Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updates and an Opinion

Update on becoming eligible to bid on government contracts: After spending too much time trying to register on the Dun’s website, we gave up and called them today. It turns out that establishing P.O. boxes as we wander around prevented the computer from recognizing us. We have a permanent address that we forward our mail from and use as our resident address. That didn’t work either, so I used the last address I had when I lived in a real house. Anyway, we now have a Dun’s number and now must get registered with the government. That’s the Central Contract Registration or CCR site which is now the Sam’s site. Once we are registered as a contractor we can then bid on jobs. Hopefully some of you find this informative as I will update as we go through the process.
Update on my never ending battle with my basement heat pumps: I ripped the front heat pump out of the nose of the motor home because the fan had failed. I now know how Andy felt when he removed his generator. We had a parade of folks that came through today that thought we would never get it back together; much less installed. The unit has to literally be shoe horned in and out of the space. Once it is out the fan is removed by gutting everything between the evaporator and condenser-wow what a challenge. It is back in place and working now. I like basement air; but don’t think the effort and expense to maintain it is worth it.
Update on internet in the boonies: We are stepping into the 21st century and acquiring Wild Blue satellite internet. We were content with the Virgin air card (actually a Mi Fi) that included 5 MB’s per 30 day period. Unfortunately Virgin has a limited presence in the oil patch. We then submitted to the monopoly that is AT&T (at least where we work) and acquired phones and an air card from them. The problem is that AT&T’s pay as you go plan only allows you 1 MB of data! We have debated about getting satellite internet, especially since it requires a contract, but finally relented when they had a cyber Monday special and offered free installation and setup.
I wanted to address the disagreement some folks have over blog content. Apparently some folks take umbrage over the content of some blogs, saying their content is superfluous and inane. My feelings are that a blog should be a place where you are allowed to express yourself, whatever the content may be. Some of it may disturb you, but the freedom to do that should be sacrosanct. Not all of us are talented writers and some of us apparently think that describing our daily routine is a subject of interest. Whatever your motives, I say write away. For those of you that are not pleased with what you read, just remember-dismissing it from your screen only requires a click on your part. Sometimes I believe the blogs I read are the author’s way of reaching out, sort of a vicarious way of keeping in touch and staying busy. So be it-write away my fellow bloggers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude of the Gate Guard Kind

I got to thinking about the things we as gate guards are grateful for. I don’t doubt the veracity or sincerity of the things we give thanks for. I just think we sometimes forget or take a lot of blessings for granted. This morning I realized AGAIN how grateful I am for having a level pad to park our motorhome on. For the last few months we keep returning to a gate on an incline. We have wooden pads that we made to keep our jacks off of the ground. They were not much help as once the jacks were fully extended we still were not level. We then fabricated ramps out of wood and plastic pads and drove up on them. Remember that each of these attempts required running around the motorhome and adding/removing whatever material we could find to get the front of the motorhome up in the air. Our final setup had the back bumper inches from the ground and our front bumper about waist high. We still were not level and; even though it was only nose down a few degrees, it caused problems. The shower did not drain properly and if you got up too quickly you would catch yourself stumbling. I didn't realize how much it affected my sleep till we settled on our current pad. I haven’t said much about it, but I have noticed and appreciated the cooler temperatures. Especially since we are now tackling the overhaul of our front air conditioner. I am grateful that the roughnecks we have on this rig don’t come and go at all hours of the day and night. I am grateful for a field superintendent and company men that value and appreciate us. I am grateful and also want to give a plug to J Bar. I will not publish his name, but one of their drivers shares what water he has remaining with us after he services the rig. There are many other things, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the gratitude I feel for having so many caring and giving colleagues on (and off) gates around us. I mention this because I have also met the killjoys we have on a few gates. Boy; that will make you grateful!
I almost forgot-I am grateful I have a job!!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkeys, Monkeys and Stress

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and our home is a cornucopia of sights and smells. Non perishable pies are stacked on the counters (thank God it’s not 100 degrees these days) and the icebox smells like a corner diner. We simply have no more room for storing food. This happens every year around the holidays. You would think we would learn. We seem to always snatch up the deal at the local supermarket and then can’t get rid of it all. We not only had the rig feed us, we also had a friend bring a dish from home (we babysat their gate so they could have Thanksgiving dinner at home). This year I had an idea things were again going to get out of hand so we did not smoke our turkey. We did smoke a turkey breast. Since I was otherwise occupied, Missy took on the task of smoking the turkey breast. She did an outstanding job. If there was a way I would feed the less fortunate with our leftovers.

