Monday, December 10, 2018

Barbecue 401

Not many of the bloggers in my regular reading list talk about barbecuing with any frequency.  Just Miguel at Gun Free Zone comes to mind, although I gather it's still pretty popular with most of the rest of bloggers and readers to eat barbecue.  

The "401" reference is to first college courses in the senior year.  This is not about basic barbecue, 100 or 200 level, that's pretty widely known; this is about a technique that I heard about from a competition barbecue master, a guy who has won barbecue competitions at several levels.  It's a technique that's well known among chefs but not widely outside that world. 

One day, while I was reading in a cooking forum, I found pictures he posted that referred to a "medium rare smoked brisket".   He had pictures and it looked to be exactly what he claimed.  The slices were clearly brisket flat, and the right shade of pink.  Questions ensued and the answer emerged.  It was sous vide cooking, commonly also called precision cooking.  (Intro from one of the big names in the business

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum" and the method is a way of cooking low and slow (like barbecue itself) that isn't barbecue.  The recipe to be prepared is sealed in a vacuum bag and then immersed in water kept at a precise temperature by the small appliances that heat and circulate the water.  The temperature of the water bath is typically held to within 0.1F for the entire soak.  An oven thermostat, for example, maybe within 20 degrees.  Maybe worse.  For the desired finished appearance and taste, the meal is taken out of the bags and finished in some other ways.  In the case of the medium rare brisket I saw, the brisket was vacuum sealed then held in 130 degree water for more like 36 hours (I honestly don't remember his details), then chilled and finally put into the smoker for a few hours to get the smoke flavoring and the desired bark on the brisket.  By contrast, making a brisket completely in the smoker would typically be at least 16 hours, carefully maintaining temperature with 20 degrees by feeding wood into the smoker, then cooking the brisket to an internal temperature of 203F.  The brisket is "well done" by any cook's standards, not medium rare.  

The usual technique, for something like a good steak, is to sous vide it for 1-2 hours at the internal temperature you like on the rare to well done scale, and then finish it with a brief sear in a hot pan.  It's the only way you get a steak that looks like this:

You'll notice there is virtually no transition from the seared outer layer to the deep pink center.  That's because the sear is so short the heat doesn't soak in well.  For sous vide barbecue, the lower temperature is held longer to cause the breakdown of connective tissue and make the meat more tender, while conventional barbecue goes to a higher temperature for less time.  The proponents say that the sous vide barbecue tastes better and is worth the extra time. 

Basically, since reading the post about medium rare brisket, I've been researching the technique and trying to see if I wanted to take the plunge and get into this.  During the Cyber week specials on Amazon, I took advantage of a sizable discount (which I see is still in effect) on one.  After missing out on a lower priced deal the week before. 

Once it arrived, I tested it out to make sure it was working, and then went looking for a recipe for a smoked chuck roast.  I found a couple, one that soaked 36 hours at 155 and another that soaked for 48 hours at 135 (private forum I can't link to).  By last Friday I hatched a plan to start the sous vide soak at noon Saturday, soaking at 133 until today at noon, give it an ice bath to reduce the internal temperature and then smoke it three hours or until about 5 PM.   Since this is the internet and "without pictures it didn't happen", this is the start of the process:

A few hours ago, right out of the smoker, and "pulling" a few pieces (pulled beef), it looked like this:

It kept a good pinkish color like a medium rare roast, got a good smokey flavor in the three hours it had and the texture was on the line between being good for pulled beef and a tender roast.  All in all, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.  I've tried one chuck roast in the smoker before and it was a disaster compared to how well this turned out.

We can get into deep philosophical questions about "it's not really barbecue" if you'd like, but my take is it's not "classic" barbecue: so what?  It's not relying on long periods of heat provided by burning wood (or propane or any other fuel or an electric burner in the case of my electric smoker); it mostly relies on an electric water heater with the burning wood (or smoke source) secondary.  I've long heard that after the first few hours in smoke, the food isn't going to absorb any more.  So if it's not classic barbecue and it's a different thing, fine.  I'll play with the different thing. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Walmart Expanding Their Healthcare Involvement

An interesting article came in my email this week.  Retail giant Walmart has long been know for having some additional kiosks (at least as they appear around here) in the fronts of their stores.  These include hair salons, restaurants, banks, Starbucks franchises, and optometry offices.  Our local Walmarts have had pharmacies for as far back as I can recall, inside the main body of the store, but optometrists and those others tended to be along the front of the store, near where the checkout lanes are.

