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.