I’m in Kurdistan right now.

I’m not really sure what I expected. Everybody calls Iraq the Sand Box, and my experiences in the Middle East have been mostly in Saudi and Qatar which are brown, featureless deserts. Which it what I expected.

It is an incredibly pretty country, but at times it is really weird. Like it almost always on fire. I’ve been places where they burn the fields, but they just sort of randomly set things on fire.


They are also pretty into being a Mediterranean country, so the men all walk around with worry beads. and pajama pants.

Traffic is pretty hectic, but there are people here doing the same jobs they’ve done for the past 5,000 years. Just now, they have iPhones to use while they watch their floppy eared sheep.



North of the Wall Part 2… Bear hazing

I do have cell phone service up here, but it isn’t very good and is only 3G. The conditions I have to work in.

I do have wifi, but it is shared with 400 other people, so I think I’ll hold off on uploading more pictures. I have some I’ve already uploaded that I need to go through, so I’ll go through those when I can.

When we got here, we had to attend a special Alaska training course.  It was normal oilfield safety stuff. Where your safety gear, report spills, and Not normally, how to not get eaten by a bear.

The rules are that if you see a bear, stay inside the building or truck, don’t take pictures, don’t feed them, and call security. They have specially trained bear hazers(Sadly, probably not from the local frat) to get them out of the area.  They are super serious about leaving the bears alone.

In something that is common in the oil field, there is the Alaska Safety Handbook and there is also the BP Alaska Safety Handbook. They contain the same information, just in slightly different wording. So that is exciting.

I’ve also had to attend a few cultural awareness classes. Which is new. I’ve been dumped into tons of locations with wildly different cultures and have been left to sort out the best way to not get stabbed.

Here is a panorama of some mountains

North of the Wall… Part 1

This hitch was on the North Slope of Alaska. About as far north as you can get on the continent. This was unique for me because I’m usually Africa, where it is a little bit warmer.

This trip started in the most logical of places, Lafayette, Louisiana.

My department that hasn’t had a presence in Alaska in a long time. So we had to ship all of our equipment to our shop in Louisiana for initial preparation. More pictures from that later.

And ship it up to northern Alaska. With mountains of snow as you can see next to this average side person.


One problem is I need some way to better identify myself.



And you get things like this that while really scary looking, are supposed to go around your shoes to keep you from slipping on the ice.


My truck ended up looking like this most mornings, and it had to be plugged in over night to keep the engine warm.

IMG_20150305_100627 IMG_20150305_103523

And trucks have sweaters they wear on the front to keep it warm. I guess. I’m not really sure why.




There are some pretty views if you go to right spots. IMG_20150304_173308



Shop Improvements

My shop is a mess. It has been since we moved in. Most of it is I have very poor shop habits that I really wouldn’t tolerate at work. But at home, I’m more than happy to make where ever I put something down as the new place that goes.

For example, here are two pictures roughly one year apart(Easily identifiable by the Halloween decorations):

IMAG0314 IMG_20141109_162325


And a Panorama:

Just dreadful. As you can imagine this made it hard to find things, hard to work since I had to do a lot of movement of anything to get work done and just a general unhappy shop.

So the first step to just clear out the junk I’ve accumulated, but don’t need. Old paint cans, old cans of finish. duplicate tools, broken things I’m totally going to fix eventually, and poorly stored items.

Some of it was just laziness. I’ve got a metal tool chest/work bench thingy, that was mostly empty because I was storing tools on the work bench.

So something I did was make a chest for my woodworking hand tools and make the tool chest work bench thingy home for .screwdrivers, wrenches…things like that. I haven’t finished yet, but got it finished enough to get a start. Soon I will put the drawers in.


Although, my usual foresight had me make 5 holes for my 6 chisels.  I’m sure there is a math problem in that.

“Mike has 6 chisels, but he made a chisel rack with only five holes. How many hours after the glue dries will he realize what a dumbass he is?”

