. His heart isn't so good, and so he is on oxygen, but he is a trooper, and still goes on extended expeditions on Lake Powell. He has a special box on the front of his boat (Nina) that he keeps his oxygen in.

Anyway, here are a few clips of my afternoon there. I didn't get all the boats. There was an amazing rowing boat that I really wished that I had a shot of.

The Lighter Side

Here are a couple of videos that you might enjoy. The Man with the Mask is fun. Shooting sports are very relaxing if you have a Class 3 permit. Judge not, that ye be not judged..... More shooting sports.... well not really sports... Rube Goldberg has way too much time on his hands. So does Red Green. Then there is an example of enforced cell phone etiquette.

Well, nothing very profound here. Hope you have a good one and a maybe a laugh or two.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Scripture Guys: King Benjamins Words Reported Live

Gospel Doctrine was interesting this last Sunday. We have a great teacher, and he always leads us to the point of the lesson. But rather like a goat that wanders hither the thither, when I read the key text, I somehow see things other than the point of the lesson.

We were reading about King Benjamin's Sermon in Mosiah 4: 1

1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

So everyone is keying in on their on the spiritual aspect of this scene, and I am thinking 'Holy Cow' what did this really look like! So we are at conference, and maybe you had to go to the restroom or something - you miss some of President Monson's talk and come back to find twenty or thirty thousand people senseless on the ground. The news guys are there from Channel X and they are equally puzzled "This is an incredible scene Marsha, you would have to be here to believe it. People are dazed, laying on the ground as you can see. Many are moaning or sobbing and none of them have the strength to even sit up. It is like a bomb went off in here. We missed the call to repentance that was given by President Monson, as we were stuck in traffic, and only saw the aftermath of his talk. Back to you Rolland".

My purpose isn't to make lite of this scene, but to look at it a little closer, and maybe from the lens of the news reports we hear today. We read so much in the scriptures and I think that sometimes the enormity of what we read, the incredible scenes that are recounted with almost no elaboration zip right by us. I guess I like to stop sometimes and try to feel what it might have been like in some small way.

Anyway, that is all for tonight. Read your scriptures and what ever story or event you are reading about, slow down, and try to put yourself there. It is surprising what pops out sometimes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

All in a Day's Work: Bottom Ash, Hotwell, DA Storage, Condenser

This is the bottom of the boiler.

This is where the water collects after it condenses after it goes over the turbine.

This is where the cooling water condenses the steam after it goes over the turbine blades.

Friday, April 18, 2008

All in a Day's Work: Furnace Scaffolding

I hope you like this. Possibly I will make more of these little clips.

Monday, April 7, 2008

All in a Day's Work: The Boiler Drum

Ahhhhh.... my least favorite place - anywhere. The drum collects the mixture of steam and water that comes frothing up from the waterwall tubes. The steam goes on to a circuit of tubes that gradually heats the steam until it is dry and has a lot of energy in it (1050 deg F) It then goes down to the turbine. We talked about this in the post on the penthouse.

The drum is about 85 feet long and about 3 feet in diameter inside. Regrettably, it isn't all free space. The top 1/2 or maybe even 2/3 is occupied by steel 'cans' that do the actual separating. So you have the bottom 40% or so to crawl through, but it isn't the real bottom of
the drum, but a shell and so you have less and less space to wiggle through. The drum is about 7" thick and has a small hole on each end to wriggle in and out of. Not only does this construction favor skinny people, it favors short skinny people the most. Enough said. You all know I am neither skinny or short.

I used to think I would like to build a submarine, but a couple of trips through the drum on my stomach changed my mind. Here are a few pictures. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All in a Day's Work: Scaffold

Every other outage (4 years) we scaffold the boiler cavity in one of the units. This allows us to walk around the edge of the boiler and then they build a big 'dance floor' at the top, right under the platen pendants. Then we put some more scaffolding up around them so that we can inspect and repair them. There isn't a lot more to say. The pictures say most of it.
Looking Across

Looking Down

Looking Up

Thursday, April 3, 2008

All in a Day's Work: The Penthouse

Spending time in the Penthouse sounds a lot more appealing than it is, although as boiler spaces go, it is fairly comfortable.

