Esta Tierra

Yeah, I know.  It is wildly unpopular to speak of immigration in a favorable tone.  I should clarify that I think immigration is a grand idea, and that I really wish we could find a way to make the legal process a lot easier for those people who are seeking a better opportunity.

On the heels of our independence celeberation, I find this version of Woody Guthrie’s classic song a grand reminder that we are all here because of immigrants who were seeking the hope and promise  of a great opportunity. And I’m reminded that there is no other country where people are climbing fences, swimming rivers, braving starvation and death in a desert, or building a raft to cross an ocean just for a small taste of that opportunity.

How bad do you want it?

La tierra es para ti y para mí.

Via con Dios mis hermanos.


You Might Be an Industrial Hygienist if…

…you know what fart rock is and why it’s called that (and you’ve used it for training)

…you know how to hang a 2-pound sample pump on a lady wearing spandex pants

…you know what a pump jockey is

…you’ve ever been a pump jockey

…you know how to make a belt with duct tape

…you’ve ever eaten lunch from a vending machine (because you can’t leave the plant)

…you know why the glass in a microwave oven door is not necessary

…you get a charge out of running towards the chemical spill

…you’ve ever bought soap bubbles to use at work

…you know what 85 decibels sounds like without using a meter

…you know what Q=VA means

…you’ve ever told a chemist his burette was upside down

…you’ve ever bought 9-volt batteries in bulk

…you carry ear plugs in your pocket (just in case)

…you wonder what happens to the fines from a Dyson cyclone vacuum

…you wish you had that “black box” analyzer they use on CSI (and you know why you never will)

…you know what isoamyl acetate smells like (and like it)

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m not terribly worried about losing my memory, since it seems I don’t have much to begin with.  I really do not remember a lot of details about my childhood.  I have some memories of specific events but if you ask me about growing up in general, I just don’t remember much about what it was like.  So on this Mother’s Day, as I listen to everyone talk about how great their mom was, and what a great influence she was to their lives, I know that those things are true about my mother, but I just don’t remember the details.

I do remember a few specific things and I do know that my life has been blessed by growing up in her house, under her influence.  I’m just not sure I can tell you exactly how.

Mother was a terrific cook.  She taught me some basic kitchen skills, and shared some of her best recipes (some of them I still have, in her handwriting).  Some of those recipes might be hard to follow (“bake at 350 until done” – but when is “done”?), but they are still stained with kitchen spills and my kids still love her meatloaf and fried potatoes (actually, those would be Aunt Grace’s potatoes, but still).  I love to cook and I love being in the kitchen.  I’m sure that without her help, that would not be part of my life.

When I was around six years old, two of my cousins came to live with us.  I have zero recollection of the details of how that got started (I’ve heard the story, but don’t have any original memory of it).  I do remember some of the following six years while they lived with us, and I now know that taking those kids in had to be a huge sacrifice for my parents.  But I do not recall ever hearing my mom complain about the extra work, the cramped living space, the drain on our budget, or any other hardship I’m sure she endured.  All I know is she poured out her heart to all the kids living in her house, and a bunch of kids who didn’t live there, too.  Even with two cousins and a sister in the house, I never, ever felt like she was holding back on anything she could give to any of us.  We were all fully blessed with all of her love.

Mom had a way of making me reach my potential.  When I went to college, she told me if I didn’t make a 3.0 grade point average, I wasn’t going back (my high school GPA was only 2.5).  That one semester when I dipped below 3.0, I was terrified she would yank me out of school, but she gave me one more semester to bring it up.  Later, she told me it was all a bluff because she knew I could do it, and I needed the incentive.

Oh, and besides us kids, she also loved her strawberries.  Both as food and as decoration. Now that I live “just down the road” from the strawberry capital of America, I sure wish I could share some of those fresh berries with her.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.  Even if I don’t remember the details, thanks for your love and influence on my life.

What I Really Do

What I Really Do

Killing The Giants

When the Israelite spies came to report back to Moses all they had seen in the land that God had promised them, in addition to the descriptions of milk and honey and fruits of all kinds, they also reported that the land was full of giants.

But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. (Numbers 13:28)

After God led them on a wilderness trek, the descendants of these spies were then ready to take the land of Canaan, just as God had promised to their ancestors so long ago.  As they prepared to go into the land, He gave them instructions.  While these instructions were directed at the Israelites, and intended to provide a guide for their success in taking the promised land, they also seem to me to be good instructions for Christians today as we go out and face the giants who would tear down our faith.

