Oilfield Downturn

Operations On Pemex Centennial And La Muralla IV Deep Sea Crude Oil Platforms30$/ bbl Oil is causing havoc in the industry. In my company the layoffs come in groups of 20-30.

They call you in for performance reviews and remind you to bring your laptop. The managers send out emails filled with doom and gloom; citing reorganizing which read like eulogies for our comrades.

My roommate got the axe last week. Unemployment sucks for him. He is in the black hole of job hunting.

The boomtown of Lafayette, LA is contracting fast. For sale and for rent signs are popping up all over town. People who bought houses and trucks during the boom are seeing the possibility of sale or foreclosure.

I have seen 2 mudloggers and 2 Data Analysts fired in my 9 months on the same boat. Thankfully the boat I am on just signed another contract for 2 more years of drilling. We also got end of well bonuses.

I try and stay away from the news about the downturn. Entering the industry I knew that the job is boom/bust. It’s folly to listen to the wall street guys about the price/barrel. My job is in the air for now.

 

 

Studying Abroad in AFS Argentina

Studying abroad in Tucuman, Argentina was a turning point in my life. Now at 23 I want to return to see friends I made when I was 16. When I got my job in the Oil Field I made sure that my first vacation would be back to Red Clay Courts of Tucuman.

I come from a middle class family who believed in hard work and the promise of education. Through college I worked odd jobs and saved money.

In sophomore year I listened to a podcast from Ramit Sethi, and promptly bought his book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. A crazy title I know, but that ostentatiously titled book laid out the basics of money management.

All together the 18 day trip cost me $2400. When I got back my bank account wasn’t empty and there was no money hangover in the form of payments to credit card companies. This journey taught me how to save and be frugal; habits that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Argentine Asado.
Argentine Asado.

1) The biggest strategy was Automatic bank withdrawal into a high yield online savings account with Capital One 360. $50 to $150 withdrawn without me having to move a muscle. Slowly building up money for 24 months, this was how I bought my ticket straight up.

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2) Bring stuff to sell there. This was something I researched before going down. In Argentina Iphones are highly prized due to import restrictions and high tariffs. Labtops, ipads, and anything Mac related will sell for high prices. I took down skateboards to sell to my friends for a steep discount and in exchange for staying at his place.

The Country where an Iphone cost $3,500
3) Learn how to cook. I began with Mexican food. Its a lot of cleanup so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. I would recommend grilling a whole chicken.

 

4) Got on Mint and started tracking all my spending. I used to spend irrationally at the grocery store. I used to have a full refrigerator. Now I buy for 1 week, and use up everything. I have cans of soup for when food gets low, but I enjoy being creative with meals.
5) Buy a bike. I use it all the time being close to the grocery store, and gym. I save money on gas and repairs for my car.
6) Follow Personal Finance Bloggers. Ramit Sethi helped me negotiate my rent down 15% using his scripts in my emails. I ended up saving $800 from 1 email.
7) Take care of the stuff I own, I like to keep the stuff I have equal. If I buy something like a new shirt I have to either give a dress shirt away or throw it out. I clean the shoes I own and now they last 50% longer than before. Learn how to wash certain things. Jeans don’t need to be washed that much, and when you do, make sure to flip them out. When my phone screen cracked, I learned how to repair it online and bought a kit to do it. Now I have repaired it twice.

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8) Bring cash. The official rate is 9 pesos. Dollar Blue is 13 pesos. Bring $100 bills only. Go to where the banks are and people outside will trade with you. Listen to the word, “Cambio”. It means change in Spanish.

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9) Get a Skymiles credit card. Got into the lounge area for $30. I had food, drinks, Wifi, and a shower. Yeah it was worth $30 to pass 5 hours in the Atlanta airport. If I could do it over again I would have opened up the card 2 years ago. You can ask for a limit increase every 6 months. Right now my limit is only $1000. And tickets to Argentina are between 1,300-2,000 roundtrip. This is to save up miles for my next trip to Tucuman.

