Saturday, December 31, 2005

empty seats for all!

I realize that my post yesterday has nothing to back it up. Nonetheless, it's how I feel about the situation. The father/son relationship isn't the only reason why the president will finish this war (or at least, not give up on it), but it's the differentiating factor between him and other men who could be in his situation.

A quote from an article a few weeks ago caught my eye and I did not discuss it at the time. Now I cannot find the original article I read, but I found a suitable replacement here that has the same quote. A former Delta Airlines executive is challenging the airline that she should be allowed to keep her severance privilege of free first-class flights for her and her family. Currently, Delta is in the middle of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The great quote is that she argues that Delta will "incur few or no actual costs or expenses … because there are generally empty seats on the debtor's aircraft."

Wow, with that kind of thinking, no wonder they're flush with cash. Wait, they're not. It doesn't take an extensive formal education in economics, finance, or how to run a business to see some obvious deficiencies with her thinking. That is, unless she was planning to only take mid-week red eye flights. If there are "generally" empty seats on Delta's flights, then perhaps it should operate fewer flights. Or consider lowering their prices. Or dynamic pricing where they lower prices as the date of the flight gets nearer (but raise them again in the last two weeks). What were the exact terms of her agreement? If she was on a flight and someone was willing to pay real money for the seat she was in, then would she get bumped? If not, there's a serious lost opportunity cost. Even her mere presence in a seat on an airplane, even if no one else wanted it, not even for 50 bucks, costs the airline. There is the minor incremental increase in fuel consumption from the added weight. There are the meals and appetizers and alcoholic beverages that are all free in first-class. There is the tracking process of having to account for a passenger in the database who is not treated like the others. How is this "few or no actual costs"? Are these imaginary costs with imaginary money?

Maybe she'll win and get to keep her flights for her and her family. If she does, I hope the airline loses her luggage. And by lose, I really mean take to sell all the valuables from to cover the "few or no actual costs" from her flight.

Friday, December 30, 2005

no idea what to title this

I was watching the Three Kings the other day. Actually, it was over several days and then I re-watched it twice to listen to the two commentary tracks. I watch a lot of things on my other monitor while I work at my desk, read news, throw unread e-mails away, etc. Lately, I've been on a finance kick with Quicken and all that jazz and have been contemplating year end moves I might want to make. Like I've mentioned before, I watch DVDs on my second monitor for background entertainment. It's a way to make up for the not having a television thing, but with no commercials.

As one might expect (if you've seen the movie), it got me thinking about the Gulf War in 1991 and the current Gulf War that we're now in. The first Gulf War ended with the United States liberating Kuwait by driving the Iraqi forces out. There was no march to Baghdad or attempt to oust Saddam Hussein. It was a war with defined military objectives that were achieved so it ended at that point. However, the first President Bush later regretted never going to Baghdad to remove Hussein from power. Due to the obvious connection between that President Bush (41) and the current President Bush (43), it is not surprising that we entered into another war with Iraq. The thinking part is that the current President Bush is uniquely committed to resolving the war in Iraq specifically because of his father's regrets.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's a rather bold claim to make. Yes, it is. I also believe that the same reasons and motivations led us into Iraq in the first place as well. However, that's not the question now since we're already there. The real question is how do we get out and win? To win, from a foreign policy standpoint, we would need to leave the country safer and more stable than when we found it and develop a non-anti-American sentiment with most people in the country. President Bush is more likely to stay committed to Iraq even in difficult times (like now) because he saw firsthand how much his father regretted the missed opportunity. He will not let himself willingly let the same happen to him. He wants to win down to his very core. Not only is his reputation as a leader at stake with this war, but also the latent expectations of his father of a vision of what the Middle East can become.

There's something about being a man that is very hard to quantify or even qualify. We are the sons of our fathers, but we are not our fathers. We are not destined to the same failures and shortcomings, but nor are we guaranteed the same successes and strengths. Nonetheless, there's a connection, a sense of obligation and understanding that binds many men to try and achieve certain ideals of their fathers about how they should live their lives. The idea is heavily romanticized in popular culture, especially movies with male-centric stories like The Godfather. The real world is filled with a much hazier version of the romanticized, honor-bound surreality of films, but I believe it still exists. It is that sense, that father-son connection that obliges the president to see this war to its proper end.

I firmly believe that John Kerry would not have handled this war any better than Bush has to date or will in the future. I say that because Kerry would have caved to the whispers into is left ear and more quickly drawn down troop levels before the country was stable enough to govern itself. This is not to say that Bush himself is a great military strategist, but more that Kerry is not so deeply committed to properly resolving the war. He has less on the line. Bush has history, for both him and his father on the line. he understands that the future of an entire region of the world might be at stake along with strong American interests in the region. He is the one who will have the intestinal fortitude to stick with the war even if it becomes wildly unpopular and more difficult to conduct.

At this point, I'd like to point out that they were some really good commentary tracks on that Three Kings DVD. One was from the director and the other was from the two producers. They actually discussed the filmmaking process, both from an artistic and logistical/financial point of view. I recommend it for people who are interested in filmmaking.

I totally need to get an iron. (I also totally need to not use unnecessary words in sentences. It's a bad habit.) I wanted to wear my bright blue shirt to the Christmas party. It's pretty close to Schlumberger blue, but I had it folded (in the broadest sense of the word) in a corner of my closet. Instead, I opted to look like I had tried and wore a sinister looking shirt that was Halliburton red.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

new oilfield

There's nothing quite like an empty office to totally quash your interest in doing work. The office was basically empty on Monday because of some sort of holiday or something. Same goes for last Friday. Slackers, every one of them. Not that that stopped the actual work that we do. Actually, all the drilling rigs we follow shut down for Christmas (though one of them was planning to work through the weekend until they had to do some remedial work that forced them to wait on cement for a day).

Apparently, the whole attempt-to-reach-a-suitable-point-to-shut-down-for-Christmas thing is a fairly new development that started about two years ago in this area. It's part of the "new oilfield" that's all warm and cuddly and compassionate. No, not really, but it is a consequence of the "new oilfield" which is a reference to the intense focus on safety that started 10-15 years ago. Basically, it became part of the culture of the major players in the industry that safety will come first no matter what the cost. (The smaller and more independent companies do not have the same safety culture in place. It's there, but nowhere near as strong.) That safety focus can be restrictive at times in terms of hours worked or operations performed but it comes from the understanding that it's become too expensive to be unsafe.

However, the "new oilfield" is sometimes meant in a mildly derogative manner by older hands who disdain how warm and fuzzy the industry has become. In times like these where the oil and gas industry is expanding, it's much harder for companies to fill positions. As a consequence, they offer incentives to work and better hours and so forth. Here in the San Juan Basin, one major water hauling company (and possibly all the other major ones) has stopped working at nights. Ostensibly, it's a safety issue to work and drive at night, but it's pretty clear that it's an attempt to lure and retain people. That particular development has forced us to adjust one of the operations that we performed that involved having a water hauler go with one of our cement crews. Somewhat ironically, we've adjusted by changing our process such that we no longer need the water hauler.

In other news, I'll be back in Los Altos for a couple days starting Jan 5 and I leave the morning of Jan 8. So yeah, I'll see some of you in a week.

Friday, December 23, 2005

bowl, party

Hey, Cal won its bowl game last night. They beat BYU 35-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Scott and Mike, I hope it was a fun game to watch in person. Not that I saw it on television since I don't own one. In fact, even if I had one, I wouldn't have seen it since I was at the company Christmas party last night.

I know, I know. After last year's 'festivities' I vowed not to go again. Now that I actually know some of my co-workers, it was far less horribly awkward and instead only mildly awkward. I also appreciated the smoke-free nature of the venue so everyone who wanted a snipe had to go outside. The drinking and dancing were still not for me, but some work-issues that came up last night let me escape from the drunk-fest that the party inevitably degenerated into. Sort of. In another sense, the inebriated state of some people made it expressly more difficult to figure how to cover a particular job. In the end, we got it covered and everyone's a hero, and the checks are in the mail. But I'm still really upset about several little things that added up to make last night much more difficult than it had to be.

To change gears, the fact that it's Christmas in two days does not really register with me. But at least I finally unpacked and cleaned up most of my apartment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

visitors, comments

I got a nice surprise visit yesterday form Scott and Mike. They're on a Southwest road trip that Scott describes here. Scott called me two nights ago and said they could make a (rather large) detour to Farmington the next day (yesterday) on their way from Monument Valley to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. They're trip will cap itself off tomorrow with a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl to go watch our Cal Bears play BYU. Anyway, we went out to lunch and caught up a little and it was nice to have visitors take in the spectacle that is Farmington.

I hope I'm not the only one who is vastly entertained by the comments that show up in my mirrored blog. However, I suspect I am since they're like a big in joke to me because most of them are from my family. Well, I bet my brother finds them just as entertaining. Gotta love those anonymous comments.

Monday, December 19, 2005

amended addendum = duodenum?

The weekend has passed and I hope no one I know managed to hurt themselves in some sad, tragic attempt at skiing or snowboarding over the last couple days. We've all learned that you save your drinking for the final night as opposed the first night and then attempt to get up at 6 AM the next morning to get an early start. (For some of us, that learning was vicarious and that was for the best.) Note: My hope for a non-OSHA recordable incident weekend does not extend to anyone who was with people I know, but is not actually someone I know.

