Wednesday, August 3

Waka Flocka and Ben, Pump 16

And the bloggy* award for most random post title goes to, drumroll please....

Ben Austin, for the entry "Waka Flocka and Ben, Pump 16"

aaaaaaaaaand we're back. To my highly devoted handful of followers, thank you for always tagging along no matter where my stream on consciousness tends to lead us. That being said, the title was the shortest way for me to sum up my overall experience working for Schlumberger this summer, but I'll come back to that. Let me first address a major transition in my life. The transition from just another boyfriend to fiance. From dating to engaged. Let me tell you something, this girl is the real deal. She pushes me to be the man I am supposed to be and that's how I knew (along with about 748,921 reasons) that she was the one to marry. I cannot possibly do justice to how excited I really am to spend the rest of my life with this woman.

and now back to our regularly scheduled programming... I had spent three weeks working my butt off in the field trying to learn as much as I could.  As you could reasonable assume, the oilfield is not an easy place to work and requires serious dedication to learn all the ins and outs of the major equipment necessary for the job at hand (in my case, hydraulic fracturing in natural gas reserves, you are all welcome for the gentle rocking to sleep that just gave you). Over these three weeks I had spent hour after hour swinging a hammer, adjusting chemical additives, changing parts out on pumps and other technical tasks all with help and close supervision form others. After these three weeks the crew that I had worked with, and grown very close to, was reassigned to well sites just south of San Antonio, so my engineer mentor and I were assigned to another job site here in Shreveport.  We had been on our first day with this other client for about 4 hours when the defining moment of my internship occurred (in the field, obviously nothing trumps getting engaged to my other half).  This fracturing is done in stages and requires 20 pumps for the high pressure and flow rate necessary, so working with so many pumps working so hard means they will frequently need maintenance between stages and this is handled by operators in groups of two.

After each stage the supervisor in charge of monitoring the pumps calls out the pumps needing maintenance and lists which parts must be replaced/repaired.  My first three weeks were spent playing third wheel to two operators on my old crew while observing, asking questions about, and slowly helping out in the repairs/replacements. This day was different. It was about 7:30 am and the pump supervisor was calling out pump need and the pairs assigned to each when the final assignment rang out over the walkie talkies, "Waka Flocka and Ben, Pump 16. 1- and 3-hole packing, change all valves and seats." First off, Waka Flocka is the nickname of one operator on the new crew I moved to since he looks exactly like the rapper of the same name. Second all the stuff after the pump number just told us which parts to work on. Finally, this meant I was being counted on to handle this pump just like any other operator working the field. This meant that the pump supervisor asked my mentor, Sam, during the stage if I could hold my own on a pump, if I knew my stuff and could come through, and if I could be trusted to fix a $1.2 million piece of machinery. His answer was yes, and just like that, it was my time to show what I had learned.

Men always want a chance to come through. We want the last at-bat, we want the big presentation on the project we've spent months on. Although some guys shy away form the big pressure situation, that just means they walk away from the chance to deliver. This summer has been challenging on many levels, but every bit as rewarding as well. In one call-out over the radio, I was challenged to step up and handle a job, and you bet your ass I did everything in my power to repack that pump, change valves and seats and have it up and running at over 2200 horsepower for the next stage. It meant the world to me to know the supervisors on my new crew counted on me, knowing that I could finish the job.

"Waka Flocka and Ben, Pump 16"

Saturday, June 11

The Great Game

In my time here on Earth I have found many things that I like, someI hate, and a handful of things that I love to the absolute core of me. A few of them lead to the namesake of my quaint little blog, such as my love for nerdy things, over-the-top action movies, and comic-book heroes always coming through when it matters most. A few of these things I love are tagged all along my facebook profile, from smart-ass comments from my buddies to smiling picture after picture of my girlfriend and I. But one thing that I love and got to spend a great weekend around is the great game of baseball. I spent a long weekend in Boston with a few buddies just soaking in one of the greatest sports cities in America. Boston has sat on the harbor since the very foundation of our country and it feels like baseball has been played there ever since.

I started playing the sport when I was 4, and can still remember my dad handing me my first glove in the garage and telling me, "Son, we're gonna teach you how to play ball today." It's simple. My dad and I stood out in the yard and tossed the ball back and forth until I learned how to move my glove to catch and how to use my arm to actually throw something instead of just flinging a toy across the room like I tended to do during childhood tantrums. It all started as a chance to just spend some time with my dad in the yard and evolved into a lifelong learning experience, a pastime, a chance to get active, and ultimately, a love. People who question me when I tell them my favorite sport is baseball (especially since most of them know how big of an Alabama football fan I am) usually don't recognize the intricacies of the game. It's not slow, it's a chess match. It's not boring, it's about anticipation. It's the most level of playing fields, no running out the clock, no changes of possession, each team HAS to get their chance just as the other team HAS to do all they can to stop them.

