Monday, June 30, 2014

Frankie Valli, a High Dollar Cooler and an Air Conditioner

We don't get many opportunities to go to the movies as gate guards. So when we're off, we try to plan a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to catch a flick. It really is an eclectic experience with above average bistro type food and outstanding house brews that you consume while watching the flick. If you show up early you will be rewarded with hand crafted vignettes; usually depicting one of the movie's stars doing things you've probably never seen. In the case of the "Jersey Boys" it was Christopher Walken dancing in all sorts of roles. I didn't know he was a dancer and enjoyed it very much. Anyway; go see "Jersey Boys"; the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I thought it was a very, very good movie.
We had to replace our cooler some time back and I had a gift card for Bass Pro Shop. We did some research and ended up buying an Max Cool Igloo that was supposed to keep ice for five days. We never could get it to keep ice for more than twenty four hours and the left over water soon became tepid. We kept seeing roughnecks and other hands go through the gate with Pelicans and Yetis' and started to look into them. Yikes!! A 50 something quart cooler from Yeti was going to put us out almost $400, maybe more. Same for a Pelican. We are members of Sams Club and saw an Igloo Outdoor Sportsman model, built just like a Yeti and priced at around $200. We purchased it and did not pre-cool it down, just threw a bag of ice and the drinks from our old Igloo into it. We added ice a day and a half later and there was still ice and frigid water in the cooler. If you got to have a Yeti, so be it. This Igloo does the job at half the price. As far as spending $200 on a cooler; we think we can make it up in ice in no time.
Our main air conditioner started dripping water into the house. That was no bueno and upset the Misses big time. It is north of 90 degrees in South Texas pretty soon after daybreak, so getting work done early or late is the best deal. Didn't happen, as we tried cleaning the drains five times. That's five times up and down that rickety ladder to that hot as hell roof. The sixth time we tore the cover off, finding a stripped bolt for the cover in the process. Our neighbor was kind enough to help remove the recalcitrant bolt and we headed off to Lowes to buy replacement hardware. We also found the evaporator (if I have the nomenclature wrong forgive me) covered with crud when we removed a cover to access the stripped bolt. When I say evaporator I mean the coils you can see when you look up through the removed filter and panel. It is buried, so it gets neglected. Like a lot of folks I simply hosed or sprayed off the condenser coil, which is readily visible and accessible through the vents of most covers. So; by removing the cover, we were able to access the drain pan (which everything sits on) and the evaporator and were able to give them both a thorough cleaning. Be prepared for some water intrusion into the house by having towels at hand. It is unfortunately part of the process. Next time I clean the air conditioner I now know what is required to do it correctly.

Not our "Cup of Tea"

As some of you know, we have left our job protecting a wind farm project. My grandmother admonished me to not say anything at all if I had nothing good to say, so I'll refrain from commenting much on the situation. Suffice it to say that the schedule was difficult; two days followed by two nights (three for me), and that Missy was bored out of her mind. I suppose it could be a good fit for some couples as it does provide a respite from guarding oil gates. For us; however, it was not our "cup of tea".
Providentially, while we agonized on how best to depart the wind farm gig with the least amount of disruption, (we had nothing against the "lead" couple working there and did not want to cause a hassle for them), our old boss at J&G called. As some of my dear readers know, we reluctantly parted ways with him after almost three years, due to a pay dispute. We remain friends with Justin and remained in contact and he called to not only apologize but to ask us to return. As most of you know I refuse to post or discuss pay (it's a long story, but I've always been taught otherwise and even had jobs that threatened termination if you disclosed your pay to co workers). Suffice it to say we reached an agreement and were immediately offered a gate. We had to turn that gate down since we ALWAYS give notice whenever we leave a company. As it turned out, our two weeks notice had us leaving after working a night shift (1800 to 0600); but Justin had a gate he could not cover, so bleary eyed we headed out. Somewhere north of Lubbock we received a call from Justin telling us he had found someone to cover the gate we'd been offered and giving us a choice of taking it or sitting in Lubbock till something opened up. It was a no brainer as we were almost zombied from lack of sleep. Short story long we ended up staying in Lubbock for five days, which we made the most of. It seems as if gate opportunities dried up in an instance. but such is life in the oil field. Now we find ourselves near Midland, Texas preparing to head out tomorrow on a new adventure. It seems an exploration company or two failed to make payments to the bank and that several rigs are going to be taken over by said bank. That means someone needs to babysit the rigs until a resolution is reached.

