Monday, December 31, 2007

adorable rifle?

I'm not quite sure what to make of what might be the most adorable rifle ever. Pointer from the always interesting Volokh Conspiracy. The fifth comment down on the Volokh page is pretty funny.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


This (link only good on Thursday) is interesting, but probably more laptop than I really need. Seems like a good deal, more or less, as well.

Monday, December 24, 2007

new laptop?

I think I'm in the market for a new laptop soon. Any recommendations? As a starting point, I'd like it to be able to do everything my current laptop does, but faster and sexier if at all possible.

To be perfectly honest, I don't need it to move the world. I'm not quite into using it as a multimedia powerhouse. Sure, I watch DVDs and edit some photos, but I don't do any video editing yet nor do I see it in the near future. Mostly, I read and watch whatever strike smy fancy online and do some of this piddly writing whenever I find time. I will travel with it so battery life and ease of portability are potential sticking points.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

ford crown victoria

As the manager, I'm allowed a couple perks. For instance, my office is in a shabby portable building with newspaper for insulation and even when I close my door, I have no privacy. Well, everyone is in the same boat on that front, so that's hardly a perk. And a discussion for some other time. However, my position and grade level do offer me some incentives. The one that's most entertaining is that I have a Ford Crown Victoria with 120,000 miles on it at my disposal. I can of course use it for any business purposes. If I wish to drive it home, I technically need to purchase additional insurance that costs about $150/year.

I don't especially care for it. I can see quite plainly why it is no longer being sold as a consumer vehicle and is now only available for fleet purchases, mostly government, especially police departments. The voluminous trunk can carry copious amounts of whatever police need plus any contraband they might seize. I'm thinking of taking the hubcaps off of the one that I drive, tinting the windows, putting a screen between the front and back seats, installing a grill guard, and getting a spotlight on the driver's side. It'll be fun pulling people over. All kidding (or am I?) aside, the Crown Vic rides like a boat. It literally feels like a boat being gently rocked by waves when I go around corners. The whole car has a tremendous amount of sway. Sure, it has lusty V8 power, but I've been doing some 'testing' and found that I can get the traction control light to come on when leaving from a stop. This was on dry pavement no less. I just floored the car to see what it could do and it didn't feel like it spun at all, but the traction control light came on. Of course, I'm not sure what the tach was at since there's no tachometer in the car. It does have a casette player, which is a step up from the F-350 I drove in Farmington. Let the good times roll.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

internet back for now, party looming

It looks like my home internet connection is back for now. We'll see how long this holds up.

The company Christmas, er, Holiday Party is tomorrow night. As pseudo-location manager, I will go and put on a good face for everyone and should probably stay until the end. However, I must confess that I never managed to stay till the end of any of the three parties I attended while in Farmington. In fact, I think I left sooner each year. Sure, it's fun to talk, then eat, then talk some more. It's the dancing, drinking, loud music, more drinking, strange lighting and even more drinking that I don't care for. See the pattern?

As a general rule, I find drinking for the sake of getting drunk one of the most self-destructive things someone can do to themselves. More than anything, this belief developed in college, and it wasn't really Berkeley-specific, but simply something that I became aware of while in college. So many young people piss varying amounts of their time and money and health and well being away. And usually make lots of dubious decisions, typically involving sex or driving, in the process. This isn't a rant against drinking or some Bible-thumping condemnation of the devil's brew. It's more of a sad acknowledgment of lost potential.

work phone not so hot

I have a work cell phone. It's a hand me down from my predecessor so I'm not really sure how old it is, but I would never recommend it to anyone. It's a Samsung SGH-D357 and has less useful functionality than the first cell phone I ever purchased five years ago. My fundamental gripe with the phone is it's ease of use, or lack thereof. It takes too many button pushes to navigate through the menus. Perhaps I am unfamiliar with the Samsung operating system since I am now on my third Motorola phone for personal use but it is just so damn frustrating to use. The next fundemental gripe that I have is that it has only one marginally normal ringtone. I generally loathe novelty and music-derived ringtones. In fact, I don't care for wind chimes, computer beeps, steel drum beats, or any of that junk. I want a phone to sound like a phone. And I want there to be several options for making the phone sound like a phone. And they should be standard on the phone. Otherwise, if I pick the one half normal ringtone, it sounds like everyone else's half normal ringtone. The final strike on the phone is seen on the Samsung customer support page. Read the question and then read the answer. Take special note of this line:

Note: There are no configurable options available for setting an audible alert for missed calls.

Huh? So if I'm in the shower or other room and don't hear the phone ring then I have to look at the phone and check the screen to see if I missed a call? Yes, that's very little work on my part. But, it's still work on my part. This is a very fundamental design issue. Not everyone who calls leaves a message. They might assume that you'll see the missed call and call back. But if you don't notice the missed call, then where are you? Nowhere! This gets me riled up because I have missed business calls and not noticed for quite some time.

In case you're wondering, I carry my personal cell phone with me at all times as well. Since I have a fancy case and clip for it, I clip it to my pocket while the work phone sits inside my pocket. And my personal cell number has not changed, nor will it change in the near future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

without internet temporarily

I have been without an internet connection at my apartment due to trouble with my air card.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

so many e-mails

In my new and highfalutin ( says that it's one word so that's what I'm going with) position, I get a lot more e-mails. Enough that I've finally yielded and have been reduced to using automatic filters for certain notification and bulletin board e-mails. And my inbox count is still creeping steadily towards 200. Tomorrow will be a good day to pare a lot of those down. The filters only save me sorting time and don't actually help the inbox count since I always filed those e-mails anyway. What is in the inbox either needs to be read, replied to, has a valuable attachment, or is there as a reminder. The reminder thing is a bit ineffective since I have so many of them.

The other consumer of my time is that other people want my time now. People need to talk to me, get my authorization for X, Y, and Z, and generally seek me out to discuss problems and hopefully solutions. The result is that I need to keep a lot of information in the present. I'm sure I'll simply memorize certain things and other tasks will become rote, but while I'm still learning this makes for a lot of note taking. I write a lot of notes, especially sticky notes and have them all over my desk. As I get things done I throw old notes away or consolidate notes on pieces of paper or my white board.

I'm trying to figure out a system. I've never had one before because I never needed one. I have never been in a position before this, either in Farmington or in college, where a scrap of paper in my pocket wasn't enough. Now my tasks are many and disparate and require a lot of pacing to jog my memory. For 2008, I will probably buy a nice day planner, though I sometimes wish I had one right now. Alas. I'm confident that my crazy note taking will work for another month. I'm not big on getting a PDA or some smart phone. I've always been somewhat old school when it comes to reminders and taking notes. I like the act of writing things down, being able to take side notes, different styles, boxes, underlining, etc. It's simply more interesting to take notes by hand than it is in some smart phone.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

what do i do in victoria

As regular readers now know, I accepted a transfer at work to come to Victoria, TX. What I haven't explained is what I do here that I did or didn't do in Farmington. In short, I'm the functional manager of the district. My manager is not here with me. He is about two-and-a-half hours away. Victoria is a smaller district than Farmington and does not suffer from the personnel problems that Farmington is somewhat notorious for. For what it's worth, my actual title is Engineer-In-Charge. Or McLovin. Or a few others that I'm sure people will work out of their systems in due time. I prefer Herr Maestro but you can't have everything.

As the manager, I am no longer in the field on jobs. If I am in the field, which I will be with as much frequency as I can manage, it will principally be for audits and meetings with clients. It is relevant (to me) that field operations here are somewhat different than they were in Farmington because the operating environment is more sophisticated. Most of the wells here (still largely natural gas) are deeper and hotter and involve much higher pressures. This is sort of the opposite end of the spectrum from most of the work in Farmington. Thus, I will also be learning some new things on the operational side, but the fundamentals are the same.

What is very different is the personnel and administrative side of my new position. I'm probably about four in-house training classes behind where I strictly should be. I'll get that training when time permits, so it has been and will continue to be a lot of question asking and generally looking more clueless than I would prefer. My unusually short and frankly non-existent handover from the previous manager didn't help much either but the support I've gotten both in and out of Victoria has been solid. Basically, I'm swamped, but in a good way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

what made the news

Well, look at what made it's way into American news, but without a single mention of what happened last week.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I haven't time to watch all of these videos but they could be marginally interesting (except 10 which is marginally humorous). They're from the TED Conference which is held every year in Monterey. Most, quite possibly all, the talks from the conferences are available on YouTube. Once you consider that nature of the conference and it's location, it makes sense that the speakers are generally center-left/progressive/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

news we don't get?