Now, one Walmart in Carrollton, Texas, is getting a mental health clinic as well.
The clinic opened Wednesday and is the first from Beacon Care Services, which will provide outpatient mental health care in various locations like retail stores. It hopes to provide convenience and accessibility to more people who need care, according to its site.
There is a growing demand for mental health care, but the number of mental health professionals is not growing enough to meet that demand. This leads to issues such as long wait times to see a professional and the inaccessibility of mental health professionals for those who live in rural areas.
Over the years, I've heard people who are close to having an actual addiction to shopping refer to it as "retail therapy".  This puts a whole new light on that saying. 

According to the Foundation for Economic Education, the arrangement is based on something closer to a market-based system, rather than the typical model for all other health care where no one knows what anything costs.
Since the clinic opened less than three weeks ago, over 500 prospective patients have come in to talk with representatives and learn more. Interested consumers can expect to pay $140 for the first appointment with additional visits costing $110. This cost is drastically lower than other therapy services available in the marketplace, where an uninsured person can sometimes pay upwards of $200 per visit. For consumers who are experiencing extenuating circumstances, Beacon also offers a sliding fee scale to help make these services accessible to everyone.
It's likely to be a start of a spreading trend and more involvement in health care for Walmart.
When it comes to improving general health care, Walmart is just getting started. The company announced that it is going to make cutting health care costs a priority. Putting this plan into action, the company recently hired former Humana executive Sean Slovensk to head up its health and wellness division.
The company recently partnered with Anthem, one of the largest insurance providers in the country, to offer discounts on medical equipment and over-the-counter drugs to Medicare patients. And all this is being done without government compulsion.
It's often noted that the leftists are often opposed to Walmart, but Walmart has done more to improve the lives of the "little guys" the leftists supposedly care about than any government anywhere in the world.  They are ruthlessly free market.  I've known engineers that have been involved in proposals to Walmart corporate headquarters and I've heard stories that I can't verify.  Let's just say Walmart apparently cuts their own costs as ruthlessly as they ask vendors to cut their costs.

One of the reasons Walmart wants to help cut health care costs is that health care for their employees is the second largest expense on their profit/loss ledger, right behind wages.  From their perspective as sellers of Pretty Much Everything, they see that if their customers didn't have to spend as much on health care they might have more to spend at Walmart.  That sort of corporate greed, backed by the resources of one of the largest retailers in the country, might be able to make a difference.  
“So these are the things that drive us to be interested in health care: Our customers need help. Our associates need and want to be healthy. And it’s good for our business,” [Walmart executive Lori Flees] said.
Frankly, I see other potential private sector moves to cut health care costs and improve access and it's nothing but good.  More from CNBC, back in October. 
Walmart’s competitors are also investing in health care. CVS Health wants to add more options at its retail clinics, known as MinuteClinics, once it closes its acquisition of health insurer Aetna. Walgreens is testing a number of partnerships, including one with UnitedHealth Group to add urgent care centers to some drugstores.

Walmart earlier this year was looking to deepen its partnership with Humana, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Flees said partnerships are “an essential part” of the strategy to lower the cost of health care and to improve the health of the country.

“If you take the expertise that lies in the industry and you combine it with Walmart’s footprint, it really is an opportunity to have a positive impact at scale,” she said.
The more government involvement there is, the worse things get.  We need more freedom, more market. These companies can't completely unscrew things themselves, state and local governments can always screw things up more, but it's a hopeful sign.

