Showing posts with label Oil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oil. Show all posts

September 17, 2020

Automation By Gloves

Everything is so automated these days.

Here's a hydraulic oil machine.

And you see no people.

Just some blue gloves.

If you look long enough, perhaps you'll see the gloves move and work the machine all by themselves. 

That's the magic of automation and computerization. 

Say hi gloves!  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumnethal)
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December 2, 2018

On The First Night Of Chanukah

Please see my article in The Times of Israel called, "The Lesson of the Candy Lane Menorah."
It was a beautiful ushering in the first night of Chanukah by Chabad of Bethesda, Maryland. The "candy" menorah that they were going to use was somehow destroyed, but Chabad came with a spare--they are terrific...even when things go wrong, miracles can happen, but we have to be prepared like Chabad was tonight.

Happy First Night of Chanukah to everyone! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 3, 2015

Russia Seems To Have A Strategy, Why Don't We?

Russia upends the U.S. and NATO once again, now carrying out a third day of a devastating bombing campaign that shows no sign of letting up in Syria. 

Russia is leapfrogging us to pursue their goals of keeping dictator Bashar Al Assad, tightening up on a renewed cozy relationship with Iran and Iraq--in what is the prime oil basin of the world--and reestablishing their place on the world stage as a superpower (apparently, Crimea wasn't the end, but just the beginning), and at the same time killing U.S.-backed Syrian rebels

But what about our efforts...

Well, we've had "dismal results" after dilly dallying around in Syria for the better part of its 4 1/2 year civil war that's killed over 250,000 people and created 5 million refuges streaming across the Middle East and Europe, and we keep having to "rethink" our strategy there. 

At the same time, as to our war to defeat the terrorist ISIS caliphate--who vows to smuggle nukes into America and plans a "religious cleansing" of hundreds of millions--uh, they continue to grow!

What about our more than 10 year investment in Iraq--where we spent over $2 trillion and in which almost 37,000 of our service members were either killed or wounded?  --Iraq is now cooperating with...Russia!

How about Iran--for whom we went to the mat with a controversial deal to relieve their sanctions and provide them hundreds of billions of dollars to funnel into their economy as well as global terror? --Iran is allying themselves with Russia (and Hezbollah), deepening their foray into Syria, and continue their threats to annihilate Israel and chants of death to America!

Then to hear yesterday that not only don't we have a strategy as has been the reframe for months, but that we are not going to play chess or get into a proxy war in the Middle East with Russia...well gee, the world game of strategy and brinksmanship is not going to stop for us. 

Just because we don't have a (good) strategy and don't want to play global chess anymore doesn't mean Russia, Iran, China, and others aren't going to forge ahead with their dangerous strategies and gains. 

We are a wealthy, mighty, and innovative nation--surely, we have a strategy in this country of over 319,000,000 people, somewhere. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 1, 2015

Nothing Is Something AND Something Is Nothing


So the world financial markets continue to go haywire. 

The Uber glorified taxi service and app (with an almost half billion dollar operating loss) is now valued at--get this--over $50,000,000,000!

And commodities--you know the precious materials that REAL things are made off (gold, silver, copper, aluminum, oil, gas, coal, wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, cotton, cocoa, coffee, sugar, beef, and more) hit a 13 year low. 

When the nothings of this world like a basic cab service become invaluable and the real things that power our homes, technology, transportation, and manufacturing become valueless--then we know a day of painful financial reckoning is coming. 

The markets can stand on their head for only so long before the blood rushes in and people become dizzy and see spots.

A reversion to the mean is the one something here that is inevitable, along with a pretty decent recession to boot. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 16, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Hanukkah is the holiday of lights and miracles. 

It has special meaning for me as it was many years ago now on the first night of Hanukkah that I went on my first date with my lovely wife, Dannielle.

When I came home, I said to my parents, "This is the one!"

And so it began...

On another note, many of you are probably aware of the famous miracle of Hanukkah that in the ruins of the Jewish Temple, which had been desecrated by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago, a single vial of oil was found, and although it would normally only last for 1 day to keep the menorah lit, instead it lasted for 8 days (the time it took to prepare a new supply).  

Apparently, the oil supply shocks of the 1970's really weren't that new a phenomenon after all...

Similarly, I recently saw a funny comic that said that the miracle of Hanukkah today is that the smartphone battery that normally last 1 day (or less if you use it a lot during the day) lasts for 8 days.

Clearly, the miracles of ancient times are still fresh with us in modern times as well. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2010

It’s About More Than Money

Profit is the typical motive of corporations around the world. However, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming more a part of our consciousness as we recognize that life is much more about what we leave behind than how much money we make.

With oil gushing into the Gulf for the last two months now, and doing G-d knows what ultimate damage to our environment, we are reminded that our actions do matter and that we must put our ideals, values, and generosity first and foremost.

