Saturday, December 30, 2006

tons of snow, sort of

It looks like I came back just in time. Albuquerque has been pounded with snow since I arrived. That same storm is largely responsible for why I had such a fun drive a couple days ago.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

already back to work

Well, that was a long first day back at work. A fun, snow-filled, icy-road drive that was far more harrowing than I ever want to have again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

back in farmington

Back in Farmington. Uh, woo hoo?

Never enough time to see everyone. I suppose I could, but it is, as always, a matter of priorities. The reality is that there are a handful of people who are really important to me that I want to see. And a select one or so that I want to see as much as possible.

Wile I was home, and during previous times, people often ask me what exactly it is that I do. I think I will slowly start to work on a tutorial of sorts that will help answer many of the most common questions I receive.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Have you ever met someone with a college degree and just wanted to scream incredulously, "They gave you a degree?" Don't be polite, of course you have. That's what keeps me up at night, even more than the deficit does. There are all these morons with college degrees. Their very existence lessens the value of my own degree.

The whole thing almost makes me think that I need more degrees so I won't be mistaken for these yahoos. But of course, pointless spite isn't much of a reason to spend up to five more years in school. But then again…

Oh, of course not. When I stop to count, it is rather interesting to see how many people I know getting advanced degrees, especially the number getting PhDs. Just an observation.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

social networking

That was a pleasant family dinner. Seriously, it was a lot of fun.

In a small show of support, I will now shamelessly link to IBM and Facebook since I have family that works there. My great concern with social networking sites is that the few that rise to prominence often fade quickly. Friendster anyone? Read this article from May and then read this other article from October. So here's to Facebook, and MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, Xanga, and many more.

While we're on this subject, I need some help remembering the name of a networking service that was marginally popular with college students when I was in college. I believe it started on the east coast and schools were ranked by percentage of students using the service and a lot of it was done through AIM. Any ideas?

Friday, December 22, 2006


Thoughts from a mall or two.

I dislike going to malls. There's something not right about them. It's probably the smell. Next time you're in one, pay close attention to the many odors your olfactory organs are assaulted with. And why aren't these high school kids in school? Not to mention how badly dressed they are. Eh, I suppose I've always been 35 on the inside.

The Copeland Sports store was having a going out of business sale. The store was pretty gutted, but I found some shoes for the right price. For some reason, there was a little kiosk by the registers where you could apply for a job with Copeland.

What the hell is skurban? If it's not in Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary, it must not be real.

Monday, December 18, 2006

but my car still works

It is only with grudging acceptance that I recognize the fact that I will one day be forced to get a new (or at least new to me) car. As advanced as my car was when it was new, the last 20 years have seen inevitable improvements in automotive technology. By 1986 standards, it was a very sophisticated automobile. By today's standards, it's not exactly winning over hearts and minds. The myriad little creature comforts that no longer work don't really help either. Really now, I don't have a problem with no AC, but apparently other people do. And so what if the passenger window doesn't roll down. I don't sit on that side of the car.

The great reluctance I have with one day abandoning my car is that it's the only car I've spent a great deal of time driving. I have driven this car since I got my license way back in the last century. I know this car, at least I know it well enough. I'm comfortable with all the various fluid level checks, recommended tire pressures, changing a flat tire, braking response, steering feel, etc. All pretty basic things everyone should really know about their cars. More importantly, I know what's wrong, or likely to be wrong, with my car. Its tendency to run hot, the slow oil and transmission leaks and the slightly faster power steering leak, which rear light bulb doesn't turn on sometimes, which fuses go where, etc. Picking up the basics on any new car is easy enough. Getting used to the idiosyncrasies of a car takes time and I already have such a good rapport with mine.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Back. I forgot how nice the color green can be.

airport security equals the awesome

Blogging from the airport courtesy of free wireless internet at Albuquerque Sunport International. That's right Phoenix Sky Harbor, you ain't got nothing on this.

It's about 0500 and I'm sitting in majestic terminal B of the airport. I had the less than noteworthy (except here!) distinction of being the first person to check-in to my flight, not counting anyone checking in at home. I sort of bypassed the one couple standing in line since they didn't seem to realize that the self-check-in kiosks were intended to be used and not just looked at. I guess they thought that the absence of any staff meant that they couldn't check-in. Little did they know that the act of checking-in causes the employees to scurry out like ants, very large ants.

In a more noteworthy occurrence, I went through one of those mass spectrometer dealies for the first time at the passenger security checkpoint. Absolutely terrible. Read about this guy's experience first, because there's nothing here about it and then continue. Done? Good. My experience wasn't quite so bad, but that was aided by being the first one through that particular security line. For starters, there was no signage or indication from a TSA employee that I needed to go through it. Hey, I don't know if it's for everyone or every nth passenger or only suspiciously ethnic passengers. Besides, the way around it wasn't cordoned off so I started walking past it. No can do. Gotta go through. I stand in, and the machine puffs air on me, pauses for a good 10-15 seconds (which is way too long to efficiently process passengers but I suppose efficiency isn't the goal) and then the red hand becomes a green walking man and the door opens. Not! The TSA guy walks up and tells me to stand back inside with no explanation given. Meanwhile, did I mention that my laptops, backpack, and wallet have rolled through the X-ray machine and are sitting unattended on the other side? No? Well, they were and that's the biggest problem. Theft of items from the end of the X-ray scan conveyer is certainly way down due to the requirement to have a boarding pass to go through security, but it can still happen, especially with an opportunistic little item like a wallet or watch. Take two with the puffs of air, red hand becomes green walking man, and doors open. Not! The doors didn't open so I stood there and looked at the TSA guy who just sort of stared back at me so I pushed the door open and walked through and then through the metal detector. What a joke. By the way, if they want this mass spec device, they might as well combine it or put it immediately before (not 10 feet before, but 1 foot before) the metal detector. That would make it one process instead of two awkward processes.

In other more or less equally negative news, on my way to the airport, I concluded that running the heat in my car speeds up the growth of the crack in my windshield. It is now much longer than it was before the start of my trip. When I realized how quickly it was growing, I turned off the heat in my car. That made for a very cold drive. I put gloves on to help my hands, but damn, I should've stopped to put on a second pair of socks. Who needs a new car? Being miserable builds character.

If you've pieced together my last post, you might have come to realize that I left Farmington before 2100 and arrived in Albuquerque a little bit after midnight. With a four hour travel time from ABQ to SFO with a layover in PHX, a 0900 arrival means a 0600 departure from here. Remember that I also gain an hour. Thus, we can say that I need to be here no later than 0500. Factor in a travel time of about three-and-a-half hours from Farmington to Albuquerque, plus a little safety margin and I need to leave Farmington by 0100. And this brings us back to the original, implied question, why would I leave Farmington at 2030?

The experience of working at all hours of the day and night in the field has taught me a lot about when I am most alert, how much sleep I need, and how much focus driving takes. Let's say I was to leave Farmington at 0100. There are two ways to do that. The first is to just stay up all the way to 0100 and then leave. This is bad. This puts me up all day, half the night, and then I have to drive the other half of the night. How many of you are in good condition to drive 185 miles after you've already been up for 16 hours? Me neither. I could do it, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The second option is to go to bed early and ideally get four hours of sleep. Four is best from a circadian rhythm perspective. But let's not deceive ourselves. Am I really capable of going to bed at 2000, actually waking up at midnight, and then hitting the road? That's actually a worse-case scenario to me due to the potential for sleeping in and missing my flight. Very bad. And cost prohibitive. Besides, if I do get any sleep, it's likely to be very fitful and not much better than not sleeping. This takes us to what I did which was sleep in yesterday, leisurely run some errands, pack my bags, eat a light dinner, pack a snack and then hit the road at 2030. This put nearly my entire trip before midnight, a time when I know my alertness to be good. Not great, but generally good, especially if I slept in that morning. This plan also gives me a huge time buffer in case I run into car troubles. All in all, a much better option than leaving Farmington at 0100.

Of course, it would be fair to ask what I do from midnight to 0400 when the check-in counter opens. I sleep, or at least I try to sleep. Remember, car with no heat equals cold me. But when you're tired, you can sleep through a lot. I probably only got an hour of sleep, but since I don't need to drive anymore, it doesn't matter. I can sleep on the plane. One observation from sitting in the parking lot for all those hours is that the night security and parking attendants need something to do. Or fire half of them.

One last note, I was about 60 miles from Farmington, still catching the one hip-hop, pop, current young people music station, when on came this radio ad for investing advice. They were making the usual sales pitch about how not knowing certain things could be keeping you from reaching your financial goals and bladdady blah blah. And then they revealed who they were really targeting: "high net worth investors" was their phrase. By their definition, people with more than $500 thousand invested. By the way, the phrasing seemed to imply that home ownership did not constitute an investment. The obvious question is how many people in the Farmington area does this even apply to?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

vacation starts ... now!

Well, it looks like it's about time to hit the road. If it seems a bit early to head to the airport, think about where I am and where I need to be. If I'm going to fly out of Albuquerque and land at SFO around 0900 Pacific Time tomorrow morning it means I need to leave Farmington within an hour or two. And if it seems like I'm leaving way earlier than necessary, also consider when I would rather be driving.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

like, not love, but still like

Based on the comments I receive, I sometimes wonder if people who read this blog think that I don't like my job.

