01 November 2006

School Daze

This week and next, I'm taking a class for work. It's a cool thing when your employer pays you to expand your mind. This week, the expansion is Fundamentals of XXX Engineering. The XXX is a useful and interesting oilfield technology that is a key part of my employer's business and which I write about pretty much every day but have not understood as well as I'd like.

So I'm in a classroom this week with 15 or so young engineers from around the world, and with widely varying command of the English language. I have a huge amount of respect for people who can do this sort of technical work and reading in a non-native language. I have enough trouble with it in my own language.

My last science class was about 1980. Go ahead and do the math there, if you can remember how: 2006 - 1980 = long enough to forget all the calculus you had to have to get through Intro to Physics. Now calculate the volume (in barrels) of fluid you'd need to fill a 4-1/2-in.-diameter, 9,000-ft-deep gas well (and that's the simplified well without all the other stuff inside of it). You now have some sense of my struggle this week. These equations are, as the instructor notes, "pretty basic math." Unfortunately, I have not used much math since college, except for the occasional glance at Quicken to see whether there is still money in my checking account. I mean, who remembers how to calculate the volume of a cylinder, except maybe Pepsi bottling engineers?

Classes this week run from 8:30 til whenever we're done, and all day long the instructor is stuffing our brains with information, explanations and oilfield stories. I'm technically auditing the course, so I don't have to take the daily tests -- but I do because I feel like tests are part of the learning process. For the "kids" in the class, their grades on the tests greatly affect their future with the company; for me, a grade is just an acknowledgement that yeah, ok, I get it. And yet, I stress over these things, just like I always did for 'real' tests. Go figure.

Amazingly, although I do nothing but sit on my butt all day long in the classroom (and eat too many cookies on our hourly breaks...), I am exhausted. My brain is unaccustomed to this level of workout, which means it's probably a good thing and a potential ward against senility (or a cause of senility, depending on how you look at it). However, I'm going to wait and sign up for Fundamentals of YYY Engineering after my brain recovers from this onslaught.

Next week, I have a management course: My employer is a "Seven Habits Company," so we all learn about Stephen Covey's theories on balancing life & work, etc. Compared with this week's crash course in "why you didn't finish that science degree you started," it should be a gas.

Speaking of gas, I'm procrastinating (ooh, baaaad thing according to 7 Habits) on my Engineering homework to determine whether XXX can plop a cement plug safely in that aforementioned gas well. Oh, did I forget to mention that every day after 8 hours of classroom instruction we also have reading & modeling homework? My brain hurts.


sue said...

Better you than me!

Lee said...

No wonder your brain is hurting...mine is, just from reading your post! ;)

Your tiredness is from all the 'unconscious' work your brain is doing...sifting and sorting all the information being fed into it. Corners of the brain being exercised that haven't been exercised for a while! Boy! Mine needs to go to a gym full-time! ;)

I don't know if you've checked your 'movies that shaped America' post again, Smukke...but I added "To Kill A Mockingbird" to it...it would have to be the best of them all! I can't believe we forgot it!