We've all seen the "All I really need to know I learned from kindergarten" poems and posters, and the countless variations ever since. Well, I won't say I learned all that I needed, but I can definitely say I learned many lessons from my favorite sport. Some of them are cheesy, but some helped make me who I am today.

Gotta see it before you hit it
Hit the ball before you run
Be aggressive, that's why stolen bases are a stat
Don't be too aggressive, that's why caught stealing is a stat
Sacrifices are always appreciated, although not always capitalized on
Don't forget to stop and stretch
Don't be afraid to use the cut-off man
You will strike out
You will get to bat again

But seriously, playing baseball taught me how to learn from those with experience, how to work hard enough to beat out guys bigger than me, how to make the most of the times I couldn't beat out those bigger guys, and how to share in something bigger than myself with a group of guys close enough to be brothers by season's end. I was even fortunate enough to have my dad as a coach in 7th and 8th grade before making the high school team. I can remember the smiles on his face in the third base box after I'd get a hit or drive in a run, but even more so I remember the rides home with him after games I had two strikeouts, or an error defensively. He was never angry, and that always surprised me coming from a man as competitive as he is. It wasn't ever a moment for anger, it was always a moment for teaching. It was "Now you know what that curveball looked like coming off his hand with 2 strikes" or "Don't let that bad hop get to you, remember to stay down of those grounders."  Thanks to those car rides I was able to face my faculty advisers after every technical presentation of my senior design project. I don't have to fear the negativity when I have the learning experience to look forward too.

I know this has gotten a little more philosophical than a simple "Here's how my trip to Boston was" blog post, but frankly, baseball has always been something very deep to me. Although my favorite team may lose, guess what, there are 161 other games. Although my team may not win a championship during a particular season, guess what, there will still be another season next spring. But when my team does win the game, or win a series, or even win a championship, it makes me happy to the core. It's not because I grew up in the shadow of Fenway park, it's not because I have season Red Sox tickets. No, it is because I know the strategy involved in every single inning, I know the feeling of spending extra time hitting in the batting cage, I know the love it takes to go out and play the great game.

"The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love."
-Bryant Gumbel

And to Poco, here's your challenge: for your next post you can't write out any outline, can't revise and reorganize. Feel free to correct spelling and grammatical errors (but I'm pretty sure English majors don't make any). Just let it all spill out onto the page as it comes to you. Game on!

Monday, May 9


To my ever so dedicated followers, grab an inner tube, put on a little sunscreen, and open a fresh beer, because we are about to go stream of consciousness all over this blog. I am a very methodical when thinking and even more methodical when acting, but the reason I started this blog was to get out of my own way and just throw all my thoughts out on the page without having to plan, sort, or even control them really. So, here we go...

In the days following the tornadoes that tore across my state and most of the southeast I never really stopped to have any quiet time to really decompress and try to wrap my mind around all the damage that had really just occurred.  However, with final exams made optional and graduation delayed until August, time I would have spent studying and celebrating has been spent with close friends, dear family, and the love of my life.  It was over a period of just a few hours this past Saturday that I realized what would truly come out of all this devastation.  My father and I helped a family from church clear debris and move furniture out of their home in Pleasant Grove.  Most of their neighborhood had been leveled and was filled with relief crews helping in as many ways as possible.  These were storms that have destroyed homes that took some families a lifetime to build and fill with memories.  These were storms that destroyed the homes of students just trying to wrap up what we thought was just an ordinary semester.  These were storms that called us as a state, as communities, as families, as neighbors, as human beings, to step up and do something.  How could we possibly respond in the face of damage beyond description? How could students ever return to normal? How could parents tell their small children that everything will be ok again?

It's simple, we do it together.

I live in a part of Tuscaloosa where entire streets of houses were flattened, yet the families were out working to clear debris from their yards in preparation for rebuilding in the months and years to come.  I go to a university that mobilized every resource it had available to help students recover and begin the road back to normal.  Tuscaloosa may never look the same again, most cities in our state may never rebuild all the buildings lost, but neighbors will continue to walk across the street to offer a bottled water to the crew clearing limbs off of houses.  The Red Cross will continue to prepare meals for those without homes. Alabama power and government crews will continues to start early each morning and work long hours each day to repair power lines, phone lines, and roads until the day-to-day operations are restored to as many as possible.