I don't love my job, but I also feel that that is a word people often use far too casually. Maybe if you had the same surname as I (as do half my readers) you would give it as much thought as I do. However, I do like my job, and I like it a great deal some days. Other days aren't so great and those sort of balance out the really good ones and leave me with a general liking.

In my current capacity and with my various responsibilities, I enjoy a nice mix of office and field time. I don't call my office time, desk time, since I spend a great deal of any day in the office on my feet or otherwise not at my desk. I don't get to pick and choose (for the most part) office versus field on any given day. After all, we're a service company on call 24/7 and we're at the operators' beck and call. If I'm needed in the field, then I need to be in the field. I don't accept from myself and I hate having to accept from others some days, the attitude of phoning it in and saying that you don't want to go to work for whatever reason. Sick, 'hurt', various family issues, drunk, or whatever excuse it may be. Some days, when I get that call, I really don't want to go to the field at first. The thing is, by the time I get to the yard and get ready and drive out to location, I'm usually in a good work mood. That's because, the preparation for a job is the hard part. If all the ducks are in a row before you start, then one we're actually performing the job, it runs so smoothly. Plus, being outside, regardless of what time it is or how hot or cold it is, feels good.

As for how hard I work, this is how I feel: if you're not willing to push yourself and find your limits then this really isn't the place for you. Quit the whining and go find another job. I have always felt that the recruiting process was very honest. The pitch was that being a Schlumberger field engineer would be hard and unpredictable and probably test a lot of your character. What I took from it was that every district was different and everyone's experience was different and that the best way to prepare myself was to let go of any expectations and preconceived notions I may have had. I haven't been astoundingly surprised by anything I've seen here, because I sort of expected that anything might happen or be normal, even if it was abnormal for me.

I have seen what is now several other field engineers quit (or get fired). In particular, the ones who stayed less than a year were all ill-suited for this job. You, and by you I mean me, just knew they weren't going to work out. With some of them, I couldn't help but wonder if they weren't listening to the recruiters or if we had a breakdown in the recruiting process. (Maybe there's one recruiter who sells them rainbows and sunshine instead of reality. I hope that's not the case, but if it is, I want to believe that there are tracking mechanisms in place and any recruiter who has an unusually high number of their recruits quit gets flagged and talked to.) The overwhelming characteristic of all the people I've seen not cut it here is that they were not prepared or not interested in working hard. If that's you, and you've stumbled upon this looking for information, then this really isn't the place for you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

cold and cars

Damn you cold weather! I now have a small crack in my windshield, almost certainly related to the need to defrost it every morning. However, I'm not quite sure how old my windshield even is. If it is as old as the car, then it's certainly had a good run. As for the rest of the car, it's holding together. Cold starts are sometimes a bit fleeting with the car dying about one or two seconds after starting. However, that's only happened on the three coldest mornings so far, though it almost did a couple other times. And while I'm certainly not used to windshield wiper fluid partially freezing, everything else seems to be stable or only leaking very slowly. My electrical bugaboos are mostly conquered and I'm rolling with mostly new tires.

My biggest automotive concerns are my rear suspension and something to do with the fuel and/or exhaust system. The exhaust smells a bit more gasoline-ish than I remember. That and my mileage sucks, but the mileage has done worse the last two winters that I've been here so that might not be strictly related. The suspension thing is a bit bothersome. There's a non-standard noise coming from the left rear. I got a good chance to look around there though when I picked up a flat tire on the left rear two months ago and nothing looked abnormal. I suspect it's actually two different noises and I'll have all the gory details for the one person who is reading this who might actually have some ideas when I see him in a few days. Despite the ills, I think the car will pull through the winter in fine enough form. It's just that I'm not so certain about next winter. The car's had a good run. I'm simply reluctant to give up a car that I've driven for over eight years. That and I'm a cheap bastard.

Speaking of good runs, I made nothing short of excellent time today on an errand for work. Covering 325 miles in seven hours may not sound that impressive, but trust me, it is.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

to clarify my last post

Our district Christmas party was last night. It went much better than last year's and since it was at the local casino, we didn't endanger the good standing our senior salesperson enjoys as a member of the local country club which is where we had it last year.

I need to clarify my last post. While writing it, I got tired and stopped early. Like almost any service business in any industry, we charge a healthy mark-up for products. One could potentially justify this mark-up because of the ways we combine and delivery our products to the customer or because of some of the proprietary chemicals involved, but that's not the point. We charge a mark-up and that is a fairly fixed margin for each individual product. Any given month consists of many jobs, so the aggregate product margin each month probably changes very little from month to month.

Our costs for what we call services are much less fixed. For example, we charge for something called ton mileage. That is basically how many tons of product we haul times the mileage from our yard to the location we are taking it to. We charge for each ton mile and typically the ton mileage on a job ranges from a couple hundred to several thousand. Thus, the bigger (meaning more cement) and further away a job is, the more ton mileage there is. But how much is it costing us to haul each ton of cement each mile? Obviously, that cost is highly variable. If a job takes one fully-loaded truck, then that would be more ton miles than if that same job took only half a truck's worth of cement. Either way, we still had to send one truck and incur associated costs like having someone drive that truck. Also, a location could be far away, but almost all the miles there could be on smooth, easy driving pavement. Compare that relatively fuel-efficient trip to one which involves mostly dirt miles on slower going roads that induce more wear and tear on the trucks. The point is that our cost basis for each ton mile is basically impossible to measure on a per job basis, though I imagine some very noticeable trends become apparent on a larger scale.

Overtime is also a service charge where our costs are not fixed. For the most part, our original price estimates for jobs do not include any overtime charges. Our pricing is such that the first x number of hours are included. On most jobs, if we don't have to wait on the client, we can be on and off location in x hours or fewer. If we have to sit on (or just off depending on space) location and wait and it takes more than x hours, then overtime starts getting added to the ticket. We don't charge overtime only on personnel. There are also overtime charges for all the equipment. Time we spend idle on one location is time we cannot spend doing another job on some other location. If the client wants to tie up our resources, both people and equipment, and have us wait for a rig to stop being dysfunctional then there is a substantial price to pay. If all we're doing is sitting and waiting on location then that costs us very little. There is the cost for the wage employees for every hour on location that they get to spend on the clock whether they're sleeping in a truck or working. There is the increased fuel consumption for all the hours the trucks spend idling and the associated wear on the truck engines to idle for several hours. (This ignores any lost opportunity costs which are actually relatively minor compared to other costs.) All told, those costs are quite insignificant compared to the overtime the client must pay for having us idle on location.

In the end, spending 20 hours on location is a recipe for great margins for us. Our fixed costs are essentially our product costs and those are balanced by our fixed product revenue and produce a stable margin. When we start to add overtime, our cost basis for that time is far less than the revenue we get in return. Thus, the greater the percentage that service charges constitute on a ticket, the better the margin. I hope this clears things up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

service charges

It happened again. I went into work yesterday morning and the next thing I knew, I was coming in from the field this afternoon. Why oh why did that rig hand have to drop a wrench in the hole? That certainly slowed down the drilling on the last 150 feet of that surface hole. That's a process that should have only taken two to three hours, but instead took closer to 18 hours.

Our ticket (what we charge the customer) was originally about 50% products and 50% services. Products are things like cement and chemicals (and single use equipment like wiper plugs). Services are typically charges for equipment, transportation, mileage, time and that sort of stuff. To have us sit on location all evening (and night and the next morning) doesn't add a single cent to the product charges. Overtime is all service related charges. By the time we were done, that 50/50 split between products and services was 22/78. That's a lot of overtime.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

back in the Bay Area soon

It's official. I will be flying back to the Bay Area the morning of December 17. I'll leave again early on December 27. For fare reasons, I'm flying into SFO and out of SJC.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

more snow

It snowed last night! And now the skies are clear and it's bitterly cold.

This cold front has really hammered up some of the rigs we do work for. I guess those boys out of Louisiana, Mississippi, and south Texas get to learn the hard way what happens in the single digits.

Monday, November 27, 2006


The question I asked in my last post wasn't strictly a rhetorical one. What confluence of factors caused us to spend 23 hours on location when 10 would have been much more reasonable? There were problems with getting the casing in the hole. The company man wasn't used to the rig since he was filling in for a sick colleague. Thus, he didn't understand how slowly the rig runs casing. Water haulers don't work at night anymore around here. (Seriously, they don't.) It's a matter of accountability.

If I'm on a job, whether I'm the principle supervisor or not, I make it a point to do the best job I can. On a very basic level, I want to provide a good job for our clients because it's the right thing to do. And I expect to be held accountable for the quality of the work I do and I am accountable in various ways. If we are unable to complete a job or we don't execute it as planned, then I don't get a bonus for the job. In a greater sense, if we are unable to consistently deliver good work for our clients then they will find someone else for their needs. While that doesn't directly impact me, it has the ability to come around and leave us with a lot less to do than we'd like.