How come stories like this don't seem to make the front page of Yahoo! or

Friday, November 16, 2007

I am McLovin

Some of me new colleagues have taken to calling me McLovin. Yes, that's right, McLovin. For those of you who don't get the reference or think it's a Grey's Anatomy reference, then you clearly didn't see or even hear about Superbad. In all fairness, I didn't actually see the movie, but you need to watch the trailer to understand. In fact, just go down to the fourth clip and it'll explain everything. If you don't get it, then you're trying too hard because there's not that much to get.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

so this is victoria

It's been a really busy week and then some. While I may have heroically unpacked my entire U-Haul by myself last Friday, I still haven't unpacked many of the boxes. Nor have I arranged my meager furniture in the living room. Today and tomorrow look like promising days to finally finish unpacking. I might even move my futon frame into the apartment at some point.

For what it's worth, I plan to keep the cell phone number that I had in New Mexico. If I change my mind, I will certainly think about telling people about it. However, I did get a new phone and had all my numbes transferred over by some helpful people at the Verizon store. For those of you who never saw my old phone, it was well past its prime.

The people at work are pretty nice and it seems like a good team overall. I'm putting in a lot of time right now until I can get up to speed, but I hope to see my own schedule settle down a little bit in the next few weeks. However, I suspect it will bumpy until the end of December since the guy who is effectively responsible for the field operations is taking paterntiy leave in December along with two weeks of much deserved vacation.

Friday, November 09, 2007

rental car review: Chrysler PT Cruiser

While I was on my house/apartment-hunting trip in Victoria two weeks ago, I flew into San Antonio and rented a Chryslet PT Cruiser. While I get to expense the cost of the rental, I see no need for a full or mid-size sedan for just one person so I always opt for a small or compact. The rental company was going to give me a VW Bug, but I deemed that a bit too small for my luggage as well as having too weak of an image for the people at work. Frankly, the PT Cruiser was a little borderline as well, but I think my sheer manliness enabled me to pull it off.

The PT Cruiser was fair (like all rental cars) but suffered many of the same problems that the Sebring I rent in San Diego back in July had. The interior of the PT Cruiser was filled with hard plastics and other surfaces that weren't all that enjoyable to touch or look at. The transmission, like the Sebring, was a four-speed automatic and it was noticeably lurchy and simply not up to snuff compared to my Fusion's six-speed automatic. Admittedly, since it was a smaller vehicle, the engine was a little on the weak side, but perfectly adequate. It handled fairly well and I pushed the car more than normal to see just how much it could take. You know, in case of an emergency. The car simply felt a little small (which it was) and the seats weren't well made.

I wish I had written this sooner, whie everything was fresh in my mind. Now, I can't recall many specifics. Overall, it was adequate, but not a car I would every buy. It's not that it was too small or under-powered. If my driving needs changed, I would fine with a small, fuel-efficient vehicle. However, it would need to have a well-designed interior that conveyed some sense of luxury or reflect that the designers spent time on the details that go a long way to making a vehicle comfortable to be in.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

welcome to victoria

I made my meeting yesterday, spent all day in the office, and then finally went home. And then heroically unpacked my U-Haul by myself. I was able to unload the entire thing in a little over two hours. That includes getting almost everything upstairs except for a few small things that may reside in the garage space anyway and the futon frame. The futon frame will probably be disassembled before going up the stairs. It's both cumbersome because it folds flat into a bed (though very light) and possibly too large. I did get everything else up the stairs including my dresser, bookshelf, kitchen table, cabinet-ish things that I've had since I was a kid, and even my bed. And all without dragging any of them on the ground.

I returned my U-Haul today as well, which brings to a close my roughly 1,050 miles of driving. Based on my final mileage, fuel receipts, and returning the U-Haul with very close to the same amount of fuel that it started with, I averaged about 8.5 miles per gallon. Now that I don't need to worry about jinxing myself and doing something foolish in the U-Haul, I can safely say that the car trailers can be driven a lot faster than the recommended speed of 45 miles per hour. I'm also thrilled to be back in my Fusion. Sure, the U-Haul was a Ford as well, but that E-450 flavor just isn't the same.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

on the road to victoria

I made my somewhat ambitious goal of getting to San Antonio today. As planned, I made it to Moriarty yesterday. Today, I shipped out early and made it to Sonora before 1600 where I stopped for a couple hours to meet a work friend and eat dinner. Then, on with my last leg to my stop tonight in San Antonio. All told, I drove about 700 miles today. Combined with the over 200 miles from yesterday, I only have about 125 more to go tomorrow. I just might make my 1030 meeting tomorrow.

The U-Haul (made from a Ford E-450) with the car trailer is proving to be a very interesting drive. I have some very limited trailer-driving experience from back in the day. This is rather different since both the truck and trailer are much bigger than the old 300E and trailer made from a chopped pick-up that we had back in Los Altos. For starters, the U-Haul is much wider than a normal car, even wider than the F-350s I've grown accustomed too. In fact, the trailer is even wider if I don't count the side mirrors on the truck. Then there's the 'tow haul' mode which really means some lower gearing on acceleration and much stronger engine braking while coasting or braking. Finally, there's the fuel economy. It's somewhere just over 8 miles per gallon. That may have something to do with the load and the speeds I'm going, but that's just awful. I'm surprised it's not a diesel, but I suspect that if it were, there would be a good chance that someone might accidently put gasoline in it and wreak havoc on the engine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

last night in farmington

Tonight is my last night in Farmington. I've enlisted some colleagues to help me pack up the U-Haul tomorrow and I'm hitting the road in the afternoon. My timeline to get out to Victoria has been bumped up by about a half day due to a meeting I'm trying to attend on Friday. My goal for tomorrow is to get to Moriarty which is about 30 miles east of Albuquerque.

I've got a bunch on my mind. There's the obvious goodbye to Farmington, a rental car review from last week, my new assignment, packing and moving, my new apartment, etc. So much to do.

Monday, October 29, 2007

resource quagmires

If you care for a piece of the Iraq-is-all-about-the-oil flavor, give this a read, but you need to read the whole thing. I certainly don't feel like I work in a dastardly sinister industry. However, I also don't work for an oil company, but a mere service company for the industry.

Despite the interest in oil and gas and energy in general, I'm just as concerned with a resource that is far more important. The West will eventually face a water supply crisis and it will be a difficult reckoning for most people. Perhaps the most telling line in the whole piece is, "The people who move to the West today need to realize they’re moving into a desert. If they want to live in a desert, they have to adapt to a desert lifestyle." I think it speaks volumes about our love affair with consumption of all kinds.

jury duty, part IV: an even shorter day

The system still works. I went in for jury duty, signed in, and went home.

Monday, October 22, 2007

jury duty, part III: a very short day

The system works! There were potentially up to six cases on the docket today for jury duty and they didn't need anyone. For reference, there were a similar number of potential cases last week and two weeks before that and each time there was only one case that went to trial. Tragically, there's only one potential case on board for next week so the likelihood of a plea deal seems pretty high, but I'll probably be wrong now that I've made a prediction.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

moving to Victoria, Texas

Big news on the work front. I'm transferring to Victoria, Texas. I'm going there on Tuesday to find a place to live and I'll be back in Farmington on Sunday. I'll be back here just long enough to close out my current apartment affairs, pack a U-Haul and that's the end of my time in Farmington. So, yeah. You're not going to see really great posts for a while since I'll be a bit busy for the next several weeks. Instead, at best, I'll put up some posts full of links to articles I've read.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

jury duty, part II

Another gripping day of showing up at jury duty and not getting selected. And it was a domestic violence case this time. It seemed like it would be much more compelling than larceny under $100. But since I'd rather go back to work than listen to the responding officer's testimony, I suppose I'll never know how it turned out. That is of course unless I look the case up.

Like two weeks ago, the prosecution asked the jury pool if anyone watched CSI, an obvious indication of the significance of the CSI Effect. Tragically, most people don't realize that testimony is perfectly valid evidence since jurors are the ones charged with determining if someone is telling the truth or not. And frankly, most witnesses in most cases have no reason to not tell the truth. Testimony is often the only evidence and it is always the most common type of evidence since it takes testimony to introduce other evidence anyway.

I often say that people are unreliable. Specifically, I mean that peoples' perceptions of reality are often inaccurate either through the personal bias or through the fog of memory. I see it a lot at work, especially when people are angling to prove a point about who is responsible (read: at fault) for some particular non-conformance (read: utter screw up). Or to simply inject a little bit of hyperbole into the story for the sake of drama/comedy/awesomeness (ahem Scott). Nonetheless, witness testimony doesn't need to prove beyond all doubt, just beyond a reasonable doubt. And let's be honest, there are not vast conspiracies working to plot against most people, just against me.

