Thursday, October 27, 2011

A brief update

Bali  has a new bus system. It appears to be working in spite of  its many problems. A  critique can be found here. Despite the pessimism a working bus system is inevitable if the Island is to avoid choking on its own success.

Property prices in Bali are going up up up. Its unbelievable what people are willing to pay for a chunk of swamp without sewage, electricity or water. 300 million rupiah /are now seems to be the going rate in some parts of semminyak. Some very average villas here are now going for 15 million rupiah/month. At these prices its tempting to move and rent out my house but the next question would be to move where?

The beachfront in Kuta is finally resembling something other than a collection of abandoned buildings. There are a lot of new shiny hotels all across the street from the beach. Access to Kuta is still hopelessly snarled amidst the narrow convoluted streets, the surfeit of taxis and the  interminable "proyek galian" (excavations) tearing up the roadways.

The massive developments in south Bali (and they are massive) are serviced by a tiny 2-lane road from Jimbaran to Bukit. Traffic along here can only get worse as these developments fill in. As it is now you are totally screwed going uphill at 4:30 pm and downhill at 7:00 PM (tour buses to Uluwatu).

I'm not sure of the reasoning but the developers in Pecatu placed a large water park in the middle of a luxury housing development and golf course. Perhaps they should have sold the houses first but I find it difficult to imagine some wealthy pensioner buying a house with 100 decibel bass pumping out some techno beat at 10:00  AM overdubbed with some idiot presenter screaming into a microphone. Just what I like with my morning coffee and porridge.

The little golf driving range in Tuban is gone - victim to the ever expanding Ngurah Rai Airport. I think that it has been gone for some time but I'm only now getting around to mentioning it. Pity. It was the cheapest and best kept secret in Bali.

Finally I have to say that I lost one dog while I was away and a new one seems to be hanging around in its place. The lost one was a bit touched from the day we found him so I'm not totally surprised. The new dog is a friendly type with an unfortunate habit of digging up the lawn. Not sure how to cure him of that.

Having a heck of a time organising my next work trip abroad. More on that later.

Friday, July 8, 2011


D'Oh - Homer Simpson

Oil wells are getting deeper. They are becoming more convoluted as well. This has created a lot of niche services and service companies, and a whole new host of problems which would not have even been considered a few years ago. For example a client of ours recently requested the latest and greatest in high strength logging  cables. This stuff  has phenomenal tensile properties and if we utilize it to its full capability we can pull a great deal more tension on it then what is usually allowed. That means you can run more tools simultaneously while reducing the risk of leaving those tools in the well should they happen to become stuck. Unfortunately our client won't be able to use that cable to its rated load. You see you have to support that cable with something, and that something needs to be a whole lot stronger than the cable. The client never told the rig what they had in mind and they have only just realised that the rig's support points are inadequate for the cable they specified. The rig can't change their support points - its already at sea. So an entire drilling and evaluation campaign has to be changed because someone couldn't see the entire picture.
The amusing thing in all of this is that our client has us running around like chickens trying to solve  a problem, for which we have no reponsilbility, and yet are expected to sort out - for free of course. I can forsee some very expensive solutions coming. Machine shops...chartered aircraft....

I suppose this whole exercise would be the equivalent of throwing a formula 1 race engine into a Yugo, or a Gremlin, or even a  Pinto. You are going to be disappointed. no matter what you do next.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clarence Clemmons

Clarence Clemmons has passed on. There is a nice write up on him in the Times. He will be missed.

photo clipped from the album cover of born to run

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


An open question.

Why is it so difficult to find F connector wall plates? You know, the kind you need for satellite TV. Is there some law about importing them or is the case (as it is often) that I just haven't found the one shop in all of Nusantara that sells this animal?

Allow me to explain. A while back I decided to renovate the house. Part of the renovation involved installing cable outlets in all of the rooms so I could enjoy TV in any room without  without having a bunch of unsightly cables lying about or having holes drilled in my window frame. A noble plan. I also have a mother-in-law suite on the property, that I may decide to rent out in some alternative future. Its nice to have the connections in place so that all the tenant needs to do is buy the decoder. I'm happy to say that the cables are now where they need to be. The issue is the connections. The only available wall sockets here are whats known as a Belling-Lee type. The satelite provider (Indovision) uses F connectors. The two don't mix. Moreover I've been unable to find an adaptor. Its been grimly amusing visiting upteen hardware stores, electrical suppliers, stereo and home entertainment shops and getting various versions of the blank stare. Reminds me of the great toilet adventure of a few years back.

The only workaround at the moment is to build my own "PJ" cables which have F connectors at one end and Belling-Lee connectors on the other. Tedious but I don't know what else to do.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blue Lobster

I just thought this was kinda cool. Blue lobsters are missing a pigment. This would look very neat in an aquarium.