I have yet another patch to apply to my allegedly "controversial" and characteristically sloppy post about love. In summary, we can choose who to respect in a rational fashion. Respect must exist for love to be sustained. But, the decision to choose the particular person who is the object of our love is not necessarily a rational one. Now the amended addendum part. The decision to choose who we love is not necessarily an irrational one either. You can be in many relationships and never be in love even if those relationships had all the same tangible qualities as one in which you did fall in love. And yet you can fall in love and not necessarily explain why it was that person over any of the others. You may think you can, but your explanations will undoubtedly sound like incoherent babbling. Trust me. Not that I would know from first-hand experience or anything like that. Just some more vicarious living. With some actual living mixed in.

Bah, why bother even writing on it. Too many exceptions to the rules. It's like explaining English grammar and spelling rules to a non-native speaker. It doesn't make sense when you list it all out. It's just right when it feels right. And people (even me?), for all the rationality and self-control in the world cannot control everything we want to feel whether we like it or not.

Now the hole is even deeper.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

addendum

The low temperature should not start with a 7. And be one digit long. Additionally, the high temperature of the day should not be in the 30's. Well, as much as I enjoy discussing it, that's about enough on the weather for now. I'll be sure to come up with some dandy posts in the future when the weather does something other than be cold.

I have an addendum to my post from a couple days ago that was ostensibly about love. I deliberately used the word conditional as a contrast to the idea of "unconditional love" which seems like such an ill-advised idea when speaking in the romantic sense. Also, as I reflect upon it further, the idea of conditional love (by which I meant respect preceding love) is not necessarily contradictory to the ideas I quote from Steven Pinker. Love can both require respect, but still be an irrational feeling. We can be rational about who we choose to respect. But once we do that, it does not mean that we can be entirely rational about whom we choose to love.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

merge this

It snowed about 2-3 inches last night. Therefore, this morning, everyone forgot how to drive. It's pretty unbelievable how many people are so terrible at driving and how any adverse conditions strip away what little control they ever had.

About that acquisition below: ConocoPhillips is acquiring Burlington Resources. Obviously, ConocoPhillips is one of the "super-majors" as they are called. Burlington is one of those names that the general public wouldn't know, but people in the industry do. That's sort of similar to Schlumberger, which is name the general public is not familiar with, but is well known within the industry. Admittedly, both Schlumberger and Burlington have seen more play in business-focused magazines due to the rise in oil and gas prices.

It'll be interesting to see one company culture be imposed on another and witness some of the effects firsthand. Both run substantial operations in the San Juan Basin and I want to see how this all plays out. Obviously, Schlumberger has a vested interest in what happens at the corporate and the district level due to the contracts at stake.

client merger

This is interesting as we do a lot of work for both of these companies.

Monday, December 12, 2005

respect ---> love

I've been sitting on this post for two months since I first saw the quote back in October. One more scribble to cross off.

Shouldn't love always be conditional? As in romantic love where you pick the person, not the familial love you might have for parents or siblings. The potentially much more nebulous bond you form with someone who was once a total stranger. That sort of love.

The condition for that love is mutual respect. How could you love someone who (whom?) you do not respect? How could you look at him or her as an equal human being without respecting him or her for who he or she is? (Now I see why it's now sort of acceptable to use them even when referencing the singular him or her.) Likewise, if they change and cease to respect you, how can you continue to give your love? It starts with respect, even if not explicitly stated, for one another as human beings. Respect must come before love and it must stay throughout love. Maintaining it is the hard part.

Or is it totally different? Such a controlled and carefully metered out sense of love surely kills the romantic in most people. It spurns the idea of romantic love as an irrational, exuberant emotion filled with the passions of youth and the unending happiness it provides young lovers. Can we actually control love and make it a fully rational choice? I like, though do not necessarily agree, with something I found on Kevin's blog. He quoted Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works:

How can you be sure that a prospective partner won't leave the minute it is rational to do so - say, when a 10-out-of-10 movies in next door? One answer is, don't accept a partner who wanted you for rational reasons to begin with; look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you. Committed by what? Committed by an emotion. An emotion that the person did not decide to have, and so cannot decide not to have. An emotion that was not triggered by your objective mate-value and so will not be alienated by someone with greater mate-value. An emotion that is guaranteed not to be a sham because it has physiological costs like tachycardia, insomnia, and anorexia. An emotion like romantic love.

convertible coupes

I saw a 6-series BMW convertible the other day. I couldn't help but think one thing: Chrysler Sebring convertible.

It's hardly a fair comparison, but that's what came to mind. Admittedly, closer inspection and review of 6-series and Sebring photos reveals that the two cars don't bear much resemblance to one another. But the fatal flaw, two flaws really, is that they are both part of two categories of cars I don't care much for. The first is soft-top convertibles. Really now, what a terrible look for an automobile. Oh sure, they look great with the top down, but they tend to look incredibly cheap and flimsy with the top up. The other is the two-door coupe, which is not a redundant statement thanks to the Mercedes CLS class. Cars with only two doors when a 4-door model is available (or possible) look as ill-proportioned and sickly as a soft-top convertible with its top up. The doors on a two-door coupe always look too big, but there's still too much unbroken space from the B-pillar back. It gives the appearance of lazy/boring styling when viewed from the side. Plus, the enormous doors look like they're better for giving other people door dings than anything else.

I just thought everyone should know how I feel about this in case anyone was going to surprise me with a new car. No? No one is? I see how it is.

It's happened again. I have over 100 e-mails I my inbox both at home and at work. It's time to start paring them down and actually replying to people instead of focusing only on myself instead hoping something magical will happen to them.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

dvi-d/d-sub to composite/s-video adapter?

I am looking for something that may not exist. Well, it may not exist in the form that I want it in. I am looking for a cable adapter to go from a DVD player to a monitor I have. The monitor takes inputs of DVI-D or D-SUB (the 15 pin VGA connection on most computer monitors) and the player can give a composite or S-video output. I have found receiver-type devices that will do what I want, but they are separate devices and all cost over $100. I am looking for just a cable adapter. I suspect it can't be done since the signal probably would have to go through a receiver to come out ok on the other end. However, I can at least pretend that it's possible. If you know of anything, leave me a comment. Thanks.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

big league chew

From The Family Guy:
Lois: So how was your day?
Brian: My day? Un-freakin' believable. First we nailed this bastard who had the gall to hide his stuff in his daughter's doll--HER DOLL for God's sake! Where's the line anymore? Well, I got news for ya, it's not even on the radar screen! The days of decency and virtue are gone, honey, BAM, freakin' evaporated like a dingy stinkin' mudpuddle. One day you see your reflection in it and the next day it's a, it's a damn oil spot on your cracked driveway, staring back at you, mocking you, knowing the perverted truths that rot in the pit of your soul. That's how my freakin' day was!
[pause]
Peter: You know what I haven't had in a while? Big League Chew.

This scene from the show got me thinking: I haven't had Big League Chew in a while either. Thus, I had to get some and see if enjoyable flavors from childhood would once again be a poor indicator of adult tastes.

They still are. For starters, I haven't been a regular gum chewer in years. In fact, I was never really a regular gum chewer ever. Also, original bubble gum flavored gum is incredibly boring. It's too much like going to the dentist and having to settle for bubble gum because it's the only flavor of that toothpaste cleaner deal they use that they have. (Speaking of which, I had to settle for bubble gum last time I was at the dentist.) Lastly, I find the ball player depicted on the packaging a little distressing given the current difficulties baseball is experiencing with steroids. Just try and tell me that this man is not on the juice.

In conclusion, don't get diesel on your clothes, even your work clothes, because they will still smell like diesel after washing them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

push

What a push couple of days. Since Thursday, I've probably driven about 1,000 miles. I drew the short straw and have been down to an area called the Jicarilla every day since Friday. It's a long, slow, and mind-numbingly boring drive down Hwy 550 that takes you about halfway to Albuquerque. It's slow because while I drive a pick-up that can easily go 70 MPH, I must go 55 MPH because that's about as fast as the slowest vehicle in the convoy can go. And the scenery is non-existent. The drive is best done in the dark because then you don't feel so cheated by how desolate your surroundings are. (And you're more likely to hit something that you can take home and cook.) It's not a stark, high desert beauty which would be great. It's a flat, flat, flatness with some occasional hills and punctuated by incredibly sad looking towns every 15 miles.

The sad looking towns bit reminds me of what could easily be the single funniest line from my vacation with my family in Greece. We were in the car and drove past an empty and rather rundown looking playground.
Mom: What a sad looking playground. (Or something to that effect.)
Me: Why? Because it's not filled with children's laughter?
As I reread that, it's apparent that you had to be there. Maybe if you've spent enough time with me, you can envision the perfect timing and deadpan-ness necessary for that to be darkly hilarious.

For the record, we don't really draw straws to determine who goes where to do what. We pick names out of a hat.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

catching up

There, I posted entries from my time in Greece and London. Go find them below. Go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

coming soon, maybe

Well, I finally have some time to post an entry. I'm back from Greece and England and can get the kind of access I need to update my website. I have updates from pretty much every day of my vacation that I will be posting retroactively. Now I just need the time to do it. I have most of them written while some are still in note form. However, I want to expand and link some of them to pictures so it'll be another couple of days for those blog entries to finally appear. As for an organized pictures section from the trip, that'll be even longer. My flight got in a little before 10pm on Monday and eight hours later I was on location looking at a rig. Suffice to say, I am very tired and still recovering. I was in the field again today so I'm pretty spent. But an update with all sorts of entries is coming soon. Soonish.

I would like to mention that it was wonderful to see my family in Greece and that my weekend in London was possibly the best weekend I have ever had.