Boilers are built so that water and steam circulate from the hottest spots, to where the work needs to be done. Forced circulation boilers have big circulating pumps that move the boiler water around. These are common in supercritical plants. Supercritical plants are not plants that are just really grouch, and always complaining about something. They are plants that operate at such high pressures that steam never forms - the water turns to something that isn't water and isn't steam. Then at a pressure drop over a valve, this fluid will flash to steam and drive a turbine.
We have a natural circulation boiler. There is a big fireball area in the cavity of the boiler. It is surrounded by water filled tubes- the water walls. Which is different than the walls of water that you put around your tomato plants. The water boils in the tubes, and the steam that is formed rises, carrying a lot of water upwards with it. The water and steam flows to the steam drum and is separated there. The water falls back down to the cool bottom of the boiler in large pipes called 'downcomers', and the steam starts a path through a series of tubing loops where it becomes progressively hotter and dryer. At each stage there is a really big pipe or 'header' that has all the looping tubes welded to it. The pressure and temperature of each small tube sort of equalizes out in the header, and then the steam is redirected to another set of tubes where it gets hotter yet, until finally it comes out of the secondary superheat header, into the main steam line and goes down from the 19th floor to the 2nd floor where the turbine is.

The place above the boiler roof where all these headers are, and where all these connections are made is called the penthouse. Why I don't know. But there is a lot of stuff going on there. Lots of tubes, lots of pipes. It is really surrealistic to look at, and it takes some time to figure out where everything goes. I think that is enough of a lesson tonight. Here are a few pictures of some of the headers. I end up crawling around in the insulation dust quite a bit, so it is a bit itchy. Still, interesting. I didn't think I would be doing this when I was a little boy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

All in a Day's Work: Backpass Inspection

The dreaded outage has begun. Unit 2 came off line last night about midnight and things cooled down enough for us to get in and do a backpass inspection this afternoon. I have a few more pictures for you too look at. The backpass in Unit 2 is the same as in Unit 1, so there really isn't a lot new here.

This is a roomy and comfortable hole know as the 'economizer'. After the steam has gone over the turbine and condensed back to water, that water is pumped back into the boiler to be used again, as it is very pure. But is is also very cold compared to the boiler and would cause problems if it were pumped directly back into it. So it goes through a series of feedwater heaters (more on these later) that use waste and low quality steam to preheat the water. The last heater is actually in the coolest part of the gas path and the water picks up quite a bit of heat that would otherwise be wasted. Walking around in the Economizer is tricky, and the pipe is covered with slippery ash, kind of the consistency of flour. So you can appreciate the care that is taken by each of us as we walk around on these tubes.

Here is a little hole to let us go from the top parts, to the lower parts. Beneath this is a pipe called a sootblower lance. Periodically the soot blower shoots steam out of the end of this pipe as it rotates it slowly, and pushes it into the space. The steam knocks ash of the tubes and that lets them transfer heat more efficiently.

One thing that we didn't do last time, on the short outage, was to wash the boiler cavity and remove all the clinkers and ash so that work can begin down below without worry of a boulder sized clinker falling 18 floors and smashing you flat. We have tried several different methods to remove these clinkers, and this time we are washing them out with a water cannon. This is a fancy nozzle that you can hook two 2-1/2" fire hoses to.

Well, that is about it. More adventures tomorrow. We are both tired at the start. It might be a really long month.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Food Fight!!

Someone has way too much time on their hands. But it is kind of fun anyway.

Stupid Things I Could Have Done

You all know me well enough to realize that I could have easily been the person who thought this "sounded like a good idea at the time".....

..(Names have been removed to protect the stupid!)
Actual Letter from someone who writes, and farms
I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall,
feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it.
The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that,
since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have
much fear of me!
When we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at
the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away),
it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over
its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.
I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope.
The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back.
They were not having any of it.
After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up -- 3 of them. I
picked out.....a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the
feeder, and threw.. rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me.
I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a
good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could
tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation.
I took a step towards took a step away. I put a little tension on!
The rope and then received an education.
The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just
stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to
action when you start pulling on that rope.
That deer EXPLODED.
The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT
stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I
could fight down with a rope and with some dignity.
A deer-- no chance.
That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no
controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off
my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me
that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had
originally imagined.
The only up side is that they do not have as much stamina as many other
A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk
me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few
minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing
out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for
corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end
of that rope.
I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it
would likely die slow and painfully somewhere.
At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that
moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling
was mutual.
Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had
cleverly arrested the deer's momentum by bracing my head against
various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still
think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I
shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in,
so I didn't want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed
to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder - a little
trap I had set before hand...kind of like a squeeze chute.
I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope
Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would
have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very
surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed
hold of my wrist.
Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where
they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head
--almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.
The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and
draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was
It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but
it was lik ely only several seconds.
I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim
by now) tricked it.
While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached
up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose. That was when I got my
final lesson in deer behavior for the day.
Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on
their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and
their hooves are surprisingly sharp.
I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -- like a horse--strikes
at you with their hooves and you can't get away easily, the best thing
to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards
the animal.
This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.
This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would
not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy.
I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.
The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a
horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit
you in the back of the head.
Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice
as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run , it
hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.
Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not
immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has
passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on
you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering
your head.
I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.
So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a
scope to sort of even the odds.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