A blue lobster landed in North Rustico Wednesday.

Apparently this occurs on average of one time per 4 million lobsters. Unfortunately they turn pink upon cooking which means you will never get one on your plate (it's considered bad luck to cook them anyways).
The cbc has more on this if you are interested.

Photo clipped from the cbc

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Little Quests

I have this strange urge to make waffles. However I've been stymied (so far) in my search for a waffle iron.

Where does one find a halfway decent waffle iron here in Indonesia? The ones I've seen so far look that they were made to cook exactly 1 waffle before dying.

The thing is there are dozens of brands of sandwich makers out there. Odd (to me) that none of these suppliers have thought to include plates to make waffles instead of sandwiches.


Life goes on.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pigs Ears

Whats going on with catering these days? Did they forget to pay their bills?

Last week it was tripe. Basically pig guts cut up and served in a stew. Yesterday pig's ears showed up in the galley for lunch. You could see them hiding amongst the cut wieners and garbanzo beans. Apart from my dogs who really looks forward to Pig's ears after a hard day on the skid deck?

Today we had the leftover pigs ears in  sauce with the trotters thrown in to thicken it. This is a seriously worrying development. Whatever happened to pork chops, pork loin, bacon, or even ham?

Nervously anticipating the tails and snouts - what parts of the pig can't be eaten? Damn pig is doing more dead than it ever achieved in life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Oilfield Rant

I was rudely interrupted from a much needed repose to prepare equipment because some rig out on the ocean somewhere could not get their pipe out of the hole. Just when I planning a nice little trip home I had to rebook all my flights....such is life.

Drill pipe gets stuck. It gets stuck for a number of reasons. There could be differential pressure across the wellbore, shales swelling in, poor solids control, or any other number of reasons as to why the rig can't get the pipe out of the ground. Usually when drilling rigs get stuck they need wireline people to get them unstuck or backed off. Its about the only time when the drilling supervisor is happy to see us.
Part of the challenge in freeing stuck pipe is to select the most appropriate means of cutting the pipe above the stuck point. This means choosing the right explosive for the job. Furthermore little foresight is applied by drilling and completion people in terms of designing a completion than can be recovered if necessary.  A drilling or completion string may have a number of restrictions in it that complicate the pipe recovery process. The burden falls on the service company to provide a cutter that can satisfy the customers drill string however screwed up it is.

So here is a Drillers Dream Cutter

Can cut any size casing, tubing or drill pipe.
Able to fit through a 2" restrictions
Requires no explosives or dangerous chemicals
Includes a free point device as well as correlation device
Can be rigged up easily with no special power supplies or personnel

Unfortunately such a device is still within the realm of fantasy. In the meantime we have to go through the tedious explanation of why you can't use a 2 3/8" cutter to cut 5 1/2" drill pipe. Eventually this message sinks in and our clients re size their expectations as to what is actually doable.

The next difficulty is to determine where the pipe is stuck and to convince the client that he needs to cut above the stuck point if wants to have any chance of recovering any pipe. You would be surprised at how many millions of dollars of drilling hardware are lost in the well every year because Drilling people can't understand this simple concept.

Details. You can never have enough. Its surprising what you don't know and how that can make or break a job. A lot of time can be saved beforehand if only people knew the ID of a piece of assembly was 2.25" and not 3.5". We had to run a drift just to confirm an ID because some guy in town couldn't be bothered to gauge an assembly.

Hindsight is always 20/20. I think that the oilfield has the most disproportionate number of armchair quarterbacks in the world. Anyone with 2 years experience on the rig thinks that they are an expert and I think I heard more sentences beginning with  "we should have" than I have since that last time |I was out here to free stuck pipe. Service contracts are not written for should haves. They are representations of what level of risk that operators are prepared to accept  - if you are worried about losing a 50 million dollar well then you "should have" built that into your contract.

And finally....CYA (cover your ass). The acronym CYA almost completely sums up the entire exploration industry. Never leave yourself in a position where you can be held accountable for anything. Although this means that the job safety review will be a 30 page document translated into 2 languages for a 10 minute operation this is the way things are trending in the patch. Cutting through the bureaucracy means self-exposure and I can't afford the risk.

Get used to it. No wonder the price of oil is hitting $100 dollars plus.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some Unwanted Advice

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant - Karl Popper

Its becoming very difficult to reconcile the Indonesians I know and the ones I see on TV or read about in the paper. The latest attacks on the Ahmadiyah community by a mob having more in common with orcs than humanity have shown that the government really does not seem to have a plan on how to deal with an ongoing problem of incitement in the community by radical groups.

