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Monday, June 16th, 2008

Ruminations

I’m very, very excited about the business opportunities in the Pacific areas – Hawai’i, Guam, Micronesia, and maybe more.

OK, I haven’t written in a while. The big reason is personal – I keep getting a lot of crap whenever I write anything that reveals what I think about what’s going on in my life. So I just shut up. It was easier that way.

I also felt that, minus the personal ponderings, this blog was just turning into a travelogue. So I haven’t written about my trips to Japan, Guam, and Hawai’i. And also, I’ve just been too overloaded with new responsibilities to have much time to write about anything. It’s an ongoing debate in my mind – keep writing honestly and suffer the consequences, keep writing blandly for no real purpose, or quit writing. I’ve really thought hard about announcing that this blog is going to end.

But here I am, writing again. I guess I just want to write.

I gave up on the corrosionengineer.net website because I just wasn’t putting anything up on the site, but I still keep tabs on what’s going on out there. It’s a small world, so it doesn’t take much to have an impact.

So maybe I can keep this thing alive by mixing in the things I care about – they’re listing in my blog’s subtitle. I can’t rant and rave about the things that are wrong about my employer, because they’ve fixed a lot of them. I’m back to actually liking working for them again – I feel that team spirit, and see opportunities by playing along. Real opportunities – like heading a new, or renewed, Pacific office based out of Hawai’i. I’m not even sure about announcing this, because it’s still unofficial, but I think it’s going to happen.

I would like to have a real impact on young engineers who are mildly interested in the field, and internet-savvy enough to find this site. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love my work. I love the travel, I love the variety, and most of all I love the challenge. I’ve been doing this for eighteen years, but every morning I wake up knowing that I’m going to have to think hard about what I’m doing this day.

So what am I doing? I’m writing about it.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Posts About Me, Travel at 22:45 PST

1 Comment »

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Launching CorrosionEngineer.Net

After considering the issue of whether to talk about my employer in this blog, thinking about what I wanted to write about my profession in general, and how to maximize the potential of owning the url CorrosionEngineer.Net, I have decided the following:

So I sunk a couple of bucks into hosting, started what will undoubtedly be an insane amount of effort, and created the start of CorrosionEngineer.Net. So far, it’s just a blog, but I outline what I intend to do and how I think I’ll do it. It is crazy, but it just might work.

Wish me luck.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control at 18:56 PST

1 Comment »

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Link from Matcor Blog

I saw an interesting referrer in my visitor’s log today coming from www.matcor.blogspot.com. The name leapt out – Matcor is a cathodic protection and corrosion engineering company. I’ve previously seen them visit my site from their Doylestown office.

I visited the site – and have a lot of questions. It’s hosted on Blogspot, a free blogging service. Not exactly an auspicious launching site for a company. The posts start on 9 March 2007, and there are eight so far. Eight contributors are listed, but only two have posted – Bill Schutt and Ted Huck. Not surprising, as two of the other listed contributors have closed profiles in Blogspot, and the remaining four are employees of Gregory FCA Communications. One of the closed profiles is named visualchutzpah.com. The listed contact resolves to a gregoryfca.com email address. Their headlining RSS feed link still points to a test site, with the sole post in Latin. My Latin is pretty rusty, but a quick search lead to a disappointing result – apparently, it’s a 400 year old sample typesetting text.

I’m going to try real hard here not to speculate about what’s going on, to editorialize, or to render a critical opinion. If anything, I should welcome any effort by corrosion engineers to start blogging. As far as I can tell through my searches, I am (correction: was) the only blogging corrosion engineer out there! A little competition would make things more interesting, and motivate me.

So I punched a bunch of links to make sure I’d get noticed in their Sitemeter log (I prefer Statcounter.) Maybe, after I finish this post, I’ll VPN back to Medina and punch a bunch more to freak them out; if they can, and bother to, trace the source of their visits. I also get real techie cred, because their logs will show that I was running Linux when I stumbled across this.

But I can’t resist covering the basics. If you want to start a blog, for less than a hundred bucks you can buy a unique name, shared hosting for a year, upload WordPress and get started. But then I started counting the hours that I’ve investing in just searching for distinctive WordPress themes and useful plugins, learning how to customize them, learning how to create and manipulate images, finding visitor logging services and monitoring them, and then – web site optimization. All those hours, to a corporation, would be a major investment. Hell, I’ve made a major investment.