Monday, November 21, 2005

London: departure

Good-bye to everything in London I so very much enjoy. I hope to be back.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

London: more frolicking

Another cold morning filled with reluctance to get out of bed. But we had omelets so that made it worthwhile. Oh, and there was the rest of the fun day.

We opted to go into the downtown-ish and rather tourist filled area of London. Well, or at least one of the many of those places. I can't even remember where we saw the ad, but we opted to go look at some chocolate shop on Bond St. I'm used to everything being open on any day of the week. (Except banks, they keep terrible hours.) But this is Sunday and this isn't the States, especially someplace in the States that doesn't have silly blue laws on the books. Thus, the chocolate shop in question, and many others on Bond St, was closed. We cut across to Oxford St and followed Oxford until we hit Hyde Park. We went for a leisurely (read: long) stroll through the park. It's very long in the East-West direction and we didn't cut the shortest path possible. But it was a walk for walking's sake. And those are best enjoyed with a companion.

Total side note. On the side of a lot of city buses, there are Greek tourism ads with the slogan: Live your myth. I only mention it because I was just there. And because it's so expectedly dorky.

The walk had an objective though. We were angling our way over to a particular theater to catch a particular movie. The park yielded some good photos. As always, you'll have to wait for those. And by good, I mean pictures of pigeons. It also yielded a very funny circumstance of a dog walking right up to a bench and peeing right where some man was sitting. He was fast enough, just barely, to get out of the way on time. That dog clearly had claims to that bench. Also, my attempts to buy a Fanta from a vendor in the park were thwarted when I was told the soda machine wasn't working. That almost killed my day, but I was eventually able to satisfy my bloodlust for a Fanta at dinner.

We watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (I really like linking to movies, mostly because it's so easy.) It was very good. It was the first of the series that I had actually seen straight through. There was some jumpiness to it, but that seems necessary when you only have 2.5 hours to tell a several hundred page story. The theater also had lots of leg room which was nice. It also started the actual movie at 4:59 when the show time was listed a 4:30. It would about 15 minutes of commercials before it even started on what I think was six or seven movie trailers. The commercials struck me as very odd. There were three different car commercials, and while I realize parents go with their children to a movie like this, the audience was still mostly children. Shouldn't those have been over at The Constant Gardener instead? There were also two public service ads. One was an incredibly dark ad about how unlicensed cabs endanger you to being raped. I'm really not sure if I would want a child of my own to see an ad like that.

I sated my Fanta need at dinner when we opted for some traditional fish and chips. I should say it was fish and a chips extravaganza. They certainly weren't skimping. I could've finished, but it would've been one of those instances where I sacrificed how I felt for the rest of the night for the pride of having eaten a whole lot of food of questionable value to my heart.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

London: frolicking

There's nothing quite like a cold house and a warm bed and no particular place to be at any particular time to make you want to stay in bed. But this is London and there's too much to see and do to spend all day in bed as attractive an option as that may seem to be.

After a fair bit of waffling and general indecisiveness last night, we decided on a show to see rather quickly this morning. We opted for the matinee showing of Epitaph For George Dillon at the Comedy Theater which was billing Joseph Fiennes as the title character. If you watch reasonably classy movies, you might know him as the title character from Shakespeare in Love. If you watch R-rated movies solely for nudity then you probably know him from Killing Me Softly.

Before the show we toured the National Gallery. I saw a few paintings that caught my eye. I liked a couple pieces by John Constable for the way the light came off of them. Perhaps some prints would make for a bit of decoration in my apartment, but I suspect the colors just wouldn't be the same.

The play was good. It was about an actor/playwright living which seemed to make the play self-consciously referential. Perhaps it made the audience a little self-conscious too if they spent time thinking about the dialogue. The protagonist started as someone who could've been a cynical me. By the end, he had changed, but not in what I would call a good way. At least, it's not a change I would want to make, but then again, perhaps I'll never be forced to compromise the way he had to.

After the play, we headed over to the Tate Modern for the principle purpose of looking at the Russian propaganda. I had seen it before, but being there this time made me wonder about what the corresponding propaganda from other countries looks like. In particular, as I looked at some from WWII, I wondered what it would look like side-by-side with what was produced by the United States. It would be interested to see how two at least temporary allies approached the task of rallying the people. Also, what would it look like next to German propaganda of the same era.

Friday, November 18, 2005

London: arrival

I left Greece this morning and am now on London. I have some observations about Greece before I get to what a great place London is. Greece has a big time stray animal problem. This isn't just in Athens either where cats were to be found all over the Acropolis. There are strays all over the country any place where there are enough human leftovers to live off of. There are also more gas stations that one would think the market could support. While going from town to town in Greece, gas stations would appear more frequently than expected. Also, you can't pump your own gas. There's something about places that don't let you pump your own gas that bothers me. I suppose it feels like artificial job creation. One last observation for now, though I may have more later, is that restaurants have a thing for floor to ceiling or at least very large glass windows. My first night in Athens we ate at a restaurant in a whole row of restaurants that all had floor to ceiling glass windows. While driving around on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we passed countless more restaurants with a similar love of windows.

A little bit more before I get to London. It's worth mentioning that I was almost reduced to watching Must Love Dogs on the plane. Yes, I didn't have to watch the in-flight movie but really now, how can I not. The problem with the movie, aside from it being a hopeless romantic comedy, was that they showed it on my flight from London to Athens. It's not supposed to be shown on the flight from Athens to London and yet there it was on the monitors along the ceiling of the aisle. Thank goodness a flight attendant realized the mistake and put in the correct movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I would've watched Must Love Dogs too if they had left it on. I feel like that's almost as bad as an alcoholic admitting to drinking the spilt beer found in ashtrays. But not quite.

About that greatness of London. It's great. I'm spending the weekend in London with Hermione before I ship myself back to Farmington on Monday. I landed here a little before 11 AM and cleared customs by 11:15. Very nice. I had my first chance to give Hermione a hug a little bit after noon. Great public transportation. Too bad the entire city is so expensive. Being back here of course reminds me of the week Andrew and I spent here earlier in the year. I could really see myself living in this city for some semi-extended period of time.

We had some lunch and went to the Imperial College of London because that's where Hermione has class. I wandered about during that time. While doing so, it dawned on me how close the college was to where my brother and I had stayed. I poked in and out of the nearby museums to sort of wander about. Neither the Natural History Museum nor the Science Museum held my interest for long. I spent some time in the V&A looking at the Casts and Courts section and the Chinese exhibits. I have pictures from my last trip from that museum so you should take a look at those if you want a sense of what I was looking at. I mostly wanted to marvel so of course I spent a wee bit of time pondering if that chandelier in the lobby would fit into my apartment. Maybe if it was on its side. I also simply wandered the streets a while and watched people skate about an ice rink that was set up near the Natural History Museum.

When Hermione got out of class, we headed over to the V&A and went to some exhibits I had not made my way to before. Here Scott, you can weep for these sad instruments. We also made our way through an exhibition of photography by Diane Arbus.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Greece: rest and rain

It was absolutely pouring today. I woke up to a huge clap of thunder. I didn't quite realize what it was at first, because I was still half asleep. It sounded like someone had dropped something somewhere within earshot. Eventually, my brain woke up and it was pretty clear that it was thunder. The rain kept us in for a good chunk of the day. It was going to be a rest day anyway so that was fine.

When the rain finally let up, we left for the Poseidon monument. On a clear day it's supposed to have incredible sunsets. However with rain clouds still lingering, it wasn't even worth 4 euros to go up to see it, especially when the ruins were going to look suspiciously like the ruins everywhere else.

After dinner, we young folks tried to go into the heart of Athens. In the end, we ended up still in downtown Glyfada after most of the stores had closed. It was a combination of a public holiday and the inability to read and comprehend the local language well enough to properly utilize public transportation. We also ended up doing a lot of walking in the end. I'll pretend that made it all worthwhile. I'll also pretend that it was a shame that my brother couldn't find an atrocious, orange fanny pack.

Tomorrow: London.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Greece: driving

Not a lot to say today. We made our way back to Athens from Kalambaka. We did spend two days distancing ourselves from Athens so we kind of had to get that distance back and it was rather time consuming.

I do have a driving observation to share. On a two-lane road where each direction has a shoulder, cars and trucks in both directions tend to drive half in the lane and half on the shoulder. What this does is create an artificial passing lane. It's really quite interesting.

Anyway, as we got near Athens, we became increasingly ensnared in the traffic morass that the city suffers from.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Greece: Meteora

More driving today. We went to some monasteries of note in a place called Meteora, which is near where we're staying in Kalambaka. The driving is very free form. It's like an interpretive dance at high speed. The parking is also rather creative too.

These monasteries are noteworthy because they sit on huge rock bluffs. I took a bunch of photos that I'll eventually post. (That means several weeks from now.) The only damper on the photos is that it was hazy again so the photos are not as spectacular as being there. The monasteries are functioning in that nuns and priests inhabit them. There are six main ones that open themselves to the public though there are several more in the area. All of them require that women wear a skirt to enter. They all have a rack of skirts in front for that purpose.

We had dinner a few blocks from our hotel and then we went for a walk. There's an interesting social phenomenon going on here. There are gaming clubs of sorts filled with men all over. But there's no corresponding place where women congregate. That lack of a corresponding place isn't surprising, but I find it odd that so many men go to these clubs and appear to have what looks like a very unentertaining time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Greece: Delphi

Today we went to Delphi. Well, that was the principle point of the day. I'm enjoying my attempts to read the Greek alphabet on all the road signs. Most of the letters are pretty familiar. And they should for anyone who took math and physics in college. Fluid mechanics too. Lots of Greek letters in fluid mechanics. A few look unfamiliar, especially omicron. I think that's because it doesn't get much play in technical fields because it looks like a zero.