On location, the company man is the one who is ultimately responsible for the decisions that get made regarding what to do while drilling, when to call vendors and service companies (like us), filing progress reports, checking safety compliance, etc. Given that responsibility, it would be natural to assume that the company man has certain incentives to perform well, like stay on schedule and under budget, have no accidents or environmental spills, and so forth. However, given how badly some of the company men that I interact with appear to be performing, they don't operate like they have any performance incentives. It doesn't seem like they're accountable for massive cost-overruns, spills all over location, and blowing the drilling schedule out of the water. And it's maddening for us, because while the overtime revenue is nice for us, it means we get sucked out and stuck on location for 20+ plus hours at a time.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

finally done

We finally finished the job we sort of almost started on Thursday. Why oh why did we have to spend a total of 23 hours on location? (For reference, 10 hours on location would have been very reasonable.) I take solace knowing that we make the client pay through the nose for that kind of crap.

Friday, November 24, 2006

how i spent thanksgiving

It's been an odd 30 or so hours.

I spent most of yesterday, Thanksgiving, sitting on my hands waiting for my job to call. The company man at the rig called for first time late in the morning with a notice to be on location by 1800, which meant we would be at the yard by 1500 in order to have enough time to prepare equipment and drive out to the rig. Au contraire. The company man called again at 1400 to change the be on location time to 2000. That's never a good sign especially with this particular rig (and its sister rigs). There's no such thing as a two hour delay. And given the problem that I was told they had, my guess was six to eight hours. But we're the service company at the beck and call of the operators so we'll go when they say to be there even when we're certain that they won't be ready for us. Thus, more football watching ensued. Too bad I hate the Cowboys.

Suffice to say, we arrived at location well on time only to discover a couple of less than pleasant surprises. For starters, the rig was nowhere near ready, which is normally a bad thing, but this gave us some time to deal with unpleasant surprise number two. The job procedure had changed and no one told us. By us, I don't mean just the crew, but our office, which really means they didn't tell me or my manager. That's the third time in just a few months with this client that a change to the job procedure has been made and their office has failed to communicate it to us. The problem was easy to deal with because it only involved going back to our yard and grabbing some extra equipment, but the principle of it is what bothers me. On our way back to the rig, the other supervisor and I stopped to get some quality dinner for the crew. Seeing as how it was Thanksgiving, there wasn't much open, but every Sonic in town was open till 2300 so we bought a bunch of cheeseburgers for the guys. A veritable feast for the ages.

Meanwhile, back on location, the rig seemed to be progressing smoothly, but slowly so we had time to kill. Thus, we slept, which is what we normally do because it's usually unclear when we'll have to get up and how long we'll be up for. But alas, at 0130, the company man came by and told us that we were released, meaning we could leave. The rig was having difficulties with "downhole conditions", a most ominous catchall phrase that really means, "There's something wrong with the hole, but since it's several thousand feet in the ground, we're not really sure what it is, but this is what we think it is so we're going to try and do something to make it better." And by the way, this is the same problem that caused the two hour delay in the location time originally. Time to pack it all up, go back to the yard and go home while more normal people are getting up.

By the time I got home, it was about 0530 and I was tired, but restless and this was the biggest shopping day of the season and you all know how much I love to shop! And if you believe that, then you don't know me very well. But, I did go shopping, or more accurately, buying. Plus, I was curious to see what kinds of people went to the store at 0500. Apparently, all kinds. And apparently the store didn't open until 0600. Despite that and the somewhat restless crowd, there was no trampling of people smaller than me by me or anyone else. I guess I was surprised by how generally well-behaved and good-natured most people were. Personally, I made off with some cheap DVDs I wanted and some Sharpie pens I needed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

be suspicious of those who are suspicious of you

I cheated and posted some retroactive entries. Go hither and find them!

Here is another great e-mail I received:

Lt. (name removed) with the Sheriff’s Department asked that I forward some information to you. The Sheriff’s Department received a notification from the FBI warning those within the oil and gas industry to be extra vigilant and very attentive to what is going on around their sites. At this time, there are NO specific threats to industry in this area; however, the notification did recommend that industry personnel continue to exhibit heightened awareness out in the field.

Fantastic. I'll start spying on my neighbor too just for good measure.

Monday, November 20, 2006

wanted: competent headhunters

I received a hilarious headhunting e-mail rife with grammatical mistakes along with several other deficiencies. I have reproduced it below in and put spaces where the original body paragraph of the e-mail had line breaks to emphasize the bizarre formatting. Italics added for separation.

Good Afternoon Brian,

I have an opportunity with Conoco Phillips in Farmington, New Mexico and in Midland, Texas

They are needing engineers in the following, (Drilling, Reservoir, Completions, and Productions.)

I believe that Conoco would be a good fit for you. They invest in there people they wants candidates for the "long haul"

If you are leaving anything on the table they try there best to take all of that into consideration in the "offer."

It is a great opportunity, exceptional compensation packages, sign on bonuses and relo packages

The HR Manager of Exploration and the Engineering Manager are doing phone interviews and then flying candidates out for site visits.

If you are interested please attach your resume and a time and date that I can speak with you.

You can always say no, but it is at least worth hearing about the offer from Conoco.

I look forward to working with you.

Thank you,

(Name concealed to help poor fool save face.)

(Name concealed again to help poor fool keep his job.)
Senior Executive Recruiter
Talent Tree
Talent Acquisition Group
Direct Line: (Phone number concealed to prevent prank calls involving uproarious laughter)

"Ask me about our $1,000 Referral Program."

Are you kidding me? What a disaster of an e-mail! And those three missing periods aren't typos of mine either. The improper use of "there" instead of "their" is a personal pet peeve, "are needing" is just awkward when "need" would have done nicely, the word "offer" is in quotes for some reason (maybe they pay people with "money" instead of money), the word relocation is abbreviated, and putting "long haul" in quotes doesn't make it seem like there's much long term job security. The real kicker is that "Conoco Phillips" is supposed to be one word. Come on, you don't misspell the name of the company you're (or should I say your?) recruiting for in the sales pitch.

We actually lost one of our field engineers to the ConocoPhillips operation about a month ago. He had only been with us a couple of months so he didn't waste that much of my time trying to train him unlike that other quitter I've discussed in the past. The amusing part about this recent departure is that he wasn't here long enough to learn anything, especially since he was not the sharpest of minds. Perhaps he was swayed by a similarly slick recruiting e-mail. I'm wondering what he can possibly be bringing to the table over at Conoco since he doesn't have experience and he doesn't have a petroleum engineering background. I have already had the good pleasure of interacting with him in his new role and he is totally lost. I, on the other hand, am totally amused.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

greener grass?

The general theme of my big post two weeks ago was that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It's easy to be seduced by tales of higher wages and bonuses and better hours and the likes, but from what I've seen, most of it is bunk. I've heard pretty ridiculous figures that are usually flat out wrong, by which I mean lies. It's either that or the company actually pays that much, but excessively high wages are usually the mark of a poor business model. Compensation is one of the few expenses an otherwise well-run company actually has any control over.

Case in point, a small competitor of Schlumberger's Well Services segment called Superior Well Services. (If their real website wasn't so obnoxious, I might have actually linked to it instead of their ticker symbol. You'll have to find it on your own if you really want to go there, but sound effects, moving logo, black background, frames within frames? Please, this is worse than that ridiculous website some friends of mine made in high school. Yeah, a couple of you know what I'm taking about.) Anyway, Superior has several districts scattered around the country that, if combined, have an aggregate size around five times the Farmington district I work at. Taking a look at their income statement reveals how much they made last year. That figure is about what our one district in Farmington will make this year. I will concede that the quarterly data for Superior's first three quarters of this current year are far better than their previous year. Fortunes of nearly everyone in the oil and gas service industry are rising, especially for marginal players that can service operators' expanding exploration and production efforts. Unfortunately for those players, the next industry downturn will be especially painful. However, I would be more interested with the insider selling by a bunch of people with the same last name. I suppose some original founders and investors wanted to cash out. Anyway, financials aside, Superior pays their operators a lot more than what I perceive industry average to be and that plays a large part in their margins and that will ultimately hurt them when margins get squeezed.

That sidebar went on much longer than necessary, probably because I've seen us lose people to Superior. Back to the greener grass idea, I'm much more interested in those who lie about how much they make and how much others could be making working alongside them. I understand why people lie in their sales pitches about how much money new employees can make. They're trying to attract new employees to keep up during this boom time in the industry. What's far more fascinating is what those lies say about the people who make them, especially lies about how much they make. Speaking anecdotally, people who lie about the amount of money they make are possibly deluded about how much they make, which usually makes them poor managers of their money. They also covet money, not in a need to pay the bills sort of way, but more in a need to validate their existence y exchanging their money for possessions sort of way. They are possibly happy now, because they are making lots of money (or so they say) but would be miserable without it.

