The Directional Driller's 23rd Psalm
September 27, 2014 7:00 AM | Posted in: ,

My pal Kelly posted his version of the 23rd Psalm on his Facebook wall, written from the perspective of an oil driller. I was inspired by his version to create my version, which is similar - but since my company drills nothing but horizontal wells while Kelly tells me he's primarily drilling vertical wells, my angle (see what I did there?) is from the perspective of a directional driller. If you're not in the oil business, some of the jargon may be unfamiliar, so I've included links to pages that may clarify things a bit.

By the way, I don't think this is sacrilegious or disrespectful of Scripture, because we all seek (and find) God from where we are, and I believe He cares about all the details of our lives, and this includes what we do for a living. I think it's helpful and even important to try to relate Scripture to the everyday aspects of our lives. Given that, how might you re-word Psalm 23 to fit your personal situation?

The Lord is my Geosteerer; I shall not miss my target bottom hole location.

He makes me slide through soft shale; He leads me past thief zones.

He restores my mud motors; He leads me in the well path of mild doglegs for His name's sake.

Yea, though I drill through the zone of limestone stringers and chert, I will fear no DBR'd bit, for You are with me; Your agitator and kickpad they comfort me.

You prepare a directional plan before me in the presence of management skeptics;

You lube my wellbore with oil-based mud; my reserve pit doesn't run over.

Surely one-BHA laterals and cement to surface will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the cooling house[1] of the Lord forever.

[1] A cooling house, aka safety trailer or safety house, is an air-conditioned trailer placed on a drill site for the use of rig personnel who might be suffering from heat exhaustion.


Despite the fact that only nine customers (out of 10 million orders) have reported problems with iPhone 6 bending, the alleged phenomenon has spawned numerous memes and generated its own Twitter hashtag, #bendgate. 

Since the internet is never wrong about stuff like this, I immediately recognized that this is a world-class problem in desperate need of a world-class solution, and I wasted no time (OK, perhaps I wasted some time, but not a lot) in focusing my awesome engineering skills on bailing Apple out of this horrible pretend crisis. 

I present for your consideration the ultimate iPhone rigidifying accessory, the iBeam.

The iBeam, for the prevention of bendy iPhones

Simply affix the iBeam to your phone (you only take selfies with anyway, so you won't miss the camera on the back) and you're guaranteed* to never have to suffer the embarrassment of a floppy phone.

*Certain exclusions apply.

Running Thoughts
September 24, 2014 8:35 PM | Posted in:

Some random observations arising from yesterday's run...

It's amazing what a 10° difference in temperature makes. A week ago, with temps in the low 90s, I was struggling after only a couple of miles. Yesterday, I made almost five miles (I stop at 45 minutes regardless of distance) and felt good.

OK, "good" is a relative term, of course. In this case, it means "I didn't eagerly desire the comfort of death."

About half of the distance was on unpaved roads and trails that wind through the pastures around our neighborhood. Conventional wisdom tells us that running off-road is easier on one's joints, but our trails are pretty hard-packed and/or rocky, so I'm not sure there's much benefit from that respect. But the almost complete absence of traffic and the frequent appearance of wildlife are indisputably positive factors.

T-Rex, sort of
Typical West Texas wildlife.

I also have my own theory that running on uneven surfaces has physical benefits like improving coordination and strengthening joints and muscles due to the continuous changes in direction required to avoid ruts, mud (yes, we occasionally have mud), cactus, and other obstacles. 

I like running because it's a minimalist activity. Although cycling is my preferred form of outdoor exercise, the equipment requirements are steep. That's not to say that I don't have my own requirements for running gear. I'm very picky about shoes, and I'm now running in a new pair of New Balance Fresh Foam 980 trail shoes - the red, yellow, and black version (think coral snake). They look a lot faster than I am, but the main advantage besides being comfortable is that they don't pick up gravel in the soles that can scratch wood flooring after a run.

New Balance trail shoes
Mesmerizing, isn't it? IRL, the shoes don't float. Pity.

I don't wear a watch when I run, but I have the MapMyRun app going on my iPhone. It records my route and associated statistics, and I have it set up to alert me every quarter mile so I'll know why I'm feeling so bad. It will also play music from my iTunes collection if I ask it to, but I prefer the rhythm of the blood pounding in my brain in syncopation to my raspy breathing.

MapMyRun screenshot
Ran uphill a total of 30' over 5 miles. Leadville, here I come.

I did have two pleasant surprises during the run. First, there were occasional sprinkles of rain to help keep things cool, without being heavy enough to create mud (I'm not into shoe cleaning). Second, Berry Simpson rode up on his mountain bike and we chatted a bit (he's remarkably skilled at slow-motion maneuvering). I don't normally like to run with anyone else - my wife excepted - but his company was a welcome, albeit brief distraction.

Mud run
I would hate to have to clean those shoes.

