Friday, January 30, 2015

Black Gold

A lot of folks don't realize that we primarily fought WW2 over oil. We continue to fight over it today; sometimes without even raising a hand in anger. Now that we have established ourselves as a world player in the production of oil, OPEC is determined to undermine our new found wealth by flooding an already glutted market and making it unsound financially to extract it. While an immediate benefit has been falling oil prices, the petroleum sector is suffering with decreased revenues and inevitable layoffs.
In order to move all that oil in a safe, reliable and financially responsible manner you need pipelines (among other modes of transport). Our own internal battle rages on with our legislators locked into a pitched fight over the Keystone pipeline. Not only do we have a President that looks upon oil and coal (at best) as an ugly necessity, he is also determined to undermine any legislation dealing with it. Now comes word that the new Republican majority in the House and Senate have approved legislation that would green light the pipeline. So entrenched are both sides that the President has simply declared that he will veto any measure that comes across his desk. Perhaps we should take a step back; even though I don't think it will happen. Even though the legislation has passed, the Senate's and House's version(s) have to be reconciled. This is not the first time that we have been at this juncture. I, for one, think passage of the bill is inevitable. I worry that Congress just doesn't care about the costs involved. Last time I checked a similar battle over the Health Care Law has resulted in millions having been wasted in trying to overturn it.
As I said, I believe passage of the Keystone pipeline is inevitable. Unfortunately some individuals have decided to remain pigheaded about the whole mess. It is under assault by environmentalists and political hacks, to name just a few. Do we really intend to simply leave the project undone and waste the millions already invested? How long is the American public going to put up with this silly infighting in Washington? Instead of having a President willing to compromise with the Republican majority, we have ended up with a failed leader that seems bent on making standing up for what he believes his legacy; no matter the cost.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Aesthtetics over Practicality

We have owned four RVs and have learned a lot from each of them. One of the toughest aspects of choosing an RV is getting beyond how much the "wow" factor hits you versus how practical it is for your lifestyle. The RV a fulltimer uses should, and probably is, different from your typical weekend warrior RV. Let me explain.
If you're going to live in an RV you really need to ensure it has 50 amp service. 50 amp service is essentially 240 volts split into two 120 volt branches. If you're thinking that gives you twice the amperage (or load) capability; you'd be right. It's also the only way to run two air conditioners and a lot of other heavy loads. A washing machine and dryer are also invaluable for a fulltimer. Storage space/capability are also paramount; keeping weight in mind. Which brings up size. Normally, the larger and longer the unit, the bigger the load you can carry. I always maintain that you should always get the largest RV you can afford. With few exceptions, most folks wish they had a larger coach. Basically the things you might consider a necessity in an RV you live in aren't as important for short term stays; like weekend camping.

Once you've zeroed in on a particular RV a thorough inspection is in order; especially if buying a used model. There are mechanics that do this sort of thing for around $100, so it is cheap insurance. Unfortunately, you have to be careful when shopping. Even the most reputable dealer or owner can miss a few things. You should check every system on the unit, including things like the the water heater, the water pump and the black and gray dump valves; just to name a few. Look the body over and check for delamination and/or cracks. Walk the roof and check its condition, including soft spots. There are handy checklists available on the internet.

To keep your self on track, make a list of the amenities that you feel you can't live without. Then, by process of elimination, you can narrow the field down to the coach that best suits your lifestyle. It may not be a aesthetically pleasing as some, but you will live more comfortably. Wouldn't you feel just a little bit silly if your RV air conditioner couldn't keep you comfortable in the heat, just because the model you were bowed over by didn't have a 50 amp electrical system? That's just a prime example of practicality over aesthetics.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Anonymity of the Virtual World

There was a time when, if you promised to do something, the person so promised could relax knowing it would be done. This is so hard to put into words. I feel like I've become my dad. This stuff is intertwined with values that have eroded, even disappeared, over the years. Especially in this virtual age. Like a cancer it has affected every fiber of our being. Promise and honor have seemed to have lost their intrinsic value. When I say every fiber, I mean from simple requests to contractual obligations. It's gotten to the point that I am almost always surprised when someone actually does what he or she said they would. It's also gotten to the point that folks actually get riled when; after you have been dissed and burnt, that you have the audacity to contact them and complain. Which brings up contacting. You would think in this virtual world, rife with means of communicating, that getting a hold of somebody wouldn't be difficult. Some how we've turned availability into a means of hiding. I mean; how do you ignore voice mail, FB messaging, Twitter, e-mail, company intranet, et all? I often joke with folks when, after multiple efforts, they finally get back with me. "What would I have done if it was an emergency?" Maybe we have created this virtual world where we feel as if we're in contact with others simply by our presence on the internet? IT'S VIRTUAL, FOLKS-DO I HAVE TO POST THE DEFINITION FOR YOU? For whatever it's worth, I implore everyone to make an effort to not only do what you say you will, but also attempt to answer those voice mails, Twitter, e-mails, etc. Lets all also try to reconnect in the real world.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'd Rather Sweat then Shiver