For instance, let's check out a couple photos. (Bear with me; these were taking from a moving car.) In this first one, you see the names of two cities: Larisa and Karditsa. It's pretty easy to see how these are spelled out in Greek. Larisa has that capital lambda followed by alpha, rho, iota, sigma, alpha. The rho, which resembles out 'p' and the sigma, which is like an 'o' with a tail are the big differences. The iota and alpha look a lot like our counterparts. With Karditsa, you have the capital kappa, then an alpha, rho, delta, iota, tau, sigma, alpha. In this other photo we see a lot of the same letters, but also a couple new ones. Note how our letter 'p', which looks like a rho, is of course represented by pi. Also, that thing that looks like a 'v' is really a nu to correspond to 'n'. In the bottom word, you get to see the lowercase lambda and a mu for 'm' which looks like a 'u' with extras. The puzzler is that last character, which looks more like a zeta than anything else. I'm still mulling it over.

There are little shrines all along the highway. I'm not quire sure what they signify, but they vary in condition from totally forgotten to rather elaborate. Any ideas? I'd take a photo so people can see but we haven't exactly been stopping in the middle of the road. (Editorial follow-up: I never managed to get a good photo of one of these.)

Delphi was interesting, but not very informative. In retrospect the Acropolis was nice in that it had descriptive plaques in front of things. Delphi had some labels, but no descriptive information. There was a stadium at the top of the old city that was a short, but solid hike to get to. In the end, the city was a bunch of stones. I'm told that there are lots of stones all over the country or so say my family who toured the Peloponnesian Peninsula last week.

We're spending the night in a town called Lamia. Not much to say, except that they have very poor city planning. That seems to be a problem that afflicts a lot of this country. We tried some local dessert products. One of them was this round gelatinous product with walnuts in the middle and sesame seeds on the outside. It tasted exactly like Cracker Jacks. Very odd.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Greece: Acropolis

Today we went to the Acropolis in the morning. We beat the crowds who were swarming over everything like ants by the time we left. The Acropolis is under a lot of restoration. I get the feeling that it's been under restoration for a while and will continue to be so for many more years, possibly forever. In the end, it was impressive, but at the same time, it was a pile of stones. There was a small museum on site with sculptures from the Acropolis. Again, it was nice, but not enthralling. The site offers, or at least I assume so, great views of the greater Athens area. It's hard to say since it was hazy, which appears to be a chronic condition of the city.

Perhaps I'm coming off a little bit unappreciative of the cultural and historical significance of the Acropolis (or any monument or preserved site). For me, places like the Acropolis will generally be nice, but not inspiring. I can appreciate a great deal and to a fairly high level without gushing over something. That's probably a part of my typically reserved nature. It takes a certain, highly indefinable something for a place to be inspiring to me. The scaffolding for the restoration work at the Acropolis greatly diminished the majesty of the structures. The crowds didn't help either.

Starting in Chicago and with me to Athens, there were many tourists who were part of a large tour group on my plane. According to these ridiculously silly things they all wear around their necks that holds their boarding passes and passports and name tags and all that jazz, the group is called Life and Teachings of Paul. I think it's one of those groups that retrace the steps of the apostle Paul. I mention this because I saw one guy that I definitely recognized from my flight at the Acropolis today. That is all.

After the Acropolis, we went to the National Archeological Museum. My goodness, that was a lot of sculpture. Lots and lots of sculpture. And some nice gold-work too. Anyway, it was thoroughly culturally enriching and all the other things it was supposed to be.

After lunch, we took Athens's tram/metro/subway to some street market. We wandered about for a while. It was reminiscent of the street market that my brother and I were at in Camden Locke in London. A lot of local flavor and amusing trinkets for purchase. We then had a snack at one of the 47 McDonald's restaurants that are in the country. My brother and I both tried the McBacon. It's a lot like a double cheeseburger with a slice of ham inside. I've come to realize that many places (by many, I mean England and Greece so far) call bacon what I call thin-sliced ham.

We had a late dinner that was a lot like dinner last night. Since I didn't describe dinner yesterday, I suppose I'll continue that trend. There's nothing all that gripping or unusual about dinner here. It's just a little different. Anyway, what I find more interesting is the different way that brands common in America are used and marketed here. For instance, both Dunkin' Donuts and Haagen Dazs have basically full fledged restaurants. However, they don't serve anything beyond their dessert fare. They simply have full indoor seating and lots of outdoor seating as well. It's as if going to those places is a destination that rivals going to a restaurant for dinner.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Greece: arrival

So this is Greece, specifically Athens, specifically a suburb called Glyfada. I can't say much about it since my flight landed in the evening and I haven't really seen anything except for where we ate dinner. I was a little taken aback by customs which looked briefly at me, scanned and then stamped my passport, and then let me through. No questions at all. No request for information on where I would be staying or what I was doing or how long I would be there. Welcome to Greece.

Since I have nothing on Greece yet, I'll enlighten you all with my sharp insights into travel. When people board airplanes, they behave very similarly to the way they do in self-serve food lines. They're impatient to reach their seat area or get near the food, but once they get there they start to take all the time in the world. In food lines, people have this odd habit of leaving their plate on their tray and trying to scoop food all the way over to it. It is much faster to simply hold your plate right above the serving container and just shovel the food on. (I think I've mentioned the food thing before but it can never be said too many times.) In the same vein, once people get to their seat, they decide to fuss with everything and try and get their bag just right either in the overhead bin or under the sat or both. Meanwhile, they're holding up all the people who need to get to seats that are further back. Is it so hard to just shove your bag into the overhead bin and then flop onto your seat, thereby getting out of the aisle so other people can get by. Once in your seat, you can at least half-stand and do all the fidgeting you need.

O'Hare decided to provide me with a little entertainment. While I waited in the gate area, I watched the ground crew load the plane. It's an interesting ballet of sorts to see the different trucks that need to pull up to the plane and all the non-descript boxes that they load. The best part was watching someone re-park some conveyer trucks right near the window. I think these trucks are primarily used to load and unload luggage from the plane. All they have is a conveyer belt that can be tipped up that runs the length of the truck. Anyway, this guy was trying to re-park some to make room for another one on the line where they are left. There was no need to have them more than a couple feet apart, but this guy apparently decided that if he didn't scrape them together while parking then they weren't close enough. And in the process of doing all the scraping he also managed to back up into another vehicle twice. O'Hare also provided me with this photo. Really now, who carries $4 in quarters? Besides me of course. Not that I bought a copy of Barron's or anything like that.

The flight from O'Hare to Heathrow was pretty good. British Airways travels in style and offered wine with dinner. I declined since I don't like wine, but the gesture seemed nice. I watched the movie Crash on the plane. While it may not be the best title for a plane movie, it has nothing to do with airplanes. At least it wasn't Alive.

The Heathrow airport is a very odd place. My plane landed in Terminal 4, which apparently suffers from a gate shortage. We got off the plane in the middle of the tarmac onto a bus that whisked us away to some nondescript entrance to the airport building structure where I followed signs for Terminal 1 until I came to another nondescript entrance where another bus was waiting that whisked me off to my terminal. At least the signage is good.

At no point did I leave the secure area (I think) but I still went through two more checkpoints. This probably has something to do with all the international flights that come through there and a certain lack of faith in the rigorousness of the airport security in some parts of the world. And I'll concede that the first checkpoint I went through may have been necessary because I can't say for sure where that bus dropped me off relative to other checkpoints. When it comes to going though those checkpoints, I've become fairly good at packing and unpacking my laptop and pockets and never getting dinged by anything like a belt or coins. I'm starting to get bothered by people who can't seem to figure it out and I try to pick the line with the fewest looking amateurs, but it's always a crapshoot in the end.

One last curio was that the Heathrow to Athens flight was not boarded in any order. I was waiting for them to announce their boarding instructions when people just started lining up and getting on the plane. Very odd, but more effective than I thought it would be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

last day

It's now dead time here at the training center. I'm waiting for my cab to come and take me to the airport. I'm leaving early, but I've received my little evaluation dealie and there's nothing left to do except say goodbye to my classmates. As always, the time passed quickly.

Now, I am mentally running through all the plans I have made for the next ten days and how much fun it should be. Of course my bags are packed and one of them is quite possibly on its way home, or so I hope. The Marriott people were helpful in helping me prep my suit bag for shipment back to my apartment. Hopefully it'll be somewhere in town when I get back.

I'll write blog entries while I am on vacation but I might not be able to post them all until I get back. However, I have realized that I can edit the time stamps on my mirrored blog so the dates will make sense instead of seeing seven entries all posted on the same day. So, until my return my plucky and curiously loyal readers, enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

a suit

What kind of bran muffin has 21 grams of fat in it? One they feel is fit to give to us for breakfast. And so nears the end of a very unsatisfying breakfast situation at the Marriott.

I forgot to mention that yesterday was the first time I had ever worn a suit to work. It also was the first time I had worn a true suit beyond trying it on. Heck, it was the first time I had worn a tie to work since that first orientation week. There's no test on this, but it's quite a place to work when I can go a year between occasions where I should wear a tie.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

meat on a sword

Hurrah, the course is basically over. I've been pushing pretty hard the last several nights trying to wrap up a project. It's been fun and tomorrow looks like it'll be a lot of useful, interesting material. For the most part, it's been interesting material, but of uncertain value in terms of how immediately useful it would be back at my district. A lot of the material has been inter-disciplinary, which makes much of it new and thereby rather interesting. But, like I said, it won't be of immediate use back in Farmington, but it definitely helps with my understanding of the larger picture from a technical standpoint.