The problem is those pesky Ahmadiyah keep wanting to have their own unique beliefs. This goes down badly with the mainstream Muslim establishment who is apparently so insecure in their own beliefs that they see this tiny offshoot sect as a threat to the souls of the nation. The Government in its role as the arbiter of justice has proposed a host of  bizarre solutions which I would like to consider.

1) Expel the Ahmadiyah.

Ghettoizing the Ahmadiyah was recently suggested by the Government of Lombok. The Ahmadiyah of Lombok have been living a a relocation camp since 2006, when they were burned out of their homes by a vicious mob.  Despite the whole event being captured on TV no charges were ever laid in connection to these events. As a solution it was suggested that removing the community to an isolated location so that their neighbors could not be influenced by their deviant acts. I suppose one of those prison islands could be renamed Pulau Ahamdiyah and special uniforms could be designed so as to conveniently discern Amamdiyah followers from the mainstream. Of course this kind of thing hasn't happened since the Nazi's began rounding up Jews Gypsies and homosexuals but who knows? If nothing else it would earn the current president a special place in Hell alongside Omar Bashir, Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosovic but hey if this is the legacy you are hoping for Mr. President, a study of the actions of these dictators would certainly provide some lessons and insight. It won't do much for your UN aspirations though.

2) Initiate a pogrom.

 This method seems to favored by the MUI (majelis ulama indonesia) and their faithful right hand the FPI(Islamic Defenders Front). The Indonesian Constitution, never a strong document to begin with, has been systematically eroded by a combination of inflammatory fatwas, sharia style bylaws, and mostly by the lawless actions by thugs hiding behind the fig  leaf of ensuring religious harmony. Based on their recent actions and statements it seems to me that the religious harmony that these groups are referring to is the peace of the grave for religious minorities. Mr. President please refer to the above-mentioned dictators for advice on how to proceed. Again, this sort of thing is no longer in fashion but if this is how you wish to present the image of Indonesian tolerance to the world, pray continue.

3) Amend the constitution.

Perhaps it might be better to obtain a legal backing before proceeding with plans 1 or 2 by amending the constitution so as to declare the country an Islamic state. This plan would certainly be welcomed  a number of Islamic-based political parties that the government has been pandering to for the last several years.This plan would also be opposed by the small but significant minorities that make up the bulk of the eastern islands of this country. They might see the declaration of Indonesia as an Islamic state the ultimate betrayal of the 1945 revolution. The entire nation could conceivably be fractured into several smaller states, a situation that would benefit nobody. There are lessons to be learned from the Balkans, the Sudan, and Somalia. Indonesians should take heed.

4) Do Nothing.

This seems to be the modus operendi of the Yudhyono administration. Even the president must realise by now that, by pandering to thugs they will only become emboldened to greater and more outrageous acts of violence. Pretending that there is not a problem will not make it go away. What doing nothing will do is emasculate the position of the President of the Unitary State of Indonesia. When people lack leadership and discipline then tend to look to their own interests first. Attacks upon minorities will continue to occur so long as nobody is held accountable. How many people have to die before the government realises that maintaining the status quo is just not going to work in the long term?

5) Banning the Ahmadiyah.

This is the solution as suggested by the Minister of religion. Now the funny thing about banning a religion, it almost almost always has the opposite effect. Muslims should consider their own history when talking about religious bans. Were they not not banned from Mecca for a time? How well did that work? The Catholic church spent hundreds of years being banned by the Romans. When their opportunity came they spent hundreds of years years in counter-reformation efforts against the likes of Lutherans, Methodists, Protestants, Anglicans. Where did it get them in the long run? Ideas are difficult to kill. And who is to say which one is correct? I'm sure that any self-respecting Muslim would be very indignant if it was suggested that their religion was deviant and heretical - I fail to see how they would think that the Ahmadiyahs would feel any less indignant for having their religion considered as such.

6) Doing the right thing.

 This is the least popular option as will involve politicians and the public getting off the fence and actually doing something to promote tolerance as opposed to exaceberating differences. So what is the right thing? Well why not start with harshly punishing those who promote religious violence? Make an example of one or two - the third one may think twice before acting.  Secondly eliminate laws or decrees that get used to justify religious violence such as the ridiculous Joint Ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah as well as the Joint decree on houses of worship. You can't seriously call yourself a multicultural and tolerant society with laws like these on the books. If you want to restrict the growth of churches, mosques, temples and the like why not enforce things like seating capacity, operating hours, noise levels and available parking. Thirdly protect the integrity and sanctity of the courts. People should have the right to protest in front of the courthouse. Those rights do not extend to threatening the magistrates or burning down the courthouse if the decision does not suit the mob. Giving the bigots and haters free reign to hack and burn is a tried and true way to conflict.