A typical in-store Walmart Pharmacy line.  Callaghan O’Hare | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Stupid Is Strong In This One

I don't ordinarily make fun of the stupidity of common criminals, but sometimes I can't resist.  Let's face it: most people don't become criminals because of their stellar work ethic and phenomenal reasoning skills.  Sometimes the resulting stupid is so extreme it makes you laugh.

GAT Daily posts a story that leads us to the story on ABC News about a Houston girl who blew off her heel while trying to shove an AK-47 down her pants.  That she didn't own (the AK; we don't know about the pants).  Apparently, she and one or more friends stole the gun and then were playing with it.  In the street.
A Texas teen shot herself in the foot with an allegedly stolen AK-47 that she had stuffed down her pants, according to police.

Police responded to the scene of the shooting in Harris County on Tuesday at around 4:15 p.m. They found three teens: two 17-year-old females and a 16-year-old male.
“We have found out since then that the gun that was used was stolen in a home burglary just hours before that shooting,” [Harris County Constable Mark] Herman said.
These stellar young citizens reacted in true bonehead fashion.  The 16 year old male grabbed the AK-47 as his friend is lying in the street screaming in pain and shoved the gun down a storm drain.  When police arrived, neighbors were on the scene trying to help the girl and the boy told police it was a drive by shooting.  Neighbors told the police that wasn't true and pointed out the storm drain the gun was ditched into, where it was recovered.
Video obtained by ABC News affiliate KTRK shows a girl lying on the road and neighbors coming to assist her.

“She had some pretty good wounds. She blew off the heel of one foot,” Don Sievertson, a 68-year-old veteran who ran out to help the girl, told ABC News. “She was in excruciating pain and she had every reason to be. She had very severe wounds, very severe.

“She was thrusting backward and forward, side-to-side screaming in pain and you know, [saying], ‘I need help.’”
The story at the "Video Obtained" link says she shot herself more than once.  They go on to say the girl is in critical condition in intensive care, so they are indeed serious wounds.  Shooting off one's heel is an injury that will probably bring lifetime difficulties.  My first aid experience doesn't specifically include that kind of injury, but I wouldn't think of blowing off the heel or most of the foot as life-threatening.  Maybe one of the other injuries nicked the femoral artery?

Various charges have been filed against the boy and this girl with more pending, possibly to include the second girl.  GAT Daily has a good summary. 
  1. Don’t steal a gun.
  2. Don’t play with the stolen gun in the street.
  3. Don’t squeeze the trigger of the gun you shouldn’t have stolen in the street you shouldn’t be playing in while pointing it at yourself or shoving it in your pants.
  4. Don’t toss the gun you shouldn’t have stolen into a storm drain on the street you shouldn’t have been playing in after your friend blasted a round into her foot and then tell the cops it was a drive-by.
 (Photo - Mark Herman/Harris County Constable Precinct 4)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Interesting Article With Totally Misleading Headline

The Guardian (UK) titles the article "First Ever Plane With No Moving Parts Takes Flight", but that's not true at all.  It's not what they mean.

They mean it's a plane without a motor that has moving parts.  Thousands of simple gliders with no moving parts have flown.  If you've folded up a paper plane and thrown it, that was a plane with no moving parts.  They actually say it correctly in the article:
The first ever “solid state” plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers.
The glorified paper plane shown flying in the article is flying with ionic wind propulsion.  The approach uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust.

Ionic propulsion is not a new idea; it has been investigated off and on since the 1920s, and always found to be impractical.  No aircraft has ever been known to fly with purely ionic propulsion.  NASA investigated it in 2009 (pdf warning).  Technologies change, though, and no branch of technology changes faster than electronics.  Could it be the shrinking of power supply components can make the approach feasible?  The investigator this time is MIT aeronautics instructor Steven Barrett, who “...went through a period of about five years, working with a series of graduate students to improve fundamental understanding of how you could produce ionic winds efficiently, and how that could be optimised.”

In the prototype plane, wires at the leading edge of the wing have 600 watts of electrical power pumped through them at 40,000 volts. This is enough to induce “electron cascades”, ultimately charging air molecules near the wire. Those charged molecules then flow along the electrical field towards a second wire at the back of the wing, bumping into neutral air molecules on the way, and imparting energy to them. Those neutral air molecules then stream out of the back of the plane, providing thrust.

