Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm coming down like a monkey

Just so much fun going on.

Tuesday we had some rain and went to watch the sunset again. The colors were completely different, and we had more fun. Then we had an incredible meal at Cafe Marquesa.

Wednesday we went to the local Butterfly Conservatory, which put the one in Marine World to shame. Then we went out on a sunset cruise for snorkeling. I didn't do so well having a bit of panic, but we still had a good time. Even though the sunset was hidden by rain clouds in the west.

Today we were to go out with a private captain for snorkeling, but his starter needed repairing. So instead we went to the beach where we laid on our towels and walked in the surf. We saw a small barracuda hunting for fish, and got sunburned. Then we went met the captain and his one man crew for dinner.

Tomorrow, we're likely going back to the Butterfly Conservatory, and some other unplanned stuff, and will watch the sunset from Zachary Taylor park which we have yet to do. It has been a truly incredible time, and while we will miss it, we are eager to return home Saturday.

Monday, May 26, 2008

And then the seagull came...

Today was loads of fun. We drove around the island (really no time at all), visited Zachary Taylor State Park and saw a giant egret, then we had lunch (so-so Thai), and then we went back to the room and had a nap.

We got up about 6:00 PM and got dressed quickly, and walked very fast to Mallory Square to see the sunset We got there about 15 minutes before the sun disappeared behind Sunset Key.

We then wandered around and went to two strip clubs. One was really bad with fat ugly girls, but the second was very nice with some really good looking girls. The cover was only $5 each, but the other prices for a dance and such were a little sketchy. We left and found a "clothing optional" bar where Jennifer got to enjoy herself, and I got to watch her have fun. While there she got body painted with vines from elbow to shoulder to knees. It was really a well done job.

Then we walked back to the hotel and have the sore feet to prove it. Tomorrow we start at our favorite Walgreens for Bactine.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm in the S'th

(Trust me, you'll get it if you remember your Mitch Hedberg.)

It's been a long journey, but Jennifer and I are in Key West. And having all kinds of fun.

Saturday was a very long day. We flew out around noon to Chicago (didn't have to change planes), then went on to Ft. Lauderdale where we arrived at 12:30 AM Sunday morning. Now, we were chipper, and eager, so we rented the car (a red, convertible Mustang), and headed on to Key West.

It was a four hour drive. Not too terrible on the whole. There were only two tolls to pay ($1.25, and $1) and we had Sirius radio in the car. We listened to the comedy channel, and stayed awake, and made it to the hotel at a little before 5:00 AM.

Then we slept.

We got up a little after noon, got dressed, and headed into downtown. We found a place to park for only $15 all day. Not bad when compared to San Francisco, or to some of the other lots that topped out at $32. And neither are the food or gas prices. We're just "lucky" to live in a tourist/high cost-of-living area.

First we ate mahi-mahi at a seafood place, and then we went shopping. We stopped at a place for some drinks, and then we went shopping some more. We found some neat things, and then we found a pub. There were had great pub food and drank some more. We watched Italy beat the US in futbol, and watched JPL track the Phoenix lander onto Mars. Then we did some more shopping, had some ice cream, and looked at some art galleries.

Finally we got tired, and went back to the room around 10:00 PM. So we went swimming in the pool about 11:00 PM, got told that the pool had closed at 10, and then went back to the room, got dressed, and went to Walgreens for some junk food.

It's a good thing that there's some work-out facilities at the hotel.

More later, but for now I'm just glad I'm not in Canada like some of my friends are. Poor souls.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Too loud

I'm snoring. Badly. A few months ago it was so bad that I drove Jennifer out of the bedroom for a couple weeks. Then we bought some ear plugs and now she sleeps in those.

It started when I got sick. It just laid in my throat and made my normal snoring even worse. She decided to sleep in the other room because if she kept waking me up because I was snoring, then I wasn't going to get any sleep, and I would get better.

But this phlegm has just lingered.

After this vacation, I'm going to find some ways to alleviate the noise. Because it's getting worse. She's getting frustrated with the ear plugs because she has to put them in when she's almost ready for sleep. And some nights, the snoring wakes her up through the ear plugs.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lazy man is lazy

Let's see, time to catch up.

Jennifer and I are making our last plans before our trip. We've got a town car taking us to the airport so we don't have to drive or take BART. Holly is being good enough to check in on Pom while we're gone. And I'll be packing Friday night. Jennifer on the other hand has packed and repacked for about three weeks.