From the time I set foot on campus in Tuscaloosa I have carried a chip on my shoulder to prove a lot of people wrong. I have been blessed beyond measure to never have friends or family doubt me, but simply carry the doubt of those who don't think people in the south can ever be highly educated. I have longed to prove everyone wrong who pauses and thinks "why not Georgia Tech?" when I tell them I went to the University of Alabama for mechanical engineering.  These storms have given me yet another motivation to accomplish outstanding things with the bachelor's degree I just finished and the master's degree I am continuing with.  I am a part of a generation of Alabama students who will help Tuscaloosa and the University recover and rebuild even stronger through what we accomplish. We will become a proud class of graduates. Not proud of individual talents, accomplishments, or accolades, but proud of our home. Proud of our people. Proud of our attitude. 

Saturday afternoon at 2:30 I was supposed to walk across a stage in recognition of the work I have put in over the last four years. Instead I was taking a nap in recognition of an early morning spent moving tree limbs in order to recover a house full of memories for one family. The most profound part of this wasn't any piece of debris moved away, it was the teams of complete strangers working side by side to repair, rescue, and rebuild. On a day I was prepared to make all about me, our Heavenly Father showed me accomplishment is never achieved by a single person, but alongside others. 

We have been knocked to our knees, punched in the gut by this devastation, but we have caught our breath and are ready to stand again. We are Alabama, and we are stronger than ever now.

Monday, April 18

7 May 2011

Less than three weeks from today I will walk across a stage in Coleman Coliseum and officially become an alumni of The University of Alabama. Although I am returning for another year to complete my Master's that doesn't mean I am any less excited about finishing my undergraduate career. In fact, I am more excited about finishing this degree than my next. I won't even walk for the graduation ceremony for my MSME, but you can bet your ass I am walking May 7th in recognition of completing my BSME. For eight semesters I have spent late nights in Rodgers library, early mornings in 8 am classes, countless afternoons and evenings in the computer labs of Hardaway Hall, and more time than I can even calculate in class after class also in Hardaway. Four years of busting my butt to earn a degree that I respect so much from a university that I respect even more. My parents taught me early on the value of hard work and how far it could take me, especially when paired with an education. A hard working man educated in how to solve problems, now that is a man who does not stop short. That is a man that sets goals and step-by-step, piece-by-piece, reaches every single one of them. I have earned more than 130 credit hours learning things from computer programming, to physics, to math, to biology, to fluid mechanics, to dynamic forces, to finite element analysis and more nerdy things than I can list off here. Most important of all, I have learned to see a problem, face it, take what I need from it, and solve it. I have learned the balance of hard work and time off. I have learned the value of my closest friends. I have learned the value of laughing so hard that my sides hurt the next day. I have learned the value of finding the person you want to spend a lifetime and then some with. I have seen our Heavenly Father touch individuals walking across the Quad, I have seen him display his grace, mercy and strength in ways I had never imagined before. But the bottom line is that for four years here in Tuscaloosa, I have fought, clawed, prayed, crawled, walked, ran, and at times simply survived life on this planet as the man God made me to be. I am proud to introduce people to my father and mother because I am a combination of everything that makes them who they are (a little heavy on my dad). I am proud to tell people I am graduating from the University of Alabama for the same reason. When the name Benjamin Warren Austin is called on May 7th, I will hold my head high and praise the Father in Heaven who has given me more than I have ever deserved. I will shake hands with the Dean of Engineering knowing that I have given this university my best effort and will continue to do so. May 7th better look out...

because here I come.

Friday, April 1

Last One, I Promise

Some individual player predictions because... well, because it's my blog and no one can stop me.

Jacoby and CC will combine for over 110 steals
The Sox will have 3 players hit 30 bombs (Youk, AGonz, Papi)
MVPedroia will score 120+ runs
Jon Lester will win 22 games and the AL Cy Young
Clay Buchholz will be second on the team in wins
Josh Beckett will return to form, winning 15-17 games now that his back is healthy
John Lackey's ERA will be lower this year, but he may only win 13-15
Papelbon will still blow a few too many saves (about 5 total) but will get his fastball back on track and rely less on the splitter this season
Adrian Gonzalez will hit 40+ bombs
Big Papi will come out of his usual early season slump quicker than usual thanks to extra swings in spring training and more intense off season workouts.

Won't This Guy Stop Predicting Already?

Individual Award Predictions

NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay
AL Cy Young - Jon Lester
NL MVP - Chipper Jones**
AL MVP - Adrian Gonzalez
NL Rookie of the Year - Aroldis Chapman
AL Rookie of the Year - Jeremy Hellickson

**I know the Chipper pick seems nuts, but I really like Atlanta's lineup and Larry looks like he is back in prime shape at the plate. He was crushing pitchers mistakes in spring training and flipping bad pitches over shortstops heads for base hits as well. Chipper may hit about .325 this year and drive in anywhere from 80-100 runs which could carry the Braves to a division title despite the mighty Phillies rotation. To be realistic, a guy like Heyward or McCann should get MVP chatter as the driving force in this lineup, but a dark horse to consider is Martin Prado.