Anyway, today was the presentation of the projects so that big hump is done with and we had a class dinner at a Brazilian restaurant tonight. The place was called The Gaucho and served meat on a sword as advertised. The meat was ok, but not as good as a similar type of restaurant in Houston that one of the instructors has been to. For the most part, the more well done the meat was, the drier and less tender it was and there was too much of that. But at least there was a reasonable amount of variety as different waiters with different swords kept coming around. And it's hard to go wrong when you wrap fillet mignon with bacon.

I wonder if any studies have been done on how groups seat themselves at a dinner table. When we all entered the restaurant and were directed to our table, there was this awkward standing around as if people were waiting for some direction to be seated. I looked around quickly and sat down somewhere near the middle, but definitely not in the middle. As the dinner and conversation progressed, I realized that there is some strategy in where one sits from both a table access standpoint as well as a conversation access standpoint. There are twelve students in the course as well as the primary instructor and a couple guest instructors who were in town to watch the project presentations were also at the dinner. I was the first to pick a seat so I didn't get much say in where I was relative to others. However, I did sit in such a place that I was close enough to engage my end of the table in conversation, but yet far enough from that end that I could listen in to what the other end of the table was discussing. It helped that one of the guest instructors was sitting at the very end of my end of the table so that was someone with a good insight into the company. Basically, I was able to successfully engage my end of the table and still have a handle on the general tenor of the other major table conversations. For an information junkie like me who likes to know what's going on, that was great. So now I'm wondering if this is a good strategy for picking a seat in large group settings in the future. Basically, to sit about a third of the way down the table to have conversational access to most of it and be able to listen to basically all of it. The only thing I could refine is to let a couple others sit first and pick my particular side based at least partially on where others are sitting. However, I don't like having to wait for others to awkwardly sit down when I can just pick a seat first.

Over-analysis is so easy.

Friday, November 04, 2005

why talk about the weather?

Because I can. I will talk about the weather. It's very warm, considering that this is November. Some quick investigating reveals that it's been about 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average. It's balmy at 7 in the morning when we get on the bus and its still balmy at 9 at night after dinner. I think I can successfully correlate the warm weather with my presence here.

Two days ago marked one year working for Schlumberger. And there was much rejoicing. Yesterday, Chakib Sbiti, the Executive VP of Oilfield Services came to the training center for a roundtable. Well, that's what it was called. He's pretty high up on the depth chart, arguably third or fourth highest up, and you can even see what he's paid here since he is one of the top executives. He gave a short presentation and stressed some safety awareness, but most of the time was dedicated to him answering questions from those in attendance. Everyone who was there for a technical course was there. I asked a question, but it didn't get answered and there was really no time to clarify it since it was actually the last question. When I say that it did not get answered, I'm fairly certain it was misunderstood and not evaded. It wasn't a charged question like some of those that were asked that would be evaded. It was a broader business question as opposed to something about touchier personnel issues. And now I'm stewing about how I could've more succinctly and more clearly expressed my question. It was clear in my mind and afterwards most of my classmates knew what I was asking about. Basically, I could have used more words to ask it, but I didn't think he needed me to explain the background of a business issue to him because I felt that would've been mildly insulting. See, I really am stewing over this, but that's only because I'm reliving it.

To change topics, and to indirectly reveal how I write some of these entries out of order, fans of The Family Guy who actually read this (Scott?) might be amused to know that I finally saw the second fight between Peter and the giant chicken. Now we can thoroughly analyze it.

I haven't been taking many pictures. There's nothing to take pictures of. Part of that is because I haven't had much time to go out and enjoy the fine city of Tulsa. The other part is that this just strikes me as some bland American city with few things that are worth taking pictures of. Seriously, do you want to see what the fa├žade of the local Wal-Mart looks like? I hope not, because I'm not sure I want to know you if you do. And I'm still bothered by how flat it is.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

hulk?

Surely I'm not the only one who thinks Tedy Bruschi bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hulk.

Monday, October 24, 2005

various abominations

Thank you Wesley Snipes for the best movie line ever:
Wesley Snipes' character: Charlie, ever play roulette?
Generic European bad guy: On occasion.
Wesley Snipes: Well, let me give you a word of advice. Always bet on black!

In other abominations worth reporting, one of my colleagues/classmates drank her beer through a straw today at dinner. While this is perhaps forgivable under ordinary circumstances, it was Bud Light as well.

One final thing to report is that we (my colleagues/classmates and I) have been told to no longer use the upstairs lounge previously discussed. This actually comes as no surprise since the lounge is for their top tier clients only. Our presence there was basically some unmonitored mooching. Nonetheless, the 'breakfast' arrangement that the training center appears to have negotiated with the hotel is sorely lacking. Grievances have been aired and the ball is now in their court. I won't go into details, because it'll end up sounding like pathetic whining. However, I assure you that this is personally important and perhaps even socially relevant, but probably not that latter one.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Oktoberfest

Last night, some of my classmates and I went to the 2005 Tulsa Oktoberfest. In short, it was an American carnival meets beer. I found it to be a unique cultural experience, which makes me wonder what my colleagues, one each from Vietnam, Mexico, and India as well as a fellow American, made of it all. It had all the trappings of a carnival with the rides, games, music, and greasy, over-priced food. Combined with the beer (which was also over-priced) and music people seemed to be having a good time, which is why people go to events like this. After trying two different German beers (don't ask what type because I don't know) I am forced to conclude that I still don't like beer. It's just too bitter and never goes down quite right. At this point, suggestions of drafts to try is pretty much going to fall on deaf ears. My lack of interest in beer (and nearly all alcohol for that matter) is hardly a bad thing in my eyes. I have better things to spend my time and money on. Like novelty hats. I took some photos while there, but they're not really worth posting. It's hard to capture an event like that in mere photos, especially when I didn't take many because I was busy enjoying myself.

Now, I did take several photos before we got there. We had heard that there would be shuttles from a parking lot not terribly far from our hotel over to the park where the Oktoberfest was. Our walk there took us by the edge of the Oral Roberts University campus as well as some office buildings. That walk was ripe with photo opportunities, especially the office buildings that reflected the setting sun quite nicely. Photos will be forthcoming in 6-8 weeks.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tulsa

I might as well write something since I’ve been here for a few days now. Until today, Tulsa was unseasonably warm, but now it looks like winter is starting here. They’re keeping us pretty busy but it’s fairly interesting. It’s a lot like being in college, except class lasts all day instead of an hour or two at a time. I don’t do well at sitting still for much more than 30 minutes at a time unless I get to do some of the talking. I could be, but since I almost never have questions to ask, there is limited opportunity for it.

This Marriott is way better than the Holiday Inn Select or the apartments we could be in. In the end, it’s just a room, but we also have access to a lounge that I think only other Schlumberger people have access to. There’s also an upstairs lounge that serves breakfast as well as dinner appetizers in the evenings when we get back. It’s rather pleasant and low-key and there’s just enough food to make it qualify as a dinner which saves me the trouble of having to go out and find a place to eat every night. It’s designed to cater to business customers which is what I am, however odd that seems to me. However, it is not open Friday and Saturday nights as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings, which means I’ll be fending for myself over the weekend. However, I am cunning and resourceful and mildly devious so I expect to land on my feet.

I’ll take some photos eventually, but quite honestly, this is Tulsa and the training center is in Kellyville. Nothing wrong, but nothing right either. It’s not a photogenic place, especially with it being so flat and all.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

standard

Maybe there's a better way to do this diagram.

In another first to report, I drove a manual transmission car yesterday. One of the other field engineers and I went over to some industry-related company for lunch yesterday because they were giving out food to get people to come see their wares. (This would be the same FE who took me shooting.) I can't remember how it came up, but I remarked on the way there that I had never actually driven a stick before so he offered to let me drive his Wrangler back. It was a little odd, especially since we were on actual roads with actual cars, though we took a back road with less traffic. Shifting from one gear to the next while gaining speed was pretty easy. It was starting from a stop that proved a bit trickier for me. Even downshifting to make turns was easier. I really wasn't used to the idea of using the clutch like a brake pedal. That also came up when it came time to park in our lot where we must face outwards so I had to back in to a spot. And I am definitely not used to letting off of a pedal slowly while climbing onto another one. My instinct was to just let completely off before pressing down on the next one. Hey, give me break, I drive with one foot like any other reasonable automatic transmission driver. Well, I successfully made it the mile back to the yard without crashing or totally ruining his Jeep.

I leave tomorrow for Tulsa for another work-related training course. While I won't be on AIM, I'll be reachable via all the other communication channels I never use anyway.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

promoting health at work

I now look like a genius now for deciding to forgo washing my car until after my return from Oklahoma/Greece. My decision to clean the dust out of the interior is also looking pretty good too. The weather finally turned over the weekend and now it finally seems like summer is over.

Work is hilarious and in a very unintentional way. They were passing out this to everyone at the beginning of the week. Here's part of the rear cover for a sense of symmetry and added hilarity. (Some parts of the front are blacked out for obvious reasons. Well, they're obvious to me.) Anyway, as you may have guessed based on the front and rear covers of the booklet, the content seems like it's geared for high school students. I suppose that's only appropriate because the reaction it received at work was what I would have expected from high school students. If anyone wants a copy, I can get extras and mail them to you. I seriously think the cost of postage that I would incur would be a small price to pay for the enjoyment I am sure anyone would receive from reading this booklet. Plus, I suppose it's educational too. I'm not knocking the importance of the topics discussed in the booklet, but wow, was this really the best way?