 

Rocks, Ripped Climbers, and Renegades. Yosemite’s Rock Climbing Revolution: Valley Uprising

Valley Uprising Title

“The primary vibration in the air, was one of High Adventure”

-Tom Frost

Valley Uprising will inspire you to drop what you are doing and go climb. Yosemite’s Rocks are amazing and I hope to one day see them in person. Imagine a smooth vertical ocean of rock the size of 3 Eiffel Tower’s stacked and you have El Capitan (El Cap as they call it).  I had no idea before I watched this documentary. But being a geologist and an adventurer myself, I instantly loved learning about the Titans of climbing. Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Lynn Hill, John Bachar, Dean Potter and Alex Honnold. All drawn to the 2,000ft Northwest face of Half Dome and the 3,000ft Nose of El Capitan.

“We have a purpose. Climb Hard. Put up good routes. Only through climbing can you find yourself. Bullshit like that

-Steve Roper

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I’ve only rock climbed once and it was terrifying and awesome. That feeling of being high up and hanging by your sore fingertips unsure whether you can make it is intoxicating. I am not at the weight I want to be currently, but once I get below 200 lbs I will go more. I go to climbing gyms when my friends are around, but I want to become more serious. I already dropped my gym account to save money, and I think I will continue to go to the local rock gym. It helps that I love to bike and it is 1 mile away.

I have talked endlessly about this movie to friends and made each of them watch it. Besides introducing me to some amazing alternative music, I’ve been inspired from this documentary.

This movie is the latest from the Reel Rock Series, and made by Sender Films. http://senderfilms.com/index.php

A lot of the fun of the movie occurs in the middle, with the story introducing the Aquarian Age, psychedelics, and a cocaine filled airplane crashing into Lower Merced Pass.

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After trying to boulder I see the difficulty and level of fitness it requires. Some of these climbers were world class athletes and they do a good job showing the training of these climbers. Pullups, running, and climbing was the way they got better. The perspective of rock climbers looking back enriches the black and white photos.

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This movie is a cool look back on the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. They are really good at telling a story through black and white photos. Thanks to graphic designer Barry Thompson who make the first photos appear to be a comic book animation. Thompson takes climbing’s clash of titans between personality opposites Robbins and Harding explode off the screen similar ala Pacquiao vs. Mayweather.

climbing-valley-uprising-6Royal and Harding

“The gear had evolved. The techniques were in place. The rock climbers had matured to the point where they are up to tackling the great challenges of the sport, but the great challenges remain undone.”

-Dan Duane

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“The face of Half Dome stood there and said, “Try me if you dare”.

-Royal Robbins

The way one generation bleeds into another is a strong point of this Documentary. They highlight the Apprentice Master relationship just like in Robert Greene’s Mastery. Examples abound but my favorite was the Jim Bridwell to Royal Robbins relationship; first he is seen next to Royal Robbins as a wide eyed teenager, then 15 years later he is a scruffy journeyman doing acid teaching the the up and coming Stone Masters such as Ron Kauk and Lynn Hill. Teaching and pushing the standards higher and higher.

7-Lynn-Hill-on-Half-Dome-ph-Charlie-Row-1977Ron Kauk

Interesting to note the timing on this movie. It was released in September 2014. In the past 12 months Police shootings and Riots have occurred across the US. While the public at large has called for less militarization in the police, new rules and regulations have led to a mindset shift away from environmental protection and toward aggressive enforcement. This is nothing new to Yosemite Rock Climbers who have clashed with police since the 70’s.

“The Rangers have gone from having a degree in Biology to having a degree in Marksmanship”

-Yvon Chouinard

The tribal and happy go lucky mentality of the Golden Age and the Stone Masters is replaced by the somber rugged independence of the Stone Monkeys.

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Working on a Drillship in the Gulf of Mexico

Operations On Pemex Centennial And La Muralla IV Deep Sea Crude Oil Platforms

The H2S alarm blares me awake. Poisonous Hydrogen Sulfide Gas is just one of the threats keeping me from a good nights rest. Two seconds later a voice comes on “Disregard the false alarm, please disregard the false alarm”.

