Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Facebook Marketplace

I have been selling a number of items on Facebook Marketplace and it never ceases to amaze me how diverse people are.  For a given item, I received 10-20 is this available, with only 4-5 I am interested or have other questions and the 1 party who purchases the item in question is usually there within hours of expressing interest.

The dresser had the most interest.  Listed at $30 it sold for $30 (cash).

The motorcycle helmets and gloves had some interest, but certainly less so.  Each was listed for $30 and the gloves for $20.  I sold both helmets for $60 (venmo) and still have the gloves.

The golf set received some interest, but so far no takers.  The full set from 3-PW, 1, 3, 5 woods and putter with bag were listed for $60.

The much boots showed a surprising amount of interest.  I ordered steel toe and was accidentally shipped these.  The company told me that I could keep them.  I listed for $30 and got $30 (cash).

I listed my wife's bag for $20 and included the pull cart and a few random clubs.  Similar to the my old set, there were a few people that inquired, but no takers.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Florida Spring Break

With the girls on Spring Break and my wife and I feeling more comfortable with domestic travel, we decided to try a trip to Florida.  My wife and daughters flew in on Tuesday to pick up my Father-In-Law and I met them in Miami the next day.  The flights were uneventful with the FAA doing a good job of enforcing the mask mandate.

On Thursday we drove to Lowdermilk Park in Naples, Florida for some beach time and then on to our final destination, the Westin at Cape Coral, Florida.  The beach was amazing with clear water and calm waves.  It was not too crowded on Thursday.  The Westin is a nice resort, but certainly not the nicest Westin I have stayed at.  The boardwalk overlooking the marina is nice and there are a few dining options on site.  The town of Cape Coral seems really laid back.

With the unseasonably cool weather and fronts moving through, our excursions were scuttled.  I had plan on diving for fossilized megaladon teeth from Venice, Florida with Aristakat charters, but those trips were canceled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  We also wanted to visit Sanibel or Captiva Islands, but with the cooler weather, we decided to just drive back to Miami on Saturday.

The flight back on Easter Sunday was more crowded and certainly a longer flight.

It is still tough to travel and dine out.  We had seafood from Pinchers Crab Shack one night and carry out just isn't the same.

Overall it was still nice to spend time with family and decompress from the world of work.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Good Hand, Michael Patrick F. Smith


An old friend of mine recommended this book to me as I was one of the few people he knew that actually worked in Oil & Gas in Williston, North Dakota.

The book was a well written, fast read that included some memorable sentiments including the instruction, "Never put your hands anywhere you wouldn't put your dick."  Pinch hazards are everywhere, along with slips, trips and falls.  However the most dangerous thing we do is drive.  The only deadly accident, involving people I worked with, was a rollover accident driving back from location, 2 people dead, 1 person in critical condition and 1 was treated for minor injuries.

By the end of the book, I got the feeling that part of the author's adventure was to establish a context for his childhood and his life choices.  Notwithstanding his early family life, "Magic" Mike certainly conveys a level headedness which is challenged by the folks he meets in the field.

I never got an oilfield nickname that stuck.  However, I did cross paths with folks who spanned the political gamut, were on the misogynistic spectrum, and there was plenty of homoerotic humor.  It was almost like middle school boys were physically transformed to hard working men with very little maturity to show for it.  Despite of all that, I will argue that the oilfield is a balance of meritocracy and who you know.  There are plenty of folks who got ahead despite their mediocrity.  However, a good hand was not held back for race, creed or sexual orientation.  Interestingly creed and sexual orientation were not taboo subjects as there was no topic off limits.

We worked 2 week hitches (14 straight 12+ hour days) with 1 or 2 weeks off.  Over that period of time, you get to know people pretty well and will discuss religion, child rearing, relations with your significant other and anything else you could think of that I never broached in corporate America.  Your views will certainly get you teased, but not judged.  Entering the oilfield for the first time at 46 years of age with greying hair, the constant question I got was "How old are you!?"  You will get teased short/tall, fat/skinny, young/old, bald/long haired, one can continue the list ad infinitum.

Mike worked for a oilfield services company and his experience was exclusively in loading and unloading trucks during rig ups and rig downs.  I worked for an Liberty Oilfield Services.  A company that worked exclusively in Hydraulic Fracturing.  Everybody starts with a green hard hat, which essentially signals that you do not know what you are doing.  It took me nearly 8 months to "graduate" to a red hat and I was very proud to get that red hat.  Most guys would get a red hat in 3 to 6 months.