All in a Day's Work

Spring has sprung, sort of, and thoughts of outages come unbidden to young and old men's minds. Mostly the come because we dread it so much and there is so much to get ready for. This weekend we had a short outage on Unit 1 to fix a few things that we could run with now, but probably would get worse and force and outage later.

Yesterday afternoon we did our back pass inspection. The boiler consists of two sections. The boiler cavity is where the fire is. The mills grind the coal to a flour like fineness and big fans blow it through specially designed burners into the cavity of the boiler.

It is a pretty big structure, and mostly you can't see anything but a huge, blinding ball of fire when it is on line. A lot of heat is created here, and a lot of it is absorbed into the boiler walls which are made of steel tubing and filled with boiler water. The water boils in these tubes and rises to where it is guided into the drum. The drum separates the water from the steam. The water falls back down some large pipes called downcomers and is recycled back into the wall tubes. The steam is cool - for steam, and needs to get more heat energy before it goes to the turbine. So, in the gas path there are hundreds of more tubes that absorb more of the heat from the gas, and as they do, they heat up the steam that travels through them.
Here are a couple of pictures of the back pass. The whole steam/gas path interaction is complex but can be summed up in the coolest steam is warmed by the coolest gas in the path, and as the steam travels up and forward it moves against the gas path and is in contact with increasingly warmer gas.

In a backpass inspection, you crawl through on the tubes and look for broken soot blowers (horizontal pipe in lefthand picture), or places where the soot blower has eroded the tubing and it needs to be shielded or pad welded.

One last picture. These are the platen pendants and they hang over the fireball and pick up a lot of heat. They aren't the last stage in steam warming, but pretty close. Just a little part of what it takes to keep the lights on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ancestors: Long Ago, On a Continent Far, Far Away

In one of the books that belong to either Grandma H. or Grandma H. there is a introductory chapter that I can't find. Or I would quote it verbatim. But the idea that was presented was that these were simple, humble people. God fearing, hard working, and not sophisticated or worldly.

The author, whom I will refer to as him rather than him/her or it, then had a long list of things that our ancestors knew nothing about when they heard about Catherine the Great's immigration offer. We know that they didn't know about them, because they hadn't happened yet. I won't pad the list with the obvious things we have today but try to recreate the spirit, if not the letter of what hadn't happened yet.

In July 1763, Catherine issued her 2nd manifesto inviting the people of Germany to come and live in the Volga region of Russia

1764 Mozart (age eight) writes his first symphony.
1770 Ludwig van Beethoven, German composer, born
1776 Steam Engine: James Watt
1777 Circular Saw
1778 Beethoven (now eight) is presented by his father as six year old prodigy
1783 Beethoven's first works printed
1783 Hot air balloon: Montgolfier Brothers
1784 Bifocals: Ben Franklin
1786 Mozart: " The Marraige of Figaro," Vienna
1790 Sammuel Hahnemann rages against medical bloodletting.
1793 Cotton gin: Eli Whitney
1808 Band Saw: William Newberry
1810 Frederic Chopin, Polish composer, born
1810 Robert Schumann, German composer, born
1813 Richard Wagner, German composer, born
1814 J.N. Maelzel invents metronome in Vienna
1814 Schubert's great lied production begins(till 1828 c. 700 songs)
1814 Steam Locomotive: George Stephenson
1816 Bicycle:
1818 First successful blood transfusion
1847 Ignaz Semmelweis discovers cause of 'childbed fever'. Passed to women by doctors who didn't wash.
1867 Lister publishes 'Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery'.
1870 Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch establish the role of germs in disease.