Prediction-athon 2k11 is on REVISED

While I'm at it, allow me to elaborate on my AL East predictions. I write this mainly to go on the record so if I'm right about any of these I can rub it in Ryan King's face... Just as he would do to me. My red sox description will be pretty detailed, but I'll keep the others short and sweet.

After seeing opening weekend I have made a few changes, mainly correcting spelling errors, but also swapping the Rays and O's. Turns out the Rays lost even more contributers than I thought. They are playing solid last place baseball. The O's sent a message in the Trop this weekend too, they can pitch from time to time and can produce runs.

AL East
  1. Boston Red Sox - Will I pick the Red Sox to win the East every year? Absolutely I will. However, an offseason like this one actually makes this pick from the head as well as from my heart. With a healthy Ellsbury and Pedroia back at the top of the lineup I am already more confident, but add in Carl Crawford hitting in the 3 hole and Adrian Gonzalez protecting Youk (with Big Papi protecting A-Gonz), this lineup is built to produce at the top. It doesn't just stop there though. Tito has the pieces to get base runners on again late with Scutaro, Lowrie, and Salty with a couple more bats capable of producing runs such as Mike Cameron off the bench (and against a lot of LHP) or JD Drew. Speaking of JD Drew, I am on the record as a JD Drew fan, which seem to be few and far between amongst Red Sox Nation. Its simple, he is legitimately the best defensive right fielder in Red Sox history. Every year Drew also has a 3-5 week span where he drives the entire offense. Think back to Papi's wrist injury of 09 when JD Drew drove in run after run and piled up serious HRs throughout the entire month of June. Everyone has spent spring training talking about this vaunted lineup, but the pitching rotation could be just as dominant as any in the division or the league. The back end of the rotation is Josh Beckett and Dice-K who are both looking to bounce back. I honestly expect Beckett to have a realistic rebound while Dice-K may never be the pitcher we saw in 08 again. Jon Lester looks like a Cy Young winner and could (and I predict he will) post his first 20-win season. John Lackey hopes to settle down in his second year in the Boston rotation and Clay Buchholz will bend curve balls past hitters again this year for anoth sub-3 ERA. I will post more specific pitching and offensive numbers later, but bottom line: This years Red Sox club will score runs, steal bases and play defense better than the rest of the division, but there are questions at the back of the rotation but a solid work horse in Jon Lester at the front end. I see 93-99 wins for my beloved Sox. One last thought, Big Papi took a lot of extra cuts this spring training and it seems to be paying off already, he appears to have avoiding his usual .190 month of april and already has a couple of dingers.
  2. New York Yankees - Questions about their rotation were answered somewhat by Freddy Garcia showing he still has something left in the tank in spring training. But it's simple, the Bronx Bombers will still score runs and Mariano will still save games, but AJ Burnett is still a head case and the 4 and 5 starters will be liabilities all season. Phil Hughes may or may not be able to reproduce his success from last year. If '10 Hughes is back, the Yanks will push the Sox for the division title, if he has a let down, the yanks will have to fight to hold off the rest of the division. However, Tex seems to have shaken off his usual slow start, so pitchers can't attack him in April as much as they have the last 2 seasons.
  3. Baltimore Orioles - Confidence is a good thing, but Buck Showalter's rant earlier this month was a bit of a red flag for me. I thought he'd have this team ready for a Ray-esque turn around (over the course of 2-3 years) but he seems to be trying to motivate his guys with his comments in the media. Makes me question the ball players he has. They have potential at the top of the lineup but their pitching will hurt them at times. This is a team that needs its 1 and 2 starters to pitch 7-8 innings to save the bullpen for their 3-5 guys. Their lineup proved themselves highly capable of manufacturing runs and will play small ball late in games.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays - Chicks dig the long ball. Nike got it right in the 90's with those commercials. The Jays will hang bomb after bomb in the Rogers Center again this year, as well as anywhere else they play. This rotation had some shining moments last season and features Ricky Romero who has filthy stuff. With John Farrell taking the helm, I look for this rotation to improve after all his years as a pitching coach.
  5. Tampa Bay Rays - Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano. All great Rays for the last few season, all playing for other teams now. The Rays bullpen is the biggest liability for a team that has hung its hat on closing out games the last 3 seasons. Without guys like Crawford and Pena driving this offense but new names (but familar foes) Manny and Damon stepping in the Rays will still scrap and fight anyone, but will run out of steam late in games. Bottom line, this team looks ugly early.