Hold the phone!! As usual, things are in constant flux in the petroleum business (if you've ever been called to man a gate and had to be there ASAP, you have an idea of what I mean.) It turns out J&G had a couple too many for the Midland job so Justin offered us fuel money and a place to park if we would return to San Antonio and wait on a gate. So; if and when things change I will update you. Meanwhile we are puttering around, repairing a few things and relaxing. Mo' later!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Rant

The title was to serve as a warning that my BS limit for what comes out of Washington has again been exceeded and a purge, or rant, is necessary.
In a classic "tail wags the dog" maneuver the administration adroitly drew attention from the disgraceful disclosures of abuse of veterans by the VA by arranging a prisoner swap of Taliban terrorists for an Army Sergeant named Bergdahl held in Afghanistan. The overwhelming evidence indicating that the sergeant had been captured after deserting his post (walked away is how it was spun) quickly snuffed any welcome home festivities. This after Obama trotted out Bergdahls parents and championed him at the White House. Does anyone do any type of vetting in this administration? On top of everything else, it turns out that the Obama administration ignored protocol, somehow failing to notify anyone in Congress of its intentions. After an investigation it will probably turn out that laws were broken and the constitution was again trampled by Obama and his cronies. But wait! It gets more sordid. It turns out that at least a dozen brave men lost their lives attempting to find this waste of a soldier. It gets worse. In every case the families of these brave men were not told the real truth behind their deaths.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the CIA's station chief's identity was released to the press when Obama flew in for a visit. He's letting his chief counsel look into it.
Did I mention that the Benghazi scandal continues to smolder in the background? And that Hillary feels it's safe to continue her relentless pursuit of the presidency by trumpeting her latest book on the talk show circuit? Whoops! I almost forgot-she hasn't formally announced her candidacy yet.  Meanwhile Rome continues to burn as the Republicans fiddle away. It's all about power, period.
Wait! There's more. There's always more while Emperor Obama is in office.
The smoldering controversy over the IRS's targeted audit(s) of certain political groups erupted into a new conflagration after it was revealed the prior Director's (Lois Lerner) e-mails had been lost in a routine purge. That it took many months for this to surface remains a mystery. Brushed over and even more mysterious to me is that tens of millions of dollars have been spent trying to root out these e-mails. Given the administration's proclivity towards ignoring the Constitution and various laws, is it so odd that a Department and its head would behave like this? Am I saying that the orders to investigate/audit certain political groups came out of the White House? I think my dear readers can figure that out...
Speaking of broken laws and ignorance of the Constitution, the demographic of  our electorate continues to be illegally molded by this administration. The flood of illegal immigrants across our southern borders has turned into a humanitarian nightmare as thousands of minors have joined the multitudes. Does anyone wonder how a pervasive rumor that the United States was considering amnesty for illegals got started? Never mind that the law provides that these folks are to be repatriated, Eric Holder (our attorney general), has had them shipped to Arizona and is making plans to integrate them into this country. Voila, another indebted group of illegals joins thousands of others, burgeoning into a voting block for the democrats. Did I mention it's all about power? Listen to me and/or read this very carefully. For years immigrants have legally entered this country, followed the rules of law and eventually attained citizenship. For the most part they integrated into society and became part of the fabric of this nation. Now we have illegal aliens entering this country, forming there own societies and retaining there native languages and customs. The fabric of this country is inexorably being torn from within. Take a look at a program or movie from the fifties or sixties and you'll get what I mean. This is not about prejudice, much less ethnicity or the color of someones skin. It's about nationalism and retaining what this great country is all about. You can't do that with porous borders.