I had to be taught everything starting with how to move around location safely and how to swing a hammer without hurting myself or anybody else.  To see an expert swing a hammer during rig up rivals watching a professional ballet dancer.  It appears effortless and elegant.  All of the iron is heavy on location.  The 4 inch long iron is a 2 or 3 man lift and all of the iron is connecting by tightening wing nuts with an 8 lb short handle hammer.  The iron needs to withstand 10,000 psi on the line without leaking.

I was hired in Denver and being sent to North Dakota felt like being sent to the moon.  I was not even sure how to pack for a 2 week "business trip."  I was basically told to pack like you would to stay at a hotel.  We stayed at man camps run by Target Logistics.  As an engineer, I had access to a company truck while on hitch.  Some man camps were better than others.  The one in Stanley was incredible, the Judson Lodge in Williston sucked.  One time we were put up at the La Quinta, when we were working in near Dickinson.  There is no way I would have paid $1500 per month for a trailer space, like I heard some folks doing during the early boom days.

By the time I landed in Williston, strip clubs were banned and we never went out for beers.  In fact alcohol and guests were not allowed in the man camps.  Some guys got together, just off the property for parking lot beers, but working the long days and getting fitful sleep on a crappy mattress, does not lend itself to a lot of entertainment time.  I would hit the gym 4-5 days a week.  Usually warming up on the treadmill, doing some calisthenics and some barbell work.  I would also call my family daily, usually driving to or from location depending on whether I was working nights or days.

With room and board included and the long shifts, I did save a lot of money because I never had time to spend it.  If I saw something interesting or just wanted it, I would buy it.  But being established before starting oilfield work, I did not want for anything.  Certainly a kid with a GED and a CDL making $100K+ a year could get carried away buying a nice truck, firearms or other toys.  Most of the guys were working to support their families.

I started in April 2017 with a "five week" hitch in the DJ basin in Colorado.  The five week is essentially frac boot camp for engineers.  Everything on me hurt.  Going from 8's at a desk to 12's of physical work was brutal.  We rotated around location working in sand, chemicals, the blender, walking pumps, gel hydration and pump down.  My first hitch in the Bakken was in May 2017 and I worked 2 and 2 up there, until January 2018.  Then I transferred to back to the DJ basin and worked a 2 and 1 schedule until October 2018.  I completed a breakout project and was promoted and was on track for a career.  However, I felt like I aged 5 years over that 18 months.  I missed my family and quickly realized that I would be having a stint in the oilfield and not a career.

I was laid off after 19 years in data storage at StorageTek, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.  I struggled mentally with being a stay at home Dad, even though I had saved for a rainy day and got a huge severance package.  In 3 months, I sent out 75 applications, attended job fairs and networking events.  I had 2 interviews and 1 offer that came in just after I started training to work in the FedEx warehouse loading trucks part time.  I needed to work and I knew Liberty took a chance on me.  I came to realize later that they never took applications for engineering jobs.  Everybody else was a referral.  I got in because I came across a posting that was required by law to hire H1B workers.  I wanted to prove that I still had another rodeo in me, that I had skills and was willing to work hard and learn.

One of my biggest fears was financial insecurity and I clung to my job in tech about 5 years after I stopped enjoying it, because I was afraid of change.

I was fortunate to have a loving wife.  It is tough to meet people when you disappear for 2 weeks at a time and then have a week or 2 off.  My daughters were 8 and 10 when I started.  I could not have done it when they were younger.

To this day, I miss the hard work, camaraderie, hijinks, authority and trust in the oilfield.

The antics of night shift were always crazy with lots of chatter on the radio.  I still remember walking into the data van for my day shift and seeing the pump operator and quality control supervisor looking like death warmed over.  I guess the guys got Caroline Reaper hot peppers and dared each other to eat them.  After 12 hours, night shift came back a guy short, I guess he had to go to the emergency room.

The cold was brutal.  The coldest weather for me was -35 deg F and -50 deg F with the wind chill.  Idling trucks was the norm and the thought of having to go to the port-o-let was enough to be constantly dehydrated.  I certainly hid out in the data van that rig up.  I got out and helped carry some soft pressure hoses and quickly disappeared again.  On those cold days, the only saving grace was getting your extremities near the rig heaters that were in place just to keep fluid freezing in the well head.

As a memoir, Mike certainly captured the flavor of a boom town.  During my first day of training, one of the old hands warned everybody to bank their money.  Oilfield is a cyclic business.  Booms are followed by busts followed by booms followed by busts.

There were a lot of ex-military in the oilfields.  Guys who were tough and wanted a sense of purpose.  They found one in American Oil on American Soil.