Today I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As a former fan of the unexplained, I enjoyed the use of the crystal skull, even if it was not the typical one you see in the books. I enjoyed the movie, and got a kick out of all the cliches and fan nods. The best way to go into seeing it is to remember the progression of pulp fiction. Cliffhanger adventures and Nazis during World War II in the forties and then a shift to things related to the atomic age in the fifties. And Russians.

My reading now is a compilation of Peanuts comics. I collecting the hardbacks, and am presently on the fifth book, 1959-1960. I have three others after this one. I am hoping that some of the books I've requested come into the library tomorrow. Otherwise I'm going to have to scramble for something to read on the trip. More likely it will be re-read.

At work I'm almost done with my budgeting and forecasting. I've left my busiest site for last. It's my site in Stockton with the recently discovered UST. I have that to budget as well as a future investigation, some well installations, a system install, a few years of monitoring, and then the system decommission and well destructions. I think our target date is around 2017.

It puts a whole new spin on the question: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And another thing...



Oh yes, I forgot to tell you...



I finished The Name of the Wind Thursday night. I liked it so much, that I've ordered a hardback version from Amazon, and will be collecting all subsequent books in hardback.

Ask John... I don't do this.

I'm cheap. Books come out in hardback, and I read friend's copies or the library's and then if I like it I'll buy the paperback. The only exception to this so far has been Terry Pratchett and his Tiffany Aching books. WFM. HFoS. WS.

And now Patrick Rothfuss.

If you want to feel how his writing style moves, go to the book store and read the single page first chapter. It is practically prose poetry.

The first paragraph got Jennifer hooked.

And I have to wait until April 2009 for the second book.

I did get a cool book from mom on Sunday though. It's an anthology about vampires. There are a lot of short stories in it, but I'll probably only read two of them.

One is by Kelley Armstrong and is about her female vampire Cassandra.

The other is by Jim Butcher, and is about Harry Dresden's brother.

And before John goes racing for Borders...



Oh yes, I forgot to tell you...



This is a galley. One of mom's friends is somehow connected with the writing community, and she gets galleys from publishers.

I promise that after Jennifer has read it, I will pass it along to John. And if he asks nicely, maybe then on to Jay.

And then there's me...

I am tired.

Three days of getting up at 5:00 (two hours earlier than usual).

A week of driving/riding more than an hour each way.

Traffic.

This cold thing. I did cancel the role-playing game for today. My congestion is mostly gone, but I've got this cough that tends to hit with one big punch. It gives me one big cough that turns into a lung emptying wheeze. Then I get a headache.

Record heat. I have to be thankful for the townhouse we're in. We get only evening sun, and it rarely gets over 80 inside during the day, and it recovers quickly once the air conditioning is on when we get home. Timer thermostats are great.

Monday I begin the semi-annual budgeting and forecasting for our primary client. The fun part of this one is that we used to estimate a budget for only the coming year. Now, we have to budget the entire life-cycle of each site.

The other project managers have had the last week to get started, and will have this week and the next to get finished. I have this week...

Let's see... 10 sites over 5 days... two sites a day... I can do this.

The cursed site, driller rant, and traffic

The site I was drilling at this week, has a bit of a history. It is a gas station that has changed hands a few times; however, underground storage tanks (USTs) which belonged to the previous owner leaked. They are our client, and we are working to clean up that contamination.

Last year it was thought that the site was essentially clean. A remediation system for both vapor and groundwater had been in place, and as extracted concentrations had dropped, the system was shutdown and removed, and a closure report was prepared for the site. As part of the closure report, the county wanted a risk assessment, and so Hooligan and I installed vapor monitoring wells.

These are small wells to about 6 feet bgs, and this version has a small aquarium filter (resembling a large cigarette filter) at the bottom. We attach vacuum canisters to these wells, which then pull vapor out of the ground. These canisters are shipped to a lab who analyzes the vapors, and (for this site) told us that the vapor was very much above the allowable limit which is set by the state and federal governments.

So Hooligan and I went out at the end of last summer, and did some investigative borings. We used a direct-push rig which is louder than a jack hammer, and uses the same principle except it pushes a 1.5-inch diameter 5-foot long tube into the ground to extract soil samples. These soil samples were shipped to a lab,and they told us where the highest concentrations were, and that's where we decided to put the new extraction wells. For the new remediation system. Along the way we bent and cracked road, and never got to our maximum target depth because the ground is so hard.

