Monday, December 23, 2013

Gonzaward/Howlez Christmas Letter

Dear family and friends,

Happy holidays from Republic, Washington/Deadhorse, Alaska. I was planning on sending out a cute Christmas letter this year. But then I realized we had enough envelopes to address for wedding invitations. And our printer is probably still in a shipping crate somewhere in the Pacific ocean. This is the second year my things are scattered about the country on Christmas. Maybe I should stop making this a trend. 

For Travis and I, this will be our second Christmas with just the two of us. At least until my parents come to visit the day after Christmas. While we have a lack of company, there are packages arriving or shipping out every single day. 

Our impressively magical pile of expanding presents on our breakfast nook. Included in the pile is a Bigfoot print shaped beef jerky tin (with collectible trading card), pint glasses, and two suspiciously shaped packages that just may be Toblerone bars. We already ate the white chocolate covered Oreos. It is a very feeling to have a Christmas corner when we don't have much else with us right now. Makes me feel very grateful for having family that cares about us and knows us terrifyingly well. :-)
The equally impressive pile of package boxes.
We have an empty house and a hotel room but we will at least get heat in the house in time to be able to make Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve. Best Christmas present ever. I almost cried when the lady at the gas company said they were ten days behind and we needed to order gas when our tank was half full. I think we got a boost on the list when I explained we just moved and didn't know the tank was low and therefore had no heat. I carted home an impressive amount of cookie making supplies in preparation for tomorrow (an eighteen pack of eggs, a sack of flour, a sack or sugar, and cookie sheets just to start off with) without breaking any bags along the walk. We already have a single star shaped cookie cutter that Travis somehow accidentally bought the other day. Sometimes I wonder about him. There won't have a tree or decorations as those are still in transit as well. I will miss last year's growler tree topper, it was super classy.  However we do have all those gifts to open which will be fun. But I digress from traditional Christmas letter format. Here's whats up with out little clan. (I think we should probably just make a new last name after we get married. But Travis says Gonzaward and Howalez sound dumb. And I guess he has a point, Gonzaward sounds like we belong in a mental ward. Howalez sounds like we are werewolves.)

Roxi remains as odd as ever. She is not a fan of the salt used to melt the snow. She hates her paws touching it. We witnessed her walking along casually on just her front two legs while on a walk the other night. 
Not like this dog.....
Puppy eating while balancing on front legs
More like this puppy gif but even more amazing and for a much longer time.
It was even more amazing than the ladder climbing. Neither Travis nor I understand how she managed this incredible feat of coordination. The physics do not make the slightest bit of sense. She didn't shift her center of gravity at all. I keep thinking she can't surprise me more, but I was wrong again. 

Travis is adjusting to his new job at the mill here. He says everything is similar but on a much smaller scale. Also that the attitude about the process is different because in Fairbanks, the ore was low quality so the goal was to process a lot. Here the attitude is let the ore take the time to process and extract all the gold because there is less ore, but it is a much higher quality. Travis will be giving my parents and I a tour on Friday which will be interesting. I'm becoming a regular mine tourer. Travis is becoming a regular at the local brewery. He has already acquired a mug on the wall, managing to sneak in without being on the six month waiting list. 

As for me, I am recovering from my cross country journey and regular schedule switch. I discovered naps are bad after I woke up at two thirty in the morning this weekend (on the ONE night I have ever heard Travis and Roxi not snore...great timing). On the plus side I enjoyed several hours of survival reality TV. I am enjoying my off time and getting excited for family to come visit. It will be their first visit since I have become a legitimate adult. Should be interesting. I am also busy plotting ways to decorate our house and furniture to buy or get Travis to make for me. We found a coffee table and two end table set make out of barrels at a thrift store for under a hundred bucks. We immediately bought those and are looking at ways to update them from their slightly too retro look. So far the plan is to put chalkboard paint and a cribbage board on the top of one. And maybe old grinding wheels or something on the two end tables. 
Barrel end table!

I didn't mean for this photo to be artistically slanted. I just am not awesome at picture taking. 
That's all the holiday excitement we have going for us at the moment. We all sincerely hope everyone is having a good holiday season!

