Monday, April 24, 2006

week 17: optimist + skeptic

Oh, come on Amazon. Why the hell was this in my Gold Box? That's the sort of thing that makes me wonder if I ever want to do business with them again.

I don't have anything that's specifically work or industry-related today. However, a couple weeks ago, I told a colleague that I was secretly an optimist in addition to fairly obviously being a skeptic. The reaction was one of mirth and generally disbelief that those two ideas could be reconciled. That and the severe doubt that I was even an optimist.

Admittedly, I don't necessarily project the most optimistic image all the time. But if you read between the lines and pick up on the sarcasm and dark humor, then there is a definite optimistic bent to what I say and do. Besides, if I wasn't an optimist, would I be able to laugh at almost everything?

As for whether a skeptic can be an optimist, I feel that it's fairly obvious that those are two very reconcilable ideas. In short, I'm a skeptic since I want to see evidence of whether something is true and I'm an optimist because I believe things can and will get better. Which things? Pretty much everything.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Yes, I called children aggravating and I was only partly kidding. I have nothing specific against them. In fact, I know I will love my own, but I just can't muster up the same sentiment for most other children, real or hypothetical or theoretical.

Wait, I know why I have trouble with children. They can't carry on adult level conversations. Unfortunately, neither can many adults, at least by the standards I use. Before anyone complains that it's unfair to expect children to have superb conversational skills, understand subtle sarcasm, and pick up on nuanced facial expressions representing disinterest, I know it is. But I didn't say it was fair. Basically, children lack the life experience needed to pick up on behavioral and social cues that get sent during a conversation. Plus, they generally don't do something that I'll admit to not caring much for, which is actually listening to what the other person is saying. Children are understandably self-centered since they usually don't have to deal with other peoples' problems. I'm understandably self-centered because I'm too important to have to bother with other peoples' problems. Sarcasm much?

In the end, I like children just fine. But I think parents should realize that most people don't want to talk to other peoples' kids or hear about how great they are or have them shoved down us kidless folks' throats. That's all really.

This is all making me think about adults who cannot carry on adult conversations. They should have the experience to understand how conversations ebb and flow and whether others want to even continue the conversation instead of mercilessly dragging it on making it impossible to extricate oneself. But hey, I can pretend to not be slowly dying on the inside while talking to you. I love sarcasm. I'm not sure how I would get through my days without it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

home buying

The other day, I was talking with a colleague who is getting transferred, possibly to Bakersfield. We ended up discussing home prices and the generally much higher prices for homes in Bakersfield than in Farmington. After growing up in the Bay Area, home prices in Bakersfield seem downright affordable. Then again, on this list almost everything outside the Bay Area looks affordable.

Nonetheless, I had trouble explaining that to my co-worker. She was using what I felt was an overly conservative criterion of home price being roughly equal to that of combined earnings of her and her husband. Looking at that list again, you can tell that that would be a nearly impossible rule to follow for anyone in the Bay Area or any number of areas. Besides, since I save roughly half my income (counting 401k) then I could purchase a home matching that criterion outright after just two years. That makes buying a home here very feasible. However, for several reasons, I have no desire to buy a home right now, despite a strong desire to own one eventually.

Obviously, how much home you (and your spouse, alternative life partner, disturbingly clingy better half, etc) can afford is a function of income. But a one to one function between income and home price would only make sense with a relatively small income and even then it's still too conservative. It would only make sense with a small income since the less someone makes, then the greater percentage of that person's income is needed for non-housing essentials, reducing what is available for mortgage or rent. If person A makes twice as much as person B, all other things being equal, the cost of living is the same for both of them even if A feels compelled to spend more money simply because it's possible. Basically, A has more than twice as much disposable income than B even after accounting for taxes. As such, the less one makes, the closer the amount of home that can be afforded is to that person's income.