Friday, October 12, 2007


As a general rule, I dislike being put on speakerphone. It happens a fair bit at work and generally takes one of two forms. The first is when you're speaking to just one person and they put you on speakerphone. My problem is that if I'm speaking to just one person, then they should be able to pick up the phone. If they don't, then I have to wonder who else is on their end listening to what I'm saying. This is not to say that I generally have anything private to say at work, but the principle of it is that this is a conversation between two people and I don't care for silent partners and random passers-by listening. I don't for a second buy the argument that they might be multi-tasking and somehow need to keep their hands and shoulders free. Hands, maybe. Shoulders, not a chance people at wok are doing something with them other than cradling the phone. If they are, then the call can wait. The other type of speakerphone call is when I'm talking to more than one person. I can see the utility in using speakerphone then, but the main problem is the background noise. There's simply too much of it most of the time. Plus, unless someone is clearly the leading partner, the conversation is filled with awkward pauses as they figure out who should speak. Aggravating and inefficient and of course nothing can be said privately. A great tool for communication that is often misapplied and ends up limiting communication.

Monday, October 08, 2007

jury duty

Today is Columbus Day, the ultimate sham holiday. I especially like how the Wikipedia entry states that it is "generally observed today by schools." That's funny. I don't recall Columbus Day ever being a school holiday. However, it is enough of a holiday to get me out of jury duty today. I received my original summons back in May, but deferred until now because I knew I would be traveling a bit each month until this one. I have to go every Monday (except today) this month. Yes, that does mean I went last week. And what a fantastic experience it was. Out of a pool of 44 potential jurors, I was thankfully not asked to pass judgment in what looked like a very riveting case involving larceny under $100. It was made more compelling by the defendant's decision to represent his self, but that wasn't the best part. This was such a high profile case, that the district attorney's office wasn't even there. Instead, the DA was represented by two police officers. Awesome. I'm almost weepy that I wasn't selected. Maybe next week.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

wal-mart's expansion

A very interesting video of Wal-Mart's expansion. Apparently, the (first) one in Farmington and the one in Durango both opened in 1986.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

state of the industry

Another presentation from Schlumberger's CEO on some of the challenges facing the oil and gas industry. Here's a .pdf that has the slides along with the speech.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Ran some more

The best part of the SNL I Ran video is that there's a song with the same name that they use a line from.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Ran

So I was at my favorite libertarian blog the other day and came across a post that was prompted by some of the things that Ahmadinejad said while he was at Columbia University last week. One of the commenters links to an article at The Atlantic that was an interesting read. Perhaps most interesting is that the article tracks with some of the things that people at work who have spent time in Saudi Arabia have told me.

Of course I need to end with the SNL Digital Short I Ran which has some pretty clever lyrics.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I can't believe it's already October. It's started to snow some of the places we work. Oh, the joy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

oh yeah, im back

So yeah, I was on vacation last week and the last half of the week before that. I'm back now. I got back into town on Sunday and the next day, I was off on another nice, long drive for week. This circuit drive was only 390 miles and I was by myself which is actually advantageous in certain ways.

Right now, I'm racking my brain trying to remember what I was thinking about this morning. It was definitely blog-worthy (which is an admittedly pretty low standard) but something light and clever and a good way to get back into the blogging mood. Alas, I cannot remember now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

safety dance!

This morning, I heard one of the greatest songs ever on the radio. The best part is that it's been referenced not once, but twice on The Simpsons. That song was an instant classic when I first heard it in college. Much like this song.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

lots of driving

The only time I ever drove more in a single day than I did today was when I originally moved to Farmington. On the first day of my two-day drive out here, I covered about 700 miles in what was or less a car of my choice. That was a painful drive. Today, I drove 556 miles in a one ton pick-up. This was much more draining.

As one might expect, the trip started at our yard in Farmington and we ventured to a field near Basin, CO to pick up a truck that can carry some equipment and use it to pick up some equipment. From there we jumped to another rig to drop off a piece of equipment. Not surprisingly, we picked up another piece of equipment nearby and moved it to yet another rig. Then, we moved the truck back to close to where we originally picked it up at. And of course, we came home when it was all said and done. Mostly done, not a lot said.

Monday, September 03, 2007

ambition, maybe

While I was in Houston, I was asked the expected questions about how I liked Farmington, what I wanted to do next, where I might be willing to go, what I found interesting and challenging, etc. Basically, questions designed to elicit answers from me that would enable the powers that be to find a suitable role and location to put me into next. In many ways, the questions were a lot like the ones relatives ask you at big family dinners when everyone gets together and catches up on major life events. Essentially, the questions were a roundabout way to ask what do you want to do with your life, but framed in the context of working here.

I've answered these questions a few times now and my answers are the same but not all that specific. I want a challenge, worthwhile work, a sense of contributing, something new-ish, and to not be in Farmington. Additionally, I don't care that much about money (beyond achieving a certain standard of living which I currently have) or internal or external recognition (since I want my work to be validating on its own). When it comes to specific job roles that are most common for people in my position to enter into, most of them don't interest me. I can tell that my somewhat non-specific answers about specific job roles aren't received with enthusiasm, but I'm not about to lie and then end up doing something I don't like, but that personnel and management think is a great fit because I already professed interest in it.

As I've thought more about the issues at hand, I've come to realize that (at least right now) I may not have any ambition. Now, don't take this the wrong way. Perhaps a better way to phrase that might be that I have no desire to appear to have ambition. Well, that just sounds confusing. Essentially, I don't care about power or glory. I want to do my job well and find it fulfilling, but I'm not interested in holding power over other people or winning awards or some such things. The analogy (which is woefully inadequate) is that I'm like a loaded weapon. I don't really know what direction to go in, but point me somewhere and I can be your man. But if what I find myself doing both sucks and doesn't teach me enough about something (anything!), then I'll probably be gone pretty quickly. I've already done the job that has what we'll euphemistically call character-building days and I've had enough of them. I'm sure I could use plenty more tough-lesson days, but their value with be much greater if they occurred in a different context than the one I'm presently in.

In a nutshell, I want good ideas that I have to be adopted because they are good. Not because they are mine, but because they are the best ideas. Basically, I want people to admit when I am right, not by telling me I'm right, but by doing something that shows I am right. Perhaps that makes me more ambitious than I think. Persuading people to adopt your ideas and plans is never easy. In fact, if it means significant changes to the status quo, it's nearly impossible. But shaking things up is fun. And challenging. And fulfilling.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

same shirt

I haven't even watched much US Open, but I've already seen four different men wearing this shirt. In fact, I think I saw that annoying Spanish player in the yellow version. And it looks like I'm right.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

tire blow out, almost

I had a little more fun than I cared for yesterday. I went out to the field to pick up a truck with someone. We were on our way in when I heard a loud noise and then the pick-up started to shake violently. I let off the gas and coasted for a moment and then started braking when I knew I still had control of the pick-up. I checked my mirrors and could see pieces of tire behind me and I thought I had blown a tire. Sort of. When I got out to check the tire, it was still on the rim and still inflated. Unfortunately, the tire was missing the tread from about half of its surface. It was down to just the steel belts. It looked like the tread simply separated from the tire and did a nice number on the fender as it left the vehicle. I knew new tires were in the not-too-distant future for the pick-up, but I had been keeping more of an eye on some slightly uneven wear on the front tires. This is as good an excuse as any to simply get new tires for the pick-up all the way around. I thought I would have them today, but apparently the tire place we work with doesn't stock what I think is a very common tire size for field pick-ups. They had only one BF Goodrich Mud Terrain 265/75R16 in stock. People don't buy tires one at a time! Well, some people do, but they really shouldn't.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I just updated with several posts at once. Scroll around.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

back from Houston

Once again, back in Farmington and I hit the ground running. Thankfully, not as hard this time. I was back in the office in town here by 1130 yesterday and spent most of the rest of the day trying to figure out what happened here during the week, where people were, and what state various pieces of equipment were in. All things that should be easy to find, but are (expectedly) poorly tracked. We have systems for all those things, but people don't use them properly and it aggravates me so much.

Houston was solid. The presentations went well, mine included and I generally had a good time. They gave us some glass plaque-like things in to mark the occasion. I said the things I wanted to say to the personnel managers that day and some more at dinner. Perhaps I like the sound of my own voice too much, but I thought I had decent insights into the employee development process as well as plenty to say about my own specific experiences and desires. As expected, dinner was an exercise in excess, but it was a celebratory dinner for reaching what is an important career milestone within the company. However, I think only one person got himself more inebriated than social norms would deem strictly appropriate so we'll call that a rousing success to moderation

On my free day, I and the other person there from my segment (who is from New Orleans) had breakfast with the VP for North America of our segment since he wasn't able to attend the presentations the day before. Afterwards, the other guy in my segment took me to the Houston offshore office since he knows people there and I wanted to see what exactly an offshore district looks like since all their equipment is on the rigs already and their field people don't really need to come by the office. You know what. It's just an office. There's a very different feel and operational focus. We then visited a support lab in the Houston area to satisfy my curiosity before going back to the hotel where I promptly took a long nap.

The tours on Thursday were interesting. It's hard to explain exactly what they consisted of, but I liked what I saw. And I got another company hat. I then had dinner with Nikhil who seems to be doing generally fine. During our conversation, we concluded that backgammon was the sophisticated man's Yahtzee. All in all, a pretty low key, informative, and what I expect to be an ultimately productive (despite appearances) trip to Houston.

