Working, In More Ways Than One

I work on an oil rig, specifically the West Sirius, owned by Seadrill and under contract to BP. On April 20, 2010, we were getting ready to begin drilling a well for Exxon-Mobil when the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank. The government instituted a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while they investigated the cause of the disaster and instituted new policies to help to prevent a recurrence.

We never did drill that well for Exxon. They cancelled their sublease and instead we spent a few months out at the Horizon spill site helping to get the well under control and clean up the oil. Since then, for about the last year, we’ve been patiently waiting for the moratorium to lift. It’s given us plenty of time to get a lot of upgrades done that we don’t normally have time to do. That, and get into compliance with all the new post-Horizon regulations.

Now we’re finally on the eve of going back to drilling. We’re currently on station at Keathley Canyon block 292, about 250 miles southwest of New Orleans and 200 miles off the Louisiana coast. We’re drilling in the Kaskida oil field. We drilled the first well out here in 2009 for Devon (it was the well the rig was drilling when I first arrived onboard), now we’re going to drill four or five more wells, each taking the better part of a year. The Gulf is about to get seriously busy over the next few years. It’s nice to have some job security.

On the opposite end of my interests, I’m seriously considering taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year, or as it’s known online, NaNoWriMo, or simply Nano. In years past, I never got the point of it. It seemed like a waste of time to just basically write as fast as you can for a whole month. Surely the result would be unintelligible gibberish, a mish-mash of half-baked ideas, cardboard characters, and stilted dialogue, right?

Then last week I read an article by George Angus titled, “NaNoWriMo: The Right Rite of Passage for Writers” and I changed my mind. I’ve had a few ideas for novella-length stories floating around for several years now but none of them ever really developed past the general outline stage. I think it’s time I try to squeeze one of them and see what it’s really made of.

I’ve no doubt it’s going to be crap, at least at first. I tend to take my time with my short stories, writing for a bit before stopping and letting the ideas percolate in my head, going back and editing a bit, then writing some more. To complete Nano, you have to write an average of 1,667 words a day, every day for 30 days. I don’t have time to edit, and I think that’s the point. Screw editing, just get the words on the screen and let the ideas flow.

So, here’s to a month of fluid ideas.

Ten Years On

So here we are, ten years on. It’s a convenient place for people, us, to stop and reflect. Ten fingers, ten toes, ten years. We’re decimal, it’s part of being human.

I’m not going to ask you where you were on that day. I think it’s safe to say that everyone alive on 9/11/01 knows precisely where they were and what they were doing before, during, and after the attacks. For some, it continues to be a traumatic memory of an event that has no place in a sane world. For others, it’s just a conversation starter, a thing where they compare notes and shake their heads before changing the subject and moving on. For most, it’s a particular memory that they’ll never be rid of simply because of its part in the collective consciousness of America, and maybe the world.

I’m not going to fill this space with my thoughts on the politics of what happened then and since then. Every pundit that can put finger to keyboard is sounding off on that today, sharing their opinions with you, wanted or not. You’ll agree with some of them and disagree with others, just like you would with me. If you know me, you probably know my feelings on the matter. Politics has become a greasy sport in America, getting all over everything it touches and staining it. I’d prefer to keep spots, at least those spots, from tarnishing this blog.

Instead I’m going to talk about progress, and hope. There are times I despair for humanity. I watch the news, I read about some crazy thing in some corner of the world where two groups of people are in conflict over something ridiculous and trivial. They don’t worship the same god, or the right god, or they were born on this side of the river or that side of the river, or they think things should be run by this guy in a funny hat or that guy in a funnier hat. And I look around at the world at all we still have to do, all the hungry mouths to feed, the poverty, the resource depletion and I think, “Man, we’re screwed.” How are we ever going to realize our potential and become better than we are when we can’t overcome our basic Neanderthal nature? Why are we still fighting for scraps around the campfire and bashing each other with antelope bones to have the biggest cave?

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture out here on the rig. Your attention is always turned inwards, at things on the rig, and you tend to lose track of what’s going on around it. I try to take a little time out of each day to enjoy the scenery though, and I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty amazing things. This morning I was up on the drill floor and as I came around the corner I saw this:

Sunrise over Grand Isle 91

I’ve learned in my time out here that sunrises and sunsets are something pretty special. You have to be in the right place at the right time with the weather cooperating, but when it all comes together it’s a real treat. It’s Mother Earth putting on a show for you, a one-woman show, one day/night only. I always try to stop and enjoy it when I see it. No matter how busy I am, I’ll take at least a moment to stand at the railing and just bask in the glory of it all spread out before me, the reds and golds spilling across the sky, the black brightening to blue or the bright blue fading out. That’s where we come from, in that picture up there, and when we see that it flips a little switch buried in our hindbrains that reminds us of how our distant ancestors gazed in amazement from the mouth of the cave as the Sun returned to warm us after the cold, dark, frightening night. That’s the Source, and we’re all just little critters scrambling around on a big rock trying to make sense of it all while the Sun wheels above us, as oblivious of us as we so often are of it.

I was about to head back to work when I looked down and saw this:

Roustabouts enjoying the sunrise, 9/11/11

Three roustabouts on their way to work, stopping to enjoy the sunrise too. I could probably count on one hand the number of things I have in common with those guys. We’re all American and speak English, but the similarities end not too far from there. We grew up in totally different environments. We live in totally different communities. We have different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, different family structures. And yet there they were, partaking in one of the most basic of human things, enjoying the beauty of the sunrise.

It gave me pause, and it made me think, “Maybe there’s hope for us yet.” We’ve come a long way in the last ten years, and the last ten thousand years. There’s still problems around the world. There always will be. There’ll always be something beyond the ability of people to deal with and it’ll take more people, or even other people, to come together and make things right again. We don’t always know how it will turn out, but we do the best we can. Even when we’re so different from each other there’s always things that can bring us together, even something as simple as the beauty of the sunrise. We’re all created alike; our differences we manufacture ourselves, and because of that we can manufacture bridges to get past those differences and bring ourselves closer to each other. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be that change. Build your little piece of the bridge and when someone else wants to add their piece to yours, hold it in place so they can bolt it on.

If you take anything away from this post, take that. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.


So, my first post on WordPress. I’m setting this up from the rig, so WordPress is helpfully letting me know it’s also available in Norwegian.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with this blog. I’ve been looking for an avenue to lay down thoughts and ideas for a while now. I thought to start using my old LiveJournal account again, but in my absence it’s kinda devolved into a bit of a social dustbowl. I hear people mention LJ’s decline offhandedly but I haven’t heard about it in detail yet.

Then I thought I’d start using Google+ for that function and for a while it looked like it’d be awesome, but then Google got stupid with the whole pseudonym thing and some of my friends started leaving/getting thrown out. As time’s gone on, I’ve become less and less enamored of Google’s identity policies and their plans for expanding that across their services. I’m not going to be leaving the Google ecosystem anytime soon, but I’m a lot more wary now of what I do there. At any rate, the thought of using it for blogging (via public/protected posts) is a non-starter. If blogging is a way to get your message out as widely as possible, it’s hardly productive to use a platform that won’t let some people participate. Then I found out that Google+ only saves your last 250 posts; at post #251, you need the direct link to the post to see it. That was the last nail in Google+’s blogging coffin as far as I’m concerned. Blogger’s not going to happen either. That’s so 2002.

So, here I am. I may yet move this to my own site with, but either way I’m going to do my best to make it work. I used LiveJournal for about eight years. Let’s see if I can beat my old high score.