And that is just leading up to this week.

The crew we were assigned is not my favorite. The driller had run an installation in Sacramento that took too long. And one of the helpers had pissed me off several times before.

Tuesday: My Program Manager decided we needed to attach a sump to the well (3 feet of blank in the bottom), but we hadn't scoped that with the drillers, so we stopped early while they went looking for parts. I was assured by the driller that he cold get the work done in one day and get us caught up.

Wednesday: Things were going fine at first. We finished the first well and hour late (forcing the grout inspector to stand around waiting), and moved on to the second one. And we ended up being on site for almost 11 hours. Helper #1 can't do anything without being told what to do, and the driller would walk off and work would stop for no reason.

Thursday: We knew there was record heat coming in, we've got one well to go... And they had brought two 10-foot sections of the wrong sized well-screen. Schedule 80 when we wanted schedule 40. So they had to go to the supply store again, and we stopped work.

Friday: We've only got a few tasks today: ream the hole out with the larger augers and set the well. Maximum, this should have taken 6 hours. And instead, the day took 8 hours. We were setting the well at 61 feet, and the driller tried to get to depth with 60feet of auger and an extension. That worked, but when he pulled up the sand flowed in and blocked up the augers. The inspector was on his way (as I was assured by the driller he would be ready 2 hours after starting work), and ended up waiting half an hour before telling us we had been bumped to the end of the line and he would be back in two hours.

I could go on with things, but this is sufficient. Except for the traffic. Hooligan and I pulled off the site at 3:00. I had called 511 for traffic information, and found out that due to a police investigation, part of the Sunol Grade was closed, and it was already backed up from northern Fremont to Milpitas. So we decided to take 880 instead of 680. And of course, most everyone else was doing that, so it was slow. We had thought we would take 238 to 580 and then 13. But as we approached Hayward they announced that 238 south was closed do to an accident and 238 north was backed up with rubberneckers

We ended up taking two hours to get from Santa Clara to Pleasant Hill using Lawrence Expressway, 280 south, 880 north, 980 east, 24 east, and then Pleasant Hill Road to Taylor.

I am glad I am in the office for a week, and then on vacation.

A very long week

Well, let's see... What happened this week?

Tuesday was a normal meet time at the office of 8:00 since the drillers were coming from Rancho Cordova to Santa Clara, and we met on site at 10:00. This looked to be a nice simple job: 3 extraction well installations to between 55 and 60 feet below ground surface (bgs).

Now for the non-geologist/non-environmental field people out there, you should know that there are many steps to installing a well.

  1. First the asphalt or concrete must be cut to allow removal and access to the soil underneath. Our client requires a 2-foot by 2-foot square.
  2. Then the soil must be hand augered and/or vacuumed out. This vacuuming involves using high pressure water or air to break up the sub surface so it can be sucked out.
  3. For our extraction wells which were to be 6 inches in diameter, the driller had to go down with 10" augers first, during which we sampled every 2.5 feet.
  4. The sampler is pounded in by a weight that is raised and released by a winch on the drill rig. In the sampler are three stainless-steel tubes that are 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. These are capped and stored in a cooler with ice for later analysis.
  5. During sampling, I or another geologist logs the hole by describing the soil types with color strength, consistency, grain-size, moisture, and any other interesting qualities it might have.
  6. The drilling and sampling continues until we reach our desired depth. At this site, that depth was determined by passing through a water-bearing sand and gravel layer, and then entering a clay later. But only slightly into the clay layer so that we don't go into a lower water bearing zone. We didn't want to dilute the contamination in the upper layer, or carry the contamination into the lower clean layer. And we didn't want to be in clay as clay doesn't allow much water through it in comparison to sand.
  7. Once we reach our desired depth, the drillers pull the 10-inch augers and then drill out the hole again with 12-inch augers.
  8. Once drilled out the well casing in lowered into the hole, and then completed by pouring sand around the screening of the pipe. The augers are slowly raised up, leaving the sand and the casing in the ground.
  9. After the sand covers the entire length of screen (plus a bit), bentonite chips are dropped on top. These chips are then hydrated, meaning they have water poured onto them, which they absorb and swell up sealing off the sand.
  10. Then the rest of the length pf the well is willed with grout. Grout is neat cement, where neat means the same as it does in a drink: no rocks.
  11. The final step of completing the well is to set a well box, which is the flat iron plates which attach to a ring that is set in concrete.