Monday, November 13, 2006


It snowed in town for the first time this season. It was just a few flakes, not enough to do more than disappear when they hit the ground, but it was nice to see. Yesterday, out in the field, was the first time I had seen snow falling this season. We were about 30 miles southwest of Farmington in the middle of nowhere in particular trying to not get stuck in the sand.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

after work

There are few things better than getting home from a long day (and previous night) of work, taking a cleansing shower, and curling up into a warm bed on the phone with someone I care about.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the great debate

Thank goodness TIME magazine has finally decided to settle the debate once and for all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


We had a couple people leave a few weeks back. Specifically, equipment operators leave from the segment I'm in at my district. To say that someone left the other segment at my district would be redundant since it's bigger and subject to a continuous drain of people that needs to be constantly replenished. Since my segment has fewer people in it, when someone leaves, the impact is much more noticeable. When a couple people leave within a few days of one another, it hurts operations. When it happens the week my manager is out of town, it makes me miserable. At this point, we've weathered the worst of it and made it through a couple of really busy stretches. Adjustments have been made and new people have been brought in and more are on the way as well. However, there will always be busy stretches and then quiet stretches and anyone who actually pays attention at work can see that it all averages out in the end. Nonetheless, there will definitely be a trend towards more work for us in the coming months.

The interesting thing about the people who left is that some of them have already expressed regret about leaving to various people still here. That is the disease of Farmington. It might be an oilfield thing, but I suspect otherwise since I've been told that some districts don't have this problem. The problem being churn, and a damn lot of it. This district has a high turnover rate (specifically for operators) and I have to believe that every similar service company in the area has the same problem. There's a revolving door around here. Countless times, I have seen people come and say that we suck (more or less) or some other company looks better and so they will leave. Then you'll hear that they've left the company they went to for another one. And then another one and so on and so forth. After a while they might even end up here again. Obviously, the problem wasn't us, it was them, but that becomes a problem for us. There is a core of good people that we have that rarely changes. Rarely does someone in that core leave, but it's also very difficult to find good people to add to that core. Most new people are of the high churn variety and can unfortunately be expected to last not more than a year at best.

If you're wondering what it most cost to train all these new people all the time, (especially for us given the driving and safety practices we have) you're right to do so. We probably spend a lot more on training than any of the managers want to, but that's the cost of operating in an area where there is such a dearth of employable people, especially during an upward swing in the driving industry of the area. To paraphrase one of our supervisors, anyone who wants a job in this town has a job. If you aren't working then you must not want a job because even a convicted felon could probably get a job working on a rig.

Getting back to our regret-filled former employees from a couple paragraphs ago, why on earth did they leave if they already want to come back? The answer is that someone sold them a lot of crap. Someone somewhere managed to convince them that the grass was greener on the other side with more money or better benefits or better hours or whatever. My experience has been that most of the stories people tell about how much more they make are poor representations of reality at best and straight lies at worst. Yes, the offer down the street may be more per hour, but maybe you won't get to work as many hours or perhaps the benefits are lesser. Even if it is actually more money, maybe you have to leave town all the time for work or maybe everyone there is a total jerk. That latter one is apparently fairly common from what I can gather.

I know we don't pay our operators the best wage in the area. In fact, it's probably towards the low end of the spectrum. But apparently we offer one of the better work environments for this type of business. At first I was surprised to conclude that we're a friendly and cordial (relatively speaking of course) place to work. As I've given it more thought, the reason the people who are here like being here is almost universally the people. We have a good group of supervisors that the operators report to directly and interact most frequently with. Sure, there's the usual amount of crap that gets dished out to new people, but it's not much. For the most part, the trash-talking goes on between more veteran employees. Besides, new field engineers probably get more flak than new operators when they first start, but field engineers ought to be better equipped to deal with a little mockery. If they can't, then they're probably the wrong person for the job.

Other positives that I see are that management is accessible without being too meddlesome and we have good process control, at least in my segment. By that, I mean that we don't screw up in a major way very often which not only makes more money for the business, but also makes people feel better about their jobs when they know they are being given a chance to do a good job. We don't leave our people to twist in the wind by giving them a bad setup and if something does goes wrong, management support is there.

It's nice to hear that people are thinking about coming back but it puts my manager in a tough spot. Getting good (for the most part) people is hard and anyone with experience is even better. However, taking deserters back with open arms sends a conflicted message to everyone. We don't want to encourage people that they can just leave to test the waters whenever they feel like it and still have a job waiting for them if and when they return. But we do want good people and don't want to turn someone away for what they've come to realize was a poor decision. Oh well, we'll manage, we always do.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


That was an odd 12 hours. Last night, I left my phone in a pick-up at work and eventually got it back this morning. I felt rather exposed without my phone, as if I was missing a vital link I needed, especially for work. Kind of interesting to see how expected it is for me to be reachable at any time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

political ads

Based on the total lack of advertisements, it appears that my congressional district is not heavily contested. Congratulations Tom Udall for whatever it is you do and for your expected victory over Ronald Dolin, whose name was alarmingly hard for me to find. However, it appears that I'm missing out on a great race for New Mexico's First Congressional District. And by great, I mean petty, misleading, disinformation-filled and everything else that makes politics so inspiring for us young, cynical types. In case you were wondering what part of the state the various districts cover, there's this handy website called National Atlas that has congressional district maps amongst other things.

Back to the race, it pits the Republican incumbent Heather Wilson against the Democrat Patricia Madrid who is New Mexico's Attorney General. Based on the ads, it appears that Madrid is incompetent and that Wilson is a Bush toady. But since I can't vote for either one of them, I don't have to worry that the ads tell me nothing useful. However, I can pretend to see what this race would be like if it was a high school student council race. It might go something like this:

Candidate 1: Bitch!
Candidate 2: Skank!

Then some hair pulling would follow and eventually someone would be slapped. Seriously, the ads are vitriolic and are about the closest thing to disfranchising a voter you can get without actually breaking the law. It kind of makes me miss living in an uncontested district back in California. Though it was fun to vote on all the propositions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I have a theory though it's more of an observation than a theory. Most commercials, through their content, imply that the people who need or use the product in question, are either incompetent or condescending jerks. Or they have poor hygiene. The next time you watch television, watch for what the commercials are really saying.

The current Mac campaign is a great example of this. These would be the commercials where Mac is represented by the young, hip-in-a-nerdy-sort-of-way guy who clearly works for a start-up with an open office layout and the PC is represented by the pudgy guy with glasses and looks like a stereotypical cube dweller. At least the Mac users I know aren't quite as condescending as the ads make it seem like they should be.

Monday, October 30, 2006



What about real combat?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

push 2

In the last four days, Thursday through today, I have racked up 900 miles on the road, spent one night sleeping in a pick-up waiting for a pull truck, nearly ripped off a bumper, seen countless deer, a fox, and a bobcat, gone to Utah twice, and yet was on only one job. And you know what, deer are hard to photograph from a moving vehicle.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I just love responsibility without authority.

Work last week was essentially a series of near disasters and moderately sized crises. Now it's Monday and it looks like we're poised to do it all over again.

In lighter news, I somehow ended up on some internal e-mail list for recruiting, along with a lot of now unhappy people. The progression is wonderful. First came the original e-mail asking people to sign up if they're interested. Next someone replied all, including the entire list with some recruiter specific matter. And then there was (and continues to be) the landslide of e-mails requesting to get off of the list. About every fifth e-mail is a plea to everyone else to stop hitting reply all with the requisite amount of irony that they are hitting reply all in order to send the e-mail. Then there was the obligatory cheeky reply where the sender asked to receive more of these awesome e-mails. My desired reply which is not at all cheeky:

Dear all:
Listen you ignorant sluts. The next person to send an e-mail, any e-mail to this distribution list will be physically injured by me. I will look you up in the company directory, fly to the city you work in, go to your office, and then beat the shit out of you. That is all.

Or maybe I'll send it only to the people who have already replied to all because they're the ones who have been stupid enough to perpetuate this problem. Sometimes I'm just stunned by the sheer idiocy of, not just people at work, but all people including most of our clients.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

car gremlins partially conquered

I conquered one of my car problems today, arguably the most pressing one. My fuse is no longer blowing. While separating the bundle of wires for my license plate lights and trunk light switch as it goes from the trunk to the body of the car, I discovered that three out of five of them were so damaged that they just pulled apart on me and a fourth was mostly frayed apart as well. That might have been the short in the system. The problem has been address, my license plate lights work, my right taillight works, and my dash backlight works. And I now own a pair of wire strippers.

I should also mention that my trip odometer no longer works though. More accurately, I cannot get it to properly reset. I'm afraid to push the button again because it partially resets such that it starts to turn and then clicks back to zero every couple tenths of a mile. The click is quite audible. Very annoying. I finally got it to the point where it just doesn't move and this seems acceptable. And the two tires I ordered should be here tomorrow. One of my rears sprung a leak. I tried to deny it by putting air in every couple of days but it reached the point where I needed to put air in twice a day. Now I'm rolling around on the spare. You could say I should've just gotten it patched, but I say the tires were getting short in the tread anyway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

half right

Hilarious little story from a rig a couple weeks ago. As long as you like racial humor. And you know basic facts about me. Otherwise, you might as well go away now.

I was out treating (another word for supervising) a job. The crew I happened to be with was made up of three operators and a HIT field engineer from Angola.

A quick explanation. HIT stands for high intensity training, which is when someone from a district that does not perform many jobs is sent to a district that performs many jobs in order to gain field experience. Principally, this means sending field engineers from overseas, especially offshore districts where jobs tend to be relatively complex (high tier), but happen infrequently (low volume). That's a big contrast from most of the US land work which is usually low to medium tier and high volume. A low volume district might perform as few as two or three jobs in a month whereas a high volume district could potentially do more than 100.

