Saturday, October 30, 2010


This seems so delightfully entertaining that I wonder if I should also try to opt-out of the body scanner the next time I fly in the U.S.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


What? You're saying I have to compromise? No optical drive? No ethernet plug? Limited upgrades possible in the future? Restricted platform? No keyboard? The computing device of my dreams has not yet been invented and/or the fundamental mind-reading technology that I asked for cannot ever exist? I'm shocked and appalled. Or possibly apathetic.

Compromise is inevitable. The eternal optimist part of me views compromise as a way of forcing you to decide what is truly important to your decision-making process. If you are purchasing some object, what features and specifications are desired, what is acceptable, what is unacceptable, what is the cost and how do you attach weight and significance to each of those variables? The always cynical pessimist part of me views compromise as a capitulation that you will not get what you want, but merely a (presumably) passable stop-gap until something better comes along. This is not entirely fair (of course) but merely an acknowledgment that what you want does not always exist. The pragmatist in me views compromise as the inevitable byproduct of form versus function, cost (in more than simple dollar terms) versus available resources, and uniqueness versus availability.

And is that why I am so ruthlessly judgmental about relationships, both of my own and those of others? Ideally, a nice lady-friend (yes, I like euphemisms) would be smarter than me yet without the arrogance I have about considering most people intellectual doormats, graceful and refined yet relaxed and casual in a folksy/charming sort of way, doesn't ever ask me to dance, independent and outgoing and yet able to just hang and relax, enthusiastic about life in general, optimistic with a twist of pragmatic cynicism, gives good back rubs, strong, tall with dark wavy hair, but simultaneously a touch of redhead in there and some light freckles yet not a propensity to sunburn (because that's just annoying), more patient than I have ever learned to be, and gets my absurd sense of humor and sarcasm without being offended. Easy, right? Like me, but way more awesome. And female.

Damn compromises.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

new computer?

Should I get a new computer? Better put, should I get a new computing device, regardless of the form factor it has? Let's be clear though: iPad is not a computing device. It is a media consumption device.

Despite my previous protestations that I was not interested in another MacBook, I admit to being intrigued by the latest MacBook Airs with their portability, improved real-world processing power, and the sexy allure of no moving parts. However, it's still a Mac which means it has all the Mac-ness intact of crappy Quicken and other software issues, keyboard commands I never master, closed system world, and the smug attitude of Steve Jobs.

I am also intrigued by the HP Slate. Well, maybe not by that specific device, but perhaps by the second or third generation when it figures itself out. However, I do want to get my hands on one to assess how significant such a small screen (8.9 in) would have on daily use. Additionally, can I get behind a touchscreen keyboard and/or a separate keyboard? Maybe, but I have little sausage fingers that need room to work. (Note: I don't have little sausage fingers. They are pleasingly ordinary.)

So, what I'm asking is, who can recommend something that is highly portable, has a long battery life, extensive processing power, can run Windows applications, and employ the good aspects of Mac user experience and security? Oh, I also don't want to spend a lot of money.

Actually, price is not a compelling factor. In the end, I'm tentatively leaning towards a Windows-based laptop and portability and reasonable power are the most relevant factors. Who makes laptops that don't suck?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Q3 earnings

Hey hey. Third quarter earnings came out yesterday. For anyone interested, Seeking Alpha has a transcript available. For those who are not so keen on reading, you should be able to download an .mp3 of the call from here in a few days.

I didn't have time to listen to the call as it happened and didn't go through the transcript yet. But hey, have at it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sinopec in gabon

A bit more than a year ago, Sinopec bought Addax Petroleum. Addax has been a steadily active operator in Gabon. Only recently has Sinopec hoisted their sign on top of the Addax sign at the local office in Port Gentil and apparently brought in some Chinese management observers. Good luck with that 30% cost reduction.

Sinopec, aside from being an oil and gas operator, also has its own service company branches. This is not common amongst major oil and gas operators these days, though it was more common a long time ago all over and more recently, it was, and is still somewhat, common amongst Eastern European operators as a holdover of of the Soviet era. Back when everything was state-run in that part of the world, service functions were provided in-house. Sinopec, like the other major Chinese companies, is state-backed and those in-house service companies are probably very useful for operating in China. Those same service branches are harder to employ in a country like Gabon where government rules related to tendering requirements make it harder to self-employ them. Additionally, other oil and gas operators would be very reluctant to use the service-arm of a fellow operator that would probably share information with the parent company.

