Monday, 31 May 2010


It is now the start of my second week and I have spent the day finishing off the pit level sensors (and catching a faulty sensor during the testing process), cloning the hard drives for the four main PCs and three additional computers that each mudlogging unit uses, shuttling them to the production yard a couple of kilometres away, and starting the two gas system distribution modules that each of the new logging shacks need. Paulo returned from Indonesia today and I was able to chat with him about Balikpapan and living/working in Indonesia in general. All I can say is I'm even more eager to get there now.

In between all of this activity I was bought lunch by Mr Calleri, the owner of Geolog, and Gionata, the head of Technical Operations. I was quite nervous and worried that perhaps I was being taken to a public place so that he could give me some bad news without risking a scene. Thankfully it was an informal lunch and there was no news - good or bad - to share. And the pizza was good too.

My First Weekend

With nothing better to do, and knowing that there was plenty of work to be done, Saturday saw me getting through half of the pit sensors on my own, and then working on the unit pressurisation system controls with Gabriel. As he built his he had me repeating his steps, parrot fashion, on another control unit. A couple of hours later we had two finished units, and he seemed confident that they would both work properly. I'm not so sure as his wiring looks as neat as a map of the Underground while mine resembles Spaghetti Junction.

After the workers had left the office I headed over to shopping centre near the flat to pick up some essentials and do a big shop. I was quite restrained in that I haven't spent any of my expenses on wine yet but that's because there are no New World labels (go figure!) in the drinks section of Carrefour and I'm a fish out of water when it comes to Italian wines. For my first real day of rest I pottered over to Ikea, which is only 10 minutes by car, and grabbed some kitchen essentials and a couple of bags of frozen meatballs. And a plant too - I have named him Barry. Then I went for a drive to find out where the parking at San Donato Metro station is, so that one day I can take a trip to central Milan.

In short I didn't get much rest over the weekend but it was pretty productive.


It has been a week now and I feel I've covered a lot. The first day had me setting up the main data acquisition and storage server, over and over again, until I had the technique down pat. Having faced this situation in the field (and deferring to an experienced Geolog data engineer) I now feel confident since practicing in a safe environment. It also helped that Salim, the tutor I was working with, was experienced and the cheat sheet provided by the Technical Ops guys was well written.

The rest of the day was given over to making up hundreds of metres of power and sensor cables for the Indonesian jobs. (This is a small drop in the ocean as a typical mudlogging unit has to run several kilometres of cables during a rig up, and there are between three and four units heading out to Indonesia so I suspect I'll be doing plenty more.) While I was doing this Salim was building a pressurisation unit for the rig floor monitor, and once he'd completed it he showed me how to test it to ensure that it is completely functional. Then we lugged it all into the warehouse (magazzin in Italian, or "mag" for short) and put it on the shelves where all the other equipment bound for the Spice Islands was being stacked.

Having gained an understanding of the pressurisation unit (or "the box" as the Geolog guys call it) Salim and I built and tested three more units over the next two days. I'm pleased to report that I only made one small mistake and once Salim corrected it my box functioned correctly. Even more importantly I was able to conduct all the function tests myself and gained important experience in solving the occasional problems that the testing highlighted. With that complete I spotted that Thomas, a trainee field engineer, was building some QCM gas traps so I attached myself to him and we began working on the electrical motors that power them. We didn't get far as it was the end of the day, and having put in two extra hours by skipping lunch and working late (such is the pressure that the production team is under) I decided to call it a day.

On Thursday we picked up where we lad left off and completed the remaining four gas traps by fitting the agitator blades and mounting them to their racks. Sahdi, who is in charge of sensor preparation gave me a quick explanation of Geolog's other type of gas trap - the CVD - and promised that when he was working on the ones needed for Indonesia he'd save at least one for me to build.

Afterwards I approached Fabio (one of the production team leaders) and he pointed me towards Gabriel who does a lot of work on the gas lines and electrical systems in the unit. Gabriel assigned me the task of preparing a dozen serial cables that are needed for the gas analysis equipment to the acquisition server. I knew that eventually I would have to solder, and with fifteen year old memories of my last (and ghastly) attempt at the front of my mind, I impressed upon Gabriel my need for a quick lesson. It turns out it is quite easy and I quickly picked it up. I won't claim I mastered it, and my lead blobs are nowhere as neat as his but they aren't the golf balls they used to be. I forced myself to the task but after an hour of peering at 0.5mm cables my eyes had had enough so I did some odd jobs while my eyes rested.

