Saturday, August 31, 2013


One of the definitions of ruminate is to mull something over. Well I think we have a ton of things to mull over. Here's a few.

Almost five years in and we have accomplished little or nothing under the Obama administration. I mean can anyone seriously say we have? After expending all of his political capitol on Obama Care, Obama was left with a rudderless, partisan administration and party. And shame on the Republicans for not taking the initiative and presenting a strong plank to win back the voters and try to repair things. The lack of direction is apparent throughout Obama's administration. Cabinet posts come and go like a revolving door, department positions, including heads, remain unfilled and partisan politics (that scream for leadership) have left Washington in a morass. There are tons of examples; but we still have not resolved what to do about our fluid borders and illegal immigrants, our decades old power grids, our deteriorating roads and bridges, our overtaxed judicial system and overflowing jails and the burden of a deficit that our grand kids will be repaying. And somehow we find the blood and treasure to expend on a muddled foreign policy-don't even get me going there. Meanwhile Hillary is stirring the waters in an unapologetic bid to run for the presidency again. If you don't know how that segue fit then you may be part of the problem.
Now we are on the brink of attacking a country embroiled in a bloody civil war.  I'm not sure what bothers me more-the actual bombing or the fact that John Kerry actually believes it will teach Assad a lesson. Note to the Secretary of State-chemical weapons have been in use in the middle east (and elsewhere) for a long time. Have we already forgotten about Hussein? Unfortunately atrocities happen with regularity on this planet. Where were these warmongers when genocide was occurring in Africa or when Pol Pot wiped out millions? Our propensity for twisting facts to fit situations has worn down not only our war weary country, but our allies as well. So with little or no support it looks like we will again meddle in the affairs of a country that doesn't want or need us there. By the way, did I mention the Russians have thwarted every effort we have made to interfere in Syria and they back the Assad regime. Where have I heard this before...HMMM?!? By sticking to his guns in spite of worldwide opposition, Obama has again put the reputation of the United States on shaky ground. He no longer has (or never had) a mandate and will be looked down upon if the bombing occurs and he (and the American people) will look weak if we back down.

I haven't found whatever it is that continues to motivate our politicians to meddle where we are clearly not wanted. Some might argue where we are also not needed. Vietnam was a watershed moment where the American people made it clear that they objected to our country's course of action. I found our involvement in the Middle East to be equally if not more objectionable. I also believe the majority of Americans agree with me. It is both tragic and eye opening that folks just seem incapable of seizing the opportunity and voicing that objection.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just Enough to Get By

Believe it or not cooler weather is on the way. It looks like those of us that braved the record heat are going to be in the cat birds seat once again. Or not. Gate guarding is a very competitive business and there has been a huge influx of people since word got out. Just like the gold rushes of yore there are always a few bad apples in every bunch. We have unwittingly made a career out of replacing those less than desirable folks out there. If there is a personality conflict, behavioral issues, lack of name it, we're your answer. Our recipe is nothing special. We groom regularly, we are polite but firm, we answer the door promptly no matter the hour and we try to ingratiate ourselves with folks we work with. Those are just a few things. I suppose you could say we make a conscience effort at it; but we just view it as part of the job. So why am I bringing this up? Even in the worst of the heat/slow season there were few gates left wanting. It could rain gates tomorrow for all I know, but it looks like another very competitive winter is coming up. As I have said in the past I am loath to spread rumors. But, after doing this full time a while you start to see patterns develop. Along with the winter Texans, we have the hunting season coming up and the yearly slow down in the final quarter. Add wildly unpredictable gas prices, dirt cheap propane and an anti gas and coal political climate and anything could happen. Like long haul truckers, gypsies and cowboys gate guards are an independent bunch. So I am not going to preach to the choir. For whatever it's worth I'd slick my hair back, renew my effort to get to the door promptly, smile at the hardest persons to get along with and overall step up my game right now. Y'all know what to do and this is a friendly reminder. Doing just enough to get by ain't going to cut it. And those of you on the fence had better get to prepping and packing, the sooner you get here the better. We've got folks sitting right now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Black Water Revisited

I promised an update on our non flowing black water tank. I am a very persistent type, especially when I seem unable to find solutions to a problem. I finally dug into the belly and had Missy exercise the cable while I assisted down below. The valve seemed to be operating correctly. I decided to run a hose to the toilet and fill the black water tank to see if the valve was by passing. I don't know how much water a typical hose puts out, but I gave up after about five minutes. I resigned my self to removing the black water valve just to figure out what was going on. Given the results of the last time I removed a valve-a sh*t shower so to speak-I wanted to be sure the lines were clear. I gave the valve one last yank and; lo and behold. a loud whoosh emanated from the bowels of the RV. Our black water tank had finally dumped! I believe that we had what is known as a dry tank. Apparently the RV had sit for a while and/or the last owner just left the black water valve open. Sometimes these situations can be real bad and you end up replacing the tank. We are going to fill the tank and add copious amounts of softener to help things along. Hallelujah!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