Getting back to the short story, now is the time for the racial part. The three operators all happened to be black and I'm pretty sure the field engineer from Angola is self explanatory. There aren't a lot of black people in Farmington as one can see from this handy census chart so there aren't many at work either. Thus, this was a bit of coincidence that they were all on the same job. The rig crew on duty was all white though I suppose I only highlight this point to make a comment about rig crews. Most of the crew shifts on most of the drilling rigs around here are all white. Non-white crew members tend to end up on the same shift and about half of all workover rigs are made up of all minorities. (If you worked in the business, it might become apparent why that is so, but I'm not going to explain it here.) Anyway, most of the rig crews are helpful and friendly guys (almost no women work on rigs) and this rig was no exception. (I think I've only seen one female rig hand ever.)

While we perform our job on a rig, there isn't all that much for the rig crew to be doing aside from cleaning and watching returns if they feel like it. I need to watch returns during the latter half of a job to make sure we don't have lost circulation because we eventually want to get cement back to surface so we know it fills up the entire annulus. As such, towards the end of a job, all I'm really doing (but don't tell anyone) is watching fluid flow from a pipe that goes from the well to the reserve pit. Anyway, the company man usually watches too and it’s a good time to generally joke around with him and some of the rig hands.

On this job, I was standing a little aside from everyone at one point. I often walk around a lot at this point in a job to check other things as well so I end up coming back to watch returns from different spots. While I was aside, one of the rig hands came up to me and said, "So you're about the only white boy on this crew" or something very similar to that. To which I replied, "Well, you got that half right" and walked away to check something else and laugh a bit.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

slides and a song

You know this looks like fun. More pictures.

To harken back a couple months ago, the name of that song was Crazy by a duo called Gnarls Barkley. However, you'd have to know what I'm harkening back to in order to understand entirely, but I really like the song. Of course the music video is on YouTube. Speaking of which, Mark Cuban was wrong but perhaps he's right now. Nothing like building up a record against weak opponents to get a chance for a title shot to make a mediocre boxing analogy.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

car gremlins

Oh the joys of owning a car that has no local dealership. I can't even get the tires I use in town without ordering them in advance. I think I'm lucky to find an air filter that fits at a local auto parts store. At least oil filters and fuses are pretty basic.

I've been fighting various car gremlins for quite some time now. Aside from the small oil and power steering leaks that have existed for some time, there's also a transmission leak. And possibly a radiator leak. Of course the AC hasn't worked for years and the entire HVAC system has always been a little lacking in my mind. I could do something about that, but I've made it through two summers here without AC, so why fix it now when I only expect to a get a couple more years out of this car. The front passenger window control doesn't work. The rear passenger window control doesn't work either, at least not the control on the rear door. The rear driver side window control sometimes works, sometimes not. Passenger seat controls are suspect, but I don't have to sit there. The brakes are probably close to needing new pads. I have the pads, already bought them. I just don't know where to go with them. I could do them myself with the right tools. I suppose I actually have enough tools, but they might not strictly be the right ones. It's mostly I'd like to have a real jack holding up the car, not some flat tire emergency jack. There's this weird and not-so-great sounding noise coming from my left-rear suspension when I turn to the right. My trunk light switch doesn't always close which causes the trunk light to stay on some of the time. Solution: unplug the trunk light. I had to chew through a battery in nine months to find that one out. At least Sears honored the three-year warranty. They also happened to be the only place in town that carried the type of battery my car uses. Yes, the battery need not be exactly the same, but it does need to fit. And then there's this fuse I keep blowing. I've gone through seven fuses counting the original one. The fuse is for my right tail-light, license plate lights, center console backlight, and dash backlight. It also has something to do with those funky little wipers on my headlights. That's probably why they haven't worked in a while. I've discovered that I can put in a new fuse and it will be fine until I jiggle the trunk the slightest bit. It can be fully open and shaken just a bit or closed and then opened slightly and the fuse will blow. I haven't tested what will happen if I leave the trunk closed and just try driving around. But that sure makes it seem like there's a short in a wire that might move a little when the trunk opens. Perhaps like a wire near the hinge. But all those wires look fine or are unreachable without drastic surgery. Hurray!

Only 12,000 more miles to 300,000. At the current rate I accrue miles, that'll take two years. I just might make it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

wireline, like whatever

Perhaps you're wondering if I have a certain disdain for wireline people. (Yes, my capitalization of that department has not been consistent. I don't care.) The answer is yes, I do. While it is our original business I have found that many of the wireline people that I have met are whiny little prima donnas. That may be a slight exaggeration, but generally speaking, they like to both complain about how little they make and brag about how much they make depending on the setting. They also think that what they do is unusually hard, when it's actually unusually boring, which is perhaps why it seems hard to their feeble minds.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

personnel dept.

I know what bothered me about the end of class meeting we had yesterday. At the end of Thursday's class, we worked as groups to prepare a presentation on a real personnel problem from work. We presented them yesterday with what happened and what we might have done differently, trying to use what we've learned from the past week. There were a couple personnel people there to ask questions and then we got to have a little Q&A session with them to wrap up the class.

What bothered me was that I've been to that meeting before. I've been to it in a formal setting once before and countless informal ones at work nearly every day. The principal issue was once again staffing. We are busy. We are short-handed. Blah blah blah. It was the exact same thing. But the really galling part was to hear them talk about training people and how managers need to cultivate their own people and learn to improve communication and listening retention and so forth. And then to see one of their cell phones ring and have him step outside to answer it. We had five minutes left! Was there anything so important that it couldn't wait five minutes? Especially for a personnel manager. We were right in front of you and you walked out on us. You want to hear what employees have to say? Apparently not.

I ached to call him out right there, but I knew that anything I said would sound more than overtly hostile. I took a moment to cool off inside and realized that I would be best off saying nothing. Oh well, there will be other times for a blaze of glory.

Friday, October 06, 2006

what's a wireline?

To clarify yesterday's post. A "wireline person" is someone who works in the Wireline segment. Generally speaking, they do reservoir evaluation work to understand what is in the ground and how deep it is. There are also many other things someone in Wireline might be doing like evaluating cement jobs with a CBL or perforating or perhaps complaining.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

new hire dinner

We had dinner with a class of new hires tonight. Apparently it's all the rage for the company to have the class I'm in the same weeks in Houston as these new hire orientation classes. The class I'm in now is held in about 15 different cities all over the world and people pretty much attend the one closest to them. The new hire orientation class isn't held in quite as many places, only four I believe. I think it's just held in Houston, Paris, Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur and, as always, location is dependent on where you'll be working. Apparently they feel it’s a good chance for the new hires to meet actual employees (defined by people who aren't total personnel and recruiting cheerleaders) and of course we semi-seasoned employees have nothing but glowing remarks about everyone's future.

To give the evening some semblance of structure, we were seated by segment. The curio of my class is that there were only three (out of nineteen) of us in Well Services though this is one of the larger segments in terms of employees as well as the number of people at our table. (Actually, the real curio was that there wasn't a single Wireline person in my class despite that segment being just as large.) Since the new hire class arrived first, they all clumped together so my two compatriots and I sat at the end of the table and talked with the one newbie we were sitting next to, though at least she was interested in hearing what we had to say. So much for sprinkling our pearls of wisdom amongst the new hires. I couldn't help but size them up and listen to their conversations and wonder, just a little bit cynically, how many of them would quit or be fired by this time next year. I was also consumed by my inability to figure out who the new hire we sat next to reminded me of. She was familiar, but I couldn't place it. I'm beginning to think it was a generic composite sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

movie randomness

I've been thinking about this line from Men In Black. I don't have any commentary to offer on it, but it's been on my mind.

Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

By the way, is it me or does John Cena look a bit Mark Wahlberg-esque in those ads for that ridiculous movie he's in.

By the way again, we're at this mediocre La Quinta because the Hilton across the street is apparently full and this is the overflow hotel. This mediocre La Quinta that doesn't have a usable in-room internet connection.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I've written before on topics that quite possibly show a certain disdain for upper-middle/lower-upper class suburbia. I recognize the inherent irony in such activities given my background and likely personal and professional destiny. There's nothing wrong with the education/hard-work attitude and becoming part of the working professional class. It's the rather unfulfilling looking consumerism that usually follows. And then there's the matter of the sustainability of the whole situation.

On an unrelated note, what is it about people with passion that makes it easier to listen to them? Does it speak to a missing passion in the lives of those doing the listening or is it simply the intrigue of a charismatic message regardless of what it is.

in houston

I like flying, especially since I started working. It's quite nice getting to travel somewhere without having to do the actual work. Since the field aspect of my job involves quite a bit of driving, driving becomes a rather tedious chore, especially on longer drives. Like driving to Albuquerque which is what I would have done if I had to actually pay for today's flight. Despite the cost of the gas, airport parking and the time it takes, it's still cheaper to drive to ABQ and fly from there than it is to fly from Farmington. But since the company was footing the bill for this trip, I had the chance to fly from Farmington to Albuquerque for the first time. Like any flight from Farmington, it was on the usual 19 passenger Beechcraft from Raytheon.