 And now we have the fall of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. Perhaps nothing is more symptomatic of our failure there than the fall of our air force base in Kirkuk. Billions of dollars and the lives of many coalition troops went into securing and establishing this outpost. When the ISIS militants got within 50 miles of the base, Iraqi troops charged with its protection stripped off their uniforms and ran. In order to understand; much less take on and defeat, the militants you have to first understand that they are tribal. Tribal by its very definition is social groups formed before the establishment of states or borders. To expect these people to honor international boundaries is laughable. Add to that they are steeped in their religion of birth and will die for it and you have a formidable enemy. The militants are Sunnis and Iraq is governed by Shiites (the second largest branch of Islam). I personally guarantee that they will be fighting 100 years from now; and I said that years ago when then President Bush made up tales of biological/nuclear weapons to justify our incursion there. How ironic that things were far more tranquil before we toppled Saddam Hussein and company.

I really intended to make this brief, but it is exceptionally difficult given the volumes of fertile information that's out there. I leave you with the awful mess that is the VA and its culture of obfuscation and mismanagement. Unfortunately the end result is that many deserving veterans were denied care and some may have even died; all because they were caught up in a corrupt and broken system. It is incumbent upon all of us to keep this in the forefront and not allow it to slip into obscurity again. I remind you that the VA is run by the same government that is expected to administer and run the Affordable Care Act. Please tell me you won't be surprised when it turns into a colossal failure.

I haven't even touched on Fast and Furious and other examples of very poor management, which after all is the job of the chief executive. I  know some of you tire of me (and others) railing against the government and I have made an effort to cut back on the subject. However, I do try to stick to facts and keep opinions as unbiased as possible. What is going on in this country is unpardonable and will require the voice and effort of all of us if we ever expect to right the ship. Till then I will occasionally publish a rant.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Perspective on Gate Guarding

Some of this has been covered in past posts; but now that we have taken on a different type of security work, I thought my dear readers would find our perspective interesting. We worked, with a break or two, for about two and a half years on oil field gates. During that journey we contracted out to four different security companies (one was short term for relief of a sick guard). We have finally seen the pay somewhat level out, with most companies paying an average of $150 a day. Singles continue to struggle to find gates and work for them is sporadic, at best. The amount of work expected for the pay given remains a controversy, with periodic posts railing about the amount of traffic versus the pay. Mine (and others) argument is that you should contract out for the most money you can knowing whatever gets thrown at you is part of the job. Then there are those that hold onto the quaint notion and old time values of loyalty and perks. No matter how persuasive your argument may be, they're not budging. It continues to blow my mind when you're talking of almost doubling your pay and the fact that you're simply a contractor. I'll not argue that there is something to be said for personal attention and the care shown by some companies. In most cases, though, you are simply a commodity; something to be used or discarded as needed. No matter the company or your opinion, almost everyone reaches that "wall" where they just can't stand the job any longer. Call it gate guard burnout, if you like. That is one of the reasons the job is so much harder on singles. As has been said ad nauseam, you can expect extraordinary working conditions. Dust and wind are constant companions and I have seen temps over 110 degrees to below freezing. No matter the conditions you will be expected to work for the money you're paid. That applies to feeling ill or tired too. If you plan on taking on the challenge you need to remember these things. Your "work area" is just outside the door of your RV. Hell, if you're like a lot of us, the work area extends into the RV, where we keep a mini office with our logs, pens and spare log sheets. It is tough to find a job as a fulltimer that pays as good as gate guarding. You need to go in with as much knowledge as possible. Once hired you need to look after you physical and mental health, taking time off as needed to recharge and refresh. Hopefully thus hasn't been too redundant and will be helpful.