Miriam (and Travis and Roxi)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mud Monster of the Night

There is a distinct possibility that overexposure to testosterone and not seeing the sun for thirteen days is starting to loosen a few screws. The other day I was finishing up my only mudcheck of the night (It was a slow day. We were tripping out of the hole, aka pulling the drill bit and drill pipe out, so nothing much happens on the mud side of things) and I got a call from the company man. He asked if I had a minute to come over to the offices because he and Ryan wanted to talk to me about something. To be honest my immediate reaction was, "Uh-Oh, what did I do wrong? I really don't think I have done anything stupid, especially not anything stupid with witnesses." So I headed over as quick as possible, and walk into the office. The company man turns to me, looking completely serious, and in a flat deadpan voice asks, "What are your opinions on Bigfoot?" The next hour was spent discussing a wide range of topics. Including all sorts of cryotozoological creatures (even another of my favorites, the Tasmanian tiger), and other obscure random topics like "man scaping." Another time he questioning how we calculate one of our numbers and asking detailed questions about one of our sets of tests that we use to measure how thick our mud is and how much force it will take to move it. He was joking about testing us and said the real test would be if he remembered the information later. So naturally we wrote him up a quick multiple choice test that he now has posted on his door. He scored 115% since he answered the favorite mud engineer question with my name.

I don't recall if I previously mentioned an incident where I using an extendable armed bucket to scoop mud out of a pit and the bottom half dropped into the pit. On that occasion, the bucket and half a stick made a pretty artistic spiral when it wrapped around the agitator before we could turn it off. Well, a very similar thing happened this hitch with a different bucket. So I will now never live either incident down. Though in my defense, this was all equipment breakage, not me being an idiot and dropping things. But I still feel like a dummy.

There have been several entertaining events over these two weeks. One evening someone called out for me over the loud speaker. It went something like this, "Hello mudman Miriam. Uhhh...I mean...ummm, let me start over....mud engineer Miriam!" It's fairly entertaining to watch everyone stumble a bit after they say "gentlemen" or some other masculine term and then try and throw in a "ladies" with it. I'm always like, "Plural? Who's the other lady in the room?" We did have another woman up here working with the geologists but she worked days and I never really saw her. Also, I apparently also scare people when I use our speaker system. The alarms for high levels in tanks are a woman's voice. So I've been mistaken for an alarm when I'm just trying to get a hold of someone.

Overall, it has been a rather entertaining and fast hitch. I don't feel like I have been here for two weeks. It is hard to believe I just need to get through 12 more hours as a mud monster of the night and I'll be starting the trek to my new home in Washington!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Little Known Threat of Arctic Heatstroke and 44 Bottles of Wine on the Wall

So apparently all the arctic weather I was preparing myself for, has flown south for the winter. The other day it was 35 ABOVE. In Prudhoe, in DECEMBER. Right next to the arctic ocean. Ridiculous. It even rained quite a bit. Enough to shut down the roads. Which is really a big inconvenience because it means meals don't get sent out and we are stuck on the rig until conditions improve. So instead of hanging out in the lab with the good company of my fellow engineer, I'm trapped in a tiny box with a hungry, grumpy guy. And when we did get to leave the rig, we had to wait and go as a convoy. So it took a while to get everyone organized.

I've also come to terms with the fact that the rig will never be a uniform comfortable temperature. The first few days I was here it was colder weather outside and our lab, the pathways, and rooms nearby were freezing cold. As soon as it warmed up outside, those rooms became crazy hot. It was triple digits hot in the immediate area around some of the heaters. Our lab is generally pretty comfortable but if need be, we can crack open the door to cool it down. I learned the weird trick of wedging it open with a stick thing under the handle (it has a metal spiky thing on the other end so it doesn't slide on the ground) and a strap clipped between the wall and the door handle so that the wind doesn't move the door. There are lots of interesting little tricks about rig life. And there was an odd moment yesterday where both myself and Ryan (the other engineer I usually work with) were both perfectly fine with the temperature when suddenly, within about two seconds, the lab became unbearably warm. At that point, I said, "I'm dying, it is like 10,000 degrees in here," and went running to open the door.  To which Ryan replied, "Is it just me, or did the temperature go from comfortable to really hot in like two seconds?" This phenomena remains an unexplained mystery.

A recent accomplishment of mine has been working the night shift with only one cup of coffee in the "morning." The caffeine cutback began in my off time. I had been feeling sick almost every morning for about a week when Travis staged an intervention. "Your coffee is making you sick. I love you, but you HAVE to stop making it so strong. I hate it." Harsh truth, but I gradually weaned myself off the poisonous concoction I apparently brew, and I do feel a lot better.