The end result is a propulsion system that is entirely electrically powered, almost silent, and with a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that achieved by conventional systems such as jet engines.
The abstract of their paper in Nature points out:
Here we demonstrate that a solid-state propulsion system can sustain powered flight, by designing and flying an electroaerodynamically propelled heavier-than-air aeroplane. We flew a fixed-wing aeroplane with a five-metre wingspan ten times and showed that it achieved steady-level flight.  All batteries and power systems, including a specifically developed ultralight high-voltage (40-kilovolt) power converter, were carried on-board. We show that conventionally accepted limitations in thrust-to-power ratio and thrust density 4,6,7, which were previously thought to make electroaerodynamics unfeasible as a method of aeroplane propulsion, are surmountable.

One of the indoor test flights of their "five meter wingspan" aircraft - which resembles a box kite.  If you squint.  It was launched by what seems to be similar to an aircraft carrier catapult, raising questions about just what sort of thrust to power ratio they can achieve.  Model airplanes with two-stroke internal combustion engines are capable of taking off without a catapult.  On the other hand, by all accounts this prototype is very early in the development process and a primitive design. 

Does this represent some sort of new paradigm in aviation that will lead to passenger airplanes powered by ionic acceleration like this?  Maybe it doesn't achieve that level, but instead becomes part of a niche market; maybe for drones, maybe replace the cellphone-relaying, high-altitude balloons that go high and stay over one point on the ground?   Something like those options might well happen.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Still Not as Much Bull as the Evening News

It's a story about a steer, and a steer is an ex-bull by way of castration.  Typically done for ease of handling more than meat yield, as I understand it.  I've never even spent a day on a farm, let alone lived on one, so anyone reading here who has lived on a farm knows infinitely more than I do.

That's a long way of saying there's no bull in this story:  meet Knickers, the largest steer in Western Australia.

(Knickers surrounded by a herd of Wagyu cattle. )
Knickers weighs 220st and stands at a massive 6ft 4inches tall - but his mammoth size means he gets to live out his days roaming the fields in Western Australia.

His owner Geoff Pearson tried to sell Knickers at auction last month but meat processors said they couldn't take him as he's just too big.

Knickers is a Holstein Friesian but is far taller than other cows from the same breed.
(220 stone works out to 3080 pounds, which is a lot of beef). 

It's actually an accident (serendipity from Knickers' standpoint) that they held onto him and he continued to grow.  He was used as a 'coach' which is a steer that leads other cattle.  Knickers, though was a standout as a coach (go ahead and say it: "he was out standing in his field") judging by how the other cattle liked him and readily followed him around.  Some of the cattle about the same age as Knickers have already had their appointments at the abattoir with Grim Reaper, but Knickers' size got him a reprieve.

Knickers' name - think of the slang term for women's panties - comes from his owner joking around.  Seems when Knickers was young they had a Brahman steer, another breed of cattle, which was a friend of the young calf.  Since they tended to call the Brahman "Bra", they thought "Bra and Knickers" was a natural combination.

I guess you've got to take your jokes where you can find them. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

In Other Update News

Besides the LED ceiling lights, I've been working on something else that's based on a light, an Infrared LED: my CNC threading hardware.

But first, a quick summary.  This morning, before the bulbs got here, I pulled the circuit breaker for the fluorescent fixtures, then took the bad fixture down.  I took pictures of both ends and the circuit diagram on the ballast, in case I needed that info, cut the wires at the ballast and took it out, leaving lots of spare wire (easier to cut it off than add it).  Then it was time to wait for the bulbs.  Thankfully, they came right after lunch and I was able to get it all done pretty quickly.

All in all, it went smoothly.  I'll say there was only one of the normal goofs that always seem to creep into projects.  When I was reassembling the light, I broke one of the terminals (tombstones) off on one end.  Rather than take the fixture down again, I taped the tombstone in place and then reinforced it with RTV.