Berry is one of those guys who thinks deep thoughts and wrestles with philosophical and theological issues and writes entire books while he runs. I, on the other hand, focus mainly on questions of more tangible import. You know, things like, "what are the symptoms of a heart attack?" and "would someone find my body before the coyotes?" and my theological musings are limited to making deals with God if He'll let me survive and the only things I mentally compose are addenda to my will.

Berry commented that we needed to enjoy the trails while we could because they would probably soon be developed into neighborhoods. He could be right, but the more oil wells they drill, the more reluctant developers are going to be to build houses. And my run took me within a quarter mile of two well sites, one recently drilled and one with a rig still on it.

I'm not very fast, but at least I don't run very far. I've been running for 30 years, and for much of that period, 8 minute miles were the Holy Grail of Pace. But now that I suffer from an incurable condition known as RBS (Receding Birthday Syndrome), that goal is now a foggy dream.

On the other hand, every time I set out on a run (or a ride, or even a walk), I offer a prayer of thanks for the ability to do whatever it is I can do on that particular day. I don't take my health or fitness - however diminishing it might be or become - for granted. Every step is a blessing.

It took almost seven years...
September 21, 2014 1:26 PM | Posted in: ,

...but they finally made it to our backyard.

Photo - Squirrel in tree

I'm not thrilled about having squirrels in our neighborhood, but their appearance was inevitable. We are sequestered by at least a quarter mile of treeless pasture on every side, but a lot of trees come in via landscapers and it was just a matter of time before some of these guys hitched a ride.

It's not that I have anything against squirrels, but I'm dealing with enough distractions as it is without...oh, look!...

Driving Mr. Crazy
September 13, 2014 11:20 AM | Posted in: ,

Everyone who drives slower than me is an idiot, and everyone who drives faster than me is a jerk.
 --Me, and probably every other driver in Midland, Texas

Last week, while driving home after work, I encountered the following at consecutive intersections:

  • A driver in a pickup turned left in front of me after the signal had turned green for me to go through the intersection. Having driven in Midland for decades, I anticipated that and had slowed. What I didn't anticipate was the woman in the small sedan hugging his bumper and completely blocked from view who never came close to making a legal turn, and who glared at me for almost t-boning her.

  • A few blocks later, I pulled up behind an overly (in my opinion) timid driver who stopped as soon as the light turned yellow, causing us both to have to wait for the city's longest signal (an admittedly subjective assessment but after a day at the office, it's entirely warranted, if you know what I mean).

So, let's recap. Within the space of three minutes, I was angered by (1) a driver who ran a red light, and (B) a driver who refused to run a [almost-red] light. What's wrong with this picture?

Ask anyone who regularly drives the streets of our fair city and they'll tell you that the population of insane drivers has skyrocketed in direct proportion to the rig count. But, having said that, I've realized that my hypocritical attitude is not doing my mental state and blood pressure any favors...and it's certainly not improving the driving habits of others.

I confess that I have many faults, but angry judgment of other drivers is one of the worst, and the preceding realization has brought that into focus. I'm now making a conscious effort to remain calm in the face of what I perceive (and, honestly, it's a fair judgment) as inconsiderate, inattentive, and just plain bad driving. My wife will likely tell you that the effort is a work in progress with little discernible improvement, but I really am trying. As is the case with much in life, I can't control my surroundings, but I can control my reaction to them.

Well, theoretically, anyway.

Nest Report
September 5, 2014 8:38 PM | Posted in:

One of the guys at work claimed he'd seen a hummingbird nest in one of the trees outside our new office building. I was skeptical; in all our years of putting up feeders and watching the little guys, I'd never seen a hummer's nest.

So, today after lunch, Debbie and I walked past a live oak tree and she said it was where the nest was allegedly located. I looked up and immediately saw this:

Hummingbird nest

OK, so it's not the best photo in the world. The wind was gusting and it was threatening rain, and my phone had a hard time figuring out where to focus. But this is definitely a hummingbird's nest, no larger than two inches across. I figured it would be hidden better, but the tiny size means it's difficult to spot unless you're seriously searching for it.

I didn't see any activity around the nest and it was too high in the branches for me to peek inside. I have the same problem with the barn swallow nest on our front porch, but the occupants have no problem peeking at me:

Barn swallow nest with two fledglings

Here's the interesting thing about this. This is the THIRD brood of hatchlings this season in this nest! The swallows have been frisky little things this summer. And notice how the nest has grown taller; it's almost bumping up against the ceiling.

I'm not sure whether I'll leave this nest up once they migrate for the winter. As I've mentioned before, it's in a fairly out-of-the-way location, and if I knock it down, they might pick a less convenient place to rebuild. But after two years, it's bound to be pretty gross, and maybe it's time to make them start over next spring.

In closing, here's a picture of our Horseshoe Bay watch lizard, Poirot the Anole.

Green anole on fence


Camera Sunday
August 26, 2014 8:32 PM | Posted in: ,

I spent some time last Sunday afternoon wandering around the grounds, camera in hand, looking for photo ops. As usual, once I focused on the trees instead of the forest*, a number of interesting details emerged, most of which involved flying creatures of the six-legged variety.