And that's what Hooligan and I did and watched three times this week. It should have taken three moderate days to complete this job. That is not what happened.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Would somebody answer that phone

The ringing in my ears is getting bad, but at least the pressure has stopped building up. Now I hope for less sinus pressure as well.

Last night, Jennifer and I went to look at a condo in Richmond. Unfortunately it is much too small for our needs. It seemed more like it was designed for two single people as the two bedrooms were on opposite sides of the place, and each had a bathroom attached to the bedroom. All of the rooms struck me as too small, and the homeowners dues were close to $500 per month. It just wouldn't have been feasible.

As for now, I'm sitting waiting for the other geologist to show up, so that we can drive down to Santa Clara and start installing those wells.

At least I got my daily surfing in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Catching up...

Saturday at Boomers was fun. We had a good morning, and then headed south. We stopped off at Chevy's for lunch, got my comics, and had fun like children. We played miniature golf, I watched others do the bumper boats, and then did the go-carts. It started to get really windy towards the end, and when the party broke up to go to dinner, Jennifer and I excused ourselves, and got ready to head to Bennetts'.

And on the way we got tired and sleepy. By the time we got to 680, we decided to go home and rest, and see if we were still up for KaBoom. Two hours later, we woke up, and figured we'd better call Bennetts. So we didn't make the fireworks party, but we sure slept well.

Sunday I cooked brunch for my mom. I had fresh fruit and mimosas for appetizers, then scrambled eggs and thin pork chops for brunch, and then chocolate chip muffins for dessert. Then dad invited me to stay for dinner and we had pressure cooked chicken, artichokes, white corn, and mashed potatoes.

Today I got to run to Stockton for an emergency site visit. It seems PG&E found some sort of buried tank on one of my sites. Two weeks ago. We got pictures from them, but I found when I got there that they had covered it over again. It's only about a foot down, so I'm hoping for a septic tank, because another fuel or oil tank would be a bad thing. We'll see how things go after our client decides what he wants us to do.

On top of this I'm feeling crappy. Sinus pressure, sore throat, itchy eyes. And tomorrow through Thursday (with a maybe for Friday), I get to install extraction wells at a site in Santa Clara. It seems that I'm always sick when I'm going into the field with Hooligan (That's not his name, but what spell-check tends to recommend. I've made it an unofficial nickname).

I'm hoping it goes away for Saturday. I can't run a game on cold medicine.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shocking Compliments

Last night Jennifer and I had dinner with parents. We were going to the Willows for another play, this one about FDR. It was all right, but what I truly found interesting while finally finding our why people used to be so scared of a catholic president. I had no idea that everyone felt that the catholic church would control that president's every move.

It's a good thing we just have lobbyists which politicians can ignore so easily.

But while having dinner, mom told a me a little tale. My parents had been friends with the CFO of ETIC before I started working there. We all had a laugh about it when we found out. Last week he had a party at his house, and my parents were introduced to one of ETIC's principals, Doug. Mom said he looked her in the eye, and said, "Erik is a very good geologist."

Now this, added to my review is helping me float through the weekend. I see Doug maybe 5 minutes in every week, and so his opinion of me is more than just his it's also how other people feel who have talked to him. I'm about ready to gush, but my two years at ETIC have been a wonderful working experience. No place is perfect, but I have certainly found a comfortable place to be. It continues to knock Kleinfelder into a cocked hat. And over the cliff. And into a pool a lava.

Today is going to be a busy day. After our good mornings, Jennifer went off to get an oil change. Once she's back we'll head to Livermore and get my comics, then head over to Boomers for Jason's birthday celebration. They've got bumper boats, and miniature golf, and video games, and go-carts, and laser tag (if it's working). Then after that, we're going to the City for Bennett's final KFOG KaBoom party.

He's managed to buy a place in on of the new towers going up, and is supposed to be moved in before this time next year. So he's having a final bash... at this location.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reviews and Distractions

So today I had my annual review at work. And only five weeks past my service date, so not too badly done. And I thought last year's review was good...