My dreams of large paychecks, sexy girls and the vacations are now over. My phone isn’t plugged in so I get up and check the time. I’ve missed one alarm this week, so my thoughts turn to dread, thinking I’m late again. To my relief it’s another 2 hours until wakeup.

My shoulders and lats ache, I smile knowing that means progress. Despite my fitness efforts over the past two years I have remained the same weight and muscle mass. Seeing the muscled guys in magazines reminds me of girls that I wanted so bad in high school, something I think of, but will never actually get to have.

I track it all. Sleep, Food, exercise, steps. I want that fitbit or jawbone even though I know it’s a waste. I cant wait for my Pavlok really. I see so many people wearing the fitbit. I notice it every time kind of like signal for health conscious people. I also started Winston’s War, which is a novel about World War 2 and how Churchill and the parliament worked before the war.

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I broke regs and pushed my helmet up to bask in the brightness. Working at night has been okay, but I miss the sun, tennis, hiking, trees, animals. The cookies, chocolate, and rolls call to me, I think in my head, “Saturday, I can be a fat fuck”. I’m happy. This routine. I’m maturing. Sometimes I ask myself why I am here. Is it adventure to be on a metal boat that doesn’t move with 3 squares and a hot shower each night? Or it is restriction? No alcoholic drinks, no way to spend money, no girls, no porn, no drugs. I reduced the amount of choices I can make. I don’t feel distracted like I do at home, because at home anything is possible. The choices overwhelm me and I feel lonely if im not texting someone. Here I can’t. I am a man out here. I don’t have to appease anyone, I just have to learn, and eat and shit.

Then we finally get a day worth remembering.

3:30 am-My first 3 hours as a mudlogger is going well, it’s the calm before the storm. Suddenly a Gas alarm goes off in the shaker house, For the last 3 hours I have to announce gas values coming from our sensor in the shaker house. I get on the PA, “Total Gas is 2845 units, Total Gas is 2845 units.” A unit is 50 ppm. That means 142,250 ppm of Methane gas is coming up in the mud into the shaker house from the wellbore. PA comes on, “This is the captain speaking, there is high gas at the shaker units, do not go outside, all crew stand down”. The company man calls and tells us he thinks its sandstone, not shale with 10% siltstone, what ive been calling the last 250 feet of drilled formation. Hen, my sample catcher who goes to the shaker house every 30 ft to collect, sieve and clean samples, looks at me, “what was that?” he asks.” They want me to go into the shaker house? Damn. I tell him we to be calm, and I continue looking at the now fizzing rock sample..This means I was wrong, we aren’t in shale anymore. I have no idea but I want to remain patient.

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4:00 am- The company man and Chase want to know if it is still mud-shale. Ive back tested 5 samples, 150 feet of formation and they all fizz CO2 like a mutherfucker. Damn this isn’t shale and hasn’t been for some time. I tell Chase, this might be limestone, but I don’t have 50% HCL to know”, Chase stares at me mouth open, I continue, “They never sent it to me”. And I don’t know if its oil rich because the samples are covered in base oil from the drilling fluid, and the centrifuge is broken. Chase, who has 12 year’s experience, and makes more money than he could spend in a lifetime living in Mumbai, swivels back around. “So we can’t test for oil or carbon content, is what you’re telling me, I can’t work with this bullshit”. I get the point. I call over to Dennis to get his opinion. He is on the phone pointing at the computer, he hasn’t helped me in 2 hours. Tisharat and Mahmout, two international guys with 20 years combined experience are anxiously eyeing the door. Being 5 feet from a gas filled shaker house, I understand their anxiety; being danger close to a drilling operation going haywire.

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5:00am- Calls are coming in, shit is not going well. Under intense pressure small pockets of gas enter the wellbore, due to a change in pressure these pockets begin to expand. Which is what is currently happening. A small pocket of gas has expanded over the course of the 34,000ft wellbore into a 40 barrel gas pocket. Unknown to us, The Company shut the well in. But this is not the end of problems for the brand new drilling crew, not used to drilling over 5,000 ft of water, with a giant 50 ft Blow Out Preventer, now, cement is pouring onto the deck from a clogged nozzle. A roughneck is trying with no success to un-fuck the nozzle with a broomstick. Cement, mud, and drilling fluid is coming in globs down, Me and Hen look at each other, both thinking we are fucked. Dennis is yelling into the phone now.