I guess my only beef is that they linked to me. Well, not that they linked to me, but that they did it so haphazardly. Their link goes straight to an old, relatively uninteresting post. If they really want to link to me as a corrosion blog, they should point here:

http://www.gregrperry.com/blog/category/corrosion-control/

Hmmm. Maybe this counts as a reason to start a separate blog using my corrosionengineer.net url.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control at 22:09 PST

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Monday, March 26th, 2007

Blogging, Employers, and Discretion

Today I got my first request from management, passed down through my supervisor, to remove content I had written that included information about my employer.

The request was not condemning, but firm. I was given a rationale as to why I should remove it, and I found myself agreeing with it. I had crossed the line. I flagged the post in question, and at least one other, as private – not available for public viewing – until I can figure out what to do about it. But it really has made me rethink my situation.

When I first started mentioning my employer, I was pretty down on the company. I’d just lost a supervisor whom I had really admired and respected, and it hurt. Yes, I was a little confrontational, and I had looked at the situation as an individual rights issue. Since then, my attitude has made a complete turn around. I’m seen significant improvements, and I’ve become excited about the changes and started to see good things ahead for the company, and real opportunities for me as well. I was even thinking that I need to put up a lot more positive-sounding posts about what was going on.

But it’s an incredibly fine line to write about your employer, even when you think you’re being supportive. I’ve already learned that you can make mistakes, reveal things that should not be revealed, when you write about family; and a good employer is like a family in so many ways. I could inadvertently disclose things that would be valuable intelligence for a competitor, or that could offend a coworker or a customer.

There’s a certain amount of hubris involved in blogging. It’s nice to hit the search engines and see yourself show up high in the results, and if the search terms include your employer’s name, it makes you feel a little more important than you actually are. But business is not about individual aggrandizement – business is about performing a service for compensation that includes a profit, which in turn provides an attractive return on investment for those that finance the operations. Individual fame is only important when it has market value.

I like writing about what I do, and that includes my work. I need to find a new way of including details about my work that will not compromise the company that I work for. I think there’s a way to do it, but I’ll have to consider it carefully. A blog is a double-edged sword in that everything you say becomes accessible to everyone. I think, in fact, that I am going to need to go back through my entire blog and delete all references to my company. I may even need to start a separate blog just to deal with professional issues. I hate the idea of compartmentalizing my life to that extent, but it might be the prudent thing to do. It’s a pity, because the whole point of corrosion engineering is to resist entropy – which is my theme for this blog. But I’ve been thinking about going back and reclassifying everything into new categories, anyway, and I should be able to accomplish all this in one fell swoop.

I guess my mother was right.

Your comments are solicited. Just click on the comments link below. If you really want to be anonymous, just leave an untraceable email, like “nobody@noneofyourdamnbusiness.com”. (Ha! that’s an actual domain! The correct way to make an untraceable email is to use a reserved domain, such as x@example.com or x@invalid.com.) I promise to respect your privacy and not try to trace you through your ip address or anything like that.

I’m going to tag this post with the name of my employer so that it shows up with all the other ones, and least until I get the chance to go back and purge my employer’s name from the entire blog.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Posts About Me at 21:39 PST

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Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

CorrosionEngineer.Net

A couple of weeks back I was poking through whois and discovered that corrosionengineer.net was available, so I picked it up. I might actually be able to do something with this, set up an instructional/reference site, and finally put my forum software to use. Or I could just use it to blather about all things corrosion engineering. I’ll have to find some more generic content management system software that doesn’t run as achingly slow as the ones I’ve already tried. Right now, I’ve just pointed it to this blog.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, My Website at 08:47 PST

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Monday, March 19th, 2007

Arrival in Honolulu

Ok, I’m going to jump past the other couple of half-finished posts and announce my arrival in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Current meatspace coordinates: 21.279, -157.823
Local appellation: Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawai’i

Honolulu, Hawai’i

It took a long time to get here. I got the airport at El Paso, Texas at 07:30 MDT (03:00 HST) for my 10:00 flight, left my car in long term parking, and managed to score emergency exit row seats on all my flights by checking in early. It was at this point that I realized that one of the things that I forgot to do the day before was buy some nicotine gum. I flew to Dallas-Fort Worth (1 hr, 40 min) and had 15 minutes before my next flight started boarding. I was lucky; my next gate was very close, and I managed to go out to the curb, power down a cigarette and a half, and get back in through security in time. Next leg: LAX, Los Angeles, California. I had a two and a half hour layover, so it was go out, smoke, come back in, grab some food, camp out next to a power outlet to recharge my computer, then dash back out again for another smoke. Thank good for assigned seating – I was flying American. My last six trips have been on Southwest, and getting in line early is essential for finding a seat with any sort of leg room.