…if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. (Numbers 33:55)

I once read a quote attributed to Søren Kierkegaard that went something like this:

No one who plants a garden saves a corner of the plot for growing weeds.

It seems harsh to us that God would tell the Israelites to plunder and kill all the inhabitants of the land they were about to take.  But, He knows there are giants out there who would tear you down.  There are minor temptations  you will want to keep in your life.  But you must not be daunted by the giants, and you must drive out every little thing that stands in the way of your relationship with Christ.

Every.  Little. Thing.

And if you don’t, it will become “barbs in your eyes, thorns in your sides, and will give you trouble in the land where you live.”


So I had this job once as a dishwasher at Bonanza.  (Wow – I just Goggled that, and they are, in fact, still in business.  Who knew?)  Given that you are supposed to learn something from these experiences, this might rank right up there with the great experiences of life.  Don’t be lazy, never let up, and don’t trust people.

No wait.  Strike that last one.  Trust people, but recognize that not everyone is trustworthy.  Yeah.  Maybe that’s it.

While my primary role was to be the dishwasher, I was occasionally drafted into other roles, some of which did not go well and eventually got me fired (I think).  When I was told to mop the kitchen floor, I did.  I just didn’t put everything I had into it, and the boss was not impressed (surprisingly, after you mop, the floor is supposed to actually look clean).  So, I was pretty lazy and could have been accused of doing only what I had to to get by (and I use the past tense somewhat loosely, here).

Once, and only once, I was asked to work the dining room.  Briefly.  I don’t know how Bonanza works now, but this was when you went through the line and ordered your steak.  After it was cooked, someone (like me) would bring it to your table.  I was given two hamburgers to take to table 5.  I heard Table 9. The people at Table 9 had, in fact, ordered two hamburgers.  For the kids.  They weren’t happy that they didn’t get the rest of their food, that the burgers they got were not kids burgers, and the people who ordered adult burgers were not happy that it took so long to get theirs.  (So let that be a lesson to you, too, Mr. Restaurant Manager – don’t send the dishwasher kid out into the dining room.)  And when I was trying to help a little girl with a coke refill, apparently the manager thought I was being rude and decided I didn’t belong.

The official reason I was fired – the reason I was given – was that my language was inappropriate.  Admittedly, I did use some inappropriate language back in the kitchen – which was pretty much in line with the general conversation everyone else used back there.  What I really know is that I was a slacker.  So why couldn’t the manager just tell me that?

Regardless of why she couldn’t be straight with me, I learned that when you are a slacker, people notice.  I know when I’m not doing my best, and I know that other people know, too.  (I almost lost another job before I actually learned this lesson.)

Oh.  And one more thing.  100% polyester shirts are not only very uncomfortable, they absorb all those kitchen odors and smell really nasty by the end of the shift.

Brutus, Bullwinkle and Mars

A couple of months ago I spent a day travelling around the Gulf of Mexico visiting one small oil production platform (Boxer, or Green Canyon 19) and a compressor station (Ship Shoal 28). This week I spent a few days helping with an audit on a larger production platform and drilling rig (Auger, or Garden Banks 426). The Green Canyon, Ship Shoal, and Garden Banks names define certain geologic formations or oil fields in the Gulf.

The drilling rigs and platforms are also given names that sometimes simply defy explanation (well, any explanation I can find, anyway). Sometimes they make perfect sense. For example, the Noble Jim Thompson is a drill ship owned by the Noble drilling company, apparently named in honor of someone special (as are all the Noble rigs). Some are apparently named for legendary or mythical characters related to the oceans (like Neptune). And then, there are those that simply do not appear to make any sense at all – but they are fun to say. Here’s a quick list of the ones I’ve been considering:

  • Brutus
  • Bullwinkle
  • Mars
  • Ursa
  • Popeye
  • Enchilada
  • Salsa
  • Cougar
  • Cognac
  • Perdido (do you really want to be on a platform that is “lost”?)

And a few pipelines:

  • Serrano
  • Oregano
  • Cardamom
  • Habanero
  • Macaroni

I suspect the engineer(s) responsible for the discovery of a well, or development of the field, or design of the drilling rig/platform have some vote in the name of the development.  If so, I’m glad to know that there are engineers with a sense of fun.

Side Note: A pig, in the oil patch, is a device placed in a pipeline to help clean it out; a pig launcher is the opening in the pipeline where the pig is inserted – or launched – to be sent to the “pig trap” at the other end. And, of course, you know that in this computer age there are “smart pigs” that can inspect the line as it travels to the other end.

Which leads me to tell you that seeing something labeled as the “Macaroni Pig Launcher” is just funny.