Monday, May 30, 2011

las vegas, a return to

That was time well spent in Las Vegas over the weekend. It was actually my first time in Vegas in five years. It was also probably the first time I truly embraced the absurdity of Vegas. No more worrying about the excess and obvious fakery about the city. Just pure embracing of the silliness. And a lot of walking. Anyway, to good fiscal decisions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

skilled labor

Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel's program Dirty Jobs testified in front of the a Congressional Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last week. It was very interesting testimony on the need for skilled labor. It also connects very well with some of the ideas I brought up several weeks ago in a post on trade schools and the military. At our core, if we want to be an industrial nation rather than a service one, we need skilled labor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

politics for sale

Splendid, a commissioner from the FCC is leaving to join Comcast-NBC Universal. What makes it so splendid is that four months ago, the FCC approved the merger between Comcast and NBC-Universal. Now, commissioner Baker is leaving to go join the very company that she voted to help create. It is very difficult to have much faith in public institutions and their ability to properly regulate industry when it is so clear that the process is broken. For what it's worth, and this doesn't make it any better and actually makes it even worse, is that this sort of behavior is bipartisan. Our system is run by two parties which are both beholden to the money that lobbyists bring. And the only way a third-party can be viable is with a lot of money. Sigh.

Monday, May 09, 2011

people are people, but

This is deeply frustrating and now the fourth time I am trying to summon up this post. While the post date doesn't match with the Blogger downtime, the downtime coincides with when I actually finished writing this post. I am not going to waste much on smooth delivery or finely crafted sentences or even spell-checking my work (as if I ever do), since I just want to get this posted.

My post, in bullet format:
* People are people, for the most part, regardless of where they are from.
* Amusing work anecdote about diversity, dubious relevance to point.
* People are still people, but have a blind spot.

People are people. This is a sentiment I have expressed several times before. Much if it in recent years has been shaped by my travels, largely made possible by work and a willingness to simply go wherever they want to send me. By and large, people are people and want the same basic things. They want a means to satisfy their needs and a reasonable number of their wants. Of course, wants vary widely and are significant when it comes to someone's happiness and fulfillment. However, most people who are not interested in world domination have relatively straightforward wants. You're of course welcome to disagree with me on this, but this is my position.

Work has afforded me to opportunity to meet and speak and learn from people from a large portion of the world. Combined with the diversity of the Bay Area and this just feels rather normal to me to be around varied groups. At the last conference-room meeting I attended in Gabon, the others in the meeting aside from myself were from Ecuador, France, Italy, Cameron, Gabon, Ivory Coast (born there, but I think he was French-Lebanese), Syria, and Egypt. While perhaps more varied than a typical meeting, it was also not even noteworthy (unless you're incredibly excited about supply chain restructuring). Amongst any reasonable group of people, most of them are just people looking to celebrate their respective independence days, enjoy home-cooked food, and get excited about soccer rivalries. However, I find they often have a very specific blind spot.

People are people, but they are often ignorant or in denial about the past (and present) misdeeds and problems of their home country. It's perhaps hard to fully explain this, but people are often very defensive about perceived slights against the homeland. Some are willing to admit to problems, but many are not able to rationally discuss any of the seamier parts of their nation's history. I once tried to discuss the Armenian Genocide with a Turkish colleague. It was not a very long conversation. Am I thrilled by the less-than-glamorous aspects of American history? Of course not, but I am willing to discuss them and acknowledge where historic injustice has occurred and where the present-day situation is out-of-balance. We should actively engage and discuss the worst parts of our histories because they are excellent places to learn from.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

commodities crushed today

In a bit of a departure from my usual topics, commodities have been absolutely crushed this week. Gold, silver, crude, copper, coffee, etc almost all down across the board this week and some of them fell sharply today. Crude has been arguably over-valued, even with production shut down in Libya. Now, it looks like some demand is being eaten away at due to the high oil prices. Also, silver has tumbled badly this week but looking at its chart indicates this was probably bound to happen.