On Friday I continued with making up the serial cables but after just two my eyes were burning so I gave them a rest. Thomas saw that I was idle so he called me over and we began to prep a dozen pit level sensors. Apparently this rocked the boat a little bit and so he was pointed back to his job while I had to return to my soldering. Once completed I was able to go back to the pit level sensors but as it was late in the day Thomas only had time to give me a quick lesson before the workshop closed up for the weekend. I have to add that it was nearly 7pm by this time, so put aside your preconceptions of lazy Italian workers because the guys in the Geolog production team willingly put in an extra hour every day to make sure that the four new units will be ready on time.

Hotel Out/Flat In

After staying in Milan's city centre the night I arrived, on Monday I relocated to Melegnano where I have been for the last week. Geolog's hotel of choce is the Il Telegrapho just a few minutes walk from the town centre, not that I got a chance to see anything because I've been so knackered after a 9am to 7pm day at the Geolog office.

But now I'm out of the hotel and in a flat that Geolog has rented. It's about a 10 minute drive from the office, and thankfully Geolog has provided me with a Fiant Uno to nip about with. About a minute away from the apartment block is a huge Carrefour supermarket, a shopping mall with all the usual, a home furnishings and electronics store, DIY place, couple of restaurants and a bowling alley. And on the way to work is a Lidl, and about ten minutes away is an Ikea. Now if I could only find a way to get internet access I'll be set.

Anyway, the flat is amazing. It's fully furnished, has air conditioning and is very modern. The whole block is brand new, has great security and lifts that take me to my luxury fourth floor pad. Inside is a well appointed kitchen (I know I sound like an estate agent) with all the mod cons, which opens onto the dining-cum-living room and balcony. The flat's owner has bought a 21" TV and freeview receiver (one English channel - BBC World) that has a USB memory stick reader so I don't have to watch all my downloads on my laptop. The bathroom has a nice power shower and a washing machine so neither I nor my clothes need be dirty. The bedroom has a massive bed and with the shutters down the room is dark and quiet as a tomb. I sleep the sleep of the dead.


So, I'm here in Milan, and for the first time that I've been here it's not raining. In fact Milan is enjoying the same heat wave that the rest of Europe is and apart from last Thursday, when it was slightly overcast and it rained lightly on and off throughout the day, the weather has been +25C with clear skies. Lovely!

I started training for my new position as an operations manager on Monday. It all began with a chat with the head of the Technical Operations department, who is largely in charge of me here. We went through my programme and it was explained to me that the production team is very busy constructing four new units (which are hopefully destined for Indonesia) so I should try and work my training around their schedule so that I can get hands on experience with all the equipment.

As it turns out this is working out great; this kind of opportunity doesn't come along very often because it means that with the production team having to put together so many units at once I have the chance to see pretty much everything in a short time period. And as a bonus I getting to work on the equipment that I may ultimately be in charge of.

Friday, 21 May 2010


...shattered! And I haven't even started training yet.

I was supposed to head out to Milan last Sunday but I cried off because I had so much to organise at home. Thankfully my bosses were sympathetic and gave me a week to get my affairs in order.

So for the past week I have been seeing rental agents and removal companies, sorting out storage, arranging landlords insurance for the house (duh), packing up the largest LEGO Star Wars collection in the world and transporting it all to our self-storage unit (which is something I've always wanted to have, and now means I can scratch something off my bucket list), and all the while spending as much time with Rae and Oscar before I left for Milan.

Now, you're probably pretty breathless after that insanely long run-on sentance. I can assure you it was written just to give you some idea how worn out I am.

Signing off for now.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Letting The Cat Out The Bag

I have a secret to share. The other week I was contacted by Paul at the Geolog head office and asked if I was interested in a management position in the office. My interest was high so I called them back from the rig and was told that there was going to be a vacancy for Operations Manager in Indonesia. Since that phonecall I've been out to Milan and had a day with the top brass who interviewed me and explained the role. When I came back Rae and I talked it over, researched the country and Balikpapan, the city we'd be living in, and today I was offered the job.

The plan is for me to go out to Milan for 2 or 3 months to receive systems training on their hardware and software so that I can provide full technical support to the mudlogging crews in Indonesia. After chatting with Paul today I was expecting to have a few weeks at home before I had to go to Milan. A few weeks is actually now a few days, as I leave on Sunday. I'm excited and sad at the same time - excited about the opportunity but sad about leaving Rae and Oscar behind as I hadn't had time to mentally prepare for my deaprture.