When I turned on the breaker, it was noticeably brighter in that corner.  I have a light meter and held it under the fixture. Something like 1600 lux.  Cool, but what does that mean?  I went over to the nearest T8 bulb fixture and got about 800.  Looked up and saw the step ladder in front of me that I had stood on to change the fixture and it morphed into a "calibrated" (or consistent) test fixture while I watched.  Long story short, here's the reading with the sensor on the top of the step ladder directly under the fixture (about 3').  I didn't move the sensor around and attempt to peak the reading, just put it up there.

When I bought the package of four tubes, I assumed that I'd keep the other two for the next fluorescent fixture that died.  Mrs. Graybeard noticed the improvement in light in that corner and said I should upgrade the fixture closest to the machine tools.  I have a lot of additional lights in that corner, including three clamp on reflectors with 100 W equivalent LED bulbs in them, and an LED Spot Light.  There's almost no such thing as too many lumens when you're doing close, detail work.

Moving to the Lathe, when I first put the system together it didn't fit the way I designed it to.  This led to puzzlement for several days as I measured all the parts and found they were correct.  Then I realized the model I had designed it to fit wasn't the same size in one critical dimension as my lathe.  The effect is that the phototransistor comes up short of the interrupter disk by about 2/10 of an inch.  This will be fixed with something like a thick washer or something very low tech like that.  Over the weekend, it became time to lash everything up and see if I got pulses.  The scope immediately said it looked like it was doing what it's supposed to do.  

The scope trace is the low-going pulse every revolution (1 Pulse/Rev) on the black and white wire pair that will go to the interface board.  The CNC4PC board is in the air above the interface board.  This is ready to mount everything permanently, button it up, and try to coax the hardware/software combination into cutting threads.

You can see my Sooper Excloosive, High-Tech, Mounting Techneek here:

Bet you ain't never seed no CNC machinery built with painter's tape like this!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Replacing Fluorescent Tube Lights with LEDs

File this under "Simple Things That Aren't Simple".

Back in 2014, we added a big room onto our house which has become my playground.  Mostly my playground.  Yes, it shares space with things from the rest of the house, but this is where my metal shop is, where my gun cleaning and reloading benches are and where general wood and other projects get done.  When the addition was done, we had a general contractor oversee everything and the electricians he brought in installed six fluorescent light fixtures.  Mounted to the ceiling, not hanging from chains, the six fixtures are two T8-size bulbs: four feet long and (mumble mumble) lumens of light output.   (T8 is a designation for the size of the bulb, 1" diameter).  I don't recall them ever offering the option of LEDs instead of fluorescents. 

A couple of weeks ago, when I turned on the lights in the shop, one of the fixtures didn't turn on.  Most everyone has seen a fluorescent go bad and are familiar with the flickering and light/dark waves in the tube they get.  That never happened: it was fine then completely dead the next morning.  When that has happened to me in the past it was because the fixture's ballast had failed.  I measure voltage into the ballast, but nothing on its output.  Replacing the bulbs with others I have lying around shows other bulbs won't light, either.

It was time to dive into the world of replacing the fluorescent tubes with longer-lived LED tubes.  It turned out to be quite a morass.  My expectation was that I could buy a replacement, ceiling-mounted light fixture with LED bulbs for perhaps twice the price of a shop light with fluorescent tubes.  The only thing I could find near that price were lights that are metal fixtures with LED strips mounted inside them, making the lights not replaceable.  If you had to change the LEDs, you would need to change the entire fixture. The lights I could find in the home improvement stores were more like four times the cost of the hanging shop light.

These lights are rated for 45 to 50,000 hours of life, and if I'm using them around 10 hours/day, 50,000 hours is over 13 years.  It is reasonable to want to change those bulbs when we have no real idea what technology light fixture might be set to replace it in 13 years?  Maybe its OCD, excuse me: CDO, but I kept going down that path.