Monday, August 20, 2007

now I'm in Houston

I'm in Houston now. It's humid, especially compared to the high desert weather of Farmington. A confirmation e-mail stating that the event was not cancelled was sent when I was already at the Denver airport en route to Houston. Amusing.

The format for the week is that I (and various others here for the same purpose) present tomorrow and then meet with personnel managers at the end of the day. Then we eat at some steak place that is sure to involve more food and alcohol than strictly necessary. Wednesday is a bizarre free day. I assume they expected more people and the presentations to spill over into Wednesday, but such is life. On Thursday, we're slated to tour some of the in-house manufacturing and research centers. I expect that to be the most interesting day.

They're putting us up at a rather nice Marriott. My biggest beef with Marriott in general, or at least at the three that I can remember staying at, is that there is no complimentary breakfast. Maybe they assume business travelers can expense away everything, but a spread of cereals and muffins isn't exactly the most complicated feat to pull off. I did stay at a fourth Marriott when I first hired on. And we did get free breakfast, but that was because we were given meal coupons to get into the breakfast area so that doesn't count. Still no complimentary cereal and muffin spread. Some fresh fruit would be nice too.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

denver redemption

I leave for Houston in a couple of days. They sent out an e-mail yesterday that due to Hurricane Dean, the upcoming week's events may be canceled. As of now the event is still on and any cancellation will involve both an e-mail and a phone call. However, as the week has progressed, the storm has tracked further and further south making a Houston landfall unlikely. Alas, I cannot predict the weather.

I never really explained much about my last trip to Denver. In essence, it was like my previous trip, but successful. (See a string of posts in May about my previous trip there.) Not to be too dramatic, but it was redemptive. I suppose officially (or so it is alleged) that my job was on the line, but honestly, that wasn't a pressing concern. While the format changed somewhat this time around, I knew almost exactly what would happen, what I would be asked, how I needed to present, and most importantly, how I needed to carry myself and come across. (The format change is that this control process is now being done strictly at the Denver level. Houston is now just a final presentation, but otherwise a formality and a chance to meet managers and personnel people.) I'm not going to say that I nailed it in Denver, but I did very well and the apparent sea change in my attitude was noted more than once. Of course, I maintain that my actual attitude was never the problem, but that it was my perceived attitude that was part of my downfall last time.

More than anything, this was about keeping my promise to me. When I started working here, this point is where I said I would get to no matter what. It didn't matter how hard or miserable it was or how badly I wanted to punch multiple people at work or any of the general crap I don't care for. I was going to see this through and reach this level. I needed this for my own sake. I needed to know that I could finish what I started. In my own mind, I have quit so many things in life out. This was not going to be one of those things. I knew this would be hard from the beginning. And it has been. This has been personally challenging in ways I never experienced before. Intellectually speaking, not so challenging, but that's not what I came for. (I'm really not certain what work environment I would find intellectually challenging.) This is why I wasn't concerned that my job was allegedly on the line. Right now, fulfilling my promise and achieving this for my sake are much more important to me than whether or not my managers think I belong here. That may change in the future, but now I know that I really do have the will to grind it out when necessary.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

not in Houston, yet

No, I'm not in Houston this week. I will be in Houston next week. I've had some trouble lining out my schedule recently. It's not that work is consuming more time than usual or that I've been out at night a lot recently. It's just that I've been unable to reload since Denver. Or perhaps the couple days after I got back from Denver when we ground out those three jobs in a row. My energy level has been less than stellar since then. Oh, I'm getting things done, but sort of the bare minimum necessary to not look like a disheveled wreck.

I certainly expect to feel much better when I get back from Houston. I'll finally be done with the pomp and circumstance or the project I've worked on and can get back to the real work of furthering what we've done so far. Not that my week in Houston will be especially taxing though. I travel on Monday and should be at my hotel by 1600. I present on Tuesday along with everyone else there for the same basic reason and then meet with some managers in the afternoon. I have just learned that Wednesday is a totally free day. I'm not sure what I'm doing during the day. I was told that the Rice new grad student orientation activities would probably not be that exciting to me. I'll come up with something that someone without a car can do in Houston during the day. I expect to meet up with someone I know from work for dinner that night. Thursday is a tour day where they're taking us to some of the company manufacturing and research centers. And Friday, I grab a ridiculously early flight back to Farmington.

I don't have much to prep for this trip except to do laundry and pack nice clothes. I've made my presentation in one form or another at least eight times. While this isn't a formal evaluation, it's always an evaluation whenever managers are present, especially training and/or personnel managers. I have also perfected the art of running out of perishable food the day before I leave for a trip. This is a largely untapped potential. I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

we do what we do

Now that I have some time and I'm not passed out on my bed, I can comment on the last week. Regular readers know that I was in Denver last week. I actually don't have a lot to say about that right now. I was largely undoing the damage I did the last time I was there. Suffice to say, it went well this time, even if my somewhat angular eyebrows make me look angry when I make eye contact with people. I get to go to Houston in two weeks to make a final presentation, but it's largely a celebratory affair for myself and others from North America who have reached this same point.

I think it'd be much more entertaining to talk about the last couple of days instead. I arrived back in Farmington around 1400 on Saturday. By 1830 I was at work ready to cover back-to-back jobs in the field. Somewhat predictably, in an unpredictable sort of way, the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

We rolled up to our first location and were told that they were having some problems and would be delayed so we should head over to the other location. On our way to the second location, we received a call. The second location had just had a huge problem and could not foresee when they would need a crew so we should head back to the first location. By the time we got back to the first location, it was nearly 2300. We set up what we could and went to bed, waiting for the rig to finish doing whatever it is rigs do. I don't really know. Around 0600 the next morning, the company man tapped on our windows. Finally, they must be ready I thought. Not quite. The first rig was still slowly doing whatever it is rigs do, but the second rig needed a crew ASAP. That's better than doing nothing all day, so we drove over to the second location. We got there only to find out that the job procedure had changed. And that the rig had screwed something so badly, that they were stuck where they were so we were just going to cement the casing where it was right then and there. We did our thing, looked good doing it, and left to go back to the first location. On our way there, we received a call. A third rig wanted a crew in four hours. (All three of these rigs were only a few miles apart.)

Quite the dilemma. We called the first rig to see if they were actually ready. They were so we continued back to their location. We arrived in time to learn that one of their pumps had just gone down. We got set-up and burned about two hours waiting for them to fix their pump. Finally, we started that job and everything was mostly fine except I don't think I mentioned that there were some concerns about running out of water during the job. For reference, running out of water during a cement job is pretty much a disaster. Late in the job, we realized we had just enough water to finish the job, but would have to move the pump to draw more water from a different tank to wash-up. Also, later in the job, the rig's pump went down again. This is not really our problem, but it causes location to become a total mess because they aren't able to pump various fluids returning to surface away from the well. Instead, they spill all over the place where we need to be working. Whatever. We can't help the rig because we need to finish and move the pump to get more water before the cement on board gets hard. We get more water and then move the pump again to a place were we can wash-up. Finally, when we're done washing up, we move the pump back to where it originally was to finish loading our equipment back onto it.

It's now 1930 on Sunday and we head over to the third location. Understandably, we're starting to drag ass a little bit. We get there, set up our stuff, and do the job. Right as we finish and start to pack our equipment up, the sky opens up. I was soaked through in a matter of minutes. The lightning was so close and the wind so fierce that we had to shut it down for a few minutes. We realized that the rain wouldn't abate so we finished putting our equipment away. I tried to pretend that I was sort of dry and would move in a way that made me think I had some dry spots worth trying to keep. I gave up on that and just laughed instead because it was pretty clear that we were all soaked it wouldn't matter if we rolled around in the puddles on the ground, because nothing about on us was dry. We eventually pulled off location and stopped because we needed to clear DOT logs and our new driving policy kept us from going anywhere anyway. The rain is why I always carry extra socks, underwear, and a shirt in my gear bag. Sleeping in a truck in wet clothes is not exactly comfortable. I wished I had dry pants, but I didn't. I stripped down and used a second spare shirt to sort of towel off and then I put on what dry clothes I had. I put my pants up on the dash to dry and went to bed. By morning, my pants were surprisingly dry. Not bad. Putting on wet boots is bad enough, but putting on wet pants is an unpleasant feeling.

We trundled home in the morning after everyone managed to get a second night of fitful sleep. I, being the generally deranged person that I am, decided we needed to go grab the trucks we had left behind at all the locations we had been at. Since, one of our frac crews was shut down do to poor road conditions, I grabbed some guys and went right back out there and brought everything back to the house. (We had been working in Colorado, where the roads are generally well made and well maintained. The frac crew was working in New Mexico where just a little bit of rain turns roads into porridge.) When you're riding that energy high, you need to take advantage of it. If we didn't make a push for those trucks that day, we'd have to get them eventually. My energy level crashed last night after I went grocery shopping. I collapsed on my bed and didn't wake till 0730 this morning.