Flesh Fly

This insect goes by the rather unappealing name of "flesh fly" (genus Sarcophaga), a fly that gets its name from its preference for dining on rotten meat. Our goal is to have dispensed with all rotten meat by each Sunday, so this specimen had to be content with its perch on a Texas Mountain Laurel leaf.

Flesh Fly

Another flesh fly. I like this photo as much for the matrix of twigs and limbs as for the insect subject.

Cutter Bee on Vitex blooms

Our Vitex trees are blooming and attracting a multitude of bees (and hummingbirds). Above is a leafcutter bee getting lost in a mass of blooms.

We don't see a lot of bumblebees around here, and they seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate, so it was encouraging to see several of them working over the vitex blooms.

Bumblebee on Vitex blooms
Bumblebee on Vitex blooms

Not everything was about airborne invertebrates, though.

Liriope Bloom

This is a bloom on a liriope, more commonly known as monkey grass. They don't bloom very often, at least in our flowerbeds, probably because they don't get enough water (but that's just a guess). So it's a treat to find them flowering.

And in conclusion, this...because...well, gnarly.

Vitex branches

*We don't actually have a forest, so this is a metaphor...or a simile...or something. It's definitely not an onomatopoeia.

Pardon me...could you spare some T-Rex urine?
August 23, 2014 2:58 PM | Posted in: ,

MLB was trimming the ground cover on the east side of our yard and when she pulled back a section from the wall, this is what she found:

Hatched quail eggs

As perceptive Gazette readers - which is both of you, I believe - will recall, we recently had a family of quail in our back yard, including nine chicks. And I'm pretty sure there are nine hatched eggs in the above photo. So, exercising my excellent deductive skills, I have concluded that this could have been the nest from whence they sprung.

However, I'm not going on record with a conclusive statement because there's always another possibility...

Jurassic Park raptor holding egg

Lose your place in a maze of fonts? Wordmark.it
August 22, 2014 10:40 PM | Posted in:


I have 23 folders named "fonts" on my desktop Mac. My default font library contains 500 font families. [Side note: Most of them are unfamiliar to me; I think they appeared when I upgraded my OS to Mavericks earlier this summer. I think I would have remembered intentionally acquiring Yu Mincho Demibold, or Wawati or Sinhala Sangam.] In short, I have too many fonts, although that's still not enough.

As a result, because of the impossibility - for me, anyway - of keeping track of what I have installed on my machine, I tend to reuse the same small subset. If only there was a way to see at a glance what fonts I have at my disposal...and what they look like.

I'm in luck, because thanks to a website called wordmark.it, I can do just that. It uses some clever scripting to identify and then display all installed fonts, using the text of your choosing so you can compare the alternatives. Here's a screen shot of a portion of the results:

Screen capture of wordmark.it

This brings to your desktop, for your fonts, a similar capability that vendors like MyFonts.com have used for years to allow you to compare typefaces. Of course, on those sites you're limited to what the service is selling.

The fonts appear in alphabetical order and you can resize the samples and reverse the display to white-on-black. You can also adjust tracking (but not kerning), and zoom via magnifying glass if you want to get really up close and personal with the details of the typeface.

I have to admit that while this is a quite useful tool, it's also a little creepy in that it's reading data on your computer and if it can do that with fonts then what else might it be snooping on, but I'm being paranoid, aren't I? I don't pretend to understand the workings of the Flash script that makes this possible, and I had actually forgotten that ActionScript (as Adobe calls this scripting language) now works with iOS devices, so this website will work with iPhones and iPads.The site's privacy statement and terms of service are essentially boilerplate and don't address the details of how your data is being accessed or what safeguards are in place around that access. So, let your tolerance for risk be your guide.

Regardless of those potential concerns, I'm adding this website to my list of helpful design tools, and now that I know what Wawati looks like, I may start using it in all my personal correspondence.

Arachnophotos
August 17, 2014 9:50 AM | Posted in: ,

I've never made a secret of my dislike for spiders. There are people for whom I have great respect who think spiders make great pets, but I'd just as soon invite a family of cobras to live in our bedroom as tolerate a single eight legged freak.

We recently transplanted a couple of tall junipers into slightly larger and more stable pots, and each of them was home to at least one of these:

Black widow spider

Perhaps you don't recognize it; perhaps this angle will help:

Black widow spider

Even the photos give me the willies. And because we've had some favorable weather conditions this summer, there are a bunch of these lovely creatures around the house (thankfully all on the outside). [In the interest of full disclosure and without a shred of remorse, I will report that this particular black widow was in the throes of death, thanks to my good pal Raid.]

That's not to say that I can't appreciate the skill of certain of the species in creating things of beauty, even if they'll never themselves be objects of my desire. This morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee and the newspaper on the front porch this morning before church, I noticed the following installation, which had been constructed overnight. The light was just right for a few photos.

Spider web
Spider web
Spider web

In the interest of full disclosure...the little guy in the first two photos is still busy at work, doing whatever his spidery little heart desires. I'm not a total monster...as long as he stays on his side of the car seat.