Indonesians need to decide what form of country they want. Continuing in this lawless manner will only hurt them at home, and hurt their reputations abroad.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Egypt

The events happening over in Egypt are certainly dynamic. I've been following The Sandmonkey both on twitter and on his blog. The man has found himself at the centre of things. CNN has also been providing a lot of coverage on this issue as well as events elsewhere in the Middle East. Twitter is actually a  useful tool in keeping up with events.

 Meanwhile closer to home...
Indonesian leaders have a history of making bizarre public statements. Here is another. The Secretary General of the PKS Anis Matta claiming that thousands of his supporters are over in Egypt actively assisting in the overthrow of a soverign government? Imagine for even one moment if a European or American politican said something along those lines a few years back here in Indonesia. The conspiracy mill would be gristed for years to come.

Whats going on in Egypt will eventually be sorted by Egyptians. Given that foreigners have been targeted by the Egyptian police and pro Mubarak demonstrators its astounding that Anis Matta would make such a foolish and potentially inflammatory statement. Indonesians abroad have a tough enough time without having to worry about about being rounded up as foreign agitators.

Update - the police in egypt can read the news...poor guy

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Pack

Its not the easiest life to be a dog in Bali. You start out as a cute little puppy. After a few weeks the cuteness wears off as the skin diseases cause you hair to fall out and your owners reject you. Eventually you find yourself homeless, starving, and pathetically trying to shelter under a shrub during the rainy season. And so it was for 3 little puppies that my gardener happened to notice on his way home the other day. These guys were terrified of people but too weak to run away. Being a kind sort Nengah(my gardener) brought them into our neighborhood and they have since taken up semi-permanent accomodation in my carport. The pups have been accepted by Mallie, the alpha male in the neighborhood as well as Badi, the other dog that hangs out next door.

So for the last week or two I've been learning about kampung dogs. These pups are doing much better after getting stuffed with food from all the generous folks nearby. These guys can eat. I've never seen a dog until now that's able to eat rice until he can't physically get any more down his throat. They are reasonably clever too. It didn't take long to teach them how to take food sitting down and not to try and snap it from my fingers. They are still very traumatized by whatever experience they had earlier and don't really like to be handled, at least not at first. Progress in socializing these guys has been slow. Unfortunately I don't see much future for them if they can't get used to being around people.

Hopefully someone will come around to take 1 or 2 of these little guys in. It would seem a shame to rescue these dogs only to put them down later for lack of an owner.

Addendum: How not to solve your dog problem

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Nested Polynomials

At work we use quartz pressure gauges to measure downhole pressure in a reservoir. The gauges are extremely accurate and employ a clever temperature correction scheme. They are calibrated at a test facility somewhere in the States and sent to us as a kit. The calibrations take the form of nested polynomials, the coefficients of which have to be entered manually into an acquisition system. Apparently computers prefer crunching this form of equation to the regular type. Here is what they look like (more or less).

So just figuring

  • 25 Coefficients per internal gauge 
  • 3 Internal Gauges
  • 4 Coefficients per external gauge
  • 29 Coefficients per Internal/External Combination
  • 9 Possible configurations means 261 coefficients to enter (manually) into the system.
The possibility of typos is tremendous. Luckily the system allows some test values to be input so as to generate a known output. Its fairly easy to check if you've made a mistake. Still its a lot of typing for the two-fingered. Once all the calibrations are entered then the gauges must be phsically checked (in their various combinations ) just to ensure all the points are entered in the right places. Lots of unscrewing and screwing involved here.

This will take all day...I'm already pooped.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Prisoner Exchange

Kasiem is a genius.

Imagine being able to pay someone else to do your prison time. Think of the business opportunity. You could even set up an exchanges whereby short term credits in maximum security prisons could be exchanged for longer terms in nicer prisons. Otherwise unemployed people could now find meaningful employment as exchange brokers.The govenment could even generate revenues from licensing aforementioned brokers as well as a service fee levied on each transaction.

Its a win-win as far as I can see.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Alluvial Shite Fans

There is an escarpment outside our office that runs along the coast for several miles in either direction. Along this escarpment there are hundreds of these alluvial (or fluvial-I can never recall) shite fans. These fans are caused by residents on the top of the escarpment simply dumping their trash over the side of the cliff. There it remains until it either gets covered over with sediments - there are whole vehicles buried here - or until it rains and all this refuse floods the lowlands next to the ocean. Somedays it rains so hard that the manhole covers in the lower city get blown off and there is the spectacle of an artesian shite fountain in the middle of the street.

Sorry about the picture quality. My camera has gone AWOL - permanently it seems.