Days, and nights, and the day before, and the nigh before, and the day before the day before yesterday aren't bad. They aren't good either. This isn't about how awful it is. It's about how crazy it sometimes is and the things we do to get the job done. These are both the best and worst kinds of days. It's not comfortable. It is tiring. I do ache all over today. But I pushed myself and remembered what hard work really is. By the end of Sunday, I was willing myself through the rain, fighting cramps in both arms, shouldering as much of the burden as I knew how in order to keep the crew I was with from having to bear any more of it. I felt uniquely alive that night, standing in the rain, laughing at the lightning, reveling at what we're capable of.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

in Denver

I'm in Denver this week. Sarcastic e-mails not appreciated.

However, since people are interested, I'll note that I got a soda from the vending machine here in the Denver office. The can had an add for Superman Returns coming out in June. Ok, so my soda is a few months old. It's no big deal.

Wait a second. Superman Returns came out last year. I checked the rest of the can and the date on the bottom of the can said March 5, 2007. Whatever. It tasted fine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

interesting video

I have now had at least two people mention the video of the water buffalo, lions, and crocodile. The funny thing is that I saw this video over a month ago over here. What's funny is that The Big Picture is a financial blog I glance through fairly often.

Since I'm talking videos right now, I always get a kick out of films that are about quintisentially American subjects that feature non-American actors. The best example is L.A. Confidential which features two Aussies in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce as police officers in the LAPD set in the 1950's. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend it, especially if you like period pieces or classic cars. Another example out later this year is 3:10 to Yuma. Again, it has Russell Crowe, but this time he's paired with Christian Bale, who is Welsh, in a western. (Yes everybody, Batman is now Welsh.) You can watch the trailer here if you don't believe me that it's a western.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

rental car review: Chrysler Sebring

Now that I've written about the wedding and mostly leaned on Scott's post about it, I think it's time to talk about the car I rented. At this point, I'm glad I went for the upgrade from compact to mid-size, because 560 miles, most of that with two or three passengers and luggage, would not have been fun. Thus, instead of the Chevy Aveo, I was tooling around in a Chrysler Sebring.

The Sebring was very interesting, because it is ostensibly in the same class as my own car, the Ford Fusion. That class being mid-size, 4-door sedan. And not all cars in that class are the same. While I like my Fusion, I did not care for the Sebring at all. It performed adequately and I really pushed it at times since it was a rental car. It was hard on the gas, hard on the brake, and fun times driving LA area freeways. Despite doing well enough, it didn't do all that well. For starters, I could never get the seat to feel comfortable. It had manual controls in a day and age when at least a powered or partially powered driver's seat seems standard. The lumbar support felt like it was either al the way in or all the way out, I couldn't get enough thigh support and for whatever reason, I couldn't even get the angle of the seat back to feel right. It was just all wrong.

Perhaps I've become used to Ford controls from work and my own car, but I didn't like how everything was on a stalk. The headlights and dimmer switch were on the turn signal stalk on the left. The windshield wipers were on a stalk to the right. Under those, the cruise control was on yet another stalk. Now that I have them on the Fusion, I really like the buttons for the cruise control and the radio on the steering wheel. Additionally, the turn signal had this half-way setting that made the blinker blink three times that was rather aggravating because it took too much force to get it into proper turn signal position where it stayed on. There are few situations in driving that your blinker should only flash three times. I know most people only flash their turn signal about that much, but that doesn't make it right. The cup holders between the seats weren't well designed either. On the fusion, the cup holders are lined with an insert that you can remove and clean in case you spill your drink or otherwise collect bits of detritus down there. On the Sebring, the cup holders are lined, but you can't take it out. Well, you might be able to take it out, but it would involve a lot of prying. But the worst part about the interior is that it had an analog clock. No, no, no. No one wants to look at an analog clock. People want to see numbers, not roman numerals.

The vehicle styling was average. Like so many cars, it does not have any space between the edge of the rear seat and the wheel well. You can see it pretty clearly in this rear quarter view. There should be a gap between the rear seat and the wheel well. If they do it well, it'll be right where the vertical face of the edge around the fender ends like in the Fusion. Additionally, I have no problem with cars that choose to put tail lights on the trunk, but the plastic mount and case for the light on the inside of the trunk was cheap and looked like it wanted to fall off. The trunk also felt small, but at least it handled the luggage we threw into it.

The Sebring is not a bad car, but it doesn't really do anything right enough to make me want to drive one again. It had a nifty sliding top to the center arm rest and storage area that made it useful as a little table. But if that's the best thing I can say about the car, then we have a problem. The 4-speed automatic transmission is at least one gear behind the times in a day and age when Ford and GM are at six, Mercedes has seven, and Lexus has eight. (The only Sebring model with a 6-speed is their apparent top of the line Limited N Package. What an unappealing name for an options package.) In the end, I like renting cars, because it lets me mercilessly deride what's wrong with them without ever having to own them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

a bit more about the wedding

Congratulations to Chris and Christine on your beautiful wedding. It was so uplifting that it seems to have given Scott the power to update his blog. He sums up many of the same sentiments I feel about the ceremony, reception, and the whole weekend in general. I'm not sure how much I have to add about the wedding itself, but I will certainly second that Chris and Christine both looked great and they looked even better together.

Kudos for those on the planning end of the wedding. At the ceremony itself, there were over 50 people in the wedding party counting the bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, coin and ring bearers, family, and all the various sponsors. The church had this nice older woman who was the wedding coordinator and she struck me as the kind of unsung person that many organizations would be lost without. I'm sure she's done hundreds of weddings and she knew how to keep it all under control. For the reception, we migrated over to the La Jolla Marriott. By we, I mean about 350 people. It seemed like there were more people at the reception than the actual wedding ceremony. The reception had a definite agenda that was outlined on the wedding cards at every seat and they stuck to it. I really like a good plan that people stick to and this whole thing seems well executed.

Like all good weddings, this one prompted plenty of discussions about who would get married next. In thinking about this, I believe I was wrong before about this being the start of many weddings of my friends in the next three or four years. From the group that was at this wedding, I think the next wedding is about two years away and then there will be several in two or three years. I believe this one will turn out to be an early outlier. Also, given the logistics of a large, traditional, wedding, I'm really favoring my drive-thru wedding plan. It could get relatively elaborate for a drive-thru. I might now rent a big bus to take to the drive-thru so everyone can attend the ceremony and then we can tailgate in the parking lot or perhaps order pizza. (Who said romance was dead?) I certainly don't think I'll have anywhere near 350 people at any wedding of mine. I don't belong to a large social network (family or religion or local community) that would compel me to invite lots of people. We'll say 20 family members attend and perhaps a slightly larger number of friends. One must keep in mind the difference between whom you invite and who is actually able to attend. Perhaps I'm low balling the numbers and neglecting family friends, but I'm aiming for medium to small-ish and want to stay optimistic.

By the end of the weekend, I was incredibly tired and I didn't even get married. It wasn't simply the day of the wedding, but the entire long weekend and the nights of minimal sleep in the days before I left for San Diego. That and racking up 560 miles in the rental car in four days meant a whole lot of driving. I'll have more to say about that later.

Monday, July 16, 2007

wedding , a very short summary

Since I'm pressed for time, this will be short. The wedding was very nice and I am very tired.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

wedding (not mine)

I'm actually quite excited about the impending wedding. (I suppose impending sounds a bit dire, when upcoming conveys the same meaning without the doom and gloom connotation. Too bad. Impending has a more flair.) It's only the third wedding I've ever been to and it's a first in many respects. As I noted yesterday, it's the first wedding of friends from my peer group. It's also the first wedding where I'll be in the ceremony. I'll be sure to be on my best behavior and cover up my shaved head and scalp tattoo with a wig. I'll try to get a wig that looks like the one Pedro had in Napoleon Dynamite. I'm not sure what I can do about the face tattoo I got though. Perhaps most interesting from a social standpoint, it'll be the first Catholic wedding for me. I'm told they're long, relatively speaking. I'll try to remember not to lock my knees during the ceremony and I'll probably put some Triscuits in my pocket to tide me over if I don't think I'll make it to the reception.

supply crunch

Medium-term supply crunch for oil. Not to be confused with a peak in production.

Monday, July 09, 2007

busy, driving rule

I know I've posted very little lately. I've been busy. Very busy. Home was busy in a great way for a few special days. Hermione came to visit and graciously put up with Farmington (and our silly trip to the Aztec Speedway) for a few days. I've been in a really good mood since then and haven't felt the need to brood about and ponder things worthy of this blog. Work has also been busy. People have been on vacation and I've been covering in the field since my extended long weekend with Hermione ended. I've also had about three different things going on in the office that I'm trying to wrangle under control. And I've been a bit preoccupied with the wedding I'm going to in just a couple of days. Congratulations Chris and Christine. (For what it's worth, I'll be in San Diego [maybe LA briefly] from Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon.) This is the first wedding of friends of mine and probably marks the beginning of many wedding I'll attend over the next three to four years.

