Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sinister Sigma Phase

It's almost 4 am, Unit 2 is down with another tube leak, and I just got back from the 14th floor, looking at which tubes need to be cut and repaired, and which can be muscled back into line.

Boiler tubes are tough. They have to endure and perform in horrendous conditions. These particular tubes have the hottest steam in them, and are in one of the hottest places in the boiler. The steam they carry is around 1100 deg F, and so I think that on the outer skin, it must be at least 50 degrees hotter, and maybe more. Recently we had a huge clinker in this boiler, and it acted like a funnel to direct the gas along the sides of the boiler. It also insulated a lot of tube area, causing other areas to have to accept more heat. This tube failed in one of the hottest areas. It is a stainless steel tube, and they are really good in heat. But if the temperature is up around 1200-1400 deg F, and it might well be on the tube surface, sigma phase degradation starts to form. It is actually a type of intergranular corrosion. In steel with less than 18% chrome the grains move around and you get little voids and the steel is said to have 'creep'.

Stainless steels don't creep in the same way, but chromium carbide does form in between the grain bounderies causing a weakened area. In time the carbides get bigger, and the strength is degraded, and then finally it fails and a bunch of guys spend several days and nights fixing it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Down the River They Went

Playing with Google Earth can open up a world of possibilities....pardon the pun. I traced out the path that the Walls, and maybe some of the other German families took to reach Southern Russia. It is about 1700 miles as the boat drifts, and so it is a longer trip than I had realized.

Here is a post that I did some time ago that has a little more history, and a link to the boats that they floated in.

Also, I think I found Alexanderdorf (Starcks), Hoffnungstal (Walls) and two possibilities for Norka (Hahns). Hoffnungstall is probably where it was originally. I'm not so sure of Norka, Norka 2 (Nork, Armenia) or Alexanderdorf. I used German geneology sites to locate Norka 1 and Alexanderdorf, but Dad always told stories about the Germans and the Turks.... and Norka 2 is pretty close to Turkey.

I'll do more investigation later, but I thought some of you would be interested in the length and scale of the float trip that so many of them went on. Andrew and I did a little float down the Sevier River a few years ago and it about killed us. Pansies that we are.

Well, there you have it. I don't know how interested anyone is in seeing the route that they took, but it sort of gives you a little idea of the trip.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unit 2 Short Outage - Ride to The Sky, Sailor Can't Escape

There isn't a lot to add. Unit 2 is down for a short , one week outage. I got to ride the sky sled, or rather couldn't avoid riding. I might have a little more tonight to send.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Stories From Trying Times (2)

One thing that this 'Greater Depression' or what ever you want to call these times, is that it will give us some great stories to tell, eventually.... I don't think that any of us will end up on the other side with the same lifestyle that we had going into it. A lot of adjustments and adaptations will be made. But like 'Winter Camp', it might be hard in places, but there will be great stories to be told by the fire.

Some time ago, I did a post on tent cities and the fact that we don't have soup lines anymore, even though millions of people have already lost their jobs. When people lost their jobs in the '30's, they were up against it right away. There are some who sniff with disdain at unemployment compensation, and food stamps, but the fact is these programs provide a very needed safety net, both to the individuals, and to the economy. Recently Jon Markman from MSN Money opined that if we save too much, we will endanger any recovery. Imagine if there were no social safety nets, and when someone lost their job, bang - all spending stopped. Period. And probably with their neighbors too.

This paragraph does have a point, and does lead into a story, but you sometimes have to 'liken the stories (like the scriptures)' unto yourself. During the Great Depression, there were no bailouts - banks just failed left and right, and savings were wiped out in a minute. We were on the Gold Standard, and the FED couldn't conjure up billions of dollars out of nothing. As much as I disapprove of the bailouts and other shenanigans, I do think the FED has managed to stave off the total financial system collapse, at least for a while. So, anyway, bad things happened, and happened pretty fast. Your are at work on the farm, and the bank fails, and all of your money is gone and the bank will try to seize your home and farm. About 25% of the people were unemployed, and a lot of them were hungry.

If you watch 'Sea Biscuit' you will see a family that couldn't feed all of the kids. The parents made a decision to kick the oldest son out so that he could be a jockey. Things were that bad. Tens of thousands of men and boys roamed the countryside looking for work. It was like having every fourth person that you met on the street having a sign that said 'Will work for food'. And that is what they did.

One story that I remember Mom telling was about a man like this. As a little kid, I always saw him as a grizzled old timer, maybe in this early 30's. That is still how I picture him. Probably married, with a baby or two, and just no prospects. He might have been from Denver, or even farther away. He came to the farm in late summer, late in the day. Grandma W would have been in her 30's and Mom would have been maybe 8 or 9.... Grandma had been canning sweet corn from her garden and I am sure was worn out with the work and the heat of pressure canning using a wood cook stove in the summer. I'm not sure, but I believe that they had a 'summer kitchen' arrangement where a stove was in a screened but airy area during the summer, but it was still hot work and a long day.