Certainly, some companies disregard social responsibility. For example, BP with their slogan of “Beyond Petroleum” and their logo of a helios—a lovely environmentally-friendly green and yellow sunflower—seems to have hidden the true extent of their unsound environmental and safety practices.

In contrast, other companies are getting it right when it comes to CSR. For example, eBay has launched a charitable program called “eBay Giving Works” in which “sellers can commit to donate a percentage of their listing final sale price to the nonprofit of their choice.” Additionally, “shoppers also can donate to a worthy nonprofit at eBay checkout.” According to eBay, more than $150 million has been donated already!

One organization on the eBay charity list is called Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) foundation. According to their website, this Israeli-based charity has performed lifesaving heart surgery on 2000 indigent children in 30 countries around the world and “every 29 hours, we save a child’s life.” They have been certified as Best in America by the Independent Charities of America. Their work is inspirational and the children they save is truly moving. And this is one of many good organizations around the world.

As much as I am repulsed by BP and other such organizations that seem to function with near-complete disregard for fundamental principles of human decency in the name of the “almighty dollar”, I applaud others such as eBay, SACH, and many more that are working to “give back” and do genuine good for people around the world.

Many years ago, when attending Jewish day school, I remember a teacher telling us that “one day when you are on your deathbed, you will look back at what you have done in your life— make sure it’s meaningful and noble (and more than just about money).” I believe this is a valuable lesson personally and professionally.

Perhaps the oil gushing out from the depths of the sea can be a metaphor for charitable giving that can gush out from the hearts of people and organizations. We can counter greed and destruction with selflessness and caring for others.


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November 3, 2008

A Postmodernist Approach to Enterprise Architecture

It’s a crazy world out there. Just about every argument a counter-argument, every theory a contrary theory, every point a counter-point: whether we are watching the Presidential debates, open session on Capitol Hill or at the United Nations, The Supreme Court or Court TV, bull or bear on the stock market, religious and philosophical beliefs, and more. Even what some deemed scientific “facts” or religious doctrine are now regularly debated and disputed. Some examples: Creation or “Big Bang,” global warming or cyclical changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, peak oil theory or ample supplies, right to life at conception or at some point of maturation, cloning and stem cells or not, criminal punishment or rehabilitation—it seems like there is no end to the argument.

So what are we to believe?

For those who are religious, the answer is simple, you believe what you have been taught and accept as the “word of G-d.” This is straightforward. However, the problem is that not everyone adheres to the same religious beliefs.

For those that believe in “following their hearts”, gut, intuition, then we have very subjective belief systems.

For those that only “believe what they see” or what is “proven”, then we are still left with lots of issues that can’t be proved beyond a doubt and are open to interpretation, critical thinking, teachings, or which side of the bed you woke up on that day.

Fortune Magazine, 27 October 2008, has an article on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, “the state-owned national oil company…it’s daily profit is 21/2 times that of Exxon Mobil, the world’s most profitable publicly held company.” Aramco’s annual report contains details about “daily oil and natural gas production, the number of wells it drills, exports, refinery outputs, and more. The only problem: Since it contains no audited financial numbers, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

Similarly, “it warms readers not to listen to scaremongers spreading the ‘misperception’ that future supplies may not meet global demand. The world’s resources, it says are sufficient for well over a century—and when technological advances are factored in, for another 100 years after that.”

It’s hard to know who and what to believe, because usually those presenting “a side” have a vested interest in the outcome of a certain viewpoint. Hence all the lobbyists in Washington!

For example, Aramco and OPEC have a vested interest in everyone believing that there is plenty of oil to go around and stave off the research and development into alternatives energy sources. At the same time, those who preach peak oil theory, may have an interest in energy independence of this country or they may just be scared (or they may be right on!).

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think the question of getting to the truth is essential to us being able to plan for our organizations and to make wise investment decisions. If we can’t tell the truth of a matter, how we can set a direction and determine what to do, invest in, how to proceed?

Of course, it’s easy to say trust but verify, validate from multiple sources, and so on, but as we saw earlier not everything is subject to verification at this point in time. We may be limited by science, technology, oppositional views, or our feeble brain matter (i.e. we just don’t know or can’t comprehend).

When it comes to IT governance, for example, project sponsors routinely come to the Enterprise Architecture to present their business cases for IT investments and to them, each investment idea is the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and of course, they have the return on investment projections, and subject matter expert to back them up. Yes, their mission will fail without an investment in X, Y, or Z and no one wants to be responsible for that, of course.

So what’s the truth? How do we determine truth?

Bring in the auditors? Comb through the ROI projections? Put the SMEs on the EA Board “witness stand” or take them to a back room and interrogate them. Perhaps, some water boarding will “make them talk”?