I started searching for LEDs, in tubes, that could replace my T8 fluorescent bulbs.  Last April, when I replaced my halogen kitchen lights with LED bulbs, I had done my shopping at a company called 1000Bulbs.  I popped over there and found I could get two bulbs for $3.25 each, but there was a catch.  I needed to buy a pack of 25 to get that price.  There are 16 bulbs in the house.  With a 50,000 hour lifetime, about 13 years, 25 bulbs is a lifetime supply.  Or two lifetimes.  In the box of 25 they were $3.25 a piece.  In single quantities, quite a bit more than that - like $8.  (Not the same exact bulbs as the quantity discount, just what they listed). 

It's a long story, but I eventually found that the most common LED replacements are powered only at one end, one pin for each power lead, and naturally called "single-end" LED bulbs.  That's what these $3.25 bulbs were.  Size wise they go in the same fixture and they have two inert pins on the other end just to support the bulb.  To use those, I'd need to rebuild my fixture - it's not hard, but would be best to take the fixture down and put it on a workbench.  The fixtures have the terminals (colloquially called tombstones) on both ends with the pins tied to each other, called shunt wired, so I'd need to take those out on the end that gets powered and replace them with tombstones that have the two sides wired separately.   This diagram should help:
Shown at the top is the starting condition, the Line (or Hot) and Neutral wires come into the ballast in the fixture.  The ballast has two pairs of wires, two blue and two red, that go to the tombstones on either end.  All of those wires are cut and the ballast removed.  Those shunted tombstones (built into the fixture) are removed and replaced with two new ones that have separate black and white wires.  The wires are connected to each other (black to black, white to white - which are shown gray in my hacked picture, next)  then the Line or Hot (black) wire from the house goes to the black sides of the tombstones and the Neutral (white) goes to the white sides.  The wiring diagram on the bottom of that picture is trying to tell you tie all the blacks together and all the whites together, never connecting black to white.  I can't find anything that definitively said that it mattered to the bulb which pin got black and which got white, but it might be labelled on the bulbs.

Remember that this is 120 Volts AC and 120 kills more people than any other voltage widely distributed.  If this is out of your comfort zone, don't do it.

Somewhere along the line, I found there were double ended LED replacements.  Those would go in the same fixture, but with no need for new tombstones.  In fact, you don't even need to take out the ballast if it's good (yeah you waste 8 or 10 watts in the ballast if you leave it in, so it does impact your electric bill slightly).  Problem was they were out of stock.  Another LED seller I went to was out of them, too.  These would be easier to wire in.  
In this case, you cut out the ballast, then take your hot wire (L) and tie it to either of the ballast's output wires, the blue or the red pair.  Finally, you tie the neutral wire (N) to the other color pair.  This has the advantage of not requiring you replace the tombstones (although they're cheap if you get them online) and not having to mess with adding more wiring.  To echo what I said about the single-end installation, I've seen nothing that says one end or the other of the tube needs to be L or N, but it might be marked on the bulbs themselves.

A visit to the local home improvement centers had no options whatsoever, so this time I went to search on Amazon.  They had a four pack of double-end lamps that were frankly more than I wanted to pay, but they had good reviews and to be honest, I was pretty tired of the problem.  I have a dark corner in the shop that needs new bulbs and this looks like it will get me there with the minimum of blood, sweat and tears.  

This blew entirely too much time over the last several days - and since I'm retired, I know I have more time than many of you.  The bulbs are supposed to be here tomorrow.  With luck, they'll be here well before 6 PM and I'll be able to get right on it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

On G.H.W. Bush

As is often the case, I find others have said what I've been thinking as well as I can.  I refer you to LL at Virtual Mirage, who put it this way:
George HW Bush was an unabashed globalist and in his own way, an elitist. He was not a conservative and he was clearly a big government guy. He also strapped himself to a Navy TBF and flew it against the Empire of Japan and was shot down, ditching in the ocean. I give him huge credit for his service and for putting himself in harm's way. It takes guts to go out and face down "the elephant". George had guts and guts is good.
His politics were not mine.
I can respect the man for what he did as a young man in WWII while still not wanting to see him leading in any public office.  Run a company? Fine.  No company can do as much damage as a government can.  