We had a meeting today about Sinopec and their plans. The specifics of the meeting are not very important, and of course I would never discuss them here anyway, but we ended up rambling a bit and got to talking about Sinopec's strategy and what the significance the trade deals China has with Gabon might mean in terms of special access for Sinopec and exemption from the normal rules. Just speculation. Anyway, I was spending the meeting thinking about how the objectives Sinopec has are fundamentally different than that of a normal operator. They are not there to make money first. They are here to secure resources for China. That difference is critically important to understanding the decisions Sinopec is likely to make here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

i am tired

It's only Tuesday? That's what I said today at the base. I should really sleep more.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

dylan ratigan is angry

Dylan Ratigan is angry. I remember him as the host on Fast Money, a show I will shamefully admit to having watched when I had my pseudo-TV when I lived in New Mexico. For those not in-the-know, Fast Money was one of the talking head CNBC shows that aired around the same time as Cramer's Mad Money. Fast Money was only less moronic with slightly better advice, but still just fluff disguised as wisdom. Anyway, Ratigan was the host of the show and he often seemed a bit embarrassed by the antics of the commentators on the panel. So it's nice to see him on his own show not sucking so badly.

In a mostly-unrelated note, if Ratigan ever had to be played by an actor in a movie, I would recommend Dominic West from The Wire. I just finished watching the first season (and I don't have any others) and it was awesome.

Friday, October 15, 2010

ron paul is questioning

This is hardly new, but I only recently stumbled upon it on these here intertubes. The original What If? speech by Ron Paul made on the House floor back in February of 2009 is good enough. However, the remixed version benefits from the power of music and the graphics are perhaps neutral. I really like the pace of the music, especially during the first minute.

I cannot fully endorse Paul as a politician for some of his views that I disagree with, but we need voices of dissent like his if our political system is to work correctly. Sadly, we seem to be on the verge of electing back into some power the very people who ran us aground, but have repackaged themselves as 'new' and 'different' and 'outsiders'. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

police stop (again)

Last night (as of the date on this post, not when it's actually showing up), I was stopped by the police. Meh. This was actually the third time I've been stopped by the police since they routinely run check points on main roads, often by the main road to the industrial port area. It's never gone exactly smoothly, though at least I've always had a passenger who knew some degree of French more than me.

Aside: If you want to know how my French is, ask yourself how good it would be if you spent nearly 12 hours a day of every day at work. It's a matter of time and personal commitment. I can make the time, but I'm not committed.

Anyway, last night's stop went a bit differently because I was not carrying my passport (which I never do) and because I'm a goof and have not bothered to get a certified copy. This was never an issue on the first two stops, but apparently, this was a good night for the police to run a check point right outside the police station. It was a bit odd that they even had an evening checkpoint running as I have never seen that before. Well, I made some calls and got someone to bring my passport to me, but the police had taken my other documents (driving permit, car papers) into the station and I needed to follow suit.

The good news was that I was not alone. Our driver guy came (to help get the passport) and was able to run some degree of interference. I was out in a few minutes after 12,000 CFA (about $24) changed hands. Good times had by all.

And it really was good times, at least in a relative sense. Shortly after I entered the station, four other expats were brought in (a mix of South African and UK I learned) for what was likely the same sort of runaround. Oddly enough, they weren't even driving. They had been passengers in a taxi that got pulled over. It was only a bit more than above-average in dodginess when some local guy was also brought in and yelled at by the police. They pushed him to his knees and did a bit of yelling while he fumbled around for his ID out of his pocket. And then he was gone. Seriously Mom, I'm ok.

I never did get a receipt. Go figure.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

this will be interesting

This is hardly new news, and I didn't discuss anything about the BP report on Macondo when it first came out, but the government (whatever that means) will be testing the cement (or at least the cement design if field samples no longer exist, since they probably all sank with the Deepwater Horizon rig) used on that now better-known-than-most cement job.

As for the BP report, which is available in video form, I found it very, um, interesting. The comments made about the cement job were of particular interest to me. Send me an e-mail for why I found it so interesting.

not binary day

If today as October 10, 2010, often displayed as 10.10.10 is this alleged binary day, then what is tomorrow? Tomorrow is 10.11.10 or perhaps 11.10.10 for the European-heavy readership I have. Again, another 'binary' date, but it's not 'binary day' or whatever else people want to celebrate today as. In reality, it's just another day and so is today. Just another day. They are all days, with dates determined by a largely arbitrary calendar system. We didn't want to tell you this until you were older, but the dates are meaningless. They aren't special and unique snowflakes. They are really the same day.

Now I want to watch Fight Club. But I can't so I have to keep watching Terminator Salvation on the television. In fairness, it's better than watching the 'no power, no water' programming we had on Thursday night.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

bribery probe

Hmmm, this looks interesting. Evidently, there's a bribery probe related to work in Yemen from a few years back. (It's a WSJ journal link so it'll go behind their pay wall pretty soon). This is one of those areas of the business where I am not involved (both functionally and geographically in this case), but there are similar operating challenges in this part of the world.

Friday, October 01, 2010

dash 8-300 and an elephant

I took a nice little trip to a client office yesterday. By nice little trip, I mean, I flew there since they are the one client in Gabon that does not run their primary office out of Port Gentil. Transport was client-provided on a surprisingly large aircraft, a Dash 8-300. In the town, which only exists because of the client's long-term presence in the region, I saw an elephant. Woo hoo. Sadly, no camera as I had loaned it to a colleague who used it the prior day to take some photos of some of our equipment.