Many experts, for example, Jack Welch of GE and other high profile Fortune 500 execs, including the big Wall Street powerhouses (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie/Freddie) call for asking lots of questions—tearing this way and that way at subordinates—until the truth be known. Well look at how many or most of these companies are doing these days. “The truth” was apparently a lot of lies. The likes of Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth, and on and on.

So we can’t underestimate the challenge of getting to truth and planning and governing towards a future where argument and questions prevail.

Perhaps the answer is that truth is somewhat relative, and is anchored in the worldview, priorities, assumptions, and constraints of the viewer. From this perspective, the stock market crashes not necessarily or only because businesses are poorly run, but because investors believe that the bottom has fallen out and that their investments are worthless. Similarly, from an enterprise architecture perspective, the baseline/target may not be an objective set of “where we are” vs. “where we want to be,” but “how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others now” vs. “how we want to be perceived in the future.”

This approach is not wholly new—this is the postmodern attitude toward the world that academics have been preaching for decades. What is unique is the application of postmodernism and relativism to the IT/business world and the recognition that sometimes to understand reality, we have to let go of our strict addiction to it.


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June 13, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around and Enterprise Architecture

As an enterprise architect, I have always wondered about the trend of outsourcing our manufacturing jobs out of country-- where as a nation we erode our manufacturing base and ship this capability to China, India, Mexico, and other countries where labor is plentiful and cheap.

Yes, in the short term we are taking advantage of the lower costs of manufacturing in other countries, but long term, I always questioned the viability of this strategy thinking that surely every nation needs to maintain a core of critical manufacturing and service capabilities and infrastructure to guarantee self-sufficiency, protect itself from eventual global disruptions, and ensure the continuity of its existence.

I believe that some day (and maybe relatively soon), we will regret the near-sightedness of our decisions to move production abroad for the sake of the dollar today.

Interestingly enough, I read in the Wall Street Journal today, 13 June 2008, that “stung by soaring transport coasts, factories bring jobs home again.”

“The rising costs of shipping everything from industrial-pump parts to lawn mower batteries to living-room sofas is forcing some manufacturers to bring production back to North America and freeze plans to send even more work oversees.”

I thought to myself—Hallelujah!

No, I am not happy that oil prices are soaring and that inflation is looming everywhere, but I am cautiously relieved that perhaps, we as a nation will wake up in time to secure our economic interests at home and not send our entire manufacturing base and capabilities out of country.

Ironically (da!), the further we move our factories away, the more it costs now to ship the goods back home.

“The movement of factories to low-cost countries further and further away has been a bitter-sweet three-decade long story for the U.S. economy, knocking workers out of good-paying manufacturing jobs even as it drove down the price of goods for consumers. But after exploding over the past 10 years that march has been slowing. The cost of shipping a standard 40-foot container from Asia to the East Coast has already tripled since 2000 and will double again as oil prices head toward $200 a barrel…In the world of triple-digit oil prices, distance costs money.”

The other thought that always kept coming to mind was that as we continue to move manufacturing abroad, the increasing demand for labor would drive the cost of labor up, and eat away at the cost differential making the overseas move a moot point.

Again, I read today in the Journal the story I always felt was bound to be told and to continue to unfold: “The cost of doing business in China in particular has grown steadily as workers there demand higher wages and the government enforces tougher environmental and other controls. China’s currency has also appreciated against the dollar…increasing the cost of products in the U.S.”

One problem with trying to bring the jobs back home…

“Much of the basic infrastructure needed to support many industries—such as suppliers who specialize in producing parts or repairing machines—has dwindled or disappeared.”

What goes around, comes around. The jobs (some) are coming home (although net-net, we’re still losing manufacturing jobs). As a country, we‘ve benefited in the short-term from outsourcing, but in the long-term, I believe we’ll have done ourselves a good deal of harm.

Does this sound unfamiliar?

Think national deficit—big time. Think gargantuan problems with social security, Medicare, health care, and so on.

All too often, we behave with short-sightedness and like infants, the desire for immediate gratification. But as enterprise architects, I believe we need to think long term and often defer gratification for long-term competitiveness, self-sufficiency, and survival.


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June 8, 2008

TEOTWAWKI and Enterprise Architecture

TEOTWAWKI stands for the end of the world as we know it. It is a term used in the survivalist movement and is sometimes used as a reference to the apocalypse. (The apocalypse though has religious connotations in that the end of the world has greater meaning in terms of revealing G-d’s ultimate purpose for mankind.)

The end of the world—is there such a thing?

As mortal human beings, we know that all living things have a beginning and an end of life. Even inanimate objects are recognized as having a lifecycle, and this is often talked about from a management perspective in terms of administering “things” from their initiation through their ultimate disposition. Some common lifecycles frequently referred to are: organizations, products, projects, assets, investments, and so on.

So how about the world itself?