I'll just echo the several voices who have wished him "fair winds and following seas". 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

NASA launches safety review of SpaceX and Boeing

I get a rocketry-oriented weekly mailing from Ars Technica called the Rocket Report.  This week's report links to a story that NASA plans to launch a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing.  They link to the source of the story as the Washington Post, so perhaps not the most credible source in the DC swamp.  The Rocket Report editor has an interesting take on the story.
What is really at play here? ... This was an interesting development. We have heard several reasons for this, from NASA wanting to perform a CYA review in case something goes wrong with these commercial spaceflights to, (more plausibly in our opinion) an effort by a few Congressmen to detract from SpaceX's efforts to win the race to the commercial crew launchpad. Remember, there are people in Congress who don't like commercial crew in general and SpaceX specifically. We're told NASA human spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier did not view this review as necessary but was not really in a position to resist.
The Washington Post leads with the angle that some widespread videos of Elon Musk smoking pot are the reason, as if the behavior of their carney barker CEO would be a better indicator than their track record as commercial launch provider.
The review was prompted by the recent behavior of SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, according to three officials with knowledge of the probe, after he took a hit of marijuana and sipped whiskey on a podcast streamed on the Internet. That rankled some at NASA’s highest levels and prompted the agency to take a close look at the culture of the companies, the people said.

NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs declined to comment on what prompted the review. But in a statement, he said it would “ensure the companies are meeting NASA’s requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview that the agency wants to make sure the public has confidence in its human-spaceflight program, especially as the companies are getting closer to their first flights, scheduled for next year.
So why does Boeing get lumped into this if it's related to Musk's sometimes frankly bizarre behavior?  This supports the idea that it's really due to some people in DC not wanting to relinquish power to the private sector.  (Where "power" equals budget$ and $pending).  You might recall a story from 2016 reporting that then-NASA chief Charlie Bolden was opposed to private space operations. 
Bolden was asked for his opinion on the emerging market for small satellites and launchers. He chose to respond instead with his thoughts on NASA's own rocket, the Space Launch System, and private-sector development of larger launch vehicles.

"If you talk about launch vehicles, we believe our responsibility to the nation is to take care of things that normal people cannot do, or don’t want to do, like large launch vehicles," Bolden said. "I’m not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles just yet."
To be sure, Bolden is gone and doesn't matter anymore, and it's not the case that everyone agrees with this view.  Lori Garver, a deputy administrator of NASA from 2009 to 2013, has been quoted as saying that perhaps NASA should stop dumping money into development of the heavy lift SLS and use commercial options like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy or BFR.
"The question is really, why would the government continue to spend billions of dollars a year of taxpayer money for a rocket that will be unnecessary and obsolete?"
ARS Technica reporter Eric Berger pointed out that while the Falcon Heavy can't necessarily lift the payloads of the SLS, it's an incredibly cheap heavy lift rocket and NASA would save serious money by taking advantage of what it can do.
For the sake of argument, consider the costs of this three-year delay against the lift capability NASA could have bought by purchasing Falcon Heavy rockets from SpaceX in 2018, 2019, and 2020. That $7.8 billion equates to 86 launches of the reusable Falcon Heavy or 52 of the expendable version. This provides up to 3,000 tons of lift—the equivalent of eight International Space Stations or one heck of a Moon base. Obviously NASA does not need that many launches, but it could buy several Falcon Heavy rockets a year and have the funds to build meaningful payloads to launch on them. [Bold added - SiG]
So it seems to me this "safety" review is a cover for a "trying to come up with reasons private sector launch vehicles shouldn't be used" review.  Here's the thing no one's talking about: NASA doesn't really build rockets, so anything that's claimed to be a NASA booster would be built by Boeing or another contractor like SpaceX anyway.  To borrow a phrase, NASA people are the Only Ones capable of handling manned space flight safely.  They've had the special, magical, government competency dust sprinkled on them.

One of the highlights of the Falcon Heavy test launch was the landing of the Heavy's two boosters back on the Kennedy Space Center, near the launch complex they left from.  They were offset in time deliberately for the aesthetics of seeing them landing like this.