Unknown to me, the problem of shale or limestone doesn’t matter. In the oilfield they have an invented term that is a 50% mix of limestone and shale called Marl or Calcareous Shale. Once all the chips fell and responsibility was doled out, we were not in the crossfire. The Mud engineer took the responsibility for the kick, and the drill floor gave us a pass due to our diligence and phone calls we made at the time. The Romanian tells me that this happens quite a bit, but this boat is too inexperienced to be drilling at 120 ft/hr. I am sent off the boat two days later, 2 weeks before my 4 weeks is up. They tell me that The Company wants someone with more experience as a mudlogger. In hindsight, this actually encouraged me, I liked the pressure.

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Mastery by Robert Greene. Chapter 1 Relfection

Robert Greene’s philosophy, strategy and self-help books are some of my favorites. He has written four international bestsellers, including two of my favorites The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction. I anticipated his newest book, Mastery, because I think it can give me guidance on how to be more successful. I have recently realized that I need to examine my past behavior and actions, and figure out how to become more self-disciplined in order to achieve the goals I have set for myself.

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I thought that Greene’s new book would help me by offering examples on people who faced obstacles and overcame them to get to success. In Mastery, he makes the case that humans are hardwired for success not destined. In other words, they had to work at success, but are hardwired to do so. The book, like his past works; examine great historical figures such as Mozart, Einstein, Henry Ford and Charles Darwin, and their paths to success.

Some Drake to read, and get hype too. Love his new Album.

What is Mastery?

Mastery is defined in the dictionary as a comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject, or control over it. According to Greene it is a mindset. Our thoughts focus and we are exposed to new details and ideas we become creative and inspired. In this period of exceptional creativity, we are impelled to get something done, normally by some deadline or crisis. But this brilliance does not appear out of nowhere, due to luck, or talent. This power can is a kind of intelligence that can be manufactured and maintained. The great masters of their field, Da Vinci, Edison, and Bonaparte made it their way of seeing the world.

Why is it important today?

The idea of mastery and craft is increasingly looked down upon in today’s world. Distraction and entertainment are the main impediment in our society. No one wants to work hard and expose himself or herself to failure. Technology which puts all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips also causes us to expend minimal energy and lose respect for the repetitive process needed to master any subject or skill. Greene warns,

“This hunger for the magical shortcut has survived to our day in the form of simple formulas for success, ancient secrets finally revealed in which a mere change of these efforts- for instance, the emphasis in magic on deep focus. But in the end all of this searching is centered on something that doesn’t exist- the effortless path to practical power, the quick and easy solution, the El Dorado of the mind.”

During projects I sometimes focus extensively on finding the fastest way to finish. I have probably ignored the real power that I actually possess of mastering a skill through focus and creativity.

Greene points out that,

“We can see the material effects of this power in history- the great discoveries and inventions, the magnificent buildings and works of art, the technological prowess we possess, all works of the masterful mind. If we don’t connect to our calling we become slaves to time, as it passes, we grow weaker, less capable, trapped in some dead-end career. We become captive to the opinions and fears of others. The human that depended on focused attention for its survival now becomes the distracted scanning animal, unable to think in depth, yet unable to depend on instincts.”

Greene dishes out tough love and harsh truths that I need to hear. He is credible because he bases his advice on his continual analysis of great historical figures and current scientific literature.

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During the night of July 4th I made the decision to drink in excess by using the excuse that it was a holiday, in essence, free time. One man Greene examines in chapter two, Charles Darwin, had this to say about time. “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Greene continues to warn me of my hedonism in harsher terms.

“It is the height of stupidity to believe that in the course of your short life, your few decades of consciousness, you can somehow rewire the configurations of your brain through technology and wishful thinking, overcoming the effect of 6 Million years of development. To go against the grain might bring temporary distraction, but time will mercilessly expose your weakness and impatience.”