Also, I had built things in the past like the scroll saw stand, Miter Saw stand, and jointer stand that had drawers and loads of storage that I didn’t use because they didn’t have handles. So, I put handles on them.

Another thing I did was hang the ladder from the ceiling to get it out of the way. The plan is to eventually build out the walls with drywall, so I might move it to hanging on the wall, but right now, I didn’t want to do too much to the brick.



Another thing I did that I hope will help is I closed up the back of my Table saw.  A typical problem with any sort of dust collection is that these saws have a huge open back that just lets the the suction go out the back. So I cut an old drawer bottom to allow it to go around the motor and taped it on. I’ve already got the bottom sealed with a port for a hose. So hopefully this will really help my dust collection.


Yes, I don’t have a blade guard. I got the saw second hand and it didn’t come with one. I ordered a replacement, but I’d installed a riving knife and the PM64a blade guard is too old to allow me to have third party riving knife and their blade guard. I need to sort something out. I also glued magnets to my pushstick so that it it always on the saw.

I’ve still got tons of work to do, I’m happier with it now.  I can do things and not feel too horrible about it. We can walk through the shop without needing a tetanus shot.

One of the big down the road projects will be to properly insulate and frame out the shop to make it more garage like.

Anyway, updated panorama.


What do you eat over there?

I often get asked what I eat when I’m in Africa.

Which, it often depends on where I’m at and the company that is contracted to do the catering at the rig or staffhouse


Usually it is a western company. Some times, we are given a per diem and unleashed onto the local populace. Sometimes it is an Indian company and you get curry every day.

Most of these places have had centuries of influence from Europe, so most of the food is what you would find anywhere. It really seems to depend on the colonial heritage. French colonies tend towards French food, and so on.

This hitch in Angola had me in the Soyo staffhouse. I took pictures of dinner everyday.

One night was ribs and chicken.



One night was shoe leather they claimed was steak.




I had a burger at the hotel.



Turkey and tripe on rice.


BBQ Chicken


Chili and ribs



Spaghetti and hot dogs.


Adding the rooms I stayed in.

Soyo(Decorated by Ikea, which had to cost a fortune. Soyo is a refinery with a town attached):

Luanda, Mianga staffhouse:

Skeleton Jam Band

Margo worked on getting the band ready. They are going to have some music playing and will have a bit of a stage set up.

We got these guys at Costco for dirt cheap, built the guitar, got the costumes all at the local Goodwill and the sawhorse is just something  that came with the house. They are tied to the sawhorse for stability and will have a curtain behind them to make it look more like stage.



She also put one of the pumpkins on the other side of the driveway to balance out the setting:


And put this banner across the driveway to welcome trick or treaters. Hopefully, this is more inviting than the covered bridge last year.



Decorative gourds!

We went to the Georgia State Farmers market and spent 20 bucks getting huge pumpkins to decorate. We decided to paint and glue things to them instead of carving them so they would live longer. Which, I’m useless at painting. So this is all on Margo to get the guys ready for the big night.

The first was to draw the skull bases on them to give them a base.


Next was to draw a face,

And to make them look like calaveras.


Margo has been hard at work making the skulls look more sugar skully. The gems are hot glued on in the hopes that are skulls and skeletons can go back to normal for future use.

Calaveras aren’t usually blinged out. We got some face tattoos to use but after research, we realized wanted something that was a little more visible in low light from a distance.


Another big thing for Día de Muertos is marigolds. Fake marigolds cost a small fortune and we didn’t want a ton of a fake marigolds just sitting around. Real marigolds die sooner than we would like. These are made from tissue, pipe cleaner and parts of an unloved orphan we got from a guy.

and we made a fake guitar for one of the skeletons in the jam band. This year, they will just be static with music being played behind them. I found a Day of the Dead party mix, but I’m not sure they know what it is. My first impulse was Mariachi music but We’ve moved to more general party music that fit with the theme. Plus, it is all Amazon Prime streaming music, so free is a pretty good price.

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