Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving airports

November US Thanksgiving is strange. First of all, we (as in Californians, which I am by employment still - many other states too, but not all) get the Thursday and Friday off. So I don't usually complain about this. But it really turns the long long weekend into a zoo. It's as bad if not worse than Christmas. Freeways are ridiculous, airports worse. So obviously I decided this is the weekend to take 3 flights!!

I was planning on flying to SF or LA and then driving to Joshua Tree to go climbing. But some flakey friend hurt his shoulder (don't want to say who, but starts with an "S" and rhymes with ham). So instead I flew from Charlotte, NC (about 4 hour drive from my field site) direct to SF. And after one day in SF I flew to LA. And on Monday I'll fly to Orlando. My solution has been to make sure I get direct flights everywhere. That way if you get on the plane, you'll make it. So far, so good!

Yes, I realize this is the most boring blog post in the history of the internet... what's your point? You can only complain if you have a blog of your own. No? Then talk to the hand!!

(sorry, went to bed at 1AM, woke up at 5AM (8AM in North Carolina), cement truck showed up 650AM, cement truck left at 820AM, me finishing blog post at 850AM)

Sunday, November 04, 2007


I know, I know... I blog once in 2 months and now 3 times in one day...

So, I'm on per diem on this job, but only $40/day for food. Which is really fine since I'd rarely ever spend more, but I look at per diem as a way to make money too (fond memories of Alaska where per diem was $75/day and there for over a month which gave a nice expense cheque bonus at the end of the job!). But the other good thing about per diem (as compared to just straight expensing meals) is that it makes me less likely to go out for big meals (which I sometimes tend to on straight expenses leading to a big gutt or at least a less healthy feeling). Per diem encourages me to make my own lunches and dinners, and for some reason, much more so than when I'm paying for my own lunches (which I do like the rest of the world when I'm not travelling for work).

I should mention that my breakfasts are free as well - hotel continental breakfast with a waffle maker, but no fresh fruit :( Next week I'll be at the Hampton Inn and breakfasts will be better.

So I went shopping the first day I was here and spent $54 on food and here's what I bought for lunches and dinners:

- mini cans of tuna & beans (have pull off lids, which are great for lunches)
- chips, salsa and cheese (I could live on this)
- pickles, salad dressing (both from the $1 section)
- peanut butter, cream cheese and humous (spreads)
- bagels and soft tortilla flat bread (spread receptacles)
- hot chocolate, chocolate milk, pomegranate juice, small cans of spicy V8
- oranges and bananas (also snag fruit with breakfast)
- one nice bowl, one nice mug, cutlery (I hate plastic)
- one travel coffee mug as I left mine in Montreal (I now have about 6 in Winnipeg and 3 in Montreal)
- ziplocs and ziploc bowls (will also use for work, so expense will be expensed)

Isn't that what all of you wanted to know? But I've been here for 7 days now ($280 worth of per diem) and have maybe spent $70 eating out (one steak dinner, one quesdeilla, one McDonalds trip (when out of town for CPR course), and a few beer here and there). I'm not short on cash in the slightest, so not sure why I'm being a cheap ass, but buy my count, I'm up by:

$280 - ($54 + $70) = $156 (

Did math in my head, hope its okay. Given I'm in North Carolina and I just get this general feeling that people are stupid (as I currently listen to some morons outside having an argument that would be considered dumb in Grade 3 - though I appreciate I'm in a small hick town and I'm very much generalizing, but I digress), I feel I must immediately go spend my $156 on something useless and short lived. Maybe they've got a casino around here? I was in Atlantic City yesterday, but the wrong Atlantic City...

so how y'all doin?

Sorry, this is what happens when you get stuck in small town North Carolina (Jacksonville, NC to be precise). Observations so far:

1. The most often seen billboard is a breast enlargement add with a well endowed woman in a bikini.

2. This area must set a record for density of tattoo parlors.

3. I've been told (and have accepted the advice) that bars around here aren't advisable as marines like to fight. If I really want to go to the bar, the advice is to avoid the day of and several days after payday.

4. Point #3 is reinforced by the broken windows in the hotel room on Sunday morning and the 4 marines trying to sneak a free continental breakfast and the front desk staff calling the MPs.