However, it is still too conservative to say that home price and income should be roughly equal. I think most people in my peer group could see how that would be the case. Plus, most people in my peer group who would be reading this live or have lived in the Bay Area and recognize the near impossibility of that guideline. Then again, there is the great variable expense that I cannot fully account for. No, it's not marriage which should actually save two people money principally due to the consolidated housing costs. It's children. I hear that they're expensive. And incredibly aggravating, but that's for another time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

reading to do

By the way, I finally finished re-reading The Fountainhead a couple weeks ago. Previous times that I read the book, I dog-eared pages that had phrases that I felt were especially memorable or significant or concise or offered an interesting insight into the, uh, human condition. This time around, I dog-eared a few more pages, but the odd thing is that I couldn't figure out why I had dog-eared some of the pages the first time around. Perhaps my standards were less discriminating the first couple times around.

I'm on to reading Shadow of the Giant, the eighth and final book in the Ender series by Orson Scott Card. I like the series, though it really is two different series, perhaps arguably three separate series. Of course, reading this is just postponing the meatier books I have by my bed including the ones on birth order and behavior, stock investing, Godel's proof, Alice in Wonderland, general mathematics, GEB, and the federalist papers.

Monday, April 17, 2006

week 16: operations

Thinking about my last post, there are two guys I work with who call themselves Bicardi and cola. And yes, one of them is black and the other is white. They also happen to be two of the people I most like working with in the field. But it doesn't make me want Bicardi and cola any more than before.

Since I have a free subscription to Fortune magazine and I have an interest in business news, I do more than just cut out large letters from the pages to make stalker letters to send to all my favorite celebrities. Besides, large enough Qs are hard to find. The latest issue was their signature Fortune 500 issue, though they appear to be going for an even 1000 now. (But then they'd lose that delightful alliteration which so many businesses have a thing for, Ford.) Understandably, there was a featured article on ExxonMobil largely due to their number 1 ranking (as determined by revenues) and also their record setting profits for 2005.

The article, like almost any about ExxonMobil, mentions the company's famous discipline and relentless drive for efficiency. It kind of makes me wonder what it would be like to work for them to get a first hand look at how they operate. But then again, in a geographically spread out industry like this one, local operations can vary in quality a great deal, even in an exceptionally well run company. Besides, from what I can tell, ExxonMobil has very little presence in the San Juan Basin which is where most of our district's work lies.

I also wonder what it would be like to work for ExxonMobil to see if they would do anything all that different than any of the other major operators in the basin. Especially since it seems like there are aspects of the operations of all our clients that don't strike me as being the most efficient.

The oil and gas industry, more so than most others, should run on a long term time scale. Projects can take years to develop and it can take many more to see a profit on a particular venture. Thus, I'm always slightly amused and a bit more disappointed whenever I see clients take a cheap, easy, and probably ineffective approach to solve a problem instead of spending more to significantly increase the chances of getting it right the first time. There's never enough money to do it right the first time, but there's always enough to do it wrong three times. Or maybe it's just incredibly easy to second guess decisions after something hasn't gone as planned.

And I just don't get that. Information is increasingly inexpensive. Offset (aka nearby) wells, similar basins, production values, and so forth. The ruthlessly efficient and unbiased crunching of numbers is far more reliable than the hazy recollections of what someone thinks they did that seemed to work on a similar well a year ago. It's because while the industry is run on a long term scale, it still has plenty of the old school "git 'er done" (see Jan 23) spirit that's half done on feel.

I'm a big believer in what technology and proper analysis can reveal. I have found that most people (not necessarily most people I know) aren't so willing to look at all the reasonable and likely possibilities instead of picking a convenient answer. I suppose that quick and easy will trump difficult and complex but ultimately correct far more often than the other way around. Unfortunately, this is tragically true in all aspects of life as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I don't get liquor commercials. Am I to believe that Bicardi and cola is a hilarious buddy pairing? And that diet cola is best represented by a midget? That Kahlua will bring out the exotic animal in me? Actually, I don't get most commercials. Most of them imply that the people who use or need the product being hawked are either incompetent or incredibly stupid.