While we are in realm of commodities, my old friend natural gas storage is also worth a look at. We entered the winter at record high storage levels (again) and saw an unusually cold winter help draw down inventory. Now that it's May, we're back onto the usual storage upswing and activity in the field is very high. I fully expect storage levels to gain relative to the 5-year average and enter this coming winter at near-record levels once again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

queen, timeless

Ah yes, the timeless Queen Elizabeth II, now pictured with every U.S. President (excluding LBJ) since Truman. If you're wondering, QEII (not the ship nor monetary policy) simply never met LBJ.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

why turkmenistan?

I am getting the sense that I need to explain this next work assignment a bit better. Turkmenistan isn't exactly near the top of any quality of life surveys. Instead, it finds itself near the top of less desirable lists. There will be issues with medical care, connectivity, travel restrictions, etc. I am not sure the what the full extent of any of the hardships there will be like until I arrive. It is, without a doubt, going to be a very eye-opening experience.

What will I be doing? It'll be more similar to my job role in Hungary than the last one I had in Gabon. In that sense, slightly more technical and sales/marketing focus, but operations will always be close by. It is mostly a lateral move though saying that makes it sound like it's not a good thing for me when I am quite confident it will be good.

What will life be like? It is a camp location. While the camp is not inside the operations base, the welcome booklet indicates it is a couple minute walk away. This is fine with me because then I don't have to drive which is actually something I have never really enjoyed as commuting combines both tedium and risk in a very unsatisfying way. However, I am not going to be in Turkmenistan to savor the tourist attractions and Silk Road history. I will be there to work and don't plan or foresee much other activity that will draw any meaningful amount of my time.

What are some reservations? Connectivity is perhaps going to be less optimal than any other location, but there will always be bandwidth for e-mails. My lack of writing, as always, will be driven by laziness and a gripping uncertainty about what to write about. Given that, please don't send me large attachments or YouTube links. I will not look at them.

Why is this a good thing? Rotation. I will be working what will generally be a 7x3 rotation, meaning 7 weeks on and 3 weeks off. But, and this is a very big but, I fully expect the rotation to vary from that, especially the first 1-2 shifts there as I need to get my cycle to fit in with my manager's time and other colleagues. This fundamentally means more time off. I have already worked 7 days a week for a few years now, really since my time in Texas. I can handle this. Plus, for me, a camp-like housing situation means fewer distractions and hassles. Frankly, I kind of hate grocery shopping. And don't hate cooking, but dislike the time it takes. Now, food will be prepared for me! Also, I expect a similar level of support-side difficulties as Gabon. This is obviously not a good thing, but it is something I have come to both expect and know I can cope with.

Once I get there, I'll pretend to keep promises about taking photos and writing home. Cheers.

Monday, May 02, 2011

why are we celebrating?

That was certainly quite the announcement from President Obama that Osama bin Laden had been found and killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Paskitstan. On a level, I had always thought this was inevitable. (In hindsight, the cave fortress idea does seem a bit ridiculous.)

I understand the joy and sense of relief that this brings to many people, but the open celebrations are mildly dissappointing. This is especially so when you consider what we have traded in this pursuit and search for one man. At best, the celebrations are driven by a sense of relief and are only slightly awkward. At worst, they give the impression to the rest of the world that we have been driven by bloodlust for nearly ten years and that we are waging a much deeper war than we say we are. I think very few Americans understand that there is a large portion of the world that either believes 9/11 never happened, was orchestrated by the U.S. government, or somehow both of those things at the same time.

Yes, the death of OBL is a victory and should be acknowledged as one, but it is very small when considering what we say we are trying to accomplish. We are attempting to wage war on a tactic, not an entitiy. This amorphous war on terror has no desireable end game. The only end-game against terror is totalitarianism and that is absolutely not a price worth paying.

As a side note, a quote has appeared that is being attributed to Mark Twain. It was not spoken by Mark Twain, but istead by Clarence Darrow. That quote is about the most positive I can feel about the discovery and death of OBL.