Last year was the first annual review since I started working for Kleinfelder in 1998 that I did not fear going into it. And this year's review was even better. If all businesses were like working here (definitely no longer Kleinfelder), then workers would be much happier. It's almost as if people should work for a big company, and then move to a small company. Not necessarily an official small company, but the last two of those sucked hot dog water. ETIC is small, but well established enough that they know what they're doing.

This review, I had about half of the criteria be "Exceeds Expectations," and all the rest were "Meets Expectations". And for those in the know, Gopi was the principal who sat in on the review (the other two being out), and although I was nervous at first, he only supported what Bryan had listed in the review.

So I got a nice raise and a bonus. They're going to make the Key West trip that much easier.

Right now, I've got two non-reading web distractions going right now. One is My Mini City which is a simple city that grows each time it's visited.

The other is Tribal Wars. I'm in World 5 which I think is now closed to new people. You start with a small village, and grow it until you can raise Nobles who then allow you to settle new village or take over other villages you've cleared with your army. You need to join a tribe in a mutual protection sort of way, and people who become inactive as members of a tribe can then be attacked by the members of the tribe. It all is kind of confusing unless you play it, but it does keep my busy managing all of my villages.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Best quote so far...

"...I wouldn't trust half these people to piss leeward without help."

--Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Monday, May 05, 2008

For all my friends who can read...

All of you should go to Things of Interest and read this guys fiction.

There are a few story arcs and he is writing another really intriguing story now called "Fine Structure". He's writing it in a way that makes it seem out of order to the reader.

I would recommend all of the tales in his fiction section. Now I'm really going to have to work to get some of my own stories up here. He's very inspiring.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sold to an American!

Today Jennifer and I wen to a house foreclosure auction We didn't really think we'd be able to buy anything, but we wanted to experience what the auction was like and how the final sale prices compared to the previous value (the last appraisal on the house) and the starting bid.

We were only really interested in a couple house in Martinez and one in Pleasant Hill, and a townhouse in out complex. The houses went for a lot more than we were prepared to spend, and the townhouse went for about what the going rate is, but with it being 300 to 400 square yards smaller than our present place with only a one car garage and no windows on the downstairs, we decided to pass.

The auction was held in on of the exhibition halls at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. At the peak, there were about 1,500 people present. And the echoing was crazy.

It was handled very well for the setting and the auction itself was fun to be a part of even if we didn't bid.

We were able to make strategies for the future, and maybe we'll buy something at the next one.

Maybe.

We got home and relaxed after sitting in very uncomfortable chairs for four hours, and watched the last three episodes of the second season of "The Riches" which is an amazing show. Harsh, but very entertaining. Then we watched "Cloverfield".

That was intense. It was kind of better to watch something that was supposedly filmed on a home video camera on a television. The story was pretty good, and the slow exposure of the monster was great. And there is no way Jennifer or I could have survived the unsteady-cam action. For a sense of my intolerance, I got motion sickness for seeing "Die Hard 3" in the theater, and have trouble watching POV/FPS games unless I'm in control.

Friday, May 02, 2008

As promised

And today, As I swore I would do when at the Scottish Games, I wore my Utilikilt to work.

I got a few funny looks and comments. Lots of people asked if I were Irish or Scottish (I'm not). The best was from my program manager:

PM: Why are you wearing that?

E: I got it this past Saturday, and I wanted to wearing something other than regular pants on casual Friday.

PM: I didn't know that was an option.

I love it when a Plan comes together

So I got a little flak for saying that Jennifer and I were in the midst of making Plans. Not that the person who complained posted a comment, he just bugged me on YIM. Essentially his complaint was that everyone is making plans all the time. John's just not very good at waiting.

The finalized plan is that Jennifer and I are going to Key West for a vacation at the end of May. We'll fly out the Saturday before Memorial Day, and come back the next Saturday.

We'd been trying to come up with a destination, and I remember the bit from the movie "Running Scared" with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. I suggested it as a lark, and everything meshed from there.

I look forward to experiencing the sunsets in Key West.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

New book

Last night I finished reading Iron Kissed and was very pleased with it. It was a very touching tale, and an enjoyable read.

Now I am moving on to a book that two webcomics (Real Life being one, and I can't remember the other) have recommended: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

I go into this book knowing nothing about it, other than two webcomics have said it is awesome. It arrived today at the library, and I'll be picking it up soon.

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