We also have this awesome new rule at work that applies to all of North America. We're not allowed to drive between 2300 and 0500. I'm less than thrilled with the rule. (Exemptions are possible, but need to be for compelling reasons.) I've already gotten to camp out twice because of this rule. I understand that accidents are umpteen times more likely during those hours, but it completely strips away our ability to gauge our own level of alertness and ability to drive. I also counter that one of the times I had to camp, I was less alert to drive when 0500 rolled around than when we finished at 0300. Most of the time when I'm done with a job, I'm riding at a pretty good energy level. But if you tell me to sit for two hours, I become drowsy and probably won't be anywhere near as alert as I was earlier. Here's a not so hypothetical example for the supervisor who has managed to have the worst luck with the rule so far. He's camped out about five, now going on six, times because of it. At 1400, a rig calls with a four hour notice for a crew. Crew arrives on location by 1800, set up by 1900, waits on rig for an hour, starts job at 2000, done with job by 2130, cleaned up by 2230, ready to go home, oh wait, they can't. It's time to sit on their hands for six hours and wait till morning when everyone is surely far more alert now that they've had six hours to do nothing but try and get some fitful sleep in a truck. Like I said before, I'm less than thrilled.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

vacation-y things

Last Saturday, I finally went to the Aztec Speedway to watch some races. Of course, it helped to have a wonderfully open-minded co-conspirator by my side. We also went to Durango, Mesa Verde, and Monument Valley and generally had a great time everywhere. But you can't beat this:

Saturday, June 30, 2007


A bit of good news. The four Schlumberger employees who were kidnapped a few weeks ago in Nigeria (see June 5 post) have been released.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

industry notes

I like to listen to Schlumberger's quarterly results conference calls. It's very illuminating to listen and hear how the company is doing, our positioning relative to competitors, strategic plans, etc. However, what is even more interesting is to hear our CEO's comments on the overall oil and gas industry and what the short and medium-term outlook is for the industry. With many people bemoaning the higher energy costs of recent history, I find it interesting to hear a little bit about how the world got to where it is and where it's going from here. While there isn't going to be a quarterly call for another month, our CEO gave a presentation at a conference a couple weeks ago. The full text is on the Schlumberger website and there's also a link to a .pdf with the full text and some interesting slides.

Friday, June 15, 2007

nba finals, thank goodness it's over

Well, I don't have much to say about the NBA Finals other than that I watched them and that I have two very general observations. First, in the last two games, watching Cleveland shoot was like watching the intramural basketball team I played on in college for one semester shoot. Second, the more I watched LeBron, the less impressed I was with his play and the less it seemed like he wanted to be there, especially as the series progressed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

fun maps

I stumbled upon this page dedicated to strange maps from the perhaps much better known Freakonomics blog. I'm glad to see that someone is taking on the difficult questions like where Middle Earth was and how did a deer get into the London Underground.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

paternity leave? what a scam

Yesterday, my manager came back to work after taking paternity leave and then using some vacation time to extend the leave. Paternity leave sure sounds like a scam to me. Last time I checked, that movie Junior was just a movie. And not one of those movies that claims to be "inspired by a true story" but an actual movie that's inspired only by shameless selling out by Conan the Barbarian.

Monday, June 11, 2007


I just stepped outside to check my mail. (I park on a side of the building such that the shortest route to my unit does not go past the mailboxes.) It's barely drizzling, just enough to make washing a car pointless and to unlock that wet pavement smell. You know the one I'm talking about. There's an odd earthiness to it, even though it's a mix of water, concrete, asphalt and bizarre chemicals leaching to the surface. I really like that smell. In my mind, it signals the start of a rain storm and I've always enjoyed the rain (except when driving on unfamiliar roads at night with old windshield wipers). Perhaps my enjoyment comes from growing up where it didn't rain a depressingly large amount. And now that I live in a desert climate, the rain's rare occurrences are all the more special.

end of an era, officially

I finally had my old car towed away today. If you're wondering why I didn't do this months ago when it stopped running, the simplest explanation you come up with is probably the correct one. Amazingly enough, I still had all the known (to me) sets of keys: two regular keys and two valet keys. Aside from those and the title, I pretty much stripped everything else of value from the car. In the end, I kept the floor mats from the front seats and moved them into my new car. (The ones from the back seat didn't fit well and I rarely have people sitting back there anyway.) Perhaps I could have taken the battery or spare tire, but there are limits to what is acceptable to have sitting in your living room. For me, nothing is working just fine.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


When I saw the headline about the kidnapping of foreigners in Nigeria, I had a bad feeling that Schlumberger's number had finally come up. Unfortunately, it's the latest in a string of incidents related to Nigeria's oil industry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'new' pump

At work, we traded a piece of equipment for another piece of equipment from another district. Specifically, we traded one cement pump unit for a different cement pump. The one we gave up was relatively new and reasonably well maintained. I had a few issues with some of the things the crew it was assigned to did, or perhaps didn't do when it came to maintenance. In the end, cleaning up and fixing the things I had a problem with wasn't more than a days worth of work for a couple guys.

The pump we received was in operational, but poor shape. The other district said it was in regular use up until we traded units and I believe that. It's just that it would have been leaking oil like a sieve. That and it had the wrong fluid in the transmissions, needed new filters of almost every kind, and was probably a few jobs away from burning up seals unless they were continually dumping extra oil into the lubrication system. Hey, it worked for them, but we have standards. I can pretend to spin this positively and say it's giving some new guys a chance to do important maintenance and it is. However, it's bothersome that a district can let equipment maintenance slide that badly. We're not perfect here, but I like to think we try.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

fusion: one month review

Newly busted bumper aside, it is time for the one month review of my car. Short version: I like it. Slightly longer version: It is largely what I expected, both the good and the not quite as good. Longer version: read below.

There's a lot about the car that I like. It's a new, generally well-reviewed competitively-priced vehicle. Personally, I like most of the exterior styling which is fairly bold for a mainstream mid-size sedan. I'm glad it's not an Accord or Camry which are just so boring (though the new Camry is a step up from their previous generation). The interior styling is a little boring, but functional. The camel color is working well, but it would show dirt easily if I was a slob. There's a useful center storage hatch on the dash and the storage area between the front seats is split into two sections. There is also a small storage area next to the glove box, but its use is somewhat limited. Fairly standard things like cup holders and a working HVAC system are a pleasant change from the 300E. Buttons on the steering wheel for cruise control and the audio system are common as well, but I'm appreciating their convenience. From a performance standpoint, the engine has plenty of power to get up and go. I'm getting used to where the shifts occur on the 6-speed automatic and it seems very capable. Handling is clean and I've tried to push it a few times by taking corners aggressively. I've gotten the tires to squeal once so far, but haven't gotten the traction control system to kick in yet. The fold flat rear seats and passenger seat are nice, though I haven't had an occasion to use them yet. As it stands, the trunk is plenty large without folding down any seats. The back seat also has lots of leg room even if I never use it.

There are several things that aren't great, but I knew they wouldn't be from the test drive. For starters, the turning radius isn't very good. However, the only times that comes into play is pulling into parking spots. The trunk line is very high and that limits rear visibility. Combined with large C-pillars this creates pretty large blind spots immediately around the car. However, this is overcome by properly positioning and learning to trust the mirrors and paying attention to how other cars are moving relative to me. I'll probably get a cheater mirror for the driver side eventually, but don't desperately need it. As long as there isn't a hobbit riding a mini-bike behind me, the rear blind spot shouldn't be an issue. I suppose driving an F-350 with a toolbox in the back for work has gotten me used to poor rear visibility. Previous complaints about the positioning of the turn signal stalk have faded as I've grown accustomed to where it is placed.

Fuel economy has been ok. It's better than the 300E, which did very badly last winter, but the 3.8 mile drive to work isn't going to change. It does do very well on the freeway with 30 MPG on an open interstate being easy to achieve. There is this high idle period when I first start the car that I assume is to help it warm up more quickly. After starting the car, it idles at close to 1500 RPM before dropping to around 700 RPM after 30 to 60 seconds and it definitely takes longer when it is colder outside. The thing I can't figure out is the way the idle drops from 1500 to 700. It doesn't happen smoothly or all of a sudden, but takes about 10 seconds and seems like it pauses briefly along the way.