At this point in the book it moves beyond a scared straight seminar, and Greene gives reason to not put the book down.

“The great salvation for all of us is that we inherited an instrument that is remarkably plastic. Our ancestors over the course of time, managed to craft the brain by creating a culture that could learn, change, and adapt to circumstances, that wasn’t a prisoner to the incredibly slow march of natural evolution.”

I can still turn myself around. My brain is plastic, and the decisions good or bad, work to shape my character. He writes,  “At any moment we can choose to shift our relationship to time and work with the grain, knowing of its existence and power.” I can reverse the bad habits that have plagued me for many years. The ways I use to deal with anxiety, biting my fingernails, drinking, surfing the Internet can be dealt with.

“This is the real secret: the brain that we possess is the work of six million years of development, and more than anything else, this evolution of the brain was designed to lead us to mastery, the latent power within us all.”

Greene believes in identifying and honing your natural proclivities, perhaps through the long and difficult apprenticeship he describes in chapter 3, that he recommends before I can have a fulfilling vocation.

What are some takeaways from the book that I can use today?

1) The rewards in life come from learning skills. Our short-term attention span culture does not particularly push discipline before pleasure. Entertainment is preferred to moving toward pain, but in the long run the rewards far exceed that momentary relief. If you learn self-discipline and delayed satisfaction in your 20’s, your rewards will follow.

During my time in college I have been able to acquire lessons from great mentors and friends. I have grown my social skills and lost the shy demeanor that I used in high school. One skill I began to work on over the past year was learning to play the piano. I only known 12 songs and some scales at this point but I am immensely better than where I came from. I will continue to develop this skill more and more because I gain pleasure overcoming the challenges presented by the piano. It also helps that the student center has some free pianos in  that I can take advantage of during study breaks at the Library.

2) Learn one skill at a time. Do not multitask when you a trying to learn. Start with skills that you already have some natural ability in. Remember Cesar Rodriguez, the Last American Ace. Trust the process of trial and error, mixed with mentorship outlined on page 75 that took Rodriguez from the bottom of his elite flight school class to top. Greene summarizes this model quite well.

“You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests. You are sure not where this will all lead, but you are taking full advantage of the openness of information, all of the knowledge about skills now at our disposal. You see what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all costs. You move by trial and error. This is how you pass your twenties.”

3)  Take what you are given to do for others and make it yours. Follow the example of Leonardo da Vinci’s painted Angel’s and the enormous bronze statue of Francesco Sforza. He became the first artist to create realistic angelic wings, and invented a totally new way of seamless bronze casting. When someone else gives me a project, I should try and make it mine.

While not on the scale of da Vinci’s Angel’s I used this process while completing my student conduct sanctions. I received this book for Christmas and had been meaning to get to it for 6 months, but I had not. By establishing a deadline and consequences for not reading it I was able to read the book in three weeks. I though about the messages contained within for a few weeks, watching and listening to around 15 videos and podcasts given by author and then re-read certain sections that immediately applied to my situation. Beyond writing this paper, I plan on continuing my study of the book and annotating the book to send out to friends who share my interests of self-development.

My Favorite Podcast Interview.

Best Robert Greene Interview about Mastery

4)  Finally I plan to look for mentors once you have acquired some elementary skills and discipline that you can rely upon to interest them. Develop a solid work ethic and organizational skills. Once I am ready to learn I hope the teacher will appear. Once I identify a potential mentor, I will do a as Greene advises, to establish a relationship by appealing to their self-interest at all times. I will try to see the world through their eyes and ask the simple question of what it is they need most. And probably hardest for me, I will take Greene’s advice to “Get them to give you challenges that will reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and allow you to gain as much feedback as possible. Accustom yourself to criticism.”

Throughout the process of writing this I have started to discipline myself in various ways that give me confidence in my ability to change. It is a tough road, as Greene has told me, but the rewards for this are already starting to appear. At first I was very angry that I, a first offender, was given extra work. But now that I am finished with the program I am glad and appreciative of the value I gained during this course correction.