Speaking of work, I will be going to Tulsa for a few weeks on Sunday for a work training course. From there, I'm going straight to vacation in Greece and London before a triumphant return to Farmington. I guess I shouldn't try to fly with the knife I have grown accustomed to carrying in my back pocket.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

self-response

That last post went just a wee bit negative in the latter half. Most of the negativity really wasn't strictly work-related, but more people-related. I imagine that in any work environment with as many people as this one there will always be, for lack of a simpler word, jerks. Combine that with the fake-machismo of the oilfield and the jerks seem to come at a higher incidence than what I might call the 'normal' world. Now work itself, as in what I do and the nature of it, are enjoyable. It's just that pesky human aspect that can be bothersome. But hey, learning to work with a variety of different personality types was part of the draw of this job.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

like/dislike

There are certain things about my job that I find enjoyable right now.

The work is hands on. You can feel the contribution that you made on that particular day. There's also the satisfaction of going out, doing a job and knowing that you got something done (or perhaps didn't get it done).

It is an operations environment, not a project environment. Of course there are projects always under development by the company and to a far lesser degree at the local district level. Nonetheless the local level is focused on day to day operations and dealing with a constantly changing situation. I have a good idea what will happen tomorrow, but I won't know until the morning and get another update and even then it's just a rough sketch. Planning two days in advance is almost an exercise in futility. Sometimes, the board and the schedule and the crews will shift several times in a single day and that's part of the fun.

Of course, I can easily envision myself moving on into a less grittily hands on environment. Likewise, I can see myself in a more project oriented environment and having a good time. However, right now, I like the operations, the constant shifting, and the fact that I can make decisions and see the results the same day.

Of course, there are things that I don't care much for. Perhaps it's not work as much as it is Farmington. There's something about this place that I just can't put my finger on. Actually, I know what I don't like about this place. It's the pick-up truck, four-wheeler, Keystone culture. It's not intellectual and sophisticated and cosmopolitan. If anything, it's anti all those things. Perhaps I get that vibe because I work in the oil patch. Plus, best I can tell, not every field engineer that's been through this district has endeared themselves to everyone else. Hence, there is a bit of disdain for field engineers in general.

In another sense, I am dismayed (but not surprised) by how narrow-minded people can be. Subtly and nuance are too complex for people to want to understand. People want the easiest explanation, no matter how ignorant it is. As a corollary to that idea, I am learning that a great deal of what people call racism is steeped in ignorance. Simply put, they don't realize how callous and stupid they sound.

I'm very cognizant of how what I say can affect whoever I am addressing. It doesn't mean I care how it affects them, but at least I know that it does. It certainly is a skill that people must cultivate and most people never do so. And it shows. And it's incredibly aggravating, but I've learned to bite my tongue.

But what I dislike about this place more than all of the above is that it's not the Bay Area. It's not where all the people I know are. It's not my home and it never will be. I'm not sure where home will one day be.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Worklife

Exchange heard at work today, neither person was me:
- "I didn't like the South Park movie."
- "At least it was better than the Beavis and Butthead movie."
- "Oh, I liked that!"

And that is why I find work so amusing.

Since so many people just needed to know, yes, my mayonnaise is still good.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Shooting

Apparently my mayonnaise expired a month ago. I suppose I'll find out tomorrow if it's still good when I eat the sandwich I just put it in to.

Yesterday, one of the other field engineers took me shooting. He had a shotgun and a 9mm pistol, both of which I used, and a rather high-powered hunting rifle which I opted out of trying. We went to some seemingly random place outside of town that he said he usually goes to and fired against a hillside. To go along with the guns, he also had a home-made clay pigeon thrower mounted on the trailer hitch of his Jeep. After he showed me the basics of the shotgun we set up some clay pigeons on the hillside so I could practice against stationary targets. First he went so I could observe and then I gave it a arty. I was two for four (which is how many shots it held) with the stationary targets. Then we move don the moving targets off the thrower. Again, I was two for four even counting my first shot where I know I tracked poorly and subsequently missed badly. A second round of moving targets had me at two for four again. It seems like that was the theme for me.

The 9mm was a while different story. It really is designed for rapid fire use from the get go. The shotgun was easier for me to load and had a safety and you had to clear the empty shell after each shot. The 9mm's 10-round cartridge was a little harder to load, but putting it in the gun and pulling the slide to put the first round into the chamber also cocked the gun as well. So you had to de-cock it if you didn't want the next movement on the trigger to fire the gun. Plus, it had no safety. Since it was a pistol and not a shotgun, it was also a whole lot harder to hit the stationary targets with even though we set them closer. Of the ten rounds, I hit a target with my first shot and subsequently missed the next nine. I could tell from the dust kicked up that I wasn't missing by much, but I was still missing. Then again, these clay pigeons we stuck in the ground were only four inches across. The pistol was a lot harder to hold steady since I couldn't butt it up against my shoulder like I could with the shotgun. It did have a lot less kick to it, but I just couldn't keep my hands steady. However, with practice I can definitely see how someone get become both very fast and very accurate with a pistol.

Both guns were surprisingly easy to use, though I'm not sure why I should've expected any different. Many years of design have gone into making guns as easy to use as possible. I can also see why a pistol, while smaller, would generally cost more than a basic shotgun. It simply has a lot more parts to it and is somewhat more sophisticated if I may use that word in a broad sense. I certainly had fun, much of it coming from the chance to learn about and operate a few firearms from someone personally. I'm definitely not in the market for a gun of my own, but I do feel a lot less uninformed about their operation.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Project Gasbuggy

A co-worker told me about this thing called Project Gasbuggy. You can search for information about it online pretty easily, but if you're too lazy to do that, I'll give you the gist of it. If you don't trust Google results, check out the last page of this .pdf from Sandia. Back in the 1960's, the government tried to find peacetime uses for nuclear weapons. After all, we had a lot of them and really weren't finding a lot of uses beyond turning them into interesting centerpieces. One of the ideas that they came up with was to try fracturing a gas well with a nuclear device. Thus, in 1967 they detonated a nuclear explosive 4227 feet down in a well about 55 miles east of Farmington. Suffice to say, you may be able to guess the success of this experiment based on how often you hear about that practice being used today. (Hint: not at all.) The fracturing achieved was not as much as had been hoped, plus the high cost of a nuclear explosive made the project economically unviable. One the problems and I'm sure there were many to choose from, is that the heat of the explosion turned much of the sandstone into glass rendering the formation far less permeable than desired. If you ever want to go there, there's a plaque that sits by the site to commemorate some excellent outside-the-box thinking that was unfortunately implemented.

Now that September is ending, does this portend to end of radio playtime for the Green Day song Wake Me Up When September Ends?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Unit cost

I think I have unrealistic expectations for consumer electronics. Despite the commoditization that occurs, I still expect products to fall to what can best be described as a tenth of their original price within a year or so. Case in point, I think a portable DVD player with a 7" screen should be sub-$100. Not just the occasional blue-light special sold out of some guy's trunk, but all the makes and models. Also, a 4 or 5 gigabyte MP3 player should be in that same price range too. The funny thing is that even if they were, I still wouldn't buy them. I just think they should be cheaper.

Actually, I would consider purchasing one or both of those items if I did substantially more traveling (read: flying), more so than I have in the last year. In fact, since summer of last year, I have taken at least 26 flights in eight distinctly different trips. There's something very entertaining about flying. I like the whole single serving-ness of everything, though I would like to know when that serving stopped including some sort of pretzel or nut-based snack on America West.

Speaking of cost, when I think about work, I am surprised by how cheaply we can do what it is we do. Due to the general upswing in oilfield service work there has been an increase in the prices service companies can charge for their services. This is nothing new and our CEO mentions it in this article. (I really only include the article to demonstrate that this pricing power we have is a matter of reasonably common knowledge and thus it's no great internal company secret. Frankly the article isn't especially suitable, but it suffices and I don't care to find a more suitable one with more suitable quotes.) Anyway, despite any increase in prices, when you consider what goes on to perform something as mundane sounding as a cement job, it seems like a steal. There's equipment like a high pressure pump, treating iron, cement head, cement transports, data acquisition dealies and materials like the cement itself and also manpower. A fair bit has to go into even the smallest job, but it still doesn't seem like much money that we charge. Oh, it's enough money that we charge, but I find it interesting to see how it's all been set-up to do the work at such a low incremental cost.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Original

Are our mannerisms and affectations totally original and organic? We, at least the royal we, see youth emulating pop culture styles both in terms of dress and behavior and look down on such mindless parroting. (By the way, I was never a youth. I went straight from being a child to an adult a couple years ago.) But do we look down on this behavior for the lack of intellectualism for being so devoid of substance or the lack of originality for so blindly following trends. If it's the latter, then do we the educated, cultured, mildly high brow, and slightly elite suffer the exact same problem? After all, don't we copy our high brow thinking for the celebrities of the intelligentsia and do our own fair share of mindless parroting? Are the intellectual icons somehow more worthwhile to emulate because they don't use double negatives unless it's appropriate? I want to say it's the former and that pop culture really is devoid of substance and value or any true contribution to the world and that it is right, and in fact necessary, to look down on them. But maybe that's just what I was told by someone with PhD.