There are also some items that I'm discovering as I use the car that aren't all that great. I suppose they're negatives, but none of them really bother me, though I suppose it's hard for me to get too worked up over a car. Some of the items are definitely motivated by cost savings, key to keeping the price competitive. The poor turning radius is an example of that cost savings. Another curio is that there is no trash receptacle in the car. There are places to put some trash like in the little area beneath the climate controls or in the cup holders, but there is no dedicated trash bin. The top storage area between the front seats has small halls in the top corners such that when you open the lower storage area (which involves flipping the entire top one up) things like pens can fall out. I like the split level storage and it's somewhat clever, but I can't figure out why the holes need to be large enough for a pen to fall through. My center storage hatch on the dash has a fit issue. The lid is slightly crooked but not something worth trying to fix. The storage area in the doors seems underutilized. From the sound of things, the part of the door that's not used for storage is hollow and the storage area could have been extended but would have required a more complicated mold. The craziest thing to me is that the side mirrors are fixed. They do not turn in so if I clip a pedestrian that mirror isn't going to give unless it's snapped off.

There you have it. The 2007 Ford Fusion (SE) is an eminently functional daily driver with scads of storage room, strong exterior styling and a clever but bland interior.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I got rear-ended today. It was a low-speed collision and no one was hurt. The other driver was a teenager more freaked out about what his parents were going to do to him than anything else. His car also fared much worse than mine. Funny how I can relate to that.

My car now has a somewhat ugly bumper, but is otherwise in good shape. You'll have to excuse the general dustiness of the car that might be obscuring what is collision damage and what is just dirt. The frequent lights rains followed by dusty wind make keeping a car clean, especially a dark colored one, rather futile. (Personally, I think the finger marks along the bottom of the trunk section are stylish.) If it looks like the top portion of the bumper along the middle is bowed upwards, that's because it is. However, the trunk works fine and the only thing it lost was a rubber stop that popped out that I was able to reattach. The only other easily noticeable damage is some paint transfer onto the left tailpipe that I might be able to simply rub off. Underneath the middle of the car, there is a very small dent into the wheel well that holds the spare tire. It's small enough to not merit another mention ever again. In the end, I need a new bumper and that's all I can see for the time being.

The other guy's car fared much worse than mine. If you're wondering about the coloring, the hood and right fender are not painted. Aside from the obvious front bumper, headlight, and hood damage, the right fender no longer fits properly. It looks like he fared so much worse than I did because my rear bumper was slightly taller than his front bumper. That's probably why my bumper ended up being bowed upwards in the top middle section. Meanwhile, the top of his bumper is damaged along with his hood and all the subsequent damage as the hood got pushed back. If you're wondering where his grill is, the 1999 Hyundai Accent is rather interestingly styled with no grill. For the observant reader, you'll notice that that picture is from New Zealand and you can see that the car is right-hand drive. Regardless (or is that irregardless) there's no grill on that model year.

I was planning on putting out a one month review of my car tomorrow. It's already written, but now I need to change a few things. I was going to have some comments about how I thought the rear bumper was flimsy, but I now see the value in that apparent flimsiness. The bumper gave ground in a low-speed collision the way it was supposed to and kept the rest of the car from being damaged. It performed very well and I'm very pleased that my car sustained relatively little damage.

Friday, May 25, 2007

let's sue OPEC!

Sometimes, you just have to wonder what our United States Congress is thinking. And with bipartisan support too! It's this kind of thinking that is setting up the United States for its slow, but inexorable decline in the global stage. Hey, let's not change our behavior and habits. Let's blame some other people for our self-made problems.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Eye contact aside, Denver was illuminating for other reasons. One of the other things (aside from making more eye contact) that I was told during my Denver postmortem was that they felt my behavior was arrogant. Not entirely so, but certain things I did (and of course a lack of eye contact that evidently made me seem bored at times) contributed to some thinking I was a bit arrogant. When I heard that, I was genuinely surprised.

In hindsight, and given their explanations, I can see how they gathered that impression. The short response is that they badly misinterpreted several different things. That is not to say that it was not my fault that they misinterpreted several different things. A lot of this goes back to eye contact, or lack thereof, which is very noticeable and something most people cue heavily off of. Obviously, there were other behaviors and acts cited that added to the appearance of arrogance. I am fairly certain that if I engaged in a more typical level of eye contact, my other actions would have been interpreted very differently. Read: not arrogant.

Am I actually arrogant? Mostly no, but I have my moments. However, work is not where those moments come out. When it comes to my attitude at work, the basic driver is that everyone has something to teach me so there's always a need to listen and humble one's attitude. In the same vein, I probably have something that I can teach everyone. Of course, I say all sorts of facially arrogant things, but they are meant in jest and context is important. There was none of that in Denver because it was more formal and serious and I have discovered that sarcasm does not translate well. Any perceived arrogance in Denver was just that: perceived, not real.

The entire sequence has provided me with an invaluable learning experience. Ultimately, it is my image and my responsibility to manage that image. If others misinterpret my basic attitude, that may be their mistake, but it is my problem. Obviously, I get one first impression and that colors how people perceive me for a long time. My experience is that I make generally poor first impressions. Perhaps not poor, but much weaker than I am capable of. The only way to overcome weak impressions is to spend enough time with me either at work or socially and get to know my style and how I get things done. Unfortunately, sometimes there isn't time to get to know me, so all people get are their impressions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Ah, the sweet absurdity of divestitures. Apparently, some of our presidential candidates have investments in companies that do business in Sudan. And my employer is one of those companies! How utterly shocking. (In fact, the moment I saw the article's headline, I knew it would be named.) The thing is, a lot of people own a bit of Schlumberger. It's one of the most widely held companies in the world with over a thousand institutions holding shares. You may not own individual shares, but that's a lot of different mutual funds and other institutions that you may have a piece of.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

eye contact

Eye contact is my mortal enemy. I also face (no pun intended) a big contradiction when it comes to how I feel about making eye contact when I am speaking versus when I am listening. It is perhaps fittingly ironic due to recent events that the contradiction seems to arise from the differences in how I perceive others compared to how I think others perceive me.

The short version is that I am reluctant to make eye contact with my audience when speaking because they will somehow see something bad in them. I'm not really sure what I'm so concerned about that they might see. Perhaps it's a lack of enthusiasm, which might be real because I am intrinsically enthusiastic about so few things. Perhaps they'll think I'm hiding something, which may also be true because I'm always hiding something. To be honest, whenever I talk to someone, I'm thinking about other things at the same time. Sometimes my thoughts run parallel thinking about topics tangentially related to the actual conversation or I might be thinking about how my moral relativism leaves me on a slippery slope or I might be thinking that I'm really bored by the people I'm talking to and need to figure a way to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Perhaps my audience will see in me all the things I see in me, most of which aren't that great. They'll see every doubt, every piece of contrary evidence, past failures, and every poor decision I have ever made. In my head, I know they can't see any of this. They can't see the doubt, boredom, or insecurity. But maybe, just maybe they can, so I avoid it.

When listening to people, I avoid eye contact because I generally don't believe it will help me take in their message any better. I understand that eye contact at the socially prescribed levels conveys a sense of engagement to the speaker, but I can be perfectly engaged and not look at someone's eyes or at least not look at them 50% of the time. All the things that I fear other people will read into my eyes when I speak, I can figure out without looking at someone's eyes half the time. It's an odd contradiction, but there it is. For me, since I am not accustomed to looking people in the eye the socially recommended amount, it takes concerted effort on my part. That is effort that cannot go towards processing their words and tones and thinking about what their saying while listening to it at the same time. I can look at a person's eyes and face and body language when it is necessary, but the difference between necessary and socially acceptable is quite large.

Perhaps the contradiction isn't so great. It may be a matter of scale. I don't avoid eye contact at all costs, but I don't engage in it very often. I look at peoples' eyes only enough for my sake, not for theirs. I will look at someone's eyes to get the information I need from them or I may even look people in the eyes to make sure they understand what I am saying. But I will not look people in the eye half the time or more just because it is the socially proper thing to do. I am told that making eye contact is an honest gesture. Well, I'm an honest person and an attentive conversation partner should be able to pick that up. I shouldn't have to stare them down until they figure it out. Once again, my arrogance has been mistaken for apathy. Excellent.

In the end, the most likely explanation for why I avoid eye contact is because it's an acquired skill that I have not acquired. To me, eye contact in nature conjures up images of staring and hostility. It's not a natural thing for people to do during a conversation. It's an elaborate song and dance meant to convey honesty and attentiveness and sincerity because people don't know how to simply be those things and don't know when others have those qualities. Eye contact is not natural for me and I suspect it's not a natural skill for most people. I know I need to work on it and I will, but only grudgingly.

Friday, May 11, 2007

image management

I had a very interesting experience in Denver this week. The end result of my time there was not the desired outcome I sought and something I think most people would consider to be pretty bad. Since that sounds somewhat ominous, before I go any further, I should say that I still have a job. As the secret eternal optimist that I am, I have decided to spin my experience into one of learning.