The flight to Honolulu was six hours and I managed to get some sleep. After waiting anxiously to find out if my luggage had made it, and that my toolbox hadn’t broken open and spewed tools, my printer, and my ergonomic split keyboard all over the place (they had, and it hadn’t), it was out to try and cram myself into the rental shuttle. Just barely made it on the second one. When I got there, they didn’t have my car ready, but the really nice girl at Avis took my preferred reservation in so I didn’t have to fight the crowd, and upgraded me to an SUV for the leg room. Cool!

Then it was the crash course on learning how to pronounce Hawai’ian so that I could pick out and follow way points on my map. It was dark, the was occasional light rain, and I had to put on my new reading glasses (grrr!) to have any chance at all of reading the map, drove looking over them, but I got to my hotel, instantly gave up on looking for street parking and left the car for the valet, checked in, and dragged my bags up to my room. I got in at about 22:30 HST, or 19 hours after I got to the El Paso airport. Then it was a quick unpack, hanging up my wrinkled, very un-Hawai’ian shirts, setting up my portable computer rig, and a bandwidth speed test. Hmmm. 932 kbps. It’s going to be a long two weeks – especially since I’ve got to find another place to stay over the upcoming weekend.

I’m going to be coordinating some repair/construction work on the cathodic protection systems for the fuel piping at the Marine Corp Base in Kaneohe Bay, across the island on the North Shore. I would have liked to have stayed closer to the base, but all the hotels I could find over there are mega expensive resorts. Maybe boots on the ground will turn up something, and instead of checking out here for the weekend and coming back, I can just relocate once and stay put. I might also be going over to Pearl Harbor to do some estimating for our paint team out of San Diego.

Tomorrow I will find out whether my materials have arrived yet. I’m pessimistic. I’m also suspecting that I’m going to have to put in a couple of insulating flange kits myself, and fabricating a junction box. This is not going to be a laid-back, beach-going trip – every spare moment I get will be spent writing the report for my last job. Sigh.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Travel at 03:35 PST

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Thursday, December 28th, 2006

High Desert Snow

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, but today, instead of flying, I was driving. I was passing through the Galiuro Mountains east of Tucson, heading for New Mexico, and it was snowing lightly.

Snow in the high desert is just the icing on the cake of the beauty of this land. I’m sure there are places in the American Southwest that are even more spectacular, but it sure was nice being distracted from the things that are going on in my life by a few incredibly picturesque scenes.

Geography has a major consideration in my work of late – I’ve been tracking cathodic protection readings by GPS readings. Although I first started trying to get geographical coordinates on CP facilities (and by extension, the structures that they’re on) back in 1995, the available technology has improved substantially over the years to the point that very accurate information is easily obtained. The trouble is, the tools to manipulate this data have not been so forthcoming. I’ve been keeping my eye on GIS systems for a while now, but the software has been prohibitively expensive for me to use with what I’ve been doing. But that’s changing – GIS has become a foundation for all kinds of civil engineering work and other fields, and now corrosion control data analysis is being dragged into it. Clients are just now starting to demand their data in a GIS-importable format, and I’ve got a whole new skill set to acquire.

But this skill set combines a lot of things that I’ve already been interested in – map reading, computer graphics, and databases. I’ve been boning up lately on the fundamentals, particularly on the basics of geodesy (projections, datums and coordinate systems). I’ve been trying to get a high end open source GIS system installed on my computer, but the Windows version just doesn’t work, and the Linux version seems to be having a lot of problems with dependencies, which is also helping me get more familiar the nuts and bolts of Linux, because I’ve been trying to configure and compile source packages instead of installing rpms.

But if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, while researching the geography of the region, I couldn’t help but get drawn into the history. I ended up with a fascination in Sibley’s 1862 New Mexico Campaign, which turned out to be the historical setting for one of my favorite movies – Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Yeah. Distractions. May as well put them to good use.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, General Science, OS, Posts About Me at 21:59 PST

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Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Contact from NACE

I was browsing my visitor list yesterday (yes, although lately I have found myself incredibly short on time to write, I do still check in, if only to remove the comments that fool the spam filters), and saw a hit from a search engine that was corrosion-related. That always piques my interest – judging from how high my poor little site ranks using some common corrosion terms, there just isn’t much corrosion-related traffic out there on the Internet, and sometimes it’s from my own company (I try to keep tabs on that traffic.)

But this hit originated from the headquarters of NACE International, the world’s leading corrosion society, of which I have been a member since 1992. It’s also the group through which I hold a certification as a Cathodic Protection Specialist, one of the highest certifications in the CP field, which allows me to sign off on just about any regulatory requirement there is that’s aimed at protecting people and the environment from corrosion-related damage; i.e. keeping gasoline tanks from leaking or high-pressure gas or petroleum pipelines from rupturing.