Grandpa must have been away in the fields when the man came to the door. I don't know what was said but the man wanted work. Grandma must not have had any money. He must have been hungry and made more so by the smell of the canning. Grandma must have seen his need, and she responded in the only way that she could. By the end of the day, the kindling box would have been low, or empty. She told him to chop her a box of wood, and she would feed him. Mom said that he went to work with a will, and soon the box was full, and he sat down at the table and ate several plates of corn cut from the cob, with as much butter was he wanted. He probably had as much milk as he could drink as well, as Grandpa had a dairy.

Well, there isn't a lot of drama there. Just a hungry tired man, and a compassionate woman. But it is a nice story, and I have always liked it.

Get Thicker Skin.....Armor

I just thought this was so cool... which probably shows my low 'cool' quotient. But I still thought is was cool. When we went to Germany in 1984, we stopped by an amazing military arms museum. Having played at being a armature, apprentice, beginning, self-taught blacksmith, I was just in awe of what these old smiths could make with a hammer and a fire. Still am. I hope you like this, it's not too long.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Looking Back at Trying Times

We had a very nice Stake Conference last Sunday. The messages centered around Temple work, genealogy, and optimism.

I couldn't help, with these messages to think back on some of the family stories that I have been told, and have grown up with. My dad in particular was a story teller, and passed down stories to me in the great tradition of oral historians: He told them to me so many times that I know them almost by heart. And bless his heart for each one of them too.

When I look out at the imploding economy that we have, and the future that is unsure, but sure to be different than our recent, comfortable past, it is kind of comforting to revisit some of the stories of the circumstances that our ancestors lived through.

Looking back in history it is easy to romanticize it. The problems that our grandparents faced seem like smaller and cozier problems, the stories might have a scary part, but they have happy endings. And so we tuck our selves into bed and wish we had been born 100 years ago. At least these are my tendencies. You probably have more sense.

Dad told me a lot of stories about the Great Depression, and what it was like to grow up in those days. He almost always would tell me how poor they were, but that they didn't know it because everyone was about in the same boat. He was the oldest son of the oldest daughter of a family of 15 children. His father abandoned them, and Grandma had to live with her parents and brothers and sisters. Her parents had immigrated from Russia in the early 1900's, I think about 1905 or 1907. Grandma was a little girl when they got to America. They had to sell everything to come to America, and they were still trying to establish themselves economically when the Great Depression came along.

Dad was six when the market crashed, and while the only stock they had was live stock, the Depression reached throughout the country and made itself felt. I'm sure that G-Grandpa worried a lot about how he would feed all of those mouths. His solution was to raise almost everything that they ate in the garden, and then contract to take care of 80-120 acres of sugar beets for their cash income.

Some time I'll do a post on sugar beet cultivation practices before tractors and herbicides. Tonight I'll quickly run through the steps quickly just so you know how many times they had to go up and down the rows. I think that the farmer generally plowed, disked, harrowed, planted and marked the rows. G-Grandpa's brood/army would go to the fields after first irrigation and block, irrigate, thin and hoe, irrigate, hoe, irrigate, hoe, then the team would come through and lift the beets (October now) and then they would top and load them into wagons. Dad spent his time in the fields from May through October for most of his childhood years. It was unending, back breaking work.

They tried to live close to the farm, so they would move at least once each year. Dad said that a lot of the houses had dirt floors. Now think about that a minute. My shop has a concrete floor, but I doubt that any of us would consider living there for a night, yet alone on a permanent basis.

One of my favorite stories, and I think one of his as well, was the story of the 'Second Light Bulb'. You see, they moved to a house that had electricity in it, and they had a light bulb - just one, for some time. They would take it from room to room like you would a candle or a kerosene lamp. Then, wonder of wonders, they got a second bulb, and didn't have to move the first one so much. But, again, wonder of wonders, one of the bulbs was much brighter then the other. They couldn't figure this out. One bulb had a 40 on it.... and the brighter bulb had a 60 on it. Humble, humble beginnings.

Getting back to Stake Conference and the theme of having optimism in our lives. I don't think that means that we have to be blind to the troubles around us. Here is a quote that I like:

``Optimism of the soul, pessimism of the intellect,'' Antonio Gramsci

I would amend it to read: Optimism of the soul, realism of the intellect.

When there is so much bad news around us, and it sometimes seems that we are being overwhelmed I think it is important to look back to the things that our ancestors went through and to take courage from their lives, and then to go forward with optimism, knowing that we came from people who didn't always have things handed to them. These were people that wondered where life was going to take them, but people found courage in their religion and in their families. They are people that lived the stories.