The principle purpose of my trip to Denver was for an internal control (or vetting) process to check a variety of items like presentation and speaking skills, technical knowledge, understanding of safety standards, finance, and other relevant topics. I did not pass. It was not due to my lack of knowledge (though that could have been better), but principally due to my attitude, or my perceived attitude, and behavior. Woe is me for I am so misunderstood! Or maybe I'm just a jerk. But probably not the latter. Or the former. Perhaps like most things, reality lies somewhere in the middle.

For example, my eye contact or lack thereof was one of the specific items cited. I think anyone who has spent a significant amount of time with me knows, or will now think about all their interactions with me in a different light after reading this, that I am not big on eye contact. I rarely look people in the eyes ever. It doesn't matter if I'm doing the listening or the talking. I just don't feel a compelling need to look people in the eye. I understand the significance most people attach to eye contact and I've been trying to figure out why I apparently find it less important and of course I have some theories.

To me, looking someone in the eye to indicate that I am listening to them doesn't actually make me pay attention any better. I understand that it lets the speaker know that I'm listening and that conveys respect for what he or she is saying which raises their esteem for me because I am pretending to find what they have to say deeply fascinating. (Ah, sarcasm is always so close by.) However, looking at someone's eyes is distracting. It allows for the speaker to convey non-verbal messages through facial and eye expressions that could warp the message I am receiving when I want their words and words alone. If I wanted to let their eyes potentially lie to me, then I would look at their eyes. Looking away while listening make sit easier to think simultaneously because I don't need to distract myself with darting eyeballs.

In much the same vein, I don't look people in the eyes when I talk to them. I suspect part of it is my reluctance to allow others to see inside me and realize that I have no soul since I traded it for a donut several years ago.

There were a variety of other specifics cited, but I think the eye contact is easy to understand and illustrate. All in all, it provided a very interesting lesson in image management.

Monday, April 30, 2007

energy drinks

A couple days ago, I received an e-mail bulletin at work that had made its way down through the grapevine. It actually started out with a client at another district before reaching the regional managers and then getting filtered back down to the district level. The subject was energy drinks. Most people are probably familiar with the names Red Bull and Monster and that those are basically beverages of choice for idiots loading up on caffeine. The bulletin concerned beverages of a similar vein like Liquid Charge, Sparks, Tilt, and Mickey's Stinger. Apparently, a random inspection turned them up in the lockers of a rig crew in California. The difference between those and the more mainstream brands is that those four all contain alcohol along with caffeine. Nothing quite like knowing the people you work with might be juiced on caffeine but ready to crash and crash hard at any moment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

back and car

By the way, I've been back for a couple of days now. I had a great time and photos will eventually be forthcoming. And I got my car today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

in 24 hours

In 24 hours, I'll be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

snow, car, vacation

I know I haven't posted much recently, but I've had a fair bit on my mind and my writing energy has been sapped by legitimate work needs.

It's still snowing around here, but at least it's not in town. In fact, it didn't even rain in town on Friday, when it was snowing in the field. We were about 30 miles east of Farmington and about 1000 ft higher up. Admittedly, this wasn't much of a surprise. When you have occasion to work outdoors, you pay attention to the weather forecast simply because it really sucks when it ends up being colder than you're dressed for.

I also stopped by the Ford dealer on Friday. According to their system, my car was built and shipped two weeks ago on April 4. Of course, it needs to travel from the factory in Hermosillo, Mexico (go NAFTA!) by train to Denver before it gets trucked down to Farmington. And of course the transport truck in Denver needs to be full before it leaves. Thus, the expected delivery date to the dealership is still 10 days away, but it may be here sooner. Either way, unless it shows up in the next three days, it might as well take the full 10 days. I suppose I'm kind of excited now that it's so close.

The reason it might as well take 10 days is because I leave for an all too brief vacation on Thursday. At least I can pretend that getting my car is a consolation prize for having my vacation end so soon.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Here are some photos of our district manager's Harley that I mentioned a couple weeks ago. I snagged pictures of the rear, rear three-quarters, and front quarter.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

random music rant

This seems like an appropriate time to rant about nothing in particular. Out in the field, your radio station choices are slightly limited by broadcast strength and what particular canyon you're in. The result is that it's usually some country station or the one pop/hip-hop/top-20-ish station in the area. Sorry country music, outside of a couple select songs, you're just not for me. However, this does mean I often hear Fergie and all her songs where she spells a word as part of the lyrics. In Here I Come, Fergalicious, and Glamorous there's at least one instance where a word is spelled out. And in Fergalicious, she spells 'tasty' with an 'e' so it ends up being 'tastey'. That's just lazy. Use a thesaurus if you're desperate for a six-letter word that means delicious. Go with 'savory' or even 'delish' will work.

The biggest problem, spelling aside, is that this is simply song filler. These aren't meaningful lyrics, though in all fairness, who listens to pop music for meaningful lyrics. That's what depressing rock is for. Back on topic, this is garbage music with no substance. It's sold on sex appeal (what a surprise) and a not-quite-articulated idea of empowerment. Another Fergie song that has lots of filler, though thankfully doesn't spell out any words, is London Bridge. Look up the lyrics and you'll see what I mean.

Currently, it seems like Glamorous is on the radio quite a bit these days. If you've had the good fortune of never hearing it, here are some lyrics. When 'glamorous' is spelled out, the first four letters are said about one second apart, then a brief pause, then the next two letters about one second apart, then the last three letters quickly. The only thing that makes this song bearable is that I imagine that 'cromulent' is being spelled out instead and I'll sing over the lyrics at the appropriate times. For those unfamiliar with the origin of cromulent, see here and here (definitions one and two only, though the example sentence is the third one is good for a laugh). I think it would be a good place to start with a Weird Al parody, though London Bridge probably has more potential as an entire song.

Friday, March 30, 2007

snow again?

I suppose I was wrong about it not snowing in town again this season. This morning, I woke to this view out my bedroom window. For perspective, and rather by coincidence, I took this photo yesterday of the very same tree. The trees are blossoming and it seemed like nice picture to take. Now, I'm pretty certain that it will not snow in town again this season.

If you look at that latter photo closely, you'll notice that the shadow are short, indicating that the picture was taken in the middle of the day. The principle reason I might be home in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday is what? Work of course. More specifically, going home from work because I was working all night. More accurately, I wasn't at the office of course, but here instead. They did something silly like drop the casing and then weren't able to fish it out of the hole. We were there to set some plugs (see the last four words of the definition) so they could start fresh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the terrible secret of space

This brings me back a few years.

Just what is the terrible secret of space? Does it really matter?

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Last Saturday, I was at a colleague's house for a barbeque. It happened to be only field personnel there except for our district manager and he only stopped by for a little bit while cruising around town on his Harley. (He has one of those with a skinny, little front tire and a big, fat rear tire. The general layout is like so, but his rear tire is much, much wider. If I ever remember, I'll take a picture for what we'll call posterity.) Not surprisingly, I was the only one who didn't drink though I was surprised to be the only non-smoker as well. Someone who I thought didn't smoke apparently does. Also not surprising, while it was late when I left, I would've had to stay much longer to have made it till the end.

Events like this remind me that I'm not a normally outgoing person. I do fine in social settings and largely avoid making an ass of myself. In fact, in the right setting, I'm lots of fun, or so I'm told. In the smoke and drink-enough-beer-to-make-me-wonder-how-everyone-managed-to-get-home setting, I'm a fish out of water. (For frequent readers with good memories, this is closely related with why the hype of going to Vegas is much more fun than actually going.) I was amused when I left and one of the guys asked me if I was ok to drive, so I asked him how many beers he had seen me drink.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

music and money

I'm a big fan of songs where the singer is slightly down, but the lyrics are ultimately optimistic. Songs like Time Like These (especially the acoustic version) by Foo Fighters, Save Yourself by Sense Field, and Breathing by Lifehouse. (The subject matter of that last one is up for debate, but I can imagine that the "you" in the song is whoever I want it to be.)

This has me a bit conflicted about where I want to go from here. Musical tastes are often a reflection of someone's personality. I consider myself to be an optimist in the 'we can make the world a better place' mold. However, I like some music with a darker edge like Eminem or System of a Down. There certainly is a darker side to my personality. It's one I've explored a great deal in a theoretical sense, but very rarely in a practical sense. In other words, I've given a great deal of thought about how this part of me would manifest itself in certain situations, but had few occasions to see it in action.

But I'm not interested in an exposition about my personality and I doubt you are especially given the viewing-weighted average reader. I'm much more troubled by what I see in the Weekend Linkfest. My book reading has largely been replaced by this sort of hodgepodge self-education on business and economic matters. The sense I get is not a good one. Personally, I'm currently conservatively positioned with respect to the vagaries of market exposure. Housing, on average (Bay Area is not average), still has some way to fall. The long-term debt situation is not one that seems like it can end well. But I'm still an optimist! Just not unnecessarily so.