We have embarked on the journey of becoming eligible to bid on government contracts. Since I didn’t think this would be easy (and I was right), I am going to document our efforts on this blog. We worked during two summers in the Branson area and of all the places we’ve worked that is our favorite. We both enjoy the shows and the recreational opportunities. We would like to work as gate attendants for the Corps of Engineers at Table Rock Lake. So far I know I have to obtain a Duns number and some CCR thing. I got the skinny from a Corps of Engineers employee which was my first step, especially since that would give me a human to communicate with. Today I went to the website that takes you through the steps necessary to obtain the Duns number. After many hours and failed attempts-something about their site not responding-I have given up for now. A brief excursion on the Google search engine revealed that the CCR thingee is now a SAM thingee. I’ll also pursue that later.

Things of note:
Apparently there are enough foolish people out there to cause an accident involving over 100 vehicles. I don’t know about you, but if the weather ever gets bad enough to where I can’t see I am getting off the highway. Apparently a bunch of folks on I-10 near Beaumont, Texas didn’t get the memo. I remember a memorable drive between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama one night where conditions got that way. Fog had made visibility drop to under a hundred yards. The majority of drivers never lifted off of the throttle, at night and in a 70 mph zone. I was terrified before we found an exit.
I hope none of my readers ever react to stress by not only destroying their home; but also over thirty homes of other innocent folks. A couple is suspected of doing that exact thing. Unlike their now deceased neighbors, they were not at home. They tried to blame the explosion on a faulty heater, but the fact that they were not home and authorities feel the explosion was remotely triggered, makes them prime suspects. I can’t imagine that conversation-“Gee honey, I told you not to wait that long” or ”Wow that was a lot bigger than we planned!” You get the idea.
On a more positive note; we actually had a good encounter with a mechanic. We had him install new shocks and struts on our Santa Fe. When I went to drive it, a loud rattling (did I say LOUD?) emanated from the back of the car. A call to the mechanic resulted in him not only coming out to our site to fix it; he also admitted to having left a spacer out of one the shocks. I was impressed.
Finally, please do not ever get so stressed or out of control that you feel the need to go to your local zoo and beat the stuffing out of some poor, innocent monkey. As I like to say I can’t make this up folks. They are out there and among us!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Somebody Throw Me a Line

Well, it’s 40 some days and counting before we hit the “fiscal cliff”. This was put in place to get our representatives in Washington off their collective butts and make something happen. I believe some stop gap measure will be enacted before they are forced to take their medicine. They've done it before and one wonders how much “teeth” this “fiscal cliff” has when everyone knows there is an out. It’s odd that much of the argument hinges on taxes. You can argue endlessly; but much of the burden lies with our over bloated government and the cost to fund it. Income tax is the easy way out and the system (like much of government) is flawed and broken. If you’re going to talk taxation, you should explore the alternatives. The numbers work for implementing a flat tax or national sales tax and dumping the I.R.S. Of course the problem remains in how much we can feel secure that the folks distributing it will use it for its intended purpose. Obviously if they can’t get anything done now, the odds of tax reform are a pipe dream. How much other pending legislation remains pending or how many unfunded mandates are out there? Everyone is in a tizzy because of the timeline. I liken it to a football game where you didn't get it done and now must depend on the kicker to win the game. When our founders put all this together, they failed to implement measures to hold our elected representatives “feet to the fire”. Other than voting and anemic polls, we have little power over them.

An observation or two:
I previously wrote that the folks affected by Sandy needed to pull together to get through this horrific catastrophe. I've seen heroic efforts in this regard, with folks not even affected by the events lending a hand. Now the insurance agencies need to get in the act. I say pay up guys or at least cut them a partial check.

I have a significant passing to report. Sadly, Hostess has shut down and Twinkies are no more. Even sadder, the death throes of unions everywhere continue. The “death threat” of shutting a company down unless workers capitulate apparently is ineffective. So the bakers at Hostess have painfully learned. This is just another example of how the working man is underpaid and under appreciated in this country. 