Monday, April 10, 2006

week 15: stay cool

Boy, boy, crazy boy
Get cool, boy
Got a rocket in your pocket
Keep coolie cool boy

Uh, what does this have to do with the usual theme pieces for Mondays? Well, it's a song that's been on my mind for whatever reason and it's very important to stay cool on the job. Sure, it's not specific to the oil and gas industry, but it can certainly be the difference between a job well done and a more costly and less well done one.

On Friday, we hit a hitch (as I will so euphemistically put it) early on in the job right as we were starting to bring cement onto the pump. The hitch turned into two problems that could have become more problematic, but a responsive crew didn't panic and we were back into the job within 10 minutes. I've taken some flak since I was supervising that job, but since we got it fixed and finished well, it's something that we get ribbed about now. But we could've been flustered and let a small problem become a big one and have to deal with consequences of that whether it be a poorly completed job or perhaps one that wasn’t finished at all.

I know people that I simply wouldn't trust to stay calm in the face of an unforeseen circumstance. Anyone who went to college recently (or perhaps ever) knows one of the kind of people I mean. The kind of people who freak out every time a test is around the corner or a project is due. Either you know you're prepared or you're not. You'll finish by the due date or you won't. When test time comes, either you know the answer or you don't. It's just a test, not the ultimate measure of your worth as a human being. So just relax, think the situation through, and figure out the best course of action. It could keep someone from getting hurt one day.

Monday, April 03, 2006

week 14: ramblings

It's Monday already? Damn. I must have lost a day on that other job that took forever that ended up with us doing nothing. The casing got stuck. These things happen. And yes, a P&A is a plug and abandon. It's what is done to wells that are no longer producing enough to be economically viable. The production casing (or tubing) is filled with cement at certain intervals as required by the government, principally to ensure production zones and water tables are isolated from one another.

How does casing get stuck? Usually, the hole collapses at some point. Imagine a hole drilled with a 6.25" bit that is several thousand feet long. Now picture that somewhere in the middle of that open hole section the sides fall in somewhere above where the bottom of the casing has been run to. In essence, the collapse has pinched the casing and now it can't be moved up or down. You can try to free the casing, but success is hit or miss. This doesn't mean the casing is totally lost, but the remedies are hardly quick and easy at that point. At this point, the point at which the casing is stuck can be figured from how the casing weight behaves when attempts are made to move it. Then the casing can be shot off above that point with explosives and the casing from there up can be retrieved. What's left in the hole can attempt to be retrieved by fishing for it, which is kind of like regular fishing, but not really. If fishing fails to retrieve the rest of the casing then a plug can be set and the well side-tracked. That means they drill a new hole from the plug (where they got stuck) to the depth they want alongside the original hole which still has the stuck casing in it. The portion above the stuck point is still the original hole of course. There's no point in drilling the entire thing over, just the part that's now unusable.

Anyway, if the terms I use don't make sense, you can find a lot of them here. Wait, this whole post didn't make much sense. There was no theme or point to it. It was some rambling about what happens when other things happen. Yeah, too bad.

Anyway, I'm thinking about this MP3 player. It's not an iPod, which I consider a good thing and it's got the features I would want in a music player. But, it falls into the category of reasonably priced things that I just don't need. The only time I would use it would be on an airplane when I have nothing else to do except sleep, which is what I would probably be doing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

credit cards

And the grand total is 11. That is how many credit card offers I received in the month of March. To be honest, I'm a little disappointed. It took a couple of late offers to get me past 10. Then again, I had high expectations for how many offers I would receive.

Amongst all the offers is the question, which one do I take? Miles, rewards, points, cash back, American Express, Discover, etc. I'm getting something with my current principle credit card, but I get the sense I could be doing better. But I put so little on my credit card that it's a pretty marginal return anyway. Nonetheless, I'm open to suggestions.