They Come in Threes

I'll again rely on my aviation experience to comment on the latest aviation accident. While the investigation continues over the crash of a UPS freighter near Birmingham, Alabama, the preliminary conclusions are not comforting. Every system has checked out so far; the engines were operating correctly, the flight controls were in order and matched the yoke position(s) and there was no evidence of catastrophic failure and/or a fire or explosion before impact. It appears yet again that the pilot(s) actions contributed to the loss of the aircraft. In this case the pilots were landing on a shorter, lesser used runway which had a hill thrown in just before the threshold. The approach requires a steep glide slope and the aircraft was descending at an excessive rate, which caused an alarm to sound in the cockpit. Throw in a dark night with the unfamiliar approach and you have a recipe for disaster.  Veteran pilots have already commented on the spatial disorientation that is endemic when landing at night on this runway.

Let me again say that if I am wrong I'll be the first to come out with an apology and retraction; but the evidence is alarming. When I commented on the Asiana crash in San Francisco I alluded to the advanced computers and instruments available to help pilots in today's modern airliners. Still we have had at least three major accidents in a short period of time that appear to be the fault of the pilots. The Asiana pilots basically blew the approach, the Southwest pilots landed hard nose first and now it appears the UPS pilots also blew an approach. There has been an ongoing discussion that the availability and use of computers has eroded the skills of some pilots. Whatever the cause, I hope someone is as alarmed as I am over the human involvement in these recent accidents. My mother said tragedy always comes in threes. I hope that means we won't be hearing about anymore crashes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Communication via Satellite and Cellular in South Texas

A cell phone is a necessity in the oil fields. Besides being a means of communication it can also serve as a lifeline. Oil exploration can take you many miles from civilization and finding a cell phone provider that works out there can be problematic. More and more companies are investing in infrastructure; but it has been our experience that A T and T works best. I can't enumerate the times I have been asked to lend my phone. It makes me wonder what they would have done in an emergency. One good thing about A T and T's coverage is that we have rarely needed a booster. We learned the hard way and recommend you save yourself the trouble and follow this advice. If you're determined to keep your current provider, buy an A T and T burner phone from WalMart or Radio Shack.
Internet opens up a whole new set of challenges, especially if you're talking about high speed and multi gigabytes of usage. We originally came down with a Verizon MiFi that proved useless and bought an equally useless A T and T MiFi. We finally took the plunge and signed up for satellite internet from Exede. While we are very disappointed with their customer service and tech support, we are pleased with its capabilities. It is somewhat like our Dish service-once I learned to point it and troubleshoot it, I was happy with it. Oddly enough we get ten times more usage from our Exede than we did with the mobile hot spot, and it costs the same! Plus we have unlimited usage between midnight and five a.m.
If you plan to work very long in the oil patch, you will find that quality internet and cellular service are indispensable. Hopefully this advice has been helpful.

A Stinky Problem

Our 5th wheel came without any manuals and I have been busy learning how everything works. One conundrum I've yet to solve is the dump valves for the gray and black water. We have a standard gray and black dump handle on the left side and an unlabeled dump handle on the right side. Apparently the tanks are empty or the valves are not opening, because nothing is coming out when I pull any of the handles. In our application the valves all have long cables, enabling them to be operated from the sides of the trailer. The valves operated from the left are buried in insulation somewhere in the belly of the trailer with a protective cover plate. I have yet to figure out why they went to all the trouble to insulate and bury the "main" valves and left the one on the right exposed to the elements. I decided to tackle the easiest thing first and removed the easily accessible right hand valve to determine if it was operating. Our dump plumbing and lift pump are not set up correctly (pointing downhill) and all of the standing liquid came pouring down on me once the valve was loosened. I was expecting some, but not two gallons or so. I know some of you are laughing out there! Anyway; despite the heat and creepy crawlies under there, I am going to have to tear into the belly and determine what is going on. Anyone who has experience with multiple dump valves and tanks and thinks they can enlighten me, please feel free to do so. An update sans the bath should follow shortly.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Victim of our Own Success?

When we first started working with our current company we asked to remain with the drilling rig when they relocated. The field superintendent (who is actually a gruff teddy bear) at the time said that that was against corporate policy and denied the request. Just as we were preparing to leave we were told our company man had intervened and we would be following the rig. We remained with the same two drilling rigs for over a year. Recently we have found ourselves assigned to more and more difficult gates. While we suspected that we were being singled out for these jobs, we had no real confirmation. That was until the traffic situation on our current gate caused our exploration company to send someone out to check on things. Turns out he knew who we were and said that they had  specifically asked for us on that job. Suspicions confirmed! Here's hoping that the situation will work in our favor and we will catch a break and get a decent gate soon.