Please don't write and deride me as being a union lover. I am far from that; but it's obvious that workers need some sort of representation and protection.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What a Tangled Web we Weave

Just to clarify-I am not puffing my chest or singing my own praises. I recently blogged on the mess in Benghazi and how uncovering the facts surrounding this event has become a world class case of obfuscation. Now we have the Generals (one of which was the director of the CIA) directly involved in the cover up of this incident involved in a sordid mess of their own. Apparently the brass has been having affairs and keeping concubines. As more and more comes to light, we find out that the whistle blower on the Petraeus affair was a woman who herself was involved with a General Officer. Apparently one hussy felt threatened by another, didn't want her poaching in her territory, and expressed her displeasure via e-mail. I can’t make this stuff up folks. You should know that military men and women have been “sowing their oats” around the world for ages. General Chenault, for example, famously provided booze and women to the pilots of the Flying Tigers back in the day. General Eisenhower never made any pretense of the fact that he was carrying on with his driver during WW 2. How do you think Mata Hari got all her information? Should I go on?
Conveniently all this has come to light just as Petraeus was set to testify on what he knew about Benghazi. Pardon me while I adjust my foil hat. This morning we had Senator McCain further solidifying what I had said all along and calling the President a liar; among other things. Additionally he called out the Secretary of state to be more forthcoming and stated her designated successor to not be worthy of the office. Can you hear the world smirking and laughing at our expense? So, with the star witness out of the way, the powers to be have inadvertently stirred up another hornet’s nest. Now at least one of the women has been shown to have sensitive and even secret documents in her possession. Again, I can’t make this up!
Is anyone listening out there? If so, at what point do you get mad enough to say something? Did the majority of you really want this administration and its clowns back in office? All of us conspiracy theorists who hold a deep distrust of our government keep seeing more and more of our “outlandish” allegations bear fruit. Amongst other things we need smaller government along with a viable third party. This belief that the government should support you from cradle to grave has to stop or we will see the eventual demise of our great country.
One more thing for all of us to ponder. How did such intelligent people believe that their e-mail was inviolable? Just so you know-everything you produce in your e-mail is on a server somewhere. This includes your drafts, trash, inboxes, etc. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

R/C Toys

We have a hobby that began as a way to keep us active and busy. It started with a remote control Jeep from WalMart that proved woefully inadequate for the terrain in South Texas. A trip to the World Wide Web revealed a slew of alternatives. As is my custom I began an investigation to uncover the best choice of remote control vehicle at the best price. I found a 1/10 scale Traxxas Short Course truck that works off of powerful motors and rechargeable batteries. They are borderline child’s toys that require adult supervision. They are also programmable to limit the top speed, which can easily exceed thirty miles an hour. Short course trucks are an actual form of racing and the Traxxas models are faithful to their inspiration. There is a touring series for both the models and the actual race trucks. There are both two and four wheel drive models. They come with working shocks and springs, driveshafts, gear boxes-most everything that a real vehicle would have. It quickly became apparent that four wheel drive is the way to go on the caliche surface that surrounds us. There are professionals and fanatics out there that modify the machines/models in every way imaginable. For us simply bashing (that’s what it’s called) around the gate area is a load of fun. Now we have discovered helicopters! I was extremely leery of any flying model. Lord knows I have destroyed my share. As a kid, frustration set in and the models would often meet an untimely death after sustaining damage inflicted from my inability to control them. Like the cars, you should do some thorough research before making the plunge. Our final choice had a retail price of over $130 and we paid a third of that. My leeriness helped cause my search to last well over a year. The reviews were more confusing than helpful. Gyros or not, how many channels, what company, what style, what size, etc. Once I finally committed, I found myself terrified that I would damage this marvel of engineering. It is beautiful and much larger than I expected. After several failed attempts to get the thing airborne, I got the idea to purchase a small indoor helicopter. Voila! I was soon flying the little helo around the motorhome. I’m not an expert or anything, but at least I could get airborne. The next trial was to apply what I had learned outside with the big copter. Wind is your enemy-little or no wind is a requirement to safely fly a model helicopter. Anyway, I am happy to report that I was able to get the thing off the ground-and land with no damage. For less than an hour’s practice, I am happy with my progress. What a load of fun and what a mental challenge. I highly recommend remote control cars, trucks and helicopters to while away the hours.