Well, you get the idea. Life was pretty simple, fairly hard, and sometimes very short. Our ancestor's lives centered around family and church. Boys went to school for a few years. Girls, not as much. If a boy had a 6th grade education, he had done well. It was a simpler, quieter time.

This little prologue opened the doors of my mind in the story of the Neumans. They are the branch of the family that sold all they had, and found out on the boat that they were going to SOUTH America.... When I was younger I thought is was amusing..... and maybe they laughed a little too, when they stopped crying. But looking back on their eduction, their isolation, and their trusting lives, it isn't too hard to see how a mistake like that could easily be made. They made the best of things, even setbacks. They built a home and farmed the land and didn't quit until they could sell the farm and move to North America.

Anyway, I thought I would pass that along. They were good people, and they went through some hard times in Germany, then in Russia, and finally in America. They didn't give up, didn't quit. They stuck together through thick and thin and are great examples to those of us that came later. Without meaning to, they set the standard for us to live up to in our lives.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Tame Ox

One of my favorite authors is Ben Green. Ben grew up in Texas. He was probably born some time around 1910 or so. He lived in a town that was just too little to keep him occupied and started out buying cattle when he was in his early teens.

This was a fairly serious undertaking for a young man because trucks were not common at all in that area in the early 20's and all the cattle moving was done with a horse. I think most soccer moms would faint dead away, and maybe need some medication at the thought of their 13-14 year old son unplugging himself from the X-box, saddling up a couple of horses and going off 30 or 40 miles away to buy cattle cheap that were too wild for regular cowboys to catch in big pastures filled with mesquite, rocks and snakes. Truth be told, I think I might need and extra slug of Mt. Dew if I thought I was going to have to do that.

Ben didn't give it a thought. He had a gentle, well broke mare named Beauty that he rode for many miles. He learned a good deal about people, cattle, weather, and horses. He eventually became a veterinarian and practiced in the South West, and down into Mexico.

He is a good story teller, and lets you have enough detail with some explanation so that you know where the story is going.

In one adventure he has bought some cows for range delivery. Cows and steers sold like this sell pretty cheap because it is so hard and hazardous to get them back to civilization, and there were no trailers and big rig 4x4 s that could go into the back country. If you roped a steer and got the rope around a big old gentle tree, as he liked to say, you still had to get him back to town, and the odds were that he would get away, or hurt you or your horse before you managed it, unless you were clever.

He had bought about 20 cows and calves, and there were two big wild steers that would stand guard when the rest of the cows were grazing. If anyone approached, they would go bawling and scatter the herd into the brush. Ben tried for days to cut out one or the other, but they were big, horned, aggressive, and smart. Finally he had an idea. He and another cowboy cut one of the steers away from the group, and roped his head and heels and stretched him out. Ben took a curved needled from his shirt pocket and got a strong hair from his horse's tail and sewed the steers eyelids together. The next day they caught the other one and repeated the procedure. That left the two trouble makers pretty much blind and they fell in with the tamer cattle and Ben and his friend herded them back to the ranch. When they were safe in the corral, he cut the hair and let them open their eyes.

He had a lot of little tricks. One of them that I have thought a lot about was when he would yoke a wild steer or heifer to a steady tame ox. An ox is just a steer that has been tamed and trained to take commands and pull loads. Generally they become very gentle, but because they are kept for years they tend to be very large 1500# +. Ben would take a few of these big, gentle cattle and feed them in a corral for a week or two that was near the pasture with the wild cattle. Once they got used to the corral, they became attached to it too, and it was home. Ben would then rope one of the wild ones and tie it to a tree or large rock. When it was secure, he would go and get one of the oxen and make a harness our of rope, and tie the two of the together. The ox knew where he wanted to go, and even if the wild steer would pull him off course for a bit, the ox would eventually put his head down and step by step work his way to the corral, and the hay and grain that awaited him.

Sometimes I think that we take turns in our lives being the steady ox, and the wild cow. I am sure that when the ox was pulling toward the corral that it was very annoying to the wild one. That lack of approval didn't bother the ox at all. He just kept going where he knew he should go. Families are a little like this, or should be I think. We take turns in life being the lost one, and being the steady one. None of us have enough sense to come back home all the time. We need the bonds of family love to tug us back to where we should be. Steady pulling gets the job done.