Of course, Albuquerque to Houston was on a pretty standard jet. I can't remember which one of these Embraer jets it was, but I believe it was a ERJ 145 and Continental's own site does say they use the 145, but also the 135. It was one or the other. Anyway, I have a problem with whatever plane it was. The damn aisle armrests don't move. Even the armrests on the Beechcraft move for crying out loud. Flipping the armrest up is the fastest and easiest way to get into and out of the seat which, by the way, is a skill many people could use some practice on. This is like my pet peeve about people in self-serve food lines. If you're in a plane, sit down first and then fuss with getting settled. That way you're out of the aisle and others can get by.

On the ride from Houston Intercontinental to the hotel, I went right past Minute Maid Park. Very nice looking, right next to downtown Houston, and the roof looks like a very impressive creation and probably a very necessary one in the summer if it's still going to be in the 90s in October. I also went right past Lakewood Church, which used to be the home of the Houston Rockets. It's also the home of this man whose upbeat optimism prompted the USA Today of magazines to make a cover story out of it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

leaving tomorrow

Ah yes, I'm going to Houston tomorrow. I won't be blogging during the week, but will post a bunch of back-dated entries when I get back in town.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Interesting post over at The Volokh Conspiracy though it's actual a citing of yet someone else's post. I especially like the line, "Mass media has left an impression that work should be fun, be exciting and immediately pay high salaries. Their expectations of achievement and career success are often not … realistic."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

they're everywhere

There is something wrong with this place. I know I've written about this before, but I've been here longer now and have a marginally better perspective on the matter. It's the Chinese restaurants. They're all freaking buffets! It's like getting to go through the Panda Express line as many times as you want. The horror, the horror!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

pumpkin shortage? yay!

I'm pretty sure this supposed pumpkin shortage is actually somehow good news. I'm not sure how, but it just feels right.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

mas money

No one ever makes enough money. There, now that I said something totally implausible, it's time to make a bunch of exceptions for my wildly unsubstantiated statement that would have otherwise weakened the attention grabbing hook I was seeking in my first sentence. Hmm, that should probably be more than one sentence.

For the most part, it's the younger people at work who talk about money, mainly in the form of how the wish they made more or deserved to be paid more or how there are things they want to buy that they cannot afford because they don't make enough money. Hearing this sort of talk is boring at best, but more typically it is maddening. I say that because there are relatively clear mechanisms for how to work towards and earn raises at work for nearly all levels of employees. Thus, hearing people bitch about how they're underpaid would be laughable if they weren't so sincere about how they're being victimized by this apparently monolithic system.

I suspect it’s the young people for two basic reasons. First, they haven't figured out how the system works and how building seniority counts towards something other than a 5-year pin and a 20-year watch (or grandfather clock if that's your fancy). The other reason seems to be a bit of a generational gap. It's as if people around my age, give or take several years, expect something for nothing and believe that having lots of money is the same thing as being successful. They don't realize it's a very select handful who end up on Cribs living the apparent life of decadence. It's the expectation of instant gratification.

My own continuing experiences using Quicken to track my money, or should I say assets (which is actually a much more apt term) has been very illuminating. Outside of very low probability events (like winning the lottery) the value of one's assets does not really grow very quickly. A gain of 10% a year is respectable but hardly the kind of sexy growth people tend to dream about. Seeing the value of certain assets move up and down and contrary to one another on a computer screen adds a certain detachment to the process as well. Sure, it's my money, but it's mostly on paper. It doesn't feel like mine in an immediate sense though I certainly know that it's there for me and it's largely and reasonably liquid. The sense of detachment has probably helped make it easier to stomach the handful of large single day losses that I have witnessed. It also makes the handful of large single day gains seem generally less exciting. After all, it's just money. But it's my money.

By the way, I do make enough money.

Monday, September 25, 2006

busy busy

We've been busy here, despite the continuing slide in the price of natural gas. That slide doesn't look quite as bad on a five-year chart but it's not exactly beloved by the clients we have in this basin which predominantly produces natural gas. Of course, at least they're not betting on the price of gas on the market like some people. While they probably chose their fund's name for the first definition from the first source here, one should look at the first definition from the second source. Note the word in bold.

So we've been busy. That means I've been busy. It means things like going to bed sort of early on a Friday night expecting a call at some point the next morning to go out on a job. Then waking up late the next morning wondering what's going on at the rig so calling the yard to see if there's an update. Ah, there is, perhaps it'll go in the evening. Ok, so there's some general vegging out watching college football and seeing Cal beat ASU, but play a sloppy and uninspired second half. The job eventually calls and we're on location by 11 PM and then wait about six hours for the rig to get its act together. We get our chance to shine and fight through a time-consuming job but get it done successfully and make it back to the yard around 1 PM. Finally. Oh, but wait. They're waxing the floor in the office and I can't walk on it to get to my desk for another hour to do post-job paperwork and pound out some programs a client needs by the next day. I'm home by 3 PM and I still need to shower and get groceries. It's Sunday afternoon and one can't help but wonder what the hell happened to the weekend.

These things happen. It's tiring, but at least it's satisfying. There's a definite sense of accomplishment after a getting a long, difficult job well done. It also feels really good to put on a pair of dry socks.

And now, for a mostly random quote from The Simpsons.
Brockman: Kent Brockman at the Action News desk. A massive tanker has run aground on the central coastline, spilling millions of gallons of oil on Baby Seal Beach.
Lisa: [gasps] Oh, no!
Homer: It'll be okay, honey. There's lots more oil where that came from.

And how.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I've been using Quicken, specifically Quicken 2006 Premier, since last October. For those of you familiar with the various grades of Quicken, I opted to splurge for Premier over Deluxe to help track investments. For those of you unfamiliar with Quicken, that's probably a failing on your part. After spending a couple hours entering all my accounts and figuring out how to download transaction records into Quicken, I was more or less up and running. But my lackluster obsessive-compulsiveness nagged at me.

Since the beginning of the year, I've also kept track of all cash purchases. While not a huge portion of my expenses, like taxes or rent, cash purchases do represent a significant portion of my expenditures that are non-essential. For the most part, that means I can see how much I spend eating out. I can tell you how much I've spent at Wendy's, in vending machines, and how many times I've spent the $1.75 to wash and dry my clothes at my building's laundry room.

Compulsive? Probably. But it's also a fascinating look into how someone, specifically me, spends and invests his money.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

going to Houston

By the way, I'll be in Houston during the first week of October.

Friday, September 15, 2006

less than random links

For whatever reason, I felt compelled to e-mail myself this link from CNN on oil and gas in America. There was also some interesting news on the successful test on a deepwater well in the Gulf Coast. Not quite midnight yet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

change of plans

Oh well, I was wrong last night. By the time I got to the yard, plans had changed. I ended up catching two jobs back-to-back and a supervisor (who does have a CDL just so we're clear) had to drive one of the bulk trucks while I drove the pick-up. It's an unpredictable business. Now I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

that went fast

Huh, it's the Tuesday after Labor Day. That would be the Tuesday that's a week after Labor Day. That all went by very quickly.

For starters, I'm no longer angry about what happened what is now two Saturdays ago. Instead, my eager, grasshopper spirit has been crushed by further events and I've lost the will to fight the inexorable system that I cannot help but dream about when I close my eyes. Or not. more or less. I'm not angry because I, uh, made my opinions clear using cogent, even-toned, polite-society language last Friday to express my disappointment with the poor execution of a particular support department. This was after a similar incident of poor execution earlier in the week as well. While not affecting any ultimate job execution, these were still problems that required additional work to remediate. Anyway, my cogent points were noted by the relevant managers and some stern words have been issued. So apparently I do have pull.

Actually, that’s not why I'm angry. Venting is generally ineffective because it doesn’t address the root causes of the anger. I'm not angry because I have or others have addressed the root cause, or at least as much as it can reasonably be expected to be addressed. The necessary things have been said to the proper people to try to make this not happen again.

So, last week I got sucked out on a couple long, relatively difficult jobs on Wednesday and Friday. Long enough to kind of make Thursday disappear. That happens some of the time. You wake up and it's not clear what day it is, but it doesn't really matter because when you answered your ringing phone, it was time to go to work. That also happened Saturday, though that turned out to be a red herring. I got to spend the day hanging out at a rig talking to the company man while they tried to solve a problem they were having drilling. I was there to pimp our new solution to their problem (which I should note falls somewhat outside the bounds of most of everything else we do). It was a red herring because the rig was able to resolve their problem on their own. Charming. At least I (read: Schlumberger) got to charge them for time and mileage. Sunday was mellow enough that I was able to play office catch-up in between round-tripping some trucks in from the field and doing some basic pick-up upkeep. And now it's Tuesday. Oh, and I spent last night/this morning on another job after someone who is going to find himself out of a job really soon if this keeps up decided that we was too sick to work. That was after spending the entire day in the office. But hey, I slept all this afternoon when I got home.

And my phone just rang. Apparently, jobs are stacking up again and it's time to round-trip some trucks. And yes, it is the middle of the night, or the beginning depending on how you look at it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

still none too pleased

I'm still angry about what happened to me, the crew, the job, our reputation on Saturday. There are a lot of different things that I can do with my anger, but most of it wouldn't be constructive. I think I've gotten all the yelling, screaming, kicking, punching, and throwing out of my system. Now it's time to go back to work tomorrow and focus on how this happened and how to prevent similar incidents.