A Smell in Benghazi

The big spin machine that is politics in this country couldn't have churned up a timelier smoke screen than the one that has enveloped the terrorist assault of our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Why more folks aren't upset about this is beyond me. Our government has controlled the release of any and all information concerning this horrific event. It has also squelched any efforts to reveal the truth that surrounds this event. It turns out that there were many requests to increase the security at the Consulate. All denied because some politico thousands of miles away couldn't find any intelligence that supported the request. Obviously our intelligence has been lacking in the Middle East for some time now. The investigative team from the FBI sent to find out exactly what happened took weeks to get over there. By that time any evidence surely must have been corrupted or gotten rid of. News teams got there faster. Included in the little information we did get was the fact that the security personnel were not only former Seals; they were actually CIA employees. Marines sent soon after to protect our interests were refused entry into Yemen. How does this stuff happen and no one seems to take notice? My curiosity is not that of a witch hunt. I have no desire to obtain sensitive information that might further compromise our interests (something others in this electronic age should consider). I also don’t want endless, inane questioning by the blowhards in the Washington committees. I’d like someone to accept responsibility and have a concise, truthful expose of the event(s) that occurred. Neither this or any of the major intelligence/operational failures of late has seemed to raise the ire of the public or the folks that should be holding the people responsible. Oh; did we forget? A helicopter full of Seals shot down in route to support their brothers in arms-all of them perished. A brazen attack on a Marine Air Support squadron which resulted in the death of their commander and the destruction of many Harriers.  I wonder who had perimeter duty that day? I understand that this is not a war with a predefined goal. I also understand that years from now little or nothing will have changed in the Mid East. Go ask the Russians. While you’re at it, ask the French about Indo China. You might also want to have a chat with Obama and Romney since they haven’t mentioned the war on terror in weeks. Happy birthday to all my fellow Marines out there! Happy (I hope) Veterans Day to all those who are serving and have served. There are a lot of us out here that support you and have your best interests at heart

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Self Reliant are You?

For the sake of accuracy, let me state that I have a lot of fellow gate guards that I have never met. I consider most of them friends. In today’s age of electronic communication that has become the norm.  It is interesting how you can determine a person’s mindset and personality via their writing. I feel I have formed a kinship with Andy; who also has a blog (apparently more popular than mine)- www.myoldrv.com. He is also braver than me when it comes to speaking his mind.
Anyway, Andy’s topic today was the apparent lack of preparation shown by a lot of the folks affected by the recent “super storm”. More importantly, he commented on how those folks seem so dependent on government help to get by-even for a week! I wanted to comment, but held back out of respect for those suffering. Now that “the cat is out of the bag”, I guess I can make some observations. I do not know what was broadcast in the Northeast. Here in South Texas the television broadcast non-stop about the size and ferocity of the storm. Still, we had folks who apparently did not fill up their vehicles or containers with fuel. We also had folks on the coast that refused to evacuate. For those of you not familiar with basements; they flood. So much so that most basements have a sump pump in them. Yet we had a hospital with a back-up generator in the basement. Worse than that; the primary generators fuel supply and pump were also in the basement. Bet that gets changed pronto. Folks might say it is insensitive to comment while the emergency continues. Fair enough, but like Andy I have lived through a lot of emergencies. My Mom spent the first week (and many more) after hurricane Andrew working like a dog cleaning up the house. She and my Dad were resourceful and got through it. I think the type of destruction was similar to Sandy’s. Interestingly it was said that had the storm hit a little further North we would have had an impact in the Miami area. Imagine the outcry and wailing that would have ensued had that happened. As it was, the folks in the affected area felt neglected by the folks up North as they had plenty of water and electricity. More recently, we lived through almost two weeks of no electricity during an ice storm in Oklahoma. While I realize I was fortunate to have an RV, I still had to be resourceful and ration what I had. We bled electricity off of the RV generator to keep the house from freezing and slept in the RV. For some reason I never thought of seeking out a news crew and complaining about my plight. And believe me two weeks without power is a LONG time. I look back now and realize how much more self sufficient I have become since going full time in my RV. I see that folks are now pulling together and helping each other out. You have to do this when these things happen. The government folks are going to have as hard a time as you (at first) getting around. While you may smirk at the survivalists out there, there is a lesson to be learned from them. I don’t know if you need to dig a hole somewhere and stash a year’s worth of supplies. I do know it is prudent to keep some cash in the house, at least some non perishable goods and some water. I do not in any way wish to diminish the pain and suffering of those caught in this storm’s path. I do hope that it serves as a wakeup call. On a broader scale our infrastructure remains much as it was fifty or more years ago. We still have yet to revamp our electrical grid, along with the water and sewer systems. And, as Andy eluded, how much longer can our ever growing society continue to burn through money and continue basic public services. At some point the borrowing will have to stop or our society will roll over the edge. When I see reports of companies losing millions of dollars in a quarter and our cities drowning in debt; I am left to wonder how long the travesty can continue.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Fat Lady is Warming Up