Well, the answer is of course, yes—even the world will one day come to end. Astronomers have long witnessed even the implosion of stars at their end of life—these are called supernovas. And our world is a lot smaller than a star; in fact, you could fit about a million Earths inside our sun (which is a star).

When times get tough, TEOTWAWKI is something that perhaps we ponder about more and wonder whether this is it!

For example, during the Cold War and the buildup of the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union and the United States, there were enough nukes to destroy the world ten times over. And people wondered when the button would actually be pushed.

Nowadays, we wonder less about nuclear holocaust and more about overpopulation (currently at 6.3 billion and expected to reach 9 billion by 2042) and depletion of world energy resources like oil (currently at $140 a barrel and up 44% in cost YTD), demand outstripping supply for silver, copper, aluminum, and many other commodities, and shortages of food (as the UK Times reported in February that “the world is only ten weeks away from running out of wheat supplies after stocks fell to their lowest levels for 50 years.”)

Further, while the population continues to explode and resources continue to be depleted, we continue to overflow the world’s dumps with garbage so much so that there has even been talk of sending garbage into space, just to get it the heck out of here!

And let’s not forget global warming and pollutants that stink up our cities, cause acid rain, asthma, and so many other unfortunate effects on the ecosystem and human health.

The good news is TEOWAWKI talk is often just fear and occasional panic and it is not imminent. The bad news is there are some very real problems in the world today.

The problems are so big that leaders and governments are having a difficult time trying to tackle them. All too often, the problems get passed to the next generation, with the mantra, “Let it be someone else’s problem.”

As an enterprise architect, my frame of reference is to look at the way things are (the baseline) and try to come up with a better state for future (the target) and work up a transition plan, and basically get moving.

We all know that it is extremely difficult to see our way through these extremely complex problems of global magnitude. But if enterprise architecture has taught me anything, it is that we must create a roadmap for transformation; we must forever work to change things for the better. We must do whatever we can to prevent TEOTWAWKI.

Perhaps the field of enterprise architecture can be expanded from one that is IT-focused and now becoming business and IT-focused to ultimately becoming a discipline that can drive holistic change for major world problems and not just enterprise problems. Does this mean that enterprise architecture at some point becomes world architecture?


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January 26, 2008

Doomsday and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is about planning and transitioning from the baseline to the target state.

However, as architects, there are times when we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best, as the saying goes.

As the price of oil has reached and exceeded $100 a barrel and significant new findings of oil are becoming a rarity, some people are starting to get nervous and are planning for a day when oil will be scarce, pricey, and society as we have come to know will cease to exist. Yikes, doomsday!

Are these people simply uninformed, pessimists, or non-believers that technological progress will outpace the demands we are placing on this planet’s resources?

The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2008, reports about everyday people, like the Aaron Wissner in Middleville, Michigan, a school computer teacher with a wife and infant son, who became “peak-oil aware.” This term refers to his “embracing the theory that world’s oil production is about to peak.

These people fear the worst; “Oil supplies are dwindling just as world demand soars. The result: oil prices ‘will skyrocket, oil dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.’” Mr. Wissner’s forebodings include, “banks faltering” and “food running out.”

And they believe that we cannot stop this from happening. “no techno-fix was going to save us. Electric cars, biodiesel, nuclear power, wind and solar—none of it will cushion the blow.”

So Mr. Wissner and his family are preparing and transitioning themselves for the worst, they “tripled the size of his garden…stacked bags of rice in his new pantry, stashed gold…and doubled the size of his propane tank.”

According to the article there are thousands of people that adhere to the peak-oil theory.

Of course, there are many doomsday scenarios out there that end in war, famine, disease, and so on. During the cold war, people built bomb shelters in their back yards, and school children had drills hiding under their desks. These days, many fear that globalization will drive this country to economic ruin. Al Gore and other environmentalists espouse the global warming theory. And since 9/11, fears are heightened about terrorists hitting us with nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological agents. Even Hollywood has entered the fray with movies such as Armageddon about meteors hitting the Earth or The Day After Tomorrow with the greenhouse effect sending us back to the ice-age.

Whether you adhere with any of these various doomsday scenarios or visions of the future (their believed target architecture, not necessarily their desired one) and how they are preparing (transitioning) to it or you think they are just a bunch of nut-balls, it seems important as an enterprise architect to recognize that targets are not always rosy pictures of growth and prosperity for an organization, and the transition plans are not always a welcome and forward movement. Sometimes as architects, we must plan for the worst--hoping, of course that it never comes--but never-the-less preparing, the best we can. As architects, we don’t have to put all the enterprise’s eggs in one basket. We can weigh the odds and invest accordingly in different scenarios. Our organization’s resources are limited, so we must allocate resources carefully and with forethought. Of course, no architecture can save us from every catastrophe.


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