It all goes back to communication, yet again.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

system failure

Yesterday's job did not go well. And I'm very upset.

The specifics really aren't important to this forum and they would only distract you from understanding the anger I am feeling. What is important is that we were unable to perform the job after arriving at location due to multiple failures in communication and execution and follow-through. And what I hate is having to be the face of that failure to the customer. It burns me up to tell someone that we have basically wasted his time and thus his money and that there is nothing we can do about it today because we're 120 miles away from the equipment we need.

What kills me is that we have systems in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening. And not some basic note-passing reminders, but formalized systems. But people don't use them. People don't use them and I'm the one who looks like a damn amateur in the field.

Friday, September 01, 2006

boarding pass

By the way, here's a picture of what qualifies as a boarding pass at the airport here in Farmington.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

best buy is weak

Ok, this is my problem with Best Buy: their prices are terrible. And to make matters worse, people still shop there. And their customer service is so damn suffocating. I do not want to be greeted when I enter a store and definitely do not want to be thanked when I leave. Yes, I am not like most consumers. By and large, I know what I want, what a reasonable price is, and where to get it. Most people are just waiting to be parted from their money. "Extended warranty! How can I lose?" (Name the reference. Can't get it? It's from here.)

I'll admit that Fry's Electronics spoiled me. Where else do you go for great deals on almost anything electronic, but you have to be patient and you have to know what you're doing. Unfortunately, there is no Fry's here. There's a terrible, loathsome Best Buy. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

back already

See, I'm already back from Denver. It was a Ford Focus ZX4. I can see why it's been generally well received by automotive critics. While choosing my options when booking this trip, I choose the 'Standard' car size as opposed to the smaller 'Compact' and 'Sub-compact' options. It makes me wonder if they had a Ford Ka hidden in the back of the lot somewhere in case anyone actually wanted a sub-compact.

It had decent power for what I consider a compact car though that was certainly aided by its relatively small size, weighing in at roughly 1500 lbs less than my own car for instance. I could definitely tell that a couple passengers would have had a substantial impact on the car's performance. Though I'm not so sure a couple passengers would fit. I had my seat rolled all the way back and I still felt like scooting back just a little bit more. Plus, I definitely did not have much head room and I was almost troubled by how close the B-pillar was to my head. I also didn't care for the lack of a tachometer, but what can I expect from an automatic, economy car. I did like how sensitive the brakes were, especially since I'm used to American cars having spongy brakes, or at least minivans do.

I would definitely pick a Focus again if I had to, but only if I had no more than one passenger.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a day in denver

By the way, I'm going to Denver tomorrow for a lunch meeting/presentation related to a project I am undertaking. I'll be back by tomorrow night. Isn't that wonderfully absurd? Planes that seat 19 passengers rock!

In related news, I get to rent a car for the first time. One of the other field engineers who had to go to Denver a couple months ago ended up with a Chevy HHR, GM's boxier answer to the PT Cruiser. Maybe I'll get a Hyundai.

This also marks the first time that I will be flying since the latest round of travel restrictions was implemented. While they don't affect laptops, I'm still not taking mine since there is no need for it during such a short visit. However, I do have to leave behind my usual bottle of water and travel toothpaste.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Oh where, oh where have I gone? I have often said, though quite possibly never in this forum but quite often to actual live people, that modern technology has enabled so much connectivity that it's almost impossible to fall off the network. I remember saying it a bunch as I prepared to leave the Bay Area for Farmington. It was a way to inform people that I wasn't moving to some shanty town without a Best Buy. My wit and banter were only going to be a few screechy modem sounds away and that I was still, very much on the grid. But apparently, laziness is a really good way to try to fall off.

I kept saying to myself that I'm going to blog again. I've been saying it for the entire month. It's been nothing but a pair of pitiful, stopgap entries. And the link from August 11 was only good for a week. So that barely qualifies as an entry unless you saw the article and accompanying picture. For those of you who missed it, I will try to get some pictures of it from someone at work because it really is quite smashing, so to speak.

Now that I'm sitting here pecking away with my digits, it's all coming back to me. The initial trepidation is gone. There's nothing to this. It's just a matter of saying that I can do this and that I will do this and that, gosh darn it, people like me! If only I could muster up the same courage to do something about the 170 e-mails in my inbox. And that's after I've already sorted through the filler.

Anyway, work is work is work is work. (You have to read that with a subtly different emphasis on each occurrence of work or else the meaning is lost.) I think I'll have more to say on it in a couple days. Apparently my name was mentioned at today's staff meeting (in hushed tones of respect of course) on what they would be doing with me. If this issue sounds familiar to some of you it should. And if it seems like an old issue, it is. This issue has been dragging on and on mostly as a result of changes in managers, other field engineers, transfers, people quitting, hedge fund activity, and Pluto's demotion from planethood. Frankly, there has been no point in pressing for action on my part because either way, I'm fairly certain I'll get what I want.

Speaking of people quitting, my fabled mentee is quitting. I wonder if he'll have to pay back (read: have his last pay check deducted from to compensate for) his moving expenses since it's been less than a year. I'm not surprised by this, though I am more intrigued by the recent improvement in the quality of his work. Since none of you know him, there's no point in discussing this further, especially since many people may have already heard my, uh, cogent criticisms when I was in Los Altos last month. That and I ranted a bunch at lunch with one of the other field engineers to get most of it out of my system. Apparently, I'm not welcome at that eatery anymore.

In other news, I've been sick for the last couple days and it hasn't been running its normal course. And now it's culminated in me losing my voice, or at least large portions of it.

At work, I like to joke that I have passive-aggressive tendencies. In fact, I like to joke about myself in ways that, if what I said was actually true, would be very alarming. That has to make you wonder about some of the more unconventional things I've ever said (mostly in person, not this blog) and the curious air of first-hand experience on topics I presumably know little about. Huh. Anyway, since passive-aggressive really doesn't mean what I actually want it to mean, a better phrase would be aggressive-passive-aggressive. At times, I like to engage in passive-aggressive behavior (largely due to my teen angst) and then ratchet it up to aggressive borderline hostile behavior (largely for the comedic value). In the end, it's all quite interesting to see the subtle ballet of responses.

And yes, I really do have a problem with Best Buy. It's a moral issue.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


At the beginning of last week, two of our supervisors went on vacation. Before I go further, I should mention that the beginning of the week around here is considered Sunday, at least from a time sheet and vacation week perspective. Well, that actually isn't all that relevant, but now you know. The point is that with them on vacation, I was in the field filling in for them. Also come that Sunday was the beginning of every rig finally deciding they wanted a job. So, come that morning, I ended up on three straight jobs in about a 36 hour period. Don't worry, I wasn't doing any driving (more or less) by that third job. Well, except when we may or may not have gotten a truck stuck and some certain company policies on towing vehicles may or may not have been broken and something yadda mumble etc.

Suffice to say, by the end of Monday, I pretty much felt like toasted shit. The rest of the week was fairly busy too and by the time I slogged through to this past Monday I was pretty tapped out. And now it's Friday and the week never ends.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Well excuse me if I've been busy trying to make sure this doesn't happen on my watch.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


When I got sick last month, the last thing of substance I had eaten was a smothered burrito. I tagged it as the source of what I believed was my food poisoning. The other day, coming in from a job, we stopped to get some late lunch and I ordered a Navajo taco. It's basically a taco, except instead of a taco shell, it's fry bread and it's all flat like a tostada. So to picture a Navajo taco, imagine some fry bread topped with green chili and meat of your choice and then some lettuce and cheese and some tomato. Fry bread is a simple round bread-like product that has been deep fried. When eaten plain, it's often eaten with honey as well. While quite tasty in that form, fry bread is not exactly the breakfast of champions, but that's not the point.

The point is that I was hungry. I had had a small breakfast and a lot to drink during the day since the heat and rare humidity were sucking everything out of me. Now it was mid-afternoon and we sat down and ordered and were snacking on the complimentary chips and salsa. When the food arrived, I immediately lost my appetite. The Navajo taco reminded me of my smothered burrito from a month ago. I could feel my insides turning and almost felt sick. I couldn't bring myself to eat more than a couple bites of my taco even though I easily ate some fry bread with honey on the side and the fries from the other guys' orders.

I shouldn't be too surprised by all this. The last time I threw up, which was many, many moons ago, I blamed it on some vegetarian lasagna. After that, I didn't eat vegetarian lasagna for several years. This time around, the taco, perhaps it was the green chili and chicken which was also common to my smothered burrito, was just too similar. But I'm surprised by just how strong the feeling was. Just looking at my plate made my stomach turn. I have a feeling I won't be eating anything with green chili or the combination of green chili and chicken anytime soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

week 30: twilight in the desert?

Sometimes I wonder if the increasing nationalization taking place in the oil and gas industry is more than just opportunistic resource grabbing while prices are high and instead a sign of something much worse. Prices have gone up before and this happens because countries are trying to secure their revenue streams. When prices go down, those countries are often suddenly interested in foreign investment. But will prices go down again or is this the beginning of a long, gradual increase in prices. Is it twilight in the desert?