I never put much credence to the saying that says politics are wrangled over in smoke filled rooms. As I have gotten older I have realized just how true that is (with the exception of the smoke). I have previously voiced my concerns about the media's election onslaught, especially it's slanted polls. Now they're dragging out boards depicting the states and their electoral numbers. No matter how they shuffle the states and votes, they show Obama winning. I guess there is just no way for the media to remain unbiased and broadcast that way. The thing that concerns me the most is how much credence folks out there give this propaganda. I say vote (first and most important) and follow your principles and moral values. Finally, it is truly a shame that our system has reduced us to voting for the lesser of two evils-or anyone but the incumbent-or change for changes sake. Lordy, do we need a viable third party!

TV in the Oil Patch

Receiving and sending a clear signal to your television can be a challenge in a recreational vehicle. My coach had top notch technology when it was built in 1996. Now the “over the air” antenna is useless without a signal decoder and the satellite dome only has one LNB which limits the channels you can receive. To receive a satellite signal with high definition and local channels you need a dish with three LNB’s. Your dish will also either have a built in switch or you’ll have to add an inline switch so that the correct LNB transmits the signal to the television. In other words, most locals come in on one LNB, high definition on another and the remainder on yet another. Read Andy’s blog at www.myoldrv.com for everything you want to know about receiving satellite. Basically you will need the aforementioned dish, an HD receiver and a HD television to receive high definition television. These days it is MUCH easier to get Dish or Direct to come out to an RV and to establish an RV account. Dealing with RV’s is still fairly new to them, so you may have to be persistent. If you feel confident, money can be saved by purchasing the equipment through E Bay, Amazon or other sources. Remember when you purchase used equipment-every receiver has a card identifying it and you need to check that number out with your satellite provider to make sure the account is not owed any money. You will need to order the receiver, the dish and the tripod to hold it. You will also need the co-axial cable to connect to the dish and short lengths to go between the receiver and the television. You can also connect the television and receiver using an HDMI cable on later equipment. Our dilemma, once everything was up and working was how to record conflicting programs. There are several solutions. You can go through an outside provider and purchase a channel package with east, west and central time zone programming. Dish network also has a Hopper option that has an ungodly amount of recording capacity.  We added a second receiver to record conflicting programming. If your partner is like mine, he or she will have their shows and this will eventually become an issue-trust me. Better to nip it in the bud while planning your installation.

Why are we Waiting on a Gate?

I was glad to see that Andy (www.myoldrv.com) again raised the alarm warning gate guards about the lack of gates down here. He has a much wider circulation than I do, so hopefully the word will get around.  I have been beating the drum for months now; especially after our field superintendent put the fear of God in me a while back. Budget concerns, the election, a very unstable market, etc. are all conspiring to put a damper on things down here. Now I am not given to preaching; but a lot of what veterans have long said is proving true. Most anyone that can get past the background checks and get licensed can get on a gate-eventually. It’s after you are released (if you last that long), that the rubber meets the road. This is when you’ll find out if you’re employer wants to keep you around or not. That’s the flip side of the surplus of guards right now. Companies can afford to be picky and hire the best candidates. They can also afford to let you go. As has been said ad nauseam, are you polite, professional and situationally aware on your gate? Do you hit the door when the alarm sounds, regardless of the time or conditions? There is little if any seniority in the gate guard world. Good performance is rewarded with continued gate assignments. You will find great reward if you simply do a good job, ingratiate yourself with the rig hands and support folks and become familiar with the “movers and shakers” with your exploration company. I have no doubt that our continued employment is in no small part due to the company men continually requesting us to be assigned to their gate. One final tip and word to the wise. Limit your calls to your service people and/or company supervisors. Make sure you truly have a problem you can’t resolve and whether waking them up in the middle of the night is justified. Very little upsets a guard company more than this.

(I had no internet when this was written on 10/21)