When did life get to be so hectic? This month alone I will be out of the office almost as much as I’ll be in it, attending conferences, mostly. March seems to be a popular month for these things. It’s all I can do to make my deadlines while still attending important industry events.

It wasn’t always like this. Back in the late 1990s I worked from home because my husband got transferred from Houston to Bartlesville, Okla. For three years I telecommuted, enjoying a slower pace and way fewer interruptions than I encounter now.

In fact, sometimes I got a little bored. And when I get bored I sometimes come up with diabolical ideas. For instance, I was putting together an envelope to send to my boss, Don Lyle, comprised of expense reports, faxes, etc. I tossed in a photo of my cat because Don was always inquiring after my pets (which were usually seated on my computer keyboard at the time). Then a thought struck me. The picture showed the cat lying behind my screen. What if cats could be taught to use computers?

The end result is printed below. I’ve changed some of the names since the original used a real company with real employees.

HOUSTON, JULY 21, 1997 – Company X introduced today a new suite of software products that enable personnel-strapped oil companies to do more with less.

The new HereKittyKitty version 2.1 is so user-friendly that even those who have never used a computer before can now perform highly technical 3-D seismic analysis and interpretation.

In development since 1991, the new product is an open and flexible software integration platform designed for the new computer user. Simple graphics and leading-edge voice-activated, voice-recognition software encourage an interactive, almost playful environment.

Studies indicate that the industry will soon be faced with a shortage of qualified geoscientists. Statistics provided by the Colorado School of Mines indicate that graduate and undergraduate enrollment in petroleum education has plummeted more than 80% in the past 15 years.

“With Company X’s commitment to helping the petroleum industry make the most of its assets – both its reserves and its personnel – we feel that a simplified approach to seismic interpretation software is a good starting point,” said John Smith, vice president of product development for Company X.

To test the new release, Company X undertook an industry-funded study using house cats. Within two weeks the animals were performing seismic analysis and plotting drilling locations using the new program.

“He usually naps all day,” said one proud owner of her cat, Larson. “But now we’re planning to enroll him in college to get a degree in geophysics.”

Other cats in the study were soon building cross-section maps, analyzing geobodies, and performing prestack depth migratio. One star pupil even mastered reverse time migration.

“We chose cats because we felt they would be natural data manipulators due to their innate ability to handle a mouse,” Smith said. “With the overabundance of cats in our society, we think we’ve solved the personnel shortage for some years to come.”

Added Joe Blow, CEO of SuperMajor Inc., “Based on this study, we either need to redefine software, redefine cats, or redefine geophysicists.”

(I’d like to thank Larson for his years of inspiration. He died March 5.)