I lost a day at the beginning of the week. It must've been that ConocoPhillips meeting on Monday. I got home on Tuesday and thought it was still Monday.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Legacy and MMQB

Today at Sam's Club, the man in front of me was buying three five-pound blocks of mozzarella cheese, two five-pound bags of pepperoni, 16 pizza boxes, and a canister of crushed red pepper. You tell me what he does for a living. The people behind also seemed to be running a small business or stocking vending machines based on their own purchases. And then there's me, being very judicious about what I buy because a person living by oneself and a store like that is a strange combination.

Let's go back to the last post. I don't 'get' the president's commitment to the hurricane rebuilding efforts, but I do get his vision when it comes to Iraq. I at least understand the idea and the vision and the hope to change the whole Middle East and the willingness to continue the war for that purpose despite any currently low opinions or tarnished short-term legacy. This is his chance to change the world and leave a long term legacy. Rebuilding New Orleans isn't going to be any sort of legacy, because people don't remember things for going back to normal, or some semblance thereof. People remember change, not what it was like to go back to the store to buy groceries.

I'll admit that the entire New Orleans thing is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. The city was prepared to a point and the pumps and levees were designed to a point. But that point was exceeded by a low probability, though entirely plausible and perhaps expected, event. Part of me says this because California is prepared for an earthquake, to a point. Maybe one day, the mother of all quakes will come and everyone will Monday morning quarterback and say that the state should never have been built up along fault zones so much. It's not like the people and state did not prepare for earthquakes. We just won't know if we're prepared enough until it happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why rebuild?

I'm still trying to decide what President Bush's motivation is for his recent pledge to rebuild the "great" (if that's what we want to delude ourselves with) city of New Orleans. Is this what he calls compassionate conservatism? Is it part of a legacy he wants to leave? Is there some sense of guilt going on deep inside of him? Is this some awkward caving-in to political pressure? If it's that last one, I'm not too sure there's much popular or political pressure for a rebuilt New Orleans outside the New Orleans area and perhaps the construction industry. (I'm sure KBR is chomping at the bit, along with every other politically connected construction company.) Besides, Bush doesn’t seem like the cave-in type. He's more the "steer the course" type until far later than most people would have cut their losses at. But hey, maybe that's what the rebuilding effort will be like.

If Bush really wanted to see things through in New Orleans, he'd be finishing the work of the hurricane and advocating scudding the remaining part of the city, not rebuilding, and helping people get jobs elsewhere. (There are jobs in Farmington and it probably smells better than New Orleans too, both past and present.) Then, he'd win over the environmentalists by turning the new reclaimed water area into a nice wetlands for species that can survive the sludge left in the city. Frankly, the city should never be rebuilt and the best thing that can happen now just might be to have Hurricane Rita hit the city. Then maybe, just maybe, people would get it. Get that the city is deeply flawed, topologically speaking, but also in many other ways as the preparation and response to Katrina revealed.

It will hurt a lot for people to leave and it will cost a lot too. But it'll hurt more later on when disaster strikes. Oh wait, it already did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Commoditization

The commoditization of technology. I can only assume that businesses have figured out most of what this post contains already but I made some scribbles and now I'm going to put this down so I can get it off my plate. Research and development, as its name implies, is about the creation new products and techniques. The only way to get a return on research and development spending is to create products with sufficient market capacity that money can be made while the product is still unique and cutting edge. Of course, the level of market capacity varies by product, but it tends to be fairly sizable when it comes to consumer electronics. That said, the fact that a product is unique and cutting edge is hardly a reason in of itself for ideal consumers to purchase an item.

Businesses where technological tools can help increase the productivity of their manufacturing operations and/or employees can benefit from spending on new technology. Sure, prices will drop later, but money can be saved now, so it makes sense to get BlackBerrys or some such product for employees. Individuals rarely encounter that same benefit from the purchase of a product. We don't save money by having the latest MP3 player now, but we buy them anyway even knowing prices will fall later.

When it comes to being some early adopter, people pay a premium for the status of being the first to have something. Consumer electronic R&D spending doesn't make sense in an ideal world. The commoditization of products all but guarantees that in a year generic products performing nearly identical functions will come out and be much cheaper than the first product that hits the market. This, that window of uniqueness is the best time for companies to make money with their new products. (Yes, word of mouth and reputation will help carry it later. In fact, those things are probably the major reasons why a product doesn't see it's prices slashed when imitators hit the market.) But we as consumers know the price will fall and that generics will come, but we buy anyway so we're not ideal consumers. However the benefit of that is that it does give companies an incentive to produce new products and keep the process rolling.

I wonder if commoditization will happen to information. While major search players dominate the market now, will generic brand search companies be able to nearly mimic the results of a company like Google in the future? I suppose that possibility is one of the drivers of Google's push into so many other aspects of the internet services world and its creation of new and enhancement of existing ones. Part of that explores new markets, but part of it does what consumer electronic manufacturers have learned from manufacturers and retailers before them. And that is how to use brand loyalty, familiarity, and convenience to keep customers coming back for more. If a company can be a single stop place for all manner of services then it becomes so much more convenient for someone to go there for everything. Witness Wal-Mart super-centers. So will Google one day be a portal for all manner of anything one would want to do one the internet? I'm sure they'd like that very much. But I wonder if it'll happen without their now vaunted search capabilities if the ability to search and sort information becomes commoditized as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Going home

I'll be landing in San Jose tomorrow morning and leaving again Sunday evening. The trash has been taken out, the dishes washed, the floors vacuumed, the bags packed. It's time for a drive. (And then a flight. When I tell people at work I'm going home for the weekend, I have to explain that I'm flying because they don't seem to realize that it is a 16 hour drive.) Inspire me California, the only place I really call home.

After hearing it on the radio the other day, I've rediscovered a song I used to listen to from time to time in college. And that song is Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? by Paula Cole. I really like it, though people who are familiar with my general tenor may find that a bit odd. Then again, peoples' musical tastes are so often not what you might expect of them. Like suburban kids who listen to hip-hop. Who would've guessed?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tell me...

Tell me something, beautiful.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ridiculous

This place is so ridiculous sometimes. I don't mean work specifically, though some work-related events make me say this. I've written a bit on government lately. For the most part, government is not the most efficient vehicle at getting things done. Now imagine something even worse, from an efficiency standpoint, and that is tribal government.

All of our trucks, both the DOT-registered ones and the pick-ups have papers in them for entering and crossing through the various states and tribal lands. Making sense so far, right? Good. Now, there's one tribe that requires work permits for individual workers working on tribal land which, as you might be sensing the tenor of where this post is going, is pretty ridiculous. For starters, apparently this has been the policy for about a yea, but no one knew about it nor was it enforced until very recently. In order to get these permits that expire every year, you must take your driver's license to Dulce, which isn't exactly what one would call nearby to Farmington which is where nearly every service company in the region is based out of, and fill out some mundane form so that they can issue you a card to be allowed to work on their land. Without said card, it's a $5000 fine and you'll end up in jail, which is what happened to a rig crew yesterday. Oh, and then the rig was confiscated too. Ridiculous enough?

So whatever are we doing to get around this matter? Well, our safety guy got some temporary permits last week by going down there and explaining the situation and the impracticality of jumping through their hoops. Of course, he had to get thee by 10:30 AM that day because they needed to close their office so that they could celebrate some kid's birthday. Check. Check two is that their office normally closes at 3:00 PM, a very demanding job no doubt. Our safety guy did enough explaining for them to issue us permits without everyone going down there in person, but they needed a photo of our driver's license and a digital copy of a photo of us (to put on the card). So he went down there today to pick them up for all the field personnel (this includes me) and they had given him some of them when 3:00 PM struck. At that point, he was ushered out event though it would have taken just a couple more minutes to hand him the rest of the cards. Oh, and those temporary permits from last week were apparently more temporary than we imagined, because we were told they're no good anymore because we should've gotten the cards by now. Wonderfully ridiculous.

Oh, but we were going to go do a job down there tomorrow, which we're still doing because enough people have permits that a crew can be cobbled together myself included. Lucky me. If they tribal police are making 'random' stops again, I'll hold my tongue even though I have plenty of choice words. Who would've guessed?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Change

People are drawn to spectacle and natural disasters make for excellent spectacle. It's as if the one-off-ness of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina excites people and it can sometimes inspire them to do a lot of good work and seize it as a chance to start anew. In the same fashion of appealing to peoples' taste for disaster, the media is also drawn to big spectacles. That's the problem with long droughts. They aren't sexy like hurricanes and floods and more shocking events, but their impact can be just as damaging as any natural disaster. What's the media going to show you? A field of dried grass? You'd be almost literally watching the grass grow, but in this case it's not growing.

This hurricane should open peoples' eyes to what a real crisis is and what real problems are. None of this quarter/mid-life, wine-sipping, significance, existentialist crisis stuff. We, the collective we of most of the people I knew while growing up, should be so lucky to have the choices we have and to ability to do nearly anything we want with our lives. And yet too many people with all those options bemoan them like a curse, like it's a burden to have choices. Maybe it is, but it's far preferable than having none. There's no disaster in having choices. The only disaster would be to freeze up so badly that you can't make a choice until a real disaster comes.

Why wait for disaster to make a change? What about kaizen, the Japanese principle of continuous improvement. Always be getting better instead of waiting for some momentous event to force a change. Give yourself a challenge to rise to if you need life to be harder, to be more of struggle, to feel more real.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Random observations

Nothing so great and politically-themed as the last several posts for today. Instead, I have a gaggle of random events and observations.