I will also say, that if you can show up and be even remotely teachable, there is a place for you in the oilfield.  I remember overhearing an exchange where the company man explained to a driver where he wanted the dumpster.  After 10 minutes of using every conceivable compass bearing, relative equipment, road and feature on location, they storm out and the company man points exactly where to place the dumpster.  On returning, he loudly proclaimed, that he could always get an oilfield job, because if that dumb fuck can get a job, anybody can.

The oilfield does police its own.  The majority of men are fiercely conservative and while they may talk trash, they would not tolerate violence towards women or children.  You would get your ass kicked and not be welcome back.  If you show up to work hungover, you may get a pass and sleep it off in a truck.  If it happens once too many times, you will get run off.  It is not hard to merciless pick on somebody until they are near suicidal.  Any disputes that cannot be diplomatically resolved could still be taken out behind the water tanks.

Some recommended reading included:

The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein - very enlightening, well written
The Rational Optimist, Bill Ridley - interesting, especially in changing times
Don't Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs:  She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, Paul Carter - poorly written, but fun read

Monday, March 08, 2021

Crested Butte Long Weekend

The family had a nice opportunity to head to Crested Butte for a long weekend.

We left around 3:30 PM on Thursday and hit some weather near Bailey and again over Monarch Pass.  We did not get to the Elevations Hotel and Spa until 8:30 PM.  Check in was a breeze and they even took our skis to the ski valet so that we could grab them the next morning.  Thursday night we also played monopoly.

We were meeting my wife's friend Maddy and had two adjoining rooms for the weekend.  We bought some groceries as we had access to a refrigerator, microwave/convention oven and some small appliances including a toaster and blender.

Friday was a ski day.  Diya, Nisha and I headed out on the Red Lady Express Lift and over to the Teocalli Lift and then back over to the Base Area.  After getting a snack, we then skied over to Painter Boy and Gold Link Lift.  The snow conditions were great for spring skiing.  Nisha was in a t-shirt and no gloves.  Maddy went out with us after lunch and we headed over to the Paradise Express Lift and then back over to Painter Boy.  The girls really enjoyed the Ten Peaks Progression Terrain Park.

Friday dinner was carryout from Secret Stash pizza.  We ordered quite a bit and had leftovers all weekend.  Friday night we also played a National Parks board game.

Saturday we scheduled a Skate Ski lesson at the Crested Butte Nordic Center at noon.  I hit the gym in the morning and then we went over to the pool and hot tubs prior to our lesson.  Andrew was out instructor and there were 6 of us as Maddy's cousin Amanda joined us.  Diya and Nisha caught on faster than the adults, but after a 75 minute lesson, we all kind of had the hang of it.  After our lesson, we grabbed lunch from The Last Steep (chicken ceasar wrap and black bean enchilada casserole) and headed back to the room to chill out.  After lounging and watching television, we played a Wingspan board game.

Sunday morning I again stopped by the gym for a shorter workout.  Ratna, Diya, Nisha and I all got out on the slopes and we went over to the Lower Twister Terrain Park and then did Mineral Point to Painter Boy Lift skiing the same routes we did on Friday.  Maddy met us at the Umbrella Bar and we all skied back to the Elevations Hotel and Spa.  Then it was quickly packing up and hitting the road.  We stopped in town for t-shirts and ice cream and then towards home.  Ratna and Maddy stopped by the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs while, Diya, Nisha and I pushed the rest of the way home.  We got home around 6:00 PM and Ratna and Maddy got back at 8:00 PM.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Keystone Day Trip

I hit the slopes with my daughters on Superbowl Sunday.  We headed out around 9:30 and were parked and ready to go by 11:00.  Our first run was back down the lift line over to the Montezuma Express.  Second run was Paymaster (my favorite).  We took the Montezuma Express up again and again took Paymaster down.  Unfortunately, we got separated and my first born ended up at Mountain House, but did find her way back to us at River Run Village.

We were all done at 2:30, but unfortunately the traffic back was pretty rough.  Loveland Pass was closed and it took us nearly 3 hours to get home.  We missed the first quarter of the football game, but otherwise was a great day.

The snow conditions were good and the wind was not as bad as expected.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Old VHS Tapes

Cleaning out my parent's house, I found a stack of VCR tapes.  As expected these were labeled haphazardly. 

Today, I reviewed a tape labeled "SANJIV."  I was not quite sure what to expect, but decided to let it run in the background during my workday.

It opened with an episode of "Mr. Belvedere" and then and episode of "21 Jump Street."