Friday, July 21, 2006

see posts below

Ok, I've cheated again. I just posted multiple back-dated entries starting on July 15. Enjoy below.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

fight scenes

Next time you're watching an action movie where the hero fights a dozen bad guys at once, watch what the bad guys who aren't currently the ones getting punched are doing. There's usually some very entertaining zigzag dancing going on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

i passed

From the looks of things at work yesterday and today, I think I passed my test. (See July 7.) Apparently there were some minor hitches originating from a lack of communication, which is why I spend so much of my time at work is spent conveying information to other people.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

purpose 0

I'm not quite sure where I've been going with the posts from the last couple days. Challenge does not require purpose, but it sure does help. And damn, back to purpose the unavoidable thinking person's dilemma. To avoid the issue, here's a quote from The Matrix Reloaded

Smith: There's no escaping reason, no denying purpose, because, as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist.
Smith 2: It is purpose that created us.
Smith 3: Purpose that connects us.
Smith 4: Purpose that pulls us.
Smith 5: That guides us.
Smith 6: That drives us.
Smith 7: It is purpose that defines us.
Smith 8: Purpose that binds us.

And then a bunch of Smiths and Neo fight for longer than necessary. And by the way, I don't necessarily agree with the entire quote.

Monday, July 17, 2006

week 29: the suck

And once again, I'm back in Farmington. As always, vacation was far too fleeting. And while I kept an eye on work and checked my e-mail and logged into our new server-based job planner I avoided any actual work.

While in the Los Altos, several people told me I should come back to the Bay Area. I wonder how much of that was generic conversation that people make because that's what people do and how much of it was a sincere desire to have me return and thus be more accessible. I do miss the place, quite a bit in fact. But I still have to accomplish what I set out to do here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

challenge II

From yesterday, will I still be craving challenge in 15 years with a theoretical wife, hypothetical kids, and highly probable crossover utility wagon with 23 airbags, folding flat rear seats, and three DVD players? Or will the solace of security from upper-middle management for a Fortune 500 company, medical and dental insurance, suburban home, backyard pool, 2.3 kids, dog, cat, tile entryway, master bed and bath, walk-in closets be just too much to resist? Or am I just being cynical since the two aren't mutually exclusive, except for the fractional child which will need to be rounded.

I graduated from college and I chose escape. I left the people and places I cared about and went a long way from what used to be my home. It was a challenge at first, but it's become easy again. A coming change with my job role at work will make it challenging and fresh and new again, but I know how the course will run. It will become easy and routine. Even when there seems to be no routine, there will be one. I will look for things to do at work that will be challenging but those will be unfulfilling without a larger purpose in mind. In short, I will get bored.

School carried with it the continuous challenge of learning new things every single day and not just curiosities and trivia and gossip, but hard knowledge. In many ways, I long for a college environment with the chance to learn something new every day and be challenged to think every single day. A perpetual challenge.

Maybe I'll grow up and enjoy things a little slower, start to like wine, and become more patient. However, if that's growing up, I'm not so sure I want that. I think it would be best to grow out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


In my post from last week right before I went on vacation (July 7), I alluded to enjoying school partly because it had well-defined beginning and ending points with a clearly defined final objective: graduation. Additionally, this all took place within a relatively short time frame (four years for some, seven for others but we usually call them doctors) which made staying focused on the purpose easier. Starting with kindergarten, college was the culmination of 17 years of living like that. Go to school, get good grades, graduate, and go to the next level. The problem is that that ended.

Now, we (the royal we) ponder what to do with the rest of our lives. Growing up, it was pretty much a given that I would go to college. The first 22 years of my life, while filled with plenty of choices of all stripes, had a single over-arching theme: get a college degree. Life was defined. It was easy and comfortable, possibly too easy and too comfortable. Now it is undefined.

Don't worry, this isn't some post about purpose and cries of "oh whatever will I do with my life" and that sort of blather. Well, actually it is, sort of, maybe. It depends on how you look at it. Try squinting a little more. Anyway, most people need definition in their lives, that overarching theme that enables them to get up each day. Otherwise, it's a life spent reacting instead of initiating. However, most people are not able to define their purpose on their own. It remains to be seen whether I can. The point (finally!) is that while I would take great solace in latching onto some pre-arranged program/idea/theme to give me purpose, I should absolutely hate it.

I should hate the idea of letting something or someone else define my, your, anyone's existence. It does give people a sense of purpose, but that purpose is not their own. It means giving up control. It means sacrificing free-will, creativity, and initiative for security. The security and peace of mind of feeling fulfilled, but at the cost of not being one's own master. Plus, look at what it does to people. It turns some of the best, those who could have had potential out on their own, into far too competent lieutenants of causes I almost always find repellant. They have the belonging of their groups, but will never truly challenge their beliefs or their comfort levels. They have security.

But I don't need security, I need challenge.

Friday, July 14, 2006

learning from mistakes, or not

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to screw up. Unfortunately, there are few things that can get through a screw up with no consequence. Thankfully, there are plenty of things that can handle a screw up with some, but not significant, consequence.

I spend more time than should be needed looking over service orders at work. It is necessary because select individuals often have mistakes in their service orders. I have often wondered if there is any way to let some relatively minor mistake through that would have minimal consequence, but prove to be a good learning experience for the parties in question. This is hardly some petty and unprofessional attempt to get someone in trouble. It's a desperate attempt to get someone to do their job right. There are two problems with this tact. For starters, I can't stand for even minor mistakes. I too badly want professional perfection as it were. Besides, if a problem is not corrected as soon as possible, others may assume that the mistake is now some normal operating procedure. Secondly, people rarely change. Mistakes are the result of an underlying attitude issue that won't be changing anytime soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

balance III

Again, let's step back two and three days ago and revisit the balance matter. I'm not just out of balance because I spend a lot of time at work. And I don't just spend a lot of time at work because other people aren't up to par. It would be disingenuous to attribute balance issues to work when the issue is one of choice. I choose to spend time at work as a way to not spend time elsewhere. Meaning, I avoid having a life outside of work by not leaving time for a life outside of work.

As socially comfortable as I have become at work, in many ways I am still the same shy person of my grade school years. Basically, I generally do not enjoy meeting new people. No, scratch that. I meet new people just fine. There are new people at work almost every week and I have no trouble introducing myself to them and engaging in meaningless small talk. However, that is a work environment where the topics of conversation, at least initially, are severely limited to an almost scripted nature. Aside from work, all the clubs I threw myself into in college were, despite their engineering basis, predominantly social in nature. I met people all the time in those and as both a more senior member and a peer and found plenty of ways to engage people.

Perhaps what I am avoiding is gathering more casual acquaintances. The easiest way to avoid those is to not acquaint myself with people in the first place. The problem I have with casual acquaintances is that they are so horribly awkward. There's minimal established rapport and no set routine so every encounter is like meeting for the second time all over again. It's like two guys who haven't seen each other in a while. Should they shake hands, do a quick hand clasp, engage in some complicated handshake maneuvers, or awkwardly hug each other but make sure they don't press cheeks or bodies together. I can engage in all the appropriate small talk with casual acquaintances, but I generally find it pointless. I understand the need for social niceties, but wouldn't it be better to not idly chit chat at all. If people are going to meet they might as well get meaningful questions answered, ask for advice, or engage in challenging and stimulating conversation. Pragmatism is underappreciated.

Of course more meaningful relationships begin as casual acquaintanceships. Meaningful relationships almost always require some level of underlying connection that cannot simply be developed from scratch. A common background, interest, experience, etc usually lies at the heart of deeper friendships. By and large, I don't share those things with Farmington and I don't find it necessary to seek out the handful of people I might have something in common with.

I'm a good lone wolf. Like I've said before, I can socialize and mingle properly enough and work well in groups, but left to my own devices I get along just fine and get my work done.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Attitude. So much of work is showing up with the right attitude. Either you want to be there or you don't want to be there. And it shows. At work, I decided long ago who wants to be there and who doesn't. To be honest, I would rather the people who don't want to be there not show up at all. In fact, it would be best if they quit right now instead of pretending to care and pretending to work. That way we won't even make plans assuming that they will come but instead know that they're going to be a never show. It would save the people who do want to be there the time and effort that it seems to continuously take to fix all the problems caused by the lack of desire from people who don't really want to work.

The lackadaisical effort turned in by the not-want-to-be-theres is huge drain on the morale of those who really are trying and do genuinely want to work. For starters, it drains morale because it takes even more effort to fix the mistakes of the others. Additionally, it makes some people who are generally good want to turn in similarly lackadaisical efforts because a couple louses are getting away with it. The result is bitterness about why some people get to suck and yet pay no consequence.

It's just best when people go ahead and quit before their dragging starts to drag everyone else down. One guy quit recently and I think any careful observers saw it coming. I can peg a couple other people as probable quit candidates. They tend to fit a certain type. They are relatively new hires so they don't have much seniority at stake in case they do quit. They also generally think that they're underpaid or talk about money a lot. And finally, they act as if they are better than the work they do. What I mean by that is they think the work is beneath them and that they could be doing something more dignified and more appropriate to their skill and experience and education level. Well, by all means, if that's the case, please go find yourself another job because I am certainly tired of all talk and no action.

The departure of the guy who quit recently puts me in the position of being the most senior field engineer at out district. There's no real significance beyond noting what that means for attrition and a couple other benchmark measures of my own.