Due to its topographically challenged nature, the parking lot at work flooded after about an hour of hard and continuous rain. Simply put, an 18 inch pipe cannot handle the run-off of the yard which is several acres. (The pipe was not clogged, at least not on our end.) Plus, the business next door with a similarly sized yard has nearly all of its water run into ours. Suffice to say, some people will be finding the interior of their cars to be a bit damper than when they left them. Lesson learned, park on higher ground. While I did not take any pictures, a couple did and if I get my hands on any of them, I'll be glad to post them. Declaration by the district manager: "Farmington is now an offshore location."

My computer froze up for what was basically the first time ever a couple days ago. Normally, I'd think nothing of it because computers lock-up sometimes and that's that. But yesterday, my cell phone wouldn't get any service and when I called my service provider for answers, I was told the network was having problems in Farmington. Whatever the problems, they were resolved in a couple hours, but the chronological proximity to my laptop's problem must surely be a sign of something sinister afoot.

Best I can tell, people like to buy things for the sake of having them more than the sake of utilizing them. There's some powerful draw in buying some nice, shiny, new thing and marveling at its smooth surfaces and nice colors and new item smell. And of course the satisfaction in showing it off to others as if their envy alone will boost your happiness. Actually, it seems to do just that for many people. But buying things is a very temporary and short-lived feeling and usually leads to very little long-term satisfaction. Maybe I'm projecting too much of my own tastes onto how I think others should feel, but I'm generally most pleased with the things I don't buy, rather than what I do buy. Spending your money now certainly does not lead to wealth building, or even long term financial security. (I thought I had written on this before, but I can't find when so here goes.) Possessions do not build wealth. Assets build wealth. And if the price of something can reasonably end with .99 then it probably is not an asset.

When I look around at what I have and mentally sort things into what I use versus what I don't, most of the things I don't use were not actually purchased by me. I have very specific interests and needs that only I can suitably address. This is why I always find gifts really strange and awkward. Yes, the thought is nice, but it is largely undermined by the actual purchase. How ironic.

I remarked on this about two years ago, but whatever happened to the Outkast song called Bombs Over Baghdad? It's radio play time took a conspicuous nosedive n April of 2003 for some reason. I wonder why. It's a good party and dance song, not that I'm into either of those.

There's someone at work who uses the word 'pop' to describe what I would call 'soda'. He's from North Dakota. There's someone else who really likes Dr. Pepper. He's from Alabama. I believe I can extend these observations to successfully characterize the tendencies of large portions of the country now.

The triple score round in Family Feud basically renders the previous two rounds pointless. It does not make it entirely pointless, but it does so statistically more often than it should. See, the rounds in the show are scored single, single, double, triple and the first family to 300 wins. Well, all things being equal, one family or another should win the first three rounds one in four times (not one in eight). If they win the first three rounds, they've almost certainly reached 300. However, the triple score round is needed on far more than 75% of the shows. Why is this? There's a television that's almost always on in dispatch at work. This is how I know this. Perhaps I should start watching religiously, but then I might stop getting work done.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The market's limits

In my mishmash of readings in the last week, I came across a couple of pieces (that I now cannot find) extolling the power of the free market as a restorative force after a disaster. I too like the power of the market in response to a crisis, but not with my whole heart. Several pieces have rightly made the point that destruction and the subsequent spending to rebuild what was lost does not help the economy. While they may help certain industries and stores, natural (and unnatural) disasters do not result in a net gain for the economy. Additionally, they certainly do not improve quality of life.

Part of the argument that I can't quite stomach is the assumption that in a supply crunch where prices rise, those most able to afford the higher prices are therefore those who are most deserving of the product. An obvious enough example is the recent spike in gas prices in the last week as production and refinery shut-downs have limited the supply in large parts of the country. Just because you can afford higher prices doesn't mean you deserve the product, it simply means you are most valuable to whomever is selling the product. In my mind, the market values short term factors more than long term ones. It is very poor at recognizing value that does not yield an immediate payoff. What comes to mind is the value of teaching, at nearly any level. Viewed as increasingly essential to the development of an educated populace, teachers are not paid especially well in comparison to what many of them could be making given their varying levels of qualifications. Is this a sign that teachers are not recognized for their long-term value? Or is it more to do with the fact that the majority of teachers work for the government in government-run schools and that a dose of free-market education system would cure those problems?

The market's love of short term value exposes it to unscrupulous people and that is most visibly seen in the major corporate scandals of the last several years. Enron, WorldCom, whatever, pick your poison. The free market does not understand what ethics are if they cannot be quantified with a dollar sign. And people without ethics can use that to their advantage. After all, the market is not some amorphous entity. Ultimately, it is made up of discrete individuals and not all of them are good and decent people by the common understanding of those terms. Sure, the market catches people selling a bad product eventually, but the long-term effects of something can never be known in advance. Only years after the transaction has taken place is the full value or lack thereof realized.

One last thought on this matter has to do with mandatory evacuations. The market would scoff at such a thing because people can make their own choices. And people do, for the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans was hardly enforced, at least not at the very beginning. But if you guess wrong and don't evacuate and need to be rescued, is the market going to rescue you? Last time I checked, there was no insurance covering helicopter evacuations. So, is the market going to rescue those who can pay the most first and let those with no money die? Or is the vaunted market going to realize that while it may loathe the government, there are certain things that need to be done because they don't make money.

Don't get me wrong because I like the open market, its creative power, its ability to respond to consumer needs, its flexibility and adaptability. But there is a role for government, preferably a limited one, but a role nonetheless.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

More hurricane commentary

I have a great deal to say about Hurricane Katrina, especially as I take in its aftermath and read countless news and opinion pieces on the constantly developing situation. Hindsight is actually not 20/20, but it certainly is much better than foresight. Nonetheless, the existence of severe planning shortfalls both on how to prepare for such a disaster and how to respond to it once it has happened should have been self-evident to anyone remotely responsible for the welfare of the city of New Orleans and the greater area. But kicking these various civic leaders while they're down doesn't do much good except to fill oneself with some lordly sense of know-it-all-ism. And as much I enjoy that, it still doesn't do any good.

I won't pretend to be familiar with the particulars of the New Orleans water management system or the state of Louisiana's hurricane response plans or the chain of command that exists in the various levels of government for responding to an emergency such as this one. Thus, I may be way off with some of my comments, but I think they stand on their own pretty well.

Local planning, starting with Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and whatever cadre of city commissioners he surrounds himself with was terrible. This is your city. Therefore, this is your responsibility. Yes, only to a point, but a great deal of planning is best done at the local level where the local needs are best understood so don't expect someone to hold your hand when the going gets tough. Why aren't the supplies to repair damaged levees kept nearby in parts of the city the lie above the prevailing water level? Why aren't helicopters on a stand-by type of lease ready to be mobilized? Why isn't the total loss of landline communications foreseen when everything could potentially be underwater? Where are you satellite phones, your back-up generators, your fuel reserves to power pumping stations in a crisis? Where is the planning for evacuating and/or rescuing those who refused to leave because this isn't the first time people have stayed either by choice or by lack of means to leave? By the way, Mr. Mayor, those buses you want so badly appear to be where you left them. And it didn't have to be a hurricane that broke the levees. If we're going to be so homeland security-centric, it could have been terrorists wanting to submerge a half million person city. Is this all only obvious in hindsight? No.

Much of that loss of local level planning capability stems from a false expectation that it will be taken care of by the federal government. The federal government's weakness in this whole matter has not been so much in the response, but in giving the appearance that people should expect a capable response. (Any capable response by FEMA is severely dampened when it is folded under triplicate layers of bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security.) This isn't about appearances given a week ago before the storm hit. It's about a culture of dependency and misplaced expectations in what the government should be doing for people. A lot of that starts several decades ago with flood insurance and it being offered by the federal government. By having an entity with no vested interest in making money through the sale of insurance, there is no market-induced premium for living in a high-risk area, especially one that can suffer so severely if flooded due its topologically-challenged nature. Ultimately, imbalanced assessment of risk due to the government's non-market presence warps the perception of how costly and dangerous living in a particular area is. In the end, entire portions of the gulf southeastern coasts get underwritten at ultimately my expense. Thus, a city like New Orleans can exist in 10-day ago condition waiting for the event that will force the rest of us to underwrite the cost of it's shaky foundations.

I'd like to save a potentially long spiel on the free market and its power at preparing for and responding to a crisis for some other day, perhaps as soon as tomorrow while it's still topically relevant. For now, I'll say that while I do like much that the free market has to offer, it has its own shortcomings in how to value animate assets.

Now it's time for the rant of the day. Have you sent your thoughts and prayers to the victims of Hurricane Katrina yet? Well, you better hurry, because the longer you wait, the longer you delay that sense of self-satisfaction of pretending to help without actually helping. I'm sure the token afterthought you're paying them is helping them a whole lot down on the ground there. At least it lets you sleep better at night. Isn't it incredibly egotistical to think your thoughts and prayers will help anyone? As if a higher being (God, supposedly) is going to hear you prayers and then decide that he really ought to spare a few more lives. Are you so powerful that you deign to think you control your god and who lives and who dies? Really now, stop sending your thoughts and prayers and start thinking about how to either really help or really learn from this.

Same goes for the President's presence on the ground. How does that help anyone except divert resources and energy away from people who really need it? Oh, it shows he cares? That still doesn't help anyone who really needs the help. And I hope the President isn't concerned with whether or not people think he cares or not. He should be concerned with the most efficient resolution (whatever it ends up being) of the situation.