Monday, July 16, 2012

Tell Shell

You can save the Arctic

Tell Shell that you don't want them drilling for oil in the Arctic. It is one of the least spoiled places on earth but Shell want to explore for oil.

Climate change is more rapid in the Arctic than almost any where else on the planet, leading to greater areas of the Arctic Ocean being ice free than ever before in the history of oil exploration. This makes oil exploration easier, an opportunity that Shell are keen to exploit.

But picture this: if a leak or spill occurs as the ocean begins to freeze over for the winter, there are no tools or methods available to contain and recover the oil. Floating booms won't work. Detergents won't work (and can cause damage themselves). The oil will be locked in the ice, travelling around the ocean until it melts next year, depositing a filthy slick

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This is a response to Rea Cris's article "THE NEW ARCTIC GOLD RUSH" on the Unite Society website (, because 140 characters is not enough to respond properly to such a complex issue.

An interesting article on a challenging topic, made all the more difficult by people's (including my own) inability to truly comprehend living or working in the arctic.   Even simple provisions like milk, fruit and vegetables must be flown hundreds of miles from the south.

Indigenous peoples, particularly in Greenland, Canada and Alaska, face difficult choices: to continue the traditional way of life, hunting with dogs (and rifles) or do they adopt more modern technology such as the skidoo, or do they go the whole way to modernity, invite the oil companies in and get paid employment. More traditional trade avenues,such as fur trading, have been closed off leaving little opportunity to barter for modern conveniences leaving a stark choice of living completely independent of the modern world or taking hand outs. Nothing is free so those giving expect something in return: access to mineral resources. And if they become isolationist, how will they survive as the pattern of seasons change and their prey (seals, walrus, polar bears) in turn struggles to survive?

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OK, Computer!

According to this January 2011 "System Safety Program Plan," operational "reliability is provided for the ROCC [Metro's nerve center] systems by a back-up computer, which automatically activates if the primary control computer malfunctions."

There was no sign of any automatic, redundant system functioning this weekend, and operations for an entire metropolitan subway system were halted two times, once for nearly an hour.

According to Metro, "the computer problem affected an information management system that allows controllers in Metro's Rail Operations Control Center to see where trains are on a dynamic map and to remotely control switches."

It's called a code 34, and many riders reported hearing that throughout the system last night.

Recently, there have been at least two documented code 34 events, one this past March, and another in October of 2010. Metro sources tell me there have been more.

The weekend computer failure has some Metro workers scratching their heads because Metro recently built a back-up system for bus and rail OCC systems costing millions of dollars in Landover. It is unclear whether that particular back-up system is for cases like this weekend's, for a destructive event such as a fire--or both.

The Landover back ups were installed after the authority's inspector general criticized Metro for lacking IT contingency plans in a September 2010 internal audit.

One would think a fundamental requirement of any back-up system would be to avoid the need to completely stop operations.

Metro needs to explain to riders whether its back-up systems work, and if they do, why aren't they good enough to prevent the entire system from shutting down two times in less than a day?

It should be noted that while the weekend's events are alarming, sources confirm Dan Stessel's comments to WTOP that "the signal system, the system that keeps trains properly spaced from each other, did remain operational. Those systems were up and running at all times."

Other items:
Accountability lacking in Metro's IT department (Examiner)