Shortly thereafter I got an email from NACE. Someone there was surfing the net looking for information on Professional Engineers in California of the now defunct “Corrosion” type. She stumbled across my site, and contacted me because she thought I might know how get more information. PE’s in California are regulated by the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, which has a searchable database, but it doesn’t allow you to search by a category, such as the Corrosion type. I called and talked to her, took a look at the site, and offered to help; but I wanted to know why she was looking for this. She let me know that NACE was interested in trying to revive the Corrosion PE license.

This is very interesting to me. The difficultly at present for engineers to get the highly coveted PE label is, IMHO, one of the reasons that we seem to be experiencing a decline in new blood in this field. And by promising to help, she offered to keep me updated with NACE’s efforts and progress.

So I looked carefully at the online database and saw a way to prize the information about all licensed Corrosion PE’s, past and present, from the interface; including names, addresses (which I’m assuming are business), and license status. All I need to do is write a script that will retrieve information pages for each individual for Corrosion PE license number 1 through 1087 (the last one apparently issued), and dump the results into a comma delimited file, filtered via regular expressions, which I can them import into a database such as OpenOffice Base. This is all very much like what I had already done with my Google automated search plugin for WordPress, before that project came to a screeching stop when I learned that automated searches of Google violated their Terms of Service.

It shouldn’t be too hard to do; it’s just that I’m really clumsy with regex, and without the filtering, I would be holding a huge lump of information that would be very difficult to go through by hand.

Oh – and although she found my site the day before, she was at first put off by my rotating skull and bones image. She only persisted when she came across the site again using a different search. Is my adopted logo too severe for professional issues? I’m pretty fond of it, and don’t want to give it up.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, My Website, Programming at 07:55 PST

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Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Corrosion in the News

It’s hard not to make comment when you’re a blogger and a corrosion engineer, and corrosion actually makes it into the news. So why try to resist?

I have been a little surprised at how big a splash the news that BP is shutting down the Prudhoe Bay oil field has made. I didn’t notice anything when corrosion problems apparently caused a 4,800 barrel spill in March. But apparently, the media considers this a big deal because the shutdown will have an impact on the price American consumers will pay for gasoline, which has become a sensitive topic. Thus, the story is more about economics than engineering.

If you’re looking for me to have some special insight on the story, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. From my review of the coverage, it appears that the problems in these pipelines were caused by internal corrosion – where the corrosion originates from the inside of the pipe, working out – whereas my specialty is in cathodic protection, a technique that is mainly effective against external corrosion. Moreover, from the few pictures I’ve seen, the pipelines in question are aboveground, mounted on pedestals to cross the tundra, and cathodic protection is only effective on structures that are buried or immersed.

When I have to go through the news articles carefully just to find out whether the issue is internal or external corrosion, it’s clear that there just isn’t enough information available for me to comment on any technical issues. And it would be pretty boneheaded of me to make any sort of public statement that could be interpreted as a professional assessment of this or any other particular incident. I’d like to write more about what I do, but it’s pretty hard to explain without going pretty heavily into corrosion theory, which is extremely complex. In my sixteen plus years in the industry, I’ve seen exceptions to just about every generalization you could make about corrosion control.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Current Events at 00:35 PST

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Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Corrpro New CEO

I don’t discuss information from internal company announcements, but this naturally made the PRNewswire (hmmm – can’t find it anymore?! – oh well, here’s the link to Yahoo News):

MEDINA, Ohio, July 31. Corrpro Companies, Inc. announced today that its Board of Directors has named William V. Larkin, Jr. President and Chief Executive Officer of Corrpro effective as of August 1, 2006. Mr. Larkin has also been appointed to serve on Corrpro’s Board of Directors effective as of the same date.

Mr. Larkin was previously President and CEO of Tuboscope Vetco International, a worldwide publicly traded oilfield service company. Tuboscope’s product lines included corrosion detection and corrosion prevention services for the oilfield, pipeline and above ground storage tank markets.

The old CEO left in what, October last year, so it’s good to see a new president named. I think it’s especially good to see someone who is familiar with the industry.

You know what? I think I’m going to send him an email suggesting that he starts a blog. Wouldn’t it be great to get news from the top on a regular basis?

On an interesting side note, while researching this story, I stumbled across a legal commentary blog covering some of the legal issues surrounding the acrimonious departure of the Meiers from Corrpro.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control at 05:47 PST

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