And speaking of off time, the next place I head to is Washington, this time for moving not just visiting. Luckily, I managed to ditch out on the hard part of the move. But the week before was a little but chaotic. Five days before I had to leave for work (which was also the same day the movers were scheduled thus allowing me to ditch Travis to transport the dog and shotgun on cross country flights), Travis and I went to the brand new giant liquor store for the first time as we both had time off and were depressed about the new store opening right before we had to leave. We bought three bottles of wine to drink before we left, thinking it would be no big deal to finish them in time with five vacation days. The trouble started the next day when we got a call from a different wine store that Travis had a wine club membership with. He thought he canceled but wires were crossed somewhere and we ended up with three more bottles of wine we had already paid for. Meanwhile we had six gallons of mango wine and one and a half gallons of cranberry wine still needing to be bottled. Now the back story behind this is an important part of this tale.

When I moved to Fairbanks last December (oddly enough on the exact same day I will move to Washington this year) Travis already had two batches of cranberry wine going. Then he started the mango wine a month or two after I moved up. I kept asking him before he started if it would all be done in time. He assured me it would be ready months before we moved. Every few months I'd ask. Don't worry, he would say, we have time.  I kept asking with increasing urgency as moving time crept closer and the wine to drinking time ratio began to approach infinity. Travis said the movers wouldn't take it, and that wine was illegal to ship. Finally after we were down to four days and up six wine bottles, I drew the line.  I told Travis, tell me exactly how many bottles we need to buy now, so we can bottle this tonight. So Travis did his calculations and then I was confronted with the "Sooooo.....don't be mad..." look. Considering the box of 10 empty bottles we already had...we needed 24 more bottles.

And that the story of how we ended up on a glorious few days of relaxing and drinking lots of wine. For me, the challenge grew old after one too many "mango drunksicles" (mango wine, sprite and vanilla ice cream) made me drop a full wine bottle on my foot leading to a very bruised and swollen toe (it is STILL bruised). So after a very short search, Travis found coworkers willing to take the other 24 mango wine filled bottles.  This left us with one box of cranberry wine for Travis to take on the plane. The unexpected late plot twist....finding out the movers would in fact move wine.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Actual Conversations With My Fiance

I know I have been ridiculously lazy about blogging lately. I recently had an extra hitch off (that meant six entire weeks!) and I spent the time getting ready to move and planning wedding things. It is the longest consecutive amount of time Travis and I will spend together our entire engagement. I have some good stories to write about soon but for now I thought I would share some goofy conversations Travis and I have had over the past few weeks.

Me: If I could have a tv show, it would be about looking for Bigfoot. I would be a mud engineer by day and a cryptozoologist by night.
Travis: But you work at night....

Me: Well, you know when you get thrown under the bus is when you get a chance to shine.
Travis: I know, but its also when I get run over by a bus.

Me: I like your family.
Travis: Don't panic, that feeling will fade.

Me: The green bean casserole is kind of soupy. I misproportioned things, it's really soup with some green been floating around.
Travis: just get the slotted spoons.
Me: All our bowls are dirty. Can I serve you green beans in a cup? It will be like being in college again.
Travis: It's like being single again. Oh! by the way, that's what I call it when you are away at work.
**at this point I hand travis a cocktail glass full of soggy green beans**
Travis: Oh wow. That glass??
Me: All our coffee mugs are dirty too. Don't judge me.
Travis: Too late.

Me: My mom has an emerald engagement ring because she didn't like the idea of blood diamonds.
Travis: Oh there are definitely blood diamonds, however, yours are Canadian.

Travis: This is neat pie dish. Its pyrex.
Travis: Oh my god, I'm getting so old. I just used the word 'neat' to describe a pie dish. Hurry, pour me some alcohol.

Me: I want a round house because the volume to surface area ratio is maximized so it means they are the most cost effective.
Travis: That is why bubbles are round.
Me: I can't remember what I was just going to say. Volume...Surface area...Bubbles....Derivatives! It was something about derivatives.
Travis: I feel like I just saw the inner workings of your mind and it was frightful.

The ridiculous picture of Roxi's face is because Travis hates when I take his picture.