Then there was a bright spot, coverage of the 1987 Tour de France on CBS featuring Pedro Delgado and Andy Hampstead.  The 7 Eleven team was prominently featured.  None of the riders were wearing helmets.  Delgado was sporting the Campagnolo white rear disc wheel during the time trial.  Another fun note was seeing the riders grab newspapers to tuck under their jerseys during the descents.

Then the tape devolved again into some less than memorable 1980's movie that I have yet to determine the title of.

Next up was a few minutes of French Open Tennis featuring Andre Agassi.

Followed quickly by an episode of "MacGyver."

Followed by another episode of "21 Jump Street."  In retrospect, this was a little sad, if I was actually watching these.  I would like to blame my younger sister.

Then a little more tennis.  Hard court featured Lendl and Mercer.  Then a match with Navratilova.

Monday, January 18, 2021


We enjoyed a family get away weekend to Keystone this past weekend.  My wife was able to secure accommodations for us at the Silver Mill Condominiums.  These are pricey, but the location is great for us.  The 1 bedroom & 1 bath is a modest 550 square feet, but during non-Covid times we would typically enjoy the pool table and hot tubs.  The best perk for me is the underground parking space and ski lockers.  The reservation was a bit odd, so we drove up Saturday afternoon and were able to check in.

Dinner Saturday night was pasta which we partially prepped at home and finished prepping at our condo.  We spent the rest of the evening watching television.  Typically we divide with my wife and I taking the bedroom and our daughters on the pull-out sofa.  This time the sofa was busted so the girls  kind of made do with an air mattress.

Breakfast Sunday was avocado toast, donuts and bagels.  The condo featured a Keurig so it was nice to get a hot cup of coffee as well.  We got out to the slopes from the River Run base area and took the Summit Express up.  For the first time out this season everybody did great and we took Schoolmarm to Paymaster first to the Montezuma Express and then back down the base.  The lift lines were pretty long and we waited 20-25 minutes in both lift lines.

We headed back to the condo for a lunch of soup and sundried tomato bread.  Re-energized me and my daughters headed back up around 1:30 PM and were thrilled to find no lift lines, we did two quick trips up the Summit Express coming down Spring Dipper to Beger to Dercum's Dash and the second time taking Schoolmarm to Paymaster.  We then headed back to the condo to watch some football.  We ordered some Arancini Balls from Luigi's Pasta House and a pizza dinner from Pizza on the Run.  It was an earlier night, but Sunday we did play some cards.

Monday morning started off the same as Sunday (but we were out of donuts).  My wife decided to take it easy and catch up on sleep.  Me and the girls headed up to the Summit Express and were again pleasantly surprised to find short (5 minute) lift lines.  We got three runs completed in 90 minutes and explored Santa Fe which was ungroomed, Spring Dipper to Jaybird and finally Schoolmarm to Paymaster.  We decided to head in for lunch, but grabbed some crepes from the The Crepe Stand.  We got two sweet and one savory which was an ideal supplement to our planned lunch of nachos and leftover pizza.

After lunch my 11 year old was done with skiing, but I took my 13 year old back out for another run.  This time we headed down Bachelor where she was actively seeking ungroomed terrain.  I stuck to the groomed section, but we still had a great time and went after Beger again.

We called it a day and packed up the condo relatively quickly and got on the road around 3:00 PM.  We hit a little bit of traffic but nothing too bad.  We grabbed some Chinese food on the way home and still arrived around 5:00 PM.

Strengths - We could all ski together, albeit at different comfort levels.  Packing food is so convenient compared to trying to dine out every meal.  The girls having electronic devices helps pass the time in the car and in the evenings.  Having our skis freshly tuned was so nice compared to last season.

Weaknesses - It was cold and we should have packed more toe warmers and hand warmers.  It is tough to wear a mask while skiing and my goggles were fogging up.

Opportunities - I need to get my 13 year old some poles.  She is ready.  I am going to get myself some mittens so that I can enjoy the hand warmers that the girls seem to enjoy so much.  We will probably skip bagels next time and maybe I will bring a couple of packages of oatmeal for breakfast and Ramen for lunch.

Threats - If the girls get much better at skiing, I will be left behind.

Real Estate Notes:  The last two Silver Mill Condos recently sold went for $690K for a 2BR, 2BA, 1125 square feet, HOA $1,051 monthly (December 2020) and $1,205K for a 4BR, 4BA, 1,946 square feet penthouse, HOA $1,916 monthly (November 2020).  1BR, 1BA are going for around $400K right now, HOA $468 per month.  I am still leery of investment properties, but feel better about invest properties in the mountains compared to those on the beach, which may be susceptible to hurricanes, etc.