Some of you may know that we have arguably the most "cush" gate in the patch. When we stumbled into pipeline and construction work, we had no idea what was in store. We quickly found out that high traffic flow is not the hallmark of the job. Quite the opposite; three to five vehicles a day was the norm, unless supplies or material was coming in. They also rarely work nights and weekends, and even more rarely, on a Sunday. That provides us the added benefit of not having to be outside much, exposed to the elements. Did I mention that we only log after hours, on weekends and holidays? And then, only if they are not  known to us. Finally, the lack of traffic has also provided us with the ability to supplement our income as one person can easily run our gate, while the other takes side work.
The recent onslaught of cold by "old man winter" has been a rude awakening; even to veteran guards. Add to that persistent rain and cloudy days and you have the recipe for a challenging work environment. You may have noticed that on the list of necessities that a lot of veteran guards provide noobs is long undies and insulated overalls and jackets. For some, that might have come as a surprise; especially after a summer in South Texas. While our current situation allows us some respite from the cold: we both are veterans of some trying, miserably cold shifts on a gate. Oddly enough, my worst experience was an overnight shift on a gate within spitting distance of the Rio Grande river. Who knew that that far South you could get freezing rain and sleet? It unfortunately was a very busy gate, further adding to the misery. Nights like that test your resolve to perform your duties.
We recognize and are grateful for the situation that we find ourselves in. Especially considering that so many guards are sitting and making no income at all. However, winter will eventually pass and high temps will be the rule, not the exception. Hopefully, you have found ways to stay warm-gate guards are nothing, if not creative. I, for one, will welcome the heat. I'd rather sweat than shiver any day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

So you REALLY want to be a Gate Guard

Let me first say that this post (and others) is just my opinion. It is an opinion; however, formed from years of gate guarding experience and networking with a wide variety of learned folks in the petroleum business.

A wide variety of factors have served to form a pall over the gate guarding industry. The weather has been horrific (at least for South Texas), with relentless rain and cold temperatures. Gates have been extremely difficult to obtain; both for veteran and rookie guards, with the wait extending into weeks, or longer. It is not difficult to imagine the depressing atmosphere caused by the lack of opportunity and the muddy, difficult conditions.

There are a lot of reasons being thrown about as to why gate guard employment has been so difficult this year. The predominant theory seems to be the oil glut and the resulting lower fuel prices. Understandably, a lot of folks would like to know when things might improve. I submit that a wide variety of factors are responsible; but mostly it is just the sheer amount of folks looking for work. Shortly after the beginning of our adventure as gate guards we could sense change in the air. Things were just like I imagine a gold rush might have been like back in the day. Organization, scheduling and logistics went out the window and companies, both big and small, were dragging rigs around and punching holes. Even the larger organizations got caught up in the "wildcatting" fever. Obviously, things couldn't continue at that pace. Slowly but surely things fell into order and organization began to take over. In the meantime word had gotten out and folks; lured by tales of gate guards making big money, flooded the oil patch-especially during the winter. Sure; we're seeing a bit of a slowdown. However, I believe that is mostly a result of the cyclic nature of the business. First quarter funding has yet to occur, hunting season has yet to pass and the weather naturally slows everything down. Unfortunately, until the word gets out and the sheer number of candidates wane, potential guards are going to be forced to sit and wait for opportunities.

So what does this mean to folks looking for gate guard work? I have long said that I believe the "golden age" for gate guarding has passed. I have also long predicted that we have no more than ten (probably more like five) years left in this boom. Full time guards will continue to get first choice of gates and the guard companies will become choosier about who they employ. Pay will deteriorate and; eventually, most of the security work will be done by uniformed guards in guard shacks. In the meantime, if you have thoroughly thought it over and want to pursue gate guarding work, I have some simple suggestions. Do the guard company(s) and yourself a favor and DON'T come south till you are certain that you will have a gate. Ignore any guard company that insists you have to be in the area before they will consider posting you on a gate; unless they are willing to pay for or provide a spot for you to stay while you wait. Ignore any guard company that insists that you have to come down to do paperwork or fingerprinting or any of that nonsense. If they want you and they have a gate available they can get you on said gate within twenty four hours or less. You don't have to physically possess a license (or hard card) to work a gate, provided you have completed all the necessary paperwork and passed the level two non commissioned security officer test. If you decide to ignore these suggestions, be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting. Guard companies love nothing more than having a captive employment pool to draw from that is available to them at no cost. Workamping in general, is suffering from this same malady. Jobs are scarce and the employers are in the cat bird's seat. Wages have fallen and work for site opportunities have become the norm. One way to make the transition into gate guarding easier is to establish contact with working guards that know the situation of their respective companies. Utilize the social networks that are readily available and glean as much information as you can from them. Unless and until the sheer amount of candidates ebbs, winter gate guarding opportunities are going to continue to be few and far between.