5. Amazing number of for sale signs - even in the nicer beach areas there are apartments and condos and houses for sale everywhere. Not sure if this is a regional thing or part of the mortgage crisis...

6. Amazing number of trailers. They seem everywhere, not just in trailer parks. Given that North Carolina does get hit by hurricanes every now and again, this seems less than wise...

7. There were 6 people in my CPR class including 4 women (including the instructor) and 2 guys (including myself). If there was a scale present, I'm sure I would have weighed the least out of everyone. Damn are people fat here!! Day before, three of us went to Applebees and couldn't find one waitress to admire without getting into the bussers who are under 21... how sad!!

strange week at work...

I've been here since Monday supposedly installing 600 foot monitoring wells. But there's two geos onsite and only one rig has shown up so far. So I've taken the weekend off (well, yesterday I did my CPR course which had expired and was causing me mucho grief from our H&S people). To sum up the week so far:

Day 1: Monday is a travel day from Montreal w/ a 2PM departure, so a nice slow day departing from Montreal; unfortunately my black jacket gets left in the black trunk of the cab and I have my glasses and maybe my watch in my jacket (not my expensive glasses, but my superstore glasses); travel includes an extra 6 hour layover in Washington Dulles (as in DC) waiting for plane to be fixed; get to hotel at 2:30 AM (I guess that actually makes for a Tuesday arrival).

Day 2: There are two drill rigs, the first one gets set up (see photo), but I'm on the other rig which is dragging it's but and the driller isn't scheduled to show up for ??? My first impressions are that things are a bit antiquated? old? slow? These drillers are used to doing things on their own and not used to having supervision. But since the 2nd rig is no where near ready to drill, I get to watch them set up the drill site - i.e., someone dump and spread a truck full of grave. This is highly exciting, even more when the operator manages to slice his finger open while operating the front end loader (i.e., he's in the cab and cuts his finger on one of the levers!). This sucks as I've just ordered the first aid kit and it's being delivered to my hotel tomorrow morning. Fortunately, I've got my camping first aid kit on me to apply some antibiotic ointment and bandaids. I get to spend an hour filling out a H&S Incident Report in the evening (which makes two for the site as another driller on an unrelated project is knocked into a mud pit when a drill rod falls from the rig - something that never happens and could easily kill someone).

Day 3: I'm going to watch someone excavate a mud pit (a 20' x 10' x 8' deep pit which is then lined and filled with water & drilling mud) except that on the very first scoop of the excavator we dig up a ~50 strand telephone bundle. Sweet! Pretty sure it's not fibre optic, which incurs fines of say ~$300,000/day, but still big problem. I scramble and hours later we find out it is dead / abandoned and not a big deal. Lucky.

Day 4: We stretch the liner on the mud pit and fill with water. I hang out mostly on the other well, which is drilling slow because driller is from 1963, has no mud kit, is trying to drill with water instead of mud, the mud pump on the rig isn't working, etc. etc. Let's just say the pace is underwhelming and I'm looking for things to do.

Day 5:
The 2nd driller arrives onsite, so I should be able to get working, but the first driller's sister just went into the hospital, so we are still at 1 driller. Doesn't really matter as the mud pit at the 2nd site has collapsed (if had been filled with drilling mud instead of sitting for 2 days, probably would have been fine...). But the new driller has his act together, has a mud test kit (confirms my observation that mud is way to thin), orders a new mud pump for rig #1 and orders an external mud tank & shaker system for the 2nd drill rig (so now mud pit can be abandoned), etc. etc. Things looking up, but won't have a 2nd driller till Monday.

Day 6 & 7: Well, that takes me to this weekend, which should be Day 6 & 7 of a ten day shift, but which I've taken off except for my CPR course. Which means that I don't get paid, but... I could have sat around and billed 8 hours a day, but I don't mind a couple days off as I got almost no time off before this job and I have some chores and fun stuff I've been wanting to do (backing up laptop, programming my GPS unit I got for my birthday in 2006, making a couple CDs, new music on the MP3 player, watching TV, etc.). A 2nd driller will be onsite tomorrow, so I'll be working soon enough.

So how was your week?